Gov. Bob Holden intends to appoint John P. Heisserer of Cape Girardeau to the 32nd Judicial Circuit court bench when a vacancy opens March 1.
Heisserer will replace Judge John Grimm, who is resigning to go into private practice. The circuit has jurisdiction over cases in Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties.
"It is an exciting change for me," Heisserer said. "I've been practicing law for a little over 21 years and look forward to the opportunity to seeing things from the perspective of the bench."
Heisserer, 46, will serve until November 2004, when an election will be held to determine who completes the remainder of the six-year term Grimm won in 2000. Heisserer said he will be a candidate in that election.
"It is my intention to make this a permanent career change," Heisserer said.
Grimm, who has been a circuit judge since December 1993, said Holden made a good choice for his replacement.
"John has excellent experience and will do a superb job as circuit judge," Grimm said. "He is very well respected among the judges on the bench now and by the lawyers in the circuit."
Grimm said he expects to have most of his current caseload disposed of by the end of February to ensure a smooth transition. He will join the Cape Girardeau firm of Limbaugh, Russell, Payne and Howard.
Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle predicted Heisserer will be a judge who listens to both sides and fairly applies the law.
"John Heisserer has been an advocate in the courtroom for 20 years, and that is a good foundation to build upon to be a trial judge," Swingle said.
Heisserer was born in Chaffee but has lived most of his life in Cape Girardeau.
He is 1975 graduate of Notre Dame High School and currently serves on the parochial school's board. His 16-year-old son, Jed, is a sophomore at the school. His 12-year-old daughter, Tess, attends Cape Girardeau Middle School.
Heisserer majored in political science at Southeast Missouri State University, where he graduated in 1979. He earned his law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1981.
While a student, he was a photographer for the old Bulletin Journal newspaper in Cape Girardeau and also worked for a time as city editor of the former Sikeston Democrat Advertiser. After law school he briefly served as city attorney in Miner.
He is currently a partner in the Cape Girardeau firm of Rice, Spaeth, Heisserer, Summers and Remley. He will leave the firm before he is sworn in as judge, a post that pays $108,000 a year.
During his years in private practice he specialized in family law. As a circuit judge, he will hear a good number of such cases, as well as myriad civil and criminal matters.
"I've worked hard over the last 20-plus years to build a good reputation for honesty and fairness," Heisserer said. "I think that will serve me well over the next several years."