Judge Russell Steele is the Presiding Circuit Judge for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of Adair, Knox and Lewis counties. There are 45 judicial circuits in Missouri. The number of circuit judges in each circuit is set by the legislature, and each circuit must have at least one circuit judge. The qualifications for circuit judges are governed by Article 5, Section 21 of the Missouri Constitution. A circuit judge must be at least 30 years old, licensed to practice law inMissouri, aUnited States citizen for at least 10 years, a qualified voter of the state for three years preceding selection, and a resident of the circuit in which the judge serves for at least one year.
Under Article 5, Section 15 of the Missouri Constitution and Section 478.240 RSMo, the presiding circuit judge has general administrative authority over the circuit court and its divisions, including general administrative authority over all judicial personnel and court officials in the circuit as well as the authority to assign judges within the circuit to hear particular cases or particular classes of cases.
Judge Steele presides over the Circuit Division and the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court. The Circuit Division handles all cases not specifically allocated to one of its other divisions. This includes all felony cases, misdemeanor cases initiated in the circuit division, civil cases, equity cases, such as injunctions, and cases involving extraordinary remedies, such as writs. The Juvenile Division handles child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile delinquencies, and adoptions. The other divisions of the Circuit Court include the Associate Division, the Probate Division, the Small Claims Division, and the Municipal Division.
Judge Steele also presides over the Adair County Drug Court which provides structure, accountability and treatment as a productive alternative to prison for criminal offenders whose criminal conduct is related to their substance abuse.
Judge Steele also performs weddings, having presided over 365 ceremonies.
As with most circuit judges, particularly in rural Missouri, Judge Steele is elected by popular vote. His term of office is six years. He was appointed in 1997 by Governor Mel Carnahan to fill the unexpired term of the Honorable Bruce Normile upon his retirement. He has been re-elected in 1998, 2000, and 2006.