About Judge Frank J. Vatterott
In 1980, I became the Judge in Vinita Terrace, a tiny village in north St. Louis County, where we held court in a gas station and I sat at the serviceman's desk getting grease on my suit.
Later, when we convinced the village trustees that that "courthouse" was degrading, the trustees moved the court to a grammar school, only part of which was in Vinita Terrace. The great majority of the school was in another city, Vinita Park. (In those days, it was taken for granted that one had to hold court in the jurisdiction—later found out that is not true.)
Unfortunately, the only part of the school that was located in Vinita Terrace was the kindergarten. We held court there for a while. The defendants were forced to sit at tiny children's desks. I sat at the teacher's desk, where for a few months; there was a gerbil on the desk going around on a wheel in a cage. That distracted many of the defendants.
Later, in 1981, I became the judge in St. Ann, and presided there for 16 years. I became the judge for the Village at Riverview in 1984 and stayed there 14 years.
I have served as a judge in the City of Overland in St. Louis County since 1991, now into my 24th year. I also serve as the provision judge in the Cities of Fenton, Bridgeton, and Ladue.
In 1980, I got a mimeographed one page flyer from the MMACJA, an organization that had never heard of until I received the flyer. I attended my first Conference in 1980, which was then at the law school. There were about fifty or sixty judges there, all of whom were a lot smarter than me, and I was overwhelmed. Although we held the Conference in Columbia, at the law school, most of the early years, I think there was one also held in Jefferson City, but I'm not sure.
About 1987, I was asked by several judges on the Board to join the Board, I think because they wanted somebody to take notes. I have been fortunate to be a member for the last 27 years. In 1990, I was elected Treasurer, and moved up the ladder to Secretary, Vice President and then President in the year 1994. Later, for the years 1997 and 1998, I served again as President, but only because the man elected to be President decided not to serve and quit the organization.
Judge Tim Kelly asked me to be on the Conference program about 1987. For the first several years, I was on panels and group presentations. In the year 1992, when I was Conference Chair, I decided to present the entire Thursday afternoon a 50 question test, taught in breakout sessions over three hours. I took me almost an entire year to prepare these questions, but they were all questions I did not know the answers to and researched every one of them. I enjoyed that so much that since that time, I have presented many tests, probably about 15. Since 1987, I have presented some sort of program almost every year, taking one or two years off. Most of them have been tests.
You asked about other accomplishments. The following are the ones I can think of right now, although I don't think there are any more:
- Creation of the website, with the work actually done by Chuck Curry;
- Editor of the newsletter, changing its name to Benchmark;
- Creation of the George Pittman Award;
- Preparation of the marriage ceremony booklet, including the writing of the ceremony; and
- Creation of the OSCA liaison committee
For the last six or seven years, I have served on the Long Range Planning Committee. Lately, as the other judges have figured me out, they have entrusted me only with the rather sleepy Marriage Committee. I have a feeling that that Committee work will become important later.
The MMACJA has provided me with a great learning experience and with many lifetime friendships. I believe I have learned ten times more from others than what I might have contributed myself.