David Staudt’s journey to becoming an Iowa District Court Judge started when he went to a private law firm after graduating law school. In 1997, he became a public defender (https://ballotpedia.org/David_Staudt). As a public defender, he worked on the highly publicized and very high profile Michelle Kehoe case as part of the defense team. He worked his way up to Chief Public defender and when asked about representing all different kinds of people as a public defender, he said “It’s just what we do” (class 1/24). Stuadt also noted that “most public defenders do it because they’re committed to helping people who are in trouble” and that most of the people he represented weren’t bad people, just did dumb things (class 1/24). He was then appointed district judge (Iowa has 8 districts) by Governor Chet Culver in September of 2010 (https://ballotpedia.org/David_Staudt).
As a district court judge, Staudt can hear anything that would be heard in the lower courts (associate district courts and magistrates) as well as money judgements greater than $10,000, divorces, civil suits, contract cases, workers compensation appeals, and felonies (class 1/24).
In the roughly six and a half years that he has served as a district court judge, Judge Staudt has seen many newsworthy cases come across his courtroom. About eleven months ago, Judge Staudt granted a new trial for a man from Waterloo who, in March 2015, was found guilty of murder. According to KCRG, Staudt granted the new trial because the jury had seen photos of the defendant that had gang affiliation (http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Judge-Grants-New-Trial-for-Waterloo-Man-Convicted-of-Murder-370565161.html). The new trial jury found him not guilty (class 1/24).
In 2013, KCCI reported that Staudt sentenced a man to 95 years in prison with a mandatory 30 year sentence. The man was Daniel Morrissey, father of Lyric Cook-Morrissey who was abducted with her cousin in July 2012. The girls’ bodies were found the following December. Morrissey was convicted on drug charges (http://www.kcci.com/article/lyric-cook-morrissey-s-dad-going-to-prison-for-at-least-30-years/6883746).
Staudt had an intense case involving a Waterloo police officer in August, 2016. According to AP News, the officer made some inappropriate comments after a fatal shooting in 2013. The comments were recorded and Staudt found them admissible in trial as part of the defense strategy for the man who shot 18 year old Dae’Quan Campbell (https://apnews.com/8b93689be8694ebab7044a7e7f40ea70).
In 2014, Creston News Advertiser reported that Judge Staudt sentenced a Dunkerton high schooler to five years in prison for bringing a loaded weapon to school (http://www.crestonnews.com/2014/04/30/teen-gets-prison-for-bringing-gun-to-school/a5iixxo/).
A highly emotional case for all involved was a case where a 14 year old shot and killed his 15 year old sister. Stuadt ordered Diyrun Coffer and two other 14 year olds who were with him at the time of the incident to “be placed in secure detention” (WKOW, May, 2015).
Being a district court judge involves making tough decisions like the decisions Judge Staudt made that were mentioned above. It is not an easy job because as he noted, there are “very few absolute rights in this world” but “every lawsuit is the same. There are 2 parties that can’t agree and someone has to decide” and as district judge in the great state of Iowa, the decisions fall on him.
Creston News Advertiser: http://www.crestonnews.com/2014/04/30/teen-gets-prison-for-bringing-gun-to-school/a5iixxo/