Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Could Use a Good Dollop of Common Sense

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Could Use a Good Dollop of Common Sense

Article excerpt

THERE ARE TIMES when law and common sense, which are supposed to run on parallel tracks, slide apart. Law goes one way, common sense the other.

When this happens, the wrong side wins.

This is always bothersome, but especially so - at least to people who hold the legal system in high regard - when the wrong side happens to be a judge. I'm referring, of course, to St. Charles Circuit Judge Donald Dalton's recent victory in a case in front of the Missouri Court of Appeals. His daughter, Lisa Suter, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. She was convicted of conspiring with her lover to murder her husband, Alfred Suter. This lover, who is also serving a life sentence, testified that Lisa had promised him a share of Suter's $200,000 life insurance policy. After Suter was murdered, Lisa applied for the insurance proceeds, but the insurance company balked. She was already charged with the murder. So she waived her rights to the money, and it was then claimed by the contingent beneficiary, her father, the judge. Meanwhile, Suter's parents argued that the judge should not get the money. After all, his daughter had murdered their son. If he were to get the money, he could use it for his daughter's defense. That didn't seem right. Suter's parents argued that they should get the money. Incidentally, they are from Switzerland. Their stand-in, you could say, was Bruno Schmitter. He was the personal representative of Suter's estate. Faced with the competing claims, the insurance company wanted the court to determine who should get the money. Judge Dalton, through his attorney - who happened to be the attorney defending Lisa - objected. When the case went to the probate division, the judge there happened to be Judge Dalton's brother. So he excused himself, and another judge was brought in. This new judge then ruled in favor of Judge Dalton. The estate successfully appealed, and the case was sent back to the lower court. The insurance company argued for a trial. So did the estate. But the judge again ruled in favor of Judge Dalton, and granted him a summary judgment. The estate again appealed, and this time the appellate court ruled in favor of Judge Dalton. …

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