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Alumna Mondonna Ghasedi pursues her dream career as an associate circuit judge

Mondonna Ghasedi poses for a headshot for her profile on St. Louis County Courts. She was able to learn how to apply rules to real-world situations at 14 years old as the only female baseball umpire at the Ballwin Athletic Association. “It took a lot of courage to make the calls on a diamond full of older male teenagers, but I quickly learned that a firm grasp of the rules and the confidence to apply them made me one of the more sought after umpires by coaches and players alike,” Ghasedi said. “It was not always easy and sometimes the answer was not clear but, with attentiveness, commitment and an understanding of the rules, I made the calls with confidence. These experiences only enhanced my commitment to justice and fairness and furthered my desire to know the rules that applied to those principles.”

Courtesy of Mondonna Ghasedi

Mondonna Ghasedi poses for a headshot for her profile on St. Louis County Courts. She was able to learn how to apply rules to real-world situations at 14 years old as the only female baseball umpire at the Ballwin Athletic Association. “It took a lot of courage to make the calls on a diamond full of older male teenagers, but I quickly learned that a firm grasp of the rules and the confidence to apply them made me one of the more sought after umpires by coaches and players alike,” Ghasedi said. “It was not always easy and sometimes the answer was not clear but, with attentiveness, commitment and an understanding of the rules, I made the calls with confidence. These experiences only enhanced my commitment to justice and fairness and furthered my desire to know the rules that applied to those principles.”

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Alumna Mondonna Ghasedi has fulfilled her dream of becoming a judge after getting her law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. Ghasedi was appointed associate circuit judge for the 21st Circuit, which covers St. Louis County, in October 2016 by Gov. Jeremiah W. Nixon.

The distinction of the type of judge was not as important, but I have always wanted to be a judge. I have always wanted to be the one resolving the issue. When you’re in law practice, you’re an advocate and the best way to really help people is to be able to resolve their issues. The person in the best position to do that is the judge in legal matters because you have ultimate decision making ability,” Ghasedi said.

Ghasedi’s aspiration to serve on the bench was as a result of her upbringing. She learned at a young age that not everyone has access to a fair system of justice.

“In my early years, I was painfully aware of the persecution suffered by those not fortunate enough to live in the United States. Throughout my childhood, numerous family members lived with us as they sought refuge from a war-torn and hostile homeland and legally immigrated to the United States,” Ghasedi said. “Like my father, they risked their lives to become Americans and to have basic fundamental rights they had so long been denied. These experiences shaped my worldview, and I developed a deep appreciation for fairness and rules that support equality and justice.”

Ghasedi has known that she wanted to work towards being a judge since she was in high school.

“I used to joke when I was at Parkway West and I was on the soccer team that I was going to become a judge so I could wear my Umbros, which were the popular soccer shorts of the day, underneath my robe. I will report that I do not do that, but it is something that has always kind of been my dream job. I never thought it was attainable because it is a very hard process.”

The process of becoming a judge begins with the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan. This plan, a combination of merit-based selection and judge election, has been adopted by over 30 states.

“The plan is set up so the governor’s choice is one of three vetted and qualified candidates. So politics plays a little bit less of a role and there is no fundraising involved, there is no asking for money, there is no party affiliation, it is supposed to be and I think largely is merit-based.”

Being an associate circuit judge, Ghasedi has an unlimited amount of responsibilities and duties to manage each day. Her main responsibility is to hear cases and resolve disputes, however she is also involved in other community projects.

“There are so many things that go into this job, like just recently I applied for a grant so that I could start a mental health resource center in St. Louis County because we have litigants with mental health needs. Their mental health conditions are inhibiting their access to justice and their ability to represent their interests in courts. Well that is part of my job as a judge, to increase people’s access to justice. But what does that mean? It is so many things,” Ghasedi said.

Part of being a judge also requires Ghasedi to make sure that her corporation is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, that translators are available, affirming that people are treated correctly and making sure litigants without attorneys have access to forms and an opportunity to be heard.

“There is no job description. You look at the constitution of the state of Missouri, it defines what a judge is, it is very big, it is very broad. This job is what you make it,” Ghasedi said.

Ghasedi is currently assigned to family court and she hears domestic relations matters, which include divorces, paternity cases, orders of protection, custody disputes and child support disputes.

“Usually I have one day a week where in the afternoon I hear orders of protection and domestic violence based orders of protection. Every morning I have settlement conferences and then I schedule trials. They usually start at 10 a.m., those trials can go from one day to one week it just kind of depends. Then I have motion hearings usually on Tuesday afternoons so I am at my desk or on the bench,” Ghasedi said. “Every day I am deciding where children live, where they sleep at night and where they get to spend time with one parent versus another and that is a pretty heavy burden. We all take that very seriously and we try to do as much as we can in the time that we have.”

One aspect about being a judge that Ghasedi enjoys the most is being able to help people on a daily basis, despite the fact that prior to being a judge, she participated in community activities on her own.

“[Helping the community] gets to be my job. I actually feel like every single day I am doing something to help people and that is a real privilege. I am the luckiest person in the world, like I get paid to do that, that is my job. I was doing that for free before,” Ghasedi said.

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Alumna Mondonna Ghasedi pursues her dream career as an associate circuit judge