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Local attorney goes from Supreme Court to Night Court in one day

It was the Supreme Court to local Night Court all in one day for a Platte City attorney last week.

At 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, attorney Joe Vanover walked into the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City to argue a case about a $120,000 loan.

At 9 p.m. the same day, Vanover walked out of the Platte City Municipal Court after prosecuting a man for trying to break into his estranged wife's house.

Vanover's Supreme Court case began nearly two years ago when he filed a lawsuit against Craig McGrain to recover a $120,000 loan that had not been repaid to Vanover's client.

On Feb. 26 Vanover made his case to the Missouri Supreme Court that although McGrain lived in New York he could be sued in Missouri.

"When I asked the Supreme Court to hear my case, there wasn't much hope they would take it," Vanover said.

Only 10% of the cases in which lawyers ask to go to Supreme Court are allowed a hearing.

"It was a surprise when I found out they wanted to hear more about the arguments I was making," he said. About 100 cases are decided by Missouri's highest court each year.

In April of 2000, Vanover sued McGrain on the loan and had him served with the summons in the state of New York. Following limited pretrial proceedings, the Platte County Circuit Court entered a default judgment to Vanover's client.

McGrain appealed the judgment by saying that he could not be sued in Missouri. After the case went to the Court of Appeals last year, Vanover asked the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case.

"During the arguments in the Supreme Court, an attorney usually gets to say a few words to the judges before they start asking questions," Vanover said. "However I barely got started before they began peppering me with questions."

The seven judges continued hitting Vanover with questions for 20 minutes.

Vanover's Supreme Court case should be decided at some point later this year. The judges normally vote on the case after arguments and then assign one judge to write the opinion.

Vanover's municipal court case was decided that night when the defendant was found guilty of damaging his wife's door with a screwdriver.