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St. Louis County judge retires at 70, leaving behind legacy aimed at helping veterans

CLAYTON, Mo. – For the past five years, Carl Tebeau has asked everyone to rise for the honorable Judge Douglas Beach.

“My job is to protect him and keep order in the court,” says Carl Tebeau, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department.

And it’s been Judge Beach’s job to be stern but fair as presiding judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court. He’s been responsible for sweeping reform of the county municipal court system.

“The constitution of the state of Missouri says a judicial officer shall retire before their 70th birthday,” Beach said. “Since judges are supposed to follow the law, today is my birthday. I retired (Wednesday) and today I’m celebrating with all my friends and folks I’ve worked with over the years.”

Beach began his career as a Marine and JAG officer, which later led to his work in 2015 – starting the first veterans court in the county.

“We try to really help build them back up because they were all successful at some point having been in the service,” Beach said. “So as a result of that, if they get through the program, the prosecuting attorney has agreed to drop the charges and they get a chance to reestablish their life.”

Judge Beach helped incorporate Chesterfield in 1988, helping it to become recognized as a city. And in 2010, he undertook the task of overhauling the St. Louis County Courthouse.

“The building was in deplorable condition,” he said. “The juvenile court looked like a third world country and it had asbestos issues. So we were able to go out in 2012 and we did a $100 million bond issue, which was not a tax increase. And we were able to construct this side of the building. It’s 130,000 square-feet and it’s all family law.”

Even though he’s retiring, Beach will act as a Missouri Supreme Court liaison—or a retired judge monitor—with all the municipal courts in St. Louis County.

“He’s a worker, he really is,” Tebeau said. “I have a lot of admiration for him for that. He’s done mostly family court until he was made presiding judge last year. It really impressed me, the concern and trouble he takes in divorce matters, with children. He’s really involved in that.”

But Beach will hang his hat on the veterans court and the 15-month program with the VA, helping veterans with non-violent felony problems like alcohol or drugs.

“We’ve had about 38 involved in the program,” Beach said. “I think there’s about 21 in the program. I think all except for one has successfully completed the program. Judges don’t get to do a lot of good stuff and that’s one of the ones I can feel happy about.”