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Meet the Candidates- Webster County Judge

David Tunnell


- Tell us about yourself!

My name is David Tunnell, age 45. I live outside Marshfield with my wife Rebecca. We were married in 2006; we built our house in 2007. Our children, Luke and Lily, attend Marshfield Schools.

I graduated from Marshfield High School in 1994. I attained my Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) in 1997 and my Juris Doctor (Law) Degree from Mizzou School of Law in 2001. I became a licensed attorney 21 years ago, in 2001.

I grew up in Rural Marshfield; my parents are Tommy (a farmer) and Louella (a nurse) Tunnell. Growing up, I spent summers, weekends and evenings helping my dad on his farm doing tasks like putting up hay, driving tractors, splitting wood, and working in his sawmill.

In 1999, Jim Corbett hired me to work for him at Corbett Law Firm in Springfield. There, I worked as a law clerk between semesters of Law School, and later as an attorney for more than 13 years, until December 31, 2014 (when I had to leave to assume my judicial office).

I was elected Webster County Associate Circuit Judge in November 2014, and I have served as Judge since January 2015.

I am a practicing Christian, born-again in 1990. I have attended church most Sundays since 2010, when we learned we were going to have a child; my wife and I believe our children need Jesus as their foundation, as He is our foundation. My family and I faithfully attend Marshfield First Baptist Church.

- Why are you the best candidate for the position ?

Because I know how to do the job. I have been Judge for eight years (longer than the seven years my opponent has even been an attorney). I have faithfully and impartially carried out my judicial duties every day of that time. I have decided thousands of cases (as of July 13, 2022, I have finished 15,013 cases). This is an average of over 2,000 cases per year. Thus far, my decisions have been reviewed (on either appeals or writ petitions) in the Missouri Court of Appeals ten times and in the Missouri Supreme Court two times. MY DECISIONS HAVE NOT BEEN OVERTURNED ONE SINGLE TIME. This demonstrates that I take my job as Judge seriously. I put in the work to think through the facts and research the law so that my decisions are the correct, legally proper ones.

When you are the Judge, making real decisions, in most cases, there are winners and losers. Sometimes, even in a case where I think a party is clearly the winner, I am surprised when I later learn that that “winner” views himself as the “loser”. On the other hand, I have been THANKED by several people that I have sent to prison because they viewed my action as a wake-up call to turn their life around and become productive citizens. A judge’s job is to know the law, faithfully apply the law to the facts, and withstand the temptation to be swayed by popular opinion or mere emotion.

- How has your experience prepared you for this role?

I know Webster County. I grew up among its people. I have some knowledge of the agriculture business, which is a large (though, sadly, shrinking) segment of our local economy. This knowledge was imparted to me by my parents and grandparents.

I also learned the spirit of public service from my mother, Louella Tunnell. She served as administrator of the Webster County Health Unit from before I was born until 2010. On numerous occasions, she would be awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from someone needing a shot or other medical treatment. Now, it is my turn to get those mid-night calls, for various warrants or ex parte orders of protection. Few people outside of my family know about those calls, just like few knew of my mother’s calls. It’s just part of the job, and it is done without complaint.

Moreover, I have the requisite legal knowledge and experience. At Corbett Law Firm, we tried more jury trials than any firm in Southwest Missouri. I personally prepared hundreds of sets of jury instructions. I tried many trials, including jury trials, bench trials, and Worker’s Compensation trials. I handled dozens of appeals, both for the appellant and the respondent.

As a judge, I efficiently administer the large criminal, domestic, and civil dockets that our Court system consists of. I have presided over ten jury trials since taking office. Seven of them were in Webster County, two in Polk, and one in Dallas County.

- What are goals for the future?

My goal is to continue doing my job fairly, faithfully, impartially, diligently, and honorably, as I have for eight years. My service to Webster County has helped keep our community a good place to live. I will forever stick to the bedrock moral and legal principles that have guided me throughout my life, particularly in this job.

When a person is a mere candidate for the job of judge, it is easy to be “all things to all people”. A candidate who is not the Judge can easily point to cases and say, “I would have decided that differently”, attempting to placate the person they are talking to. In reality, said candidate has no idea how they would have decided that case because they did not see the evidence; all they are trying to do is muddy the water and win votes. It is easy for an aspiring politician to sway the unwary with hypothetical posturing and straw man arguments.

But when you are the Judge, as I am, you do not have that luxury. You CANNOT be everybody’s friend. You MUST apply the real law to real evidence. You must make real decisions. Those decisions affect real people; some will be real mad. But you cannot pass the buck; the decisions must be made. A judge who could be swayed by public commentary is worthless. I possess the wisdom, moral compass, and courage to do the RIGHT thing, criticism notwithstanding. The justice system is safe in my hands.


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