Laura Denvir Stith

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Laura Denvir Stith
Current Court Information:
Missouri Supreme Court
Title:   Judge
Salary:  $137,000
Active:   2001-2014
Chief:   2007-2009
Past position:   Judge, Missouri Court of Appeals
Past term:   1994-2001
Past position 2:   Attorney, Private practice
Past term 2:   1980-1994
Personal History
Undergraduate:   Tufts University, 1975
Law School:   Georgetown University Law Center, 1978

Laura Denvir Stith is a judge for the Missouri Supreme Court. She was appointed to this position in 2001, retained by voters in 2002, and her current term as expires in 2014.


Stith received a B.A. in Political Science and Social Psychology from Tufts University in 1975 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1978.[1]


Awards and associations


  • 2006: Distinguished Non-Alumnus Award, University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law
  • 2009: Joseph Stevens Aspire to Excellence Award, Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association


  • Founding director, Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance
  • Member, Association of Women Lawyers
  • Chair, Gender and Justice Joint Committee of The Missouri Bar and the Supreme Court of Missouri[1]

Notable rulings

Criticism for Roper v. Simmons Opinion

Judge Stith authored an opinion in Roper v. Simmons (2003) that directly contradicted Supreme Court precedent by finding the execution of a person under the age of 18 to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment, in part relying upon foreign law and treaties as part of the court’s determination that the national consensus on execution of minors had changed.[2] In his dissent to the U.S. Supreme Court’s evaluation of the case, Justice Scalia took issue with the use of international law as a basis for reasoning in the case, writing on page 18 that “the basic premise of the Court’s argument – that American law should conform to the laws of the rest of the world – ought to be rejected out of hand.”[3]

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld the decision, Justices O’Connor and Scalia both criticized the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal precedent. On page 7 of her dissent, Justice O’Connor writes, “As a preliminary matter, I take issue with the Court’s failure to reprove, or even to acknowledge, the Supreme Court of Missouri’s unabashed refusal to follow our controlling decision in Stanford. The lower court concluded that, despite Stanford’s clear holding and historical recency, our decision was no longer binding authority because it was premised on what the court deemed an obsolete assessment of contemporary values. Quite apart from the merits of the constitutional question, this was clear error.”[4] Justice Scalia was also concerned with Judge Stith’s decision, writing on page 23 of his dissent, “To add insult to injury, the Court affirms the Missouri Supreme Court without even admonishing that court for its flagrant disregard of our precedent in Stanford. Until today, we have always held that ‘it is this Court’s prerogative alone to overrule one of its precedents.’ State Oil Co. v. Khan, 522 U.S. 3, 20 (1997).”[3]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of State Supreme Court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Stith received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -0.76, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average CF score of 0.001 that justices received in Missouri. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[5]

See also

External links


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