Missouri Supreme Court
|Missouri Supreme Court|
|Location:||Jefferson City, Missouri|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Judge Laura Denvir Stith||2001-2014|
|Judge Patricia Breckenridge||2007-2020||Gov. Matt Blunt|
|Justice Richard Teitelman||2008-2016||Gov. Bob Holden|
|Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell||2004-2018||Gov. Bob Holden|
|Judge Zel Fischer||2008-2022||Gov. Matt Blunt|
|Judge George Draper||2011-2024||Gov. Jay Nixon|
|Judge Paul C. Wilson||2012-2014||Gov. Jay Nixon|
The judges rotate the two-year term of Chief Justice among themselves based on seniority. The state constitution requires that the Chief Justice presides over the court and is the "chief administrative officer of the state judicial system." Richard Teitelman is the current Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.
Missouri voters have approved changes in the state's constitution to give the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction - the sole legal power - to hear five types of cases on appeal. Pursuant to Article V, Section 3 of the Missouri Constitution, these cases involve:
- The validity of a United States statute or treaty.
- The validity of a Missouri statute or constitutional provision.
- The state's revenue laws.
- Challenges to a statewide elected official's right to hold office.
- Imposition of the death penalty.
Unless their case involves one of those five issues, people who want a trial court's decision reviewed must appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals. Most of these cases involve routine legal questions and end there. The Court of Appeals is divided geographically into the Eastern District, Western District and Southern District.
Certain cases, however, can be transferred to the Supreme Court - at the Court's discretion - if it determines that a question of general interest or importance is involved, that the laws should be re-examined, or that the lower court's decision conflicts with an earlier appellate decision. This is similar to the process the United States Supreme Court uses in accepting cases.
The Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission selects justices of the court according to the Missouri Plan. The Commission submits three names to the Governor to determine the replacement. If the Governor neglects this duty, the responsibility goes to the Commission. After one year of serving on the court, the justice must go to general election to retain his seat. Terms are for 12 years. As of the elections of 2012, no appellate judge in Missouri has lost a retention election. Two appointments were made to court in 2008: Zel Fischer and Patricia Breckenridge.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook 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 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Missouri was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Missouri received a score of 0.001. Based on the justices selected, Missouri was the 25th most conservative court. 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 rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
According to Article V, Section 21 of the state constitution, to be considered a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court, one must be at least 30 years of age, licensed to practice law in the state, a U.S. citizen for at least 15 years, and be a qualified voter of the state for at least nine years prior to the person's candidacy. Additionally, candidates must be younger than 70 years of age, as there is mandatory retirement at that time.
Removal of justices
A judge can be removed on the recommendation of the Missouri Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline, or may be impeached by the house of representatives, which then goes to the Supreme Court. Convictions require the approval of five sevenths of the court or commission.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Missouri earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
- Missouri Supreme Court Official Site
- Associated Press, "Mo. Supreme Court considers whether new congressional districts meet compactness requirement," February 16, 2012
- Missourinet, "State supreme court weighs dispute between public defenders, judges ," December 15, 2011
- Chief justice proposes more openness in judge selections
- Show Me Better Judges
- Columbia Daily Tribune, "State Archives to post Supreme Court cases," March 7, 2011
- Daily Reporter, "Appellate Judicial Commission taking applications to fill vacancy on Mo. Supreme Court," June 7, 2011
- St. Louis Business Journal, "13 apply to succeed Judge Wolff on Missouri Supreme Court," July 18, 2011
- "New Chief Justice of Missouri Supreme Court". Jet Magazine. July 14, 2003.
- Missouri Constitution, Article V, Sec. 8. As amended August 3, 1976. Accessed October 27, 2007.
- Grisham's Judicial Appeal
- Two area judges nominated for Mo. Supreme Court slot
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Missouri Courts: Supreme Court judges
- Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline]
- Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges
- The Missouri Courts, "Annual Judicial and Statistical Reports"
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- See also: Missouri judicial elections, 2012
George Draper was retained by the voters.
| Missouri Supreme Court |
2012 General election results
- See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections
Zel Fischer was retained by the voters.
| Missouri Supreme Court |
2010 General election results
- See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008
Patricia Breckenridge was retained by the voters.
| Missouri Supreme Court |
2008 General election results
Michael Wolff • William Ray Price • Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. • William D. Benton • John Collet • Andrew Jackson Higgins •