United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri
The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri is one of ninety-four United States district courts. The court is divided into five locations: Kansas City, Jefferson City, Springfield, Joplin, and St. Joseph. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse.
Vacancy warning level
|Stephen R. Bough||Missouri State University, 1993||University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 1997|
Article III judges
|Judge Rodney Sippel||1956||Jefferson City, MO||Clinton||11/12/1997 - Present||Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr.||University of Tulsa, B.S., 1978||Washington University School of Law, J.D., 1981|
|Judge David Kays||1962||Kansas City, MO||W. Bush||6/19/2008 - Present||01/03/2014 - Present||Dean Whipple||Southwest Missouri State U., B.S., 1985||University of Arkansas School of Law, J.D., 1987|
|Judge Gary Fenner||1947||St. Joseph, MO||Clinton||7/25/1996 - Present||Scott Wright||University of Kansas, Lawrence, 1970||University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 1973|
|Judge Brian C. Wimes||1966||Kansas City, MO||Obama||4/23/2012 - Present||Nanette Laughrey||University of Kansas, B.G.S., 1990||Texas Southern U., J.D., 1994|
|Judge Mary Elizabeth Phillips||1969||Kirksville, MO||Obama||03/06/2012 - Present||Ortrie Smith||University of Chicago, 1991||University of Missouri Law, 1996|
|Judge M. Douglas Harpool||1956||Springfield, Missouri||3/26/2014-Present||Richard Dorr||Missouri State U., B.S., 1977||University of Missouri, Columbia Law, J.D., 1980|
|Senior Judge Nanette Laughrey||Clinton||08/01/1996 - 08/27/2011||08/27/2011 - Present||University of California, Los Angeles, 1967||University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, 1975|
|Senior Judge Ortrie Smith||Clinton||8/14/1995 - 4/30/2011||4/30/2011 - Present||University of Missouri-Columbia, B.A., 1968||University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, J.D., 1971|
|Senior Judge Dean Whipple||Reagan||12/9/1987 - 4/30/2007||2000 - 2007||4/30/2007 - Present||Drury College, A.B, 1961||University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, J.D., 1965|
|Senior Judge Scott Wright||Carter||9/26/1979 - 10/5/1991||1985 - 1990||10/5/1991 - Present||University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, 1950|
|Senior Judge Howard Sachs||Carter||9/26/1979-10/31/1992||1990-1992||10/31/1992-Present||Williams College, 1947||Harvard Law School, 1950|
|Senior Judge Fernando Gaitan||H.W. Bush||8/2/1991 - 1/3/2014||2007 - 2014||1/3/2014 - Present||Pittsburg State U., Pittsburg, Kansas, B.S., 1970||University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, J.D., 1974|
|Magistrate Judge Sarah Hays||1992-Present||Louisiana State University, 1975||Louisiana State University Law, 1977|
|Magistrate Judge Robert Larsen||1991-Present||Rockhurst University, 1969||University of Missouri Law, 1973|
|Magistrate Judge John Maughmer||1988 - Present||University of Missouri, B.S., 1977||University of Missouri Law, J.D., 1980|
|Magistrate Judge James England||1976 - Present||U. or Missouri, B.A., 1969||University of Missouri Law, J.D., 1972|
|Magistrate Judge Matt Whitworth||2010 - Present||Baker U., 1980||University of Arkansas Law, J.D., 1983|
|Magistrate Judge David P. Rush||2012-Present||Missouri State University, 1983||University of Iowa, 1986|
The Western District of Missouri has original jurisdiction over cases filed within its jurisdiction. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.
There are five court divisions, each covering the following counties:
The St. Joseph Division, covering Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Platte, Putnam, Sullivan, and Worth counties.
|Federal Court Caseload Statistics*|
|Year||Starting case load:||Cases filed:||Total cases:||Cases terminated:||Remaining cases:||Median time(Criminal)**:||Median time(Civil)**:||3 Year Civil cases#:||Vacant posts:##||Trials/Post|
|*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September. **Time in months from filing to completion.|
#This statistic includes cases which have been appealed in higher courts. ##This is the total number of months that any judicial posts had spent vacant that year.
For a searchable list of opinions, please see Western District of Missouri-Justia.com-Dockets and Filings.
| • Death-row prisoner's stay of execution denied, then granted (2014)|
Judge(s):Mary Elizabeth Phillips (U.S. v. Bucklew)
|Click for summary→|
|On May 19, 2014, Judge Mary Elizabeth Phillips refused to issue a stay in the execution of Russell Bucklew, over his lawyers’ arguments that the death-row inmate’s rare birth defect would cause him to suffer cruel and unusual punishment if he were to be lethally injected.
The Supreme Court’s stay of Bucklew’s execution would remain in effect until an appeal could be fully heard by Judge Phillips.
| • Death row inmate's appeal over execution drugs denied (2014)|
Judge(s):Mary Elizabeth Phillips (U.S. v. Taylor)
|Click for summary→|
|On February 24, 2014, Judge Mary Elizabeth Phillips denied a stay of execution for Michael Taylor, a convicted rapist and murderer.
Taylor's lawyers argued that Missouri's execution protocols put their client at a high risk of experiencing Eighth Amendment violations in the form of cruel and unusual punishment. Using past execution drug failures as examples, and pentobarbital's failures in particular, members of Taylor's defense team alleged their client would experience "severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain." Taylor's lawyers also argued that Missouri officials violated prisoners' rights by executing them prior to all legal appeals reaching their conclusion.
Taylor was subsequently executed on February 26, 2014.
| • Mandatory drug testing of college students found unconstitutional (2013)|
Judge(s):Nanette Laughrey (Barrett, et al v. Claycomb, et al, 2:11-CV-04242-NKL)
|Click for summary→|
|On September 13, 2013, Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled that mandatory and suspicionless drug testing of college students was unconstitutional as an unreasonable search. In the underlying case, Linn State Technical College instituted a drug-testing program in 2011 which required that incoming freshmen and students who had been away from campus for six months or more submit to urine testing for drug screens. The college claimed that the drug tests would prepare students for employment in fields where such tests may be required. The college also cited other reasons why the drug tests were necessary, but none were related to student safety. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of six students, alleging that the drug tests violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Judge Laughrey granted the students an injunction, and Linn State filed an interlocutory appeal to the Eighth Circuit, claiming that the school needed to perform these drug tests to prevent safety risks to its students. The appeals court lifted the injunction and sent the case back to the trial court, where Judge Laughrey ruled that the school had used "illusory safety concerns to mask unconstitutional purposes." Noting that it was well-settled law that urine tests are searches under the Fourth Amendment, Judge Laughrey found that Linn State's drug-testing policy was unconstitutional. A lawyer for the school said further appeal in the case was likely.|
| • Bank robbery case (2009)|
|Click for summary→|
|Judge Kays presided in a bank robbery case that differed from most bank robbery cases in federal court. This case involved a bank robber who turned himself in before the federal authorities could identify him as a suspect. Kays sentenced the robber to five years in federal prison on October 6, 2009.|
Congress established the State of Missouri as one judicial district on March 16, 1822, with one post to cover the entire state. The district court in Missouri was not yet assigned to a judicial circuit, and therefore was granted the same jurisdiction as the United States circuit courts, excluding appeals or writs of error, which are the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court.
On March 3, 1837, following Statute 5 Stat. 176, Congress repealed the circuit court jurisdiction of the district court of Missouri. Missouri was assigned to the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri was created. On March 3, 1857, Statute 11 Stat. 197 divided the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri into two judicial districts, known as the Eastern and the Western. One judgeship was authorized to each district, and the district judge who served the District of Missouri was assigned to serve the Western District of Missouri.
Over time, five additional judicial posts were added for a total of seven posts.
The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Western District of Missouri:
|March 3, 1857||11 Stat. 197||1|
|September 14, 1922||42 Stat. 838||2|
|June 22, 1936||49 Stat. 1804||3|
|December 24, 1942||56 Stat. 1083||4|
|May 19, 1961||75 Stat. 80||5|
|June 2, 1970||84 Stat. 294||7|
|October 20, 1978||92 Stat. 1629||7|
|July 10, 1984||98 Stat. 333||7|
|December 1, 1990||104 Stat. 5089||7|
Former chief judges
In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.
For more information on the judges of the court, see former federal judges of the Western District of Missouri.
Five separate courthouses serve the Western District of Missouri.
- United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri website
- Opinions of the Western District of Missouri
- Official Website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri
- News Tribune.com, "Bill advances to name Mo. courthouse for Bond," July 13, 2011
- Mow.uscourts.gov, "Western District of Missouri," accessed on July 9, 2014
- Western District of Missouri, "Court Locations," accessed May 30, 2014
- Offices of the United States Attorneys, "U.S. Attorneys Listing," accessed on July 9, 2014
- NBC News, "Judge OKs Execution of Russell Bucklew, Missouri Inmate With Birth Defect," May 19, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- NBC News, "Supreme Court Halts Execution of Missouri Inmate Russell Bucklew," May 21, 2014
- UPI, "Federal judge denies Missouri death row inmate's appeal over drug," February 24, 2014
- KCTV5, "Michael Taylor executed for killing Ann Harrison," February 26, 2014
- Courthouse News Service, "College's Student Drug Testing Policy Tossed," September 17, 2013
- Kansas City Star, "Bank robber who turned himself in gets light sentence from federal judge," October 6, 2009
- Federal Judicial Center, "History of the Districts of Missouri," accessed on July 9, 2014
- United States Courts, Frequently Asked Questions
- United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
Sarah Hays • Robert Larsen • John Maughmer • James England • Matt Whitworth • David P. Rush •
|Former Article III judges||
|Former Chief judges||