Judges on the ballot in Missouri

By The Examiner staff

The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee says it found all 53 nonpartisan judges statewide who are up for retention in the Nov. 3 elections worthy to keep.

The committee notes all judges, including several circuit and associate circuit judges in 16th Circuit in Jackson County, “substantially meet overall performance standards.”

Among the judges reviewed who will be on the ballots in Jackson County:

• Missouri Supreme Court Judge Patricia Breckenridge.

• Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Chapman.

• Circuit Judges Cory Atkins, Patrick Campbell, Kenneth Garrett III, Kevin Harrell and John Torrence.

• Associate circuit judges Jeffrey Keal, Janette Rodecap, Kyndra Stockdale.

Complete performance review information on judges can be found at: YourMissouriJudges.org.

The review committee considers a variety of information about each judge, including lawyers’ ratings of judges, jurors’ ratings of some trial judges and written opinions from judges. Jurors were asked a series of questions about the judge’s courtroom conduct. The lawyers’ survey focused on key traits judges’ traits needed to render justice effectively and fairly. Circuit and associate circuit judges were rated in areas including a wide range of observable skills and traits, such as treating people fairly, competency in the law and writing clear opinions. 

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges were rated on a different set of criteria as they decide cases that are appealed because of possible legal errors, either procedural or through misinterpretations of the law. These judges were rated on areas such as whether their opinions were clearly written, whether they adequately explained the basis of the court’s decision and whether they issued opinions in a timely manner. For all judges, lawyers’ surveys were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best.

Missouri uses a constitutional merit system known as the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan to select its appellate judges and trial-level judges in the City of St. Louis and Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties. In other parts of the state, trial-level judges seek election in partisan races.

Before becoming a judge, all nonpartisan judges are screened by a nominating commission whose members include lawyers, non-lawyers and a judge. The commission selects the three most qualified candidates and forwards their names to the governor, who chooses one candidate to fill the position. After their first year on the bench and again at the end of each term, nonpartisan judges must run in retention elections. In retention elections the ballot reads: “Shall Judge X be retained?” To be retained, each merit-selected judge must receive a simple majority.

The Missouri Bar funds the review process, which was created by a Supreme Court of Missouri rule in 2008, and the committee operates independently of the bar and judiciary.