Missouri State Supreme Court building across from the state capitol in Jefferson City

The Supreme Court of Missouri is the highest court in the state of Missouri. It was established in 1820 and is located at 207 West High Street in Jefferson City, Missouri. Missouri voters have approved changes in the state’s constitution to give the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction – the sole legal power to hear – over 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. In addition, the Court of Appeals may transfer a case to the Supreme Court after an opinion is issued, either upon application of one of the parties or at the request of one of the judges on the appellate panel.

In addition to issuing legal decisions, the Supreme Court supervises the lower state courts with the assistance of the Office of State Courts Administrator (“OSCA”).[1] OSCA oversees court programs, provides technical assistance, manages the budget of the state’s judicial branch, and conducts educational programs. The Supreme Court also issues practice and procedure rules for Missouri court cases, including procedure and evidence rules. The Supreme Court licenses attorneys practicing in Missouri, and disciplines lawyers and judges for violating ethical rules.[2]

Judicial selection

Judges of the court are selected through the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, nationally known as the Missouri Plan.[3]

Under the plan, the Appellate Judicial Commission submits the names of three nominees to the Governor. If the Governor fails to make an appointment with 60 days of the nominees being named, the Commission shall make the appointment. Once the judge has served for at least a year, he or she is placed on the general election ballot for a retention vote of the people. If retained, judges serve a term of 12 years.

At the time of its establishment, the court had three judges, which was expanded to five in 1872, and seven in 1890.[4]

Notable cases

The following is a list of notable cases decided by the Supreme Court of Missouri or which came to the Supreme Court of the United States from the Supreme Court of Missouri. Since 1973, the Supreme Court of Missouri has heard all cases en banc (before all seven judges). Before that many cases were heard by panels of three judges. Cases heard en banc are cited as “Mo. banc”; older cases heard by a panel are cited as “Mo.”

Current judges

Robin Ransom is the latest appointee to the Court, having been appointed by Missouri Governor Mike Parson in May 2021.[5] The judges rotate the two-year term of Chief Justice among themselves. The Chief Justice is Constitutionally empowered to preside over the court and to be the “chief administrative officer” of the state judicial system.[6] The Chief Justice is Paul C. Wilson, whose term began July 1, 2021 and will serve until June 30, 2023.[7]

JudgeBornDate appointedChiefAppointed byLaw schoolTerm up
Paul C. Wilson (1961-05-23) May 23, 1961 (age 60)December 3, 20122021–presentJay Nixon (D)Missouri2026
Mary Rhodes Russell (1958-07-28) July 28, 1958 (age 63)September 20042013–2015Bob Holden (D)Missouri2030
Patricia Breckenridge (1953-10-14) October 14, 1953 (age 68)September 20072015–2017Matt Blunt (R)Missouri2032
Zel Fischer (1963-04-28) April 28, 1963 (age 58)October 15, 20082017–2019Matt Blunt (R)Missouri–Kansas City2022
George W. Draper III (1953-08-05) August 5, 1953 (age 68)October 11, 20112019–2021Jay Nixon (D)Howard2024
W. Brent Powell (1970-07-21) July 21, 1970 (age 51)April 25, 2017Eric Greitens (R)Missouri2030
Robin Ransom (1967-07-21) July 21, 1967 (age 54)May 24, 2021Mike Parson (R)Missouri2022

Clerk of the Supreme Court of Missouri

The Clerk of the Supreme Court of Missouri is responsible for a wide range of duties, including the supervision of the internal administrative function of the Court itself as well as the planning and administrative direction of the Missouri Judicial Conference, the organization of all the state’s judges. As of January 1, 2017, the clerk is Betsy AuBuchon, the first woman to serve in that position.[8]

References

  1. ^ “Office of State Courts Administrator”. www.courts.mo.gov. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  2. ^ “Supreme Court of Missouri”. www.courts.mo.gov. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  3. ^ “Nonpartisan Court Plan”. www.courts.mo.gov. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  4. ^ Davis, Elizabeth (April 30, 2019). “Historically Yours: Missouri Supreme Court changed how judges appointed”. Jefferson City News-Tribune.
  5. ^ “Governor Parson Appoints the Honorable Robin Ransom as Next Missouri Supreme Court Judge | Governor Michael L. Parson”. governor.mo.gov. Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  6. ^ Missouri Constitution, Article V, Sec. 8. As amended August 3, 1976. Accessed October 27, 2007.
  7. ^ “New chief justice for Missouri Supreme Court announced”. STLtoday.com. July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  8. ^ “First woman begins serving as Supreme Court of Missouri clerk”. www.courts.mo.gov. Retrieved 2020-09-22.

External links