23 January 2013
Chief justice delivers 2013 State of the Judiciary
Richard B. Teitelman, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, delivered the following State of the Judiciary address Wednesday morning, Jan. 23, 2013, during a joint session of the General Assembly in Jefferson City, Mo.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. President Pro Tem, members
of the General Assembly: Thank you for welcoming me here again this morning. I
am humbled to stand before you today to deliver this 40th state of the
Before I begin, let’s take a moment of silence to remember
the great Stan “the Man” Musial, who not only was a great baseball player but
also a humanitarian who treated everyone with graciousness and dignity.
I congratulate all of you – and especially the new
legislators coming to Jefferson City for their first session – for your
commitment to serving your fellow citizens. I want to offer particular
congratulations to your new leaders: in the House, Speaker Tim Jones; Speaker Pro
Tem Jason Smith; and Majority Floor Leader John Diehl; and in the Senate, President
Pro Tem Tom Dempsey; and Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard.
I was struck by something President Pro Tem Dempsey said on the
opening day of the legislative session. He observed that this remarkable state
truly has been “the land of opportunity for so many.” Like Sen. Dempsey, I too
see Missouri as a land of opportunity, where people reach out to others
and help them succeed.
I know my colleagues on the Supreme Court share my
sentiments. Let me introduce success stories in their own right: Judges Mary
Russell, Patty Breckenridge and Zel Fischer, all of whom practiced law in small
firms in rural Missouri communities; Judge George Draper III, whose father – while serving as an
assistant attorney general in the 1960s under Tom Eagleton – was refused
service at restaurants here in Jefferson City; and Judge Laura Denvir Stith and
our newest addition, Jefferson City native Judge Paul Wilson, both of whom
learned the importance of public service at an early age from parents who were
I remain grateful to have the opportunity to serve with such
wonderful people who are so dedicated to serving the constitution and the people
Monday, as we celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr., I thought of success stories here in Missouri. Stories like those beginning in
1920 with the election of Republican Rep. Walthall Moore and continuing through
the 1960s with Sen. Theodore McNeal, Rep. DeVerne Calloway, Rep. Leon Jordan
and Rep. Harold Holiday Sr.; through the 1970s with Rep. Orchid Jordan and Sen.
Gwen Giles; and into the 1980s with Sen. Lee Vertis Swinton – men and women who,
across generations, cast their votes in this great institution as Missouri’s
first black legislators.
I also thought about Lloyd Gaines and Lucile Bluford, both
of whom sought in the 1930s to become students at the University of Missouri. Their struggles helped lead to opportunities.
In just the past decade, the university’s enrollment of African-Americans alone
has increased by more than 80 percent, and now, nearly 20 percent of the
university’s freshmen are minorities.
Truly, opportunities for success abound in Missouri. One more recent success story is
that of Alice Conway, assistant general counsel at Monsanto.
She is remarkable for her educational achievements – she earned
her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the same time as she earned her law
degree from Washington University in St. Louis, she is a mezzosoprano who has
studied at Julliard; and she has studied not only English but also French,
German, Latin and Spanish literature.
She is all the more remarkable because she did all this
reading in Braille, as she has been blind since infancy. Her mother translated
many of her reading materials into Braille by hand.
Alice now manages commercial and
employment law issues for Monsanto.
We in the judiciary are doing what we can to create more
opportunities for people in Missouri to gain access to our courts.
Thanks largely to grant funding, we are providing interpreters as needed in all
criminal, family, domestic and juvenile cases, and we now have a dedicated
language-access point of contact for every county in the state.
At the Supreme Court, we are working to provide
closed-captioning services for the oral arguments we stream online, and we will
be providing informational brochures in Braille and audio files for the blind.
The judiciary’s educational efforts are expanding statewide.
We continue to welcome thousands of your constituents as visitors touring our
beautiful Supreme Court Building. And we now have more than 125 individuals –
business and civic leaders, teachers, lawyers, court staff, judges and others –
volunteering their time to help educate our citizens about the role Missouri’s courts serve in our outstanding
system of government as well as the importance of the constitution and the laws.
One example of a local community coming together to get
young people excited about these important issues is Houston, Texas – Missouri,
that is. Former legislator and now Associate Circuit Judge Doug Gaston has
engaged local leaders and high school students together in a “Constitution
Much like we all have to work together, he has worked with
the local police department, sheriff’s office, newspapers, radio stations,
lawyers, and, of course, school administrators and teachers to provide legal
During this constitution project, students from four Texas County high schools spent part of their
fall semester participating in a mock criminal case. Some students investigated
the crime scene and analyzed the evidence, others reported in the local
newspaper and radio stations about the progress of the investigation and case, and
the rest served as prosecution and defense attorneys. The project helped them see
first-hand how so many facets of our constitutional system of government work
Winners were chosen at the school and county level and
awarded scholarships. Along with Judge Gaston and some of the local leaders who
made the constitution project possible, we have several of the winners here
with us today: county winners Brittany Scott and Nathan Poynter, both of Houston High School; and Houston High School winner Dusti Turner. Let’s
recognize them for their wonderful efforts.
project has been such a success that the members of
the Supreme Court Committee on Civic Education – in partnership with the
Missouri Highway Patrol, the Missouri Press Association, the Missouri
Broadcasters Association and The Missouri Bar – hope to bring it to
other local communities, eventually having a statewide competition.
As another statewide effort, the courts continue to try to
make it easier and more affordable for people to file cases. The Supreme Court,
all three districts of the court of appeals, and the circuit courts in Callaway
Charles counties are up and running in the Missouri eFiling System, and an additional
25 county circuit courts plan to join the eFiling System this year.
Although Judge Ray Price Jr. left the Court last summer to
return to private practice, his legacy remains. Thanks largely to his
commitment to being “smart,” and not just “tough,” about the way we deal with
those in the criminal justice system, we now have treatment court divisions
serving all but two of our 45 judicial circuits.
With a graduation rate exceeding 50 percent, Missouri now has more than 12,000 graduates
who successfully have completed treatment court programs. In addition, nearly
600 drug-free babies have been born to treatment court participants.
One drug court graduate has received national recognition:
Josh Palmer of Malden was featured in a nationwide
meth-prevention media campaign sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control
Policy. Josh’s first encounter with meth at 17 spiraled into a full-blown addiction
that eventually cost him his job, his house and the trust of his family.
Through the drug court program in Dunklin County, Josh was able to beat his
addiction and turn his life around. He now lives with his wife and children and
works as a substance abuse counselor for youth in Hayti. Josh, will you please
stand and be recognized?
Missouri’s treatment courts are celebrating
their 20th anniversary this year. One of the reasons we have drug courts in
Missouri is because of the leadership of Albert Riederer – a former court of
appeals judge and three-term Jackson County prosecutor – who died Dec. 27 after
a courageous battle with cancer. While he was prosecutor, Albert spearheaded
the effort to fund a drug court in Kansas City that was just the second in the country.
One of his partners in this effort – Jim Nunnelly, former administrator of the Jackson County “COMBAT” program to help fight drug
abuse and drug-related crime – was honored earlier this month for his
contribution to the development of the Jackson County drug court.
We appreciate everything that people like Albert and Jim
have done for their community, their state and, indeed, the nation – as Missouri has become a national leader in
drug courts. It has three “mentor courts” established as educational training
sites for other drug courts throughout the country. And last fall, Jackson County’s family drug court received a
national award of excellence for being one of just five peer learning courts.
Because it brings positive change to Missourians and their
communities, this model of providing treatment to certain nonviolent criminal
offenders has moved beyond just drug courts. In 2010, your legislation made Missouri one of the first states in the
nation to establish DWI courts.
And we now have three regional treatment courts serving the
unique needs of our military veterans. One success story is Kennedy, who served
in the Army in the 1980s and who, a decade later, fell into drug and alcohol abuse,
leading to multiple arrests. Kennedy graduated from the St. Louis veterans treatment court this past
September and now coordinates a computer clinic to help others in that program
learn basic computer skills. The treatment court was his key to freedom from
addiction and crime. Let’s salute Kennedy, who is here with us today.
We also want to thank you in the legislative branch and
those in the executive branch for working with the judiciary during the last
year to implement meaningful reforms that make sentencing for nonviolent
offenders more effective and our state safer.
We too can create amazing opportunities when we strive to
follow the example of cooperation among the branches of government set by civic
leaders such as Albert Riederer and our own longtime Supreme Court clerk, Tom
Simon, who also died late last year.
These leaders, and so many more like them in Missouri, embody Dr. Martin Luther King’s belief,
drawn from the words of the prophet Amos, that we should not be satisfied until
“justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” And
with students like those in Texas County embracing the ideals of justice laid
out in our constitution, Missouri will be in good hands in the years to come.
I know all of us on the Court – and all of you here today –
firmly believe in our state’s motto – carved into the dais in this beautiful
chamber – “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” I am humbled to serve with you.
I know you all are very busy, but if you have the opportunity,
please join us now for lunch, graciously provided by The Missouri Bar,
downstairs in Hearing Room 3. For those who enjoyed the knishes last year, we
are bringing more this year, and it also will give you a great opportunity to
meet the Bar’s new executive director, Sebrina Barrett.
Thank you. And God Bless America!