Missouri has 415 judges and commissioners. There are seven Supreme Court judges and 32 appellate judges on the three geographic districts of the intermediate court of appeals (the Missouri Court of Appeals). In the trial courts throughout the state, there are 142 circuit judges, 201 associate circuit judges, and 33 commissioners and deputy commissioners.
The qualifications for judge are governed by article V, section 21 of the Missouri constitution. In most counties in the state, circuit judges and associate circuit judges are elected by popular vote. Vacancies during a term are filled by appointment by the governor until the next general election. In the remaining five counties, in the urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis, circuit and associate circuit judges are selected pursuant to Missouri's constitutional nonpartisan court plan. All appellate judges, including those on the Supreme Court, are selected pursuant to the nonpartisan court plan.
Judges who wish to serve beyond their term must seek another term. Judges subject to the nonpartisan plan must stand for retention at the general election prior to the expiration of their terms. Trial judges elected in partisan elections must seek re-election. Judges may serve until the age of 70.
If a judge retires, resigns or dies during his or her term in office, a vacancy is created. Vacancies for judicial offices subject to the nonpartisan plan will be filled following that plan's procedure. For other vacancies, the governor appoints a new judge to fill any portion of the term of judicial office that remains.
At the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, clerks are called “clerks of court.” The clerk of the Supreme Court 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 comprising all of the judges in the state.
The day-to-day administrative duties include handling all inquiries and procedural requests from attorneys throughout the state, arranging the docketing of cases, maintaining files in each case before the court, receiving and disposing of fees related to those cases, and printing and distributing opinions of the court. In all of these matters, the clerk reports directly to the chief justice.
The duties of the clerks of the three geographic districts of the Court of Appeals have similar administrative duties. The appellate clerks report to the chief judge of their respective districts.
At the trial level, clerks are called “circuit clerks.” The circuit clerk is responsible for maintaining complete and accurate records of the court; collecting, accounting for and disbursing all monies paid into the court; and performing other duties, as necessary, to assist the court in performing its duties.
Some of the duties of a circuit clerk are:
- Receiving, processing and maintaining the judgments, rules, orders and all other proceedings of the court.
- Issuing process, such as summons, subpoenas, executions, garnishments, sequestrations, judgments, orders and commitments.
- Collecting and disbursing all fines and costs.
- On the court's order, collecting and disbursing other monies paid into the court.
- Selecting and summonsing jurors.
- Preserving the court seal and other property of the office.
- Providing uniform case reporting.
- Maintaining the court case files in an accurate and complete manner.
- Providing staff assistance to the judges to provide for the efficient operation of the court.
A circuit may be composed of more than one county, but each county within the circuit has a circuit clerk whose authority extends to the individual county only. Some circuits have a court administrator who performs the statutory functions of the circuit clerk. In many counties, the circuit clerk is an elected official and serves a term of four years. If the office of an elected circuit clerk becomes vacant, the governor will appoint someone to fill the position until the next general election, at which time a new clerk is elected for the remainder of the term of office. The circuit clerk or court administrator of a county with a charter form of government may be appointed, as provided by the county charter.
A circuit clerk must be a United States Citizen, at least 21 years of age, a resident of Missouri for one year, and a resident of the county in which the individual will serve as clerk for three months prior to appointment or election.
The circuit clerk may hire deputy clerks to perform the duties of the office of circuit clerk. With a few specific exceptions, the deputy has the authority to act in place of the clerk. The state’s statutes define deputy circuit clerks as the clerical staff who perform the duties for which the circuit clerk has administrative control.
A state courts administrator functions under direction of the Supreme Court to help develop and implement administrative policies and services for the judicial branch. The state courts administrator’s office ensures court operations and judicial administrative needs are identified, evaluated and incorporated into appropriate long- and short-range plans; establishes priorities and secures resources to accomplish those priorities; addresses financial and operational problems and budgeting issues; and manages use of technology within the judicial branch.
A local court administrator manages the daily operations of the circuit court, under the direction of the presiding judge and the court en banc (all the judges in the circuit). The court administrator provides administrative support for court programs, helps the court establish new programs and evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs, and prepares reports requested by the court en banc. The court administrator also manages such functions as the local court’s purchasing and accounts payable; personnel system and payroll. Divisions of the circuit court, such as family court, drug court, or teen court, might have their own administrators.
The marshal or bailiff of the court is responsible for building security, courtroom security and personal security for all persons working for and doing business in the court. At the trial court level, the marshal or bailiff may make arrests, take custody of persons upon court order, and help manage the pool of prospective jurors. Additionally, some marshals or bailiffs conduct bond investigations, supervise bonds and manage community service monitoring.
Legal staff within the courts may include primary legal counsel, staff attorneys, research attorneys and law clerks. These staff examine briefs, case records and legal authorities. They also perform legal research, analysis and writing under general supervision. Under the specific guidance of a judge, legal staff recommend disposition of cases and help draft opinions, orders, calendar notices, decisions and other legal documents for a judge's review and approval. Legal staff may assist the judge in authoring an opinion to incorporate or reconcile suggestions made by other judges; provide technical review of proposed opinions and alert judge to errors of fact and law; act as a sounding board for the judge; maintain the law library; set up courtroom and recording equipment; and record court proceedings.
Judges' Support Staff
Judges’ support staff may include judicial executive assistants (at the Supreme Court), judicial administrative assistants (at the Court of Appeals) and secretaries (in the trial courts). These support staff work with considerable independence to provide high-level secretarial and administrative support to a judge. Staff may type and edit opinions, agendas, and correspondence; create and maintain administrative files; coordinate and arrange meetings; coordinate travel arrangements; and answer or direct telephone inquiries, mail and visitors to appropriate staff. Many judges’ support staff interact with other judges, legislators and other elected officials.
A court reporter records judicial proceedings verbatim; reads back requested portions of records or notes; transcribes stenographic notes and files by computer aided transcription to a finished transcript in official format; keeps a detailed log, marks, receipts, secures, and files all exhibits with the Clerk's Office. In recording the proceedings, many court reporters use computerized stenograph machines into which the court reporter types information, while others use stenomask devices into which the court reporter speaks a kind of verbal shorthand.
A jury supervisor in the trial courts reviews the lists for potential jurors and determines whether an individual is qualified to serve as a juror; determines the number of jurors to be summoned; issues summonses; and handles requests for postponement, exemption or disqualification. The jury supervisor also establishes procedures for enforcement of non-compliance with questionnaires and summonses; meets with summoned jurors to explain procedures and other aspects of jury service and to answer questions; selects jury panels and directs them where to go; and dismisses jurors from the jury assembly room at end of the day or of the juror’s service.
The juvenile officer functions in a highly responsible administrative and professional level to enforce and administer juvenile justice activities for a judicial circuit. The juvenile officer is vested with the statutory authority to take charge of children who come within the jurisdiction of the juvenile or family court. The juvenile officer performs under the direction of the judge of the juvenile or family court and is responsible for the daily operation and administration of the juvenile office and, in some locations, of a juvenile detention center as well. Work They manage and distribute caseloads among deputy juvenile officers, supervise deputy juvenile officers and other juvenile office staff, and answer public inquiries about the juvenile office.