The following reflections of Missouri Chief Justice Mary R. Russell make up her most recent Justice Matters column.
With the recent turmoil in the federal government, many people have been asking me how I am able to do my job. For some, the government seems to be one giant entity, but I work at the Supreme Court of Missouri – the highest court in the state court system, which operates independently of the federal government.
More importantly, the people of Missouri have mandated – through article I, section 14 of the state constitution – “[t]hat the courts of justice shall be open to every person, and certain remedy afforded for every injury to person, property or character, and that right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” In other words, no matter what, the people of Missouri require that their courts always be open to resolving their disputes.
From our local municipal divisions to the Supreme Court of Missouri, our state courts handle more than 2.5 million cases each year, from peace disturbances to crimes against persons and property, from contract disputes to real estate matters, from child custody determinations to the final dispositions of wills. Courts truly touch the lives of individual Missourians each and every day, giving them a peaceful forum in which to have their most pressing disputes resolved.
While very few of these cases ever make headlines, Missouri’s judges and court staff recognize that each case is one of the most important things in the world to the people involved in that case … that sometimes lives truly are hanging in the balance. With more than 400 state judicial officers, people can have their cases heard at courthouses all over Missouri. And we all strive to ensure that the courts in your local communities provide a peaceful forum in which disputes can go through a fair process to reach timely resolutions so people can have more certainty in their lives.
Courts also provide a forum to ensure that individual constitutional rights are protected by unreasonable government actions from the other two branches of government. In this way, Missourians have designed their courts to serve a vital role in our system of checks and balances.
And, as officers of the Missouri courts, we take very seriously our oaths to uphold the constitutions of Missouri and the United States as we work hard each day to fulfill our promise that “justice … be administered without sale, denial or delay.”
Our doors remain open, and all are welcome inside to watch justice being done every day.