29 February 2008
Supreme Court adopts new rules to provide further openness into application process, enhanced evaluations of Missouri's nonpartisan judges
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith announced that the Supreme Court of Missouri today adopted amended rules designed to provide greater openness into the process the state's judicial commissions follow in nominating individuals for judicial vacancies on nonpartisan courts. The amended rules also require the creation of judicial performance evaluation committees. These rules, available online, take effect immediately and will apply to vacancies announced after this date.
"As I mentioned in my State of the Judiciary address to the General Assembly earlier this month, members of the Court think it is important to make the process more public to the extent not inconsistent with encouraging well-qualified applicants to apply," Stith said. "The amendments to its rules the Court adopted today will require the nominating commissions to announce the time, date and location of their meetings; to provide certain demographic information about the applicant pool prior to those meetings; and to make public the three nominees' applications, with personal or confidential information redacted.
"The new rules also require, for the first time in Missouri's history, judicial performance evaluation committees to collect and evaluate information about the performance of the state's nonpartisan judges; to recommend improvements in judicial performance and judicial education; to recommend whether a judge should be retained in office, and to release summary evaluations and recommendations to the public," Stith said.
As to the process the nominating commissions follow, the amended rules provide in part:
- Notice of the date, time and place of meetings shall, to the extent possible and practical, be made public at least 24 hours before the meeting. Rule 10.22(c).
- The commission shall publicly release information relating to the number and characteristics of applicants before meeting to take formal action but shall not release any personally identifiable information about any person who is not nominated. Rule 10.28(d).
- Within 72 hours of submitting the certificate of nomination, the commission shall make public the applications of the nominees, with personal or confidential information redacted. Rule 10.28(e).
As to the creation and membership of the judicial evaluation committees, the amended rules provide in part:
- There shall be an Appellate Judicial Evaluation Committee to evaluate the performance of judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Rule 10.50(a). This 12-member committee shall consist of two members of The Missouri Bar and two citizens who are not bar members from each district of the Court of Appeals. Rule 10.51(a).
- There shall be a circuit judicial evaluation committee for each judicial circuit whose judges are selected under the nonpartisan plan. Rule 10.50(b). Each 12-member committee shall consist of six members of The Missouri Bar and six citizens who are not bar members, each of whom must reside in the circuit. Rule 10.51(b).
- The Missouri Bar board of governors shall appoint committee members upon nomination by board members, local and regional bar associations, and citizens who are not bar members. Rule 10.52(a). The board shall give due consideration to nonpartisan merit factors such as expertise, experience and knowledge as well as the diversity of each committee's constituencies. Rule 10.52(b).
- No member of any evaluation committee may hold public office or any official position in a political party. Rule 10.51(c). Members shall not be compensated for their services but shall be reimbursed, by the Bar, for necessary expenses. Rule 10.54(c).
Additional information regarding terms and conditions of service is contained in the remainder of Rules 10.53 and 10.54.
As to the duties of the judicial evaluation committees, the amended rules provide in part:
- The evaluation committees are charged with the duty to collect information about judicial performance, including survey responses from lawyers and jurors, information about compliance with state time standards, and published opinions and to evaluate judicial performance based on performance standards, including whether the judge decides cases based on established facts and applicable law; explains decisions clearly; exhibits proper courtroom demeanor; and decides cases promptly. Rule 10.55(a)(1-2).
- The evaluation committees are charged with the duty to recommend improvements in judicial performance and judicial education; to recommend whether a judge should be retained; and to release to the public the final summary evaluations and recommendations. Rule 10.55(a)(3-7).
- The Missouri Bar and its affiliates shall disseminate the summary evaluations and recommendations to the public in a manner designed to maximize the public's use of the information. Rule 10.55(a)(7).
In addition to the amended rules, the Supreme Court also is examining the feasibility of surveying a cross-section of prior applicants for nonpartisan judicial vacancies to determine whether making public the names of applicants – rather than only those of the three nominees – would have affected their decisions to apply.
Contact: Beth S. Riggert
Supreme Court of Missouri
Desk: (573) 751-3676
Cell: (573) 619-2849