Mo. lawyers group recommends voters oust judge

By DAVID A. LIEB

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judicial evaluation committee urged voters Wednesday to oust a St. Louis County judge after lawyers rated him poorly in every category of its review, including fairness and impartiality.

Associate Circuit Judge Dale Hood was the only judge among the 51 appellate and trial court judges up for retention elections this year not to receive positive recommendations in The Missouri Bar’s report.

The report also marks the second time in four years that a do-not-retain recommendation was made for Hood, who despite receiving a negative rating in 2008 was re-elected by 54 percent of the vote.

In this year’s evaluation, attorneys gave Hood relatively low marks in all 18 categories on the questionnaire, including on whether he bases decisions on evidence and arguments, is competent in the law and prepared for trials, and displays fairness, impartiality and an appropriate demeanor on the bench.

He received an average rating of 2.43 on a scale of 1 to 5, which was below the 2.85 threshold needed to get a retention recommendation, said Bruce Hilton, a St. Louis County lawyer who was chairman of the panel that evaluated judges in that circuit.

Hood did not return phone messages left Wednesday at his office. The evaluation committees are composed of attorneys and citizens appointed by The Missouri Bar.

“Overall, we believe the judges have been doing an excellent job,” said Dale Doerhoff, a Jefferson City attorney who is the coordinator of the Missouri Judicial Performance Evaluation Committees.

The state Supreme Court established the review committees under a 2008 rule, though a similar process has been undertaken by The Missouri Bar for decades.

The ratings are done only for judges appointed by the governor to the Supreme Court, the state’s three court of appeals, and trial courts in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield areas. Those judges stand for periodic retention elections in which the only options are ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Trial court judges in other parts of the state run in partisan elections in which there can be multiple candidates.

Two years ago, lawyers recommended that voters reject St. Louis County Associate Circuit Judge Judy Draper, who was rated particularly poorly in her competency of the law. But voters retained her anyway by 55 percent of the vote.

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