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Non-partisan appellate judges get good grades

Non-partisan appellate judges get good grades

September 25th, 2018 by Phillip Sitter in News

The non-partisan judges seeking retention that Mid-Missouri voters will see on the Nov. 6 ballot have all scored highly with the Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee, according to the Missouri Bar.

Missouri Supreme Court judges W. Brent Powell and Mary R. Russell had 100 percent of the judicial performance review committee members that voted agree that they substantially met overall judicial performance standards.

Who among non-partisan Missouri Court of Appeals judges seeking retention that Mid-Missourians see on the November ballot will depend on what county voters live in, but all those judges also scored highly among the committee: Eastern District (including Osage and Gasconade counties) judges Colleen Dolan and Lisa K. Page each scored 100 percent; Southern District (Maries County) Judge Jeffrey W. Bates, 100 percent; and Western District (Cole, Callaway, Boone, Moniteau, Miller and Morgan counties) Judge Edward R. Ardini Jr., 90 percent.

The committee is comprised lawyers, non-lawyers and retired judges, and the committee reviewed a statewide total of 59 non-partisan judges seeking retention in November — the two Missouri Supreme Court judges and four Courts of Appeals judges; and 31 circuit court judges and 22 associate circuit court judges including from courts in the Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield areas.

Fifty-eight of the judges met overall judicial performance standards, with the exception being City of St. Louis Associate Circuit Judge Barbara T. Peebles, a trial court judge who only scored 42 percent among 19 committee members who voted — there was one member who abstained, and one vacancy.

The Associated Press reported Peebles was suspended without pay for six months in 2013 by the Missouri Supreme Court, for "misconduct after complaints of tardiness, poor supervision of her clerk and destruction of a document" — though a 66 percent majority of voters decided in 2014 to keep her in her position for another four-year term anyway.

Review committee chairman Dale Doerhoff said at a news conference Monday that evaluations done by the committee are based upon a judge's performance over his or her current term.

"These extensive reviews help Missouri voters determine whether or not the judges up for retention are meeting the expectations of the public and lawyers," Doerhoff said in a news release.

Appellate court judges, such as those Mid-Missourians will vote on, are evaluated in the committee's review by standards of: legal ability; impartiality and fairness; temperament and demeanor; and communication skills.

Committee members decide to what degree they agree or disagree with statements about a judge such as "Writes opinions that adequately explain the basis of the court's decision," and an average rating above 2.85 is considered good, with 5 being the best.

Powell scored a 4.12 or higher average rating in all evaluation categories; Russell, 4.22 or higher; Dolan, 4.15 or higher; Page, 4.2 or higher; Bates, 4.18 or higher; Ardini Jr., 3.76 or higher.

Doerhoff added attorneys are also allowed to make anonymous, unpublished comments on judges' performance.

The performance review committee is independent, funded by the Missouri Bar and was created by a Missouri Supreme Court rule in 2008 and updated in 2016.