An independent committee charged with reviewing the performance of 53 judges who will be up for retention in the Nov. 3 general election found all the judges meet overall judicial performance standards.
The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee reviewed the performance of one Missouri Supreme Court judge, four Court of Appeals judges, 26 circuit court judges and 22 associate circuit court judges in circuits where the judges are appointed under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan.
To reach its conclusions, the review committee studied the results of anonymous surveys completed by lawyers, surveys completed by jurors (where applicable), and studied written opinions submitted by the judges for their legal reasoning and clarity.
Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges are rated through lawyer surveys on areas such as whether their opinions were clearly written, whether they adequately explained the basis of the court's decision and whether they issued opinions in a timely manner.
Missouri uses a constitutional merit system known as the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan to select its appellate judges and trial-level judges in the City of St. Louis and Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties. In other parts of the state, trial-level judges seek election in partisan races, such as in Cole County.
Before becoming a judge, all nonpartisan judges are screened by a nominating commission whose members include lawyers, non-lawyers and a judge. The commission selects the three most qualified candidates and forwards their names to the governor, who chooses one candidate to fill the position.
After their first year on the bench and again at the end of each term, nonpartisan judges must run in retention elections.
In retention elections, the ballot reads: "Shall Judge X be retained?" To be retained, each merit-selected judge must receive a simple majority.
On the Nov. 3 ballot, all Missouri voters will have at least two judges in retention elections.
On the Cole County ballot, voters will be asked if they want to retain Missouri Supreme Court Justice Patricia Breckenridge and Judge Tom Chapman, of the Western District Court of Appeals.
The committee voted Breckenridge and Chapman should be retained after survey results showed both met legal ability and impartiality standards.
None of the local judges up for election in Cole County were among those the committee reviewed.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Dan Green and Associate Circuit Judge Cotton Walker are running unopposed as Republicans in November. Green will be serving another six-year term starting in January while Walker will become the third circuit judge in the county when he takes over the position from which Presiding Judge Pat Joyce is retiring. There is a contested race for the new second associate circuit judge position between Republican Brian Stumpe and Democrat Scott Evans.
The Missouri Bar is tasked with sharing the independent committee's findings with the public and funds the review process, which was created by a Supreme Court of Missouri rule in 2008. The review committee operates independently of the bar and judiciary.
The complete performance review information of each judge is available at YourMissouriJudges.org. Visitors to the website will see the lawyer surveys, juror surveys of trial judges, and written opinions from the judges the committee used in casting their votes.