Judge Janet Sutton was appointed associate circuit judge in 2003. She was appointed to the circuit judge in 2013. She received both her Bachelor of Arts in communication studies and her Juris Doctorate degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. She acted as assistant prosecutor for Clay County from 1990 to 2003 and was the chief assistant prosecutor for the years 2000 to 2003. She was a municipal prosecutor and later a municipal judge for the City of Excelsior Springs, as well as legal counsel to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, before becoming a judge.
Judge Sutton is a member of The Missouri Bar and Clay County Bar Association. She is also a member of the Association of Women Lawyers of Kansas City, the Missouri Association of Probate and Circuit Judges, and the Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association.
She has worked as a member of the Community Response Team for Synergy Services.
She was retained as a judge in the elections for the years 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Attorneys responded to survey questions asking if they agreed with 19 statements about Judge Sutton and rated Judge Sutton on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing “strongly disagree” and 5 representing “strongly agree.” Among the lawyers who evaluated, Judge Sutton, 34 percent of them had between one and five cases before Judge Sutton; 23 percent had six to 10 cases; and 43 percent had 10 or more cases. Those lawyers who had cases that went to trial and had a decision entered during the kudge’s current term of office were made up of 79 percent with one to five cases before Judge Sutton; 11 percent with six to 10 cases; and 10 percent with more than 10 cases. Of the lawyers who evaluated Judge Sutton, 25 percent said the judge ruled primarily in the lawyer’s favor; 54 percent said she ruled equally in favor of and against the evaluating attorney’s party; three percent said she ruled primarily against the party; and 18 percent did not have an applicable ruling in the cases before Judge Sutton.
In responding to the 19 questions about Judge Sutton, the lawyers surveyed provided high scores for addressing individuals respectfully in the courtroom (4.63); maintaining a professional demeanor in the courtroom (4.65); treating the parties equally (4.53); conducting the proceedings in a neutral manner (4.53); and carefully considering arguments from both sides before ruling (4.49).
Judge Sutton’s lower scores were for starting court room proceedings on time (4.44); applying the rules of evidence relevant to the case (4.42); giving reasons for a ruling when needed (4.29); entering a decision that follows logically from the evidence presented (4.27); having the judge’s ruling cite the applicable substantive law (4.27); and assisting parties in narrowing key issues in dispute (4.04).
The committee also received survey responses from jurors who had participated in a jury trial before Judge Sutton. The committee reviewed the answers given by the jurors and found that they provided positive responses to the 10 questions asked, with one juror not answering four of the questions either positively or negatively.
The committee also received the results of a trial court staff survey in which six questions asked of lawyers in the lawyer’s survey were also asked of the trial court staff. Judge Sutton received responses from five trial court staff who answered questions in an overwhelmingly positive manner. The score on a 1 to 5 (with 1 meaning “strongly disagree” and 5 meaning “strongly agree”) scale of the ratings by trial court staff for Judge Sutton averaged 4.73.
The committee received and reviewed three written opinions authored by Judge Sutton. The Committee found the opinions to be clear, concise and well written.
The committee also observed Judge Sutton as she conducted public hearings. The observations of Judge Sutton by committee members were taken into account in making the recommendation set out below. The committee also met with Judge Sutton and had the opportunity to interview her on June 3, 2014. The comments made by the judge and the answers by the judge to questions posed to her by the committee were likewise taken into account in the recommendation set out below.