Missouri Judicial Performance Review findings available to the public at

Citizens urged to learn more about their judges before they vote Nov. 8

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee today provided Missouri voters with their performance findings for 49 nonpartisan judges who will be up for retention in the Nov. 8, 2016, general election. All Missouri voters will have at least one judicial retention election appear on their ballot this November.

“The Judicial Performance Review Committee is an independent committee that collects and reviews extensive information about the performance of judges up for retention to provide Missouri voters objective information to make sure we have good judges who are fair, impartial and skilled,” said Dale Doerhoff, chair of the 21-member statewide committee.

The committee reviewed the performance of 49 judges including one Supreme Court judge, two court of appeals judges, 27 circuit court judges and 19 associate circuit court judges in circuits where the judges are appointed under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. Of the 49 judges, the committee voted only one judge does not substantially meet overall judicial performance standards.

The complete performance review information of each judge is available online at For quick reference, landing pages for voters in nonpartisan circuits are provided:

Doerhoff said visitors to the website “will see the same lawyer surveys, juror surveys of trial judges, and written opinions from the judges the committee used in casting their votes.”

Brochures with the findings will be available at libraries, courthouses and senior centers across the state. Missouri voters may also request a brochure be mailed to them for free by calling 1(800)829-4128.

The committee considers a variety of information about each judge, including lawyers’ ratings of judges, jurors’ ratings of some trial judges and written opinions from judges.

Jurors were asked a series of 10 questions about the judge’s courtroom conduct. For instance: Did the judge clearly explain the legal issues of the case? Did the judge appear to be free from bias or prejudice? Did the judge appear to be well-prepared for the case?

The lawyers’ survey focused on key traits that judges need to render justice effectively and fairly. Circuit and associate circuit judges were rated in 19 areas, including a wide range of observable skills and traits, such as treating people fairly, competency in the law and writing clear opinions.

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges were rated on a different set of criteria as they decide cases that are appealed because of possible legal errors, either procedural or through misinterpretations of the law. These judges were rated 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.

For all judges, lawyers’ surveys were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best.

“These extensive evaluations help Missouri voters determine whether or not the judges up for retention are meeting the expectations of lawyers and the public,” said Doerhoff.

Doerhoff said the committee’s work is important because it helps ensure the people of Missouri have good judges who substantially meet overall judicial performance standards. He added that the performance reviews have had a positive impact on the number of people who vote in retention elections.

“The committee’s work to educate voters about the performance of our judges has led to increased voter participation in judicial retention elections since 2008 because when voters feel more informed, they are more likely to vote.”

Missouri uses a 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 City and St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene counties. In other parts of the state, trial-level judges seek election in partisan races.

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 best 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, non-partisan 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.

The Missouri Bar is tasked with sharing the independent committee’s findings with the public. The Missouri Bar funds the review process, which was created by a Supreme Court of Missouri rule in 2008 and updated in 2016. The Missouri performance review system was developed and is continually updated based on model rules and best practices from the American Bar Association and the more than 20 judicial performance review systems across the nation.

With the Nov. 8 general election rapidly approaching, a new group is taking a look into the qualifications of 49 judges who will be seeking retention on the bench under Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, commonly known as the Missouri Plan.

The new Judicial Performance Review Committee is the result of a June 15 order by the Supreme Court of Missouri revising Rules 10.50 – 10.55. As a result of these revisions, the previous judicial performance evaluation (JPE) program has undergone a significant change in structure and operations in its conversion to a judicial performance review (JPR) mechanism.

The Court’s action results in the replacement of the seven JPE committees around the state – one in each of the six trial circuits covered by the Missouri Plan, plus another committee for appellate judges – in favor of a single,  21-member statewide JPR Committee. Unlike the previous system, which asked the committees to make a recommendation regarding each judge seeking retention, the statewide committee will be tasked with determining if each judge meets overall judicial performance standards. This information will then be shared with the people of Missouri at and through other communications platforms prior to the election.

The Court’s order also requests the addition of a litigant/witness survey to the roster of tools used within the review process. This will not only serve as an additional source of public input regarding the qualifications of these judges, but will also give voters an even better look into the inner workings of a judge’s courtroom. The litigant/witness survey is expected to be implemented in time for the 2018 retention election cycle.

While this represents a major structural and operational shift, the Court’s action will bring Missouri in line with the majority of other states around the nation who conduct similar reviews. This is in keeping with the Missouri program’s ongoing desire to ensure that its judicial review process is consistent with current best practices.

The purpose of the judicial review process is to make sure that the people of Missouri have all of the information they need in order to cast an informed judicial ballot. This is the best possible way to ensure that Missouri continues to benefit from fair, impartial and skilled judges. The Court’s revamping of the review process facilitates this goal by expanding the voices of non-lawyers in the evaluation process, leaving the judging of judges to the voters, and fostering consistency by moving to one statewide review committee.