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Missouri Judicial Performance Review findings available to the public at YourMissouriJudges.org

Citizens urged to learn more about their judges before they vote Nov. 6

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee has provided Missouri voters with their performance findings for 59 nonpartisan judges who will be up for retention in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. All Missouri voters will have at least three judges appear in retention elections on their ballot this November.

“We want to make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who are fair, impartial and skilled,” said Dale Doerhoff, chair of the statewide committee. “Our independent committee provides voters with extensive, objective information about the performance of our judges up for retention to help them make informed decisions about our judges.”

The committee reviewed the performance of 59 judges including two Supreme Court of Missouri judges, four Court of Appeals judges, 31 circuit court judges and 22 associate circuit court judges in circuits where the judges are appointed under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. Of the 59 judges, a majority of the committee voted one judge does not substantially meet overall judicial performance standards.

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

Doerhoff said 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.”

Brochures with the findings will be available at libraries, courthouses and senior centers across the state. Missouri voters may also request one be mailed to them for free by calling 573-635-4128.

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

Doerhoff said the committee’s work is important because it helps make sure 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 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.

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, 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.

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.

Judge W. Brent Powell, of Kansas City, will serve as the next judge on the Supreme Court of Missouri. A news release from the office of Gov. Greitens follows.

Governor Eric Greitens has appointed Judge W. Brent Powell, of Kansas City, to serve as the next judge on the Supreme Court of Missouri.

“The Missouri Supreme Court serves an essential role in maintaining our system of justice, upholding the rule of law, and protecting the Missouri Constitution,” said Governor Greitens. “Appointing a Missouri Supreme Court Judge is an important duty, and it is one I take seriously. I am pleased to name Judge Brent Powell to our state’s highest court.”

Judge Powell has been a Circuit Judge in Jackson County since 2008.  Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Powell served seven years as a federal prosecutor for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri, and before that, as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office.  As a federal prosecutor, Judge Powell was Chief of the General Crimes Unit and the Executive Assistant United States Attorney.  He tried more than forty jury trials before being named to the Jackson County Circuit Court by Governor Blunt.

Judge Powell’s docket on the trial bench includes hundreds of significant criminal and civil cases. He currently serves on the Missouri Supreme Court Committee on Procedures in Criminal Cases, the Missouri Advisory Sentencing Commission, the Missouri Supreme Court Committee on Access to Family Courts, and the Missouri Supreme Court Trial Judge Education Committee.  In addition to his service within the court system, Judge Powell regularly instructs lawyers as the Lead Master of the Ross T. Roberts Trial Academy of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.

Judge Powell received his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law and his undergraduate degree in political science from William Jewell College.

“In his years on the bench, Judge Brent Powell has established himself as an outstanding jurist,” Governor Greitens said.  “He has received high marks for being humble, fair-minded, and of the highest integrity. I am confident Judge Powell will be committed to strengthening and improving our court system and guarding the rule of law as a judge on our state’s highest court.”

Governor Greitens selected Judge Powell from a panel of three nominees put forward by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission. The position became vacant due to the death of the Honorable Richard Teitelman.