How Does the Missouri Court of Appeals Work?
As the intermediate appellate court in Missouri, the Missouri Court of Appeals presides over appeals from the circuit courts. The appellate court structure has three different districts: The Eastern District, The Western District, and The Southern District.
The Eastern District is the largest appellate court in Missouri and has 14 judges, which handle about 50% of cases across 25 counties. The court locations at St. Louis, Hannibal, Cape Girardeau, and Clayton within the Eastern District are where the court holds oral arguments.
Due to the number of counties in the Western District (about 45 counties), the Western District court is considered Missouri’s largest intermediate appellate court. The Western District Court has 11 appellate court judges, who preside over 40% of Missouri cases. The court locations in Kansas City, St. Joseph, Colombia, Jefferson City, and Kirksville typically hear oral arguments.
The Southern District Court has seven appellate court judges, and its general jurisdiction covers 44 counties. Offices are located in Springfield, while its chambers and courthouse are located in Poplar Bluff. Oral arguments take place in these locations as well. The Missouri Court of Appeals handles all appeals cases except legal actions in the Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court can hear Court of Appeals cases if it chooses. The Court of Appeals in Missouri has authority over all appeal cases that do not fall under the Missouri Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction. Appeals under the power of the Supreme Court include:
- The implementation of a treaty or a United States statute
- The validity of the state’s constitutional provision or statutes
- The state’s revenue laws
- Cases involving elected official’s right to hold office
- The imposition of the death penalty
According to Missouri’s constitution, appellate court judges need to meet specific requirements. Candidates must:
- Be a United States citizen for at least the last 15 years
- Be a resident of the district
- Be at least 30 years old
- Have a license to practice law in Missouri
- Be a qualified voter of the state for nine years preceding selection
In Missouri, the judges have a term of 12 years of service but can seek additional terms. All judges must retire at the age of 70 but can apply for senior status.
The State of Missouri has two Court systems for selecting Judges: the partisan and the non-partisan system. Judges elected with the partisan system generally run under a party against competitions except if nobody decides to compete against the aspirant. At the end of each term, judges that were elected must run for re-election.
Judges elected via the non-partisan system do not run against fellow contenders. According to the non-partisan court plan, assigning commissions composed of residents, judges, and lawyers review applications. The attorneys interview the applicants and select the three most qualified persons for the governor to consider. The governor has 60 days to choose one of the selected three for the district judge’s position. Judges are determined based on the quality of performance on the bench. Court officials and government agencies can remove Missouri judges in two ways. Judges can face removal through retirement, by the supreme court, or by impeachment by the house of representatives.
The locations of all of the Appeals Courts in Missouri are as follows:
Eastern District (St. Louis)
One Post Office Sq
815 Olive St, Room 304
St. Louis, Missouri 63101
Telephone number: (314) 539–4300
Fax number: (314) 539–4324
Southern District (Springfield)
300 Hammons Pkwy
Springfield, Missouri 65806
Western District (Kansas City)
1300 Oak St
Kansas City, Missouri 64106–2970
Missouri Court of appeals case records can be accessed using the Missouri Courts Judicial Branch of Government’s web portal. Interested persons can also find case files by visiting the court where the case was heard and requesting the Office of the Court’s Clerk. If visiting the court is not possible, interested parties can contact the court clerk and ask about a specific case. However, the requestor is required to know the particular case before requesting over the phone.
Per the Missouri Court of Appeals judicial system, the defendant has a maximum of ten days after the final judgment to file a notice of appeal. After that, the case docket goes to the appellate court. The defendant’s attorney is responsible for drafting the record on appeal and filing it within the next 90 days. The record comprises the legal file (which includes jury instructions, charging documents, formal judgment, and motions), transcripts of the trial, and other essential dockets from the court’s file.
After filing the record, the defendant has 60 days to file an appellate brief. The brief states the errors of the trial court and the reasons for a new trial. Missouri’s Court of Appeals will then file a respondent brief within 30 days. The defendant has 15 days to send a reply brief. A three-judge panel in the appellate court will then hear the case. There will be time for an oral argument where each party has time to make a case. Approximately 60–90 days after the hearing, the judges will issue a written opinion.
After the conclusion of the case in the Court of Appeals and a verdict is given, the party that lost may choose to further appeal to Missouri’s supreme court. In such cases, the supreme court justices may or may not reject the appeal. These options are called discretionary jurisdiction. For most issues, the Court of Appeals makes the final judgment.