How Does the Missouri Supreme Court Work?
The Supreme Court is the foremost judicial authority in the State of Missouri and the apex court in the state’s court structure. The Supreme Court is responsible for maintaining a sound judicial system in the state. Also, the Supreme Court serves as a court of last resort, but only in cases in which the court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction. In exceptional cases, the court decides to hear at its discretion.
The Missouri Supreme Court is the overseer of the justice system in Missouri and acts as a supervisor of all the lower courts in the state with the help of the Office of State Courts Administrator. The Supreme Court moderates law practice in the state by registering and issuing licenses to qualified attorneys. The Supreme Court also functions as a disciplinary body to any law practitioner in Missouri, including attorneys or judges who violate the ethical rules of conduct.
The Supreme Court, as the highest court in Missouri, handles few cases because most lawsuits appealed from the lower circuit courts go to the Court of Appeals where a final decision on the legal action is passed. The Missouri Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction, as stated under Article V, Section 3 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, are:
- Cases involving the validity of a federal statute or treaty
- Lawsuits which entail disputes regarding a state statute or treaty
- The approval of Missouri revenue laws
- Any disagreement of the right of an elected official to any state office
- Cases which have the death penalty as punishment
The Supreme Court may step in on a case if the court decides that a lower court’s decision conflicts with the court’s prior decision. The Supreme Court has discretionary jurisdiction over the cases it chooses to hear and may decide to accept an appeal made from the Court of Appeals, either by one of the parties involved or by a judge on the appellate panel.
The resolution of cases brought before the Missouri Supreme Court can extend from weeks to a year. The first step after the Supreme Court accepts a case is submitting a written copy of the proceedings from the trial court by the lawyers involved. Next, parties must submit a written document detailing the arguments supporting either side of the case. Then comes the oral arguments of the attorneys before the Supreme Court. The arguments and documents submitted are taken into consideration by the court, which deliberates on it before giving its opinion. After the Supreme Court researches the case, a written statement containing the court’s opinion will be issued.
There are seven positions on the Supreme Court’s membership. A single judge is selected by a vote of all seven judges of the Supreme Court to be the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice for a two-year term. The seven judges of the Supreme Court give opinions on the case. The case’s duration is influenced depending on if the judges can reach a unanimous decision. On average, a case where unanimous opinion is issued can take up to 105 days. The length of time it takes to resolve cases where judges had differing opinions is about 214 days.
The selection of the judges of the Supreme Court is made according to the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan. The plan dictates that the picking of qualified candidates is to be made by a nonpartisan judicial commission. Officials submit a list of eligible candidates’ names to the governor of Missouri. If the governor does not make a selection in sixty days after the submission of the list of names, the judicial commission has the right to make the selection itself.
A newly appointed judge serves a one-year term and must stand for a retention election to determine if the judge will complete the office term. If the judge is elected to remain in office, the judge serves the full twelve-year term. If the judge is not re-elected, the judge is removed from office, and the selection process restarts.
Article V, Section 21 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes states the qualifications required to apply to be a Supreme Court judge. The article indicates that the candidate must be a citizen of the United States for at least fifteen years, a qualified voter of the state for nine years before the selection, and must be at least 30 years of age.
The physical location of the Missouri Supreme Court is:
207 West High St
Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
The Clerk of Court Office can grant access to Missouri Supreme Court dockets in person. Nevertheless, parties can also send requests for case files from the Supreme Court by mail. The Missouri Supreme Court has an electronic database, which serves as an automated case management system for obtaining Supreme Court case files and monitoring case status. Parties can also check other court dockets within the State of Missouri on the online channel. The Office of State Courts Administrator regulates and maintains the electronic archive. Users do not have to log in to view court documents since Missouri court records are public records.
There may be limited access for case files that have been sealed by the Supreme Court. These court records may contain sensitive information that could be detrimental to the Missouri judicial system’s parties. Hence, such case documents will not be available in both physical and electronic copies.