The Retention & Election of Missouri’s Judges, Statewide & Local.
Missouri State Supreme Court
One Judge up for statewide retention
Court of Appeals Judges
Eight total Judges from Missouri’s three appellate districts facing retention votes. Voters in the Eastern District of the Court of Appeals will see only one judge, voters in the Southern District of the Court of Appeals will see two judges, voters in the Western District Court of Appeals will see five judges for retention.
State Circuit Courts
28 Circuit Judges and 25 Associate Circuit Judges face “yes” or “no” retention votes as part of the nonpartisan plan. 15 partisan judgeship elections that are not under the nonpartisan plan jurisdiction will face voters throughout Missouri’s 45 local circuit courts. However, only three of these judicial seats are contested as seven democrat and five republican Circuit Judges have no challengers!
Municipal Court Judges
There are many more local judges that will be on ballots all across Missouri that are not under the state elections oversight. These are placed on the ballot by your local county election authorities. Please consult your local sample ballot in the newspaper printed prior to the November 2, 2010 election for a complete listing of ALL ballot measures, candidates, and questions. If your county has voluntarily submitted your local sample ballot to the Missouri secretary of State, Elections Division website, you may see that full sample ballot online at: https://mcvr.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/
NOTE: MFN has an outline for reviewing local judges below.
General Election Retention Votes
Apply to the State’s Non-Partisan Court Plan
(Appointed by a Governor and later retained by citizen vote.)
All other Judges are elected just like any public service office.
Judge Zel Fischer
Appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court towards the end of Matt Blunt’s Governorship faces his first retention vote.
A Yes vote leaves him on the bench for another 12 years when voters must review and reapprove his performance.
Previous court appointments during the Carnahan and Holden administrations radically changed the nature of Missouri’s seven member Supreme Court.
While no organization exists in the state with the resources to fully monitor the hundreds of judges and tens of thousands of cases throughout our court system, judicial
branch observers, critics and supporters all agree that Matt Blunt’s appointment of Zel Fischer makes him the most conservative member of the State Supreme Court.
Voters have the opportunity to send a message to both the court and Missouri’s current and future Governors that we the citizens expect our courts to be responsible to the rule of law, resist judicial activism and discipline themselves to be judicially restrained – by voting “YES” to retain Judge Zel Fischer!
The Eastern, Southern and Western District Appellate Courts have a total of eight Appellate Judges also facing retention on their respective 2010 election ballots.
One is a member of the Eastern District, two are from the Southern District, and five Western District Appellate Judges will appear on the ballot in these areas of the state.
(See the Appellate Court map below to clarify which district you live in.)
53 Circuit and Associate Circuit Judges within the Constitution’s Nonpartisan Court Plan will be seen throughout local circuits across the state.
(25 Circuit Judges and 28 Associate Circuit Judges facing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ retention votes.)
15 more Circuit Courts with 18 candidates for Judgeships are on the ballot in various “partisan” Circuits around the state.
These candidates are running with partisan associations as Democrat or Republican. (No third party candidates filed in these contests.)
(Ironically only three of these positions are being challenged, while seven democrats and five republicans have no opposition.)
All total, there are 80 total candidates seeking retention or contested judgeships, that are part of the Missouri Judicial branch of government, printed on ballots around the state. However, voters will only see a handful of names and courts appearing on their local ballot.
Only Supreme Court Judge Zel Fischer will appear on every ballot throughout Missouri – and your “YES” vote is important!
Any additional local municipal judicial elections which may appear on your ballot are NOT part of the Nonpartisan Court Plan and are NOT covered under any assessment by Missouri Family Network.
Later in this discussion you will find evaluation tips that apply to your local courts and candidates.
Missouri Non-Partisan Judge Retention Votes
2008 General Election Ballot
There is only one State Supreme Court Judge facing a statewide “retention” vote November 2, 2010.
The eight Appellate Judges only appear on the ballots in their respective districts.
The nature of the judicial system in Missouri shrouds judges from effective performance review by voters.
In the absence of high-profile cases, the only barometer of a judge’s performance prior to their facing a
“retention” vote from citizens requires constant monitoring of their cases and the judgments they hand down.
Each case demands a complete understanding of the laws related to the case. No judge should engage in any “judicial activism” (making up fanciful interpretations of law to fit their personal whims) but must adhere to the ‘rule of law’ and “judicial restraint” (judging according to the legislated law) leaving the policy debates of law to the Legislature.
Due to the fact that a “Judicial Commission” takes applications, interviews, and actually selects
“finalists”, limits the Governor from selecting judges in a true publicly accountable manner.
Who knows the personalities and politics of these Commissions?
The Governor may only select one of three names handed to him!
Even the pro-life stance of an appointing Governor may not reflect accurately on a given Judge’s performance.
Listed below are the pro-life or pro-abortion positions of those Governors who appointed these Judges.
However, the true test is if the Judge is pro-life and ”judicially restrained”!
|Eastern District Appellate Court||Southern District Appellate Court||Western District
|Retention Questions on
All ballots statewide.
|Retention Questions in
Eastern areas only.
|Retention Questions in
Southern areas only.
|Retention Questions in
Western areas only.
Matt Blunt – Pro-Life
|Mary Kathryn Hoff
Mel Carnahan – Pro-Abortion
|Robert S. Barney
Mel Carnahan – Pro-Abortion
Matt Blunt – Pro-Life
(based on case studies)
|Don E. Burrell
Matt Blunt – Pro-Life
|Victor C. Howard
Mel Carnahan – Pro-Abortion
|Karen King Mitchell
Jay Nixon – Pro-Abortion
|Mark D. Pfeiffer
Jay Nixon – Pro-Abortion
|James Edward Welsh
Matt Blunt – Pro-Life
Missouri Court of Appeals Districts
Appellate Judge Information
Eight out of the thirty-two Judges of the Missouri Court of Appeals are on the November 2nd ballot for retention.
1 – Eastern District
2 – Southern District
5 – Western District
Democrat Governors Carnahan and Holden maintained a mandatory “pro-abortion” litmus test for all their judicial nominees over their twelve years of administrations! Most of these judges need to be replaced.
Governor Matt Blunt maintained a strict standard that judges MUST be restrained on law and supportive of the sanctity of life.
Governor Jay Nixon has a mixed review as he strives to distance himself from the extremity of his democrat party’s pro-abortion demands.
Any time three finalists are placed before the Governor for him to make a choice, there is a very, very high political probability that at least one will be pro-abortion.
On the other hand, those finalists who would have been set before former governors may have provided slim pickin’s for pro-life administrations.
John Ashcroft appointed judges based on judicial restraint and are generally okay but may not have turned out as good as he would have liked. Appointments Governor
Ashcroft made in his later years administrations were more seriously screened but he could only pick from the three candidates placed before him for each appointment.
Appointments made going back to Governors Bond and Teasdale (yes they still face retention every twelve years and not all have retired yet) were picked before the contemporary focus on judicial activism and pro-life/pro-abortion debates had become major political issues.
Former Governor Mat Blunt had little opportunity to appoint Judges except from limited names handed to him from the Judicial Commissions.
Under the non-partisan court plan Gov. Blunt could only choose between the three finalists placed before him in making these appointments.
Even though he has repeatedly stressed concern over “judicial activism” Gov. Blunt could not place a pro-life judge on the court unless one survived the process to be submitted among the three finalists placed before him!
Supreme Court Judge Zel Fischer did survive that process and has earned support from pro-life voters!
Supreme Court Judge Patricia Breckenridge promised to behave on the court when selected by Gov. Blunt, and he offered her praise (over the other finalists) however, the Governor also stated in the same press release that he did not have faith in the Judicial Commission to put forward any candidates that could be completely trusted at that time. (see Gov. Blunt’s press release dated 9-7-07)
Unlike our confidence in recommending a “NO” vote on Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman, (2004 election)
(based on a high level of research and documentation)
Missouri Family Network acknowledges that there has only been limited information and research on the 2010 Appellate Judges.
Therefore: Missouri Family Network expresses the following qualifications related to our voter recommendations.
MFN is 95% confident that any judge appointed by Governors Carnahan or Holden are pro-abortion and is prone to engage in activism on life issues, or other such political subjects.
MFN is 80-90%, or more in some cases, sure that those we otherwise recommend a yes vote to retain are pro-life and practice judicial restraint, according to what we have seen.
MFN openly solicits any qualified information from citizens which could assist us in building our confidence – or demonstrating any errors in our recommendations.
Judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and Circuit Courts in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions are appointed under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan.
These judges are not elected to office, are not ‘officially’ aligned with any political party and do not campaign as other “candidates”. They are not “elected” to office in the traditional sense.
Retention questions related to these judgeships are nonpartisan ballot questions. When voters go to the polls they will be asked to vote YES, or NO, to retain them or not to retain them.
Non-profit organizations and churches are at complete liberty to speak to these retention questions just as they are regarding any other non-partisan ballot question.
Judges of the Supreme Court of Missouri, along with all of the Missouri Court of Appeals (all three districts) and the circuit courts in Clay County, Jackson County, Platte County, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis Co. (Kansas City & St. Louis areas) are all appointed through what is called the Nonpartisan Court Plan. The procedures for these various appointments and any opportunity for voters to retain these judges are outlined in the Missouri State Constitution which operates as follows:
Those seeking to be appointed to fill a vacancy in the appellate or Supreme Court bench apply to an Appellate Judicial Commission, which is comprised of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, three citizens appointed by the governor and three attorneys selected by The Missouri Bar. The Commission will review all the submitted applications and conducts interviews before it selects a panel of three finalists to nominate to the governor. The governor must select from one of those three individuals sometime within 60 days to fill the judicial vacancy. Failure of the governor to make the final appointment would shift the responsibility back to the Commission itself.
Once an appointment is made, that new judge takes office. The new judge then must sit for a retention vote at the next general election after he or she has been in office for at least one year. If at least 50 percent of the voters in that election agree to retain the judge on the ballot, they would then serve a full term on the bench. For all appellate judges, including the Supreme Court, the term would be for 12 years. (For circuit judges, the term is six years, and for associate circuit judges, the term is four years.) This applies despite to the length of time remaining in the term of the judge that for whatever reason has vacated the bench and is being replaced.
The Missouri State Constitution requires that Judges appointed to either the Supreme Court or the Missouri Court of Appeals to be at least 30 years old (may serve until 70), licensed to practice law in the state, citizen of the United States for at least 15 years, and also qualified to vote in Missouri for at least nine years prior to their appointment.
Divided among the state’s 45 Circuit Courts are a total of 71 Circuit and Associate Circuit Judges on the November 2nd ballot.
Some (53) are ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to “retain” appointed judges – others (18) are competing in open contests as partisan candidates.
Know Your Circuit Courts!
Please be sure to research your local circuit and state appellate division judges that will appear on the ballot in your local area!
All judges appearing on your sample ballot that will be in your local polling booth next Tuesday are highlighted in the Official State Manuel (otherwise commonly known as the “Blue Book“)
A simple review of each judge will tell you which Governor appointed them or if they are Democrat or Republican judges (remember party platforms matter). Admittedly it is overly simplistic to rate judges by mere party affiliation or Gubernatorial appointments, however this is the only viable tool available to average voters to rate the value of our judges. Any notorious or noteworthy cases along with any other viable information on your local judges should be taken into consideration.
Each County in Missouri is in charge of the ballots printed for their citizens. On a county by county bases some, but not all, counties have provided sample ballots to the Secretary of State, Elections Division.
These sample ballots are available at: https://mcvr.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/
To look up your local ballot judges, who appointed them (Pro-Life or Pro-Abortion governors) or if they are politically affiliated with the pro-abortion planks of the Democrat Party or the pro-life planks of the Republican Party, visit the online version of the “Blue Book” at: http://www.sos.mo.gov/BlueBook/2009-2010/default.asp or go directly to Chapter 5 – Judicial Branch at: http://www.sos.mo.gov/BlueBook/2009-2010/5_Jud.pdf#p225
It is very important that citizens understand the state’s court system and investigate the judges who are either running for judgeships or (for those who were appointed to the bench as described earlier) are facing retention votes.
These men & women will be on your local ballot in the General Election, November 2, 2010.
Some of the better sources of information are to contact a variety of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and trustworthy attorneys to ask about a sitting judge’s “law & order” attitudes.
It is important to note that many of these folks may not be willing to openly criticize a sitting judge but may be very willing to dialogue with you about a judge’s character and/or other qualifications.
(See questions below.)
Missouri’s 45 Circuit Court Districts
Missouri’s State Court System Is Broken Down Into:
1 State Supreme Court 7 Supreme Court Judges
1 Court of Appeals in 3 Districts:
Eastern District, 14 Appellate Judges
Southern District, 7 Appellate Judges
Western District, 11 Appellate Judges
45 Circuit Court Districts with various Divisions 136 Circuit Judges
114 County Courts serving their given Circuits 186 Associate Judges
Note: All Drug, Family, Juvenile, or other Probate Commissioners are employed by and accountable to those Judges listed above.
In the Missouri Legislature it would take a minimum of 82 members of the House agreeing with 18 or more Senators, who together could successfully navigate the parliamentary procedures of the Missouri General Assembly to advance liberal social policies, such as homosexual marriage, in our state. (A majority of both bodies.)
In the state court system only one out of 322 judges is needed to do the same thing. An activist court decision would have to go through at least one, or more, Appellate Judges whose decision either way would then go to the State Supreme Court. The pivotal question hinges on who sits on these courts? What would 4 out of 7 members of the high court do? Since its establishment in 1820, Missouri’s Supreme Court had been both politically and socially conservative – until 2004! For over 180 years our state had maintained a judicially restrained court – up until just a few years ago!
With the appointment of Judge Richard B. Teitelman to the Supreme Court by Governor Bob Holden (his second appointee) the court swung to a liberal domination for the first time in Missouri’s history. Twelve years of liberal antics from the Carnahan & Holden administrations has changed Missouri for generations to come!
The responsibility of voting for Missouri judges is more compelling than ever!
As far as your Circuit Judges are concerned:
You will have to research them for your own area.
There are 45 Circuit Districts with hundreds of judges.
MFN recommends you call local law enforcement – sheriff deputies, prosecutor(s), and any trustworthy attorneys (lawyers from your area churches who have a reputation of maintaining a consistent Biblical worldview).
Ask these people who interact with the circuit judges about their experiences and knowledge.
– Ask about how a judge either helps or hinders law enforcement?
– Are they willing to get up in the middle of the night to sign search warrants, or do they give the sheriff grief over being troubled?
– Do they help in the fight against meth or are they part of the problem?
– Do they treat people differently depending on which side of town they come from?
– Do they tend to protect certain popular family names, or otherwise treat them with kid gloves?
Law enforcement will not openly campaign for or against the judges they are going to be standing in front of.
But after going through these kinds of questions you will be able to discern any significant problems or outstanding traits that will help guide you and your friends in voting in an intelligent manner that is pleasing to the Lord.
An “activist” judge is one who makes political decisions – not legal judgments.
When a Judge steps outside the parameters of the laws he is to maintain, he assumes the role of a legislator making law rather than a judge who determines if or how a law has been violated. Legislators debate and deliberate as a body of several elected representatives charged with making the law. Judges are only supposed to enforce those laws and no more. Thus, any judge who, for any reason, ignores a law he disagrees with or abuses his authority by imposing the power of his position to enforce legal frameworks that do not otherwise exist in duly adopted laws and ordinances, is acting outside the “rule-of-law” – he is an “activist”, not a judge.
A “restrained” judge is one who discerns legal judgments from within the “rule-of-law”.
Whenever a judge restrains himself from acting on his own personal preferences and applies only the “rule-of-law” in discerning legal judgments, he allows those properly elected to legislate the parameters of the law. Public policy remains within the domain of those public bodies open to public discourse and influence. The role of a Judge is not to make law but to enforce those laws properly deliberated before various bodies of duly elected representatives charged with the role of lawmakers. These Judges set aside their personal preferences in order to enforce the “rule-of-law.” Such restraint qualifies one as a trustworthy Judge.
Voters are asked to elect or retain judges in every election cycle. These are elections, complete with all the high rhetoric surrounding every other political contest. Some have tried to redefine inappropriate judicial activism as mere disgruntlement with a particular judge of the judicial system.
Falsely claiming that ‘activism’ is a “straw man” that doesn’t truly exist in Missouri courts, this “spin” turns the table on the critics.
Anyone who raises questions about judges who step out of their bounds of authority is accused of being the bad guy.
The goal of this “spin” is to make the critic look like a fool who is unwilling to accept the authority of the court only because they are unhappy with the outcome of a case. (Equally erroneous are charges of activism from folks who really are just unhappy with the outcome of a court case(s).)
Citizens must be cautious to understand the parameters of the various laws related to cases they are concerned about. A conservative Judge who engages in activism is just as wrong as a liberal who would do the same thing. The performance of a Judge is not to be evaluated by the popularity of the outcomes of a given court. Whether you like and support – or dislike and oppose – the outcome of a court ruling has nothing to do with declaring a Judge to be a liberal “activist” or a “restrained” conservative. Discerning a Judge’s “judicial activism” or “judicial restraint” depends on his adhering to the “rule-of-law,” or if he is taking the law into his own hand to remold it with political decisions according to his personal preference.