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MO legislature trying to stop civil cases in St. Louis by firing 6 judges

Missouri Legislature attempting to stifle civil cases in St. Louis by firing 6 judges, in order to clog up the court system.

I got an email alert from the Bar Association warning about our Legislature’s plan to clog up the St. Louis civil court system. By removing a bunch of judges, cases cannot get heard, and fewer trials and judgments will occur. Why do you think the legislature wants to do that?

Here is the Alert I got, verbatim:

S.B.976 Amended in Judiciary Committee

Dear BAMSL Member:

S.B.976 has been amended in the Judiciary Committee with provisions that would eliminate 6 circuit judge positions in the 22nd Judicial Circuit and is now on the House Calendar for debate.

If this bill passes as currently amended, six of our current sitting judges would be removed at the expiration of their current terms in November, assuming that no other vacancies are created by retirement or resignation.

The terms of seven circuit judges will expire this year. They are Judges John Riley, Steven Ohmer, Thomas Grady, Julian Bush, David Dowd, Michael Calvin (who has since announced his resignation), and Timothy Wilson.

As the largest voluntary bar association in the St. Louis metropolitan area, we feel it is imperative that we take a strong stance against these measures.

Not only would we stand to lose 6 outstanding judges, but the ability of the 22nd Judicial Circuit to administer justice through the timely resolution of cases would be severely damaged.

The attorneys who have civil cases pending in the Circuit would be the most adversely affected by this bill.

Currently, the Circuit operates on a six week rotation with 3 weeks dedicated to criminal cases, 2 weeks to civil cases, and one week to handle motions, hearings and other administrative matters. If the Circuit loses six trial court judges, one of the civil weeks will need to be removed from the rotation to ensure that criminal defendants receive their constitutionally required speedy trial. This will potentially bring the civil docket to a grinding halt.

Supporters of the bill point to the Judicial workload survey which showed that the 22nd Judicial Circuit had four more judges than it needed to handle its caseload. The validity of the survey results have been called into question for many reasons. For example the survey assumes that 1% of felony criminal cases will be tried. While this may be true statewide, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit more than 2% of the felony cases are tried. If this adjustment is made the survey would allocate an additional 2.5 judges to the Circuit.

We are all concerned about the efficient allocation of judicial resources. However, it is our belief that the Supreme Court of Missouri is in the best position to determine the proper allocation of judges. In fact, the Supreme Court’s judicial transfer program is set to go into effect July 1, 2008. This program will move existing judges from circuits that are over-allocated to circuits that are under-allocated on an as needed basis. We believe that the Supreme Court’s plan should be given a chance before taking the drastic move of removing six sitting judges.

The legislative session ends Friday, May 16, 2008. We encourage you to contact your House member and share your opinion about how this legislation will impact St. Louis.


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