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State of Missouri

Methods of Judicial Selection: Missouri

Selection of Judges

Number of Judgeships
Supreme Court: 7
Court of Appeals: 32
Circuit Court: 141**
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: -
Number of Districts/Circuits
Supreme Court: 1
Court of Appeals: 3
Circuit Court: 45
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: -
Geographic Basis for Selection
Supreme Court: statewide
Court of Appeals: district
Circuit Court: circuit
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "
Method of Selection (full term)
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Circuit Court: partisan election
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Length of Term
Supreme Court: 1-3 yrs
Court of Appeals: 1-3 yrs
Circuit Court: 6 yrs
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "
Method of Retention
Supreme Court: retention election
Court of Appeals: retention election
Circuit Court: reelection
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: retention election
Length of Subsequent Terms
Supreme Court: 12 yrs
Court of Appeals: 12 yrs
Circuit Court: 6 yrs
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "
Method of Filling Interim Vacancies
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Circuit Court: gubernatorial appointment
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
When Interim Judges Stand for Election/Appointment
Supreme Court: next general election after 1 yr in office
Court of Appeals: next general election after 1 yr in office
Circuit Court: next general election
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: next general election after 1 yr in office
Selection of Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: rotation with peer vote***
Court of Appeals: rotation with peer vote
Circuit Court: elected by circuit and associate judges from among circuit judges
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "
Term of Office for Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: 2 yrs
Court of Appeals: 2 yrs
Circuit Court: 2 yrs
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "
Qualifications
Supreme Court: U.S. citizen 15 yrs; qualified state voter 9 yrs; licensed to practice in state; minimum age of 30; mandatory retirement age of 70
Court of Appeals: U.S. citizen 15 yrs; district resident; qualified state voter 9 yrs; licensed to practice in state; minimum age of 30; mandatory retirement age of 70
Circuit Court: U.S. citizen 10 yrs; qualified state voter 3 yrs; circuit resident 1 yr; licensed to practice in state; minimum age of 30; mandatory retirement age of 70
Circuit Court (Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis)*: "

Selection and retention methods and term lengths are prescribed by Article V of the Missouri Constitution. 

*The constitution establishes a merit selection process for circuit and associate circuit judges in the city of St. Louis and in Jackson County (Kansas City). The constitution also provides that, in other circuits, merit selection may be adopted with the approval of a majority of circuit voters. The question is submitted to the voters of a judicial circuit at the next general election upon the filing of a petition signed by 10% of the voters of each county in the circuit who voted in the last gubernatorial election. The question may not be submitted to voters more often than every four years. Merit selection has been adopted in this way in Clay, Platte, St. Louis, and Greene Counties. In circuits that have already moved to merit selection, it may be discontinued through the same process.

**The circuit court consists of six divisions: a circuit division, an associate division, a probate division, a municipal division, a juvenile division, and a family court division. The circuit division exercises jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases and is served by 135 circuit judges. The remaining divisions are served by circuit judges in conjunction with 175 associate circuit judges, 331 municipal judges, and various commissioners. Associate circuit judges are appointed in the same manner as circuit judges and serve four-year terms. Municipal judges are elected or appointed according to city ordinance or charter and serve terms of at least two years. Commissioners are appointed by circuit judges, usually to four-year terms.

***By tradition, the court elects the most senior justice who has not yet held the position.