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How Do I… Use Judicial Performance Reviews?

Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, commonly known as The Missouri Plan, was adopted by voters in 1940. Through the Missouri Plan, judges are either nominated by a commission and appointed by the governor or elected through partisan contests. Although a judge's initial selection process varies, all Missouri judges are accountable to voters through either retention or partisan elections. 

To help aid voters in this process, the Judicial Performance Review Committee – a statewide panel composed of lawyers, non-lawyers and retired judges – completes an in-depth analysis of the performance of judges serving under the state’s nonpartisan method of judicial selection and retention. The results of these reviews, as well as writing samples from judges, are available to the public at YourMissouriJudges.org/reviews/.  

Below are some tips to help you – along with family, friends, and clients – make the most of The Missouri Plan and the retention process. You can also find more information at YourMissouriJudges.org.  

Brush up on your state history 

The Missouri Plan, otherwise known as the Non-Partisan Court Plan, is a model for the nation. Proposed and adopted to the state Constitution by Missouri voters in 1940, it continues to serve Missourians by attracting high-quality judges in the least political way – ultimately giving the people the final say. Watch a short video about the history of The Missouri Plan here.  

Know your ballot 

There are 46 judicial circuits in Missouri. As with other ballot measures, where you live will determine what you see in the voting booth. To help you better understand which judges you’ll be voting on, YourMissouriJudges.org offers a ballot breakdown for each respective circuit. You can also find sample ballots at sos.mo.gov.  

Understand the review process 

To help voters gain insight as to the performance of judges seeking retention, the Judicial Performance Review Committee analyzes the performance of each nonpartisan judge appearing on the general election ballot. The Judicial Performance Review Committee studies the results of anonymous surveys completed by lawyers; surveys completed by jurors (where applicable); and written opinions submitted by judges for their legal reasoning and clarity. After reviewing this information for each judge, the Judicial Performance Review Committee votes as to whether they believe a judge meets judicial performance standards. 

Read up 

In addition to the committee’s opinion, you can read a judge’s corresponding writing and surveys by clicking on an individual’s profile. Of note, only judges who are assigned to preside over jury trials may have juror surveys, and not all judges have jury trials. For those judges who are assigned to preside over jury trials, jurors are asked to voluntarily complete and return a juror survey. 

Stay informed 

To help you stay in the know, sign up for free reminders of when judicial retention elections are held and the Judicial Performance Review Committee’s findings are released. You can also share this information with your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and clients. If you’re interested in being part of the review process, watch The Missouri Bar for openings.