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Missouri’s Chief Justice Delivers 2015 State of the Judiciary Address

Making Missouri a Better Place to Live and Work

Mary R. Russell, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, delivered the “State of the Judiciary” address to a joint session of the Missouri Legislature Thursday morning, January 22, 2015.

In her address, Russell called for continued improvement of the state’s court system to make Missouri a better place to live and work.

“How we effect meaningful change in the lives of Missourians will be a part of how we all – the Legislature and the courts – will be judged by history,” she said.

state-of-judiciary-15In the first part of her address, Russell spoke about the integration of technology in the court process.

“By integrating technology to make the courts more accessible for our citizens, cases can be resolved faster and at less cost,” Russell said.

Among other improvements, Russell mentioned the passage of the state’s revised criminal code that will better protect the people of Missouri. The comprehensive measure is the result of four years of cooperative work of The Missouri Bar, prosecutors, defense attorneys and representatives from the judiciary and the legislature. It is the first comprehensive update of the state’s criminal code since 1979.

Municipal court reform became a high-profile topic following events in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Russell said during her address that the state needs to make sure its municipal court system is driven by fairness rather than economics.

“From a local municipal division to the state Supreme Court, Missouri’s courts should be open and accessible to all,” Russell said. “Courts should primarily exist to help people resolve their legal disputes. If they serve, instead, as revenue generators for the municipality that selects and pays the court staff and judges – this creates at least a perception, if not reality, of diminished judicial impartiality.”

People in municipal courts should be treated fairly and with respect, she said.

Russell also addressed the need to better protect Missourians, especially children, veterans and the elderly. She spoke on the status of Missouri’s child welfare system and how some of the available court programs can help better protect foster children from abuse and neglect. Other special courts and court-appointed programs can assist veterans with addiction issues and serious mental illness, and protect the elderly against abuse, Russell added.

The full text of the speech may be found online at www.courts.mo.gov. Click here to read the 2015 State of the Judiciary address.

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