Missouri Government, A Brief Look
The Missouri Judicial System
The judicial branch of Missouri government has three levels: circuit, appeals and supreme. All judges must be licensed to practice law in Missouri and are required to retire at age 70.
At the trial level are the circuit and associate circuit courts. Missouri has 45 judicial circuits, divided along county lines. Circuit courts handle civil and criminal trials. Every circuit contains at least one circuit judge and at least one associate circuit judge for each county within the circuit. Associate circuit judges must be at least 25 years of age, a qualified voter of Missouri, and a resident of the county. Circuit judges must be at least 30 years of age, a citizen of the United States at least 10 years, a qualified voter of Missouri at least three years, and a resident of the circuit at least one year. Circuit judges have six-year terms while associate circuit judges have four-year terms.
The next level is the appellate court. There are three appeals court districts in Missouri, located in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. The courts of appeals hear cases from lower courts whose decisions have been appealed and are not reserved exclusively for the Missouri Supreme Court. Appeals court judges must be at least 30 years old, residents of their district, U.S. citizens for at least 15 years, and Missouri voters for nine years before their selection. Appellate judges are appointed initially and then retained by a favorable vote of the people every 12 years.
The Missouri Supreme Court, the state's highest court, hears
cases appealed from the courts of appeals or those involving the
death penalty, a U.S. treaty or statute, the Missouri Constitution,
the state's revenue laws, and the title to any state office.
The Supreme Court also supervises all lower courts in the state.
There are seven judges on the Supreme Court, which have the same qualifications and terms as appeals court judges. The chief justice position is rotated between members every two years.