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Missouri Municipal Courts Assessment & Recommendations

This assessment was conducted by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) at the request of the Supreme Court of Missouri with grant support from SJI (SJI-15-T-119).

The goal was to identify best practices in operating and managing limited jurisdiction courts throughout the United States, and suggest how those practices may be applied to municipal courts in Missouri. The impetus for this analysis was sparked by a recent Department of Justice (DOJ) assessment of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department which also alluded to problems and improprieties in the operation of the Ferguson Municipal Court.

Court officials in Missouri were concerned that some of the difficulties in Ferguson extended to a broader range of municipal courts in the state.  Beginning in May 2015, the NCSC reviewed studies and reports on Missouri’s municipal courts (including the March 2015, DOJ Report), examined data on court performance, met with the Supreme Court of Missouri, and visited, observed, and interviewed judges, lawyers, and court staff in a select number of municipal courts throughout the state. A number of attorneys, judges, county, city, and court officials and staff throughout Missouri were interviewed during these site visits.

The report is divided into four subject matter sections, each with specific recommendations for immediate and sustained improvement:

  • leadership and governance
  • judicial selection retention and evaluation
  • court management
  • fiscal and financial operations

The final report and recommendations are applicable to all states with limited jurisdiction courts.  SJI strongly encourages other state courts to closely examine these recommendations.