- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A judicial evaluation committee on Wednesday urged voters to keep all 50 nonpartisan judges in Nov. 4 retention elections, even though some St. Louis County judges’ poor scores almost derailed their support.

The overwhelmingly positive reviews supported two Supreme Court judges and others. Earlier reviews had included recommendations against several St. Louis County judges, but the judges appealed and those evaluations were overturned.

Only nonpartisan judges appointed by the governor to the Supreme Court, the state’s three courts of appeal and trial courts in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield areas, are subject to elections to decide whether they can keep their positions.

Associate circuit judges Judy Draper, Dennis Smith and Patrick Clifford received some of the lowest evaluation scores in their circuit, but they still scored higher than an average 3 out of 5 rating. Previously, for a judge to be recommended, he or she had to surpass a benchmark 2.85 rating, but the minimum score system was not used this year.

The review panel evaluates judges based on their knowledge of law, their fairness and their impartiality, among other factors. Jurors and other lawyers who have worked with the judges complete surveys ranking them in each category. Voters frequently support candidates against those recommendations.

For example, Draper received a poor review and low marks in her competency of the law in 2010, but 55 percent voted in favor of retaining her all the same.

Missouri Bar President Reuben Shelton said judges should be evaluated based on an objective review of their day-to-day work.

“They should all rise and fall on their own,” Shelton said, “not (be) compared to other judges in the district.”

The survey this year was changed with the aim of eliminating any bias against female or minority judges.


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