JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell delivered the annual State of the Judiciary to the General Assembly today, focusing on successes and an area of improvement for the Missouri courts system.
Russell listed case.net, the state courts’ online system, as a success. In 2014, the site had over 540 million hits.
“Now, more than half of our state courts have electronic filing for cases, with nearly 40 more courts expected to join this year,” Russell said. “By the end of 2016, we hope to have electronic filing statewide.”
She listed technology, including videoconferencing, pay by web, and the development of electronic juror notification(s), as successes.
Russell applauded the legislature as a constitutional partner in improving the judiciary, citing the Criminal Code improvements from last session and the emergence of municipal court reform.
“Recent events suggest the need to review Missouri’s municipal court divisions,” Russell said. “Municipal divisions play an important role in enforcing local laws, and they handle more than two-thirds of all cases filed in our state courts. For many people, the municipal divisions are the first and only contact they have with the court system. And, as we all know, first impressions can be lasting impressions.”
Russell cited a need for Missouri to continue to maintain and improve systems to protect children, veterans, and elders.
“Experts predict that, in just five years, the number of Americans age 65 or older will exceed the number of school-age children,” Russell said. “And, just 10 years after that, one-fifth of all Missourians will be 65 or older.”
The chief justice started her speech with allusions to the legacy of those who served the public before those currently in office, but concluded calling on legislators, officials, and judges to be mindful of legacy as they serve.
“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,” Russell said. “Finding ways to better serve our state requires us to be part of something bigger than any of us I truly hope that our legacy will be one of collaboration, accomplishment and improvement.”
“Our time is short,” she wrapped up. “Let us take the privilege we now experience and do all we can to make Missouri the best state in the nation.”
Senators, representatives, judges and guests were hosted by the Missouri Bar Association for a reception in the 3rd Floor Rotunda after the speech.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.