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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Supreme Court of Missouri May 14 announced the formation of the Supreme Court Municipal Division Work Group, which it has charged with reviewing all matters relevant to practice in the municipal divisions throughout the state, with ensuring public input, and with recommending appropriate improvements to the system. Springfield Municipal Court Chief Judge Todd Thornhill was selected to serve on the group. “It is an honor to be appointed by our chief justice to this important working group. The attendant responsibility is great, and I look forward to researching and addressing the broad range of issues involved,” Thornhill said. The Municipal Division Work Group will be co-chaired by two former chief justices of the Supreme Court of Missouri – Ann K. Covington of Columbia and Edward D. “Chip” Robertson Jr. of Jefferson City – and a former chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – Booker T. Shaw of St. Louis. The group’s remaining members are:
• Kathryn P. Banks, legal services director for Voices for Children in St. Louis;
• Sylvester “Sly” James, mayor of Kansas City; and
• Kimberly Jade Norwood, professor of law and of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “The court chose these individuals for their demonstrated leadership in a variety of settings statewide,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in a May 14 press release. “They bring to the table a wealth of experience, and we trust this ‘blue ribbon’ group to be both thoughtful and outspoken as they tackle the incredibly important work of formulating practical solutions to ensure our state’s municipal court divisions are places where defendants can trust they will be treated fairly and with respect, where their rights will be protected, and where the focus will be on due process of law.” In addition, the court invited The Missouri Bar to appoint two members to the working group. Those members are:
• Reuben Shelton, president of The Missouri Bar and general counsel-litigation for Monsanto in St. Louis; and
• Karl W. DeMarce, associate circuit judge in Scotland County and municipal judge for Memphis, Missouri. Specifically, the court has directed the working group to: • Evaluate chapter 479, RSMo, and Rule 37, which govern municipal court divisions, as well as other relevant provisions of the constitution, statutes and rules;
• Examine relevant provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct (Rule 2) and Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 4);
• Review legislation recently enacted by the General Assembly;
• Analyze comments received by the Supreme Court’s clerk from the public and from lawyers;
• Study the issues raised by the United States Department of Justice report as well as the report submitted May 11 to the Court from the state courts administrator’s office and Acting Ferguson Municipal Judge Roy L. Richter;
• Consult with interested groups and hold one or more public hearings so as to ensure public input; and
• Consider any other relevant information, including recommendations from the National Center for State Courts regarding best practices for municipal court divisions. The court has directed the working group then to take what it learns through its process and outline specific suggestions for improving municipal court divisions statewide. These recommendations should include measures the Court can implement through its rulemaking authority as well as recommendations for further action by the legislature or other entities. “We are giving our working group members full rein to study our state’s municipal court divisions from all angles,” Russell said. “We expect them to respond with specific solutions for improving our municipal court divisions, not only in St. Louis County but throughout the state. Our hope is that, in time, our municipal court divisions might become a model for the nation.” The court expects the group to file its interim report with the Court no later than Sept. 1 and its final report no later than Dec. 1. For more information, please contact Judge Todd Thornhill at 417-864-1890 or Beth S. Riggert, communication counsel for The Missouri Supreme Court at 573-751-4144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.