Systems by County
Types of Elections in Missouri
Non Partisan Court Plan
In the City of St. Louis, and in St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene Counties, judges apply for their positions on the bench and are selected on the basis of merit.
These non-partisan judges run in retention elections at the end of their term. All of Missouri's appellate judges are also selected under this system.
Missouri's Non-Partisan Court Plan has become a model for the nation. It continues to reduce the role of politics in the selection and election of judges. It also helps ensure the integrity of the judiciary by shielding candidates from undue pressure.
Judges who serve under this plan have been nominated by a judicial commission and then selected by the governor. After their first 12 months in office, non-partisan appointed judges must go before the voters in a retention election. Voters are asked whether each of these judges should be retained. To be retained, each judge must receive a majority vote. A similar retention election occurs at the end of each term of office, under the same guidelines and provisions. If a judge does not receive a majority of votes, his or her judicial office will become vacant at the end of its present term. The judicial commission will then nominate three candidates for the position and the governor will appoint one to fill the vacancy. The terms for appellate court judges are 12 years. Among trial judges, circuit judges serve six-year terms, while associate circuit judges serve four-year terms.
Two different types of commissions select nominees––appellate commissions and circuit commissions. In both commissions, the members' terms are staggered. The appellate commission, which selects nominees to fill Supreme Court of Missouri or Court of Appeals openings, consists of a judge of the Supreme Court of Missouri, three lawyers and three lay members. The circuit commissions, which select nominees for trial-level openings, include the chief judge of the court of appeals district in which the vacancy occurs, two lawyers and two lay members. In both types of commissions, the lawyers are elected by bar members from their circuit or court of appeals district, and the lay members are appointed by the governor.
In many areas of Missouri, judges run for their seat on the bench as a Republican, Democrat or Independent. Most of Missouri's state trial judges are elected in partisan races.
Most elections are between a Democrat and a Republican; while some judges run unopposed. Appellate judges and trial judges in St. Louis and the counties of St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene are selected under Missouri's Non-Partisan Court Plan.
Vacancies during a term are filled by appointment by the governor until the next general election.
Cities that have municipal courts determine the way that municipal judges are selected. Most run in elections.
Circuit judges serve six-year terms; associate circuit judges serve four-year terms. Judges of the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Court of Appeals serve 12-year terms.