Former Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff speaks at bar association meeting

Christina Stueve Apr. 13, 2012, 10:42am


Retired Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff talked about "Obamacare," "Hellholes" and a variety of other topics at Friday's Madison County Bar Association meeting in Collinsville.

Wolff, who served on the Missouri high court from 1998 until he retired in 2011, is now teaching law at St. Louis University School of Law.

Wolff said he had been following Obamacare arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court as a hobby.

"I also followed news accounts of the argument," he said. "It surprised me a little bit. It sounded like their questions came from their talking points."

Wolff spoke for approximately 45 minutes with close to 30 people in attendance for the meeting at the Gateway Convention Center.

Wolff said that it is "easy enough" to demonize lawyers in the popular press.

He mocked the "Hellhole" label given to Madison County's judiciary by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA).

"I come to you from another hellhole," Wolff said. "The St. Louis hellhole is another."

The ATRA does not designate the St. Louis courts as Hellholes.

Wolff also gave perspectives from the bench.

He said that after oral arguments at the Missouri Supreme Court, conversation reflects on what just happened in the court room.

"It's your opportunity to converse with judges," he said. "It is a time to establish credibility as an advocate."

"I think very much like any advocacy, you have to imagine that judges are simple. There are one, two, three points on which your appeal will fall. A good trial judge makes one to two to three errors per day.

"Which ones matter?"

"Most of them don't. All we know is someone is entitled to a fair trial."

He also said that when a justice has questions, "it is a sign the judge read the brief."

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