JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI – In her last big speech as chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, Patricia Breckenridge
gave the State of the Judiciary speech on Jan. 24 to the Missouri General Assembly, discussing the progress of the court system, new appointments and future plans.
started her address by appreciating the 3,400 employees of the courts system and
pointing to the state employees as being the lowest paid in the nation.
“I know budget times are tight, but we must find a
way to pay them 21st-century wages for 21st-century work,”
Breckenridge also went on to highlight
the more than 1.8 million cases that were filed in the Missouri courts in 2016.
According to Breckenridge, 60 percent involved municipal ordinance violations,
and 17 percent of the cases were civil, including 5 percent that were tort
While Breckenridge acknowledged that
many in the General Assembly wanted changes to the laws governing many of the
cases that are bought before the Missouri Supreme Court, she was quick to say, “Do
not view these calls for action as a condemnation of our judicial system.
“Our citizens can be proud of our courts, where they
can go to resolve their disputes peaceably and where their constitutional
rights are protected,” she said. “Day in and day out, in the courtrooms in your
communities, hundreds of thousands of cases are adjudicated without fanfare.
We, more than anyone, want our courts to live up to their responsibilities to
properly administer justice.”
Breckenridge also outlined the
consolidation of many courts across Missouri to reduce costs, which may not be
realized for a time as the state caps the number of municipalities a judge may
serve. She also discussed municipal division monitors and criticisms of the
juvenile division, stating that, “Missouri has never been afraid to lead, and
this state decided long ago our juvenile system should be different that other
Another goal of the courts that Breckenridge mentioned was the improvement of pretrial incarceration practices
that prevent those who are poor from posting bond. A task force was appointed
to the issue and will examine the practices of other states in this regard.
Treatment courts were also discussed during Breckenridge’s address, where work is being done by a Supreme Court committee
to improve the access and quality of these courts in Missouri.
“Missouri is a national leader in developing quality
treatment courts; however, we have not realized their full potential to reduce
recidivism, produce productive citizens, reunify families, and address the
needs of our veterans,” she said.
Lastly, Breckenridge spoke about the Missouri Supreme Court vacancy
to be filled after the passing of Judge Richard Teitelman. She encouraged the
public to apply and said interviews will be held at the end of February. She
also commented on appointment of Betsy AuBuchon to the Missouri Supreme Court after
succeeding Bill Thompson, saying, “She has earned our respect and trust, and we
are confident she will be an exceptional leader for the Missouri’s judicial