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Chief justice delivers state of the judiciary

In front of both bodies of the state legislature, Chief Justice Mary Russell took the podium in the House chamber to deliver her “State of the Judiciary” speech on Wednesday. “It has been the honor of my life to serve as your chief justice, leading a court system devoted to fairness for Missourians,” said Russell.

Russell spent the first part of the address speaking about municipal courts. Courts in and around the St. Louis area have gotten a lot of attention from lawmakers lately, as being more concerned with making money through fines and court costs than serving the public.

Russell said courts should be in the business of settling disputes and not being cash cows for local governments. “If they serve, instead, as revenue generators for that municipality that selects and pays the court staff and judges — this creates at least a perception, if not a reality, of diminished judicial impartiality,” said Russell.

Russell spoke about the legacy of Missouri courts and the need to protect children, the elderly and veterans through the court system. Chief Justice Russell also mentioned the technical advances in the state’s court system. She said currently they’re working on an electronic way to notify jurors, in an attempt to streamline jury service.

Russell was appointed to the State Supreme court in 2004. She’s currently serving a two-year term as chief justice — it ends this summer.

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