Missouri and Wyoming bills would give state supreme courts power to reallocate judgeships/judicial positions

The vast majority of state constitutions give the chief justice and/or the state’s supreme court authority as the “administrative head” of the entire branch. Despite this, in most states supreme courts are bound to statutes allocating certain numbers of judges to individual counties/district/circuits. Several efforts have been made to give state supreme courts such discretion, the latest coming in Missouri and Wyoming.

Wyoming’s SB 11 deals with a provision in law that requires every Circuit Court (the state’s main limited jurisdiction court) have at least 1 full-time magistrate in each county in which a Circuit Court judge doesn’t already reside. SB 11 would provide the decision on whether a county gets a full-time magistrate would rest with the state’s supreme court.

Missouri’s SB 21 allows the state’s supreme court to transfer Circuit Court (the state’s main general jurisdiction court) judicial positions from one circuit to another “as the administration of justice requires”.

There are restrictions on the transfers, however. The position could only be moved from one circuit to another with the position became vacant (i.e. the current judge or associate judge retired, died, etc.) In addition, the supreme court is given criteria to use :

  1. Analysis of a judicial workload study
  2. Whether litigants in the circuit have adequate access to the courts
  3. Population of the circuit
  4. Judicial duties and travel time involved in the circuit
  5. Other criteria that the supreme court deems relevant

Finally, the number of judicial positions as of August 28, 2013 would be set and “any supreme court order changing the total number of judicial positions, through either creation or elimination, shall be null and void.”