St. Louis Circuit Court Amnesty Program Clears Bench Warrants For 44 Percent of Those Who Failed to Appear During Pandemic

Of the 144 persons who had bench warrants for failure to appear at court during the COVID-19 pandemic, 52 appeared in the St. Louis Circuit Court for an amnesty program announced last month, wiping the warrant away and getting new court date.

Because 26 people with bench warrants were unreachable or incapacitated, the result represents 44 percent of the population able to take advantage of the program.

Sarah Phillips, Pre-Trial Services Coordinator for the Court, said, “These 52 people were able to get signed up for court reminders, update their addresses, and apply for diversion programs through the Circuit Attorney’s Office, which set up a table in the courtrooms.”

Phillips noted that outdated addresses pose a significant problem for a population that has become largely transient during the pandemic. She said the majority of people who miss court appearances aren’t fleeing prosecution but simply are out of contact.

The amnesty program applied to persons with bench warrants issued since Jan. 1 after failing to appear.

Court staff initiated contact with eligible defendants and defense attorneys — or in some cases, family members and involved community organizations — to provide information about the new court date and elicit updated contact information. Additionally, the Court established a bench warrant hotline.

The amnesty hearings took place on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

St. Louis Circuit Court Returns All Facilities To Phase Two of COVID-19 Operations

Sept. 1, 2020 — Presiding Judge Rex M. Burlison of the St. Louis Circuit Court has issued an administrative order returning the Civil Courts Building, Carnahan Courthouse and the Juvenile Court Division to a higher operating phase as defined by the Missouri Supreme Court.

The order moves the facilities to Phase Two operations from Phase One. The move essentially expands the possibilities for in-person proceedings in these facilities, including grand jury and jury trials for the most “extraordinary, pressing and urgent” cases. In addition, it expands occupancy maximums to 25 persons from 10 in large venues and common areas such as courtrooms, jury assembly rooms, jury deliberating rooms, break rooms, and other areas in court facilities.

Phase Two continues to spell out requirements for masks and social distancing among judicial employees and those authorized to enter for specific proceedings.

The Missouri Supreme Court continues to encourage all courts and judges to make maximum use of video conferencing, remote access and work-from-home technologies.

The Missouri Supreme Court requires that before moving to a higher phase of operations, each circuit court consider that progression of the COVID-19 pandemic has improved in its local community over a 14-day period. Circuit courts can also move back to a lower operating phase if local conditions worsen.

Details of Phase Two operations are contained in the Court’s COVID-19 Order #28.

St. Louis Circuit Court Moves To Next Phase of COVID-19 Operations

June 2, 2020 — Presiding Judge Rex M. Burlison of the St. Louis Circuit Court has issued an administrative order moving the St. Louis Circuit Court to a higher operating phase as defined by the Missouri Supreme Court, effective today.

The Order moves the Court to Phase One operations from Phase Zero. The move resumes only the most critical in-person proceedings and restricts grand jury and jury trials to “only the most extraordinary, pressing, and urgent cases.”

Burlison’s Order also spells out requirements for masks and social distancing among judicial employees and those authorized to enter for specific proceedings.

The Missouri Supreme Court continues to encourage all courts and judges to make maximum use of video conferencing, remote access and work-from-home technologies.

The Missouri Supreme Court requires that before moving to a higher phase of operations, each circuit court consider that progression of the COVID-19 pandemic has improved in its local community over a 14-day period. Circuit courts can also move back to a lower operating phase if local conditions worsen.

The order notes that there has been no confirmed COVID-19 case in court facilities in the last 14 days. “The Stay-at-Home order in the City of St. Louis has been relaxed; COVID-19 health conditions have improved in the City of St. Louis over the last 14-day period according to the matrix used by local safety and health officials; consultation has occurred with the Department of Health on court activities; and consultation has occurred between the judiciary and court partners,” the order says.

The Order applies to all court facilities, the Civil Courts Building, The Carnahan Courthouse, and the Family Court/Juvenile Division.

For more information, please contact Thom Gross, public information officer,

Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement is the first of its kind in Missouri and the region

St. Louis formalized its Criminal Justice Coordinating Council this week when Mayor Lyda Krewson executed the Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement on behalf of the City of St. Louis, including all its essential justice agencies. Other participating agencies in the St. Louis Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and parties to the Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement include, the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit Court, the Sheriff, the Circuit Attorney, the Missouri State Public Defender and the Missouri Department of Corrections.

The St. Louis Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the first of its kind in Missouri and the region, will be only the third in the country to develop data exchanges to cross-collaborate between criminal justice organizations and the public health sector. The Council is poised to execute an Intergovernmental Information Sharing Agreement among the parties setting national precedent.

“We’ve ushered in impressive changes over the past year and half through the CJCC’s hard working committees and working groups. It is our shared vision to implement policies and practices that improve the whole local criminal justice system, and to utilize resources, treatments and services that meet the needs of the population we serve. Execution of the Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement and adoption of Bylaws holds the CJCC accountable for utilizing taxpayer dollars properly, complying with legal boundaries, and innovating to make a real difference for the community” said Debbie J. Allen, Interim Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and Executive Adviser to the Mayor.  “We’ve had tremendous support from our local, state and national partners in this process including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is responsible for ensuring proper handling of criminal justice information in the State of Missouri” Allen added. 

The St. Louis Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has continued to meet virtually during the COVID- 19 pandemic to plan for long-term resilience and recovery.

The Council was authorized by the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen by Ordinance 71012 on July 12, 2019, which was signed by the Mayor and became effective on August 26, 2019, with the stated purpose to ensure the fair administration of criminal and juvenile justice by increasing effective communication, collaboration and planning; and, to improve the criminal and juvenile justice systems’ operation through effective data collection, sharing and analysis crosscutting the local criminal and public health system.

Thom Gross: Circuit Court actions reduce pretrial detention

A little more than a year ago, bail bond practices and detention of defendants awaiting trial in the St. Louis Circuit Court came under great scrutiny.

Today, the court is a model of collaboration and innovation that has sharply reduced pretrial detention while assuring that arrestees get prompt legal representation and, when appropriate, health care and social services.

What happened?

In December 2018, the Missouri Supreme Court published new statewide rules to take effect last July 1. The rules limit how long a newly arrested defendant can be detained without a hearing and restrict the courts’ ability to set cash-only bonds.

At the same time, the St. Louis Circuit Court began collaborating with a broad coalition of agencies to address pretrial detention and other issues in the criminal justice system. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, an initiative of Mayor Lyda Krewson, meets monthly to enhance communication and coordination.

Presiding Judge Rex M. Burlison, preparing for the new rules taking effect, created a court division for immediate bond review for new defendants. This allows a hearing within 48 hours after confinement for every person charged with a felony. Previously, poor defendants often had to wait weeks until a public defender was assigned to represent them.

An assistant circuit attorney and a member of the private defense bar are present at the bond review hearings. If the accused person consents, the private defense attorney represents that person for the purpose of the hearing only. Later, the accused may hire another attorney or apply for a public defender.

The judge hears testimony about the defendant’s financial means and then considers bond. The judge may decide to release the person on no more than their promise to return to court. The judge may also impose other conditions of release, such as requiring the defendant to wear an ankle monitor.

Ankle monitors previously posed a financial burden on poor defendants, who were charged $50 for installation and then $10 daily. Now, through a grant obtained by the Department of Public Safety, under director Jimmie Edwards, the court is able to release more indigent defendants with monitors at no cost to them.

If, however, the judge determines that the defendant is a danger to the community, the judge may decline to set any bond amount, requiring the person to remain in detention until trial. Under those circumstances, the defendant is entitled to a trial within 120 days.

The new bond-review division also has become the point at which arrestees who need social services can connect to providers of health care, mental health and addiction treatment, housing, and other services. The court has hired a pretrial services coordinator to help make those connections.

The cost of ankle monitors is far less than the approximately $125 daily cost of detaining a pretrial defendant.

The court projects that almost 400 will be released with ankle monitors this year. This should reduce total detention days by more than 15,000 for savings of $1.3 million to city taxpayers.

In addition, with the hiring of two full-time employees, the court has expanded the hours of its Pretrial Release Office to 24 hours per day, every day. Last year, bonds could be posted only during court business hours. This expansion speeds releases after initial bond hearings and is another way the court is reducing detention costs.

Previously, defendants arrested for failure to appear for an earlier hearing or violations of probation conditions could wait several weeks in jail before a hearing. Beginning Jan. 1, the court has required hearings for these defendants the day following their re-arrest.

Finally, the St. Louis Circuit Court has improved tracking of pretrial defendants from arrest through case disposition, speeding justice and producing additional savings. This has been possible through collaboration with St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts, Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and Court Administrator Nathan Graves.

Today, the average population in pretrial detention — excluding federal inmates — is less than 700, down a third from the average number in December 2018, when these discussions began. The trend continues downward.

The 22nd Circuit Court will continue to pursue justice for all St. Louisans, innovate within the Missouri Supreme Court rules, and efficiently utilize taxpayer funds.

Thom Gross is the public information officer for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri.

Pre-Trial Release Bond Office at St. Louis Circuit Court Now Open 24 Hours

Effective Jan. 13, the Pre-Trial Release Bond Office of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, City of St. Louis, is now open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. 

The expanded hours will streamline release for most people arrested for criminal offenses after midnight or on weekends in St. Louis and save money for the City in detention costs. The around-the-clock access was made possible by the hiring of two new staffers for the office.

Bonds and Orders of Protection may now be posted and filed at the locations listed below.

For Bonds during Court Hours (8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday) Contact: For Bonds during Court Hours (8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday) Contact:
Carnahan Courthouse
1114 Market Street 1st Floor, Room 108

For Ex Parte Orders of Protection during Court Hours (8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday):
Adult Abuse Office
10 North Tucker, Room 901

For Bonds and Ex Parte Orders of Protection outside Court Hours:
City Justice Center
2ND Floor
Phone: 314-641-8214
Fax: 314-613-7386

Questions about the new hours may be directed to the Court’s Bond Office Supervisor, Don Kearbey, at 314-622-4779.

Missouri Chief Justice Honors St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Noble with 2019 Judicial Excellence Award

Missouri Chief Justice George W. Draper III on the right, and
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael W. Noble on the left

Missouri Chief Justice George W. Draper III honored St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael W. Noble at a ceremony last week for his dedication to the effective administration of justice in Missouri. Noble received the 2019 Judicial Excellence Award – Circuit.

“It is a privilege to recognize individuals who serve diligently and with integrity, lead by example and provide the citizens of Missouri with the quality of justice they demand and deserve,” Draper said before presenting his 2019 chief justice awards, including judicial excellence awards.

“Judge Noble’s military background, beginning as a West Point cadet and continuing as a captain commanding a company of 200 in the Army Reserve, has been the backbone of his desire to be a public servant,” Draper said in presenting Noble’s award. “As a public defender, he witnessed firsthand the disastrous effects of drugs on his clients, which led him to apply to be a drug court commissioner. As a circuit judge, he has continued to devote his time and efforts to help those affected by drug addiction through his work with the Supreme Court’s alternate treatment courts committee. Today, one of his favorite parts of the job is to mentor young attorneys.”

Noble’s entire judicial career has been in the 22nd Judicial Circuit (St. Louis city). He was appointed a drug court commissioner in October 2007; was appointed an associate circuit judge in March 2013; and has served as a circuit judge since November 2015. Voters retained him in that office during the November 2018 general election.

Draper presented Noble with the judicial excellence award during a ceremony held Thursday morning, Sept. 19, 2019, as part of the annual meeting of the Judicial Conference of Missouri, the organization of all the state’s judges, which was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of The Missouri Bar at the Hilton Branson Convention Center.

Stetson University College of Law Honors Judge David C. Mason for lifetime achievement

Judge David C. Mason
Judge David C. Mason

St. Louis Circuit Judge David C. Mason will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy from Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., on May 21.

Stetson presents the annual award to recognize those who have fundamentally changed the way in which the world approaches the teaching of advocacy. The presentation will come at the keynote dinner and reception during law school’s annual three-day conference titled “Educating Advocates: Teaching Advocacy Skills.”

The theme of this year’s conference is “Teaching through the Twin Lenses of Diversity and Inclusiveness.”

Judge Mason will become the 12th recipient of the award. Previous recipients of this award include Terry MacCarthy, Thomas Mauet, Warren Wolfson, Barbara Bergman, James Seckinger, Edward Ohlbaum, Susan Poehls, Bill Eleazer, the Hon. David Erickson, Joshua Karton, and Travis H.D. Lewin.

Judge Mason has the longest tenure among the 31 judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri, having been appointed in 1991. Prior to his appointment, Judge Mason served as an assistant attorney general, general counsel to the Missouri Department of Corrections, and in private practice. He has been a teacher of Trial Advocacy for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the Yeshiva University Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, and several bar associations. Since 1989, he has served as an adjunct professor of law at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he earned his law degree.

St. Louis Circuit Court to Convert Wednesday Jury Summons to On-Call System

In a move that will save taxpayers money and more efficiently utilize the time of city residents, the St. Louis Circuit Court will institute an on-call system for citizens summoned for jury duty on Wednesdays, beginning May 15.

Under the new system, jurors will continue to receive summons for Wednesday service in the mail. The new summons will provide a phone number for jurors to call after 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday before their appointed service. A recorded message will inform individuals whether they need to report Wednesday morning. The recording will play through 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“We respect the time St. Louis citizens devote to jury service, and we want to minimize it where possible,” said Joanne J. Martin, jury supervisor. Similar systems are already in place in several other Missouri judicial circuits, she noted.

The court summons most people to jury duty beginning Mondays and a lesser number for service beginning Wednesdays. In recent years, the number of jury trials beginning Wednesday through Friday has declined, Martin said. In the 11 weeks so far this year, between 100 and 200 jurors reported each Wednesday, but on eight of those weeks, no jurors were sent out to trial.

If citizens are not required to come to the courthouse for jury service and they have completed the required questionnaire, their on-call status will be counted as jury duty, and they will not be called for at least three years. If they have not completed the required questionnaire, they will be made available for jury service at any time in the future.

As stated on the jury summons, citizens may complete questionnaires online through ejuror, by calling the Jury Supervisor’s Office, or by completing a paper questionnaire the office provides.

If jurors appear at the courthouse after being notified their Wednesday service is unneeded, they will not be paid.

Martin said, “The judges are working hard to determine by Tuesday afternoon whether Wednesday jury service is needed, allowing enough time that we can notify jurors. We are investigating technology to improve the notification process in the future by sending out texts, emails, and automated phone calls to immediately notify jurors of the status of their service in real time.”

Judge Rex Burlison

St. Louis Circuit Court Elects Rex M. Burlison Presiding Judge

In a special meeting of the court en banc Jan. 24, the judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri elected Rex M. Burlison presiding judge.

He fills a position vacated when Gov. Mike Parsons appointed Judge Robin Ransom to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.

In November, the court had elected Burlison assistant presiding judge for a term beginning Jan. 2. He served as interim presiding judge after Ransom left on Jan. 17.

Judge Burlison was appointed to the 22nd Judicial Circuit as circuit judge on Aug. 9, 2011, by Gov. Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon.

He had been appointed an associate circuit judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit in March 2000 by Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Judge Burlison was in private law practice from 1980 until 2000.

In 2001 Judge Burlison was appointed as chief counsel of the Eastern District of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. He served in that capacity until 2009, when he was appointed by Missouri Governor Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon as director of the office of the governor, Eastern Region.

Also on Jan. 24, the court elected Circuit Judge Michael F. Stelzer assistant presiding judge.