Cole County judge sits on Supreme Court for case

A mid-Missouri trial court judge got a taste of life on the Missouri Supreme Court Thursday morning.

Cole County Judge Paul Wilson sat in for regular Supreme Court Judge Mary Rhodes Russell after she recused herself from a product liability case.

"Judges might recuse if they believe they have a conflict of interest in the case, Court Communications Counsel Beth Riggert said.

Cole County Judges Pat Joyce and Jon Beetem both have served as special Supreme Court judges in the past.

Riggert said judges recuse themselves if they know the parties or have had dealings with them.

Frequently when have judges newly appointed to the court that come from a court of appeals, they tend to recuse off all those cases they sat on at the court of appeals, Riggert said.

However, judges do not have to give a reason for recusal.

The product liability case involved a 300-pound motorist injured by a car seat. The judges here must apply the law to obligations of a manufacturer and the discretions of a trial jury.

Riggert said the high court taps all jurisdictions in the state for guest judges as a way to give lower court judges a better understanding of the appellate process.

"We have a lot of judges in Missouri and the court tries to reach out to as many people as they can, Riggert said.

Some guest judges only sit and listen. Others join the regulars in asking questions.

Later, behind closed doors, the guest judges will participate in the discussion of the case and the voting on the outcome. Some will even write opinions.

"You can be an associate circuit judge from the furthest reaches of Missouri, Riggert said. Once you're sitting, by special designation, on the Supreme Court of Missouri, you might end up writing the principal opinion.