The Appellate Blog



Supreme Court of Missouri Elects Hon. Zel M. Fisher as Chief Justice

(Posted July 6, 2017)

Happy belated America! We hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July! The Appellate Blog has been quiet for the holiday (and for the Bonuchi family move) and we'll get back to posting opinion analysis and news soon. But we wanted to congratulate Missouri’s newest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Zel M. Fisher. He was elected by his fellow Supreme Court judges to serve from 2017 through 2019. Judge Fisher has been serving on the Court since his appointment by Governor Matt Blunt in 2008.

Practice Tip. (Yes, even this announcement is fodder for one). A lot of lawyers get confused by how to address appellate court judges at oral argument. Is it “justice” or “judge”? In Missouri, the proper moniker is dictated by article V, section 8 of the Constitution. The members of the Court of appeals and Supreme Court are dubbed judges, with one exception. The judge elected to serve as chief is to be called Chief Justice.

Missouri’s mixture of terminology is unique. While nearly all intermediate appellate courts (state and federal) refer their members as judges, a substantial number of the States’ high courts use the term justice, including Kansas. Of coursae, so does the Supreme Court of the United States.

You are virtually guaranteed to address individual members of the court at oral argument so save yourself some embarrassment and get the titles straight during your prep.