Missouri Supreme Court

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider two cases that could have far-reaching implications for the civil rights protections granted to the state’s LGBTQ community.

The judges will be asked to determine whether the Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, even though the words are not in the act itself. Lower courts are split on the issue.

Betsy AuBuchon
Scott Harvey / KSMU

In Missouri, 415 judges and commissioners operate in courthouses across the state to hear roughly 2 million cases each year. Circuit Court includes associate, probate, juvenile and municipal divisions.

Opinions can then be appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which is comprised of 32 judges over three districts; Springfield – Southern, Kansas City – Western, and St. Louis – Eastern.

The Missouri Supreme Court has restored the length of the state’s unemployment benefits to 20 weeks, by tossing out the General Assembly’s action last year that reduced payment of benefits to 13 weeks – the shortest in the country.

Republican lawmakers and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce say they’ll try again next session. The state Department of Labor says 14,612 people have been affected by the 13-week limit since it went into effect Jan. 1.

For the court, the issue was timing. The court ruled, in effect, that the Missouri Senate waited too long to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill.

The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that allows caps on some damages in wrongful death lawsuits.

Shannon Dodson died five years ago at Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis County after an artery was punctured during a heart catheter test. Her family received nearly $11 million in damages, including $9 million in non-economic damages.

Mary Russell says she's mostly satisfied with her two-year term as chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, which ends next week on June 30.

She took over as chief in July 2013 after fellow Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman wrapped up his two-year term.

Russell's tenure coincided with the resumption of executions in Missouri, which have been on a record pace as 16 convicted killers have been put to death since November 2013.  Russell says the increase is due to several factors.

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