Mary R. Russell, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, speaking in Columbia the past week at the annual meeting of the Missouri Bar and the Judicial Conference, said research “tells us that the public largely misunderstands what we do. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.” She added that no one is in a better position to teach people than “we lawyers and judges who live in the system every day.”
She also mentioned another fact. “It is sad that people are able to name three Kardashian sisters, but they cannot name the three branches of government. And they might be able to recount all the details of ‘Duck Dynasty’ but they have no understanding of how judges decide cases. Perhaps reality is not as entertaining as reality television.”
The judiciary does have a civic education program, along with the Bar, and progess is being made in educating the public about the judicial system, Justice Russell said. The program has easy-to-use presentations and supporting materials to help judges and lawyers deliver effective talks to adults and schoolchildren. Knowledge about how the system works builds trust in the system.
The judicial branch of our government may be the least known and understood of the three branches. The effort by the Supreme Court and Missouri Bar certainly is commendable. There’s no question the need is obvious.