The Missouri Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court. It handles appeals from the circuit courts. That is, if a party loses at the circuit court and believes a mistake was made, that party may file an appeal. The Court of Appeals handles all appeals except those in the Supreme Court's exclusive jurisdiction. (The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction of challenges to the validity of a United States statute or treaty, the validity of a state constitutional provision or statute, cases requiring construction of revenue laws, the title to state office, and cases where the death penalty is imposed.) Cases initially decided by the Court of Appeals may be transferred from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. Historically, less than ten percent of appeals are transferred to the Supreme Court. Thus, for the vast majority of appeals, the Court of Appeals decision is final.
In an appeal, a record of what occurred in the circuit court is filed. Each side generally files a brief, or long paper, stating its arguments and the basis for them, such as past court decisions and laws. These briefs are open to the public.
The Court of Appeals may hear oral argument from each side, in which each side answers the judges' questions. In the Court of Appeals, there are no juries or witnesses; the parties argue their cases before the judges, and the judges determine whether there were prejudicial mistakes made at the trial below. The public may attend.
The Court considers the briefs, oral arguments, and the transcripts, pleadings and exhibits from the trial in researching, deciding, and writing its opinions. The Court must decide the case based on the Constitution and laws
, regardless of the judge's personal preference, politics, and any other outside influence. The Court's opinions
are public and appear on this website as they are issued.
The judges of the Court of Appeals are selected under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan
, which includes selection by the Appellate Judicial Commission
based on merit, gubernatorial appointment, and retention by the voters at the ballot box.