St. Mary's Law Journal


Catherine Stone


Notwithstanding the growing trend of high-dollar judicial election campaigns, many citizens do not know what appellate judges and appellate courts do. Faced with the reality of obscurity and the ever-present potential of failed reelection campaigns, appellate judges work each day to fulfill the mission of appellate courts: to efficiently resolve the legal disputes presented in appeals from lower court decisions with written opinions that are well reasoned, thoroughly researched, and intellectually honest. It is the responsibility of the Chief Justice to promote that core mission with all justices on the court, thereby working to best serve the legal needs of the citizens, even when the citizenry is in the dark regarding the integral role appellate courts and justices play in the American legal system. The Chief Justice’s role is clearly one of leadership, and varying styles of leadership produce varying scenarios at different courts. An effective Chief Justice is adept at wearing more than one hat because there are dual roles that a Chief Justice undertakes—administrative leadership and judicial leadership. If the court has adopted operating procedures that guide all the judges on the court, their leadership attire is a better fit. An effective Chief Justice is best able to keep the court on track in deciding the legal disputes on appeal if a consensus and collaborative style of leadership is employed. While the citizens served by appellate judges may not know who the judges are or what their job entails, an effective Chief Justice and a committed judiciary ensure the wheels of the judicial system turn smoothly.


St. Mary's University School of Law