Tom Simon; Longtime Clerk of Missouri Supreme Court Was 'One of the Most Powerful' People in State; OBITUARIES

Article excerpt

Tom Simon, who died this week at age 71, was clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court for four decades. The judges he served said his title didn't begin to do him justice.

Because judges are restrained from actively engaging in political matters, Mr. Simon became their face and voice in front of the other branches of government.

He went before the Legislature to help the judges win passage for drug courts to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison. Each year, he defended the judicial branch's budget in front of legislators eager to cut it.

During four decades at the court, Mr. Simon worked for Republicans and Democrats, conservative and liberal judges. Mostly, he worked behind the scenes.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, a former state legislator, said Mr. Simon "was a great clerk, not just for running that office but for the political connections he had across the street" from the Missouri Supreme Court Building in the state Capitol.

"He had great people skills," Ehlmann added.

Thomas Francis Simon died Sunday at Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City. He was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with Lewy body disease, a form of dementia, his family said Monday.

Mr. Simon was clerk of the Supreme Court from Jan. 1, 1972, until he retired on June 1, 2011.

When he joined the court, its workload was so large, cases took years to reach final determination. Compensation for judges relied upon counties, and most court employees were still county workers.

Mr. Simon worked to reform the judiciary, culminating with passage by voters in 1976 of a constitutional amendment that consolidated trial courts into a system of circuit courts; consolidated appellate courts into one court with three geographic districts; allowed judges to be temporarily transferred to help manage case loads; and changed Supreme Court rules to help reduce delays.

"Tom made the modern judiciary a reality," said former Chief Justice Edward D. …