Missouri groups plans initiative to reform judicial selection

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July 13, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri: Earlier today, James Harris, director of the Better Courts for Missouri group, announced that the organization would be filing an initiative petition to do away with the Missouri Plan, the current state model for choosing judges, and adopt the federal one. The Missouri Plan combines executive appointment and popular election of judges. When there is a vacancy, three candidates are selected by a commission, in this case the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission. The governor then has sixty days to select one; if he fails to do so, the selection committee will do it. At the general election soonest after the completion of one year service, there is a retention election. If a majority vote against, the judge is removed from office and the process starts anew.

The federal method is somewhat simpler, where the president nominates judges and the Senate confirms them. In the state setting, the governor would nominate judges and the State Senate would confirm.[1]

Harris, Senator Jim Lembke and other Republicans criticize the current process for what they see as its secrecy and lack of transparency of the judicial commissions, as well as of the influence of the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers, many of whose members have been elected to the commissions.[2]

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