Missouri Judicial Selection Amendment (2010)

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The Missouri Judicial Selection Initiative is a ballot measure that may appear on either the August 3, 2010 primary election ballot or the November 2, 2010 general election ballot in the state of Missouri as an initiated constitutional amendment. A petition drive began on July 13, 2009 in order to send the measure to the ballot.[1]

Better Courts for Missouri, a 501 c4 organization heading the initiative, is backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the governor to select his or her own judge to rule on the Missouri Supreme Court. The state senate would then confirm the appointment of the judge, similar to the federal courts process.

Better Courts was founded to educate Missouri residents about the need for reform in the state's appellate judicial selection process. The group began the petition drive in order to eliminate the current system that is prone to being influenced by special interest groups, according to the organization.[2][3]

Ballot summary

See also: Text of Missouri Judicial Selection Amendment (2010)

Version 2

The official ballot title of Version 2 is (certified September 4, 2009):[4]

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to repeal the current nonpartisan court plan for the selection of judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Courts in St. Louis City and Jackson, Platte, Clay, St. Louis, and Greene Counties and to create a new method of selecting such judges through appointment by the Governor with advice and consent of the Missouri Senate?[5]

Version 3

The official ballot title of Version 3 is (certified November 12, 2009):[6]

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • repeal the current nonpartisan court plan used to select judges and the current prohibition on judges participating in political campaigns;
  • select all judges through partisan elections; and
  • reduce the terms for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges from 12 to 8 years?

Fiscal impact

According to the secretary of state's office, "Most local election authorities estimate no costs or savings, however, some local election authorities may incur estimated costs of $25,000 to $184,536 for each general election if the proposal results in the need for additional ballot pages. The proposal may result in an estimated savings of $7,741 to state governmental entities."

Second initiative petition

Better Courts for Missouri on October 9, 2009 filed a second initiative petition with the Missouri Secretary of State's Office. This time, it's a petition that would replace the Missouri Plan for selecting appellate judges with direct elections. If approved by the voters in November of 2010, Missouri would have direct elections for the Missouri Supreme Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals like its neighbors in Illinois[7].

An initiative filed earlier in the year by Better Courts for Missouri is in litigation as a result of a lawsuit filed by groups who prefer to continue the practice in Missouri of having a small commission pick the state's high court judges.[7]

In a statement in regards to direct elections, James M. N. Harris, the director of Better Courts for Missouri said:

“Direct elections are the primary method of appointing judges in many other states, as well as at the local level in a majority of counties in Missouri. It’s not like this is a new, untested idea. While the group of ambulance chasers that dominates the current process will no doubt voice concern and try to obstruct this attempt to give the people a voice, their concern is based upon the realization that they will no longer be able to use the secrecy and lack of accountability under the current system to bend the court to their will. All along, our goals have been very simple: increasing transparency, increasing citizen control, and reducing the influence of the trial bar.” [7]

Lawsuits

On September 15, 2009 two lawsuits were filed in the Cole County Circuit Court against the proposed amendment.[8]

  • One lawsuit, filed by Jefferson City attorney Alex Bartlett, argued that the petition for the proposed constitutional amendment did not follow the laws governing the initiative process and should be thrown out.[9] Secretary of State Robin Carnahan approved the petitions for circulation on September 8.[10]
  • The second lawsuit, filed by Jefferson City lawyer Heidi Doerhoff Vollet on behalf of former state Sen. Harold Caskey, argues that State Auditor Susan Montee did not offer an accurate fiscal note. The lawsuit would require for Montee to issue a new fiscal note and thus block circulation of the petitions until the legal battles are settled.[9]
    • Ballot measure supporters said December 31, 2009 that they are seeking to intervene in the lawsuit in order to help move it forward.[11]
  • On February 26, 2010 Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce ruled that the challenge was invalid.[12] Judge Joyce said the summary that would appear on petitions is fair and sufficient.[13]

Ethics complaint against Missouri Bar

Path to the ballot

To qualify for the ballot, each initiative requires signatures from registered voters equal to 8% of the total votes cast in the 2008 governor's election from six of the state's nine congressional districts. Petition signatures are due by May 2, 2010.

See also

Articles

External links

Additional reading

References