Missouri Judicial Selection Amendment (2010)

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The Missouri Judicial Selection Initiative is unlikely to appear on the November 2, 2010 general election ballot in the state of Missouri. The Office of the Missouri Secretary of State announced on August 3 that supporters had not submitted enough valid signatures by the state's early May filing deadline. Supporters of the measure expressed some possibility that they will file a lawsuit contesting that determination.

The proposed constitutional amendment 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. The group began the petition drive in order to eliminate the current system that, they said, is prone to being influenced by special interest groups, according to the organization.[1][2]

On May 2, 2010, the state's petition drive deadline, supporters filed an estimated 250,000 signatures from all nine congressional districts.[3] The petition drive began on July 13, 2009 in order to send the measure to the ballot.[4] The Missouri Secretary of State has until August 3 to verify the submitted signatures.[5]

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):[6]

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?[7]

Version 3

The official ballot title of Version 3 is (certified November 12, 2009):[8]

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."


Judicial Selection Missouri Ballot Initiative, 5/2/10

ShowMe Better Courts is the sponsor of the proposed judicial selection amendment.


The campaign effort in support of the initiative has received a total of about $1.6 million in contributions as of early May 2010. According to reports the six-figure amounts were donated by David Humphreys, a Joplin roofing contractor, and Stanley Herzog, a St. Joseph contractor.[9] Better Courts for Missouri is also a significant donor to the campaign.[10]


Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Action Fund is opposed to the proposed measure and supports the current judicial selection method. The current system for selecting judges to the Missouri Supreme Court, Appeals courts and some circuit courts relies on judicial panels to select nominees, which are then chosen by the governor.[11]


On September 15, 2009 two lawsuits were filed in the Cole County Circuit Court against the proposed amendment.[12]

  • 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.[13] Secretary of State Robin Carnahan approved the petitions for circulation on September 8.[14]
  • 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.[13]
    • Ballot measure supporters said December 31, 2009 that they are seeking to intervene in the lawsuit in order to help move it forward.[15]
  • On February 26, 2010 Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce ruled that the challenge was invalid.[16] Judge Joyce said the summary that would appear on petitions is fair and sufficient.[17]

Second initiative petition

ShowMe Better Courts 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[18].

An initiative filed earlier in the year by ShowMe Better Courts 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.[18]

In a statement in regards to direct elections, James M. N. Harris, the executive director of ShowMe Better Courts 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.” [18]

Ethics complaint against Missouri Bar

On March 12, 2010 ShowMe Better Courts filed an ethics complaint against the Missouri Bar, a state-created association for state lawyers. The complaint alleges that the state Bar been using funds in the campaign against the proposed measure. According to the complaint, the Bar is a creation of the Missouri Supreme Court as as such, is only allowed to use funds to educate others about the court. James Harris of ShowMe Better Courts said,"No group is above the law and the law is clear that organizations or individuals who engage in political activity to influence the electorate have disclosure and reporting requirements associated with that activity." However, Missouri Bar president Skip Walther said that the association has not spent any money against the proposed measure and the appeal is "replete with inaccuracies."[19][20]

On June 4, 2010 the Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint. According to the decision, the Ethics Commission declared that the Bar’s costs — for brochures, power point presentations, e-mails and other materials – is not sufficient to require the association to report its contributions under the Missouri law.[21]

Path to the ballot

See also: Missouri signature requirements

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. On May 2, 2010, the state's petition drive deadline, supporters filed an estimated 250,000 signatures from all nine congressional districts.[3] The petition drive began on July 13, 2009 in order to send the measure to the ballot.[22]

According to an analysis by opponents in late May 2010 supporters failed to file sufficient signatures. However, supporters say the analysis was flawed and called the group behind it "self-interested ambulance-chasers." The analysis was conducted by the Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Action Fund. According to the group they identified that too few signatures were submitted in at least five congressional districts and only a total of about 200,000 signatures were submitted.[23][24]

The Missouri Secretary of State has until August 3 to verify the submitted signatures.[5]


See also

Suggest a link


External links

Additional reading



  1. Columbia Daily Tribune, "Drive targets judge selection", July 13, 2009
  2. Judgepedia.org, "Better Courts for Missouri", 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 Watchdog.org,"Four initiatives aim for the Missouri ballot," May 2, 2010
  4. 2010 Missouri Election Calendar, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 Associated Press,"Four petition drives, including one to repeal KC’s earnings tax, meet state deadline for submission," May 2, 2010
  6. Missouri Secretary of State,"Constitutional Amendment to Article V, Relating to Repealing the Nonpartisan Court Plan, version 2 2010-061," retrieved November 23, 2009
  7. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Ballot title approved for Missouri court plan repeal," September 8, 2009
  8. Missouri Secretary of State,"Constitutional Amendment to Article V, Relating to Repealing the Nonpartisan Court Plan, version 3 2010-071," retrieved November 23, 2009
  9. The Kansas City Star,"Money, money, money fuels Missouri petition drives," May 4, 2010
  10. Missouri Ethics Commission, Campaign Finance Committee Info
  11. St. Louis Public Radio,"Mo. judicial ballot question has failed, opponents say," May 26, 2010
  12. Associated Press,"2 lawsuits challenge proposed Mo. ballot measure on judicial selection," September 15, 2009
  13. 13.0 13.1 News Tribune,"2 lawsuits seek to block court-changing petitions," September 15, 2009
  14. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Ballot title approved for Missouri court plan repeal," September 8, 2009
  15. Associated Press,"Missouri backers of court changes seek to join lawsuit," December 31, 2009
  16. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Ballot initiative to require direct election of judges gets court OK," February 26, 2010
  17. Associated Press,"Mo. judge rejects suit over court ballot measure," February 26, 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "St. Louis Post Dispatch" UPDATE: Anti-Missouri Plan group now seeks direct election of judges, October 7, 2009
  19. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Missouri Bar hit with ethics complaint over alleged campaign violations," March 12, 2010
  20. Associated Press,"Mo. lawyers' group accused of violating ethics," March 13, 2010
  21. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Ethics Commission rejects complaint against Mo. Bar," June 10, 2010
  22. 2010 Missouri Election Calendar, 2010
  23. Missourian,"UPDATE: Group says Missouri court critics missed signature target," May 26, 2010
  24. Associated Press,"Supporters of appointed judges think opponents missed petition signature goal," May 26, 2010