More than 70 years ago Missouri voters did something that 34 other states have since adopted. After Tom Pendergast tried to buy an election of a Supreme Court judge, Missouri voters decided to set up a judicial nomination commission to interview candidates and pick a pool of three nominees from which the Governor may select.
Under the Missouri Plan, a non-partisan commission reviews candidates for a judicial vacancy. The commission sends the governor a list of candidates considered best qualified to which the governor then has sixty days to select a candidate from the list.
Now the Missouri legislature wants to change how we elect our judges. In November, voters will vote on ballot language that would change our current selection plan to make it more partisan.
As the Chief Executive of our state, the Governor certainly has the duty to appoint judges. But having a diverse judicial commission made up of both lawyers and non lawyers to vet candidates is important to ensure the Governor is selecting from people who are not just political friends. If the Governor selects the majority of people to serve on the Judicial Commission (as the proposed ballot language calls for), and then selects one person from the three nominated by the Commission…where is the checks and balances?
The proposed ballot language gives too much power to the Governor. Judges should be legal scholars and men and women of outstanding character. Surely we don’t want our judges to be as partisan as the current elected officials. We do not need to change our current judicial selection process. It is working fine now.