The Missouri Bar President Comments on Resolution That Puts Political Appointees at Helm of Court Plan

President Lynn Whaley Vogel Says Constitutional Amendment Would Give a Governor Control Over the Judicial Selection Process

April 19, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Missouri Bar President Lynn Whaley Vogel today commented on the Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance the Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution 51. The Missouri Bar Board of Governors today adopted a motion continuing their endorsement of the Non-Partisan Court Plan and opposing SCS SJR51.

“The Missouri Bar is committed to keeping big money partisan politics out of Missouri’s judicial branch of government. That is why we oppose Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution 51 as it would grant a governor full control over the commission that selects the candidates for appellate judge submitted to the governor. This would have the effect of eliminating Missouri’s merit-based judicial selection process. SCS SJR51 would take Missouri’s plan that chooses judges in the least political way and shift the majority of the commission to political appointees.

The proposal jeopardizes the carefully balanced make-up of the appellate judicial commission by making the majority of commissioners political appointees of a governor. The proposal would hand the governor the control of four out of seven commissioners within a single term in office and omit the currently staggered terms. The governor would be able to name two appointees in the first year in office and two others mid-term. These changes, in no uncertain terms, grant a governor full control over a majority of commissioners.

The measure also would remove a Missouri Supreme Court Judge from serving on the appellate judicial commission. While a retired judge could serve, the judge would no longer be a voting member. Eliminating a judge’s voice through a vote removes the person with the most experience and ability to evaluate a candidate’s skills, knowledge and suitability for the bench.

Finally, the proposal dilutes the quality of the selection process. Currently, the commission selects three candidates after public interviews and deliberations. SCS SJR51 would increase it to four.

At the end of the day, these are unnecessary changes that would weaken a system that has produced a steady stream of competent judges for 70 years. The Non-Partisan Court Plan continues to be right for the people of Missouri because it attracts high-quality judges in the least political way and ultimately gives the people the final say. The Missouri Bar encourages our state senators to recognize these proposed changes would make the Non-Partisan Court Plan partisan.”

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