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Talking Points on the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan

  1. The Non-Partisan Court Plan works for Missourians by providing fair and impartial judges.
  2. The Missouri Plan, as it is known nationally, combines two proven methods of selecting judges. We use a nonpartisan method of selecting judges based on their merit for the Missouri Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as for trial court judges in major metro areas.  In all other communities -- where voters are more likely to know each judge’s reputation without the need of expensive media campaigns -- we elect judges, based on their merit.  
  3. The Plan provides a system of checks and balances that limits any group or politician from hand-picking judges. 
  4. The Non-Partisan Court Plan keeps the influence of money and politics out of Missouri courts.
  5. Since being introduced in Missouri, the Plan has become a model for the nation. More than 30 other states have adopted parts of the Non-Partisan Court Plan to improve their court systems. When states reform the way judges are elected, they invariably adopt elements of the Non-Partisan Court Plan.  Most recently, Greene County voters opted into the Non-Partisan Court Plan for the trial-level judges of the 31st Judicial Circuit. 
  6. The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan engenders public confidence in the courts.
    • Highly qualified applicants are more willing to apply for openings on the bench under the Non-Partisan Court Plan because they want a career based on their understanding of law, not based on politics.
    • Lawyers who are selected by judicial commissions have the necessary qualifications to serve as judges. Professional qualifications are emphasized and political credentials are de-emphasized.
    • Judges chosen under the Non-Partisan Court Plan don't find themselves presiding over cases brought by attorneys who gave them campaign contributions.
  7. Increasingly, states that elect their appellate level judges are seeing judges rely on negative advertising and multi-million dollar judicial campaigns. Surveys show this erodes the public’s trust and confidence in the courts. It also gives the impression that a seat on a state's high court is for sale. The ads used in the Illinois Supreme Court race are a prime example of the extremely negative portrayal of a state court system that relies on partisan election of appellate judges. In contrast, Missourians can make informed decisions on whether not to retain judges based on unbiased evaluations of judges’ performance. A committee of lawyers and non-lawyers thoroughly evaluates each non-partisan judge who will be on the retention ballot, and this evaluation is published and distributed throughout the state.   
  8. Differences of opinion about individual decisions will always exist. The business community benefits where the rule of law is predictable. The Missouri Plan provides for stability, continuity and promotes public confidence in the judiciary. 
  9. Non-partisan judges are accountable to the public through retention elections.  
  10.  In recent years, the Supreme Court saw ways of making the selection process more transparent, and the names of all applicants are now made public; public interviews are held; and the public is encouraged to nominate candidates and to express their opinion to the governor.