Chief Justice tinkers with Missouri Plan for SC picks

Legal News Line Feb. 7, 2008, 11:00am

Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith

JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith wants to change parts of the selection process for Supreme Court Justices that critics claim are too secretive. In the Chief Justice's annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the state legislature Tuesday, Stith referred to a plan to open up the process somewhat. The names of the three finalists for a vacancy will now be publicized, as will the times and locations of Judicial Selection Commission meetings. Stith also announced a proposal to give Missouri taxpayers more information on judges facing retention election. This will ultimately include mailing voter guides to each citizen ranking each judge on their qualifications and performance. The Missouri State Senate grilled Stith last fall over the clandestine nature of the state's much vaunted Missouri Plan for selecting new SC Justices, LNL reported. Lawmakers claimed the process breached the state's Sunshine Laws, which require all public-sector meetings to be open. Stith's announcement appears aimed at mollifying such concerns but the CJ emphasized in the address her commitment to the Missouri Plan. "As Missourians have always recognized, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it's a matter of good government," she told the legislators.

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