Scrap MO's 'non-partisan' Supreme Court Judge selection: WSJ piece

By Legal News Line | Aug 30, 2007

Missouri Supreme Court

JEFFERSON CITY -- The internal process for filling vacancies on the Missouri Supreme Court should be replaced with a popular election, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece today. Titled "Show Me the Judges," the unsigned piece argued that even supposedly "non-partisan" processes for choosing Supreme Court Justices like the "Missouri Plan" eventually become politicized. The plan requires a selection committee to forward names to the governor. The Missouri Plan has lately become controversial because conservatives claim the Appellate Judicial Commission (AJC), which chooses the three shortlisted judges, is not representative. The AJC recently handed Gov. Matt Blunt three names for him to pick a replacement from for retiring Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White. None was apparently to the governor's liking and that set off claims of liberal bias on the AJC, which is chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith. Some GOP lawmakers have gone further, claiming that the AJC's recent meetings held to decide the shortlist breached the state's sunshine law, LNL recently reported. The AJC quickly shot back that it was accountable to the Judiciary, not the Legislature, but damage was done. Meanwhile, liberal activists have formed groups to defend the Missouri Plan from conservative attack. But the WSJ writer argues that with so much partisan sniping around, they are hard-pressed to argue that the plan still preserves the selection process from politics. "Special interests are no less involved in the state's selection process -- the only difference is that this now happens behind closed doors." "Keeping judicial selection democratically accountable is the best insurance for choosing the best judges, and ensuring that they are serving the interests of all citizens," the author concluded.

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