Although Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the ballot summary submitted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan regarding the proposed changes to the state constitution regarding how state appellate judges are selected was legal, critics of the summary who are supporters of the new plan will appeal the decision according to their attorney.
The non-partisan process for appellate judge appointments that is currently in practice is as follows:
1. Judicial Applicants apply for the positions;
2. A commission composed of 3 Missouri citizens appointed by the Governor (Cannot be lawyers), 1 Supreme Court Chief Justice and three attorneys selected by the Missouri Bar review the applicants;
3. The commission selects three finalists to present to the governor;
4. The governor chooses the newest judge out of those three finalists and appoints him/her to the appellate court;
5. Missouri voters are given the chance to decide if the judge stays on the job during the general election that follows the judge's first twelve months on the bench.
Supporters of this current process argue that this is the appropriate way to choose a judge, as it is non-partisan. The proposed changes to this process could lead to more political influence in Missouri courtrooms because the new plan allows the governor to appoint four members of the selection committee, removes the Supreme Court judge from the committee completely, allows for the governor to appoint lawyers to the committee and would allow a former appellate judge to serve as a nonvoting member of the committee. In other words, the governor would be able to appoint the majority of the selection committee. Many Missouri attorneys, including the attorneys of Bollwerk & Tatlow, LLC, feel this will lead to more partisan appointments to the courts as the governor would be allowed to assign attorneys who support their campaign to the selection committee who, in turn, will appoint a person to the bench with the same political affiliations. The process currently in place discourages partisan appointments by limiting the number of people assigned to the selection committee by the governor.
Those who support the new amendment claim that Democratic Secretary of State Carnahan's ballot summary will mislead Missouri voters and encourage them to vote against the amendment by leaving out parts of the proposed amendment and wording the summary in a way that negatively portrays the amendment. (To read Secretary Carnahan's summary please click on the title of this blog and read the attached article). However, Judge Beetem has found the summary "sufficient and fair as a matter of law" and, unless a planned appeal of this recent decision is successful, the summary will appear on the November ballot in Missouri.
We at Bollwerk & Tatlow encourage you to vote against the new amendment in an effort to keep politics out of Missouri courts. For more information on the current Non-Partisan Court Plan and propsed changes please visit the Missouri Bar's website at http://www.mobar.org/nonpartisancourtplan/