In recent years, several groups have attempted to make significant changes to the way in which Missouri judges are appointed. These groups attack the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan, claiming that the plan places the judiciary in the hands of the elite few. This argument is without merit, and we at Bollwerk & Tatlow urge our clients and friends to tell their elected representatives to leave the court plan alone. Here's why.
The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan is responsible for appointing fair and impartial judges. Our state uses a non-partisan method of selecting judges at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals level based on the applicants' merit. At the trial court level, judges are chosen the same way in the two major metropolitan areas. In the smaller areas of the state, where voters more likely know about a judge's reputation without the need for expensive media campaigns, the judges are elected by the voters.
This plan is successful because it keeps the influence of money and politics out of courts. The Missouri Plan has become a model for the nation, with more than 30 states adopting parts of the Missouri Plan to improve their court plans.
Furthermore, highly qualified applicants are more likely to apply for judicial positions because dirty politics are left out of the process. And we, as attorneys, don't have to be concerned about practicing before judges who perhaps were given large campaign contributions by our opponents. Leaving politics out of the judicial selection process ensures that both sides of a court case are on a level playing field.
Judges selected under the Missouri Plan do have to answer to the public in the form of retention elections. A judge who is doing a poor job can be voted out of the position by the public when that judge comes up for retention.
To find out how the selection process works, the Missouri Bar has prepared a chart that explains the process. Click on the title of this article to be taken to the Missori Bar's chart.