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GUEST EDITORIAL: Missouri Judges Recommendations Released to Public

October 26th, 2012 by mopns · No Comments

By Megan O’Neill

The foundation of merit-based selection in American judicial systems is credited largely to the 70-year-old plan created in the heartland of this country. In one form or another, more than 30 states have been influenced by or have adopted a variety of Missouri’s non-partisan court plan.

The plan, implemented by the Show Me State in 1940, has served their judiciary well. It has reduced political party influence, abolished corruption – or at least the appearance of it – and created a transparent approach to the election of judges. Rarely has an attack been made on the quality of judges that have been selected under the Missouri Plan. In fact, since the system was initiated, only two judges have been ousted by Missourians.

In the state’s current form, judges are appointed by the governor from a panel of three applicants promoted by a nominating commission. After a 12-month period on the bench, the judges stand before the public in a retention election.

Every election, the legitimacy of Missouri’s court system is tested. The only stipulation of a plan designed so accountable to the people, is that the people must partake in it to work.

Early in the election season, Judicial Performance Evaluation Committees, comprised of both lawyers and non-lawyers, release to the public their recommendations on which judges to retain.

Recently, the Missouri Bar has produced www.showmecourts.org, a website intended to help voters use these evaluations to make their own decision and cast an informed ballot. The site makes available all evaluation statistics, juror and lawyer surveys, as well as written opinions.

The bar’s distribution of this information is done without state funding, and does so instead to secure that voters make an educated decision before heading to the polls.

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