"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

“Missouri Plan” Reformers Make Case to Lawmakers

February 8th, 2008 by mopns · No Comments

Judge Patricia Cohen sought to delay an announcement to the Governor and public regarding a recent court vacancy.

Being a first year law student at Tulane, I’ve taken a keen interest in the current debate regarding the so called “Missouri Plan” and it’s obvious need for reform. Of course, the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys and their minions are in favor of maintaining the status quo. You know, I’d want the secret back room process of MATA lawyers choosing their own for judgeships to continue too, especially if it meant keeping the million dollar judgment spicket flowing.

Better Courts for Missouri, which is valiantly trying to open the process so average Missourians can see how their judges are chosen, held a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the Capitol after Judge Stith’s state of the Judiciary speech. Also, several Better Courts for Missouri coalition leaders and legal experts testified before a state legislative committee to express their concerns regarding the state of the judiciary and advocated on behalf of moderate bipartisan reforms to Missouri’s judicial selection process.

Jonathan Bunch, Executive Director, and William Placke, Co-Founder of Better Courts for Missouri, were joined by Prof. William Eckhardt, Tom Walsh, Esq. and the Honorable Sam Hais to discuss how the judicial selection process in its current form is a closed system and unaccountable to the citizens of Missouri.

“Openness and Accountability are hallmarks of any democracy. The trial attorneys and the Bar have removed this from judicial selection,” said William Placke, Co-Founder, Better Courts for Missouri.

“Currently, I find that a majority of the Missouri lawyers with whom I have spoken say that the system needs up dating but will not say so publicly because of professional pressure which is quite intense. I have been a public servant all my life and I feel strongly that such public policy issues need to be addressed. Hence my involvement. Judicial selection reform need not be a partisan political issue. Many of us are doing our best to keep it non-partisan and from unnecessarily harming the reputation of our hardworking, underpaid dedicated judiciary,” said William Eckhardt, Professor of Law & Director of Urban Affairs Outreach, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Former 21st Judicial Circuit Judge Sam Hais stated, “Vocal challenges to the Missouri Plan’s operation eventually led Judge Warren Welliver to appear before the Missouri Senate to testify in favor of reforming the Missouri Plan. As Welliver said during his testimony, “Reduced to the plainest terms, judges have no right to pick their successors or colleagues and lawyers have no right to pick their judges.” Unfortunately, that is exactly what the current system allows. Because of these defects in the current system, public confidence in the judicial branch and the legal profession is low.”

We’ve attached below:

Written Testimony of Thomas M. Walsh – Senior Partner at large St. Louis law firm.

Written Testimony of Professor William Eckhardt, law professor at UMKC-Law

Slideshow/Testimony of Bill Placke, Vice President of Fortune 500 company in Missouri.

White Paper discussing consequences of judicial reform, written by Professor William Eckhardt and attorney John Hilton.

Written testimony of court reform activist Jim Byrne

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