24 May 2004
Chief Justice discusses judicial selection at policy history conference
Contact: Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel
Supreme Court of Missouri
CLAYTON, Mo. – Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice Ronnie L. White discussed the Missouri nonpartisan court plan and judicial independence at the 2004 Policy History Conference. The event was held Saturday, May 22, 2004, in the Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel.
During the discussion, White stressed the importance for once-rural communities that have grown into urban centers to consider adopting the Missouri nonpartisan court plan. White spotlighted Greene, Jefferson, and St. Charles counties as potential counties that would benefit by the adoption of the nonpartisan court plan.
“Missouri has been and should continue to be proactive in helping its judges avoid the financial problems that have plagued judges in other states,” White explained. “In states such as Texas, for example, judges are forced to spend half of their day every day working not on the cases before them but in their campaign offices trying to raise money to stay on the bench. Missouri judges appointed under the nonpartisan plan, however, can remain focused solely on their judicial responsibilities.”
Under the Missouri nonpartisan court plan, a judicial commission selects judges. The appellate judicial commission, for example, is comprised of the chief justice, three lawyers elected by The Missouri Bar, and three citizens selected by the governor. The commission then selects a panel of three candidates deemed most qualified from which the governor then selects the judge. After a judge has been selected and has been in office for a year, the judge then is evaluated by attorneys with direct knowledge of the judge’s performance and must withstand a retention vote by citizens at the next general election. The Missouri Plan has been adopted in some form in more than 30 states.
“This selection process provides opportunities for all lawyers — and particularly women and African-Americans — to be selected as judges on the basis of merit rather than who has raised the most money,” White said.
White’s presentation was part of “The Yellow Brick Road in 21st Century American Law and Public Policy” session of the event. Event sponsors were the St. Louis University Institute for Political History and Journal of Policy History. Other speakers included Scott Comparato, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and Steven A. Puro, Ph.D., professor of political science and public policy at St. Louis University. Supreme Court Archivist Joseph Benson moderated the panel.