The Missouri legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to modify the way judges in Missouri are selected. The legislation under consideration, sponsored by conservative Missouri Senator Jim Lembke, would significantly improve the judicial selection process by making some slight changes to the commission that nominates judges. Under the state’s current method of selection, known as the Missouri Plan, a seven-member commission sends the governor a list of three nominees from which he must select a judge to fill any appellate vacancy. The structure and left-wing dominance of the nominating commission (the distinctive feature of the Missouri Plan) has led many to argue that the state should amend the constitution to either directly elect judges or have them selected under something mirroring the advice/consent model set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
The proposed constitutional amendment before the Missouri Senate falls short of either of those alternatives, but it would make some very important improvements. Primarily, it would increase the number of citizens who serve on the nominating commission and restagger the terms of those commissioners so that they would serve concurrently with the sitting governor. The governor’s judicial nominee would then go before the Missouri Senate, where the Senate would have the option to reject by a two-thirds vote. In short, whereas the balance of the authority over judicial selection currently resides in the unelected and left-leaning legal guild, these reforms would shift some authority to the chief executive and the legislature, in accordance with the principles articulated by the founding fathers in the debates over the U.S. Constitution.
Unfortunately the amendment is currently bottled up in the senate judiciary committee. Read more…
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