The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 10, 2012

Our View: Keep politics out of court plan

Thanks to the influence of Thomas Pendergast’s political machine in several judicial elections, an upset citizenry put Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan on the 1940 ballot by initiative petition and the system was adopted by voters.

Under the plan, which attempts to keep politics out of the selection process, candidates for court vacancies are interviewed and reviewed by a judicial non-partisan commission that sends a list of those best-qualified to the governor. It is composed of three lawyers elected by the lawyers of The Missouri Bar (the organization of all lawyers licensed in this state), three citizens and the chief justice, who serves as chair.

If within 60 days the governor does not select someone from the list, the non-partisan commission will make the choice. But voters have the opportunity to retain the judge for a full term or remove him at the next general election after a year’s service on the bench.

While the Missouri Plan has served as a model for more than 30 states that have adopted all or parts of the system, some think the plan puts too much power into the hands of members of The Missouri Bar.

Not every state has adopted the merit plan. Indeed, some states continue to have direct elections of judges, and others permit their governors to make judicial appointments with the approval of state senates. Perhaps the Missouri Plan can be altered to reduce lawyer influence by reducing the number of Missouri Bar members serving on the non-partisan commission to two or by increasing the number of citizens from three to four.  

We’re concerned that a bill listing Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, Rep. Charles Davis, R-Webb City, and Rep. Bill Lant, R-Joplin, as co-sponsors will, in effect, place more political maneuverings — rather than less — into the judicial system. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would scrap the Missouri Plan as we know it. The proposal creates a new system of choosing judicial replacements. Bill language hasn’t been solidified yet, so provisions could change. In a nutshell, leaders of the Senate and House would get to add people to the appointment committee that selects a pool of replacements. That sets up scenarios for conflict of interest.

Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan has served Missourians well for more than 70 years in keeping politics at arm’s length from the judicial selection process. Let’s not scrap the plan.

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  • Other Views Other Views: Eroding court’s authority

    While Kansans were focused on the twists and turns of school finance this past week, lawmakers made an unnecessary and historic change in how the state’s district courts operate, coercively tying the reforms to badly needed funding.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Travesty

    What a travesty that a terrific young man from Spain is on the verge of deportation even though he has proven his worth in America (Globe, April 13).

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: Astonishing transformation

    The transformation of the Republican Party in the last decade is astonishing.

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: The changing view

    It is heartbreaking to hear the decades old trees (which border on South Pennsylvania in Webb City) cracking and being bulldozed down.

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Safe and sound

    Of the 7,500 Joplin and Duenweg homes hit by the 2011 EF-5 tornado, fewer than 20 percent of them had basements.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Funding for state’s roads

    Missouri is finding there is no good alternative to growing the economy, adding new well-paying jobs and expanding the tax base.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Government without apology or explanation

    Americans feel closest to their Uncle Sam at this time of year as he extends his hand for his “fair share” to fund his numerous endeavors.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Step aside

    The people of Joplin made it clear they wanted change at City Hall with their decisive votes to replace two council members.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Serious drawbacks

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) lays out clearly and persuasively the serious drawbacks with so-called right-to-work legislation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Free choice

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) regarding right-to-work seems to assume that if workers are given the choice of joining a union, they won’t join.

    April 16, 2014

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