State lawmakers considered, but failed to approve, resolutions that would have had a direct impact on judges in the state. The president of the Missouri Bar says the issues might have died this past legislative session, but he doesn’t believe they are dead.
Two proposals stood out this legislative session. One, HJR 1 , would have prohibited state judges from imposing tax increases. The other, HJR 31 , would have changed Missouri’s non-partisan court plan, allowing the governor to appoint judges pending Senate confirmation.
Governor Blunt pushed the first measure. He argues that judges should not be allowed to impose tax increases, that that authority rests solely with the General Assembly. Missouri Bar President, Ron Baird, calls that measure "jurisdiction stripping" with far-reaching ramifications for Missouri citizens. He also says it’s unnecessary, because no state judge has ever imposed a tax. In fact, the House sponsor of the legislation consistently referred to a federal case in which a federal judge imposed a tax increase in the Kansas City desegregation case. Critics pointed out her measure wouldn’t have made a difference in that case.
The second measure worries the Missouri Bar. It would alter the Missouri Plan, which appoints state judges through a non-partisan selection process. HJR 31 would have the governor appoint Missouri Supreme Court and appeals court judges as well as circuit and associate circuit judges for St. Louis and Kansas City, subject to Senate confirmation. Some supporters call it a modification of the Missouri Plan. Baird says the Missouri Bar sees it as a complete scrapping of a plan that has become a model for much of the United States. Baird points out that more than 30 states have adopted the Missouri Plan in whole or in part. Under the plan, a selection group submits three names to the governor from which to choose for those various judicial positions.
Both resolutions would have gone to a vote of the people if the legislature would have approved them.
Baird says he’s pleased neither resolution won approval in the legislature, but doesn’t believe this is the end of the discussion. Baird expects such issues to return when the legislature returns to the Capitol in Jefferson City next year.