A state lawmakers says the process used to select nominees for the State Supreme Court should be more open. A former Supreme Court Chief Justice says that doesn’t make sense. It’s part of the on-going evaluation of three nominees to the court.
Rep. Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis) charges the Appellate Judicial Commission violated the Sunshine Law by selecting three Supreme Court nominees in private meetings. Lembke wants the commission to release all records of its meetings which led to the selection and he says the governor’s office has complained that the information sent it is "very incomplete".
But in an open letter to the public , the Appellate Judicial Commission states it has complied with the Missouri constitution, which established it. The Commission also states that it has provided the governor’s office complete copies of the nominee’s applications. The Commission notes the constitution expressly prohibits it from publicizing the names of any persons under consideration and requires it "to keep all matters discussed confidential until it selects three nominees, whose names are then made public."
The three nominees, St. Louis Appeals Court Judge Nannette Baker and Western District Appeals Court Judges Patricia Breckenridge and Ronald Holliger, have been forwarded to Governor Blunt. Blunt has stated he will make a thorough review of the nominees before making a choice.
Former Chief Justice Chip Robertson with Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts points out there’s more to this process. Whoever the governor chooses must stand for retention a year later. That, according to Robertson, gives the public the final say. A vote can oust the judge. Robertson says the Sunshine Law has never applied to the judiciary or to any of the judiciary’s commissions.