A proposed change in Missouri’s non-partisan court plan is called “minor” by supporters but is considered the first big chip taken out of a plan designed to minimize politics in the selection of Missouri’s most important
The Missouri non-partisan court plan has been a model for many states to use in picking judges for appellate and supreme courts. It was born 72 years ago when citizens became fed up with the control over the courts exercised by Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast that led to several disputed judicial elections.
The legislature has been feeling pressure, internal and external, to change the plan for years. The senate has tentatively approved a proposed constitutional amendment that lessens the influence of the legal profession in reviewing applicants for those high judgeships. Sponsor Jim Lembke of St. Louis says it’s a common sense plan.
Senate judiciary chairman Jack Goodman of Mount Vernon reluctantly let the proposal out of his committee, fearful it ultimately might lead to statewide elections of those high court judges. .
Goodman fears the next generation of legislative leaders will push even harder for the election of high court judges which he says could expose the judicial system to corruptive influences in a state that has no limits on campaign donations.
He says a person whose case goes before the supreme court should be confident the court will look at the constitution, not at a list of campaign donors who want to influence the judges.