A hearing has been held in the case against the Secretary of State’s Office over the summary for a ballot issue to change how Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges are chosen.
The proposal was passed this year by the Republican-led state legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 51. It would raise the number of appointees of the Governor on commissions that nominate appellate court finalists, and raise from three to four the number of finalists.
The attorney for those wanting the ballot language to be rewritten, Clayton Callen, tells the judge the language would be misleading to him and anyone else who favors the proposed change.
“In the absence of this court taking action to revise what I would describe as a ‘flawed summary statement,’ many other voters across the State of Missouri holding similar opinions as mine will look at this summary and they think, ‘Boy, Missouri Bar members and lawyers … members of a single profession selecting judges … that can not be a good idea,’ and they will vote against this proposal. Of course if they were actually to read the amendment, Amendment 3, that is purportedly summarized by this summary, they would actually find that it reduces the power of the Missouri Bar to select judges.”
State Solicitor General James Layton says Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is right in emphasizing that the commission that chooses those judges could no longer have to include lay people.
“That is her prerogative, because it is within the realm that is allowed under the language of this particular amendment. We ask the court to allow this to proceed on the ballot and allow the voters to educate themselves, as they ought to do, and then decide whether it is they want a commission that can have all lawyers or whether it’s going to be a matter of whether there are three or four members of the Missouri Bar.”
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem says he hopes to have a decision by Monday afternoon. Ballots must be printed in two weeks.