The normally quiet process of selecting a candidate for the Missouri Supreme Court has become anything but quiet. An advertising campaign has been started as Governor Blunt and Republican legislative leaders are raising questions about the process.
The Adam Smith Foundation has launched a radio advertising campaign against the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. A dramatized conversation between a man and woman ushers in accusations that the Appellate Judicial Commission violated the "spirit" of Missouri’s Sunshine Law by holding "secret meetings" to choose the three finalists for a vacancy on the State Supreme Court.
As that campaign airs, Governor Blunt has stepped up criticism of the process, saying, "Clearly we need a more transparent process."
Blunt says he has a process in place to evaluate the three candidates, who are all appellate judges. Patricia Breckenridge was first appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Bond as associate circuit judge in Vernon County in 1982. Former Gov. Ashcroft appointed her to the Court of Appeals in Kansas City. The late Gov. Carnahan appointed Ronald Holliger to the Jackson County Circuit Court in 1995. Former Governor Holden appointed Holliger to the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals. Carnahan also appointed Nannette Baker to the bench, placing her on the St. Louis Circuit Court in 1999. Holden promoted her to the Eastern District Court of Appeals in 2004.
A leading Republican Senator, Charlie Shields of St. Joseph, has requested the Appellate Judicial Commission meet with a Senate committee to explain its process. Shields says he has always been a supporter of the judiciary, but is frustrated with the process that chose this panel.
The Appellate Judicial Commission has insisted it hasn’t violated any law, stating that it is required by Supreme Court rule to keep applicant names and documents private until a final panel of three is chosen.