A campaign launched to support Missouri’s system for choosing judges looks to be active during the legislation session which begins in January.
The group is called Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts . Its spokesman is Chip Robertson, the former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. It was formed to support the Missouri Non Partisan Court Plan which has come under fire of late, mainly from conservative groups. The group has conducted a public relations campaign to convince Missourians about the value of the Missouri Plan. Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts has joined with the Missouri Bar, the organization that represents the state’s lawyers, as the primary supporters of the plan adopted by voters in 1942.
Robertson says the group will take its campaign to lawmakers when the legislature convenes early in the New Year. He expects at least two proposals to be circulated during the upcoming session. One proposal has been floated by St. Louis attorney Bill Placke who would give the governor a greater voice in the selection process. Under the present plan, a panel led by the State Chief Justice selects three nominees that it forwards to the governor, who chooses one. If the governor declines to choose a nominee, the panel makes the selection.
Any changes the legislature wants to make to the Missouri Plan would have to be approved by a vote of the people.
The arguments about the Missouri Plan spilled over into Governor Blunt’s decision to choose a new member for the State Supreme Court and, in many ways, intensified. Blunt asked the three nominees to answer multiple questions and submit to personal interviews before choosing Patricia Breckenridge.
Robertson says that while Governor Blunt’s process was more elaborate than that used in the past, he didn’t have a problem with it. He says the governor has the right to use whatever process he sees fit. As for whether Blunt made the right choice, Robertson replies that, in his view, Blunt couldn’t have made a wrong choice with the panel he was given.