The organization hoping to change the process by which Missouri’s Supreme Court judges are chosen has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office to place an initiative on the ballot to change the Missouri State Constitution as it pertains to the selection of judges.
Better Courts for Missouri is advocating a system similar to the one used in selecting United States Supreme Court justices. Under the federal system the President picks a nominee and the U.S. Senate confirms or rejects that individual. A change to the so-called Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan would see the Governor choose a nominee and the State Senate say yes or no to that nominee. James Harris, Executive Director of Better Courts for Missouri, says this improves transparency in the selection process.
"The federal model is more accountable and transparent than the current broken commission, which is plagued by special interests and meets in secret," said Harris in a conference call with reporters. "We feel that a federal model is easy for Missourians to hold – whether their Governor or their elected officials – accountable for the judges and actions of our courts."
As far as Harris is concerned the current system for selecting State Supreme Court judges is anything but non-partisan.
"The (Appellate Judicial) Commission meets in secret," said Harris. "Their opinion is that Missouri’s Sunshine Law does not apply to them. One hundred percent of the lawyer members on the Appellate Judicial Commission are, or were, on the Board of Governors of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys at the time of their appointment – and that’s clearly a special interest group."
The Secretary of State’s Office now has the responsibility of coming up with a question which could be circulated by petitioners who would collect signatures.