Governor-elect Eric Greitens will likely appoint a replacement for recently deceased Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman.
The process to select candidates for the high bench begins with the state’s Appellate Judicial Commission, which is chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge.
The commission will officially announce a vacancy and set a deadline for interested parties to apply for the position, which is usually a month or longer.
The commission will then review all the applications and set up interviews with the candidates it chooses. Either the same or following day from when the interviews are completed, it’ll send three nominations to the governor.
The governor will then have 60 days to select the next Supreme Court judge. The Missouri Bar says, given the number of steps in the process, it’s unlikely Governor Nixon will be able appoint a candidate before he leaves office January 9th.
In order to qualify for the high court, applicants must be at least 30 years old and be licensed to practice law in Missouri. Among other things, they also must have been a resident of the state for nine years and a U.S. citizen for 15 years.
Although Judge Teitelman was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002 by Democratic Governor Bob Holden, and was retained by a large majority of voters for his second 12 year term in this month’s election, the 69 year-old only would have served several months into 2017. That’s because Missouri law requires all judges to retire at age 70.
Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges are appointed under the state’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, which dates back to 1940. At that time, support for a merit, or qualification based selection system grew out of a perception that urban political bosses were corrupt.
Missouri voters adopted the system through a ballot initiative in November 1940 after several contentious judicial elections. Missouri was the first state to use the “merit selection process”, which has been adopted since in some form by 30 other states and several countries.
Most judges at the circuit court level in the state are still selected through partisan elections. However, voters in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in the Kansas City area as well the City of St. Louis, St Louis County and Greene County (Springfield area) have opted to have their circuit judges selected through the state’s Non-Partisan Court Plan.