LETTER: Initiative petition would bring improvement, transparency to Missouri courts

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | 10:01 a.m. CDT

I recently learned of an initiative petition that would change our judicial selection system to allow Missourians to vote justices in or out of office through normal elections; this idea has merit. We already elect judges at the local level here in Boone County; this allows us to have the opportunity to put the people in the system that will do the best job on the court. Extending the election process to the appellate level seems logical.

Currently, an unknown commission presents a list of candidates to the governor and the governor appoints his choice to the appellate court. Many citizens may not realize how the "Missouri Plan" operates: How is the commission selected? Once the commission is chosen, what criteria does it use in selecting the judges they present to the governor? The entire process lacks transparency.

Is it an appropriate assumption that lawyers run the commission? Does the commission have a standard process and criteria for the review and selection of candidates without political bias? Politics certainly should not play a role in the process; judicial temperament for the law and respect for the constitution should be criteria.

The initiative petition is certainly something all Missourians should think about. Is it time to put Missourians in charge of selecting appellate judges via the ballot box rather than allowing a small, non-representative group to select them in a private room with little or no transparency? I certainly think so. The ballot box would allow all Missourians the opportunity to become involved, rather than just a privileged few.

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