Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blunt Loves Secret Selection of Judges


Matt Blunt whined about the Missouri Non-Partisan Judicial Selection Plan. I think its wonderful, it even gave Blunt the opportunity to pick a judge with Republican roots for the Supreme Court that was good enough for both Ashcroft and Bond - Judge Patricia Breckenridge. Blunt wanted everything from applicants from college transcripts to their favorite supreme court opinion.

As you know, the Missouri Plan is only for St. Louis, Jackson County and Clay County trial judges and all the appellate judges in the state. It does not apply to other trial judges throughout our state - they have partisan elections. If someone quits, then the Governor appoints a replacement and that judge stands for a vote of the people at the next election.

Judge J. Miles Sweeney resigned in Springfield, Greene County. Blunt appointed his replacement. The Springfield News-leader - following Blunt's call for openness and light in the appointment of judges - asked for all documents Blunt reviewed to make his selection of the new judge. Mr. Messenger at the News-Leader got this thoughtful response.

"Dear Mr. Messenger: This is in response to your September 20, 2007, request for records under the Missouri Sunshine Law. Enclosed is Judge Sweeney's resignation letter. Other materials concerning Mr. Bob Lawson's appointment, interview notes on other applicants, and any other material concerning the appointment are closed for privacy concerns under sections 610.010 and 610.021 (3), RSMo. This position is not a lifetime appointment like the appellate courts (with retention elections); Mr. Lawson will face a partisan election in less than a year. Materials advertising the position would likely be open records, but the governor's office does not advertise for local judicial appointments. We would advise you to consult with the local officials for their steps to advertise the position. We received a number of applications and a great number of recommendations for applicants, so it is our assumption, based on the interest in the position that our office received before and after judge Sweeney's resignation, that the pending vacancy was well known among members of the local bar. Sincerely, Henry T. Herschel, General Counsel."


Nothing like a little hypocrisy to stir up the base.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeff Harris has a great proposal that can be found at:
http://www.electjeffharris.com/news/pressrelease.php?prID=13

It would go a long way toward strengthening the sunshine law.

thepaintman said...

I have been hearing about the sunshine law for over 10 years and still nothing has been done about it.

whistleblower said...

The Missouri Plan was placed on the ballot by initiative petition. It was an amendment to The Missouri Constitution adopted by the voters of this State.

In 1987 The Missouri Supreme Court created Rule 12.21 which made all complaints filed with the Commission for Retirement, Removal, and Discipline of Judges hidden from the voters, unless the Commission determines that a complaint filed should result in disciplinary action.

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 12.21 removed information that was originally available to the voters, therefore unconstitutionally modifying the Missouri Plan without giving the voters a say in the matter.

While Article V, Section 5 states that; "The supreme court may establish rules relating to practice, procedure and pleading for all courts and administrative tribunals," it does not permit them to hide information that should be available to voters as it was when the Missouri Plan was established.

Retention by voters is a farce. The voters are uninformed, and don't have a reasonable amount of information available to them in order to make an intelligent decision. Even those that support the Plan have acknowledged this deficiency.

As far as the Commission designed to keep bad judges off the bench, they have not removed one judge from the bench since their inception in 1972. Lynn Ann Vogel, former President of the Bar Association of Metropolitan Saint Louis, presented more information about C.R.R.D on page #2 of the Saint Louis Bar Journal.
http://www.bamsl.org/members/barjournal/SPRING%2007.pdf

Dale Youngs said...

Whistleblower -- the argument that retention elections are a "farce" because voters are "uninformed" and don't have the information they need to make a choice is -- well -- just "uninformed." During every election cycle, the Missouri Bar surveys lawyers and jurors who have had contact with the judges who are up for retention, and asks them innumerable questions about the judge's qualifications, including whether the judge at issue should be retained. These results are posted everywhere, including the bar's website at www.mobar.org. Plans are underway to make even more information available about judges to voters in advance of the November 2008 elections.

The fact is, if voters are "uninformed" when they go to the ballot box, as is the case with all elections, it's because they don't avail themselves of the information that's available about the candidates and issues. It's not because the process is a "farce."

Phil Cardarella said...

Once again, the offense is hypocrisy.

No one cares who Larry Craig wishes to have sex with. It is his anti-gay hypocrisy -- ruining the lives of others -- that is so offensive.

Likewise, if the Boy Governor were taking a principled stand that the information should be private that would be one thing -- regardless of how one interprets the wording of the law. But to do after his behavior and demands from the Supreme Court nominees is ... well ... supreme hypocrisy!

Anonymous said...

It should be noted, despite Whistleblower's insinuation, that Lynn Ann Vogel is a strong supporter of the Missouri Plan.

whistleblower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whistleblower said...

Sorry.. the link to David Stokes article got cut off. You'll need to copy and paste the two parts one at a time.

http://showmeinstitute.org/
publication/id.75/pub_detail.asp

Dan said...

Blower -

I don't know how Anonymous knew Ms. Vogel's position, but I've known her for around 20 years, and I just got off the phone with her. Of course she supports the Missouri Plan. She was kind of upset that anyone would insinuate that she doesn't.

whistleblower said...

Dan...

No one insinuated that Lynn Ann Vogel was not in favor of the Missouri Plan.

I questioned the statement by Anonymous that declared her as a "strong supporter" of the plan.

No one is willing to address the fact that information available to the public when the plan was created, is no longer available to the public.

What I do wonder is whether there
is general information that would
not invade the rights of the persons wrongly accused but would give a better sense of what happens at the C.R.R.D.?

How many claims are filed each year, how many reach investigative stages, and how many judges resign before hearings?

Are there areas already under the rules that could be flushed out with objective standards that would not require an attorney to put his or her entire future in jeopardy by bringing a claim against a judge or commissioner and fear retaliation?

Dan said...

She is a strong supporter of the plan. If you have issues with the CRRD, that's another problem. I might even agree, though I haven't yet given it much study. Regardless, though, the Missouri Plan needs to be retained, and protected from short-sighted Republican attacks.

whistleblower said...

Dan...

I understand your desire to retain the Missouri Plan, but many of those that like the Plan are willing to recognize its flaws. At least they are willing to investigate the possibility of improvement on something designed almost 70 years ago.

29 states adopted the Missouri Plan; only 5 of those, including Missouri have not changed it.

C.R.R.D. is directly related to the Plan and so is Rule 12.21. Ignoring this relationship does not remove the impact either has on the Plan.

The rules changed after the Plan was implemented.

If the Missouri Plan is so good, why ignore the changes that affect it?

If you consider the voters of Missouri to be so incompetent that the Bar doesn't want them to influence the retention of judges, just say so.

We didn't hide complaints filed against judges in 1940. We didn't have a commission to cover for these judges in 1940.

We can leave the Missouri Plan alone and modify the C.R.R.D. to give it more lay influence. We can put 10 gubernatorial appointments on the Commission, keep the 2 judges, and 2 attorneys; if 8 of the 14 recommend a formal investigation, the record is then made available to the public. I'll support that, and I bet I can get the Federalist Society to join me.

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