Once again, the Missouri Non Partisan Court Plan has succeeded!!
The Appellate Commission (Chief Judge, plus 3 elected lawyers from across the state, plus 3 lay people appointed by a governor for a 6 year term), the same demonic people who sent up a panel of three qualified court of appeals judges to Governor Blunt to pick a new Supreme Court judge (Blunt picked the imminently qualified Republican, Judge Patricia Breckenridge), sent Blunt another panel for an opening on the Court of Appeals - Western District.
Guess what, they sent 3 very intelligent lawyers who were not political hacks up. Any of the three would be a great addition. The panel was Cindy Reams Martin (has her own firm in Lee's Summit, used to be with a mid-sized defense firm downtown, former president of the KCMBA, #1 in her class at UMKC Law), Alok Ahuja (at Lathrop & Gage, on the board of the KCMBA, experienced in arguing cases to the Supreme Court, very intelligent) and Clay County Judge James Welsh. Judge Welsh, formerly a Republican (gave up politics when he went on the bench because Clay County is one of the counties that selects trial judges based upon the Missouri Plan), was selected. Judge Welsh spent 20 years on the trial bench. Unfortunately, Blunt sat on this selection for several months, despite the fact that the Court of Appeals was short 3 judges, so he could lam bast the Missouri Plan.
I think that the vast majority of lawyers who appeared in front of Judge Welsh would said that he was thoughtful, treated witnesses, jurors and every person who appeared in front of him with great respect and that he was really, really smart. Judge Welsh - believe this - read cases. He wanted to follow the law.
Bill Placke is the President of the Federalist Society in St. Louis. He is one of the lead advocates to change the Missouri Plan. He told the Daily Record (a legal newspaper in Missouri) that "Welsh Ahuja and Martin all had solid credentials and that their panel was one of the best he has seen recently." Placke went on to say
"It seems to me that the debate has changed its focus from the nominees to the process of appointing judges in Missouri."
OK, maybe Placke is just wrong about how well this thing is working. But, look what Blunt had to say about Welsh
"Judge James Welsh brings a wide range of experience and expertise that will be invaluable as he serves the people of the Western District. I am pleased Judge Welsh has agreed to continue his service on the judiciary in this capacity."
State Senator Luanne Ridgeway is a frequent critic of the Missouri Plan and has written some very nasty things about the Missouri Supreme Court. Surely she has something bad to say about Welsh (who lives in her district and whom she has appeared in front of as a lawyer).
“Governor Blunt has made an outstanding selection to the Missouri Court of Appeals – Western District in Judge James Welsh,” said State Sen. Luann Ridgeway. “I have known Judge Welsh for more than 15 years. He is a judge with impeccable character and judicial demeanor that Missourians need on the court. I congratulate Governor Blunt on the appointment of Judge James Welsh.”
Why is there a debate? The Missouri Plan sent up three people with solid credentials. Blunt got to put a Republican on the Supreme Court and a Republican on the Court of Appeals - and they were both qualified. The Missouri Plan could also be called the "Non-hack plan" and it works. We have seen how Blunt makes other appoints - big time financial contributors. Let's save the judicial system from people buying judicial appointments, justice should not be for sale.
Congrats to Judge Welsh, you will make a fine addition to the Court of Appeals (despite you being a Republican).