Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Forum on the Missouri Plan - Nov. 29

More than any other blog in Missouri, the Committee for County Progress Blog has defended the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. The CCP is a member organization of Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts.

The CCP is also hosting a forum on the Missouri Plan. The forum will be at the UMKC Law School (500 E. 52nd) on November 29th at 6:00 Dale Youngs, president of the Missouri Institute for Justice, will give a history of the plan. Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Judge Chip Robertson (appointed by Ashcroft) will speak in favor of the plan. Professor Bill Eckhardt will speak against the plan.

With Matt Blunt bad mouthing the Missouri Plan, with Jeff Roe attacking good judges like Judge Tom Brown in Cole County and with the Adam Smith Foundation being created for the purpose of changing our Constitution to eliminate non-partisan judges, a little education on this issue can never hurt.

11 comments:

whistleblower said...

Methinks thou dost protest too much!

The Missouri Plan has been in use since 1945. More than half of the states in the Union adopted the Plan. However, only about five of those states have not subsequently made significant changes to it.

The Missouri Bar is working overtime to maintain the status quo. That should cause everyone to raise an eyebrow. They have created talking points so that their members, all Missouri attorneys, can help them to keep the Missouri Plan just the way they like it. I would have thought the educated jurists of the Missouri Bar would have been able to come up with their own reasons to support the Missouri Plan. It appears that the Missouri Bar has a Plan of their own. http://www.mobar.org/data/esq07/oct19/resources.htm

While I agree that the election of judges would induce a flavor of partisanship into our courts that must be avoided; the Missouri Plan is not without acknowledged flaws.

Retention elections, one part of the Missouri Plan, are a farce. In 2004, Judge Richard B. Teitleman, was retained by a 62% of Missouri Voters. Depending on where you live, you would have also been voting to retain other appellate judges; Clifford H. Ahrens, Katherine Knaup Crane, Patricia Cohen, Booker Shaw and Glenn Norton were retained in the Eastern District, John Parish, James Prewitt and Kenneth Shrum were retained in the Southern District, and Patricia Breckenridge and Michael Spinden were retained in the Western district. All of these judges were retained by at least 62% of the voters.

How many of these voters knew anything about the judges that they voted to retain?
2.7 Million Missouri voters cast their vote in the to decide who the next governor would be. 2.2 million voters decided whether or not to retain Judge Teitelman on the Missouri Supreme Court. Of these 2.2 million voters, how many could cite one opinion written by Judge Teitelman?

The voters don’t have enough information about the judges when they cast their vote to make an informed decision. The lack of credible means of evaluation of appellate judges only serves to compound this sham. Merit retention is a farce and will necessarily remain so in the absence of reliable evaluation of performance. The Missouri Bar does publicize a report prior to elections. Why doesn’t an independent agency do the polling and provide the information about judges prior to retention elections? The only reasonable answer is that the Missouri Bar wants to have the most influence over your vote.

What the Missouri Bar doesn’t want to tell the voters, is that the Missouri Plan has changed since its inception and the Courts, that they claim are fair, changed the plan without voter input. The Missouri Plan was a constitutional amendment, approved by a majority of Missouri voters. In 1987, the Missouri Supreme Court created Rule 12.21. This rule significantly changed the information available to voters about judges. 12.21(a) states; “Except as otherwise provided in this Rule 12.21, all papers filed in proceedings before the Commission shall be confidential unless and until the Commission files a recommendation with this Court that the judge, member of a judicial commission, or member of this Commission be retired, removed, or disciplined.”

To understand the full impact of this Rule, you need to know a little about the “Commission” referred to in the Rule. This commission, known as the Commission for the Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges, is a super-secret entity, made up of two judges, two attorneys, and two lay persons (appointed by the Governor). Four, out of the six members, must agree to pursue a formal investigation of a complaint about a judge, before the complaint is made public. This is much like having a commission to discipline a quarterback, which is made up of two quarterbacks, two football players, and two cheerleaders. If the football players want to make the complaint go away, they can; and the cheerleaders cannot say a word about it.

You can read more about this Commission in an article written by Lynn Ann Vogel, former President of the Bar Association of Metropolitan Saint Louis, on page 2 of the Saint Louis Bar Journal. http://www.bamsl.org/members/barjournal/SPRING%2007.pdf After reading the article, you’ll know why even some judges refer to the Commission as CRUD.

I think the Missouri Bar is launching this attack against those that propose a change to the Missouri Plan in order to maintain the control they currently have over judges, the placement of judges, and the retention of judges. Who would have the most consistent need to control the judges? The attorneys that make their income by appearing in front of these judges.

Everyone should take notice of the fact that the Missouri Bar is not fighting against a particular modification to the Missouri Plan. They just don’t want to lose the influence they currently have over the process; be it the appointment process, or the sham retention elections. Whenever a group fights so hard against a change that has yet to be identified, you must question the motive.

One final remark. The Missouri Plan uses a Judicial Selection Committee. Judge Ronald Hollinger was one of the judges nominated for the position on the Missouri Supreme Court this last summer by this committee. If you take the time to read his opinion on case # WD64472, (link provided below) you will see that Judge Hollinger not only read, but concurred with, a previous Western District opinion that not only nullified the constitutional wishes of Missouri voters, but decided that the law is not only what the Missouri Supreme Court says it is, but that the law is also what the Missouri Supreme Court failed to say it is. If Judge Hollinger is a representation of what the Judicial Selection Committee considers to be a judge that is right for Missouri; we are all well on our way to living under the rule of the court, rather than the will of the people. http://www.courts.mo.gov/courts/pubopinions.nsf/ccd96539c3fb13ce8625661f004bc7da/64b5ff893d9c8cd58625703e005d42d5?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,WD64472

Dan said...

Methinks thou cut and paste the same tired, discredited arguments too much.

Call Lynn Ann Vogel and ask her whether she supports the Missouri Plan - she does.

whistleblower said...

Dan...

Methinks you failed to read.

You, nor anyone else, have discredited any part of my comment.

My comment does not imply that Lynn Ann Vogel does not support the Missouri Plan.

You can continue lobbying for the Missouri Bar, and I'll continue to lobby for the citizens of Missouri.

Stephen Bough said...

CCP Readers,

Sign your name, like any good patriot. Show up at the forum; learn more. Ignore Whistleblower until he/she gets his/her own blog. The problem with the first amendment is that any person can make use of the freedom of speech. It’s a problem worth living with.

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