Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Missouri Plan - just the Honest Truth

The Missouri Non Partisan Court Plan is frequently attacked by some on the far right wing. One of the best summaries of the plan can be found at Gone Mild in a post entitled: The Complete Honest Truth About the Missouri Plan

16 comments:

Paul Jacob said...

Is it a good idea to have our most powerful judges determined largely by a private organization? (The Missouri Bar) Shouldn’t we at least alternate the private group doing the choosing? One year it could be the state bar, another year Wal-Mart stockholders in the state, another year the Rolla Bowling League. In leap years, a statewide group of local bar owners might do the selecting.

And why have the governor appoint people to a commission which appoints people for the governor to appoint? A tad circuitous, no? And why have someone on the current court deciding who sits on the future court?

You can see what this seems like: an insider game, a stacked deck.

How to reform? By what process can we acquire justice, that is, justices in sympathy with the people, respectful of the law, and independent of the other political branches of government, as well as any special interest?

Start with principles, and go from there.

First, let the voters into the process. Elect the Appellate Judicial Commission in Missouri. And, of course, elect similar commissions in others states. That would end domination of the judicial selection process by the state’s Bar Association, or any private interest group.

The bar would fight this, of course. The assumption (common amongst supporters of the Missouri Plan) that the Bar Association is a public service group with a disinterested agenda, unaffected by biases, and exempt from corrupting influences, is hard to maintain with a straight face. Lawyers present a faction. They have an interest in keeping the law complicated, and expanding state involvement so to require suit and countersuit and consultation and a hundred other ways to put numbers into a billable hours column. It is far more reasonable to argue that the Bar is the last group one wants in charge of a judicial selection process, rather than the primary group. It is a guild, and its interests can be as antagonistic to the public interest as any group’s can possibly be.

Second, why not take résumés from anyone who wants to apply for the position? That seems not only modernly egalitarian, but also smart. We might find a really good person who would otherwise be overlooked by the legal and political insiders.

Third, judges should be chosen from geographic districts, not statewide. Smaller districts allow a closer connection between the people and the judge working on their behalf. With districts, when people have had enough of any certain judge, they can more easily campaign to defeat that judge at a future retention vote.

Fourth, more checks, even political checks, are better than fewer. Why? Well, we don’t want the nominee to be “politicized.” So, if the governor nominates, the legislature or just the Senate should then approve or reject that nominee.

Fifth, the entire process — including all resumes submitted and all deliberations by any commissions or legislative committees — must be open and transparent.

So a better system might look like this: The public elects a seven member commission from as many regions in the state, each commissioner serving a four-year term. When a vacancy occurs in the state appellate courts, this commission would take resumes for a period of time. Those resumes would be discussed both by the public and the commission. The commission would nominate three people for the governor to choose from. The governor’s choice would then require approval from the legislative branch. Then, once confirmed, the justices would face the voters in a retention election.

More voter control. A more open process. More checks and balances. Less control by the legal community.

Missourians — and all Americans — need their judges selected in such a way as to avoid the undue influence of factions as well as politicians.

sophia said...

They have an interest in keeping the law complicated,

Life makes the law complicated. Justice makes the law complicated. This notion that lawyers make the law complicated is half-baked. You know what law is simple? The law of force. The law of power. Give Goliath whatever he wants and you won't need lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Paul Jacob:

Just as Mr. Ryan predicted, your proposal would increase the influence of money, partisan politics, and political consultants such as yourself, a "senior advisor" of the "Sam Adams Alliance".

You could not have illustrated his point better if you had tried.

Anonymous2 said...

About the Sam Adams Society

Over 200 years ago, Sam Adams built a network of citizens that primed the ground for the American Revolution and paved the way for the rights and freedoms outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Today, many of those basic freedoms are under attack by the very government that was formed to protect them—a government that is increasingly overreaching, unaccountable, and out of control.

The Sam Adams Foundation strives to educate and inform citizens about the important political issues necessary to maintaining a free society, including government accountability, government transparency, property rights protection, fiscal responsibility, free speech, and citizen initiative and referendum rights. In doing so, it aims to broaden the public debate on the proper role of state and local government in society, and to inspire greater involvement of intelligent, concerned citizens.

SAF is also an educational network that discovers, develops, and supports citizens. It spreads the word about important issues, shares best practices for community leaders, and offers networking and educational events for local leaders across the country. This educational network is facilitated through our website, e-mail newsletters, printed materials, direct mail, radio broadcast program Common Sense, and networking events.

The Sam Adams Alliance aims to revive the principles of our namesake by connecting and supporting citizen leaders who are working to defend liberty, hold the government accountable, and protect the rights of taxpayers starting at the state and local level. We serve as a national network for citizens who are ready to take action and take back politics in their own communities.
__________________________________

Those bastards at the Sam Adams Society want "government accountability, government transparency, property rights protection, fiscal responsibility, free speech, and citizen initiative and referendum rights."

How will we ever survive? Next thing you know they will threaten to put our heads between our two ears.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Sam Adams Alliance put lipstick on their pig.

They are exactly the sort of partisan political group that we do not want to play a more active role in selecting our judges.

So far, Gone Mild's right. The ones who want to change things are trying to inject more partisanship, more money, and more political consultants into a process that works best without them.

I read the whole thing, and his conclusion is right on.

Anonymous said...

Be prepared, Sen Charlie Shields from St. Joe will be leading the attack on the Missouri Plan.

SSideDem said...

"Is it a good idea to have our most powerful judges determined largely by a private organization? (The Missouri Bar)"

Paul has it right on.

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