St. Louis Public Radio News
6:35 pm
Mon July 13, 2009

Ballot initiative would replace Mo. court plan

Jefferson City, MO – A proposed ballot initiative to change the way judges are chosen for the Missouri Supreme Court and appeals courts was filed today with the Secretary of State's office.

The ballot question is sponsored by the group Better Courts for Missouri.

If it makes it onto the 2010 ballot and is approved by voters, the governor would choose nominees for the state's High Court and appeals courts.

The nominees would then have to be confirmed by the State Senate.

James Harris, Executive Director of Better Courts for Missouri, says their proposal would be more transparent than the current system.

"We would go from a secretive commission that does not follow Missouri Sunshine Law to a process where the governor would nominate, the State Senate would have a public hearing, where citizens could attend (and) could listen, (and) make sure the Senate is doing their job," Harris said.

Chip Robertson, former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, doesn't like the proposal.

"Judges will no longer be selected on merit, but politics will make the decisions about who will be on the court," Robertson said.

Robertson also accuses the initiative's backers of not disclosing who's funding it.

The current system, known as the Missouri Plan, uses special commissions to select three nominees to fill a judicial vacancy. The governor then picks from among the three.