Voters urged to learn more about their judges before they vote Nov. 3

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee today provided Missouri voters with their performance findings for 53 nonpartisan judges who will be up for retention in the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. All Missouri voters will have at least two judges in retention elections appear on their ballot this November.

“We want to make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who are fair, impartial and skilled,” said Dale Doerhoff, chair of the statewide committee. “Our independent committee provides voters with extensive information about the performance of our judges up for retention to help them make informed decisions.”

The committee reviewed the performance of 53 judges including one Supreme Court of Missouri judge, four Court of Appeals judges, 26 circuit court judges and 22 associate circuit court judges in circuits where the judges are appointed under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. The committee found all 53 judges substantially meet overall judicial performance standards.

The complete performance review information of each judge is available online at YourMissouriJudges.org. For quick reference, landing pages for voters in nonpartisan circuits are provided:

Doerhoff said visitors to the website “will see the lawyer surveys, juror surveys of trial judges, and written opinions from the judges the committee used in casting their votes.”

The committee considers a variety of information about each judge, including lawyers’ ratings of judges, jurors’ ratings of some trial judges and written opinions from judges.

Jurors were asked a series of questions about the judge’s courtroom conduct. The lawyers’ survey focused on key traits that judges need to render justice effectively and fairly. Circuit and associate circuit judges were rated in areas including a wide range of observable skills and traits, such as treating people fairly, competency in the law and writing clear opinions. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges were rated on a different set of criteria as they decide cases that are appealed because of possible legal errors, either procedural or through misinterpretations of the law. These judges were rated on areas such as whether their opinions were clearly written, whether they adequately explained the basis of the court’s decision and whether they issued opinions in a timely manner. For all judges, lawyers’ surveys were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best.

“These extensive reviews help Missouri voters determine whether or not the judges up for retention are meeting the expectations of the public and lawyers,” said Doerhoff.

Doerhoff said the committee’s work is important because it helps make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who substantially meet overall judicial performance standards. He added that the performance reviews have had a positive impact on the number of people who vote in retention elections.

“The committee’s work to educate voters about the performance of our judges has led to improved voter participation in judicial retention elections since 2008 because when voters feel more informed, they are more likely to vote,” said Doerhoff.

Missouri uses a constitutional merit system known as the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan to select its appellate judges and trial-level judges in the City of St. Louis and Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties. In other parts of the state, trial-level judges seek election in partisan races.

Before becoming a judge, all nonpartisan judges are screened by a nominating commission whose members include lawyers, non-lawyers and a judge. The commission selects the three most qualified candidates and forwards their names to the governor, who chooses one candidate to fill the position. After their first year on the bench and again at the end of each term, nonpartisan judges must run in retention elections. In retention elections the ballot reads: “Shall Judge X be retained?” To be retained, each merit-selected judge must receive a simple majority.

The Missouri Bar is tasked with sharing the independent committee’s findings with the public. The Missouri Bar funds the review process, which was created by a Supreme Court of Missouri rule in 2008. Doerhoff emphasized that the committee operates independently of the bar and judiciary. He added that Missouri’s performance review system was developed and is continually updated based on model rules and best practices from the American Bar Association and the more than 20 judicial performance review systems across the nation.

Missouri Judicial Performance Review findings available to the public at YourMissouriJudges.org

Citizens urged to learn more about their judges before they vote Nov. 6

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee has provided Missouri voters with their performance findings for 59 nonpartisan judges who will be up for retention in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. All Missouri voters will have at least three judges appear in retention elections on their ballot this November.

“We want to make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who are fair, impartial and skilled,” said Dale Doerhoff, chair of the statewide committee. “Our independent committee provides voters with extensive, objective information about the performance of our judges up for retention to help them make informed decisions about our judges.”

The committee reviewed the performance of 59 judges including two Supreme Court of Missouri judges, four Court of Appeals judges, 31 circuit court judges and 22 associate circuit court judges in circuits where the judges are appointed under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. Of the 59 judges, a majority of the committee voted one judge does not substantially meet overall judicial performance standards.

The complete performance review information of each judge is available online at YourMissouriJudges.org. For quick reference, landing pages for voters in nonpartisan circuits are provided:

Doerhoff said visitors to the website “will see the lawyer surveys, juror surveys of trial judges, and written opinions from the judges the committee used in casting their votes.”

Brochures with the findings will be available at libraries, courthouses and senior centers across the state. Missouri voters may also request one be mailed to them for free by calling 573-635-4128.

The committee considers a variety of information about each judge, including lawyers’ ratings of judges, jurors’ ratings of some trial judges and written opinions from judges.

Jurors were asked a series of 10 questions about the judge’s courtroom conduct. For instance: Did the judge clearly explain the legal issues of the case? Did the judge appear to be free from bias? Did the judge appear to be well-prepared for the case?

The lawyers’ survey focused on key traits that judges need to render justice effectively and fairly. Circuit and associate circuit judges were rated in 19 areas, including a wide range of observable skills and traits, such as treating people fairly, competency in the law and writing clear opinions.

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges were rated on a different set of criteria as they decide cases that are appealed because of possible legal errors, either procedural or through misinterpretations of the law. These judges were rated on areas such as whether their opinions were clearly written, whether they adequately explained the basis of the court’s decision and whether they issued opinions in a timely manner.

For all judges, lawyers’ surveys were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best.

“These extensive reviews help Missouri voters determine whether or not the judges up for retention are meeting the expectations of the public and lawyers,” said Doerhoff.

Doerhoff said the committee’s work is important because it helps make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who substantially meet overall judicial performance standards. He added that the performance reviews have had a positive impact on the number of people who vote in retention elections.

“The committee’s work to educate voters about the performance of our judges has led to increased voter participation in judicial retention elections since 2008 because when voters feel more informed, they are more likely to vote.”

Missouri uses a constitutional merit system known as the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan to select its appellate judges and trial-level judges in the City of St. Louis and Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties. In other parts of the state, trial-level judges seek election in partisan races.

Before becoming a judge, all nonpartisan judges are screened by a nominating commission whose members include lawyers, non-lawyers and a judge. The commission selects the three best candidates and forwards their names to the governor, who chooses one candidate to fill the position. After their first year on the bench and again at the end of each term, nonpartisan judges must run in retention elections. In retention elections the ballot reads: “Shall Judge X be retained?” To be retained, each merit-selected judge must receive a simple majority.

The Missouri Bar is tasked with sharing the independent committee’s findings with the public. The Missouri Bar funds the review process, which was created by a Supreme Court of Missouri rule in 2008 and updated in 2016. The Missouri performance review system was developed and is continually updated based on model rules and best practices from the American Bar Association and the more than 20 judicial performance review systems across the nation.

Patricia Breckenridge, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri and chair of the Appellate Judicial Commission, announced yesterday that a commission has submitted to Governor Eric Greitens its panel of nominees to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Missouri. This vacancy exists due to the November 2016 death of Judge Richard B. Teitelman.

The commission unanimously supports the three nominees. After approximately 10 hours of public interviews, more than 3.5 hours of deliberations and seven rounds of balloting, the nominees – each of whom received seven votes – are: Lisa White Hardwick, Benjamin A. Lipman and W. Brent Powell.

Hardwick is a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. She was born in 1960. She earned her bachelor of journalism in radio-television journalism in 1981 from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her law degree in 1985 from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lipman is a member of Lewis Rice LLC in St. Louis. He was born in 1966. He earned his bachelor of arts in economics in 1988 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and his law degree in 1991 from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

Powell is a circuit judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit (Jackson County). He was born in 1970. He earned his bachelor of arts in political science in 1992 from William Jewell College in Liberty and his law degree in 1996 from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.

The governor has 60 days to select one member of the panel to fill the vacancy. Should he fail to do so, the Missouri Constitution directs the commission to make the appointment.

In addition to Breckenridge, the commission is composed of Michelle Beckler of Marshfield, Scott S. Bethune of Kansas City, Thomas M. Burke of St. Louis, Kathy Ritter of Columbia, Edward “Nick” Robinson of St. Louis and Donald E. Woody of Springfield.

Click here to see the official press release from the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, commonly known as The Missouri Plan, turns 76 years old Nov. 5. In the more than three-quarters of a century since its creation, the plan has served as a model for other states and has been adopted by Missouri voters to apply to trial court judges in additional Missouri circuits. Above all, it has worked to attract high-quality judges in the least political way while giving voters the final say.

As Missourians head to the polls to vote Nov. 8, The Missouri Plan will once again be in action. This year, there are 48 judges up for retention across Missouri ballots – from associate circuit court judges to a Supreme Court of Missouri judge. That means every Missouri voter has the opportunity to vote in a judicial retention election. To help make sure voters are informed, an independent committee reviews nonpartisan judges selected through the Missouri Plan on everything from written opinions to how lawyers and jurors rate a judge’s courtroom performance and demeanor. The committee’s findings are then made available to the public prior to an election.

The Missouri Plan’s process has many advantages. First, because nominations for judicial openings are based on merit, Missourians are assured that highly qualified individuals are selected for nonpartisan judicial positions. Second, each judge remains accountable to the citizens they serve because citizens have the opportunity to decide whether a judge remains on the bench after the first 12 months they serve and at the end of each term. Third, voters are able to decide a judge’s fate based on that judge’s record – not unsubstantiated allegations contained in an opponent’s political rhetoric or advertising.

Although the plan is not without its critics, it has stood the test of time, garnered rave reviews and endorsements, and grown to be a significant leader in the way judicial selection works across the nation. In fact, more than 30 states have adopted it in one form or another since its founding by Missouri voters in 1940.

Still, The Missouri Plan’s roots are humble. In the 1930s, corruption and greed ran rampant in judicial decision-making. Elections were greatly influenced by “political machines” that controlled the ballot box through fraud, manipulation and even violence. Many believed that the system was in need of an overhaul, and, in 1937, a movement for change began. By 1940, a bipartisan committee called the Missouri Institute for the Administration of Justice developed a proposal for a merit selection process. On Nov. 5, 1940, Missouri voters adopted the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan to keep politics and money out of our state’s high courts.

For many years, evaluations were conducted at the local level with committees either recommending or not recommending that a judge be retained. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Missouri modified this practice to instead have a 21-member statewide panel review judges and determine if a judge substantially meets overall judicial performance standards. Findings from the 2016 review process are available at yourmissourijudges.org.

The Missouri Plan was created to work for Missourians. As the 2016 general election draws closer, celebrate the plan’s creation and how it still continues to work for you by staying informed about the judges appearing on your ballot.

The Supreme Court of Missouri issued an order dated June 15 revising Rules 10.50 – 10.55 governing Missouri’s judicial performance evaluation (JPE) to bring the process more in line with best practices across the nation. The Court’s revisions to Rules 10.50 – 10.55 will improve the information available to voters about judges up for retention by expanding the voices of non-lawyers in the evaluation process, leaving judging the judges to the voters, and fostering consistency in the evaluations by replacing the seven current committees with one statewide committee.

The purpose of Judicial Performance Evaluations is to provide information to voters to make sure the people of Missouri have good judges who are fair, impartial and skilled. At the general election every two years, dozens of judges – from nonpartisan circuits up to the Supreme Court of Missouri who were initially selected under the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan – appear on the ballot in retention elections after their first year on the bench and at the end of each term.

Dale Doerhoff, state coordinator and chair of the Missouri Judicial Performance Review Committee, describes Missouri’s judicial evaluation process as the product of decades of experience and investigation into the best judicial performance evaluation practices across the United States. He added that “while it has accomplished the goals for which it was created, it can be improved.”

The evaluation program will continue to look at surveys which are an integral part in assessing the performance of judges up for retention. The surveys look at many aspects, including whether or not a judge treats people fairly, displays impartiality, and more. Now, with the Court’s changes, the voices of litigants will be added to the voices of jurors and lawyers – all of whom have direct experience with the judges. Many voters may not have direct contact with a judge up for retention and the addition of surveys of litigants will give voters an even better look into the inner workings of a judge’s courtroom.

Unlike the previous system, which asked JPE committees to make a recommendation regarding each judge seeking retention, the statewide committee will be tasked with determining if each judge meets accepted judicial performance standards. All but one other state with JPE systems have a single statewide JPE committee helping ensure evaluation results are systematic and fair across the state. Under the new structure, Missouri will join this best practice model, replacing its seven committees with one statewide committee composed of non-lawyers, lawyers and retired judges.

Erik Bergmanis, 2015-16 president of The Missouri Bar thanked the non-lawyers and lawyers who have served on the JPE committees for the time and effort they have put into the judicial performance evaluation process, adding that the state bar and the citizens of Missouri are “indebted to them for all they have done to maintain the quality of Missouri’s judiciary.”

As part of the order, the Supreme Court of Missouri appointed members to serve on the new statewide JPE committee. Click here to see the full list of appointees to the new statewide committee.

Judicial performance evaluations began more than 65 years ago in Missouri when, in 1948, The Missouri Bar began conducting a statewide poll of lawyers about Missouri judges up for retention. Originally, this poll had only one question about each of the judges standing for retention: “Should Judge X be retained?” The survey process was improved upon over the years, leading to the Supreme Court of Missouri adopting a formal rule in 2008 to establish the modern Judicial Performance Evaluation program to help build an informed electorate when it comes to Missouri judges.

Doerhoof noted the Court’s newest changes “ensure that Missouri’s evaluation program is consistent with current best practices and will help provide even better information to Missouri voters.”

To learn more about the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan and judicial performance evaluation program, check out the rest of the website here at www.YourMissouriJudges.org.

by Dale C. Doerhoff, Chair and State Coordinator, Missouri Judicial Performance Evaluation Committees

Wonderful-Life-MO-Plan-B-1

In the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey has a vision of what the world would be like if he had never been born. To his horror, Bailey sees that, without him, darkness and corruption take over. His idyllic hometown of Bedford Falls is no more. Instead, it is “Pottersville,” a dark and wicked world where the rule of law has been replaced by the unchecked will of Mr. Potter—the richest man in the realm—who uses his money for power and his power for money.

Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, commonly known as the Missouri Plan, was established in 1940—six years before “It’s a Wonderful Life” debuted. How and why did it come into existence? What would the Show-Me State be like without it?

In the 1930s, Kansas City was comparable to Pottersville. The Mr. Potter of that epoch was Tom Pendergast, the boss of a political machine that fixed elections, had its hand in every public works business deal, and controlled the judicial system—from the Circuit Court of Jackson County to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

In 1937, The Missouri Bar took the lead in countering the corruption of justice by organizing the Missouri Institute for the Administration of Justice. During its first meeting, held in Columbia, the institute adopted an outline of what would eventually become Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan.

But adoption would require a constitutional amendment. Proponents of the plan devised a two-prong strategy. First, they would ask the legislature to put the amendment on the ballot through the referendum process. If that failed, they would go directly to people with initiative petitions for a constitutional amendment.

Because Pendergast’s reach extended to the legislative branch, the measure didn’t make it to the ballot. So the bar and the institute moved to plan B and circulated initiative petitions. The effort was successful, and at the November 1940 general election, citizens adopted the Missouri Plan. It was hailed nationwide as a successful model and has since been adopted in one form or another by more than 30 states. More details on the creation and defense of the Non-Partisan Court Plan are described in the Fall 2015 edition of “Precedent.”

MO Plan Sigs

Despite widespread acceptance of the plan, leaders of the movement were under no illusions about the fact that their work would be ongoing. William W. Crowdus, director of the Missouri Institute for the Administration of Justice, wrote an article published in the Missouri Bar Journal in which he said: “The Missouri Bar Association has achieved a great victory but it must be ever vigilant to preserve the fruits of its accomplishment.”

Imagining Life without the Missouri Plan

What would our state and its courts be like if Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan had never been born? A glimpse into an alternative world might offer a clue.

Let’s drop in on Alabama, where in 2006, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb says she needed $2.6 million to win a partisan judicial election over an opponent who raised and spent nearly $5 million. That’s $7.6 million in a state with 4.8 million people—80 percent of Missouri’s population at the time. Adjusted for size, that would mean a $9 million race for a supreme court seat in Missouri.

In 2006, Missouri had three supreme court judges on the ballot: Judges William Ray Price, Jr., Mary Rhodes Russell, and Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. In our vision of the world without Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, they are all engaged in hotly contested, partisan elections. If one seat costs $9 million to contest or defend, how much will be spent on three seats when virtual control of the court is at stake? $20 million? $25 million? Where does that kind of money come from?

In her article, Cobb wrote that to raise $2.6 million, she had to do things that made her feel “awfully unsavory.” Judges and would-be judges are not supposed to ask for money directly, so she would call lawyers she felt might be friendly to her and engage in general chitchat about family and the legal practice. The most she could say about the campaign was: “I’d very much appreciate your support for my campaign.” At that point, she would hand the phone over to her finance director to make the “ask” for money.

Without the Missouri Plan, that same thing would likely happen in 2006 in Missouri—times three. You would get calls from Price, Russell, and Limbaugh, as well as their respective opponents and finance directors from all parties. “Can we count on you for at least $5,000? Can we use your name in a full page ad in support of the candidate?”

And what happens after such an election? Let’s go back to Alabama, where two days after winning her race, Cobb took a call from a national legal publication. She expected questions about what it was like to be the first female chief justice in Alabama or what her plans were for court reform. But those weren’t the questions. The reporter went right to the elephant in the room: “How can you assure the people of Alabama that the contributions you sought are not going to impact how you rule? And how can you convince the people of Alabama not to believe that their courts are for sale?”

Now apply that experience to our tour of our state without the Missouri Plan. How will the millions of dollars that poured into the campaigns be viewed by the people? Will they believe that justice is for sale? Of course they will—and the credibility of the courts and respect for the rule of law is eroded.

Alabama is not the only alternative possibility of what might have been in Missouri. As a result of the decision in Citizens United and a more aggressive attitude on the part of special interest groups that want to use wealth and power to bend justice to their will, the pressures on fair and impartial courts to be something other than fair and impartial have increased. Big money is appearing in increasing amounts seemingly everywhere.

Three states saw record spending on judicial elections in the last election cycle: North Carolina ($6 million), Tennessee ($2.5 million), and Montana ($1.5 million). Retention elections in merit selection states are not exempt from this trend; four states saw a combined $6.5 million spent on campaigns for and against retention of incumbent judges.

This happened in Missouri in 2004. Three weeks prior to the November general election, a coalition of special interests launched a campaign to unseat Judge Richard B. Teitelman from the Supreme Court of Missouri. Regional newspapers called out the campaign, with the Springfield News-Leader suggesting that it was aimed at sending a message to our highest court.

We also saw an attack on an incumbent last year in Cole County. The county is not a Missouri Plan circuit, so Presiding Judge Pat Joyce was up for reelection on a partisan ballot. A month before the election, a stream of dark money started flowing from a Washington, D.C., PAC to defeat her for reelection. It swelled to more than $300,000, two-thirds of which was used to fund a negative campaign that tried to smear her in the eyes of voters. $200,000 bought a lot of local television ads and mailings to what appeared to be every voting household in the county.

Within a month after the election, the PAC had to file its list of donors, and on it was a St. Louis billionaire who sometimes has ballot title litigation in Cole County. That’s the way dark money works. The “Potters” of the world don’t want voters to know who they are before the election, but after the election is over, they want the judges to know. They get their money’s worth that way, win or lose. The message has been delivered: “Adhere to our political ideology or risk our wrath.”

Threats to a fair and impartial judiciary in Missouri also appear from time to time in the General Assembly. In 2007, there were four resolutions filed in the House related to the courts. HJR 33 proposed the elimination of the Missouri Plan by giving the governor the power to appoint judges. The resolution did not gain final passage. Five years later, another attempt was made to politicize Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan. A proposed amendment was introduced in the Senate to give the governor the power to appoint four of the seven members of the Appellate Judicial Commission in his first term, eliminating the current method of staggering the appointments to the commission so one governor cannot dictate who will be on the panel during his or her first term. The proposed change appeared on the 2012 ballot as Amendment 3. Missouri voters defeated the measure 76 percent against, with only 24 percent of voters in favor.

Last year, our Missouri courts disposed of 323,000 civil cases in the circuit courts, more than 100,000 of which were domestic relations cases. The circuit courts disposed of 358,000 criminal cases, more than 44,000 of which were circuit court felony cases and more than 54,000 of which were associate division felony cases. No matter how honest or corrupt a court system may be, in each of these cases, the winners were probably happy. But it’s the losers we have to worry about. If they do not feel that they have had their day in court or equal justice under law, and if they feel that the rich and powerful are given preference because of their wealth and power, then they will not accept the result, and the disputes will not end in the courtroom.

Regardless of the reasons, efforts to overturn the Missouri judicial system happen.

Supporting the Plan

By providing staff support for committees and publicizing judicial performance evaluations and recommendations through outreach efforts such as YourMissouriJudges.org, The Missouri Bar and local bar associations have been zealous defenders of the plan over the 75 years of its existence.

Individuals can also continue the mission to preserve and protect fair and impartial courts in a variety of ways, including the following:

· Request a volunteer from The Missouri Bar Speakers’ Bureau to talk to your community groups and organizations about the Missouri Plan.

· Review figures from the Office of State Courts Administrator about what your courts actually do.

· Host the Missouri Plan traveling exhibit or ask your local bar or community organizations to do so. To learn more, visit mohumanities.org/missouri-plan or contact a representative at The Missouri Bar.

· Read John Grisham’s “The Appeal,” a novel about how a rich businessman used his money to buy a seat on the Supreme Court of Mississippi to flip the jury verdict against his company in a case on appeal. In the author’s note at the end of the book, after giving the usual disclaimer about how the characters, places and events are fictional, he adds this statement, which is unusual for a disclaimer in a novel:

“Now that I have impugned my own work, I must say that there is a lot of truth in this story. As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections we will see competing interests fight for seats on the bench. The issues are fairly common. Most of the warring factions are adequately described. The tactics are all too familiar. The results are not far off the mark.”

The story in “The Appeal” bears a close similarity to the Caperton v. Massey Coal Co. case out of West Virginia. After a jury handed down a verdict of $50 million against the Massey Coal Company for fraud and tortious interference with contract, Don Blankenship, Massey’s chairman and principal officer, knowing that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals would hear the appeal, contributed $3 million to defeat an incumbent judge on the court and elect Brent Benjamin in his place. Blankenship’s $3 million was the majority of the money on Benjamin’s side of the campaign, and Benjamin won the election by a relatively narrow margin. After he was on the bench, he refused to recuse himself from the Massey Coal Company appeal and made self-serving findings on the record that he was not biased in favor of the company. The court reversed the $50 million verdict, Judge Benjamin concurring.

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed. The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause is enforced with an objective standard under which implementation does not require proof of bias. Whether Judge Benjamin was correct in finding himself unbiased was irrelevant. That much money in a judicial election from someone with a case before the court objectively violates due process.[1]

Don’t let what happened in the Massey Coal case in West Virginia happen in Missouri. Speak out when the rich and powerful try to take over our courts. Don’t let special interests turn Missouri into a “Pottersville.” Defend Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan.

[1] Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 556 U.S. 868, 129 S. Ct. 2252 (2009).

“It’s a Wonderful Life” image courtesy of twm1340.

Missourians Have Something Big to Celebrate This Nov. 5

Seventy-five years ago today, Missouri voters adopted Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, now known around the world as the Missouri Plan. The plan reduces the influence of politics and money in the selection of our judges, while giving the people the final say in retention elections. Since Missouri voters adopted it in 1940, more than 30 states have copied it in some form making it a model for the nation.

Here’s a quick glance of the history that spurred our parents and grandparents to be the first in the nation to adopt merit selection for our judges:

  • 1930s:
    PendergastDuring the 1930s, the public became increasingly dissatisfied with the increasing role of politics and money in judicial elections and judicial decision-making. At the time, political machines like that of “Boss” Tom Pendergast would buy votes, packing the Supreme Court, among other state and local offices, with appointees of his political persuasion. Pendergast was leader of the Kansas City political organization known as the “Pendergast machine” which controlled the ballot box through fraud, manipulation, violence and service to the poor. Ultimately, 278 members of the “machine” were indicted for voter fraud and Pendergast spend more than a year in federal prison for tax evasion.
  • 1937:
    In December 1937, more than 80 people – Republicans and Democrats – got together at the Tiger Hotel in Columbia, Mo., to create the Missouri Institute for the Administration of Justice. The group proposed merit selection of judges in order to return the courts to the people. Nearly every prominent lawyer from across the state at the time, including St. Louis lawyer Kenneth Teasdale and Cape Girardeau lawyer Rush Limbaugh, rose up to fight back.
  • 1940:
    MO Plan Sigs
    Citizens collected the needed number of signatures, shown here being delivered to the Secretary of State’s Office in Jefferson City on July 2, 1940, in order to put the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan on the Nov. 5, 1940 ballot. Fed up with corrupt judicial elections, the people of Missouri adopted the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan that November becoming the first state to adopt a merit system for selecting judges.

Today, the Missouri Plan continues to be right for the people of Missouri because it attracts high-quality judges in the least political way and ultimately gives the people the final say. It governs selection and retention of all appellate court judges in the state of Missouri and trial judges in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene Counties.

To commemorate this important anniversary, The Missouri Bar has partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council to produce a traveling exhibit and courthouse exhibits to help educate Missourians about the plan’s history and how it works for them.

The traveling exhibit features a three-panel display and an interactive touch-screen display featuring a video explaining the history, significance and attributes of the Missouri Plan. The exhibit will travel throughout the state over the next year. The courthouse exhibit is a single-panel, educational display that contains the key points of the Missouri Plan. Courthouses and public institutions across the state are eligible to receive this exhibit at no expense. The display is ideal for smaller spaces and can be featured long-term by host courthouses, libraries or educational institutions. Both exhibits include a takeaway brochure titled “Voting for Missouri Judges” produced by The Missouri Bar.

If you are interested in featuring one or both of the Missouri Plan exhibits, please fill out the request form here.

Missouri is historically, and remains, a national leader for integrity, fairness and justice thanks to the Missouri Plan. And that’s something to celebrate!

The Missouri Bar has partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council to produce a traveling exhibit and courthouse exhibits to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Missouri Plan and to help educate Missourians about how all Missouri judges are accountable to the voters.

The Missouri Plan, otherwise known as the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan, was adopted by Missourians in 1940. Since then, more than 30 other states have copied it in some form. The plan reduces the influence of politics and money in the selection of our judges, while giving the people the final say serving as a model for the nation for 75 years.

The plan governs selection and retention of all appellate court judges in the state of Missouri and trial judges in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene Counties.

The exhibits will help the public better understand how judges in Missouri are selected and retained.

The traveling exhibit features a three-panel display and an interactive touch-screen display featuring a video explaining the history, significance and attributes of the Missouri Plan. The exhibit will travel throughout the state over the next year.

The courthouse exhibit is a single-panel, educational display that contains the key points of the Missouri Plan. Courthouses and public institutions across the state are eligible to receive this exhibit at no expense. The display is ideal for smaller spaces and can be featured long-term by host courthouses, libraries or educational institutions. Both exhibits include a takeaway brochure titled “Voting for Missouri Judges” produced by The Missouri Bar.

Both exhibits will be on display for preview at the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting and Judicial Conference to be held October 6-9, 2015, in St. Louis.

If you are interested in featuring one or both of the Missouri Plan exhibits, please fill out the request form here.

This article was originally posted on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 20, 2011. Click here to read the article. 

Steve Koslovsky recalled the lessons he learned in a foreign land as a high school student.

Patricia Hageman talked about the pain of losing a father.

Michael Burton explained that his wife’s community service helped guide him into volunteer work.

They were three of 20 applicants for an opening on the Eastern District bench of the Missouri Court of Appeals, and on Wednesday and Thursday in a third-floor downtown St. Louis courtroom, they answered questions about the law and about themselves before a panel that will help determine the next Missouri state appeals judge.

Click here to read the rest of the article

The following was posted on stltoday.com on November 27, 2010. Click here to read the full article.

JEFFERSON CITY • John Johnston, president of the Missouri Bar, sees a simple message in November’s elections.

The following was posted on stltoday.com on November 27, 2010. Click here to read the full article.

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