The Missouri Plan

The Missouri Plan, otherwise known as the Non-­Partisan Court Plan, is a model for the nation. Proposed and adopted to the state Constitution by Missouri voters in 1940, it 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.

In the City of St. Louis, and in St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene counties, judges apply for their positions on the bench and are selected on the basis of merit. This process is transparent to the public and accountable to the people.

In this judicial process laid out in the state’s constitution, judges who serve under the Missouri Plan have been nominated by a judicial commission and then selected by the governor. After their first 12 months on the bench and the end of each term, nonpartisan judges must go before the voters in a retention election. Voters are asked whether each of these judges should be retained. To be retained, each judge must receive a majority vote. If a judge does not receive a majority of votes, his or her judicial seat will become vacant at the end of its present term. The judicial commission will then nominate three candidates for the position and the governor will appoint one to fill the vacancy. The terms for appellate court judges are 12 years. Among trial judges, circuit judges serve six-year terms, while associate circuit judges serve four-year terms.

Judicial Selection

All Missouri judges are subject to voter approval by election each new term, though their initial selection varies. The Missouri Plan governs selection and retention of judges on the Supreme Court of Missouri, the Missouri Court of Appeals, and six circuit courts (Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in the Kansas City area; both the county and City of St. Louis; and Greene County in the Springfield area). In this section, you will learn about nonpartisan retention elections and partisan elections in Missouri’s hybrid judicial selection process know as the Missouri Plan.

How the Plan Works

Fed up with corrupt judicial elections, the people of Missouri proposed and adopted to the state Constitution The Missouri Plan in 1940 and, two years later, reaffirmed their support in a statewide vote, rejecting the legislature’s attempt to repeal it. The Missouri Plan, also known as the Non-Partisan Court Plan, is the foundation for merit-based judicial selection in America. This type of judicial election is both transparent and accountable to the people, and has produced a steady stream of competent judges in Missouri for more than 75 years. Learn how The Missouri Plan works for you.

Endorse the Missouri Plan

Since voters approved The Missouri Plan more than 75 years ago, our state has benefited from fair and impartial courts, keeping politics and money out of our courtrooms and giving Missourians the final say on judges through retention elections. It’s never been more important for individuals, businesses and organizations to show their support for Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan. Here’s how you can show your support:

Request a Speaker

Looking for a speaker to aid in a conversation about The Missouri Plan and how it works to ensure fair and impartial courts? Request a speaker from The Missouri Bar Speakers’ Bureau.

Paid For By The Missouri Bar, Mischa Buford Epps, Executive Director Po Box 119 Jefferson City, MO 65102