How the Missouri Plan Works

Fed up with corrupt judicial elections, the people of Missouri 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 is the foundation for merit-based judicial selection in America. Also known as the Non-Partisan Court Plan, it is Missouri’s constitutional system for selecting our appellate judges and trial judges in St. Louis, Kansas City, Clay County, Platte County, and most recently Greene County (Springfield). It is available to any county whose citizens wish to adopt it.

It works like this:  citizens and lawyers, working as a team, serve on nominating commissions to select the best three candidates to fill an open judgeship. The governor then appoints one of those candidates to the position. Then, at the general election following their first 12 months on the bench and at the end of each term, each judge must stand before the voters in a retention election.

The process is both transparent to the public and accountable to the people.

The Missouri Plan has produced a steady stream of competent judges in Missouri for more than 75 years.

The plan continues to be right for the for the people of Missouri because it attracts high-quality judges in the least political way and ultimately gives the people the final say.

Please join us in protecting the plan that affords all Missourians fair and impartial courts:

  • The Plan produces appellate courts that are neither Republican nor Democratic. Rather it produces appellate courts that are fair and impartial and not beholden to politicians.
  • The Plan upholds the public’s faith in fair and impartial judges, as it prevents judges from campaigning, accepting campaign contributions and engaging in partisan politics. In fact, our state’s merit-selected judges have been devoid of corruption.
  • The Plan attracts quality applicants because they understand they will be evaluated on merit rather than connections, political contributions or partisan politics.
  • The commission is balanced by design reducing all likelihood that any one person, party or interest has control.
  • The Plan staggers the terms of the governor’s appointees to the judicial nominating commissions, preventing one politician from having control over a majority of the commissioners in most scenarios.
  • The commissioners review the candidates’ character and experience they bring to the bench and, with the aid of the lawyers and judge, evaluate their professional strengths and legal analysis skills.
  • Judges, as peers, have the most experience and ability to evaluate a candidate’s skills, knowledge and suitability for the bench.
  • Vacancies are filled in a timely manner no matter when they occur.
  • Voters have the final say through judicial retention elections that are held at the general election following a judge’s first 12 months on the bench and the end of each term.
  • The Plan is transparent to the public. In fact, the Supreme Court, within its constitutional rule-making authority, has made the process more transparent than Missouri’s Sunshine Laws require of any other public position.