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Dumping the Missouri Plan in Missouri

The "Missouri plan" is extolled as a better way to select judges by those who can't bear the thought of the Great Unwashed having any significant input on the matter. Under this plan, the governor is limited to choosing from a short list prepared by an august commission of the wise and wonderful, which generally ends up dominated by the state bar.  Well, the celebrated Missouri plan is not all that popular in Missouri. Folks there have apparently gathered enough signatures to put a repeal on the ballot.
Delegating judicial selection power to the state bar is among the worst ways to choose judges. One of the most important criteria in selecting judges is to choose those with a restrained view of judicial power. Courts adjudicate the boundaries of power between the branches, effectively making them judges in their own cases. It is human nature to resolve such boundary questions in favor of expanding one's own turf, so we must appoint people committed to not doing that. The legal profession, however, has a vested interest in an expansive view of judicial power, because that makes us more important and powerful relative to everyone else. The organized bar folks are the last people we want choosing judges. Well, maybe next to last. Convicted felons would be worse. A little.

The WSJ has this editorial, saying, "the state's so-called merit selection method would be discarded and replaced by direct judicial elections, an outcome that would be an embarrassment to many who have pushed the Missouri plan as a model for other states."

Direct election is not my preferred alternative. I think gubernatorial appointment followed by yes/no retention elections is the optimum method. In states with the initiative, this is what happens when hard-liners block needed reforms in the legislature. You get a measure that takes you to the opposite extreme.


Good for the people of Missouri. They have recognized that judicial selection by the lawyers guild is the least desirable option. Direct election has its issues as well.

I agree that gubernatorial appointment followed by yes/no elections seems preferable.

As an attorney practicing in a state that directly elects all of its judges (both trial and appellate), I can state with great conviction and confidence that direct elections are NOT a good way to select members of the judiciary. If this initiative succeeds, the people of Missouri will only have traded one set of problems for another set of problems.

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No current system can work well. The problem is that judges are always lawyers. The lawyer should be excluded from all benches as the convicted felon might be, by statute.

Judging is a very difficult occupation, almost unrelated to lawyering. It should become a separate, licensed profession. Middle aged people who have taken responsibility for decision making in a prior career should be selected for judicial temperament. That means, not passivity, but the strong instinct to solve a puzzle.

Then they should attend judge school for 2 years. In their third year of school, they should judge cases under supervision of an experienced judge. After graduation, they should take a judge licensing test and get a judge license from a licensing board.

States may decide on their method of selection, by the ballot or merit selection.

The judge should be an inquisitor, and take full responsibility for the accuracy of the verdict or decision. Falsely convicted defendants should sue the judge if he deviated from professional standards of due care. If the judge looses vicious predators on technicalities, and the crime rate increase can be traced to his loosed characters, he should be removed from the bench by the administrator judge of his court, meaning, fired.

The court should be a conference room, and not a church looking, intimidating theatrical nonsense. All eyewitness testimony should be physically verified or excluded ahead of the trial.

Radu, if you are a human being, let us know by response to this comment. If you are a spammer robot, you will soon be banned.

I am a little puzzled about what radu is trying to accomplish. He/she/it invites us to see a post, but there is no link to it. Curious.

I was concerned about comment spam when I first made commenting easier. This is the first indication of any. We will see how it goes.

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