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Poll says majority of Missourians support current system of choosing judges

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A new poll says most Missourians support the current system used for selecting judges.

A survey of 600 likely Missouri voters claims 71 percent of them support the current system of judicial selection, in which the Appellate Judicial Commission chooses nominees for open judgeships.

Patrick Lanne is with Public Opinion Strategies, the company that conducted the poll.

"Support for the current system is extremely high...it's 74 percent amongst Republicans, 70 percent amongst independents, and 69 percent amongst Democrats," Lanne said.

Jesse Rutledge, Deputy Director of the Justice at Stake campaign, cites the New York Times as saying Public Opinion Strategies is "the leading Republican polling company" in the United States.

The poll was conducted for the groups Justice at Stake, Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts, and the Missouri Institute for Justice.

St. Louis attorney Bill Placke is a critic of the current system. He says the questions asked by the pollsters were misleading.

"The questions to the persons on the phone was whether or not they agreed whether a commission comprised of citizens and lawyers selected by the governor is a good system...the current system does not have commission members selected by the governor...one of seven is selected by the current governor...three of seven were selected by lawyers," Placke said.

But Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel for the State Supreme Court, says the governor does gets to choose three non-lawyers as their terms expire on the commission.

And if elected to two terms, Riggert says the current governor, Matt Blunt, will in all likelihood get the chance to make all three appointments.