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Alternate court plan approved for circulation

Mo. Supreme Court Building.
Marshall Griffin, KWMU
Mo. Supreme Court Building.

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A ballot initiative that would change the way judges are chosen for the Missouri Supreme Court, Appeals courts and some of the state's lower courts has been approved for circulation.

The ballot question would scrap the current system, also known as the Missouri Plan, in which special commissions select three nominees for judicial vacancies and the governor picks among the three.

Instead, the governor would nominate a candidate for the bench, who would then undergo Senate confirmation, a method similar to the one used by the president to select U.S. Supreme Court justices.

James Harris is Executive Director of the sponsoring group, Better Courts for Missouri.

"Over time we've felt that the process has not worked well, and really has put Missouri citizens in the back seat and allowed special interests to have an undue amount of influence over the selection of judges," Harris said.

Defenders of the Missouri Plan say the ballot question would inject partisan politics into the selection of judges. Chip Robertson is former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

"What if I gave a tremendous amount of money to a governor and wanted a friend of mine put on the court? The governor could make that judgment whether he's going to honor that big contribution in that way or not," Robertson said.

If enough signatures are gathered by petitioners, the ballot question would go before voters in November 2010.