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Supporters Of Changes To Judicial Selection Process Won't Campaign For Ballot Measure

The agreement between the St. Louis County Family Court and the Justice Department, almost a year and a half in the making, is aimed at correcting violations in young people's due process and harsher treatment directed at black children.
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Updated at 5:33 p.m. to include quotes from one of the Republican sponsors of Amendment Three and from the Sec. of State's Communications Director.

Citing what they call "deliberately deceptive and hopelessly biased ballot language," supporters of a measure that would change the way some appellate judges are selected in Missouri say they will not campaign for their ballot measure.

Under Amendment 3, lawyers would continue to elect three of the seven members of the Appellate Judicial Commission. But the remaining four would be appointed by the governor, and could all be lawyers. (The state constitution currently requires the gubernatorial appointees to be non-lawyers.) One of those gubernatorial appointees would replace a sitting Supreme Court justice on the Commission, but a retired appellate judge would serve as a non-voting advisor.

In addition, Amendment 3 would require the Commission to send four nominees to the governor, rather than three.

Rich Chrismer, a spokesman for supporters of Amendment 3, said the group did not wish to dedicate the resources required to both campaign for the measure and overcome what they call the biased wording.

"Because the Secretary of State -- a lawyer who opposes reform -- denied Missouri voters this opportunity, we intend to preserve our resources for meaningful judicial reform," Chrismer said in a written statement, which did not define meaningful reform.

State Representative Stanley Cox (R, Sedalia) sponsored the measure in the House.

“When you advertise, you have to be able to explain the message very quickly," Cox said.  "Secretary of State Carnahan has succeeded in obfuscating and creating language that would only confuse people.” 

Stacie Temple, Carnahan's Communications Director, says the language is fair and sufficient.

“What it sounds like has now happened is that the proponents have decided that they either don’t like the language of their underlying measure, or they don’t think they can win at the ballot box," Temple said.  "So they’re looking for a reason to justify their decision not to pursue it.” 

Carnahan's summary, upheld by the courts on Sept. 10, reads as follows:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to change the current nonpartisan selection of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges to a process that gives the governor increased authority to:

  • Appoint a majority of the commission that selects these court nominees; and
  • Appoint all lawyers to the commission by removing the requirement that the governor's appointees be non-lawyers?

Follow Rachel Lippmann and Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @rlippmann @MarshallGReport

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.