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Judicial Selection in Missouri Merit Selection and Retention through the The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan.

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Presentation on theme: "Judicial Selection in Missouri Merit Selection and Retention through the The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Judicial Selection in Missouri Merit Selection and Retention through the The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan

2 A matter of merit What is Merit Selection? A process for selecting judges based on their qualifications and merit. A judicial nominating commission screens candidates and selects, based on their merits, a panel of nominees to recommend to the governor. The governor selects one of the nominees for appointment. What is Merit Retention? A process for voters to decide if a judge nominated by the commission and appointed by the governor should remain on the bench. Retention election held after first full year in office and then at the end of every term in office. Before the election, each judge is evaluated by a judicial performance evaluation commission.

3 Merit Selection and Retention The merit selection and retention process was designed to reduce outside influences on the judiciary. Political pressures Personal opinions Popular opinions Corruption Other influences

4 Where Does Merit Selection Apply? 1940: Voters statewide adopt the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan into state constitution. Merit selection is required for the Supreme Court of Missouri, the Missouri Court of Appeals, and trial courts in Jackson County (Kansas City) and the city of St. Louis. Voters in other counties can opt into merit selection by local initiative. Larger counties generally have done so. Local voters switch to merit selection for local judges: Early 1970s: Clay and Platte counties near Kansas City and St. Louis County 2008: Greene County (Springfield) SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI MISSOURI COURT OF APPEALS SIX URBAN TRIAL COURTS

5 Thorough Process After applying, a judicial nominating commission made up of lay people and lawyers vet the applicants and determine which to interview. The names of all interviewees and the commission’s interviews are open to the public. The commission then nominates three applicants, based on their qualifications, to the governor. The nominees’ applications are posted to the Internet. The governor has 60 days to appoint one of the three to the bench.

6 Voters decide!!! The judge must be retained for a full term and then stands for retention to earn each new term. Once appointed, how do judges remain in office?

7 Voting for judges Research demonstrates that the voters often have trouble locating available information about judges and instead vote without much information (Carnegie Report) … if they vote for judges at all. Research conducted by The Missouri Bar shows an increase in voter participation in retention elections since judicial performance evaluation (JPE) programs began in 2008. ?

8 Sample Ballot: Judges Running in Partisan Elections Sample Ballot: Judges Seeking Merit Retention Here, the judges are not running against an opponent. Instead, the only question is whether the judge should stay in office. Each judge should receive a vote of “yes” or “no.” Here, trial judges are running against each other for a position. Voting for one judge eliminates the other candidates.

9 Once selected, how are judges held accountable? Oath of Office – sworn to support, protect and defend the United States Constitution and the Missouri Constitution The Appellate Process – judicial decisions can be appealed to a higher court for review (appellate review) Judges must follow the constitution (federal and state), statutes, case law (precedent), and rules (court and procedural) Judicial performance commissions evaluate judges’ decisions and conduct in office and communicate their findings with voters Retention Elections – voters have the final say

10 How are judges held accountable? Code of Judicial Conduct – standards of ethical conduct for judges Complaints of misconduct – investigated by an independent constitutional commission (Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline) Judges can be disciplined (from reprimands to removal from the bench) for violations of the code of conduct. Judges removed from office also lose their pensions. Impeachment – handled by House of Representatives Judges can be impeached for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office

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