A high-spending drive to switch to direct election of judges in Missouri failed this year, but now a leader of the effort, lobbyist James Harris, is envisioning a new attack on the state’s merit selection plan in 2011.
Key to Harris’ favorable political analysis was the GOP’s securing large majorities in the state House and Senate, and also votes in Nevada against merit selection and in Iowa to oust three state Supreme Court justices, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:
“Backed by an increased GOP majority, and the big bucks of a couple of contributors willing to spend millions of dollars to change the system, Harris and his allies plan a new assault on the Missouri Plan.
“‘I think we’re in a good spot,’ said Harris.”
This year, critics of Missouri’s nationally recognized merit system for selecting judges failed to get enough valid signatures to put the issue before voters in November (see Gavel Grab).
Harris is pushing for direct partisan elections for judges who will sit on appeals courts, the state Supreme Court and in the largest urban areas. Also circulating are ideas and possible legislation for other changes, such as a system that mirrors federal judicial selection, or reducing power of lawyers on nominating commissions.
Skip Walther, a former president of the Missouri Bar Association, suggested Missouri voters’ response this year ought to be considered a sign of satisfaction with the existing plan. “The abject failure of the initiative petition can be seen as a recognition by the citizens of the state that we have a fair plan,” Walther said.
At the same time, he said there were ways the current system could be improved.
To learn more about appointment and retention systems like Missouri’s, check out Justice at Stake’s issues page about them.