Gavel Grab

In Missouri Locality, a Judicial Election Based on … Merit?

justice-scalesHigh praise for a contested judicial election where the candidates shun negative attacks and instead emphasize their qualifications?

It’s rare, but Gavel Grab has located such a contest for a local judgeship in Boone County, Missouri, where former Missouri Bar president Skip Walther writes that “each candidate’s judicial campaign speaks to their potential quality as a judge, and based solely on that metric, each of the candidates is qualified.”

Walther wrote a piece for the Columbia Tribune that extols the conduct of the local judicial race while pointing out that in his view, it’s pretty exceptional:

“Make no mistake: Our local judicial campaigns are not ordinary. With almost $30 million in TV spending on judicial campaigns in 2012 alone, negative advertising is becoming commonplace. Fortunately, Missouri appellate judges and large metropolitan trial judges are appointed rather than elected, so we are spared the nastiness on a statewide level that is so prevalent in states such as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama and West Virginia.” Read more

No comments

Federal Gun Law Nullification Effort Dies in Missouri Legislature

In the waning moments of Missouri’s legislative session, minority Democrats filibustered a bill to nullify some federal gun laws, and the measure died.

Majority Republicans were split earlier about how aggressively the legislation should punish officials who enforced certain federal gun laws that were judged to have infringed on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights, the Associated Press reported. The House put its final approval on a compromise and sent it to the Senate with only 30 minutes in the session remaining.

Each chamber had passed earlier a version that would have allowed lawsuits against officials who enforce gun laws that are found to infringe upon Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Justice at Stake said, “Surely state legislators have better things to do than pursue fruitless efforts to punish judges for enforcing the law of the land” (see Gavel Grab).


No comments

Missouri Bill to Nullify Federal Gun Laws May Die

The Missouri House voted 109-42 on Tuesday to block enforcement of some federal gun laws. But time is running out, and a disagreement among Republicans over how to punish officials who enforce those laws could doom the legislation, the Kansas City Star reported.

The House-passed measure would allow lawsuits against officials who enforce gun laws that are found to infringe upon Missourians’ Second Amendment rights, and the measure’s Senate sponsor said he did not think the House bill goes far enough. The Senate will not likely consider the version, said Sen. Brian Nieves. Read more

No comments

Missouri Senate OK’s Bill to Nullify Federal Gun Laws

gun-battle_genericThe Missouri Senate voted 23-8 on Thursday to block enforcement of some federal gun laws. The Senate’s version would allow citizens to sue public officials over their enforcing gun regulations, as does a House-passed version.

The Senate version is not identical to the House-passed version, however, in that it adds a provision to ban for life from employment by local or state law enforcement an individual who enforces a gun law that is unconstitutional, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

When the House passed its version of the nullification law, Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said (see Gavel Grab), “Surely state legislators have better things to do than pursue fruitless efforts to punish judges for enforcing the law of the land.” Read more

No comments

JAS Criticizes Missouri Bill to Nullify U.S. Gun Laws

BULLETIN: “Surely state legislators have better things to do than pursue fruitless efforts to punish judges for enforcing the law of the land,” Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said on Thursday about a Missouri nullification bill. “Nullification has been rejected throughout American history as an attack on democracy and the rule of law.  Rather than usurping the Constitution, state lawmakers who want to change federal gun laws should do what every other citizen has to: write their member of Congress.”

A Missouri Senate committee has approved a House-passed bill that would nullify federal restrictions on gun ownership in Missouri.

Missouri-gun-bill-aims-to-nullify-US-gun-laws-in-the-stateThe bill approved by the Senate General Laws Committee deems void “federal statutes, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, or other actions which restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms,” reported Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts.

The legislation specifically bars Missouri judges from giving legal recognition to laws or federal court orders restricting gun ownership in Missouri, saying, “It shall be the duty of the courts…of this state to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms within the borders of this state and to protect these rights from the infringements defined in section 1.322.” Read more

No comments

‘Original Intent’ Bill Would Apply to Missouri Judges

We the PeopleA committee of Missouri’s state Senate has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that if approved by voters, among other things, would dictate that the state judiciary interpret the U.S. Constitution by the intent of its signers.

The measure requires that the branches of Missouri government “Interpret the Constitution of the United States of America based on its language and the intent of the signers of the Constitution at the time of its passage.”

The measure’s advance was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, with this headline: “Missouri: bill to compel state judges use original intent interpretation of federal constitution, retroactively nullify federal laws & court decisions out of Senate committee.” Read more

No comments

Poll: Missouri Voters Against Dumping Merit Selection

Two similar, recently approved petitions for ballot initiatives to revamp Missouri’s nationally recognized merit system for selecting judges pose a “serious threat,” according to Skip Walther, treasurer of Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts. While the Secretary of State approved the petitions for circulation, each would require more than 150,000 signatures to appear on the ballot in 2014.

“We’re taking this threat to the merit selection of judges very seriously,” Walther told the St. Louis Beacon. Its article was headlined, “New initiative petition proposals would require Supreme Court judges to run for office.” The proposals seek to replace the “Missouri Plan” of merit selection with popular election of judges, and they would expand the size of the state Supreme Court from seven to nine justices.

A recent News Tribune article said a poll commissioned by MFIC found that 58 percent of surveyed Missouri voters said they plan to vote against the proposal if it appears on the ballot, and 18 percent said they plan to vote yes. Eighty-five percent of voters, according to the 20/20 Insight poll, said they oppose allowing candidates for the bench to solicit campaign contributions.

Read more

No comments

Elections, Instead of Merit Selection, Sought for Top Judges in Missouri

Missouri’s nationally recognized merit selection system for selecting top judges could face still another attack.

Approval by the secretary of state’s office for two similar constitutional amendments this week means supporters can begin working to seek enough signatures to bring the issue before voters in November 2014, according to the Associated Press. The proposals seek to replace merit selection with popular election of judges, and they would expand the size of the state Supreme Court from seven to nine justices.

The “Missouri Plan” for selecting  judges has provided a model for many other states. Critics of the plan, from both inside and outside the state, have launched attacks on it for more than a decade. Read more

No comments

Missouri in Spotlight for Gun Bill That Would Nullify Federal Firearms Law

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed last month a bill making it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal gun laws in the state, but the legislature is likely to override the veto next month, the New York Times reported. Nixon is a Democrat. Republicans control the legislature.

Earlier this year, Justice at Stake raised concerns about legislation under consideration in some states to prosecute officials, including judges, who enforce federal firearms laws (see Gavel Grab).

“It would be wrong to lock up judges for applying the rule of law, and legislation advancing in some states proposes to permit exactly that,” said JAS Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton in a statement.

“Even if you disagree strongly with federal gun restrictions, slapping handcuffs on judges who do their job is dangerous overreach. Those who oppose federal gun laws can lobby to change them before Congress. Undermining the judiciary is not the answer.” Read more

No comments

Bringing Diversity to the Bench: A Chief Justice’s Personal View

This past July, Mary Rhodes Russell began her two-year term as Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.  In an interview with the Missouri Times, Justice Russell discusses interpretation of laws, public education on court issues and her career as a judge.  When asked about her transition from lawyer to judge, she notes the unlikelihood of her professional trajectory from her own perspective.

“…[I]t simply wasn’t dreamable for a girl to be a judge… I didn’t know much about how that process worked and didn’t think a girl from Hannibal could compete with big name lawyers from St. Louis. But of course I was interested and I tried and the rest, I guess, is history.

When asked if being a woman brings a different perspective to the court, Justice Russell addresses the reality of different perspectives. “Everybody walks in different shoes,” she says. And she believes diversity strengthens our courts overall:  “I think it’s important for the courts to look like the people they represent. I think that if the courts don’t have diversity we lose our strength.”

Justice at Stake, in coordination with its partners, is engaged in a five-year multi-state effort to promote diversity on the state bench by building the pipeline of people of color, women, and members of the LGBT community who are potential judges, and encouraging transparency and inclusion in judicial selection. Justice at Stake’s Deputy Director of Federal Affairs & Diversity Initiatives, Liz Fujii spoke about Justice Russell’s interview and work being done to further promote a more diverse bench, in a video here.

No comments

Next Page »