Missouri Bar president visits lawyers in St. Joseph

Judicial selection method at risk, Vogel warns

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Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 10:01 am | Updated: 9:30 pm, Sun May 20, 2012.

The president of the Missouri Bar came to the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art on Friday to alert local lawyers to a move to politicize the state’s judicial commission. Such a move would throw out the “Missouri Plan,” used for some 70 years to produce a steady stream of competent judges.

“The Missouri Bar is committed to keeping big-money, partisan politics out of Missouri’s judicial branch of government,” said Lynn Whaley Vogel. A joint Missouri Senate resolution would grant the governor full control over the judicial commission that selects appellate judge candidates, she said.

“This would have the effect of eliminating Missouri’s merit-based judicial selection process,” she said. “Its a huge threat.”

The proposal jeopardizes the carefully balanced makeup of the judicial commission. The majority of commissioners would be political appointees of a governor. The change gives four out of seven commissioners appointments to the governor during a single term in office, and omits the currently staggered terms.

“These changes, in no uncertain terms, grant a governor full control over a majority of commissioners,” Mrs. Vogel said. The bar president questions the transparency of special-interest groups pushing the plan. “Supporters of the proposal can’t tell us why the Missouri Plan doesn’t work,” Mrs. Vogel said.

An “obscene amount” of money has been spent in Jefferson City in a lobbying effort to support the changes, she said. “Why should people outside of Missouri tell us how to choose our judges?” Mrs. Vogel asked.

She urged bar members and interested citizens to talk to their state senators about defeating the issue. Mrs. Vogel is touring the state, and spoke to attorneys of the 4th Judicial Circuit in Rock Port on Friday night.

Marshall White can be reached at marshall.white@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWhite.

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