Monday, April 20, 2009

Increasing Public Involvement in Judicial Appointments

By Dan Brown
State Representative, District 149

Over 60 years ago Missourians became fed up with the corruption in our judicial system and took steps to shed light on the process of appointing judges. In 1940, the State adopted a plan for appointing circuit judges, appellate judges and the justices of the State Supreme Court. Known as the Missouri Plan, it worked to change the appointment method from backroom deals to a structured and fair process. However, the appointment of these judges in Missouri is not as open and balanced as it could be. There is still room for improvement.

The Missouri Plan establishes a commission to review potential candidates for appointment. It then provides the Governor with a list of three nominees to choose from within a 60 day period. If not, the commission has authority to choose the appointment. Once a judge has served in office for at least one year, he or she must stand for retention at the next general election.

In the House, we believe changes are needed to make the system more transparent and balanced. House Joint Resolution 10, which passed the House this week, would put the proposed changes to a vote of the people. Currently, because of its make-up, the commission is heavily influenced by the Missouri Bar. It is made up of a Supreme Court Justice, three members of the Bar and three members of the general public. HJR 10 increases the number of commissioners on the Appellate Judicial Commission to include an additional member of the public. In addition, each member of the commission would be subject to Senate confirmation.

HJR 10 also provides the Governor with more choices in the selection process. Under the current Missouri Plan, if the Governor does not see one of the three nominees as being a solid candidate, the commission has no obligation to provide additional choices. Under the proposed changes of HJR 10, the Governor would be given four names from which to choose and has the ability to reject the list and ask for an additional four choices.

Allowing a broader range of nominees when choosing such an important position is highly beneficial. Being careful and selective when appointing these Judges should be a top priority. The Missouri Plan has been left with room for progress and we believe HJR 10 is a clear answer.

House Bill 658 and 706 has been third read passed in the House. I sponsored HB 706 which makes available unused tax credits to the dairy industry. Hopefully this will help prevent the loss of the dairy infrastructure in Missouri. Loss of the dairy industry in Missouri means about 26,000 jobs lost and much higher milk and dairy prices in the store. I am working with my colleagues in surrounding districts to help stabilize the beef and port industry. Agriculture is at a critical phase of existence in Missouri. We must try to lower input cost and stabilize severe market swings. I want Missourians to be able to buy milk, eggs, cheese, beef, pork and grain products that have been produced in Missouri.

We have had a very busy two weeks in the House of Representatives and have sent a lot of legislation to the Senate for their consideration. Hope the legislation we pass is helpful to the citizens of Missouri and does not infringe on our lives or stifle businesses.

Please continue to inform me of your opinions and concerns about government and legislation. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

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