Nov 21 2008
As we reported last week, voters in Greene County, Missouri voted this year to switch from electing their local judges to a Merit Selection system. Thomas M. Burke, President of the Missouri Bar, analyzes the decision in an editorial in the News-Leader:
Why switch now? While a number of reasons were presented to voters, the most compelling stem from the campaigns that judicial candidates must run to gain name recognition. Greene County has a population of about 260,000 and is one of Missouri’s fastest growing counties. Partisan elections of judges were becoming more expensive to run. In a recent Republican primary about $200,000 was raised by candidates and their supporters.
Lawyers who regularly appear in front of these judges are faced with a no-win situation, frequently being asked to donate to a judge’s campaign. Having judges, businesses and other groups donate to the election of a judge who may decide your case creates the appearance of impropriety and raises suspicions of influence on judicial decisions.
Burke’s piece offers a clear assessment of the reasons the campaign for Merit Selection was successful in Greene County. He concisely explains that this isn’t a philosophical or theoretical issue, but a practical question based on the facts of what judicial elections have become:
Greene County citizens are to be commended — not because their judges will be selected under the nonpartisan court plan, but for recognizing the potential danger to the integrity of the courts in their growing community.
This approach makes sense. Let the public take a good look at judicial elections and let the voters decide whether it still makes sense to choose judges this way.Tags: Greene County, Merit Selection, Missouri, News-Leader, Thomas M. Burke