The Appellate Judicial Commission and the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan

Last week, . Mr. Phil Hess was selected by the Governor from a list of three finalists nominated for the position by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission. The Commission is a central part of the Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan.

The 39 judges of our appellate courts (the Missouri Supreme Court and the three districts of the Missouri Court of Appeals) are called upon every day to make important decisions in interpreting and applying the laws of Missouri. These judges should be our best and brightest lawyers, and they should be, insofar as possible, beyond the fray of political campaigns and partisan influence. In some states, these important positions are filled by partisan elections, with all pitfalls associated with campaign financing and party politics. We are fortunate that, under the Missouri state Constitution, the Non-Partisan Court Plan moves this decision making-process a few steps away from partisan politics, to be handled by the Commission’s merit-based nomination process. Missouri was the first state to adopt a plan like this (in 1940), and more than 30 other states have followed our lead, adopting similar plans.

It has been my privilege to serve on the Appellate Judicial Commission, and I am now finishing my six-year term of service. During these six years, the Commission has made nominations from which 15 of Missouri’s 39 appellate judge positions have been filled. I am proud of this body of work. These people are good judges; they are Republicans and Democrats, men and women, older and younger, racially diverse, and from a variety of law-practice backgrounds. Most importantly, all are smart, competent professionals who have now been appointed to do a job where smart, competent professionals are required. – John Wooddell

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