Merit in Missouri

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An assertion based upon the gerrymandering system.

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Tayon 1
Bruce Tayon
Pol 309
Andrew Ziaja
21 April 2014
Merit in Missouri
For fundamental positions within our state’s governing body, the
judiciary comprised within is perhaps the most important. The state’s
supreme courts are the upper tier in which the United States’ case
battles come to fruition, allowing the hierarchy of the Federal Judiciary
to come into play. This provides the necessary reasoning behind the
pivotal nature of correct judicial appointments. As these appointments
help determine when the violation of a citizen’s right is present, the
need for nonbiased, coherent judges comes to light. Therefore, the
United States of America should lay waste to past state initiatives for
judge selection, and instead wholeheartedly adopt the principle of the
‘Missouri Plan’, or in other words the ‘Merit Plan’, allowing for a slight
dip in political favoring, while allowing educational prowess to aid in
state superior court organizing. This plan incorporates the best method
of trained review, allowing ‘a screening committee, typically composed
of the state’s chief justice, three attorneys elected by the state’s bar
association, and three laypeople appointed by the governor to
nominate candidates...with the governor making final decision’ (C,J,P
153). Now as you can see, this method employs a team of realistic,

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intelligent faculty to allow for a streamlined nonpartisan nomination
system, bypassing the electoral route. This in and of itself provides for
an educated direction into judicial appointment and even takes into
account the role of public opinion. For when the first twelve month
election period comes around, the new judge is sequestered onto the
ballot, allowing the voters to oust the nomination for another ‘merit’
winner, thus providing the perfect check to the appointment (C,J,C
154). But perhaps this appointment method isn’t significantly better in
regards to politics breaching through and bleeding into their position.
However, it can find traction in radically new initiatives for appeasing
the public, through polling or a new confirmation arraignment.
Now retrace back to the formation of the Missouri plan, in 1940.
Missouri selection prior to this initiative was bogged down in the
political game of corruption, finding many deserved candidates lose
out to party contenders funded with the necessary dollars to gain the
public’s eye (J.S. U.S.). The prior years in Missouri were spent trying the
plethora of judicial appointment for the state’s court, yet found money
as the obligatory behemoth, aiding in most winners. The state tried all
of the initiatives present in elective reasoning, as well as gubernatorial
aspects, and found no solid remedy. Therefore, the initiative to take out
this direct partisan approach for judicial appointments was drastically
needed, and thankfully found headway with the ‘Missouri Plan’. This
initiative was ‘voted three times, successfully by the Missouri citizens’,

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proving itself to work in favor of the community (J.S. U.S.). The
resulting third amendment to Missouri’s state constitution, was indeed
coherent within the public’s mind now, and provided a resting
responsibility to fall upon the governor, and the bar committee. The
new merit based selection seemed to work, as it insidiously spread
throughout the United States, and landed upon the doorsteps of many
state amendments.
Again a sundry of states rely on this selection process, in fact ’23
States’, now abide by the Merit Selection plan, engrossing their
governor with the penultimate decision on state supreme court
nominations (C,J,C 153). These states include the likes of Maryland,
Arizona, New York, Florida, and Delaware. Many of these states have a
dramatically high population, with Florida’s cultural epicenters
amassing a copious amount of citizens near the top. This is why the
public’s opinion matters dearly to the heart of judicial organization.
Although, the merit plan does not specifically require preliminary
citizen opinion, it allows the nonpartisan Bar, state association to mull
over the correct candidates. This inherently allows for perhaps, a more
scholarly debate to preside over selection, being that the discussions
would pertain to the legal and judicial realm. However, this can lead to
doubts on whether it truly is ‘nonpartisan’, as undoubtedly, many of
the appointment committee could find their own party alignment
seeping inwards. But, alas, perhaps the political brawl is better suited

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behind the scenes rather than sending the idea out to an uninformed
public.
According to Melinda Gann Hall, judicial elections find
themselves ‘as competitive as those for Congress’ (C.J.P 155). With this
fact, the ringing idea of aligning interest to either a lobbying group or
the vast majority of the public begins to resonate. These episodic
elections for state supreme court, indicate that at some point a
candidate will find themselves with a majority held opinion just to win,
or to be reelected. Now if this is contrary to their foundation of legal
thought, there could exist a backwards candidate, who simply resides
at face value. This would, in turn, provide the judge to make decisions
wholly in alignment with whatever party gave funding, in some
manner, to them. This completely devolves the intention of the state’s
supreme court to make decisions that help or at least protect the
minority from infringed rights. The pluralistic view of thinking resides in
the legislative body, not within the judicial.
The state’s supreme court finds itself amongst the top tier within
the hierarchy of the state’s judicial realm. It finds itself as the court of
last resort and compels itself to maintain the highest esteem and
moral coherence. The Supreme Court, is positioned only slightly lower
from the SCOTUS, and as such should contain the highest caliber of
good-willed members. This revolves back to the method for appointee
selection. The screening committee for the Missouri Plan, involves

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individuals who have at least somehow proven themselves in the
judicial arena, therefore providing the compelling argument that it is
they who have quite a domineering, rightful opinion on the matter. The
Chief Justice of the State’s Supreme Court, is found within this
selection committee, as well as prime candidates from the state bar
association and three laypeople (C.J.P 154). To examine this further,
one can see that there exists at least three divisions towards
appointment. The ‘laypeople’ of the governor’s choice, in all likelihood
align their interest with the governor and/or the political party to which
they reside. The Chief Justice, if not appointed with the governor’s
help, would have interest in the public’s opinion for matters of
reelection. Finally, the three attorneys from the state’s bar association
would find themselves in league towards the benefit of the ABA, or
perhaps a political interest. When the three forces come to bout, the
discussion would deem multiple viewpoints appropriate simply based
on the matter of comprised individuals. These selection committee
members would thusly argue, hopefully, for the sake of the citizen’s
interest. Although, if the three divisions of the members began to
collude, then the process would ultimately find itself burdened by the
political promiscuity found in other branches.
Fortunately, the grandest of inclusions within the Missouri plan
resides in the ability for a ‘retention election’. This election provides
the voters with the ability to hold the judge in concordance with his

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position. If the public does not find the judge suitable to their favor, or
finding a misuse of power, the public can simply vote the judge out of
office. Beneficially speaking, this is in its own right a checks and
balances system, yet at the state level. When the candidate fails to
appease the public, he is ousted and a new ‘merit’ candidate is chosen
for a term limit (C.J.P 153). Although the candidate is again from the
selection committee’s choices, it allows for the perfect balancing act to
exist within the state’s judicature. Neither a morally corrupt judge nor
an instrumental cog should be reconsidered for reelection based on
this inclusion. The matter of the post-appointed choices now falls on
the laps of the individual, rightly so.
To still not be sold on the idea of a merit selection method
inclusive in all of the United States would be disdainful. But perhaps
the allure of a semi-direct election route somehow provides a sense of
ease. The participatory ease of an election however, begins to crumble
with partisan and nonpartisan means. The pressure upon a judicial
candidate to organize money begins to drown their logic and base
them upon contribution efforts. This in turn, leads to a misalignment in
what the public needs. For example, ‘in 2002, in Ohio, four candidates
raised $6.2 million’ (C.J.P 155). This is an astonishing number for a
judicial election, which arguably should be based upon the character,
and expertise of the judge. Should the means to collect money, and
advertise based on necessity, outweigh the need of an intellectual

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judge? The answer is explicitly no. The works and conduct of a person
should outweigh the ability to be amiable, as judicial decisions do not
require a friendly demeanor. In fact, simply the extraneous toll of
campaigning could shift a logical person to aid future litigators who
once gave contributions.
While a year does seem arduous for allowing an appointee to join
the state’s supreme court, perhaps a new polling means would
effectively drown out the opposition to the Missouri plan. If an
appointee from the governor for judgeship was exhibited to a tribunal
or sampling, it could further benefit the public’s interest. Imagine a
scenario where a cyclical, quarter polling, on the appointed seat of the
state Supreme Court based on merit, was left to the public. This would
allow the citizens a direct, rather quick and decisive maneuver to
remove a judge from office if found to pursue the needs of interest
groups, or from exhibiting ill behavior. Essentially, the polling might
help to direct the public’s opinion with lack of choice initially, to a
positive outlook. The polling would be given to registered voter’s,
nonpartisan of course, and relay to the governor along with the
screening committee. This dispels the apprehension of voters to adopt
the merit plan, and could give light to what judge the public requires.
In addition, it could shed light on what the whole of the state desires in
terms of judicative decisions.

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So as political ideology inevitably finds its way through the
cracks of judges’ minds, the need to deliver a method of nonpartisan
appointment is of the uttermost necessity. To expand on the premise of
minor additions to the merit plan, perhaps we should look to the
Federal Judiciary appointments. The president is required to provide a
nomination when a vacancy is present within the Supreme Court, and
discourse between his cabinets is omnipresent. He must then follow
this procedure with confirmation from and ‘by and with the advice of
the senate’ (Art. II Const.). This method of appointment has worked
since the inception of the United States, and therefore could work its
way into the appointment of State Supreme Court judges. In order for
this to translate to the merit plan, the governor would still consult with
the selection committee, but find the actual confirmation left to the
current state legislator. This method would directly correlate with
citizen’s needs and find their counties equally represented. If the vote
did not find in favor of the appointment, the next nominee would find
their way to evaluation. As such, with this effort and new addition to
the process, the checks and balances located at the state level would
increase.
As close to half of the states within the United States fall into the
category of using the ‘merit plan’ the need to evolve and universalize
the process should grow accordingly. The states currently using the
nonpartisan or electoral means of judicial assignment, should find the

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method of merit beneficial to future precedent. The specialization
indicative with using the Missouri Plan, aids in the appointment of
certified individuals who have proven themselves in some aspect
regarding the judiciary process. The need for wholesome judges who
align with their legal reasoning and not to future elections should
trump the logic of partisan judicial, electoral supporters. If we do not
provide the correct individuals who have ‘merit’, to make their way into
the judiciary, the state, and country’s last means of interpretation will
find its way into the hearts of men and women with dual intentions for
holding their position. Invariably, the result will violate the complete
purpose of the judicial branch to begin with. Simply ask the question,
does the appearance or even vocal prowess of a judge take
precedence over the ability to adjudicate correctly and deliver
constitutionally relevant cases to the Supreme Court of the United
States? The answer to this question is a decisive no. Therefore, let the
actions and education of an individual provide the benefit to all of the
state’s citizens, which will result in the culmination of the perfect
deliverance of precedent.

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Works’ Cited
"State of Missouri." Judicial Selection in the States. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.
Murphy, Walter F., C. Herman Pritchett, and Lee Epstein. Courts, Judges & Politics: An
Introduction to the Judicial Process. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Print.

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