Chief justice defends Missouri's appointment plan

Missouri’s Nonpartisan Court Plan still is the best way to place judges on the state’s largest courts, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. told lawmakers Wednesday.

“The brilliance of the Missouri Plan is that it balances the need for legal ability, everyday common sense and responsibility to the people, in a way that preserves the integrity and the fairness and the impartiality of the judge,” Price explained during his State of the Judiciary address. “It also checks the power of all concerned — the lawyers, the citizens, the chief justice, the governor — and most importantly, it allows a very real check and balance to the people by the retention vote.”

He acknowledged that different people see a judge’s quality differently.

“The Missouri Plan was created to seek judges of ability, integrity and fairness; not to lock in any particular viewpoint,” Price said.

He said those critics who suggest alternatives to the plan “are sincere in their concerns, but I do not believe that they understand the dangers inherent in their suggested alternatives.”

The chief justice focused on a recent proposal for direct election of all judges as attracting so much money that it “will destroy the public’s perception, and perhaps the actual integrity, of our judicial system.”

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