Under the current plan, judges are selected by a commission of three members selected by the governor, three by the Missouri Bar Association, and the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. The commission selects three candidates for the governor to chose from to fill a judicial vacancy. After their appointment, judges names appear on a ballot for a retention vote.
The proposed changes - supported by both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly - would allow the governor to select four members of the committee in a single term. The changes would also allow for a nonvoting judge on the panel. Supporters believe this could limit the influence of lawyers over the process.
"There is nothing about lawyers that uniquely qualify them to control selection of judges," said Stanley Cox, the bill's sponsor. "The power should be vested with the people."
Cox believes giving more control to the governor, who is elected statewide, allows for more popular input into the judicial selection process.
During floor debate, House Democratic Leader Mike Talboy said he believes supporters are motivated by the goal of moving to an entirely elected court.
"I think what you're actually trying to get to with this is election of judges," he said. "I don't think the citizens of this state are crazy enough to start electing judges."
The resolution passed the measure 84 to 71. The issue will now go to voters for their approval.