- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens supports changing the system Missouri uses to select its judges to give the governor and Legislature more influence in the process.

Greitens believes the system, which was established in 1940, puts too much power over judicial selections into the hands of trial lawyers, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/2eRRro3 ). Attorney General Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for governor, favors the current system.

It calls for attorneys appointed by the Missouri Bar Association and residents appointed by the governor to review judicial applications and submit three finalists to the governor, who picks the judge. At the end of the judges’ terms, voters choose whether to retain them.

A plan enacted in 2014 in Tennessee, which Greitens‘ favors, allows the governor to appoint judges without input from panels of attorneys or residents. The Legislature must approve each judge and they face retention votes every eight years.

Eric is opposed to our current system of judicial selection that gives trial lawyers too much control over the appointment of the very judges they argue their cases in front of,” said Greitens policy director Will Scharf.

Koster said the current system “is the best way to ensure judicial selection is not unduly influenced by politics.”

“For decades, Missouri’s judicial selection model has been copied by other states because it promotes respected, educated and non-partisan judges,” Koster said in a written statement. “Our state should not subject its judicial system to the influence of big-money politics.”

In 2012, Missouri voters rejected a bid to give governors more power in the judicial selections.

James Harris, a Jefferson City consultant who led the 2012 effort, said he was pleased Greitens is addressing the issue. He said judges appointed during Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s two terms have been largely Democrats.

“If it’s nonpartisan, you’d think there it would be more mixed. I would say the current process is inherently political,” Harris said.

Missouri voters would have to approve any change in the selection process.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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