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State of Missouri

Judicial Selection in the States: Missouri

Overview

News

The Montana House State Administration Committee yesterday approved a bill to require judges recuse from cases due to campaign contributions. Under HB 157 as approved...

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A plan to require Wyoming judicial nominating commission members to be subject to senate confirmation appears to have died. Wyoming s top courts use a...

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This is proving to be an unprecedented year in terms of the number of efforts to either switch from partisan to nonpartisan judicial elections or...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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The Missouri judiciary consists of a supreme court, a court of appeals, and a circuit court. In 1940, Missouri became the first state to adopt merit selection of judges. The Nonpartisan Selection of Judges Court Plan, which has come to be known as the Missouri Plan, has served as a model for the thirty-four other states that use merit selection to fill some or all judicial vacancies.

Prior to the adoption of the Nonpartisan Court Plan, judicial selection in Missouri was controlled by political machines and party bosses who sought to unseat judges who issued unfavorable rulings. Judges' positions were so tenuous under machine politics that from 1918 to 1941 only two supreme court justices were successful in their bids for reelection. Concerned citizens, judges, and lawyers organized an initiative petition effort to place the plan on the ballot. Less than 60 days after Missouri voters ratified the Nonpartisan Court Plan, legislative opponents introduced a resolution to submit the plan to voters again in the next election. In 1942, voters approved the plan by more than twice the earlier vote, and in 1945, voters adopted a new constitution that included the Nonpartisan Court Plan. Thus, in the first five years of the Nonpartisan Court Plan, voters indicated their approval on three separate occasions.