One more area in which Kansas is ahead of Missouri.
According to Carrie Severino in the National Review Online, Governor Brownback today signed legislation repealing the Missouri Plan for selecting appellate judges. In its place Kansas will select judges based on the Federal model: the Governor proposes a nominee whom the state Senate must approve. The selection process is open and above board; it is clear who should be held accountable for bad judges.
Why is this an improvement? The Missouri Plan essentially puts the selection process under the control of eaach state’s bar association, which is usually dominated by trial attorneys. This is the group grown fat from lawsuits like the tobacco settlements. This is the group that won huge settlements over breast implants, though the science they advanced has been proven wrong. They raise the cost of insurance and help create a scarcity of doctors. Think the superrich trial lawyers John Edwards or the billionaire Dickie Scruggs. The Missouri Plan permits trial lawyers to nominate their own for state courts, a clear conflict of interest.
In the Governor’s press release quoted by Miss Severino, Governor Brownback states that Kansans “are entitled to a government that is not beholden to any special interest group.” The usual objection that this reform brings politics into play does not pass the sniff test, since the trial attorneys are the very paradigm of a politically active special interest group. The governor addresses this point clearly: “But judicial independence must rest firmly on the consent of the people. Public confidence is the best and only hedge around the independent judgments of our courts.” Thus the Missouri Plan “fails the democracy test.”
Kudos to the Kansas legislature and governor. May the state of Missouri soon follow and reform the way it selects Supreme Court justices as well as appellate judges.