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News Clips

11-21-2008
On Nov. 4, voters in Greene County -- the state’s 31st Judicial Circuit -- approved a ballot initiative that changes the county’s method for choosing the trial judges that hear cases in state court.

No longer will candidates for those positions have to campaign like candidates for political office. Instead, Greene County will use the Missouri non-partisan plan to select its trial judges and become the sixth judicial circuit in the state to do so -- along with the circuits serving Jackson, Clay, Platte and St. Louis counties and the city of St. Louis.
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10-30-2008
The fight over judicial selection in Greene County is emerging as a war of the war chests, as groups for and against the Missouri Plan amass large contributions with which to spread their messages.

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10-07-2008
You may have heard there will be an election this November. Alongside trivial votes, such as who to choose for president, residents of Greene County will decide whether to adopt Missouri’s non-partisan court plan for their jurisdiction. Under the proposed change, Greene County judges would be selected by Missouri’s governor from a panel of three chosen by a judicial commission, rather than by popular election. The new commission would consist of the county’s chief judge, two citizens selected by the governor, and two lawyers elected by the county bar association.

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03-06-2008
State Rep. Ed Emery (R) is carrying the water for the Republicans’ attack on the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan. He has filed House Joint Resolution 73 that would put judicial appointments squarely in the governor’s pork barrel.
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01-09-2008
Missouri and Illinois take entirely different approaches to selecting judges for their courts of appeals — the multi-judge panels charged with reviewing decisions of lower courts.

When a vacancy occurs on one of Missouri’s three appellate courts (Eastern, Western and Southern), lawyers and lower-court judges who want to move up to the appeals bench file applications with the seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission. The commission consists of the chief judge of the state Supreme Court, three people elected by members of the Missouri Bar and three people appointed by the governor for terms that do not coincide with the governor’s.

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12-11-2007
A December 2007 poll of voters in Missouri paints a profile that a noisy minority won’t particularly care for: Voters of all stripes strongly back the state’s model system of judicial selection, with 71 percent supporting the current system for choosing many state judges.
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11-27-2007
A campaign launched to support Missouri’s system for choosing judges looks to be active during the legislation session which begins in January. The group is called Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts. Its spokesman is Chip Robertson, the former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. It was formed to support the Missouri Non Partisan Court Plan which has come under fire of late, mainly from conservative groups. The group has conducted a public relations campaign to convince Missourians about the value of the Missouri Plan. Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts has joined with the Missouri Bar, the organization that represents the state’s lawyers, as the primary supporters of the plan adopted by voters in 1942.
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09-10-2007
A local senator’s crusade for the Missouri Sunshine Law may appear out of character after looking at his track record.
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09-09-2007
It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Gov. Matt Blunt’s criticism of the Missouri judiciary is getting to many judges.
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09-09-2007
Three cheers for Dan Margolies’ article on the Missouri court plan (9/4, Business, “Many opinions on judgeships”). Do we really want judges to campaign, raise money and be good politicians?
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09-08-2007
Gov. Matt Blunt on Friday appointed appeals court judge Patricia Breckenridge to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court.
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09-08-2007
Gov. Matt Blunt picked Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Breckenridge to be the newest Supreme Court judge on Friday, offering a restrained endorsement that hinted at his dissatisfaction with the options before him.
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09-07-2007
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the conservative-backed Adam Smith Foundation, in their quest to find an issue to invigorate the Republican base in advance of the 2008 governor’s race, continue to attack the Missouri Court Plan. The latest criticism assails the lack of “transparency” in the judicial selection process (9/4, Business, Dan Margolies column, “Many opinions on judgeships").
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09-07-2007
Since the retirement of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, and the elevation of Justice Laura Denvir Stith to chief judge, Gov. Matt Blunt, the Federalist Society and its surrogate, the Adam Smith Foundation, have been making a campaign issue of the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan.
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09-03-2007
An editorial in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal terming judicial selection in Missouri a “lawyer racket” has sparked outrage in legal circles and provoked responses in and outside the state.
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08-26-2007
We really ought to thank Gov. Matt Blunt for requiring the three Missouri Supreme Court finalists to fill out such extensive questionnaires for his consideration.
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08-23-2007
I have never felt compelled to write a letter to the editor. However, the campaign of our current governor and the legislators who are mindlessly following his lead to seize control of our state’s judicial branch forces me to comment. Reading the governor’s and his followers’ groundless attacks on our judiciary, our nonpartisan court plan and our Bar Association alarms me. It should alarm every citizen of this state.
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08-23-2007
Ex-state Rep. Mark Wright, R-Springfield, is circulating his Letter to the Editor, in which he takes issue with some fellow conservatives’ efforts to scuttle the Missouri Plan for selecting appellate and Supreme Court judges.
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08-21-2007
It’s not that the issue is unimportant. It’s just boring. Unless you’re a lawyer or a judge - or a lawyer who wants to be a judge - how someone becomes a judge in Missouri is low on your list of issues to be discussed with your friends. Advocates on either side of the current issue struggle to generate interest through the use of hyperbole. It’s a difficult task making us all care about something with no immediate impact on more than a few dozen people.
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08-19-2007
Nicely done editorial. "... too many lawmakers only want to use the Sunshine Law when it serves their political purposes." Kinda like "too many lawmakers and the special interests who bankroll them only want to criticize Missouri’s "Non-Partisan Court Plan" when they do not get the nominees who will favor those same special interests in our courts of law."
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08-13-2007
The spate of attacks aimed at upending Missouri’s 67-year-old nonpartisan court plan has drawn a pointed response from four former chief justices of the Missouri Supreme Court.
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08-13-2007
The undersigned are all former chief justices of Missouri. Each of us once chaired the Appellate Judicial Commission under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan. We were appointed to the Supreme Court by both Democratic and Republican governors.
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08-12-2007
Patricia Breckenridge finished law school in 2 1/2 years instead of the usual three while working as a waitress. By age 28, she had become one of only a handful of women judges in Missouri.
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08-12-2007
Under Missouri’s famous and often emulated system for choosing nominees to the state’s top courts, a "nonpartisan" commission made up of lawyers, gubernatorial appointees and a judge evaluates candidates and chooses three for submission to the governor, who picks one to fill the court vacancy. Today the chairwoman of the commission is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Laura Denvir Stith.
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08-09-2007
Not often does a lawyer belittle a judge, much less the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. But it’s not really surprising to see lawyer Ed Martin, chief of staff to Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, breaking precedent.
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08-08-2007
State Republicans, led by Gov. Matt Blunt, are in full attack mode against the vaunted Missouri Plan for selecting judicial nominees. They say they want no more "activist" judges, a misrepresentation if I ever heard one.
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08-08-2007
Anyone following the appointment to the state Supreme Court to replace Judge Ronnie White has to be puzzled, amused and/or aggravated by the twists and turns of new (or old) documents needed (or needed again) by the governor’s office. Many are blaming Governor Matt Blunt’s commissions and boards boy, Tom Reiss, for this burgeoning fiasco.
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08-05-2007
There is a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court. To fill it, the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission has nominated three judges who serve on the Missouri Court of Appeals. Gov. Matt Blunt will select one to fill the vacancy. The three are: Judges Ronald Holliger and Patricia Breckenridge of the Western District and Judge Nanette Baker of the Eastern District.
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07-30-2007
Forget the words liberal and conservative. There are only two questions that Gov. Matt Blunt should consider when choosing the next Supreme Court justice.
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07-29-2007
By rights, Thursday should have been a good day for 53-year-old Patricia A. Breckenridge of Nevada, Mo. After eight years as an associate circuit court judge in Vernon County and 17 years as a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, she found herself as the only Republican on a list of three names submitted to Republican Gov. Matt Blunt for appointment to the Supreme Court of the state of Missouri.
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07-27-2007
The three finalists for a Missouri Supreme Court vacancy are appeals judges who have written dozens of opinions reflecting their knowledge and interpretation of the law.

Their education, job experience and community activities are all a matter of record. Gov. Matt Blunt, who will appoint one of them to the bench, is entitled to ask them any relevant question he wishes.
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07-23-2007
The efforts of the Adam Smith Foundation and others must be watched, and counter-acted, with the sort of educational efforts Stith proposes. The same lawmakers and out of state groups who this year tried unsuccessfully to gut Missouri’s nonpartisan plan of choosing judges, a plan that involves lawmakers, citizens and voters from a broad political spectrum, will be back next year trying again.
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07-10-2007
Imagine a Missouri version of the rancor and partisan tilt of recent appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court made by ideologue President George W. Bush. If you do not believe in litmus tests for high court judges on particular issues, you do not want the change Blunt & Co. propose.
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07-06-2007
Fireworks took on a new meaning this Independence Day when the judiciary became an official target of the other two branches of Missouri government.

The past legislative season was filled with attempts by lawmakers to unravel Missouri’s respected nonpartisan court plan. More recently the governor has demanded a panel of potential Supreme Court nominees who meet his political litmus test.

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07-03-2007
Revealing a heretofore unsuspected affinity for Japanese theater, Ed Martin, chief of staff for Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, has compared the maneuvering over a soon-to-be-vacated seat on the state Supreme Court to "a funny kind of kabuki."
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06-19-2007
The Missouri Plan, which has been adopted in whole or in part by more than 30 other states, is under fire in its home state. If its opponents are successful, the time may come again when someone wanting to become a judge will have take hat in hand and make a pilgrimage to political bosses, whatever their party at the time, to big-money campaign contributors and to well-heeled, well-connected lobbyists.
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05-21-2007
A new report from a Washington, D.C., think tank says Missouri might be at the forefront of the next battle over the courts -- the targeting of lower court judicial elections by special interest groups.
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05-06-2007
In the fall of 2004, a coalition of conservative groups spent $150,000 on a scurrilous campaign trying to persuade Missouri voters to vote against retaining Judge Richard B. Teitelman on the Missouri Supreme Court. The effort failed and Judge Teitelman was retained with 62.3 percent of the vote.
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04-14-2007
Railing about judges could rally the conservative base at the same time Missourians vote on the next governor’s race. But in its impact on the state, the proposed amendment would be destructive. Legal experts say its language could be interpreted to prevent state courts from ruling in disputes between taxing jurisdictions, and even in lawsuits brought by citizens challenging assessment rates.
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04-11-2007
Recently this administration has threatened that "unfounded nuisance lawsuits" are driving farmers out of business and that they must pass the so-called "Farm and Food Preservation Act" (SB 364). We are not told that this law will strip local governments of their authority to protect their communities from the unbridled expansion of corporate hog and poultry CAFOs which dump millions of gallons of untreated animal waste onto their neighbors’ land and homes.
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04-06-2007
The Missouri judiciary is under attack on all sides by partisan politicians who want to consolidate their power. It’s time that voters see through their ruse.
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03-12-2007
Railing about judges could rally the conservative base at the same time Missourians vote on the next governor’s race. But in its impact on the state, the proposed amendment would be destructive. Legal experts say its language could be interpreted to prevent state courts from ruling in disputes between taxing jurisdictions, and even in lawsuits brought by citizens challenging assessment rates.
[ Read More ]

02-25-2007
Forgive our snobbishness when it comes to messing with the Constitution. Both the federal and state constitutions establish three branches of government - executive, legislative and judicial. Every grade school student learns about this separation of powers designed to prevent abuses in governing.
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