The Missouri Plan
John Combest recently posted a couple of articles about Better Courts for Missouri’s attempt to change the Missouri Plan, the current method for choosing justices for the state courts. The Missouri Plan, in theory, is supposed to take the politics out of the process of judicial selection: A panel, mostly comprised of lawyers, submits three nominations to the governor, who selects from those three. After a year, the judge stands a “retention” election. Better Courts for Missouri argues that this process is too secretive and heavily favors trial lawyers.
Findings from the Show-Me Institute’s 2008 study of judicial selection have been misinterpreted by proponents of the Missouri Plan who have drawn broad conclusions about its positive effects on the economy based on the study’s relatively narrow, caveated data set. The authors of the study, economists Joshua Hall and Russell Sobel, stipulated that the criteria they used to determine the effects of judicial selection mechanisms on economic growth amounted to a limited methodology. They concluded that although it appeared variants of the Missouri Plan tended to correlate with better economic growth than states using partisan or nonpartisan elections, it might be possible to make minor improvements to the process, such as adding legislative oversight. Although Hall and Sobel’s data provided a useful glimpse at the effects of the Missouri Plan from one particular angle, other future studies analysing different sets of source material might arrive at somewhat different conclusions.
Hopefully, Better Courts for Missouri will take as many of these factors into account as possible as they work toward a solution that brings increased transparency to judicial selection in Missouri.