Mulling over the Missouri Plan A Review of State Judicial Selection and Retention Systems

Missouri Law Review 2009 Symposium

February 27, 2009
Hulston Hall



Brochure (PDF)

Keynote Speaker: Sandra Day O’Connor, Retired Justice, Supreme Court of the United States

Increasingly politicians, academics, and attorneys passionately debate the systems of selecting and retaining state judges. The Missouri Plan was originally conceived and adopted by many states to eliminate, or at least reduce, the role of politics in judicial selection and decision-making. Yet, the recent debate has been almost entirely political and has led to new special interest groups, expensive media campaigns, and legislation promising reform.

The intention of “The Missouri Plan,” also known as a “merit selection plan,” is to provide for the selection of judges based on merit, rather than on political affiliation. Under the plan as applied in Missouri, a nonpartisan judicial commission made up of attorneys appointed by the bar, lay citizens appointed by the governor, and the Missouri Chief Justice, nominate a pool of judges from which the governor selects. Since its inception, the Missouri Plan has served as a national model for the selection of judges and has been adopted in various forms in more than 30 other states. As such, the debate over whether to preserve, repeal, or reform the Missouri Plan in its mother state will have national implications.

Bringing together some of the nation’s most prominent scholars, federal and state judges, lawyers, and students alike, the 2009 Missouri Law Review Symposium, Mulling over the Missouri Plan: A Review of State Judicial Selection and Retention Systems, seeks to infuse an academic perspective into an already heated debate.

Recent developments have raised a number of questions to be addressed by the symposium participants: What are the effects of special interest influence on the selection and election of judges and judicial decision-making in the pursuit of the balance between independence and accountability? How well do retention votes work to balance judicial independence with the will of the public in a merit-selection system? What are the arguments for reforming the Missouri Plan? Who are the constituencies urging reform or preservation? What is the best way to preserve fair and impartial state courts?