It’s become quite clear that one of the republican wedge issues for the 2008 election in Missouri will be an assault on an independent judiciary spun as a crises concerning “activist judges”.
Governor Matt “baby” Blunt, through his office, and the fringe political right in Missouri have recently made it clear that they are very unhappy with the ideology of the three finalists for the recent Missouri Supreme Court vacancy.
It has widely been reported in the media over a period of years that Missouri’s non-partisan court plan has served as a model for a number of other states.
The Missouri judiciary has placed the astonishing correspondence between the governor’s office and the Appellate Judicial Commission (which selected and forwarded the the finalists for the Supreme Court vacancy to the governor) on its website.
In a letter dated July 26, 2007 which was addressed to Chief Justice Laura Stith the Governor’s Chief Counsel, Henry Herschel, made a request for all of the information the Appellate Judicial Commission had on all of the applicants for the vacancy.
On that same date a letter of reply was addressed to Herschel by the Secretary of the commission, Richard McLeod. In this letter McLeod reviews the commission’s processes and states, “Supreme Court Rule 10 governs the commission. Rules 10.28 and 10.29 provide that no publicity shall be given names of persons under consideration and that all matters discussed at any meeting of the commission shall be kept confidential. The commission has furnished the governor with the complete application of the three nominees, which is all the information that it is able to provide.”
In a July 30, 2007 letter addressed to Chief Justice Stith from Ed Martin the governor’s chief of staff wields a highly partisan bat:
…please respond to this office regarding the appellate commission and its work. The fact is that you are chair of the Appellate Commission for a reason. The other members serve certain roles: some elected by the Bar and others appointed by a governor. It seems to me that you as chaor stand apart from these two selection methods. For you to hand off the leadership and voice of the Appellate Commission invites unnecessary politicization. (E.g. “Why is the Holden appointee speaking for the entire commission?” Or “why should an elected bar member from one part of the state speak for the Appellate Commission?”). The recent letter from our general counsel to you was passed along to one of the lay appointees of Governor Holden for response. This is inappropriate.
“Unnecessary politicization?” It’s really true, “baby” Blunt and his staff are severly irony challenged.
On July 31, 2007 Chief Justice Stith replied to Ed Martin:
I can only interpret your rather extraordinary letter of yesterday, addressed as it was to me rather than the Commission, as a desire to give me personal advice as to how you think the Commission should function….
….as I have emphasized to you and others in the past, the Appelate Judicial Commission exists seperate and apart from the Supreme Court of Missouri, and it is to the Commission that requests, should any be necessary or appropriate, should be directed. In this regard, allow me to correct a further misunderstanding evident from your letter. Mr McLeod is a lawyer-member of the Commission, elected by the members of the Missouri bar in the Western District of Missouri to a six-year term. The Commission selected Mr. Mcleod to serve as its Secretary. As is appropriate to that role, Mr. McLeod will continue to respond on behalf of the Commission to requests to it for information or documents.
Go. Read all of the letters. Matt “baby” Blunt and his administration really are the gang that can’t think straight. What an embarassment to the state and people of Missouri.