In general, the more “respectable” of Missouri’s Republican federal congressional delegation – which, if respectable is understood loosely, consists of Senator Roy Blunt and Rep. Ann Wagner (2nd Dist.) and maybe, just maybe, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (3rd Dist.) on a good day – have been cautious about showing too much enthusiasm for their party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Blunt only “supported” the party nominee long before he endorsed Trump specifically, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Wagner as saying “that Trump had not earned her support because of “slurs and attacks.”
Since then, of course, The Donald has been vigorously on the attack, promiscuously slinging slurs, most notably at judges whose ethnicity or religion is other than white Christian of European origin. In an earlier interview Wagner went on to say that she was encouraged by Trump’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees should he win, although she would still “wait and see” before endorsing Trump.
I suppose Trump’s attack on a judge – whose impartiality he has wisely declined to challenge in court – hasn’t shown her enough yet because she still seems to be waiting. She characterizes the public indignation about the racism and abysmal ignorance of judicial procedure manifested by Trump’s personal attacks on Judge Curial as a “focus on personal disputes and grabby headlines, rather than the day-to-day concerns of Missourians and all Americans… .”
Doesn’t seem to occur to Wagner that Americans might be concerned by a potential racist president who believes that judges who don’t offer rich and famous folks like himself due deference must be biased. Nor does it concern her that a person like Trump could be in charge of selecting qualified judges – at least as long as his selections confirm her ideological biases.
Blunt seems to be caught in the same loop when it comes to judges:
“It’s wrong to be concerned about the heritage or ethnicity of a judge, and I do not think he should have said that,” said Blunt, R-Mo., who has previously said he will support his party’s nominee in November. “What I am concerned about with respect to judges is who appoints them and who confirms them.”
Yeah! That’s what we want. A dim-witted racist with no understanding of the judiciary to select powerful judges.
GOPers like Blunt and Wagner give the impression they’d prefer Godzilla to Hillary Clinton as long as Godzilla’s Supreme Court appointees were properly retrograde and, most importantly, properly deferent to the druthers of their corporate and financial industry patrons.
It’s hard to believe that American democracy has declined to the point that, for folks like Blunt and Wagner, the ideological biases of the person who selects judges is more important than his competence and fairness. It’s the same shameful dereliction of duty that has so far denied the superbly qualified Merrick Garland a seat on the Supreme Court because he was nominated by a black Democratic President who had the temerity to win two hotly-contested elections.
Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts, a group which supports the current status of the “Missouri Court Plan”, a non-partisan procedure for selecting judges in Missouri, has issued an analysis of the signatures collected by the opponents of the court plan, “ShowMe Better Courts”:
Analysis predicts ShowMe Better Courts failed to collect sufficient signatures in at least six of nine Congressional districts
Jefferson City, MO – Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Action Fund today announced that according to an analysis of signatures submitted to the Secretary of State by ShowMe Better Courts, a group proposing a constitutional amendment to dismantle Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court plan, it appears that insufficient signatures were collected to qualify the amendment and send it to the voters. The review predicts that ShowMe Better Courts fell short of the signature requirement in at least six of nine Congressional Districts.
“Missourians were presented a clear choice between preserving Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, a model for the nation, or scrapping it in favor of judicial campaigns full of partisanship, politics and negative campaigning. It appears that Missourians have rejected this proposal to inject politics and partisanship into Missouri’s courtrooms by refusing to even provide sufficient signatures to put this bad idea on the ballot,” said Ken Morley, an advisor to Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Action Fund.
In order to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for the ballot, proponents must submit signatures equaling 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in at least six of the nine Congressional Districts in Missouri. The review revealed that despite spending more than $1.5 million on signature collection efforts, ShowMe Better Courts failed to collect sufficient signatures in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Congressional Districts. An analysis of signatures can be found at http://mofaircourts.com/analys… A copy of all signatures submitted by ShowMe Better Courts was obtained from the Secretary of State’s office through a Sunshine request, and is also available for review at http://mofaircourts.com/petiti…
Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Action Fund mounted an unprecedented voter education campaign to warn Missourians about this dangerous proposal, including grassroots education activities, online communications, and educational radio advertising.
“Amendment proponents spent an unprecedented amount on signature collection. To fail to collect sufficient signatures after spending over $1.5 million demonstrates clearly that once Missourians understood the risks presented by this proposal to dismantle Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, they rejected it out of hand,” said Morley.
Despite claims by ShowMe Better Courts that approximately 250,000 signatures were submitted, a full count of all petitions reveals that less than 200,000 signatures were actually submitted to the Secretary of State.
In two words, epic fail. One point five million dollars. Savor that for a moment.
The irony impaired opponent of the Missouri Court Plan, Better Courts for Missouri, doesn’t disclose on their web site who has been funding their opposition to the current appellate judicial selection plan in Missouri. They have been paying for robocalls to get people to pressure the Missouri Senate to change the judicial selection process that has been in effect since 1940. This phone call arrived yesterday:
It’s political manipulation of the Missouri court system. Hand picking judges behind closed doors in almost absolute secrecy. Big city trial lawyers who contribute millions of dollars to politicians are trying to buy power and hand pick our judges. It’s time to stop the trial lawyers’ back room deals. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX and tell your senators to support selecting our judges out in the open, not behind closed doors. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX today. Paid for by Better Courts for Missouri.
Irony of ironies. They criticize alleged non-transparency while being non-transparent.
They would rather pressure the judicial selection process by ginning up astroturf (fake grassroots) opposition to candidates under consideration by the commission. If you like the current way we select United States Supreme Court justices, you’ll love their hopes for the process in Missouri.
COMMITTEE OF ORIGIN: Special Committee on General Laws
Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment increases from three to four the number of judicial candidates nominated by the Nonpartisan Judicial Commission for a vacancy in the office of judge of specified courts from which the Governor may make an appointment. The Governor may veto the first list of candidates provided by the commission within 60 days. If the
panel of judicial candidates is vetoed, the commission must submit a second list of nominees. The Governor must choose a candidate from the second list within 45 days or the commission is authorized to appoint one of the nominees from the second list.
The substitute changes the composition of nonpartisan judicial commissions. There will be eight members of the Appellate Judicial Commission chosen as follows:
(1) A justice of the Missouri Supreme Court and three members of the Missouri Bar, each a resident from a different court of appeals district, selected by the members of the Missouri Bar;
(2) Three citizens who are not members of the bar and are each a resident from a different court of appeals district, appointed by the Governor; and
(3) One citizen, from anywhere in the state, appointed by the Governor.
Each circuit judicial commission will consist of six members to be composed of the chief judge of the requisite district, two attorney members elected by the Missouri Bar members residing in the judicial circuit and three citizens residing in the judicial circuit and appointed by the Governor. The terms of all members, two of who must not be Missouri Bar members, of the judicial commissions will be four years. Each appointment to the Appellate Judicial Commission and circuit judicial commissions is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate within 30 legislative days of the appointment by the Governor.
The new citizen member of either the appellate or a circuit judicial commission may be chosen by the Governor on or after January 15, 2013. The term of all current judicial commissioners will expire upon the effective date of the substitute, and commissioners will be replaced according to the previously described process.
The judicial selection process must favor openness and public access. All hearings, debates, and votes of the commissions must be open to the public and to the press with no less than 72 hours public notice given before each meeting. The list of applicants for any judicial vacancy must be open to the public with their names posted on the web site of the Missouri Supreme Court and all information available to the respective commissions on the judicial candidates must be made available to the Governor. Every applicant nominated will be subject to a background check, including a criminal check, which will not be a public record, but available only to the commission and the Governor.
The substitute transfers the responsibility for the approval of expenses incurred in the administration of the judicial selection plan from the Missouri Supreme Court to the Commissioner of the Office of Administration.
FISCAL NOTE: No impact on state funds in FY 2010, FY 2011, and FY 2012.
…Senator Lembke moved that HCS for HJR 10, with SS (pending), be called from the Informal Calendar and again taken up for 3rd reading and final passage, which motion prevailed.
SS for HCS for HJR 10 was again taken up.
Senator Stouffer assumed the Chair.
Senator Lager offered SA 1, which was read:
SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1
Amend Senate Substitute for House Committee Substitute for House Joint Resolution No. 10, Page 3, Section 25 (d), Line 13, by striking the word “seven” and inserting in lieu thereof the following: “eight”; and further amend line 20 by striking all of said line and inserting in lieu thereof the following: “additional two citizens, not members of the bar, nor the spouses of a”.
Senator Lager moved that the above amendment be adopted, which motion prevailed on a standing division vote.
At the request of Senator Lembke, HCS for HJR 10, with SS, as amended (pending), was placed on the Informal Calendar…
[emphasis in original]
There are only a few days left in the session. It’ll be very interesting to see where this one goes. Here’s hoping we don’t get something that operates like the current federal system.
How about a measure that would keep the Governor from closing meetings during which he interviews candidates for, say, Director of the Department of Agriculture? Or maybe a review panel made up of public citizens who are present whenever the Governor assigns the Highway Patrol to take any action, just to be sure that our law enforcement officers aren’t being used for partisan politics? You’ll be as shocked (I’m sure) as I am to learn that no Republicans –even the most vehement advocates for “openness” in judicial selection– have proposed any such measures.
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.