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House committee OKs court-plan changes

A Missouri House committee has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would alter the Nonpartisan Court Plan.

The vote today by the House Special Standing Committee on General Laws sends the proposal to a rules committee, which will decide if it should be debated by the full House. To become law, the amendment would have to pass both chambers of the General Assembly and then be approved through a statewide referendum.

The proposal, by Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, would make a number of changes to the court plan:

  • The chief justice of the state Supreme Court would be removed from the commission and replaced with a nonlawyer member appointed by the governor;
  • Terms for members of the commission, which are currently staggered, would be concurrent;
  • Commission members would have to be approved by the Missouri Senate;
  • The commission’s panels of nominees would be increased from three members to five;
  • If the governor refuses to name a judge from the first panel, the commission would then be prompted to present another panel. And if the governor refuses to make a selection, the lieutenant governor would get a chance to select a judge from the panel. The commission would make the selection if the lieutenant governor doesn’t make a pick; and
  • All applicants for judgeships would be made public. Currently, only the names of the final panelists are released.