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UPDATE:House OKs effort to change court plan

By the narrowest of margins, the Missouri House on Tuesday afternoon gave first-round approval to a proposed amendment to change how the state selects its appellate judges.

The measure was adopted by an 82-72 vote – the minimum positive votes needed to proceed. The resolution needs another vote still to move to the Senate.

EARLIER VERSION

The Missouri House this afternoon is debating a proposed amendment that would change how the state selects its appellate judges.

“All we ask is that the citizens have some involvement. Right now they’re an afterthought,” said sponsoring Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.

A similar proposal last year was killed on the House floor. This year’s proposal would make the process more open, increase the governor’s influence – including letting him reject the panel — and expand the list of finalists recommended for judicial vacancies. It also would alter the makeup of the panel that considers judicial applicants, giving it equal numbers of lawyers and nonlawyers.

A Senate version to change the court plan has won committee approval and awaits debate before the full chamber.

If the same language wins approval by both the House and Senate before the session ends in mid-May, it would go on the ballot for voters to consider. It’s likely the election would take place in November 2010.