Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Don't miss
Home / MO Lawyers Blog / Court Plan reform debate begins in Senate

Court Plan reform debate begins in Senate

The Missouri Senate began debate Wednesday on substantial changes to the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, the first time such alterations have been debated in the Missouri General Assembly’s upper chamber.

“I won’t call it the Nonpartisan Court Plan, because it’s not nonpartisan, it’s very partisan. It’s very political,” said the bill’s Senate handler, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay. “And I will not call it the merit court plan, because I not yet been sure that those with the greatest merit are put forth in this latest plan.”

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, the bill's Senate handler.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, the bill's Senate handler.

Rep. Stanley Cox’s amendment would provide the governor with another appointee on the Appellate Judicial Commission, make the terms of these gubernatorial appointments concurrent instead of staggered and post the names of applicants to judicial applicants online.

But a new draft of the amendment makes a number of changes to Cox’s resolution. They include:

  • Providing the governor with five nominees to select. Cox’s resolution provided the governor with a four-person panel.
  • Allowing the governor to reject the panel and receive a completely new list of nominees to choose.
  • Taking the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court off of the Appellate Judicial Commission. Cox’s resolution kept the chief justice on the commission.
  • Banning a member of the Missouri Bar or a spouse of a Bar member from serving as a lay member of either the Appellate Judicial Commission or a circuit judicial commission.

Wednesday’s debate on the Missouri Senate floor represents a new milestone for foes of the current construction of the court plan. But the resolution faces a tough road to get to final passage.

Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, noted earlier this year that all 11 members of his caucus were opposed to changing elements of the plan. And a number of Republicans – including Sens. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and David Pearce, R-Warrensburg – have opposed making major alterations to the plan.

The resolution is expected to be debated throughout the day.