The Missouri Plan in National Perspective
25 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 3, 2009
We should distinguish the process that initially selects a judge from the process that determines whether to retain that judge on the court. Judicial selection and judicial retention raise different issues. In this paper, I primarily focus on selection. I summarize the fifty states’ methods of supreme court selection and place them on a continuum from the most populist to the most elitist. Doing so reveals that the Missouri Plan is the most elitist (and least democratic) of the three common methods of selecting judges in the United States. After highlighting this troubling characteristic of the Missouri Plan’s process of selecting judges, I turn briefly to the retention of judges and caution against the dangers posed by subjecting sitting judges to elections, including the retention elections of the Missouri Plan. I conclude with support for a system that, in initially selecting judges, avoids the undemocratic elitism of the Missouri Plan and, in retaining judges, avoids the dangers (populist and otherwise) of judicial elections.
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