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This November, Greene County voters will decide how circuit court judges will be chosen in the future. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
Right now, circuit judges in Greene County run in partisan races for a seat on the bench. They raise money just like any other political candidate. A group of Greene County business and community leaders has gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would change the system. The new system would create a commission to sort through applicants when there's a judicial vacancy. The commission would consist of two lawyers, two citizens appointed by the governor and the chief judge of the Southern District Court of Appeals. The commission would send the governor the names of 3 finalists and the governor would choose from among those finalists who would serve on the circuit court. Former state Supreme Court Judge John Holstein says it's modeled after the process for choosing judges to serve on the state's high court. Even though he says there haven't been any conflicts of interests with judges and campaign contributors in Greene County, he says it's time to remove money from the system.
But there's a lot of controversy surrounding the state's judicial selection system. It's come under attack in recent years from groups that say the commission that chooses the finalists is dominated by trial attorneys. John Elliott, the president of the Adam Smith Foundation, a group that opposes a merit-based judicial selection system says the proposal to change Greene County's judicial selection process will not make the courts better. He says QUOTE-It is merely an attempt by liberal trial attorneys to take control of Greene County courts and tip them in their favor-END QUOTE. Greene County voters will decide this November whether to change the system for choosing circuit judges.