Where do judges come from?

Paul Jacob on Townhall.com on “merit selection” of judges in Missouri.

So, just who makes up the Appellate Judicial Commission? How are they chosen?

Good questions. The commission is made up of three members elected by the Missouri Bar Association and three members selected by the governor — each serving six-year terms. The seventh member? The sitting chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Is it a good idea to have our most powerful judges determined largely by a private organization? Shouldn’t we at least alternate the private group doing the choosing? One year it could be the state bar, another year Wal-Mart stockholders in the state, another year the Rolla Bowling League. In leap years, a statewide group of local bar owners might do the selecting.

And why have the governor appoint people to a commission which appoints people for the governor to appoint? A tad circuitous, no? And why have someone on the current court deciding who sits on the future court?

You can see what this seems like: an insider game, a stacked deck. …

The assumption (common amongst supporters of the Missouri Plan) that the Bar Association is a public service group with a disinterested agenda, unaffected by biases, and exempt from corrupting influences, is hard to maintain with a straight face. Lawyers present a faction. They have an interest in keeping the law complicated, and expanding state involvement so to require suit and countersuit and consultation and a hundred other ways to put numbers into a billable hours column. It is far more reasonable to argue that the Bar is the last group one wants in charge of a judicial selection process, rather than the primary group. It is a guild, and its interests can be as antagonistic to the public interest as any group’s can possibly be.

Sidenote: Paul Jacob is facing up to ten years in prison for the heinous crime of Circulating Petitions. No exaggeration – see Wall Street Journal story here.