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Letter to the Editor: WSJ wrong on Missouri Plan

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Your reprint of The Wall Street Journal's editorial "Missouri compromised" compels me to write.

The Journal is simply wrong on facts and on practical effect. The Journal states that Missourians are unhappy with the selection of judges based on merit, a system often called the Missouri Plan. This is untrue.

In 2008, the citizens of Greene County voted to join the Missouri Plan of merit selection, overturning election of judges. Last year, a $1.6 million campaign, primarily funded by a few wealthy individuals, tried to convince Missouri citizens to change the Missouri Plan to direct election of judges. This attempt failed to even get enough signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.

The Journal's editorial position also encourages a disturbing trend in the United States, seen most recently in Wisconsin and Iowa. It is the notion that judges are just another kind of legislature and should be beholden to special interests and donors. It is a notion that judges should make the law, rather than simply apply the law. And worse, it is a notion that if you change the judge, you will change the law. This is not what our judges are or should be.

The merit selection of judges works to keep judges impartial. The Journal, instead of encouraging people to believe that a change of judges will change the law, should be lobbying to keep judges impartial and separate from the political fundraising and the biases of party politics.

JOHN S. JOHNSTON, president,

The Missouri Bar, Kansas City, Mo.