In Missouri, where the debate over the best way to select judges has gotten heated (see Gavel Grab,) the president of the Missouri Bar has laid out a staunch defense of merit selection.
Skip Walther (photo at left) said Missouri’s nationally recognized merit system for choosing judges has worked effectively for 70 years and was adopted as a forceful response to the way Tom Pendergast, the “head of the corrupt political machine in Kansas City,” hand-picked judges in the 1930s. Walther’s commentary was published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Critics seek to scrap the stateâ€™sÂ judicial appointment system and replace it with competitive partisan elections. Walther thinks that doesn’t make sense:
“Elections are good in political contests. Politicians are supposed to bend to the will of the electorate. Judges are not. They are supposed to be above public opinion. They are supposed to make decisions based on the constitution and the law and the facts of the case, not on how much money the litigants contributed to their campaigns or how popular a decision might be.”
Walter also had a few sharp words for those behind the election-system initiative:
“The only people pushing for a change are those who are angry that they cannot control our judges, and they want control. They could care less about smarts or professionalism or fairness or justice; they want judges who will do what they say.
“Just like Pendergast.”