Randles backs end to current judicial selection process

Bill Randles (Campaign photo)

— A former attorney, Bill Randles has some problems with the way Missouri currently selects judges for some of its highest courts.

“We need change how we select our judges. I’m in favor of open elections,” Randles said, after a meeting with conservative activists in Carthage, Mo.

Randles, R-Kansas City, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is running for the Republican nomination to take on Gov. Jay Nixon next year. He believes the current judicial selection process is too absent of influence from the general public.

Under the ‘Missouri Plan’ for judicial selection, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court and Circuit Courts in Kansas City and St. Louis are selected by the governor from a panel of three candidates submitted by a panel made of three attorneys, three appointees by the governor, and the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. After two years, whomever the governor selects is placed on the ballot for retention.

Opponents argue the system is to closed to public input, and too connected to interests of lawyers.

“It becomes a closed system in a closed club, and the result is they become unaccountable,” Randles said. “Democracy works in the open for everything else, why do we think it won’t work for judges?”

Recently, largely under pressure from conservative groups over the past several years pushing for changes to the plan, the Missouri Supreme Court has taken steps to open the process. In the latest selection process, the applicants’ surveys and background information was posted publicly and they faced public interviews.

Of course, significant changes to the Misssouri’s 50 year old plan, which has been applied or adapted by dozens of states, would require changes to the state’s constitution. Recent attempts to change the plan in 2004, and again in 2008, failed in the General Assembly.

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perry, who is running for Lt. Governor next year, has also expressed interest in changing the plan, but major changes are unlikely heading into an election year.

Barring major constitutional changes, Randles thinks the process of retention elections needs to at least be changed.

“Right now, everybody votes blind. I practiced law 20 years, I voted blind on most judicial retention votes,” he said. “A blind vote is not democracy.”

Randles, who is sure to face even stronger establishment opposition to his candidacy when Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder officially launches his gubernatorial campaign next month, is additionally supporting significant changes to Missouri’s tort law.

Randles and Kinder both called for changes to “loser pays” lawsuits in Missouri, like Texas has, to change the legal environment for Show-Me State businesses.

Kinder, in the past [http://bit.ly/tUY34c], has said he generally supports the ‘Missouri Plan,’ but, like Randles, is concerned about whether attorneys have too much pull on the system

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