What is the Missouri Plan?

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A view of the south side of the Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City [Zachary Reger]
Missouri’s most notable claim-to-fame in modern legal philosophy is often overlooked.

The state’s constitutionally guaranteed system of merit-based judicial selection — the “Missouri Plan,” as it’s often called — marked a seismic shift in the process of court appointment, one that swept the nation in a grand revision of how we populate many of our appellate and high courts.

By forgoing popular alternatives of direct election and nomination-confirmation of state judges, Missouri ushered in a new “nonpartisan” era of judicial selection.

After the Plan’s initial adoption in the mid-1900s, dozens of states followed, creating merit-based systems of their own. Newly democratic nations across Europe and South America drew inspiration from the Plan in writing their own constitutions, as did even a few established democracies during historic reformation votes.

And Missouri started it all.

What follows is a brief overview of the philosophy and origins of the Missouri Plan, a lightly edited excerpt taken from my undergraduate thesis work at the University of Missouri.

Continue reading “What is the Missouri Plan?”

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What’s the deal with the “Bazell” ruling?

A ruling issued by the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday has some claiming that, due to sloppy wording in a particular portion of the state’s criminal code, many stealing charges may no longer be considered felonies.

The issue arises from a specific legal definition of “stealing” that does not align with other areas of the criminal code, creating contradictory wording and thereby establishing the apparent loophole.

In State v. Bazell, a criminal case involving burglary and theft, the Missouri Supreme Court clarified the matter. It is not the Court’s place to override poorly conceived legislation, the judges asserted.

“If the words are clear, the Court must apply the plain meaning of the law,” read part of the Supreme Court’s opinion. “When the meaning of a statute is clear, the Court should not employ canons of construction to achieve a desired result.”

Read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the ruling here.