Judging the Judges; Our View; Missouri Plan Offers Voters Guidance, If They Use It; OPINION

Article excerpt

One of the best things about Missouri's judicial system is the Non-Partisan Court Plan, known more commonly as the Missouri Plan.

The plan is the state's constitutional system for selecting appellate judges and trial judges in the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City, Clay County, Platte County and Greene County. It was voted into operation in 1940, is relatively transparent, and reduces political interference.

It also gives voters the final say about retention of judges whose appointments are based mostly on merit. If all works as it should, the plan is a gift to Missourians. The only caveat is that voters must use it in order for the plan to work the way it should.

The Missouri Bar's recommendation on Wednesday that voters remove St. Louis County Judge Dale W. Hood is a case in point. This is the second time the bar has evaluated Judge Hood and determined that he is not worthy of retention.

The judge was appointed to the bench in 2005 and was among 51 judges who were evaluated by the bar for the state's Nov. 6 ballot. He was the only judge who received a negative report, and was also the only judge who got a negative ranking from the bar the first time he was up for retention in 2008.

Voters kept him anyway.

They also kept St. Louis County Associate Circuit Judge Judy P. Draper, who was not recommended for retention in 2010 by the bar's Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee. Judges Hood and Draper are the only judges who have not been recommended for retention since the bar put into place in 2008 the evaluation process it currently uses.

Voters have banished only two judges, both of them from the Kansas City area, since the Missouri Plan was implemented. …