IF WE BEAT “RIGHT-TO-WORK” IN NOVEMBER, ARE WE SAFE?
Not on your life. The attack on your ability to collectively bargain is just one of a series of substantial efforts to take away your ability to provide for your family.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THOSE OTHER EFFORTS?
No one wants to go to court, but when they must, they expect a balanced table not tilted toward anyone. The imbalance is sought by changing the way our appellate judges are chosen, and the current rumor is that multi-millionaires Rex Sinquefield, the Humphrey’s and Herzog families have each pledged at least $2 million apiece to try to buy the Missouri judiciary and make them beholden to these super-donors. Do those names sound familiar?
These donors are the same people who brought you RTW, cutbacks to worker’s compensation coverage, and limitations to sue employers for harassment and discrimination. They sought and got legislation signed by Governor Greitens to make it easier for employers to take advantage of their employees and leave the employees with nothing.
HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?
Two initiative petitions have been filed with the Missouri Secretary of State to change the way we select judges in this state. If enough signatures are gathered and certified, the issue appears on a future ballot where registered voters will be heard.
The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan was adopted in 1940 by a vote of the people of this state who were fed up with the political machines controlling the selection of judges. Since that time it has been adopted by over 30 other states. The purpose is to keep any one group from having too much influence over the selection of our judges.
Under our current plan whenever there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals anyone qualified can apply to fill the position. A Commission interviews all of the candidates. That Commission then nominates three applicants that are believed to be the most qualified. The Governor then appoints one to fill the position. Thereafter the judge selected has his or her name on the ballot for the voters to determine if they should be retained in office.
These petitions would eliminate the current Nonpartisan Court Plan and replace it with direct elections of the members of the Missouri Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals. They would also impose term limits on our judges.
IS THIS COMMISSION A GOOD THING?
The makeup of the seven member Commission is designed to keep any one person or group from having too much power or control over the process. The members include the Chief Justice; three citizens, one from each court of appeals district that are appointed by the Governor, and three lawyers, one from each court of appeals district that are elected by the lawyers that practice in that area. The Chief Justice changes every two years. The other members are selected to staggered six year terms. This means that it is not until a Governor’s second term in office that he or she will have appointed all three of the citizen members. This system was created to focus on competence and qualifications of applicants and to dampen the effect of partisan politics.
We citizens vote on whether to retain the judge. He or she runs on their record, and various organizations such as the Missouri Bar Association publishes surveys from attorneys about the ability of these judges. Thus, voters can remove them, and so can the judges be disciplined and removed by a non-partisan commission.
SO WHY NOT HAVE CONTESTED ELECTIONS?
It’s all about money. You and the organizations which look out for your interests are under attack by the wealthiest of the wealthy. You and those pro-working family supporters have limited resources. Those multi-millionaires and billionaires have a seemingly endless supply of dollars to attack basic freedoms and protections. You cannot compete and expect to have an equal chance at justice for you or your family.
In states which have appellate contested elections, the sums spent are incredible. Some
- Ohio, the spending in the last election in campaigns for the Supreme Court was
nearly $9 million.
- Michigan it was almost $10 million.
- Illinois, the candidates spent almost $10 million, but special interest groups and political parties added another $5.5 million mostly in attack ads. In that one race for the Illinois Supreme Court the winning candidate said afterward, “How can people have faith in the system?”.
- Twelve years ago, in Wisconsin the candidates spent about $6 million. One business group individually spent over $2 million for one candidate and one labor group spent over $350,000 for the opponent.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $8 million in state Supreme Court judicial races in 2000, in 2002 they increased that spending to $40 million and in 2004 it was over $50 million in judicial races in the states.
- West Virginia; a coal mining company lost a jury verdict for $50 million in a lawsuit regarding a business dispute by a competitor. The CEO of the company gave over $3 million to one candidate for the Supreme Court. That judge cast the deciding vote overturning the jury verdict.
These are the amounts of money that are publicly disclosed. Over the past few election cycles we have seen huge amount of “dark money” funneled through nonprofit corporations to hide the true source of the donations. Of the over $70 million spent on state Supreme Court races in 2015-2016, over $27 million was untraceable dark money.
Surveys in state’s with elected judges show:
- 78% of the public believes that judges are improperly influenced by having to raise money for election.
- In Texas, where they have contested elections for judges, 79% of the lawyers who appear in front of the judges think that campaign contributions have a significant impact on judicial decisions and 48% of the judges who are receiving the contributions think they have a significant effect on their decisions.
- “Americans from all walks of life want a fair and impartial judicial system free from the corrupting influences of special interests” said war hero and Arizona Senator John McCain.
LET’S KEEP POLITICS OUT OF FINDING AND RETAINING GOOD JUDGES.
That means for starters, keep the millionaires and billionaires out of hand-picking judges based upon the size of their purse. The Missouri Plan serves to insulate our judges from the corrupting influences of all special interests. Judges are not supposed to represent interest groups they are supposed to answer to the rule of law. It is through that way you and your family can have faith in the judicial system that it will be fair and impartial.
The three families who are believed to be bankrolling the campaign to repeal the nonpartisan plan have donated over $50 million to candidates in the 2016 election cycle. This is just the amount that is publicly reported and does not include any dark money given through non-profit Super-Pacs. They don’t want to change to way we select judges because they are concerned about the fairness of the court system. They want judges that are beholden to them to keep their jobs.
Our system allows our judges to be thinking about who should win under the facts and the law, and not about the impact a decision will have on their next election?
John B. Boyd
BOYD, KENTER, THOMAS & PARRISH, LLC
221 West Lexington, Suite 200
Independence, MO 64050