Looking Down Ballot – Judicial Retention Elections

While almost everyone in the State of Missouri knows how they will vote in the “big” elections, many of us get thrown off our game when we get “down ballot”. It’s easy to know who you’re voting for at the President and Governor level, but when you get down to some of the propositions and the judicial retention ballots, it’s easy to find yourself resorting to guesswork.

This year, Jackson Countians will face a list of judges and a decision on whether or not to retain each of them. The judges are as follows:

SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI
Patricia Breckenridge

16TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT (JACKSON COUNTY)
CIRCUIT JUDGES
Michael W. Manners
John R. O’Malley
Ann Mesle
Peggy Stevens McGraw
Kelly Moorhouse (Judge Moorhouse died earlier this week, but her name will be on the ballot. I’ll be casting my vote for retention as a tiny tribute to a fine woman and a great public servant.)
John M. Torrence
Robert M. Schieber
Brian C. Wimes

ASSOCIATE CIRCUIT JUDGES
Robert Beaird
Vernon E. Scoville, III
Robert L. Trout

Unless you’re a lawyer or a courthouse regular, you’ve probably never heard of most of these individuals. How should you vote?

Despite a wide variety in their backgrounds and experience levels, I encourage you strongly to vote in favor of each of these judges. The links on their names will direct you to the Missouri Bar’s Judicial Evaluation of each of them, and they are an impressive lot. If you live in Missouri outside of Jackson County, you will have a different list of judges to vote for, and you can get those judicial evaluations, as well, at the Missouri Bar judicial evaluation website.

Even if you’re going to simply take my advice and vote to retain each of the judges, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes and look at the evaluations. They will demonstrate to you just how well the Missouri Plan works.

The process is above traditional politics. By all rights under traditional politics, for example, I ought to be vigorously opposing Judge Breckenridge. She’s a Republican – and she got her initial appointment from John Ashcroft, and her Supreme Court appointment from Matt Blunt. Those are the sort of credentials that ought to have a “yellow dog democrat” like me demanding to have her driven from office.

But she’s a fine judge brought to us by a good process. People who know the law and the judges nominated her to be considered as one of three candidates for her position, based on her judicial temperament, legal ability and other factors aimed at picking great judges instead of great partisans. As a Missouri citizen, I sincerely do not care how Patricia Breckenridge the citizen votes when she casts her presidential ballot, but I care deeply that when she votes on cases in her job as Missouri Supreme Court judge, she does so on the facts and the law. As demonstrated by her outstanding scores in the evaluation process, a vast majority of Missouri lawyers, of all political persuasions, agree with me.

The same thing goes for all the other judges on this year’s Jackson County ballot.

If you don’t trust lawyers to evaluate the judges, though, I strongly encourage you to look at the juror evaluations. These are submitted by jurors (your peers) who have personally witnessed the judge in action. The scores are virtually unanimous that the judges listed have treated people equally and with dignity and were well prepared, etc.

I fully expect that each of the judges listed above will be retained by wide margins. Ironically, the opponents of the Missouri Plan will argue that those margins demonstrate that the voters aren’t smart enough to be trusted to retain only the good ones. They are all good ones. The system is working. Go look at the thorough information available to you, and you can vote with complete confidence.

The Missouri Plan has given you an excellent set of judges. Retain them, and support politicians from either party who promise to retain the Missouri Plan.

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