Nonpartisan selection means you don't get to choose

By The Madison County Record | May 9, 2010

"Now, don't worry your pretty little head about it, darling. I'll do the voting for both of us."

There was a time when men actually said things like that. But those times have passed. Or have they?

Women have the vote now, but women and men only can vote for elective positions. What about public positions that are appointive? Somebody has to choose who fills those positions, but it isn't us.

Appointive selection just means that somebody special gets to choose – somebody who may think the rest of us aren't smart enough to make the right decision, somebody who doesn't want us to worry our pretty little heads about it.

Condescension might be fun for the condescenders, but it doesn't have a whole lot of appeal for those condescended to. It makes us wonder what's so special about an elite group that makes the decisions, and why there is an elite group in the first place.

James Harris and many other Missourians question their state's so-called Nonpartisan Court Plan. Harris is the director of Show Me Better Courts, a group currently sponsoring a petition to have Missouri's appellate and supreme court justices elected instead of appointed.

"Wealthy and well-connected lawyers, particularly those who are members of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, are allowed carte-blanche access to the selection process while ordinary citizens are shut out," says Harris. "These lawyers get to have a tremendous influence on who is nominated for openings on our highest courts, but they do not make their selections based on intellectual capability or judicial integrity. Instead, nominees are chosen based on political friendships, as well as ideological and financial considerations."

Skip Walther likes that system. "The only people pushing for a change," he says, "are those who are angry that they cannot control our judges." Why is Walther so smug? As president of the Missouri Bar Association, he already has control.

This should be instructive to voters in Illinois, where the democratic process is used to fill our judiciary. Voters elect the judges. Democracy can be messy and uncomfortable, but consider the alternative which is entrusting one-third of our government to insiders like Skip Walther who would be big in the choosing. And remember that our last two governors-- one in jail and another awaiting trial-- would have been part of any "non-partisan selection process."

Skip's glad to take the job off our hands. That's if we're naive enough to give it to him.

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