Branstad Should Follow Brownback’s Lead

by Gary Marx

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Kansas House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would abolish the state’s Missouri Plan for selecting court of appeals judges. In short, the new plan would essentially mirror the federal model of selection by eliminating the state’s “merit deception” commission and requiring state-senate confirmation of judicial nominees. Several conservative judicial-selection scholars testified in support of the bill, including Steve Ware and Brian Fitzpatrick. The most notable witness, however, was Gov. Sam Brownback’s legal counsel, Caleb Stegall, who provided excellent testimony on the governor’s behalf. (It is reproduced here.)

Several state legislatures are considering proposals that would amend or abolish the Missouri Plan in their states. Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, and Iowa are the most prominent, and in Iowa the reform effort is enjoying the spotlight created by three supreme-court vacancies that Governor Branstad will soon fill. I hope Governors Branstad, Nixon, and Haslam will follow Governor Brownback’s lead and call the Missouri Plan what it is: a deeply flawed system that cedes too much authority to “a small, select group of unaccountable specialists.”