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Improving judicial selection in Missouri

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A Missouri Senate committee is considering a bill to improve the way the state fills judicial vacancies.

Sen. Dan Hegeman has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 3 to give the state’s judicial selection commission the authority to send more than three judicial candidates to the governor.

The current process only allows the commission to send three candidates. This has led to concern that the commission has too much power and could essentially force a governor’s hand by sending three candidates they favor — regardless of the governor’s preferences.

Sen. Hegeman acknowledged there has been a “passionate debate” about the court plan in recent years. He said his joint resolution would be a reasonable update to the current selection process, which was passed in 1940.

“The law should not arbitrarily place a limit on those who can be sent forward for consideration,” Hegeman said. “If a candidate is qualified, they should not hear, ‘Well, we could only send three forward and you just missed the cut.’ In other words, I’d like to see all qualified candidates sent forward … I want to give the governor greater selection in the process so he can take some other things into consideration and not be limited to what I call this choke point of just three individuals being sent forward.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry testified in support of the legislation which now awaits action in the Senate Government Reform Committee.

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