On the one hand, the Missouri Court Plan limits the governor’s powers by letting him choose only between three candidates. On the other hand, it allows him to influence a commission to select a preferred candidate in favor of a local political party.


The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, better known as the Missouri Plan, is a way to choose judges. Initially originating in Missouri, it was later spread throughout the other States of America. According to this plan, a commission is nominated to study the information about candidates. Later it lists the best ones and sends their data to authority, for example, to the governor. Then, within sixty days period, the governor selects one judge from the list given and appoints a trial period for this person. After a one-year-long period of practice, the chosen judge should go through an election process. In case a majority is for retaining the judge, he or she keeps working; otherwise, the process of selecting a judge starts anew.

Though the Missouri Plan of judicial selection claims to attract highly qualified professionals, who are chosen according to their merits, it is still criticized because of its possible effects on the governor’s powers. The first reason is that a judge can easily be corrupted. He or she can act in favor of a specific political party or follow the agenda of some interest groups, neglecting the trust of the public. As a result, there is an assumption that it is more beneficial for a commission to select a judge with the same ideological viewpoints.

Another widely discussed issue upon the Missouri Court Plan states that lawyers’ control over the process of selection of a judge is too significant. Lawyers, who have their interests, should take part in a judge’s selection procedure but not dominate it. Because a judge is chosen by such a minority group as lawyers, this process is supposed to be democratically illegitimate.

The Missouri Plan is widely discussed because of the assumption that it limits the governor’s power in some ways. Firstly, as it is a commission that is responsible for selecting candidates, the governor’s participation is narrowed, as he may only choose between the three candidates presented by the commission. When it comes to an election, which is claimed to be a public process, the public itself is also restricted, being able to evaluate only the judge’s professionalism.

Although the governor’s power seems limited, it is apparent in the actions of the governor’s lay appointees, who perceive certain authority. These people, in comparison to the members of the commission, are not randomly selected. They either once supported the election of the governor, or took active participation in local political party’s affairs. In other words, having the same interests as the governor does, they represent his or other local party members’ preferences. Moreover, the governor himself may tell the commission about a preferred candidate to be included in the list, further selecting this particular person. As a result, the system initially stated as being nonpartisan loses its main purpose.

To conclude, the governor has implicit powers to influence the choice of a judge, making the Missouri Plan for judicial selection to some extent bound to be partisan and following the politics of certain interest groups. Additionally, the Plan becomes a significant tool to influence the process of selection. It is most likely that in states with highly competitive parties, partisanship might appear in the recruitment of judges.