Take a look at this statement from Better Courts for Missouri's James Harris about today's announcement that a constitutional amendment scrapping the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan was approved for circulation:
to have lobbyists from the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys block
the effort. It is a fact that MATA, its board of governors, and its
executive officers contributed over $3.1 million to politicians in the last
election cycle, 86% of which went to Democrats who by and large opposed
judicial selection reform. MATA clearly wants to retain power over the
current process – if this isn’t a pay to play scheme, I don’t know
what is,” said James Harris. He continued, “When a fringe legal group
like MATA spends more than $3.1 million to oppose reform, they clearly have
an overwhelming financial interest in maintaining the advantage they have
under the current process. That should alarm all Missourians.
Missouri’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in Klotz v.
St. Anthony’s, a challenge to our state’s tort reform laws – just
another example of why reforms are needed more than ever.”
The most notable thing about this quote is about what it doesn't mention. And that's any negative criticism of Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
Why is that important? Because groups pushing hot-button ballot items have in recent years sued Carnahan after getting a ballot summary that deemed to be unfavorable. That process usually drains time - and money - away from getting ballot signatures. Moreover, there's generally a difficult legal standard to overcome to reverse a ballot summary.
In this case, it may be that those who want to scrap the current court plan may avoid that legal fight. In a telephone interview, Harris - who is a prominent Republican political consultant - said his group was "pleased" with the ballot summary language.
"We're pleased with the ballot wording and the secretary of state's office," Harris said.
Harris did say that he would not be surprised if proponents of the current Missouri Plan filed a lawsuit over the ballot summary language. He said that signatures could still be gathered for the proposed amendment, but they would be worthless if a judge decides to alter any wording.
If Harris' group gathers enough signatures and the constitutional amendment is approved for the ballot, expect a titanic fight next fall. Legal groups such as the Missouri Bar Association are adamantly opposed to altering the current plan that selects some of the state's judges. But those who want to replace it with a model that looks more like the federal system could also be well-funded and well-organized.