The Missouri Plan, otherwise known as Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan, has become a model for the nation. Proposed and adopted by Missouri voters in 1940, it continues to be right for the people of Missouri because it attracts high-quality judges in the least political way and ultimately gives the people the final say.
In the City of St. Louis, and in St. Louis, Jackson, Clay, Platte and Greene Counties, judges apply for their positions on the bench and are selected on the basis of merit. This process is transparent to the public and accountable to the people.
In this judicial process laid out in the state’s constitution, judges who serve under this plan have been nominated by a judicial commission and then selected by the governor. After their first 12 months in office, non-partisan appointed judges must go before the voters in a retention election. Voters are asked whether each of these judges should be retained. To be retained, each judge must receive a majority vote. If a judge does not receive a majority of votes, his or her judicial office will become vacant at the end of its present term. The judicial commission will then nominate three candidates for the position and the governor will appoint one to fill the vacancy. The terms for appellate court judges are 12 years. Among trial judges, circuit judges serve six-year terms, while associate circuit judges serve four-year terms.