Friday, October 10, 2008

Looking Down Ballot - Judicial Retention Elections

While almost everyone in the State of Missouri knows how they will vote in the "big" elections, many of us get thrown off our game when we get "down ballot". It's easy to know who you're voting for at the President and Governor level, but when you get down to some of the propositions and the judicial retention ballots, it's easy to find yourself resorting to guesswork.

This year, Jackson Countians will face a list of judges and a decision on whether or not to retain each of them. The judges are as follows:

Patricia Breckenridge

Michael W. Manners
John R. O'Malley
Ann Mesle
Peggy Stevens McGraw
Kelly Moorhouse (Judge Moorhouse died earlier this week, but her name will be on the ballot. I'll be casting my vote for retention as a tiny tribute to a fine woman and a great public servant.)
John M. Torrence
Robert M. Schieber
Brian C. Wimes

Robert Beaird
Vernon E. Scoville, III
Robert L. Trout

Unless you're a lawyer or a courthouse regular, you've probably never heard of most of these individuals. How should you vote?

Despite a wide variety in their backgrounds and experience levels, I encourage you strongly to vote in favor of each of these judges. The links on their names will direct you to the Missouri Bar's Judicial Evaluation of each of them, and they are an impressive lot. If you live in Missouri outside of Jackson County, you will have a different list of judges to vote for, and you can get those judicial evaluations, as well, at the Missouri Bar judicial evaluation website.

Even if you're going to simply take my advice and vote to retain each of the judges, I'd encourage you to take a few minutes and look at the evaluations. They will demonstrate to you just how well the Missouri Plan works.

The process is above traditional politics. By all rights under traditional politics, for example, I ought to be vigorously opposing Judge Breckenridge. She's a Republican - and she got her initial appointment from John Ashcroft, and her Supreme Court appointment from Matt Blunt. Those are the sort of credentials that ought to have a "yellow dog democrat" like me demanding to have her driven from office.

But she's a fine judge brought to us by a good process. People who know the law and the judges nominated her to be considered as one of three candidates for her position, based on her judicial temperament, legal ability and other factors aimed at picking great judges instead of great partisans. As a Missouri citizen, I sincerely do not care how Patricia Breckenridge the citizen votes when she casts her presidential ballot, but I care deeply that when she votes on cases in her job as Missouri Supreme Court judge, she does so on the facts and the law. As demonstrated by her outstanding scores in the evaluation process, a vast majority of Missouri lawyers, of all political persuasions, agree with me.

The same thing goes for all the other judges on this year's Jackson County ballot.

If you don't trust lawyers to evaluate the judges, though, I strongly encourage you to look at the juror evaluations. These are submitted by jurors (your peers) who have personally witnessed the judge in action. The scores are virtually unanimous that the judges listed have treated people equally and with dignity and were well prepared, etc.

I fully expect that each of the judges listed above will be retained by wide margins. Ironically, the opponents of the Missouri Plan will argue that those margins demonstrate that the voters aren't smart enough to be trusted to retain only the good ones. They are all good ones. The system is working. Go look at the thorough information available to you, and you can vote with complete confidence.

The Missouri Plan has given you an excellent set of judges. Retain them, and support politicians from either party who promise to retain the Missouri Plan.

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Anonymous J. S. McCain said...

This shilling is not going to let you retain your seat on the CCP executive committee. You are too erratic for that kind of appointment.

10/10/2008 8:10 PM  
Blogger craig said...

Have to disagree with your support of Robert M. Schieber. He is the judge that took part in the gross miscarraige of justice that allowed a former Deputy Sheriff to walk with probation for molesting a 15 year old girl.
For that, and that alone, he should no be retained.

10/10/2008 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Heidi said...

Can I make a tangential election plea? As someone who worked at a poll in August, I observed that you will get "down ballot" so much faster if you choose the paper ballot instead of the touchscreen in November.

10/10/2008 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do Ann Mesle a favor and kick her off the bench. I'd take a judicial "activist" over her passive aggressive "dont make me decide something!" style any day.

10/11/2008 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a national legal practice and appear in courts in various states where judges are elected in partisian elections. It is a disaster and, without exception, has made me appreciate the Missouri plan. I'm with Dan, even the judges I'm least crazy about and not aligned with my individual political leanings, I'd take in a heartbeat over those who campaign for their office or are pure politcal appointees.

10/11/2008 9:18 AM  
Blogger Dan Ryan said...

Heidi -

Thanks for the tip - if you want to write up a piece on voting tips from an election judge, covering the things you can do as a voter to make things go more smoothly, I'd be happy to post it as a front page guest post. If you feel like doing that, just email it to me at

10/11/2008 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Wimes is the man. Vote for him.

What say you on Constitutional Ammendment No. 1 and Constitutional Ammendment No. 4?

10/12/2008 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What say you on Constitutional Ammendment No. 1 and Constitutional Ammendment No. 4? And Why?

10/12/2008 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Mike Sharp Will Quit Race said...

In an interesting news item related to the criminal justice system, Jackson County Democrats will be crying when later this week their candidate sheriff will withdrawal from the race under the cloud of an ethics scandal.

Mike Sharp is toast this time.

10/12/2008 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

has anyone ever read anything good about sharp?

10/12/2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'll write about each of the elections before election day. Thank you for asking and reading.

10/12/2008 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a State PO in Jackson County for while and know the judges pretty well.

Judge Wimes is an excellent judge. He used to be the drug court commissioner in Div 50 before Judge Gray left the bench and he was appointed to Div 18. Firm fair and consistent, an awesome Judge.

Judge O'Malley is also a good no nonsense judge. He is tough on probationers who he has given a chance to and they still can't play nice. I respect him for his fairness.

Judge Schieber is a good judge but too soft a time. He sometimes takes chances that are too risky, but he also believes in giving a person enough rope to hang himself. He doesn't make the same mistake twice.

Judge Mesle is a nice lady but not the greatest judge. She's too soft like Judge Atwell was. I think Atwell was more interested in hearing himself talk than dispensing justice, which is not the case with Mesle. She's not hard nose like Judge Sauer in Div 29 or Judge Messina in Div 12 and not too offender friendly like the late Judge Moorhouse.

Judge Moorhouse who unfortunatley died recently was not a bad lady at all but she did cut too much slack to the offenders.

Judge Torrence and Judge Beird are funny guys. They have a great sense of humor when handling the cases and are super fair. Judge Beird will attempt to give a guy a break but will straighten them out when they try to screw him over.

Judge Manners is a great guy but waaay too soft on offenders. Same deal with Judge Scoville. Its like if you're on Probation, those are the best Judges to have because you'll pretty much have to slaughter a family to go down in Independence. They don't dispense justice with the victim in mind. They don't action from the bench. They just let them keep making mistakes until the only place they haven't been is prison and sometimes not even then.

The other judge, I don't know so I don't have any input on him. These are just my opinions from working with the judges for a while as a PO. Others may have a totally different outlook.

10/13/2008 12:08 AM  
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