Women Judges and Merit Selection Under the Missouri Plan


The use of nonpartisan, merit judicial selection raises many public policy concerns: the effect of the procedure on the quality of judges ultimately chosen, the appropriate balance of public, professional, and government involvement in the process, the proper role of politics in judicial selection, and the influence of the selection and retention method on judicial decision-making. This Article addresses one additional facet of that debate: the impact of the Missouri Plan on women's opportunities to become judges. The research conducted by this author demonstrates that in Missouri, the mother state of merit selection, women paradoxically are elected to the judiciary far more often than they are chosen under the Missouri Plan. Missouri trails the rest of the country in merit selection of women to its judiciary, especially at the appellate level. Missouri also lags behind other states in the overall percentage of women judges on the bench. This Article discusses the development of various methods of judicial selection in the United States, including the Missouri Plan. It analyzes the progress of women lawyers gaining access to the bench, both nationwide and in Missouri. The Article points out suggestions to improve the operation of the Missouri Plan and calls on Missouri to assume a leadership role in reforming the Plan.


Women, Judges



Karen Tokarz (Washington University School of Law)



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