In the Nation's Interest

Politics and the Courts: Why Fair and Impartial Courts Matter to the Business Community

On October 3, 2012 CED, the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts, and the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce hosted a policy luncheon on judicial selection at the Carriage Club in Kansas City, Missouri.

An initiative on the statewide ballot in Missouri this November is poised to change the judicial merit selection system by granting more control to the governor. This is part of a nationwide effort to overturn the original "Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan" selection system that has served as the model in many states, including Kansas, for insulating the judiciary from politicized direct election and disproportionate influence from the governor's office. The purpose of this event was to convene and inform business and civic leaders from the Kansas City metropolitan area about the role of judicial selection and maintaining fair and impartial courts.

The event featured remarks from Ray Price, Retired Missouri Supreme Court Justice. The event also included a presentation on state-based attacks on the judiciary from around the country, and the harmful impact of money in judicial elections by Debra Erenberg, Director of State Affairs, Justice at Stake. Erenberg presented a sample of judicial attack ads used in competitive judicial elections around the country showing increased ideological polarization (watch video here). Panelists included Michael Petro, Acting President of CED; Marc Elkins, Vice President and Associate General Counsel of Cerner Corporation; Greg Musil of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce; and Landon Rowland, Chairman of Lead Bank. The panel discussed the importance of impartial courts in hearing cases before them in order to ensure a stable business climate. Panelists expressed concern over national trends in other states with competitive judicial elections, affirming the "Missouri Plan," as a preferable system of selection to insulate the judiciary from the executive and legislative branches. Mike Petro cited CED's recent report, Partial Justice: The Peril of Judicial Elections, and a CED/Zogby International survey which revealed that four out of five business leaders worry that campaign contributions have a major effect on decisions rendered by judges. Petro also cited a Chamber of Commerce study which found that two-thirds of business leaders surveyed reported that the litigation environment in a state is likely to impact business decisions on which region to locate in.

The event was covered in The Kansas City Business Journal (read more here).

About the Cosponsors

The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City was founded in 1964 by a group of chief executive officers who believed that it was important that their resources and influence were cooperatively applied to solving complex and difficult community issues. The mission of the Civic Council: to define the Kansas City region's future as a leading global location for business and quality of life through our leadership, resources and influence.

The Committee for Economic Development (CED) is an independent, nonpartisan research and policy organization. Since its inception in 1942, CED has addressed national priorities that promote sustained economic growth and development to benefit all Americans. These activities have helped shape the future on issues ranging from the Marshall Plan in the late 1940s, to education reform in the past three decades, and campaign finance reform since 2000. Membership is made up of some 200 senior corporate executives and university leaders who lead CED's research and outreach efforts. CED's report, Justice for Hire: Improving Judicial Selection, shows how the system for electing state and local judges undermines judicial independence and impartiality and jeopardizes public confidence in state courts.

Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts (MFIC) is a broad-based coalition of organizations and individuals devoted to protecting Missouri courts from attacks by a small group of politicians and special interest groups and preserving the Missouri nonpartisan court plan.

Overland Park Chamber of Commerce's mission is to enhance the business environment and quality of life in our community. The Overland Park Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization of business and professional men and women who have joined together to promote the civic and commercial progress of our community. The Chamber strives to advance the economic, commercial, professional, cultural, educational, social and civic welfare of the Johnson County area.

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