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Sen. Shields Calls on Nixon to Investigate Judicial Commission’s Violation of Sunshine Law

JEFFERSON CITY— Missouri State Senator Charlie Shields today called on Attorney General Jay Nixon to investigate all seven members of the Judicial Appellate Commission including Supreme Court Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith for violating Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The seven-member commission met in secret to select three candidates for the Missouri Supreme Court without giving the public notice of their meetings by date, time and place, all of which are required by the Sunshine Law.

“The Commission conversed in secret, met in secret, deliberated in secret, and ultimately decided in secret,” Sen. Shields wrote in a letter to Attorney General Nixon. (Letter below.) “With this letter, I respectfully request that you begin an investigation of the Judicial Appellate Commission and its conduct including its stated position that puts it above the basic requirements of the Sunshine Law.”

Shields also provided Nixon with statements critical of the Judicial Appellate Commission’s actions by noted Sunshine Law expert Jean Maneke who is associated with the highly-respected Missouri Press Association.

“There’s nothing that says they do not have to meet the state law requirement that the body give notice of their meeting by date, time and place,” Maneke told The Associated Press. “There is some irony in the fact that a body who is selecting persons who will be interpreting the law at the highest level for all of us is very possibly breaking the law themselves.” (Kelly Wiese, “Missouri: Panel meets in secret to consider next Supreme Court judge,” The Associated Press, July 25, 2007)

“That the secretive nature of the Appellate Commission’s meetings and deliberations have gone unnoticed over many years is a matter of some concern to me,” wrote Shields. “However, of greater concern to me is the fact that the Missouri Plan, designed to avoid the abuses of a bygone era when political bosses made major decisions behind closed doors, has been corrupted into a secretive process dominated by special interest lawyers.”

The seven-member Judicial Appellate Commission is comprised of four lawyers and three commissioners appointed by governors. Former Governor Bob Holden selected two of the commissioners and Governor Matt Blunt has selected only one.

Sen. Shields is asking Nixon to investigate the entire commission and their secret proceedings and he offered his assistance in the investigation.

“I stand ready to assist you in any way that I can,” Shields wrote. “I fully intend to assist you by convening hearings to investigate the Appellate Commission’s secret process including, but not limited to, calling all seven commissioners to testify.”

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