One of the lesser known issues Missouri voters will be facing is whether to retain Supreme Court Judge Zell Fischer—appointed to a two year term by Governor Matt Blunt on October 23, 2008.
I’ll be voting yes.
Judge Fischer is a 1985 graduate of William Jewell College, my own alma mater. While I am proud of my heritage and of many aspects of the college, Jewell was the first place I encountered liberals en masse. There were political liberals, theological liberals, economic liberals—even moral liberals. I truly grew up at William Jewell College. My Camelot was shattered and I was introduced to the real world in all of its insanity, illogic and Epicureanism. But I digress. Fischer’s choice of college is not the reason I’ll vote for retention.
Nor is it his choice of university for his law degree. That would be the University of Missouri—Kansas City. I didn’t know UMKC even had a law degree program. No offense to Judge Fischer or any other graduate of UMKC’s law program, but it just doesn’t sound too lofty. I suppose I’m predisposed to shiver in the shadows of the Ivy League. You know, that chill that pulsates up your spine when you encounter a lawyer from Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Those places have an aura of brilliance. I guess being a Kansas City native has inoculated me from my own area’s offerings, something about familiarity breeding contempt.
Fischer’s northwestern Missouri heritage isn’t a deciding factor either. Did I mention I’m a Kansas City native? City boy meets country bumpkin. Fischer’s even a member of the Tarkio Rodeo Board. Yee-haw!
And neither would I vote to retain because the Missouri Bar Association recommends it. Their statement reads in part:
“…attorneys who responded to survey questions rated Judge Fischer on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing “not at all” and 5 representing “completely.” Judge Fischer received his highest scores for being courteous toward attorneys (4.54), issuing timely opinions/decisions (4.45), and treating all parties equally regardless of race, sex or economic status (4.44). Judge Fischer was not rated below a 4.14 in any category. The committee also reviewed opinions written by Judge Fischer. Those opinions were in accordance with Missouri law. The opinions provided clear and cogent explanations for Judge Fischer’s decision. The Appellate Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee recommends that Judge Zel M. Fischer BE RETAINED."
I’m pre-disposed to do the opposite of what a liberal legal organization tells me to do. Still, the Bar’s recommendation is insightful, especially in light of the controversy surrounding Fischer’s appointment two years ago.
The judicial appointment process in Missouri is a bit complicated. Most people think the governor, like the president, picks his man (or woman) and forwards the candidate for approval. Well, kind of. The difference is that an “independent” committee, the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission gives the governor a list of three names to chose from. So technically, it is the Governor who nominates, but he can only choose from a pool of three candidates that are forced upon him. Supposedly the process is meant to de-politicize judicial appointments. But it does just the opposite. The Commission’s selection process is secretive and the members are selected by the Missouri Bar, a fairly liberal, left-leaning group.
In 2008, the commission forwarded to Governor Matt Blunt, a conservative Republican, two judges from the Western District’s Court of Appeals along with Zell Fischer, who had only been a circuit judge from 2 years. The other two nominees, with the experience and prestige, were viewed as fairly liberal. It was if the Commission was daring the Governor to nominate the inexperienced conservative. He did. Now Fischer faces a retention vote by the people of Missouri—a vote required by law (the first general election after appointment).
But it's Fischer’s recent comments at a gathering of my former Baptist denomination that convinced me the most to vote for his retention. The Pathway reported some of his statements at a worldview conference sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Convention:
“My vision for America is that we recognize that our present crisis is not merely economic and political, but it’s moral in nature. At the root of these times should be the realization that people in positions of authority have walked away from some timeless truths—honesty, integrity, an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and the simple notion that you ought to treat your neighbor the way you treat yourself, that you ought to treat your colleague with honor and respect for his ideas.I think a judge who understands he is accountable to God will make a very excellent judge. I'll be voting YES to retain Judge Zell Fischer on the Missouri Supreme Court.
“My belief is that this nation will not be restored with public policy alone. I believe that what’s going to be required is public virtue. That emanates from our traditional institutions—life, liberty, and religious freedom.”
“I want to support leaders who can govern this nation in a manner where they can handle more than one problem at a time. Our forefathers worshipped a very big God, and they knew that our God is an awesome God, and He not only reigns in heaven but He reigns on this earth, and He’s here today.
“The Bible says, ‘If we owe debts, then debt, if we owe respect, then respect.’ Well I say we owe a debt to our nation’s history and the principles upon which it was founded. So the time has come to take a respectful stand. We must not be timid to pursue with all strength but also in a dignified manner what has always been the source of America’s greatness—our faith in God and our religious freedom.”
Other judges who currently serve on the Missouri Supreme Court include Patricia Breckenridge, Mary Rhodes Russell, Laura Denvir Stith, , Richard Teitelman, Michael Wolff, and Chief Justice William Ray Price.
Go here if you are interested in other judicial elections in your area. Judges on the appellate level and higher have no opponents—the vote is whether or not to retain them. Circuit court judges and lower have opponents.