As part of an ongoing effort to increase transparency in state government, Rep. Zachary Wyatt has filed a resolution to restructure the disciplinary commission for the Missouri judiciary.
House Joint Resolution 82 would restructure the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline to include one more non-member of the Missouri Bar, which Wyatt said will increase Missourians’ representation on the Commission. The resolution would amend the Missouri Constitution to include three non-members of the bar, one bar member and two appellate judges from the eastern and western districts, respectively.
The Commission currently includes two members of the Missouri Bar. Missouri Bar President Lynn Vogel said in a statement Wednesday that the bar is opposed to the resolution because it would remove one attorney.
“We believe those with legal training are uniquely qualified to review issues involving judicial misconduct because they have a better understanding of evidence and procedural matters,” Vogel said in the statement.
Wyatt said he hopes to work with the bar to come to an agreement.
Although the resolution currently states one of the Commission’s judges must be from the Supreme Court, Wyatt said he plans to amend the resolution to have both judges be from the Missouri Court of Appeals. The current article of the constitution includes one appellate judge and one circuit court judge, which Wyatt said should change because circuit court judges generally have a heavier caseload than appellate judges.
Wyatt said the resolution is part of his effort to make government more transparent. A recent project called State Integrity Investigation awarded Missouri a C- on the state’s Corruption Risk Report Card, ranking it 15th in the nation. Missouri received an F in the public access to information category, compared to a nationwide average of about a D, and a C- in terms of judicial accountability, which is slightly above the national average of about a D+.
The Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline currently does not release information to the public regarding complaints, hearings or informal discipline actions against judges, with some exceptions, according to Supreme Court Rule 12.21. The Commission only releases information to the public when it files a formal recommendation with the Supreme Court.
Wyatt said rather than writing more legislation, he plans to request that the Commission amend its own rules to allow for more public access to information regarding complaints and investigations of judges.
“With the system of checks and balances, you don’t want to put too many regulations [on the judiciary],” Wyatt said. “You want them to be able to make some of their own rules.”
However, he said if he cannot work with the Commission to change some of its confidentiality rules, he will address the issue with legislation.
“Without transparency, the elitists in government structures think they can get away with anything,” Wyatt said.
The House has not yet scheduled a hearing for HJR 82, but if the resolution passes, the issue will be on the ballot during November.