The Missouri Plan

The Missouri Plan, also known as the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan or merit plan, was created in 1940 to select judges.  Though it first originated in Missouri, it eventually was adopted by other states throughout the United States.  Under the plan, judicial candidates are screened and evaluated by a nonpartisan commission.  Those that the nonpartisan commission deems to be best equipped and qualified are then sent to the appointing authority, often the governor, who then picks the candidates within sixty days.


In the early 1900s, reforms were made to decrease politics in regards to the selection of judges.  In particular, reformers were aimed at judges of lower courts who made decisions that affected the average citizen on a daily basis.  With increased political corruption, citizens grew more fond of a selection process that would be more impartial and fair. In 1940, the Missouri Plan was voted in.

Selection Process

The judicial selection process created by the Missouri Plan is quite simple yet fair.  After a nonpartisan commission reviews applicants, they send them to the appointing authority.  The appointing authority then has sixty days to choose the candidate he or she deems to be the best fit.  If he or she does not decide within sixty days, then the nonpartisan commission will decide.

For the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the selection is made by the Appellate Judicial Commission.  The Appellate Judicial Commission is formed from three elected Missouri Bar lawyers, three selected citizens, and the chief justice.  For circuit courts in counties such as Clay, Greene, and Jackson, the nonpartisan commission is composed of solely the chief judge of the court of appeals, two lawyers, and two citizens.  All must reside within the country or city they serve on the commission for.

After being chosen, a retention election is held at the soonest general election following one year of service.  A retention election allows voters to decide whether or not to keep the man or woman in question in office for the rest of his or her full term.  If they vote yes, then the appointed remains in office for a full term.  If the majority votes no, the appointed is removed from office, and the selection process begins again.


When first voted in, the Missouri Plan faced some criticism.  For one, some believed that other methods of selection in other states would be more beneficial and effective.  Though the state of Missouri had tried out other selection processes before 1940 with no success, some citizens remained hesitant and unapproving of the plan.

Some argued that the plan gave lawyers too much power in the judicial selection process as they were a large part of the first step towards choosing judges.  Others believe the nonpartisan commission actually causes low diversity in political office. For example, in 2008, Former Missouri State legislator and lawyer Elbert Walton noted that the commission had never elected an African American into Missouri Bar’s three slots on the Appellate Judicial Commission.  African Americans had been elected to other positions, however.

The Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States acquired the Louisiana territory from France in what was the Louisiana Purchase.  Paying fifty million francs for the land, now worth $11,250,000, as well as a cancellation of debts worth $3,750,000, the purchase included territories from fifteen current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces: Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.


France gained control of the territory in 1699, then losing it to Spain in 1762.  In 1800, with the help of Napoleon, France regained acquisition.  The French established many settlements along the Mississippi River within the Louisiana Territory, controlling its ports and access to its waterways.

After France signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau and ceded the land to Spain in 1762, the Spanish decided to give the newest nation, the United States, some access to the territory.  With Pinckney’s Treaty in 1795, American merchants were granted the “right of deposit” in New Orleans, meaning they could then use the port to store goods for export and allow Americans to navigate the entire Mississippi River.  Flour, tobacco, pork, lard, cider, butter, and cheese were among the goods transported.  However, Spain revoked Pinckney’s Treaty only four years later, in 1798.

The Americans were thankful that in 1801, Spanish Governor Don Juan Manuel de Salcedo restored the right upon them to deposit goods.  However, one year prior, Spain has ceded the territory back to France, which would go into effect in the winter of 1803.  Thus, the United States had no choice but to purchase the territory from France.


The issue of slavery played a large role in the complications of the Louisiana Purchase.  Many southerners believed that Napoleon would free the slaves from Louisiana, which would, in turn, cause more uprisings throughout the still newly formed nation. However, that worry was lessened when supported by President Jefferson; France sent General Charles Leclerc to Saint-Domingue to re-establish slavery after it had been abolished in 1795 by the Constitution of the French Republic.  Unsuccessful the following year, in 1803, France withdrew from Saint-Domingue and ended its control in the Western Hemisphere, thus selling the Louisiana territory to the United States.

Without conquering Saint-Domingue, which is present-day Haiti, Napoleon had no way to establish rule in the Western world and thus had no purpose for keeping control of Louisiana.  President Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris in 1803 to negotiate.  After Napoleon decided to sell the land, Treasury Minister François de Barbé-Marbois offered it to U.S. minister Robert Livingston for $15 million, over $5 million more than the Americans were willing to pay.  They negotiated, and on April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was official.

Critical Reception

Many Americans were not fond of the Louisiana Purchase.  Members of the Federalist Party were concerned that it would lessen their power.  Some, including Jefferson himself, were unsure whether or not a United States president would have the authority to make such a deal.  As the nation was still new and developing, no solid guidance was available, with laws still being made and amended.

Other concerns included whether or not citizenship would be granted to those living in New Orleans, which had French, Spanish, and freed slaves.  Some Federalists thought the purchase of the Louisiana Territory would cause more uprisings as those of the west were very different, both politically and economically than those of New England.  Nonetheless, the Louisiana Purchase was made and was arguably a significant step in American history.