JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Judge W. Brent Powell will soon become Supreme Court Judge W. Brent Powell after being tabbed by Gov. Eric Greitens to fill the vacant spot on the state’s highest court following the passing of Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman in November.
“In his years on the bench, Judge Brent Powell has established himself as an outstanding jurist,” Greitens said in a statement. “He has received high marks for being humble, fair-minded, and of the highest integrity. I am confident Judge Powell will be committed to strengthening and improving our court system and guarding the rule of law as a judge on our state’s highest court.”
Several politicos in the Missouri Capitol believed Greitens would ultimately choose Powell as he was the only one of the three nominees from the Appellate Judicial Commission with a conservative record. Judge Lisa White Hardwick is considered by many to be a more liberal jurist and Benjamin A. Lipman, a St. Louis based attorney, has donated to several Democratic campaigns.
Powell said he was “honored and privileged” to accept Greitens’ appointment.
“I am truly humbled, especially considering the experience and strength of all the individuals who applied for the position and the two applicants named to the panel given to the governor,” he said in a statement. “Coming from a clan of lawyers, this is a very special day for me and my family.
“As I step into this new role, I hope to model the humility and judicial temperament exhibited by the late Judge Richard Teitelman who was known for his kindness and congeniality.”
Meanwhile, Powell has served as a Jackson County Circuit Judge since 2008 after a stint as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office during the Bush administration. Powell served under and alongside current Missouri Republican Party Chair Todd Graves, who said he was “thrilled for him.”
“He understands laws are to be applied and not made by a judge, but on the flip side of that, he has a tremendous personal empathy and compassion,” Graves continued. “He treats litigants with tremendous respect and is very popular in the Jackson County Courthouse. So, he has all the attributes to be a tremendous judge.”
The three selections from the Appellate Judicial Commission for Greitens to choose from came along with some consternation from conservatives who criticized the power organizations like the Missouri Bar held in selecting judges for the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Court Plan has set a wide precedent around the country for the method by which Supreme Court judges are selected in 34 other states.
Several conservatives believe some alterations need to be made to the law to make it more democratic and less dependent on a selectively small group of seven people. Supporters of the court plan believe it de-politicizes the judicial branch of government at the state’s highest level and keeps individuals with large sums of money from holding too much sway over those courts. The plan was put into the Missouri constitution in 1940 to combat against the infamous Kansas City political boss, Tom Pendergast.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Missouri Bar President Dana Tippin Cutler both complimented Greitens’ selection and defended the Missouri Court Plan
“…the appointment of Hon. W. Brent Powell shows that Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan continues to work for the people of Missouri by providing high-quality judges in the least political way while giving voters the final say through a retention vote,” Cutler said. “The Appellate Judicial Commission did its job in forwarding three qualified applicants to the governor for consideration. We appreciate Governor Greitens’ respect for the Constitution and rule of law in this process and in his thoughtful consideration of these applicants, of which he appointed Hon. Powell to serve the people of Missouri as our newest Supreme Court judge.”
The confirmation process is different from the one used by the federal government. Powell will not be confirmed by the Senate, but he will stand for a retention vote in the Nov. 2018 general election. Voters statewide will be asked on the ballot whether or not they wish for Powell to keep his seat for his full 12-year term. Should he desire to stay on the bench longer, he would have to face another retention vote from the voters of Missouri.