Missouri Supreme Court Justice Robin Ransom has served at multiple levels of the state judiciary since the 1990s. She was appointed to her current position in 2021. As a judge, Ransom is expected to rule impartially based on the law rather than political affiliations. However, the role of partisanship in state judicial selection has been an ongoing source of debate. This article will examine Justice Ransom’s background, judicial decisions, and relationship to partisan politics in Missouri.
Education and Early Career
Robin Ransom earned her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1988 and her law degree from the University of Missouri in 1991. She worked as an assistant public defender and assistant prosecuting attorney before being appointed as a family court commissioner in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in 2002.
Ransom was first appointed to the bench in 2008, when Republican Governor Matt Blunt named her as a circuit court judge in St. Louis. She was retained by voters in 2010 and 2016. In 2019, Republican Governor Mike Parson appointed Ransom to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District. Parson then elevated her to the state Supreme Court in 2021.
Ransom’s Political Affiliations
The fact that Ransom received judicial appointments from two Republican governors has led some to associate her with the GOP. However, there is no record of Ransom being directly involved with the Republican Party prior to becoming a judge. Missouri judges are prohibited from making political contributions or endorsements.
Bipartisan Support in Retention Elections
While Republican governors helped launch Ransom’s judicial career, she has since won retention to both the appeals court and Supreme Court with bipartisan voter support. In 2020, Ransom was retained as an appellate judge with 71% of the vote. In 2022, she kept her Supreme Court seat with 70% approval, outperforming partisan election results. This indicates Ransom has backing from both Republican and Democratic voters.
Ransom’s Judicial Decisions
Family Law Cases
On the circuit court, Ransom presided over family law and juvenile cases. Attorneys who appeared before her described Ransom as an impartial, fair judge who followed the law in her rulings. She helped implement reforms to improve children’s welfare in the family courts.
Criminal Law Cases
As an appellate judge, Ransom heard criminal appeals involving sentencing, evidentiary issues, and convictions. An evaluation of her decisions again showed no clear partisan bias. She weighed each case based on the legal merits rather than political factors.
Evaluation of Ransom’s Impartiality
A review of Ransom’s judicial record reveals no obvious ideological tendencies. She has ruled both for and against the state in criminal cases and does not consistently favor either side in family law disputes. Ransom is widely seen as an objective, prudent judge.
Role of Partisanship in Judicial Selection
Missouri’s Nonpartisan Court Plan
Missouri uses a nonpartisan court plan to initially appoint judges to the Supreme Court and appeals courts. A nominating commission screens applicants and sends three nominees for the governor to choose from. After one year, the new judge faces a retention election where they run unopposed and must earn a majority vote to stay on the bench.
Critiques of the Nonpartisan System
Critics argue the nonpartisan system does not remove partisan politics completely. The governor’s party still influences appointments, while special interest groups lobby around retention elections. However, proponents respond that the plan limits overt partisanship in judicial selection compared to partisan contested elections.
Impact on Ransom’s Career
While partisanship affected Ransom’s initial appointment, the retention process has since required her to earn bipartisan voter support. The nonpartisan system may have enabled Ransom’s impartial approach as a judge rather than aligning her with a partisan agenda. Overall, her record reflects the intention of the plan.
Justice Robin Ransom’s background shows Republican connections from her appointments but no direct GOP affiliation otherwise. Her judicial decisions and retention election results demonstrate an impartial, nonpartisan approach. While no system can eliminate political influence entirely, Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan aims to promote objective rulings based on the law over partisan leanings. Ransom’s career trajectory and record on the bench largely validate the goals of that system. Her story provides insights into the complex interplay between partisanship and judicial selection at the state level.
Q: What political party is Robin Ransom affiliated with?
A: Justice Ransom has no official partisan affiliation. Her appointments by Republican governors created an association with the GOP, but there is no record of her being directly involved with the party. As a judge, she is expected to be nonpartisan.
Q: How did Ransom become a Missouri Supreme Court justice?
A: Ransom was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2021 by Republican Governor Mike Parson. She was previously appointed to lower courts by Parson and GOP Governor Matt Blunt.
Q: Has Ransom shown political bias in her rulings?
A: Reviews of Ransom’s judicial record have found no clear evidence of partisan bias. She is considered an impartial judge who rules based on the law.
Q: Does partisanship affect judicial selection in Missouri?
A: While the nonpartisan court plan aims to limit partisan influence, the governor’s party still impacts appointments initially. But retention elections require bipartisan voter approval.
Q: What system do most states use to select judges?
A: Partisan judicial elections are used in some states, while others have nonpartisan elections or governor appointments. Missouri is one of several states to use a merit-based appointment system.