JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - With an implicit rebuke to the Legislature, Missouri Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr., the longest-serving current member of that court, said he will resign on Aug. 1 to return to private practice.
Price has 6 years remaining on his 12-year term. He is an outspoken critic of efforts to change the judicial selection process to give the governor more power.
In his resignation letter to Gov. Jay Nixon, Price wrote: "Because I wish to have the best judges possible in Missouri, I want my successor to be appointed by the same Missouri nonpartisan merit plan that has served our state so well over the past 70 years."
The current selection process, which has served as a model for other states, has the governor and the Missouri Bar Association each choose three of the seven commissioners who select nominees for the state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court. The seventh commissioner is a state Supreme Court judge.
But lawmakers placed a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would eliminate the Supreme Court judge and replace him or her with a fourth selection by the governor, giving the governor more control over the judge selection process.
Price, 60, is in the middle of his second term on the bench. His resignation means that his successor will be chosen through the current selection process, regardless of what happens in November.
Price practiced law in Kansas City before then-Gov. John Ashcroft appointed him to the state's high court in 1992. Price has served two terms as chief justice, with his most recent stint ending in June 2011.