Missouri Supreme Court could shift to the right as applicants line up to fill vacancy

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court could soon be moving to the political right as an assortment of conservative jurists attempt to replace one of the court’s remaining Democratic appointees.

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With Supreme Court Judge George W. Draper III retiring on Aug. 4, Gov. Mike Parson will be tasked with choosing Draper’s replacement on the seven-member high court.

Draper was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2011.

But Parson, a Republican, won’t get to pick anyone he wants for the job. 

According to the state’s nonpartisan court plan, the seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission will select three finalists for Parson to choose from.

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Chief Justice Mary Russell, another Democratic appointee, chairs the Appellate Judicial Commission.

Three attorneys elected by The Missouri Bar and three Parson appointees fill out the rest of the commission.

The panel is scheduled to conduct public interviews starting 12:30 p.m. Aug. 21 and 8:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City.

After Parson’s appointment, the new Supreme Court will be made up of five Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees.

The commission on Tuesday released a list of 22 applicants for the Draper vacancy, including a current Republican state senator — Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville — and a former Republican state senator — Judge Jack Goodman, who represented a southwest Missouri district.

Goodman currently serves on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District. Parson appointed him in 2020.

Also on the list was Cole County Associate Circuit Judge Christopher Limbaugh, whom Parson appointed to the bench in 2021.

Limbaugh, a cousin of the late radio host Rush Limbaugh, had previously served as Parson’s general counsel.

Stephen Davis, a partner of Clayton-based True North Law LLC, is the state chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association and is also a member of the Environmental Law and Property Rights Executive Committee of the Federalist Society, a conservative law group, according to his online biography.

Judge Cristian M. Stevens, of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District, lists himself as a member of the Federalist Society’s St. Louis chapter and as a St. Louis native. Parson appointed Stevens in 2021. 

Other applicants include:

• Judge John P. Torbitzky of the Court of Appeals Eastern District, who was also appointed by Parson. Torbitzky is best known recently for overseeing the Missouri attorney general’s case to oust former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner.

• Judge Ginger Gooch, appointed by Parson to the southern district appeals court in 2022.

• Judge Thomas C. Clark II, appointed by Parson to the eastern district court of appeals in 2021. He had previously served as a judge on the circuit covering St. Louis.

• Judge Michael E. Gardner, of Cape Girardeau, named by Parson to the eastern district appeals court in 2020.

• Judge Kelly Broniec of Montgomery City, previously the Democratic Montgomery County prosecutor, appointed by Parson in 2020 to the eastern district court of appeals.

• St. Louis County Circuit Judge Thomas C. Albus, also a Parson appointee.

• Platte County Associate Circuit Judge Megan B. Benton, also a Parson appointee.

• Jackson County Circuit Judge Sarah A. Castle, also a Parson appointee.

• Judge Becky J. W. Borthwick, of the southern district court of appeals, also a Parson appointee.

• Jackson County Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Garrett III, a Nixon appointee.

• Judge Jennifer Growcock, of the southern district appeals court, appointed by Parson.

• Attorney Jay Kloecker of Brentwood-based Kloecker Law.

• Attorney Shaun Mackelprang of the Missouri attorney general’s office.

• Attorney Jeffery McPherson, partner at St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale.

• Attorney David Roland, co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri.

• St. Louis County Circuit Judge Stanley J. Wallach, a Nixon appointee.

• Attorney Grant Wobig, Missouri public defender.

Take a look at some of the video highlights of 2022 from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff.

David Carson

Jordan Opp

Chris Drury

Christian Gooden

Colter Peterson

Originally Appeared Here

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