Judges withdraw from Missouri attorney general’s ouster suit against St. Louis circuit attorney, citing ethics

(The Center Square) – Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s legal action to remove Democrat St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner won’t be tried in the court where it was filed.

Presiding Judge Elizabeth Hogan notified the Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday it wouldn’t be ethical for the case to be heard by judges in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri.

“After meeting with the advisory committee, each of whom are duly elected by the Court en Banc and having been put on notice that any/all judges may be called to testify, an actual conflict exists for each judge,” Hogan wrote. “Further there is an appearance of impropriety for each judge. Therefore 22nd Circuit hereby recuses itself.”

An email request for information to the Missouri Supreme Court on Friday wasn’t immediately returned.

Bailey filed a suit in the 22nd Judicial Circuit at 12:01 p.m. on Thursday after he gave Gardner a noon deadline to resign or face the suit. It came days after Daniel Riley, a 21-year-old awaiting trial for first degree robbery and armed criminal action and with dozens of bond violations, sped through downtown St. Louis and lost control of the car he was driving. It crashed and pinned Janae Edmonson, a 16-year-old girl from Tennessee who was in town for a volleyball tournament. Surgeons amputated both her legs and multiple media outlets reported she was in serious condition and on a ventilator after the accident.

Bailey’s 19-page legal petition states Edmonson’s injuries “are the direct result of willful neglect from Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner. As the Circuit Attorney, Respondent is morally, ethically and legally responsible for the conduct of her office. For years, the Circuit Attorney’s Office has failed to prosecute cases to resolution, has failed to inform and confer with victims, and has failed to even review and file cases submitted by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Respondent has, therefore, forfeited her office.”

Judge Hogan’s letter shines a light on the possible depth and length of Bailey’s case against Gardner. It could involve depositions of judges, court officials and possible courtroom testimony. During a press conference on Thursday, Gardner repeated information she previously distributed regarding requests her office made to the court to revoke Riley’s bond.

Bailey’s petition against Gardner states a requirement to issue a preliminary order when requested by the attorney general. It requests “immediately removing the Respondent because such an order is necessary to maintain order, ensure just enforcement of the criminal law, and most importantly, protect the public.”

Last year, the Missouri Supreme Court accepted a three-person disciplinary panel recommendation to publicly reprimand Gardner for ethical violations and fined her $750. Gardner admitted to errors in her office’s prosecution of former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 after Gardner and other legislators began investigations of alleged misconduct. The Supreme Court could have disbarred Gardner, reprimanded her with additional requirements, suspended her or placed her on probation.

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