Politics & Issues
4:36 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

White, Harpool Renominated To Federal Bench In Missouri

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White will have his fourth shot to be a federal judge, as a result of President Barack Obama’s decision Monday to renominate  judicial nominees who had been blocked by Republicans.

White is among two Missourians on the new judicial list sent to the U.S. Senate. The other is former state Rep. M. Douglas Harpool of Springfield, who also saw his earlier nomination die late last year.

The president’s apparent aim is to take advantage of the U.S. Senate’s new rules on judicial nominees; the new rules have ended most Republican filibusters or “holds’’ on Obama’s choices.

Ronnie White (left) and M. Douglas Harpool
Ronnie White (left) and M. Douglas Harpool
Credit White photo from Missouri Supreme Court, Harpool photo provided by his law firm

Harpool – often dubbed the “father’’ of the Missouri Ethics Commission, which monitors campaign money -- has been nominated to be a U.S. district judge for the Western District of Missouri, He would replace Richard E. Dorr, who died.

White has been nominated to be U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, succeeding Jean C. Hamilton, who has retired.

Both are practicing attorneys -- and believed to have the backing of  U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

White served 12 years on the Missouri Supreme Court, from 1995-2007, becoming the first African-American to serve on the state’s highest court. He was nominated to a federal judgeship twice in the 1990s by President Bill Clinton. The first nomination died, but White was rejected by the Senate in 1999 as a result of organized opposition from then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo. (McCaskill now holds Ashcroft’s old seat.)

Obama renominated White late last year, but he was among those judicial choices – including Harpool – blocked by the GOP. Harpool was nominated last summer.

Senate Republicans used the old Senate rule requiring 60 votes to proceed with any presidential nominee, thus preventing most judicial votes.

But Democrats controlling the Senate have now adopted a rule allowing simple majorities to approve judicial nominees and those chosen for key presidential posts.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had criticized the rule change, but it’s unclear if he will take action to block Harpool or White.  The Senate left in place a provision to allow senators to block votes on judicial nominees from their home state.