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Nixon names Rex Burlison, longtime district director, to St. Louis judgeship

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2011 - Gov. Jay Nixon's decision to appoint longtime aide -- and former judge -- Rex M. Burlison to a circuit judge post in St. Louis has touched off unusually strong criticism from the Missouri Republican Party.

Burlison, a graduate of St. Louis University School of Law, was chosen from three candidates to fill a circuit-judge vacancy in the city of St. Louis' 22nd Circuit. Burlison succeeds Judge Donald L. McCullin, who retired.

Burlison is well known to local lawyers, prosecutors, St. Louis area political activists -- and journalists. He has been director of Nixon's St. Louis district office since 2009, and subsequently is a fixture at the governor's local events, making sure that proceedings go smoothly.

Earlier, he spent eight years -- from 2001-2009 -- as chief counsel in St. Louis while Nixon was Missouri attorney general, overseeing assistant attorneys general based here. As the governor's announcement states, Burlison "was the lead attorney for the state on several high-profile cases at the trial and appellate levels, both in state and federal court, and also was chief prosecutor for the Missouri No-Call Enforcement Unit."

In the 1990s, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed Burlison -- then a lawyer in private practice -- as an associate circuit judge in St. Charles County.

Burlison also is a former alderman for the city of Cottleville (1991-2000) and is an original board member and past president of Family Advocacy and Community Training, "a non-profit agency that assists, trains and instructs parents of developmentally challenged children to ensure their children receive a quality education specified to their needs," the governor's announcement notes.

The state GOP, however, calls Burlison's appointment "cronyism at its worst,'' in part because of his longtime association with the governor. The Republican Party also highlights a couple of controversies regarding properties owned by Burlison, some in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Burlison has denied any misdeeds and has been defended by Nixon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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