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Limbaugh up for federal judgeship

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Stephen Limbaugh

By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Missouri Supreme Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. is a candidate for a federal judgeship.

That's according to Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle, who confirmed that federal agents spoke with him Tuesday in southeastern Missouri as part of a background check for Limbaugh.

Swingle said Wednesday that the most likely open judgeship is in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Missouri, which includes Limbaugh's hometown of Cape Girardeau.

"It's the first that I officially heard that he had applied," Swingle said. "They came down and they're doing a background check on him. It suggests that his hat is thrown in the ring."

U.S. District Judge Donald J. Stohr became a senior judge on Dec. 31, 2006. Senior judges can continue hearing cases but have already qualified for retirement. By becoming senior judges, they open a vacancy for a new federal judge.

The federal trial courts have two districts in Missouri. The Eastern District covers 48 counties in northern, eastern and southeastern Missouri, plus the city of St. Louis. It has divisions based in Cape Girardeau, Hannibal and St. Louis.

Former Gov. John Ashcroft appointed Limbaugh to the state high court in 1992. Limbaugh served as chief justice from 2001 to 2003. He was the prosecuting attorney in Cape Girardeau County from 1979 to 1982 and was appointed a circuit judge in 1988 and re-elected in 1990.

Limbaugh, 55, got his law degree from Southern Methodist University and has a graduate degree in judicial process from the University of Virginia.

Limbaugh declined to comment Wednesday through a Missouri Supreme Court spokeswoman.

Limbaugh is one two members of the seven-judge panel to be appointed by a Republican governor. Former colleagues on the state Supreme Court and fellow attorneys described Limbaugh as studious, open-minded and even-tempered.

Former Cape Girardeau County Associate Circuit Judge Marybelle Mueller said Limbaugh grew up with her children and frequently appeared in her courtroom both as the county prosecutor and in private practice.

Mueller said Limbaugh is a true "southeast Missouri gentleman" who once helped control a defendant in her courtroom who refused to be restrained.

Federal judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and serve a lifetime appointment. Generally, a senator who belongs to the same party as the president submits names to consider for federal judges and prosecutors.

A spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Kit Bond said the senator has submitted several names to the White House, but she could not confirm who was on that list.

Limbaugh's father, Stephen Limbaugh Sr., has been a federal judge in the Eastern Missouri District since 1983 and became a senior judge in 1996.

Generally, family members aren't allowed to work for the same federal courts. Limbaugh Sr. was in court Wednesday and not available for comment.

Stephen Limbaugh Jr. is a cousin of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

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