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Blunt get three choices for MO Supreme Court vacancy


By Marshall Griffin, KWMU / AP

Jefferson City, Mo – Three names have been sent to Governor Matt Blunt as possible replacements for a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court.

The state's Appellate Judicial Commission has chosen Nannette Baker, Patricia Breckenridge, and Ronald Holliger as finalists.

Baker serves on the state appeals court in St. Louis; Breckenridge and Holliger both serve on the state appeal court in Kansas City.

Blunt, in a statement Thursday morning, said he'll conduct an "exhaustive" review of the finalists.

"Under the constitution, Governor Blunt will have 60 days to select one of these 3 individuals to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Ronnie White," noted court spokeswoman Beth Riggert. The governor could also choose not to hire one of the three finalists, in which case the commission would select the next State Supreme Court judge.

The Appellate Judicial Commission met privately Tuesday and Wednesday to interview applicants to succeed White, who resigned from the Supreme Court on July 6 to join a private law practice in St. Louis.

Baker, 49, of St. Louis, was appointed as a circuit judge in November 1999 by Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan and elevated to the appeals court in November 2004 by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden. She got her law degree from Saint Louis University in 1994.

Breckenridge, 53, of Nevada, Mo., was appointed as an associate circuit judge in January 1982 by Republican Gov. Kit Bond and appointed to the appeals court in December 1990 by Republican Gov. John Ashcroft. She got her law degree in 1977 from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Holliger, 61, of Blue Springs, was appointed by Carnahan as a circuit judge in 1995 and as an appeals court judge in January 2000. He received his law degree in 1973 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Blunt, a Republican, has regularly bemoaned "activist" judges, whose rulings he believes go beyond interpreting state laws to essentially imposing laws. He also has expressed displeasure with some candidates recommended by judicial selection panels for other court vacancies.

"I am committed to appointing a Missouri Supreme Court judge who will faithfully interpret our constitution and will not legislate from the bench," Blunt said when White announced in May that he would resign.

White was the first and only black member of the Missouri Supreme Court. Baker is the only black nominee among the three finalists.

The judicial selection commission does not release the names of the other applicants. But the Supreme Court did release some demographics about the pool of contenders.

The court said 30 people applied for the vacancy, including 23 men and seven women. Of those, it said four were black, one was of Asian descent and 25 were non-minorities. There were 10 applicants who work in the private sector, 18 from the public sector and two who work in both, the court said. The median age of the applicants was 52.

The seven-member commission recommends candidates to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court or the three regional appeals courts. A similar approach is used for circuit courts in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. After their appointments, the judges stand for retention elections in which they are the only candidates on the ballot.

Elsewhere in Missouri, judges run in contested elections.

The selection commission includes the chief justice, three lawyers chosen by the Missouri Bar and three people appointed by the governor, who serve staggered terms. Blunt has named one member to the group, Enterprise Rent-A-Car President Don Ross.


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