The legal battle for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (D) is underway and as Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R) has accused her of making statements that were “flat untrue,” all judges from the circuit have recused themselves and are now lined up to be potential witnesses against her.
After calling for her resignation earlier this week, Bailey followed through with his promise and filed a petition of quo warranto Thursday, beginning the process to remove Gardner from office, alleging she neglected her duties. That same day, Judge Elizabeth Hogan presiding over the 22nd circuit submitted a court order whereby all the judges in the circuit declared conflicts of interest.
“An actual conflict exists for each judge. Further, there is an appearance of impropriety for each judge. Therefore, 22nd circuit hereby recuses itself,” Hogan wrote.
“[T]hese judges are potential witnesses for my case, and who better to testify to willful neglect than judges who adjudicate claims of willful neglect?” Bailey reacted, according to Fox News.
As previously reported, the attorney general’s call for Gardner’s resignation was directly related to a car crash that left 17-year-old volleyball player Janae Edmondson hospitalized in critical condition with both her legs amputated, after 21-year-old Daniel Riley allegedly failed to regard a yield sign while driving through an intersection, striking another vehicle which ultimately struck Edmondson and pinned her to yet another vehicle.
You're outta here: AG gives Dem attorney until noon to resign after horrific crash by repeat offenderhttps://t.co/ICHseywI3L
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) February 24, 2023
Riley had been released on bond regarding a 2020 robbery charge that was refiled last year after previously being dismissed. Gardner had denied culpability in Riley’s release and contended that she had urged the court to revoke his bail.
However, KMOV journalist Tyler Klaus indicated, “There is no official correspondence in the court docket in the months they point to.”
When Gardner was pushed on that fact during her Thursday press conference, she claimed the request had been made “orally.”
“So when the circuit attorney is saying she did things, we have evidence that those statements are false, and misleading, and flat untrue,” Bailey said and added, “We are hopeful that a judge will remove her immediately…and then she can have her day in court after that. Because at the end of the day for us, the circuit attorney has to go the rule of law, and justice has to be restored to the city of St. Louis.”
He acknowledged that the onus of proof is on him and said, “It will be like a standard bench trial, where I’ll have the burden of proof to prove under a civil standard, willful neglect in office. And she will then have the opportunity to cross-examine that evidence, and put on her own evidence if she wishes, and then the judge hearing the case will decide whether or not I met my burden of proof.”
To support his claims of negligence on the part of Gardner, Bailey filed a 29-page memo Thursday of Suggestions in Support of his petition that detailed the case of Riley as well as others where she “willfully neglected her duties or knowingly or willfully failed or refused to carry out her duties.”
By Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court had appointed Judge John P. Torbitzky of the Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals to preside over the matter and former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to expect things to “move quickly.”
“These take precedence over every other case on the docket,” he explained, having filed several like cases during his career. “They move quickly compared to a regular civil suit.”
Despite potential expediency, Washington University’s Criminal Justice Clinic director Peter Joy expressed his belief that it will still take some time to come to a resolution, pending Gardner’s response.
“Assuming it’s fought all the way, I don’t think it would be resolved in anything less than two or three months,” Joy opined. “There may be some way of getting courts to move at a quicker pace, but I suspect this is something that is going to be around for some time. She’s likely to try to do whatever she can to fight this.”
Taking that consideration, the likely next step in the proceeding remains a preliminary hearing to establish a timeline for the case before beginning a discovery period leading up to an actual court hearing.
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