JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Interviews are underway in Missouri’s capital city to fill the vacant seat on the state’s highest court.
More than 20 people have applied to be Missouri’s next Supreme Court judge. Under the state’s nonpartisan court plan, members of the Appellate Judicial Commission will interview all applicants and then send the names of the three finalists to the governor, who will make the appointment.
“I feel like there are some unique things about myself, some that I have mentioned and expanded on during our conversations, that separate me from a lot of people,” Associate Circuit Judge in Cole County Chris Limbaugh told the committee during his interview. “That’s why I’m asking for this position. It’s about serving the people of this state, serving our communities, serving our government at a greater level.”
Limbaugh previously served as Parson’s former legal counsel and is related to the late conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
“The people of the United States and the people of Missouri get to say what the rules are. It’s not for us to make them up one case at a time,” St. Louis County Circuit Judge Thomas Albus said.
It’s up to the judicial commission to interview the 23 applicants. Supreme Court judges must be at least 30 years old, have a Missouri law license, be a U.S. citizen for at least 15 years, and a qualified Missouri voter for at least nine years.
“I’ve always tried to be consistent about following the law, being faithful to the law, and being objective,” Judge Thomas Clark II said during his interview. “It’s about serving the people of this state, serving our communities, serving our government at a greater level. I feel like I’m good at it and I certainly get a lot of satisfaction out of it as well.”
The vacancy comes after Judge George W. Draper III retired earlier this month, the day before his 70th birthday. Under the state’s constitution, judges are required to retire when they turn 70. Draper was appointed to the bench in 2011 by Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon. He is the second African American to serve on the court.
“I’m going to pick the most qualified candidate to be a Supreme Court judge,” Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday at the Missouri State Fair. “I don’t care about anything like that. I want to make sure that somebody is going to enforce the laws as written. It’s not about public opinion, it’s not about their views, it’s about doing what the laws say.”
Parson told reporters last week he will weigh heavily on reputation, similar to 2021, when he appointed the first Black woman to the court.
“I think it will be like Robin Ransom when we took a look at her record,” Parson said. “Nobody was expecting me to pick her. There were a lot of people who thought I would be picking someone else.”
The commission interviewed 12 candidates Monday, with the other 11 set to be interviewed Tuesday. Then, members plan to have the names of the three finalists to Parson by Tuesday night. The governor has 60 days to choose a replacement, or the commission will fill the vacancy.
“I think that public service is the ideals of the law for our country, of this great state, and those have always been things that matter to me,” lawyer and deputy attorney for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office Shaun Mackelprang said.
Of the 23 applicants, four are employed in the Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis metropolitan areas; 16 work in the public sector; three work in the private sector, and four work in both. The applicants’ mean age is 47.3 years.
Later this year, Judge Patricia Breckenridge will also retire, as she will be turning 70 on Oct. 14. This allows those who are not appointed this time to apply again and allows Parson to make another appointment to the state’s highest court. Republican Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Breckenridge in 2007.