Kelly C. Broniec, chief judge of the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals in St. Louis, was named Tuesday to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced the choice during a news conference in Jefferson City. Broniec will replace the retiring George W. Draper III, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2011. Parson appointed Broniec to the state appeals court in 2020.
“Her experience and perspective ensures that she will be a balanced and fair judge,” Parson said. “And we are confident that her appointment will help reshape and strengthen the Missouri Supreme Court and our judicial system as a whole.”
Broniec pledged that she “will not be attempting to make laws. I will interpret them and apply them to the facts in each case in determining if there were prejudicial legal errors made in the cases that come before us.”
Parson will have another opportunity to shape the court soon — Judge Patricia Breckenridge is retiring effective Oct. 13. Breckenridge was appointed by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt in 2007. Both Draper and Breckenridge this year reached the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70.
Once Parson appoints the replacement for Breckenridge, he will have named three of the seven members of the state’s High Court. He also appointed Judge Robin Ransom in 2021.
The governor’s appointment power is far more limited than the president’s power to name someone to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Missouri, a seven-member commission nominates three candidates to fill state Supreme Court vacancies.
The commission is chaired by the state Supreme Court’s chief justice, Mary Rhodes Russell, appointed by a Democrat. The commission also includes three lawyers elected by members of the Missouri Bar and three appointees selected by the governor.
Michael Wolff, a former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice and a dean emeritus at the St. Louis University School of Law, said Broniec is well-regarded and isn’t an “idealogue.”
Wolfe said the Missouri system is set up to take the politics out of the process, and he believes it works well.
“The good thing about the Missouri plan is first of all, it’s not a wide-open choice,” Wolff said. “The governor has to take one of these three or else the commission will make the appointment.”
Once considered a swing state a decade ago, Missouri now has a supermajority of Republicans in the both houses of the General Assembly. Every statewide officeholder is a Republican.
Broniec, 52, lives in the small eastern Missouri town of Montgomery City. She has a bachelor’s degree from William Woods University and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. She served as Montgomery County’s prosecutor from 1999 to 2006.
Other finalists from the commission’s list were Ginger K. Gooch, an appeals court judge in Springfield; and Michael E. Gardner, an appeals court judge in St. Louis.