The Missouri Supreme Court on Friday appointed Judge John P. Torbitzky of the Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals to adjudicate the legal action by state's attorney general to remove St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner from her post because she neglected the duties of her office.
Attorney General Andrew Bailey on Thursday filed a petition quo warranto, which is the legal mechanism under state law that allows the attorney general to remove a prosecutor who neglects his or her duties. Bailey will have to show Judge Torbitzky that Gardner neglected her duties and should be removed, and the decision is up to Torbitzky.
Bailey claims that Gardner was negligent, particularly in a prosecution case against 21-year-old Daniel Riley, who had been out on bail after violating his bond multiple times. Over the weekend, Riley struck teenager Janae Edmondson, who had been visiting St. Louis with her family on Saturday to play in a volleyball tournament.
Police say Riley was speeding, failed to yield and caused a collision, ultimately striking and pinning Edmondson, who remains in the hospital after both her legs were amputated after sustaining injuries from the crash. Bailey says Gardner is responsible for Riley's release on bond, but Gardner on Thursday denied that claim and said she had told one judge to revoke Riley's bond.
In response to Bailey's petition, all St. Louis circuit judges recused themselves from the legal battle, citing conflicts, which means they could not be chosen to adjudicate the matter.
'An actual conflict exists for each judge. Further, there is an appearance of impropriety for each judge. Therefore, 22nd circuit hereby recuses itself,' presiding judge Elizabeth Hogan said in a court order on Thursday evening.
Bailey says this move is 'significant' because now those judges are potential witnesses against Gardner as the process moves ahead under Judge Torbitzky.
'[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 added.
Bailey says the next step in the case will likely be a preliminary hearing to set the table and a timeline for the case, followed by a brief discovery period, which will then lead to a court hearing.
'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,' Bailey explained.
Bailey says that as recently as in her press conference on Thursday, Gardner has been dishonest about her office's action in the prosecution. When questioned by a reporter why there is no record of her office making requests of the court to revoke Riley's bond, said that her office did so 'orally.'
But Bailey said no such request appears in the transcript of any court hearing.
'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.
Bailey said that it's possible a judge could decide to remove Gardner from her post while the legal proceedings play out.
'We are hopeful that a judge will remove her immediately . . . and then she can have her day in court after that,' Bailey said. '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 added.