For those keeping track, the past week hasn’t been such a great one for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
Last Thursday, Judge Michael Noble found that there was sufficient evidence that Gardner and Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Desilets had acted with “intentional disregard for the judicial process” to pursue a case of “indirect criminal contempt” against them both, calling Gardner’s office a “rudderless ship of chaos” in the process. That matter will next be heard on May 30th.
Then, as we reported, Desilets and another top prosecutor resigned, leaving the office down one-third of its prosecutors just since February.
Just on the heels of those latest resignations, Judge John Torbitzky ruled that the quo warranto proceedings, brought by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey to remove Gardner from office, could continue, denying Gardner’s Motion to Dismiss as to seven of the 10 counts filed against her.
If all of the allegations are found to be true, Torbitzky wrote, “the number of alleged incidents and cases impacted … gives rise to a reasonable inference that (Gardner) has failed to act contrary to a known duty.”
As RedState has covered extensively, these proceedings, though rare, are the culmination of a long history of inexcusable incompetence on the part of Gardner and her office.
Gardner’s office has faced criticism for years for understaffing and organizational dysfunction. But in February, all of those complaints gave way to calls for her resignation after an out-of-town volleyball player was involved in a crash downtown that resulted in both of her legs being amputated. The driver of one of the vehicles remained out of jail despite violating the conditions of his bond in a pending robbery case dozens of times.
Bailey filed suit to remove Gardner in February, arguing she had failed in her duties to prosecute cases and keep victims informed of developments in their cases. In March, he added 100 pages in a 10-count petition that accused her of not adequately supervising or training her subordinates, violating the rights of victims and defendants and refusing to review police use-of-force cases.
Gardner’s response to the allegations has been to blame the laundry list of missteps on subordinates and decry the suit as political and borne of racism and misogyny — everything other than taking any personal ownership of the continuing chaos that led to former Judge Booker T. Shaw, who is representing the judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in the quo warranto proceedings, to observe that Gardner’s office is “near total collapse.” Though Gardner’s attorneys argued that none of the allegations rise to the level required to justify her removal in their Motion to Dismiss, Judge Torbitzky disagreed.
[O]n Tuesday, Torbitzky said all but three counts should remain. He threw out charges that Gardner violated the Sunshine Law and failed to participate with the police department in destroying evidence for old cases, and he dismissed allegations that Gardner mismanaged her office’s finances, finding the “allegations, though troubling, do not state a claim” under the removal statute.
The judge also overruled many of Gardner’s objections regarding discovery requests from the AG’s office.
Torbitzky also rejected blanket arguments from Gardner’s office that a 59-point subpoena from the attorney general’s office asking for information including emails, case records and complaints from victims should be thrown out because it’s “unduly burdensome” and compromises prosecutorial privilege.
He found that Gardner’s office will be forced to provide almost all of the documents within 30 days.
Because Gardner has requested a change of judge in the proceedings (which she is entitled to do under the rules), Torbitzky will no longer be presiding over them. On Wednesday, the Missouri Supreme Court transferred the matter to Judge Thomas Chapman of Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals. At this point, it is unclear whether the September 25th trial date set by Judge Torbitzky will be maintained.
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