AG Bailey mentions backlog, racist harassment case in filing against Gardner

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:57 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Ultimately, it will be up to a judge to decide if Kim Gardner should be removed as St. Louis’ circuit attorney based on the attorney general’s accusations. Friday, News 4 received word that Court of Appeals Judge John Torbitzky, who was just appointed to the bench by Gov. Mike Parson last year, has been selected to preside over the case.

“It needs to be willful, fraudulent or neglectful,” said Joe Dandurand, who has handled quo warranto cases in past administrations of the Attorney General’s Office.

“It is an extraordinary remedy. It is to be brought in circumstances that are compelling,” Dandurand said.

A quo is basically an obscure law provision that allows for an elected official’s ouster for neglecting their office. Citing conflict of interest, all the judges in the City of St. Louis recused themselves from the case.

There will be hearings and sworn testimony, and Gardner has made it clear she intends to fight the attorney general’s attempt to get her out of office.

The attorney general’s evidence in his filing against Gardner goes well beyond the case of Daniel Riley.

Back in 2021, Shirley Washington-Cobb told News 4 Investigates she was appalled by the Circuit Attorney’s Office (CAO) plea deal in the death of her son. She is mentioned in the quo filing.

Also mentioned is the case against Judy Kline. The CAO sat on charges of the woman harassing a Latino family for nearly a year.

The filing also references a backlog of more than 4,000 cases in the office, something News 4 Investigates exposed last year.

UMSL adjunct professor Rick Rosenfeld reacted to the backlog back then.

“I thought, this cannot be true. Can’t be true. There’s got to be a mistake here,” Rosenfeld said.

Former St Louis County Judge William Corrigan will lead the attorney general’s legal team on the quo. Gardner’s representation is not yet clear.

Either way, it could be a lengthy legal battle.

“It’s a high standard, it’s difficult, and one that’s fairly rare and one taken very seriously by the courts,” Dandurand said.

One big question: who will pay for it all? Taxpayers fund the attorney general’s actions. But will the public be on the hook for Gardner’s legal defense?

News 4 reached out to the CAO about that issue, but no one has given an answer.

For now, Gardner will continue as the lead prosecutor in St. Louis until this process plays out.

She has not yet responded in writing to the attorney general’s filing.

One of the last times this happened, the prosecutor in question resigned before the quo process finished. That was in 2009 in Dent County.

News 4 Investigates will continue to track the case.