Different judge will preside over AG’s case against Gardner

Concern grows about the shrinking number of prosecutors in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- As concern grows about the shrinking number of prosecutors in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, some are now suggesting drastic measures to keep the office running.

Wednesday it was confirmed that the case will be transferred to Judge Thomas Chapman.

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“My gosh, something needs to happen,” said former Missouri Deputy Attorney General and legal expert Joe Dandurand.

He told News 4 that news of departures in the prosecutor’s office raises alarms.

The latest to leave is Chris Desilets, who quit Monday, effective immediately.

“I don’t know how long she can go with nobody there to assist with handling of the docket, I don’t know, this is just unprecedented,” Dandurand said.

According to a roster released by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office Monday, just one attorney is in the Violent Crimes Unit, though a number of other attorneys remain. Her office has lost nearly a quarter of its attorneys in the last seven months alone.

Meanwhile, Judge John Torbitzky canceled a hearing set for Tuesday in the Missouri Attorney General’s efforts to oust Gardner from office. On Sunday, Gardner filed for a change of judge and as a matter of law, it will be granted.

“It was filed on the last day and they don’t have to state a reason. Missouri is one of the last states left in the country that allows you to file for a change of judge for any reason or no reason whatsoever,” said Dandurand.

Dandurand told News 4 it shouldn’t affect the timeline of a trial, which was already pushed out closer to the end of the year.

But with worries growing now, one local lawyer, a former St. Louis City counselor, suggested on Twitter that the governor could use emergency powers to bring in prosecutors.

“Well, I am not trying to be glib, but I haven’t seen a tornado in the office or a natural disaster in the office,” Dandurand said.

Dandurand said it’s unlikely that would happen.

“I think it’s a stretch, doesn’t say it couldn’t happen,” he said.

Though he said Gardner could request additional help, she has not yet done so.

“I don’t know what she thinks, but something needs to be done,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s office said to her knowledge, a state of emergency has not been discussed.

Either way, Torbitzky is out in the case to oust Gardner. The Supreme Court will have to pick someone else.