© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bailey not ready to drop effort to remove Gardner while she’s still in office

Andrew Bailey, newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, gives remarks after being sworn in on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, shown in January after being sworn in, says he's willing to provide attorneys to help the St. Louis circuit attorney's office reduce its case backlog.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is happy that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is leaving office, but he’s not willing to drop his efforts to remove her just yet.

After Gardner announced her resignation last week, Bailey put out a statement that said he won’t dismiss what’s known as a quo warranto. That trial is slated to begin in September, and in the past, the attorney general’s office dropped cases after the officeholder stepped down.

But Bailey wants to make sure Gardner leaves before the cases is dismissed.

'St. Louis on the Air': STLPR's Jason Rosenbaum discusses this story

“First and foremost, the circuit attorney is still in office,” Bailey said. “Lawsuits don't go away on their own. Parties have to go to court and ask for those lawsuits to be dismissed. And so, it's going to be incumbent upon her if she thinks it's moot to argue that in front of a judge, and a judge is going to have to make that determination.”

Bailey was critical of Gardner’s decision to leave on June 1. When asked what difference the timing made if she’s leaving office, Bailey said, “Tell that to all the victims who won't have their day in court and who won't receive justice between now and June 1.”

“There are people that are suffering, and that will continue to suffer, between now and June 1,” Bailey said. “That's an arbitrary date. It has no basis in fact or law. There's no rational basis for it. She needs to go now, she does not acknowledge that she's done anything wrong.”

The main reason Gardner said she decided to quit was to scuttle legislation that would exert more state control over the circuit attorney’s office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. While noting that he doesn’t have any control over what the legislature does on that front, Bailey said he wants to see passage of a provision that would bar people in Gardner’s situation from running for office again.

That proposal states that someone who resigns amid a quo warranto is barred from running for that post again.

“That's an excellent first step in structural reform,” Bailey said.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, who was involved in Gardner’s resignation negotiations, said she was unlikely to seek the post again in 2024, adding that she wanted to move on with her life.

“I firmly believe that Andrew Bailey wanted to campaign for the next year on Kim Gardner and her removal and have this facade of a show in September with a quo warranto,” Rizzo said last week.

Bailey, though, said that his bid to oust Gardner was not about politics.

“Since Day One, I've been committed to restoring the rule of law and finding justice for victims in St. Louis and across the region,” Bailey said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks on Monday, April. 24, 2023, after a kick off for St. Louis’ inaugural Tech Week at World Wide Technology’s world headquarters in Maryland Heights.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, shown on April 24 in St. Louis, will pick the replacement for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

Confident in Parson’s choice

Gov. Mike Parson will choose Gardner’s successor, and Bailey, who was appointed attorney general by Parson, said he’s confident the governor will make the right appointment.

“He knows exactly what that office needs and what it takes to enforce the Criminal Code of the State of Missouri and hold wrongdoers accountable and find justice for victims,” Bailey said. “And I think those are the criteria he’s looking for. And certainly, he's well versed in what it takes to run that kind of office.”

Bailey said whoever is appointed is facing an enormous task.

They’ll have “to deal with the backlog of warrants, referrals from the police department, analyze the cases that are currently pending that are set for trial, and analyze the cases that have been dismissed if they're still within the statute of limitations where there may be a good case there,” he said.

Gardner’s successor could ask for help from surrounding prosecutors to reduce an overwhelming caseload that’s prompted people to quit. They could also ask Bailey’s office for assistance.

Bailey said his staff is willing to help if asked.

“We stand ready to assist when called upon,” he said. “We do have enough staff to offer assistance.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.