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White, Harpool Renominated To Federal Bench In Missouri

White photo from Missouri Supreme Court, Harpool photo provided by his law firm

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White will have his fourth shot to be a federal judge, as a result of President Barack Obama’s decision Monday to renominate  judicial nominees who had been blocked by Republicans.

White is among two Missourians on the new judicial list sent to the U.S. Senate. The other is former state Rep. M. Douglas Harpool of Springfield, who also saw his earlier nomination die late last year.

The president’s apparent aim is to take advantage of the U.S. Senate’s new rules on judicial nominees; the new rules have ended most Republican filibusters or “holds’’ on Obama’s choices.

Harpool – often dubbed the “father’’ of the Missouri Ethics Commission, which monitors campaign money -- has been nominated to be a U.S. district judge for the Western District of Missouri, He would replace Richard E. Dorr, who died.

White has been nominated to be U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, succeeding Jean C. Hamilton, who has retired.

Both are practicing attorneys -- and believed to have the backing of  U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

White served 12 years on the Missouri Supreme Court, from 1995-2007, becoming the first African-American to serve on the state’s highest court. He was nominated to a federal judgeship twice in the 1990s by President Bill Clinton. The first nomination died, but White was rejected by the Senate in 1999 as a result of organized opposition from then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo. (McCaskill now holds Ashcroft’s old seat.)

Obama renominated White late last year, but he was among those judicial choices – including Harpool – blocked by the GOP. Harpool was nominated last summer.

Senate Republicans used the old Senate rule requiring 60 votes to proceed with any presidential nominee, thus preventing most judicial votes.

But Democrats controlling the Senate have now adopted a rule allowing simple majorities to approve judicial nominees and those chosen for key presidential posts.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had criticized the rule change, but it’s unclear if he will take action to block Harpool or White.  The Senate left in place a provision to allow senators to block votes on judicial nominees from their home state.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.