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Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge White considered again for U.S. bench

Judge Ronnie White presents his defense of Judge Barbara Peebles in her disciplinary case before the Missouri Supreme Court on Jan. 3, 2013. Photo By: KAREN ELSHOUT

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White is being considered for a federal judgeship open in St. Louis, Missouri Lawyers Weekly has learned from two sources involved with the Democratic Party.

Also on the shortlist are U.S. Magistrate Judge Nannette Baker and St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards, one of the sources said.

Former President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s nominated White, the first black judge on the Missouri Supreme Court, for the federal bench in St. Louis. Then-Sen. John Ashcroft torpedoed White’s confirmation in 1999 by denouncing on the U.S. Senate floor the judge’s state high court opinions as “pro-criminal and activist.”

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, is recommending White to the Obama administration for the U.S. District judgeship vacated by Judge Jean Hamilton, according to the two sources. Hamilton, based in St. Louis, took senior status July 1.

McCaskill also is submitting the names of Baker and Edwards, according to one of the sources and rumors circulating in the legal community. White, now an attorney with St. Louis firm Holloran White Schwartz & Gaertner, was cited as the apparent front-runner.

The names weren’t confirmed by any of the reported candidates or by McCaskill’s office. White and Edwards did not return two phone calls seeking comment. McCaskill’s press office didn’t return three phone calls seeking comment. Baker said she had not been officially informed that her name was among those in consideration.

Baker was a Missouri Court of Appeals judge before taking the position as a U.S. magistrate judge in 2011. Edwards, a St. Louis Circuit judge since 1992, gained national renown for his work founding the Innovative Concept Academy for students previously expelled from the St. Louis Public School System.

All three of the rumored candidates this time around are African-American. U.S. District Judge John Ross, who is white, was the most recently confirmed judge to the court in St. Louis. He was confirmed in 2011 for the bench vacated by a black judge, Charles Shaw, who also took senior status.

Baker said in a phone interview Tuesday that she had heard speculation that her name was being considered, but she had not received any official notice. Baker said she was “very, very happy” in her current position.

“If I was offered [the U.S. District judge position], I would consider it, but I have not been out campaigning or anything along those lines,” Baker said.

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