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Panel named for Western District spot

Two circuit judges and the director of the Missouri Department of Revenue are the finalists for the second of three vacancies on the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District.

The Appellate Judicial Commission on Wednesday nominated Judge Jacqueline A. Cook, Revenue Director Karen King Mitchell and Associate Circuit Judge Gary D. Witt for a spot on the Kansas City-based appeals court.

Gov. Jay Nixon will have 60 days to select one of the three for the vacancy, created by the retirement in January of Judge Paul M. Spinden.

Cook, 50, of Belton, is the presiding judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit, comprising Cass and Johnson counties. She earned her law degree in 1989 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

She was first elected circuit judge in 2001 and became the presiding judge of the circuit last year. She clerked for the Western District after graduating from law school.

Cook is the only one of the three to have previously been named to an appellate candidate panel. She was one of three nominated in March for a different vacancy on the Western District. Nixon last week named Columbia attorney Mark Pfeiffer to fill that spot.

Mitchell, 50, of Columbia, has spent most of her career working with Nixon. She served in several positions in the attorney general’s office during his 16-year tenure there. Most recently, she was chief deputy attorney general.

Nixon appointed Mitchell to be revenue director earlier this year. Mitchell was also elected last year to fill one of three newly created seats on the Missouri Bar Board of Governors, as part of an effort to diversify its ranks. She earned her law degree in 1984 from the University of Missouri School of Law.

Witt, 44, of Parkville, is an associate circuit judge in Platte County. He was appointed to the 6th Circuit in 1998 and was most recently retained by voters in November. Before his appointment, he served as a Democratic state representative from 1991 to 1997 for a district including parts of Platte and Buchanan counties. During that time, he was also in private practice. He earned his law degree in 1990 from MU.

A third vacancy remains to be filled later this year on the Western District. Because all three appellate vacancies came at the same time, the Appellate Judicial Commission chose to nominate all the panels from the same pool of applicants. It expects to select the third panel after Nixon makes his appointment.