Blunt selects new judge for Mo. Supreme Court

Saturday, September 8, 2007
Judge Patricia Breckenridge, left, spoke Friday during a news conference with Gov. Matt Blunt at her side at the Vernon County Courthouse in Nevada, Mo. Blunt has appointed the appeals court judge to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court. (Nevada Daily Mail)

NEVADA, Mo. -- Gov. Matt Blunt on Friday appointed appeals court judge Patricia Breckenridge to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court.

Blunt announced Breckenridge's appointment in her hometown of Nevada at the Vernon County Courthouse, where she began her career as a state judge more than 25 years ago.

She will replace Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, who resigned in July to return to private legal practice.

Under Missouri's judicial selection process, a special panel privately screens applicants for Supreme Court vacancies before submitting three candidates to the governor. Blunt had until Sept. 23 to appoint one of those three or reject the entire slate, in which case the appointment would have been made by the selection panel.

After conducting an extensive written and oral interview process, Blunt said he was convinced that Breckenridge "will make the best judge" of the three candidates. He described her as "conscientious and dedicated to the fair administration of justice."

"She has given me her assurances that she understands the proper role of the judiciary, which is to interpret the laws based on fact and not to make decisions based on personal preferences," Blunt said.

Besides Breckenridge, the other finalists were Western District appellate Judge Ronald Holliger and Eastern District appellate Judge Nanette Baker.

Breckenridge, 53, was the only one of the trio to have been appointed to the bench by Republican governors -- initially as an associate circuit judge in January 1982 by Gov. Kit Bond, then as an appeals court judge in December 1990 by Gov. John Ashcroft. Blunt, likewise, is a Republican.

Her appointment means the seven-member Missouri Supreme Court will have three female judges for the first time. But it will lose some racial diversity. White had been the only black judge to serve on the state's highest court.

Breckenridge handled more than 30,000 civil, criminal, family law and probate cases while a trial judge. She said in her application for the Supreme Court position that she had authored about 900 opinions while an appeals court judge. From 1998 to 2000, Breckenridge served as the chief judge of the Western District appeals court.

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