Courts vindicate two judges -- again

Last winter, Attorney General Jay Nixon commenced what has long had the look of a vendetta against two respected Cole County circuit judges. Their names are Thomas Brown and Byron Kinder.

Like Nixon and State Treasurer Nancy Farmer, who also figures in the matter, both Brown and Kinder are Democrats, so the dispute can't be laid to partisan differences.

The dispute involves money held in a court-supervised receivership under the judges' control. In February, Nixon sent two deputies to see the judges, demanding on behalf of himself and the state treasurer that they hand over several million dollars of unclaimed funds resulting from two cases.

The judges refused.

Consider: Neither the attorney general nor the state treasurer were parties to either of the cases, nor did they represent any of those who are parties.

This attempt by the attorney general to control judicial proceedings in cases in which he was neither a party nor an attorney for any of the parties amounts to an extraordinary attempt by the executive branch of government to control the judicial branch. In chronological order, the twists and turns go like this:

In April, Nixon filed suit in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, seeking judicial writs forcing the judges to do what he wanted. One month later, the appeals court summarily dismissed Nixon's petition. This is swift action for an appeals court.

In late June, Nixon filed suit in Osage County against Kinder and Brown, seeking to oust them from jurisdiction over the receivership funds.

In July, the treasurer, acting through the attorney general as her attorney, sued Kinder and Brown and the receivers in Cole County Circuit Court for the money in the receivership cases, plus penalties and interest and attorney's fees.

In September, the presiding judge of the circuit of which Osage County is a part entered judgment against Nixon and in favor of the judges in the Osage County lawsuit.

Last week, Judge Ward B. Stuckey, special judge appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court, entered judgment against the state treasurer and in favor of Kinder and Brown in the consolidated cases in Cole County. The court found that the treasurer had exceeded her constitutional authority in her pursuit of the judges. The court also specifically found that the receivership funds properly remain under the jurisdiction of the two judges and aren't required to be disbursed to the state treasurer as unclaimed property, which is the claim she and Nixon had been pursuing.

By any fair count the score is Kinder and Brown 7, Attorney General Nixon 0.

This is the point at which most prudent litigators would quit. Nixon says he will appeal.

This is one of the most abusive and abhorrent pursuits ever launched by any attorney general in state history. The judges are honorable public servants who have acted properly, as court after court has officially ruled. Enough is enough.