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Judge rejects lawsuit to remove Kehoe from lieutenant governor's office

Updated July 12 with brief response from plaintiffs' attorney - A Cole County judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the appointment of Mike Kehoe as Missouri’s lieutenant governor.

In a ruling issued late Wednesday,Cole County Circuit JudgeJon Beetem said that Gov. Mike Parson had the authority to appoint fellow Republican Kehoe to the state’s No. 2 office, under the Missouri Constitution.

The Missouri Democratic Party, along withHartville residentDarrell Cope, contended thatstate statute specifically prohibits a governor from appointing a lieutenant governor.Their attorney, Matt Vianello, noted that law states that a governor can fill vacancies“other than in the offices of lieutenant governor, state senator or representative, sheriff, or recorder of deeds in the city of St. Louis.”

But Beetemsaidin his ruling that the plaintiffs misinterpreted the meaning of the law as it pertained to therecent lieutenant governor vacancy. Since there is nothing in state law spelling out how a lieutenant governor vacancy is filled, the governor therefore has the power to make the decision.

“Plaintiffs expressly pled in their Petition that ‘Missouri law…provides no way to fill a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor,’” he said. “Because the plain language of Article IV, Section 4 authorizes the Governor to fill the vacancy unless Missouri law furnishes or supplies another way to fill it, this concession is fatal to Plaintiffs’ case.”

Beetem also ruled that the plaintiffs don’t have the authority, as private parties, to seek Kehoe’s removal from office by civil lawsuit.

Parson praised the decision late Wednesday.

“This affirms our position as well as the position of previous governors from both parties,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our work with Lt. Gov. Kehoe, and also commend the work of Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office in effectively arguing the merits of this case on an important constitutional issue.”

Vianello said they're considering filing a direct appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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