Governor Blunt has appointed Western District Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Breckenridge to the State Supreme Court.
Blunt chose Breckenridge over two other appellate judges recommended to him by the Appellate Judicial Commission. The other candidates were fellow Western District Appellate Judge Ronald Holliger and Eastern District Appellate Judge Nannette Baker.
Breckenridge will fill the vacancy created when Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White left the bench to go into private practice. Then-Governor John Ashcroft appointed Breckenridge to the appellate bench in 1990. She had served eight years as an associate circuit judge in Vernon County in southwestern Missouri before her appointment to the appeals court. Breckenridge is from Vernon County which is located in southwest Missouri.
Breckenridge had been seen by many as the favorite to get the nod among the three recommended by the commission. She was the only one of the three with Republican ties. Former Governor Christopher Bond appointed her as associate circuit judge. Both Ashcroft and Bond are Republicans as is Blunt. Both Holliger and Baker had received their judicial appointments from Democrats. That imbalance upset some Republican lawmakers who have questioned the wisdom not only of the commission in particular, but of the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan in general. Those Republicans say the commission gave Blunt no real choice and, in effect, chose who would sit on the Supreme Court. Blunt had even indicated that he might not appoint any of the three candidates sent to him by the Appellate Commission, which would have let the commission choose the appointee.
All three finalists underwent a lengthy job application with the governor’s office. Each had to answer more than 100 questions asked by his office. Each were interviewed by the governor’s staff. Finally, each spent a couple of hours with Governor Blunt in personal interviews.
Breckenridge is 53. Her appointment would give the Supreme Court three women judges for the first time. Breckenridge graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1977. Under the nonpartisan court plan, Breckenridge would face state voters in November 2008. If she were retained, would serve a 12-year term.