(This story has been updated to include comments from Missouri Governor Mike Parson to Capitol reporters Wednesday evening in Jefferson City, as well as a statement from Missouri Democratic Party attorney Matthew Vianello)
A judge in mid-Missouri’s Cole County has dismissed the Missouri Democratic Party’s lawsuit against Governor Mike Parson (R) and Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe (R).
A lawyer for the Missouri Democratic Party indicates they may appeal.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued his nine-page ruling Wednesday afternoon, which says the plaintiffs lack authority to remove the lieutenant governor by litigation.
Judge Beetem also says Governor Parson had authority to appoint Kehoe, under the Missouri Constitution.
Parson praised the ruling, while addressing reporters Wednesday night at the Governor’s Mansion.
“We thought all along we had the ability to appoint the lieutenant governor, which we did,” Parson says. “And I think that the courts upheld that today, which is what we expected them to do.”
The Democratic Party last Thursday asked Judge Beetem to issue a ruling which says a governor cannot appoint a lieutenant governor, when the lieutenant governor’s position is vacant.
Missouri First Assistant Attorney General D. John Sauer told Judge Beetem on Thursday that the appointment is authorized by state law.
“Governor Parson had clear authority under Article 4 Section 4 of the Missouri Constitution to appoint Lieutenant Governor Kehoe. It is a valid appointment, there is no basis for the court to conclude otherwise,” Sauer said in court.
Last Thursday’s 55-minute court hearing mainly involved arguments over one sentence in the Missouri Constitution: “The governor shall fill all vacancies in public offices unless otherwise provided by law.”
Sauer and Missouri Democratic Party attorney Matthew Vianello disagreed in court over the interpretation of that language.
Vianello issued a statement to Missourinet on Wednesday. It reads “My clients are disappointed in the court’s decision and we are exploring our options for appeal.”
Sauer also told Judge Beetem there were “fundamental problems” with the petition from lead plaintiff Darrell Cope, a World War II veteran from southwest Missouri’s Hartville.
Sauer questioned the legal authority or ability of private citizens to seek the ouster of a statewide official.
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