Judge weighing whether to dismiss Lt. Gov. case

July 6, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Cole County Circuit Court judge questioned the value of a lawsuit asking him to rule that a Missouri governor can’t appoint a lieutenant governor during a hearing Thursday.

The Missouri Democratic Party filed suit last month with a World War II veteran, just hours after Gov. Mike Parson appointed Mike Kehoe to be the executive branch’s new No. 2.

Parson vacated the lieutenant governor’s post after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned June 1. Parson and Kehoe are both Republicans.

Matt Vianello, a lawyer for the Democratic Party, told Judge Jon Beetem that he was just looking for him to declare the appointment illegal. What happened after that, he said, was up to Parson and Kehoe.

“What’s the point?” Beetem asked.

Vianello responded that there would still be value to resolving a long-standing legal debate in Missouri, no matter what occurred after a ruling.

The lawsuit’s argument boils down to a section of the state constitution that says the governor is able to fill vacancies “unless otherwise provided by law,” and a Missouri law that explains that the governor can make appointments but also includes several exceptions, such as the office of lieutenant governor.

That exemption, Vianello said, showed that lawmakers intended to only allow voters to a fill a lieutenant governor position, since the office is elected independently in the state.

But that law doesn’t trump the broad appointment power granted in the state constitution, said Assistant Attorney General John Sauer. Other governors have affirmed this power, he said, and the case should be dismissed.

Sauer also challenged whether the Democratic Party had standing to sue, since their argument that Kehoe’s appointment would put the party at a disadvantage during the next election presumed Kehoe would run again, which wasn’t certain.

The judge did not indicate when he’ll decide whether the case can proceed.

Update hourly