Cole County judge nominated U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri

Sunday, September 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan was nominated Friday by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. attorney in eastern Missouri.

Callahan, 62, is a St. Louis native who has served as a circuit judge in Jefferson City since 2002, often handling high-profile challenges to state laws and ballot initiatives.

Before that, he served for 16 years as the elected Cole County prosecutor, where his targets included a couple of high-profile fellow Democratic politicians. He previously worked as an assistant prosecutor in St. Louis and Cole County and did special prosecutions for the Missouri attorney general's office.

Callahan issued a written statement Friday thanking Sens. Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond for supporting his nomination.

"Mindful and respectful of the fact that this nomination still requires the advice and consent of the Senate, I have no further comment other than a pledge to the citizens of Cole County that I will continue to give a 100 percent effort to my current job as circuit judge as long as I occupy that position," Callahan said.

If the Senate confirms Callahan's nomination, Gov. Jay Nixon would appoint a state judge to replace Callahan until the next regular election in 2014.

As a judge, Callahan presided over a complex and lengthy legal case contending that Missouri's school funding method failed to provide enough money and failed to distribute it fairly among schools. His decision in favor of the state was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this month.

But Callahan has shown an equal willingness to rule against the state, striking down a child abuse registry as unconstitutional in 2005 and rejecting the state's photo voter identification law the next year.

Earlier this year, he overturned the murder conviction of Joshua Kezer for the 1992 death of Angela Lawless, a student at Southeast Missouri State University. He ruled that former U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof — who was a special prosecutor in the case — improperly withheld several key pieces of evidence from Kezer's defense attorneys.

As a prosecutor, Callahan handled the 1994 trial of then-Secretary of State Judith Moriarty. She was convicted of a misdemeanor election offense and was ultimately impeached and ousted from office for backdating her son's political candidacy paper.

Five years later, Callahan successfully prosecuted state Sen. J.B. "Jet" Banks, D-St. Louis, for filing false state income tax returns. Banks resigned.


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