Blunt appoints Zel Fischer to Missouri Supreme Court

Zel Fischer replaces Stephen Limbaugh, who left his position in August.

Gov. Matt Blunt appointed judge Zel Fischer to the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Blunt chose the associate circuit judge in Atchison County from a group of three judges submitted to him by the Appellate Judicial Committee.

"As governor, I have many important responsibilities, but very few are as important as nominations to the Missouri Supreme Court," Blunt said in a news release.

Fischer was presented to Blunt in a panel with Judge Lisa White Hardwick and Judge Ronald Hilliger.

"Judge Fischer is a highly respected judge and attorney who will bring years of legal experience to our Supreme Court," Blunt said in the release.

The committee began the selection process in August after Judge Stephen Limbaugh left his position on the state's highest court.

After a judge leaves his or her position, the commission opens the application process to all Missourians who meet certain criteria. Applicants must have been U.S. citizens for at least 15 years and qualified voters for at least nine years. Applicants must be at least 30 and licensed to practice law in Missouri.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Beth Riggert said about 30 people applied.

After interviewing every applicant, the commission selects three applicants to present to the governor. The commission presented Blunt with three names at the end of August.

Following this, the governor selects who he or she thinks is the best applicant.

"We just submit names and application material," Riggert said. "We don't provide any commentary regarding the nominees."

Blunt began interviewing candidates earlier this month. Blunt met the three candidates on Oct. 7.

"An important part of this extensive review process will be the time I spend interviewing and getting to know each candidate," Blunt said in an Oct. 6 news release.

The governor has 60 days to choose a new judge after receiving the panel from the commission. After 60 days, the commission will choose from among the panel it presented to governor.

"This hasn't happened since the constitution changed in the 1970s," Riggert said.

The commission that chooses the panel is composed of seven officials. The chief justice serves two-year terms and is the head of the commission. There are three citizens on the commission from the three districts. These members serve staggered six-year terms and are appointed by the governor. Blunt will choose another citizen member before his term is over.

The last three members are three lawyers. These members are elected by Missouri lawyers and serve staggered six-year terms.

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