Mo. Circuit Judge Steele responds to call for his impeachment

Circuit Judge Russell Steele

On Tuesday, KHQA reported that Republican Second District State Representative Zach Wyatt is looking to impeach Missouri Circuit Judge Russell E. Steele.

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Wyatt has sponsored House Resolution 333 which invokes the Articles of Impeachment against Judge Steele. If passed, the Resolution would call for Judge Steele to stand trial before the Missouri Supreme Court.

Judge Steele has issued the following release in response to the resolution:


January 26, 2012

From: Judge Russell E. Steele

Here we go again. As you probably have heard by now, State Representatives Zach Wyatt and Craig Redmon have sponsored a resolution in the Missouri House of Representatives in an attempt to remove me from office, using the same old allegations that were raised by my political opponents in an attempt to defeat me in my last election in 2006. In 2006, the voters spoke loudly and clearly at the ballot box â?? rejecting those bogus allegations. And not only did the voters reject those allegations, but so did the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges, the body charged by law with investigating complaints of misconduct against judges, and an Adair County grand jury, after a very thorough investigation by both. Not being satisfied with the decision of the voters, and the decisions of the Commission and grand jury, Representatives Wyatt and Redmon now seek to substitute their judgment for that of the people, believing that they know better than them. And, of course, this all just happens to be occurring exactly at the same time I am facing re-election.

The real story here is not about me and the same old phony allegations against me â?? that is yesterdayâ??s news. The real story should be about an attempt to use the Missouri House of Representatives for politics rather than the business of the people. Iâ??m not surprised that someone would recycle these old allegations against me to try and defeat me in this yearâ??s election â?? having failed in their last attempt. Unfortunately, that is just the way some people go about conducting campaigns. But I am shocked and appalled, as the citizens of Northeast Missouri and this state should be, that for one of the only times in 190 years of the history of the Missouri General Assembly, members of the House of Representatives have introduced a resolution to impeach a circuit judge. This is an unprecedented and extraordinary political attack on a member of the judiciary and ignores the well established process that is in place to consider complaints against judges.

The Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges was created in 1972 when voters approved Article 5, Section 24 of the Missouri Constitution. That provision established the Commission as an independent state agency whose sole responsibility is to investigate complaints against judges and impose disciplinary action, if warranted. The Commission consists of lawyers, non-lawyers, and judges. This process is thorough, fair and non-political. It was properly used to establish that the allegations against me were without merit. But since those findings exonerating me from any wrongdoing were unpopular with my political opponents, they now have decided to use the General Assembly for what appears to be purely political purposes. The citizens of this state should be outraged by this blatant abuse of the General Assembly.

It is unfortunate and very disappointing that people who were elected to represent us in Jefferson City to work to bring jobs to Missouri, to improve our healthcare and educational systems, to ensure that our roads and bridges are safe, to address the fiscal crisis that faces our state, to help solve the many other problems facing all of us are, instead, are wasting their time and the taxpayersâ?? money by introducing legislation that consists of defamatory accusations against another elected official that have already been found to be unwarranted solely for apparent political reasons. That is not the job they were elected to do.

I took my oath of office to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Missouri and I take it seriously. I am proud of my judicial service to the citizens of Adair, Knox and Lewis Counties and to the people of Missouri. I have been recognized for my service and commitment to judicial excellence by my colleagues through numerous awards, by my selection to serve on various Missouri Supreme Court committees, and by being elected as President of the Missouri Circuit Judgesâ?? Association. I have also had the honor of being appointed as a special judge to the Missouri Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court. I go to work everyday to do the job that the voters elected me to do. I will continue to do that and not waste the taxpayersâ?? money by spending my time refuting these defamatory accusations that have already been disproven and due to the restrictions that apply to me as a judicial officer. I trust that the media and the public will see this effort for what it truly is -- politics at its worst. The people who elected the Representatives have already spoken on this matter. It is time for our Representatives to listen to what they had to say, honor it, and to get back to doing the peoplesâ?? business in Jefferson City, regardless of how much they personally might want to help my next opponent. And I want to believe that when these Representatives more fully consider this matter, they will do the right thing by honoring the will of the people.

View the House resolution here.

*KTVO in Kirksville, Mo. contributed to this report.