Obama nominates Ronnie White to the federal bench

11/10/2013 7:39 PM

11/10/2013 7:39 PM

For the third time, Missouri’s Ronnie White has been nominated for a federal judgeship.

And with the Senate at loggerheads over appointments, it’s not at all clear that the third time will be the charm.

White became embroiled in an intense Missouri political fight in the 1990s that figured prominently in the John Ashcroft-Mel Carnahan U.S. Senate race in 2000.

Last week, President Barack Obama nominated White for a seat on the U.S. District Court in eastern Missouri.

Some history, courtesy of the AP:

White was twice nominated by President Bill Clinton for federal judgeships in the 1990s. But the Senate defeated White's appointment in 1999 after he was opposed by then-U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri.

Ashcroft, a Republican, contended that White, a Democrat, was soft on the death penalty and drug law enforcement and called him "pro-criminal."

In 2001, White testified against Ashcroft in a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing after Ashcroft was nominated by President George W. Bush to become attorney general. White contended that Ashcroft had "seriously distorted" his record as a judge.

But Ashcroft ultimately was confirmed as attorney general.

Obama said Thursday that White had been nominated to replace retired U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton in the Eastern District of Missouri.

White, 60, served on the Missouri Supreme Court from 1995 to 2007 and was the chief justice from mid-2003 to mid-2005. Since White resigned, he has worked as an attorney in private practice in St. Louis.

White got his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He defended indigent suspects for the St. Louis public defender's office before later opening a private legal practice. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in a special election in 1989 and resigned in 1993 to become city counselor under St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.

Then-Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed White to the Eastern District of the state Court of Appeals in 1994 and selected him for the state Supreme Court in October 1995. White was the first black judge appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

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