Obama nominates former Mo. SC judge to federal court -- 14 years after failed nomination

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 8, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- On Thursday, President Barack Obama nominated Ronnie L. White to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri -- 14 years after he was deprived of the job.

White, now a partner in the St. Louis law firm of Holloran White Schwartz & Gaertner LLP, served as a judge on the Missouri Supreme Court from 1995 to 2007. He was the court's first African-American chief justice, serving from 2003 to 2005.

Prior to his seat on the state's high court, he served as a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.

Since 1996, he also has served as an adjunct professor at Washington University law school in St. Louis.

White was first nominated to the Eastern District of Missouri in 1997 by then-President Bill Clinton.

However, his nomination ran into resistance from then-Sen. John Ashcroft in 1999. Ashcroft claimed White was "pro-criminal" due to his opinions in death penalty cases.

Although White's nomination passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, it failed in the full Senate.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said in a statement Thursday that Obama took a "major step toward rectifying a profound injustice" in nominating White to the federal court.

"Fourteen years ago, Missourians were deprived of an outstanding federal judge, when then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., blocked President Clinton's nomination of Ronnie White to be a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri," she said.

"Judge White had an outstanding record as the first African-American judge of the Missouri Supreme Court. But his nomination fell victim to the same kind of Republican obstruction that now has become routine."

Aron said the Senate should "do its job" and quickly confirm White.

Also Thursday, Obama nominated James D. Peterson to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and Nancy J. Rosenstengel to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Peterson is a shareholder at the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn S.C., where he is a member of the litigation and intellectual property practice groups and heads the firm's intellectual property litigation working group.

Rosenstengel has served as clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois since 2009.

"These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system," the President said in a statement.

"I am grateful for their willingness to serve and confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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