Matt Blunt (R)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline)-Two state appeals court judges and one county judge were nominated Thursday to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court.

Lisa White Hardwick and Ronald Holliger of the Western District Court of Appeals, and Atchison County Judge Zel Fischer were chosen by the state Appellate Judicial Commission, which is made up of lawyers, gubernatorial appointees and the court's sitting chief justice.

The panel has forwarded the three judicial nominees to Republican Gov. Matt Blunt to fill seat left vacant by Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr., who after 16 years on the state high court was confirmed in June as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Holliger, 62, of Blue Springs, was a finalist when Blunt instead appointed Western District Appellate Judge Patricia Breckenridge last September to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White. Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed Holliger as a Jackson County circuit judge in 1995 and to the appeals court in 2000.

Hardwick, 47, of Kansas City, became the first black woman to serve on Missouri's Court of Appeals. She was appointed in 2001 by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden to succeed Laura Denvir Stith, who was elevated to the Supreme Court.

Fischer, 45, of Tarkio, was one of the finalists to replace Breckenridge on the appeals court.

In a statement, Blunt said he will carefully consider the nominees to the seven-member court.

"My office will have a selection process that is open and transparent and I will carefully review and research the qualifications and experience that each panelist could bring to the Missouri Supreme Court," Blunt said.

In all, 23 individuals applied for a seat on the state high court.

While not disclosing the applicants' names, the court said 18 of the 23 applicants are men and 17 work in the public sector. Six applicants are minorities. The median age is 53 years old.

To help the governor decide whom to appoint, applicants were asked to complete a 50-question survey, which, among other things, asked about their judicial philosophy.

The governor has said he would release the applicants' answers to help ensure that the selection process is "open and transparent."

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