ST. LOUIS — St. Louis has a new circuit attorney.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced on Friday that he has appointed Gabe Gore, a partner at a high-powered politically connected law firm in Clayton, to the recently vacated position.
Gore plans to resign from the Dowd Bennett law firm Friday and will be sworn in on Monday, May 29.
Gore replaces embattled former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who abruptly resigned Tuesday, weeks ahead of when she was expected to officially step down.
About 100 people crammed together in the hallway outside the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office in the Carnahan courthouse for the governor’s announcement and press conference Friday.
Gore thanked Parson for “giving me this historic opportunity to serve the city I love.”
“As I accept this appointment, my sole focus is to begin the process of building a circuit attorney’s office that is high-performing and can provide the level of justice and public safety that the citizens of St. Louis deserve,” Gore said. “The City of St. Louis is where me and my wife have chosen to live and where we raised our children.
“And the same level of public safety that we enjoyed raising our family here is what we seek for all citizens.”
Gore was one of 18 candidates who applied for the appointment after Gardner announced she would be resigning. Parson’s senior staff then interviewed five candidates and sent three finalists to Parson.
Credit: St. Louis Business Journal
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabe Gore
“For far too long, dysfunction has plagued this office and the local criminal justice system,” Parson told the crowd. “This is an opportunity to correct course, an opportunity to demand better and do better by the people of St. Louis.
“This judicial system relies on effective relationship between the courts, law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. Weakness in one weakens them all. Today is a new day that allows us to recommit ourselves to a stronger judicial system.”
The new St. Louis circuit attorney is a member of the Dowd Bennett law firm, which describes him as “an experienced trial lawyer who concentrates on complex civil litigation and white collar defense. He has tried over twenty cases, including cases involving breach of contract, product liability, misappropriation of trade secrets, securities fraud, breach of trust, employment and property damage claims. His clients include Fortune 500 corporations, corporate executives and high-ranking government officials.”
5 On Your Side asked Gore how he plans to put the interests of the public ahead of the interests of the politically-connected and high-profile clients and coworkers he is leaving behind.
“You can you can look at the things that I’ve done in service to the community and you won’t find any connection to me pursuing anything other than things that I thought were important for the community,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing here. That is my only goal and focus in pursuing this.”
Parson said Gore’s departure from the firm reflects his motives.
“One of the things that I had to consider, too, is, yes, he is definitely with a well-respected high profile law firm … to give up that to be able to do this says a lot for the character of somebody, that he’s put the City of St. Louis before a high profile law firm and money,” Parson said. “And I think that’s one of the characteristics I had the opportunity to sit with him and his wife and understand the importance of that.
“So I want to just say that on the behalf, I think he’s the right guy at the right time. And I think it’s not going to be about the law firm. I think it’s going to be about the circuit attorney’s office.”
Who is Gabe Gore?
Gore has never tried a case in a state court, but is a former assistant U.S. attorney. His expansive resume is rooted in promoting diversity and equity in various roles.
Gore has led Dowd Bennett’s Diversity Committee, and now more than 40% of the firm’s partners are women and people of color, according to the firm’s website.
Gore said hiring staff is his top priority for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, followed closely by rebuilding relationships with law enforcement and regional leaders.
Mayor Tishaura Jones, Attorney General Andrew Bailey, U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming, St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy, Sheriff Vernon Betts and Judge Christopher McGraugh stood alongside the governor for the announcement.
“I can tell you that I am very pleased with the offers of cooperation and contributing resources that I’ve heard are available and that everybody’s willing to step up and help,” he said. “So certainly that’s something that I am going to look at and try to make a decision about the best way to take advantage of the tremendous outpouring of support right here.”
Gore is also a Detroit native. His father worked for Chrysler, and the family moved to St. Louis when Gore was 14. He graduated from Parkway South High School, according to a Missouri State University biography.
At the University of Chicago’s School of Law, future President Barack Obama was among his professors, according to the profile.
Before joining Dowd Bennett, Gore clerked for Eastern Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Gibson; served as an assistant U.S. attorney, as an assistant special counsel for the Waco investigation and as an associate at Williams & Connolly law firm and a partner at Bryan Cave law firm, according to his online profile.
Gore has been tapped by the governor’s office for an appointment in the past. Following the unrest in Ferguson, then Gov. Jay Nixon appointed him to serve on the Ferguson Commission.
He currently serves on the Missouri State University Board of Governors and the Forest Park Forever Board. He was also a founding board member of KIPP St. Louis Public Charter Schools, a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools dedicated to preparing students in under-served communities for success in college and in life, according to the Missouri State University biography.
Gore has spent the past 10 years at the Dowd Bennett law firm, which has a bitter history with Gardner. The firm represented former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens after Gardner charged him with crimes related to an alleged compromising photo he took of his mistress without her consent.
At the end of that saga in 2018, Greitens resigned after striking a deal with Gardner in exchange for her dismissal of the charges against him. Parson became governor.
Ed Dowd and defense attorney Scott Rosenblum then filed a criminal complaint against Gardner’s investigator for withholding evidence, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
The attorneys later filed a bar complaint against Gardner, which ended in a reprimand against her.
By state law, it fell on Parson to appoint Gardner’s replacement, which he had planned to have in place by her original resignation date of June 1.
Parson moved up that deadline following her unexpected resignation, saying he hoped to have an appointment by Friday.
Reaction from political leaders
Political and regional leaders from across the St. Louis area began issuing statements following the announcement.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell wrote:
I’ve always been consistent that we stand ready to help our City of St. Louis partners. Now, with the appointment of Circuit Attorney Gore, I’ll make it plain: the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office stands ready to help in any way that we can to help stabilize the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. Those who commit serious and violent crimes do not recognize jurisdictional borders, thus real solutions to violent crime must involve working across political boundaries in the interest of our collective public safety. Public safety in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County is invariably interconnected, and a functioning Circuit Attorney’s Office is vital to the safety of this entire region. My colleagues in prosecutor’s offices across the region have expressed their support as well, and I look forward to everyone pulling together during this critical transition in the Circuit Attorney’s Office.
The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of St. Louis congratulated Gore on the appointment and wrote, in part:
The judges of this circuit remain committed to the citizens of the St.Louis region and pledge to work with Gore as he rebuilds experience and stability within the Circuit Attorney’s Office.
During this time of transition, the Court hopes the region comes together to offer support and assistance to the CAO’s new leader with a renewed focus on public safety and the fair administration of justice in the City of St. Louis.
Parson appointed his general counsel Evan Rodriguez to serve as interim circuit attorney while he worked to finish interviewing candidates for the permanent appointment.
Gore will serve out the remainder of the current circuit attorney’s term, which ends Jan. 1, 2025. Until he is sworn in on May 29, Rodriguez will continue to serve as interim circuit attorney.
Eighteen people had applied to the governor’s office to become his appointee to the office. Political opponents, a judge and a former assistant circuit attorney were among the field of contenders.
Gardner’s office has been under mounting pressure after contempt of court hearings, staff attorney resignations, and the handling of high-profile cases.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office on Wednesday filed a voluntary dismissal without prejudice of a lawsuit seeking to remove her from office.
Gardner’s legal team had filed a request for dismissal shortly after her abrupt resignation on Tuesday, arguing that the case is now moot. Bailey’s team agreed at a Tuesday hearing that the case was now likely moot, saying they would likely not be opposed to the motion to dismiss.
A contempt of court case against Gardner was also dropped following her resignation, with a special prosecutor saying the case “no longer serves the interest of justice” because Gardner and her former assistant prosecutor no longer work in the circuit attorney’s office.
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