ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced Thursday afternoon that she is stepping down from the office, effective June 1.
The announcement comes as Gardner’s office has faced mounting pressure after contempt of court hearings, staff attorney resignations and the handling of high-profile cases, as well as an ongoing effort to remove her from office by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.
Here's what local leaders had to say about the news of her impending departure.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R):
"There is absolutely no reason for the Circuit Attorney to remain in office until June 1st. We remain undeterred with our legal quest to forcibly remove her from office. Every day she remains puts the city of St. Louis in more danger. How many victims will there be between now and June 1st? How many defendants will have their constitutional rights violated? How many cases will continue to go unprosecuted?"
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R):
"Our office has officially been notified of the resignation of Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, effective June 1, 2023.
"We fully understand the gravity of this situation and approach our duty to appoint a replacement with the utmost seriousness. We will immediately start the replacement process according to the Missouri Constitution and Section 105.050, RSMo.
"We are committed to finding a candidate who represents the community, values public safety, and can help restore faith in the City's criminal justice system."
22nd Judicial Court of St. Louis:
"The judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in St. Louis remain committed to serving the people of our great city and are ready to work with the next Circuit Attorney. We hope St. Louis' next Circuit Attorney is successful in restoring stability to the Office and rebuilding its ranks with experienced prosecutors.
"However, the judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit remain deeply concerned about the high volume of serious criminal cases scheduled for trial in the coming weeks without assigned prosecutors. We remain hopeful that community stakeholders in the St. Louis region will work together to offer support and assistance to the new Circuit Attorney as quickly as possible."
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (D):
"In February, I said Circuit Attorney Gardner should take accountability for her office and do some soul-searching to determine whether or not she wants to continue in her role. She has clearly taken that advice to heart by offering her resignation.
"Circuit Attorney Gardner made history by becoming the first Black woman to lead the office. There’s no doubt she has faced more obstacles than her predecessors because of it. Our Circuit Attorney’s Office is a critical public safety partner, and it must be managed and staffed effectively to help protect constitutional rights and deliver justice.
"No one wanted to see the Circuit Attorney’s Office fail, and my administration has reached out consistently to the Office to offer assistance. We are hopeful that the governor will work with local leaders to appoint a successor who reflects the values of communities across St. Louis."
Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc.:
“The announcement of resignation by Kim Gardner is long overdue. As we have said for months, her incompetent management and unforgivable failures have made our community less safe and criminals more emboldened. That combination failed the people who elected her and residents across the St. Louis metro.
“Violent crime is one of the largest barriers to economic growth and prosperity in our metro area. We hope new leadership in the Circuit Attorney’s Office will bring clear focus on reducing violent crime, ensuring justice, and rebuilding trust in the criminal justice system.
“We offer our support to Governor Parson as he makes the critical selection of a replacement. We encourage him to appoint someone that can rebuild the office of the Circuit Attorney and who will work with regional leaders in the spirit of collaboration to develop a strategy to reduce violent crime and help our metro move forward.”
The Rev. Charles Norris, president of the St. Louis Clergy Coalition:
“I heard several rumors, but her actual resignation was a surprise to me,” Norris said in an interview.
“I am disheartened because the rule of law is the issue for me. The fact that the citizens voted her in twice, but the citizens didn’t have a say one way or another to vote on her resignation.
“I will continue to support and encourage her to keep the faith."
Celestine Dotson, president of the Mound City Bar Association:
"I had lunch with the circuit attorney last Friday, and she didn’t say anything about stepping down today. I thought she’d fight it to the end,” Dotson said in an interview.
“I guess she’s tired. My reaction is what she thinks is best for the city, I’m willing to accept.
“I hope before the governor selects her replacement that he listens to the people of St. Louis. I hope he receives guidance and that he is sensitive to the people of St. Louis.”
St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Megan Green (D):
"St. Louisans deserve a fair and just criminal justice system. There is no doubt that our system is in need of reform. But we can't rely on today's decision by the Circuit Attorney alone to solve the issues prevalent in our broken criminal justice system.
"We have to reduce conditions that lead to violent crimes in the first place. Addressing root issues creates a cascading effect--making residents safer and the Circuit Attorney's office more effective in the cases it does prosecute.
"I am encouraged by Governor Parson's readiness to work with local officials in appointing a new Circuit Attorney.
"I'm calling on him to name a constructive partner who understands the needs and values of city residents."
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-St. Louis):
“As we move forward, our focus must be on serving St. Louis’s needs and appointing a replacement who will prioritize public safety and the well-being of our residents. While this transition and the challenges at the Circuit Attorney’s office leading up to this point represent a difficult time for our community, it must not be lost on us in this moment that, during her tenure as the first Black woman to serve in this role, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner too often faced unfair and unprecedented attacks rooted in misogyny and racism.
"What’s especially troubling is that these attacks are not anomalies; they mimic a larger pattern of far-right efforts nationwide to undercut and undermine the leadership of Black elected officials. That is an unacceptable reality we must not tolerate.
"As we turn a new page in the Circuit Attorney’s office, we must come together as a community to ensure that the office moves in the direction of becoming more accountable to the people it serves first and foremost: the people of St. Louis.”
St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green (D):
“Kim Gardner’s decision to leave on her own terms was a courageous move. I’ve known Kim Gardner as a dedicated public servant. She is incredibly smart, and talented, and has a bright future ahead of her. I wish her all the best.”
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Haine (R):
"As a region, we need to continue to do better. The justice system is complex, and relies on the efforts of innumerable unsung public servants to produce a good and just result for citizens. When it goes haywire, whether through mismanagement, neglect, or lack of appropriate resources, the results are often true human tragedies where criminals roam free, victims are left without lawful recourse, and once-beautiful neighborhoods wither.
"I look forward to the efforts the new Circuit Attorney will make to make toward reinforcing the rule of law at the heart of our region – the historic and great City of St. Louis. We at the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office stand ready to help however we can in that process."
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri):
"This is the right outcome for the people of St. Louis, who deserve a prosecutor dedicated to protecting THEM, not the criminals."
Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe (R):
“Kim Gardner’s decision to resign as the St. Louis Circuit Attorney is a major step forward in restoring the rule of law in St. Louis. This is the only decision she has made during her tenure with which I agree.
"Dysfunction in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office, and Kim Gardner’s unwillingness to take violent crime seriously, has hindered St. Louis for years. This resignation is long overdue. Further, Kim Gardner should never run for this office again.
"I was born and raised in St. Louis and I know the opportunities the city can provide. However, economic growth and success cannot take place in a lawless environment. I will continue to work with law enforcement and community leaders to help restore accountability and secure safety and justice for the people of St. Louis.”
State Sen. Steven Roberts (D-St. Louis):
“An effective and dedicated circuit attorney is of the utmost importance for ensuring that the victims of crimes, their families, and the accused receive justice,” Roberts said. “Violent crime impacts all of St. Louis, and those who fill the role of purveyors of justice have an enormous responsibility. Kim Gardner is making what she believes is the best decision given the circumstances, and the best decision for the City of St. Louis.”
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri):
"Today’s resignation is just the first step in restoring credibility in the justice system for the city of St. Louis. I called on Kim Gardner to resign back in February & it is egregious she is only just now recognizing how her incompetence has torn apart families & irreparably.....changed the lives of so many in our St. Louis metro community.
"From day 1 she demonstrated a flagrant disregard for both the fundamental rights of victims & the safety of our neighborhoods, completely ignoring her responsibility to uphold the law & put criminals behind bars. She has presided over miscarriages of justice for years, hurting countless victims who put their trust in her and letting dangerous criminals escape the accountability they deserve. St. Louis will be better off without her."
U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Missouri):
"Because of Kim Gardner’s incompetence violent criminals in St. Louis weren’t prosecuted while victims waited too long for justice. St. Louis is better off without Kim Gardner. It’s my hope the next Circuit Attorney will aggressively prosecute crime and people can feel safe again."
St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell:
"Obviously this was an incredibly difficult decision for Circuit Attorney Gardner to make, and I wish her the best as she transitions into the next chapter of her life and career. As many people and stakeholders who care about this region and our collective safety understand, the Circuit Attorney's Office is vital to a thriving and safer St. Louis region. To that end, we stand ready to assist our City of St. Louis family in any way we can."
5th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer (D-St. Louis):
Vollmer said he believes Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s resignation is the best outcome for everyone.
“I would have hated to have the attorney general remove her. That would have been a stain on our city. And down the line, it would have set a precedent that we can never get above. So I'm glad that she finally saw that,” Vollmer said.
He said he saw firsthand how the sharp decline in Gardner’s office negatively affected St. Louisans.
“It's been one of the biggest downward spirals I've seen," he said. "We are a pariah to the rest of the nation right now. And her office, unfortunately, was a leading part of that."
Vollmer said there is going to be a long road ahead to get the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office back on track and he hopes the Board of Aldermen can be part of the conversation.
“It's going to take more than just appointing somebody to come in," Vollmer said. "There's going to need to be a panel of people I actually believe, that need to be hired and put in here to make this occur because we have a backlog of probably 5,000 cases that no one knows. All the people who knew these cases, they're gone. Maybe they'll come back. Hopefully. But we need a whole new staffing at this office."
State Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis):
Merideth said he hopes a whole new staff will stop legislative measures trying to put the prosecutor's office in the hands of the state.
“In the short term, it will be the governor appointing a replacement," he said. "That's my understanding. And that's really what they were pushing for. But what this prevents is, a situation where it stays under state control. We'll have another election and the people of St. Louis can decide who our next prosecutor is. And that's how the system is supposed to work."
He said he thinks the city will be able to move forward if everyone works together.
“St Louis is strong and I think that we can move on from this and try and figure out how to rebuild and make ourselves stronger," Merideth said. "I think there are some good things that came from Gardner's office that we can build on and there are some problems we can probably learn from. And my hope is whoever goes in there next and whoever runs for that office next really takes those lessons to heart in both directions."
This story will be updated as more responses are received.