ST. LOUIS — A courtroom inside the Carnahan courthouse in downtown St. Louis was the place to be for the region’s politically-connected and politically-powerful Tuesday as Gabe Gore accepted the oath of office to serve as the new St. Louis Circuit Attorney.
Those who were there for the moment were just as important as the moment itself, showing how powerful and essential the office is to the region – and the impact its former leader Kim Gardner had when she resigned under fire May 16.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy and almost all 30 of the 22nd Judicial Circuit judges attended.
Gore immediately acknowledged the role all of the faces in the room play in the region’s public safety during his remarks.
"We have a violent crime crisis here in St. Louis," Gore said. "We are losing far too many young promising lives to violence.
“In order to reduce that violence, it's going to take all of us working together."
Missouri Supreme Court Judge Robin Ransom administered the oath of office to Gore Tuesday. His wife and parents sat in the front row.
Staffing is Gore’s top priority.
"Given the current staffing levels of the office, attorneys are carrying caseloads that are not workable," he said. "So that's why getting re-staffed is essential."
He said four of the five senior staff positions were vacant.
“My top priority is first to put in place a senior staff that will lead the office's resurgence, and, along with me, restart the office to a level where we can meet the demands of the public.”
Gore said he will continue to use support other offices have pledged, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Missouri Attorney General's Office to bridge the gap.
Wesley Bell and surrounding regional prosecutors met with Gore Thursday to discuss how each office could help get the Circuit Attorney’s Office back on its feet. Bell said that support could include having county prosecutors work in the city on a temporary basis.
“I think everyone's on the same page, that we need to come together, work together, and I just got to be clear, we have a vested interest,” Bell said. “We have a lot of common defendants.
“We have a lot of common victims and victims’ families. And so we are not on islands. We have to work together because when there is a crisis here in the city, it does impact public safety in the county.”
Gore also made his first hire Tuesday, bringing back Marvin Teer as his Chief Trial Assistant just moments after he was sworn in.
It’s a role Teer, a former municipal judge who handled traffic tickets in St. Louis, served for less than two years during Gardner’s administration.
He resigned in March as pressure from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey mounted. Bailey filed a lawsuit to forcibly remove Gardner from office and subpoenaed multiple employees in Gardner’s administration including Teer.
Teer led the successful prosecution of the 2022 murder trial of the man who shot and killed retired St. Louis Police Capt. David Dorn, who was killed trying to protect a pawn shop from looters. It happened during protests that followed the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer charged with murdering a drug suspect in 2017.
The family of a murder victim also scorned Teer earlier this year after the man who was convicted of the crime walked free moments after Teer told a judge prosecutors would not be refiling charges. The family of Leonard Gregory III told 5 On Your Side no one from the Circuit Attorney's Office called to tell them the conviction had been overturned and argued Teer should have fought to schedule a new trial.
“The former circuit attorneys who come out of this office are extremely devoted to it,” Gore said. “They want to see this office succeed.
“It's important to them. And a lot of them are interested in returning. And that's what I've been spending a lot of time working on.”
Parson’s General Counsel Evan Rodriguez had been serving as an Interim Circuit Attorney and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office had several attorneys helping to run the office until Gore could be sworn in.
Rodriguez stepped down and returned to Jefferson City Tuesday along with Assistant Attorney General Greg Goodwin.
During their interim leadership, the relationship with the police department had already begun to change.
St. Louis police officers once again began bringing cases to the warrant office in the courthouse to apply for charges in-person with prosecutors. Gardner required officers to apply for charges on nonviolent offenses through an email box that her administration allowed to back up by the thousands.
The police chief said the warrant office has been closed for so long that his department has had to teach new officers how to get there and interact with prosecutors.
“That's been a shot in the arm,” Tracy said. “We had to retrain some of our people and make sure that we didn't wait, and that was one of the things that happened right away, that our officers saw the difference, having a face-to-face arrangement and warrants being signed off on is a big thing for the police.”
Gore was one of 18 who submitted applications for the job. Judge Michael Noble – who called Gardner’s office a “rudderless ship of chaos” while finding enough evidence to hold her and one of her former assistants in contempt for failing to show up for a trial – led a standing ovation for Gore during Tuesday’s ceremony.
Gore served as a partner of the highly influential Dowd Bennett law firm and has more than 23 years of experience in private law practice. Ed Dowd and several other members of the firm also attended Tuesday’s ceremony.
Gore resigned from that firm Friday to begin his new role.
Prior to that, Gore served as an assistant U.S. attorney.
“In that role, I saw firsthand the transformative impact that effective strategic prosecution can have on neighborhoods and the community,” Gore said.
Gore currently serves on the Missouri State University Board of Governors and is also a founding board member of KIPP St. Louis Public Charter Schools. Gore has been tapped by the governor's office for an appointment in the past.
He was appointed to serve on the Ferguson Commission, following the unrest in Ferguson, by then Gov. Jay Nixon. Nixon also attended Tuesday’s ceremony. Gore also met Teer during his term with the Ferguson Commission.
Gore also emphasized the need to rebuild relationships with the police department. He said he does not have a secret exclusion list of officers he will not allow bringing cases to his office – something Gardner’s administration began six years ago. He said prosecutors can put officers on Brady lists – but those are open to the public and defense attorneys.
“In order to reduce violence, it's going to take all of us working together,” Gore said. “It's going to take working with police, my fellow prosecutors, elected officials, clergy, social service agencies, educators, and every citizen who seeks that high level of public safety so that we can thrive.
“It's going to take a balanced approach that involves prevention, intervention and enforcement.”
He will serve out the remainder of the current Circuit Attorney term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2025. Gore said he is open to running in the next election but hasn't announced his candidacy yet.
On Tuesday, he was focused on his first day.
“For my first day, my goal will be to stabilize the office and get back to where the Circuit Attorney's Office is fulfilling its critical role in the criminal justice process,” he said. “And I will do that by instilling a culture in the office in which we strive for excellence in everything we do.
“We will also get to work on the backlog of cases. It's a tremendous backlog and it's going to be hard work. And we understand full well that we're going to have to do all of these things at once. We have no illusions. This will not be easy. But starting today, working together we can restore the public's confidence and trust in the Circuit Attorney's Office because public service is a public trust. And we're ready to get to work.”