Stephen Clark – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

The area in white is covered by the Eastern District

St. Louis attorney Stephen Clark is Trump’s first nominee to the Missouri federal bench. Clark, who has the strong support of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), may draw questions from senators regarding his work in pro-life circles.

Background

Clark was born in 1966 in Evanston, Illinois.  He attended Notre Dame University and received a J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law.[1]  Clark then joined the St. Louis office of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale P.C. as an Associate.  In 1998, Clark was elevated to be an Officer at the firm.[2]

In 1999, Clark moved to Polsinelli P.C. as a Shareholder.[3]  He stayed there for seven years before moving to Husch Blackwell LLP as a Partner.[4]  Finally, in 2008, he moved to start his own law practice, which was eventually renamed to RUNNYMEDE law group.[5]  Clark is still in that position.

History of the Seat

Clark has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.  This seat was opened by Judge Carol Jackson’s move to senior status on August 31, 2017.  In early 2017, Clark reached out to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to express his interest in the vacancy.[6]  After interviewing with Blunt, Clark was recommended to the White House in July 2017.  Clark was officially nominated for the seat on April 12, 2018.

Legal Experience

Clark began his legal career at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale P.C. while also working as a municipal prosecutor in Black Jack, Missouri.  As a municipal prosecutor, Clark helped to enforce nuisance ordinances against a 146-year-old pig farm that released pungent odors onto the neighboring properties.[7]

From 1999 to 2006, Clark worked at Polsinelli, P.C. as a Shareholder.  While there, Clark focused on civil litigation, including defending plastics manufacturers against allegations that they had exposed their employee to toxic chemicals, resulting in his death.[8]  In another case, Clark defended Maytag Corporation against allegations that a defective clothes dryer had caused a fire in the plaintiff’s home.[9]

From 2008, Clark has practiced on his own (the firm is currently named RUNNYMEDE law group).  In this role, Clark has taken on some politically charged cases.  For example, Clark represented the Missouri Roundtable for Life in challenging the Missouri Science Innovation and Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA).[10]  MOSIRA set up a fund to provide state money for science research, but was criticized by the Roundtable for allowing funding to go to abortion, embryionic stem cell research, or human cloning.  MOSIRA was ultimately struck down as violating the Single-Subject Rule of the Missouri Constitution.[11]

Clark also notably represented Jalesia McQueen in a case involving disposition of two frozen pre-embryos created between her and her ex-husband.[12]  McQueen argued that the pre-embryos should be treated as “children” and, as such, custody of the embryos should be given to her.  After a trial court ruled that the embryos were marital property, and not children, Clark represented McQueen on appeal, arguing that, under Missouri law, life begins at conception and that unborn children should be treated as “persons.”[13]  The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting that any declarations in Missouri law must be “qualified by and subject to, the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, including but not limited to holdings that a woman’s right to an abortion remains a constitutionally protected right.”[14]  The Court of Appeals ultimately held that the pre-embryos could not be treated as children.[15]

Political Activity and Memberships

Clark has a fairly active political history, including memberships in the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Republican National Committee.[16]  Clark has also frequently volunteered for and fundraised for Missouri Republicans including Blunt.[17]  He has also donated multiple times to Blunt’s campaigns.[18]

Clark has been active in the pro-life movement, serving as the Director to Lawyers for Life since 2009.[19]  Clark has also been a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies since 2009 and of the National Rifle Association since 2016.[20]

Writings

In 2013, Clark authored an article criticizing the Missouri and Kansas Supreme Courts for failing to adopt transparent procedures for the appointment of “special” judges to hear cases where justices had recused themselves.[21]  In the article, Clark uses the examples of dueling decisions from the Supreme Courts both striking down and upholding caps on noneconomic damages to illustrate the influence of “special” judges.[22]  Given their power, Clark argues that courts should “adopt a transparent and non-discretionary procedure for appointing special judges.”[23]

Clark has also written and spoken against abortion in his role in Lawyers for Life.[24]  For example, in a speech at Duke University titled “Pious & Professional: Living the Faith at Work,” Clark urged medical schools to stop partnering with Planned Parenthood, suggesting that such partnerships encouraged abortions.[25]

Overall Assessment

As Clark’s nomination winds its way through the confirmation process, expect focus to be on his political beliefs rather than his professional capability.  Specifically, senators may argue that Clark’s history of pro-life activism raises questions as to his commitment to pro-choice precedent.  For his part, Clark has already reaffirmed his commitment to enforcing Roe v. Wade.[26]  As long as 50 senators are willing to give Clark the benefit of the doubt, he is likely to join the federal bench.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees: Stephen Clark 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] See Clark, supra n. 1 at 42.

[7] See William C. Lhotka, Pig Farm Must Go, Court Decides: Black Jack Wins Effort to Oust Smelly Business, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 11, 1996.

[8] See Bogner v. AIRCO, Inc. et al., Case No. 02-1157, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26890 (C.D. Ill. Apr. 1, 2003).

[9] See Declue v. Maytag Corp., Case No. 4:03CV1371 HEA, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34639 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 29, 2005).

[10] Missouri Roundtable for Life, Inc., et al. v. State, no. 11AC-CC00770 (Circuit Court of Cole Cnty. 2011), 396 S.W.3d 348 (Mo. 2013).

[11] See 396 S.W.3d 348 (Mo. 2013).

[12] See McQueen v. Gadberry, 507 S.W.3d 127 (Mo. App. 2016).

[13] Id. at 139.

[14] Id. at 142-43.

[15] Id. at 158.

[16] See id. at 26.

[17] Id. 

[19] See Clark, supra n. 1 at 6.

[20] See id. at 5-6.

[21] See Stephen R. Clark, Avoiding the Appearance of Impropreity: Missouri and Kansas Supreme Court Decisions on the Constitutionality of Caps on Noneconomic Damages Demonstrate the Need for Objective Procedures in the Selection of Special Judges, 77 Alb. L. Rev. 1441 (2013/2014).

[22] Id. 

[23] Id. at 1453.

[24] See Clark, supra n. 1 at 7-24.

[25] See Brandi Buchman, Judicial Nominees Taken to Task for Views on Abortion, Climate, Courthouse News, July 11, 2018, https://www.courthousenews.com/judicial-nominees-taken-to-task-for-views-on-abortion-climate/.

[26] See id.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Ten Upcoming Judicial Nomination Battles | The Vetting Room

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