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Appeals court nominee is longtime Missouri Baptist

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Duane Benton, a Missouri Baptist and state Supreme Court judge, has been nominated by President Bush to become a judge in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court.

“I am overwhelmed, pleased and honored -– all at the same time -– that President Bush would nominate me,” Benton said. “I hope to prove that he made a good choice and will work hard to be a good federal judge.”

Benton, 53, has been serving on the Missouri Supreme Court since his appointment in 1991 by former Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft. Ashcroft is now serving as U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration.

Legal observers said Benton has been a lively questioner as a Missouri judge and has not developed a reputation as a judicial activist.

Benton, nominated by President Bush in mid-February, has consistently taken a conservative stand on cases before the court. For example, he has consistently voted to uphold the death penalty in Missouri.

Missouri Baptists remember Benton as the attorney who represented the Missouri Baptist Convention during the 1980s in the struggle against horse racing, the lottery and other forms of legalized gambling.

He also has been involved in Missouri Baptist life, serving as parliamentarian for several sessions of the MBC annual meeting. He has written and published a series of Sunday School lessons and frequently speaks to churches and conferences throughout Missouri.

Benton’s name is now before the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary. The committee evaluates the professional qualifications of persons nominated to the federal judiciary.

The investigation process will include an evaluation of Benton’s integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. According to ABA guidelines, Benton’s ideology also will be considered.

Benton displays a Bible on a table in the entryway to his office in the state Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City. He is a deacon and trustee at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City.

A native Missourian, Benton is a 1972 graduate of Northwestern University, where he was graduated summa cum laude. He received his law degree from the Yale Law School in 1975.

Benton served as director of the Missouri Department of Revenue from 1989-91 and previously was engaged in private law practice. He served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Navy from 1975-79, retiring from the Naval Reserve after 30 years of active and reserve duty. He is a Vietnam veteran.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court covers seven states in the Midwest. Judges regularly hear cases in St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Omaha.

    About the Author

  • Bob Baysinger