On Tuesday, June 25, 2024, The Neighbor reported that an ethics complaint had been filed against Judge Stephanie Morrell amid her campaign for circuit court judge.

The complaint, filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission on June 10 by attorney Edward Greim, focused on large contributions made by six individuals associated with the AW Smith Law Firm in Columbia to Morrell’s election campaign. On December 14, 2023, Smith, his wife, two associate attorneys, and two employees at the firm each donated the maximum allowable amount of $2,825 to Morrell’s campaign. With these six donations totaling $16,950, they accounted for over half of the roughly $32,200 raised by Morrell so far.

Greim, a Republican attorney known for his involvement in several high-profile political cases, expressed concerns in his complaint that the law firm employees’ maximum donations could be an attempt to circumvent legal limits on individual contributions. He asked the ethics commission to investigate whether the employees had been reimbursed or compensated in any way for their donations. AW Smith rejected this notion, stating that the six individuals were high-earning, long-term employees who had a history of voluntarily donating to judicial campaigns.

The complaint also alleged that additional fees charged to donors on Morrell’s campaign website for online donations were not being reported as contributions. Under state law, candidates are required to disclose all campaign funds publicly. Morrell, who is a Democrat, declined to directly address the complaint, citing the need to remain neutral until any official investigation was complete.

Morrell is currently an associate circuit court judge seeking election to a circuit court judge position serving Boone and Callaway counties. Her career in law spans over two decades, including time as an Assistant Attorney General for Missouri and a prosecutor. She was first elected as an associate circuit judge in 2018. Her opponent in the November election is Republican Jesus Osete, an attorney with experience in both government and private practice.

With the election still months away, the ethics complaint adds a new layer of controversy to the judicial race between Morrell and Osete. The Missouri Ethics Commission will now review the allegations to determine if any violations of campaign finance rules occurred.



Source: The Neighbor