JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has recused itself from handling a U.S. Supreme Court case due to a conflict of interest.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia will argue before the nation’s highest court challenging the state’s denial of an application for a grant from the Department of Natural Resources to resurface its preschool playground.
Attorney General Josh Hawley had already personally recused himself from the Trinity Lutheran case after taking office in January, due to the fact that he had done work supporting Trinity Lutheran as a private attorney well before he became an elected official.
But on Tuesday, a press release from the Attorney General’s Office announced that the entire office recused itself, citing last week’s executive order from Gov. Eric Greitens.
“Last Thursday, Governor Greitens issued a directive prohibiting state agencies from denying public grants to religious groups on account of their religious nature,” First Assistant and Solicitor General John Sauer said in the statement. “Because the Attorney General’s Office will be called upon to defend this new policy, the office has recused itself from any further participation in this case. Office recusal is now important to preserve the Attorney General’s ability to vigorously defend the Governor’s policy.”
The news comes just a day before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in the case.
The release went on to say Jim Layton, the former Missouri Solicitor General under Chris Koster, will represent the Department of Natural Resources going forward in this case and in the oral argument on Wednesday.