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Merideth blasts lack of legal opinion after five months

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Another Democrat is criticizing Missouri’s Republican attorney general for the length of time it has taken him to issue a legal opinion.

Rep. Peter Merideth (TIM BOMMEL/HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS).

Rep. Peter Merideth called on Eric Schmitt — who was sworn-in as the state’s top legal officer in January — to answer to his five-month-old request on whether some House policies violate Missouri’s laws.  

“Missouri law requires the attorney general to issue legal opinions when requested by other elected officials,” Merideth said in a statement. “Eric Schmitt needs to do his job.”

According to the attorney general’s webpage, “State legislators, statewide elected officials, state department heads, and county prosecuting attorneys may request opinions — but only on topics relating to the duties of their respective offices.”

On March 7, Merideth filed a formal request for a legal opinion on the House policy allowing representatives to close “constituent case files.” The rule adopted by the chamber at the start of session was criticized by opponents for violating the Missouri Constitution and the state’s Sunshine Law.   

Merideth notes the Attorney General’s Office sent a same-day letter acknowledging receipt of the request but has yet to issue an opinion. 

The lone Democrat holding a statewide office, Auditor Nicole Galloway, also blasted Schmitt for the lack of response on a request for a legal opinion.  

“Eric Schmitt has established an unfortunate pattern of looking the other way when Republican elected officials violate the law by shielding public records from public scrutiny,” Meredith said. 

 A spokesman for the attorney general pushed back against Galloway on Wednesday.

“As the initial letter to the auditor stated, the Attorney General’s Office works on routine opinion requests in the order in which they’re received. A certain request does not take precedent over others that came before it. We do everything in our power to address opinion requests in a timely fashion, and we will continue to do so,” Chris Nuelle, press secretary for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said.

Attorney Gen. Eric Schmitt (ALISHA SHURR/THE MISSOURI TIMES.)

Based on the information available on the attorney general’s webpage, the last two formal opinions issued — outside of reviewing initiative petitions and ballot language — were in February 2019 and April 2013. One was on the request of Missouri Ethics Commission Executive Director Liz Ziegler, and the other was a request from then-Sen. Brian Munzlinger.