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County attorneys try to disqualify each other

FARMINGTON — The St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the county’s public administrator, Kenneth Rohrer who is acting as both a defense attorney and guardian in a criminal case each filed motions to disqualify each other from the case.

The case involves James J. Miller Sr., 64, of Bismarck, who is charged with six counts of felonious restraint, misdemeanor false impersonation of a law enforcement officer, three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, careless and imprudent driving and peace disturbance for an incident that occurred April 11, 2010.

In December, Rohrer was appointed the guardian and conservator of Miller’s estate due to Miller’s mental and physical disabilities. Soon after, Rohrer entered as the defense attorney in Miller’s criminal case.

Citing Missouri Supreme Court Rules, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Lanter filed a motion to disqualify Rohrer as Miller’s defense attorney since Rohrer was also Miller’s guardian and conservator and  the county’s public administrator.

Lanter argued there was a conflict of interest. He also alleged Rohrer co-signed a personal recognizance bond as public administrator and therefore created a fiduciary interest in this case in direct conflict of his duties as defense attorney.

Rohrer responded to the motion by saying he signed the bond as Miller’s guardian and there was no conflict of interest. He said the office was infringing on Miller’s rights to counsel of his own choosing.

Rohrer filed a motion to disqualify the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office as the prosecutor in Miller’s criminal case. He also cited a conflict of interest in his argument. He argued as a county official, he must go to the prosecuting attorney’s office for legal advice.

Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte granted Rohrer’s motion to disqualify the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Judge Pratte appointed Ste. Genevieve County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Kinsky as the special prosecutor in the case and the case was passed to Nov. 2.

Judge Pratte did not take up Lanter’s motion to disqualify Rohrer as the defense attorney. It will be up to Kinsky if he wishes to file a new motion to disqualify Rohrer.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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