Linn County lawyer can't run for judge, despite governor's pardon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A state court said a Linn County lawyer cannot run for judge due to prior felonies, despite a governor's pardon.

The Western District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to keep Joshua Fay from running in the August primary for Linn County associate circuit judge. Fay received a pardon in 2016 from then-Gov. Jay Nixon for three felonies he pleaded guilty to in 1995.

The court wrote that while Nixon's pardon may clear his felony convictions, it did not erase the fact that Fay entered guilty pleas. State law prohibits a person from running for office if they have plead guilty to a felony.

The court heavily cited the 2016 state Supreme Court decision Hill v. Boyer that kept a man from getting a concealed carry permit due to his prior guilty pleas to felony charges. The high court said that state law stops someone from getting a permit if they plead guilty to a felony, despite Hill completing his probation 40 years before applying for the permit, and arguing that the completion "obliterated" his felony convictions.

The appeals court in Fay's case said it was concerned about the court's focus on the wording of the state's disqualification law, giving power of the pardon to the legislative branch.

"Hill gives the legislature power to dictate the effect of gubernatorial pardons despite the fact that the Constitution gives the pardon power to the executive rather than the legislative branch."

Anthony Bonuchi, Fay's attorney, said they would be asking the Supreme Court to both consider their case, and reconsider the Hill decision.

"As it stands today, the scope of the governor’s constitutional pardon power—which in our system serves as a vital safety value against individual injustices and unnecessarily harsh results that can from time to time occur in our criminal law—is in doubt," Bonuchi told ABC 17 News.

Ivan Schraeder, attorney for Linn County Clerk, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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