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Thomas F. Eagleton federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis

The Thomas F. Eagleton federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — A monthslong battle between the elected circuit clerk and the presiding judge in Lincoln County moved to federal court here Friday when the clerk sued the judge and other courthouse employees.

Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry and Lori Russell, a former deputy clerk, sued Presiding Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn, his secretary, Sheriff John Cottle and three sheriff’s deputies. The suit largely repeats claims filed in Cole County Circuit Court and the Missouri Supreme Court: that Flynn, in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2018 election, has usurped Allsberry’s power to control her office.

Flynn supported Allsberry’s opponent in that election, the suit says. Allsberry’s husband, Gregory Allsberry, defeated Flynn in a judicial election in 2014, and Allsberry has supported past opponents of Flynn.

The suit says Russell was put on administrative leave after leaving a contentious Jan. 23 meeting with Flynn in tears, and after a deputy was called to escort her out. She then resigned under duress, the suit says.

In May, Flynn ordered Allsberry out of her office and announced that he’d appointed a temporary replacement due to her “indefinite unavailability.” That followed a series of actions by Allsberry after Flynn and two other judges voted in January to strip Allsberry of the authority to hire and fire clerk’s office employees and submit a budget.

Flynn claimed in court filings that Allsberry had failed to perform certain duties and committed misfeasance and malfeasance. She has denied those claims and said that Flynn is trying to block an audit of the office’s finances.

The Supreme Court rejected Allberry’s suit to overturn her removal, but the other lawsuit is pending.

Both plaintiffs are collectively seeking millions of dollars in actual and punitive damages.

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