JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has replaced the administrative law judge who ruled against the state health department in a significant abortion case.

In 2020, Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi turned aside Missouri's effort to close the state's last abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. Dandamudi also ruled against the state in a medical marijuana case.

The Kansas City Star reports that Parson this month appointed Spencer Bartlett to replace Dandamudi. Bartlett has been general counsel for the Missouri Department of Revenue. Because the appointment was made while the Legislature is not in session, Bartlett can begin without Senate confirmation.

The St. Louis abortion clinic sued when the state denied its license in 2019. Dandamudi ruled the denial was improper.

In February, he ruled against the state health department again over its denial of medical marijuana licenses to two applicants, forcing the state to issue permits. The administration has appealed that ruling to Cole County Circuit Court.

Dandamudi was appointed to the Administrative Hearing Commission by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2010. His term expired in 2016, but many members of state boards and commissions continue serving in expired terms until replacements are appointed.

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