Women of the Missouri Court: First Event to feature the only four women who have served on the Missouri Supreme Court
In all of Missouri’s history, only four women have served on the state Supreme Court. The Women’s Law Association (WLA) at the University of Missouri School of Law hosted the first event ever to feature and honor these four women. On Wednesday November 12, 2008 Judge Ann Covington, Judge Mary Russell, Judge Patricia Breckenridge, and current Justice Laura Stith sat on a panel together at the Law School to discuss the journey women have in the legal profession and future progress.
The judges spoke for over an hour to a courtroom packed with law students and professors. In all the years of statehood, Missouri has only had four women sit on its highest court. Yet, all four of those women have been in my lifetime. That has to provide tremendous hope and aspiration to young female attorneys and law students. All four women attribute the newfound diversity in the state's judiciary to the Missouri Court Plan, a nonpartisan system of appointing judges, rather than by political appointment or election.
Each of these women served as mentors to the others. Judge Covington paved the way by being the first female appellate judge and the first female supreme court justice. Judge Russell served as Supreme Court Clerk just a few years after Justice Stith held the position. Justice Stith followed Judge Breckenridge to the Court of Appeals, and eventually would hold Judge Covington's seat on the Supreme Court. This shows the importance of finding women to look up to and emulate, and also how small the female legal community truly is.
It was truly an event to remember. All four judges emphasized the importance of being involved in our communities, and not forgetting where we came from. Our lives don't have to stop at the door stop of any law office or courtroom.