Judge Michael A. Wolff

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Chief Justice Wolff

Judge Michael A. Wolff

Supreme Court of Missouri

Dates of judicial service:

  • Appointed to the Supreme Court in August 1998; retired effective August 2011
  • Retained in office at the November 2000 general election
  • Served as chief justice for the term of July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2007



  • Juris Doctor, cum laude, University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis

  • Bachelor of Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1967
  • Lourdes High School, Rochester, Minnesota 

  • Professor of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law
    • Professor, 1980 to 1998
    • Associate professor (with tenure), 1977 to 1980
    • Assistant professor, 1975 to 1977
  • Secondary academic appointments:
    • Faculty appointment in the Department of Community Medicine, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, 1980-1998
    • Faculty appointment in the School of Public Health, Saint Louis University, 1990-1998
    • Chief Counsel, Governor Mel Carnahan, Jefferson City, January 1993 to August 1994 (during leave from Saint Louis University)
    • Transition Director, Governor-Elect Mel Carnahan, November 1992 to January 1993
    • Visiting Professor, Sichuan University, Peoples Republic of China, May and June 1989
  • Private practice, St. Louis, 1981 to 1982 (while on leave from Saint Louis University). Continued to maintain limited trial practice during teaching career in the 1980s, primarily in cases involving health care law, constitutional issues and employment law.
  • Director, Black Hills Legal Services, Rapid City, South Dakota, 1973 to 1975
  • Attorney, Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver, 1972 to 1973 ( VISTA); served briefly as director of research and litigation
  • Attorney, Legal Assistance of Ramsey County, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 1971 to 1972
  • Law clerk, U.S. District Judge Miles W. Lord, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1970 to 1971
  • General assignment reporter and copy editor, The Minneapolis Star, (now The Star Tribune), 1967-1970 (while attending law school full-time)

Professional memberships and activities:

  • Member: The Missouri Bar; American Bar Association; Lawyers Association of St. Louis; Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis;The American Law Institute
  • Also admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
  • Previously admitted to practice before the state and federal courts in Minnesota, South Dakota and Colorado but allowed those bar memberships to lapse
  • Member, Supreme Court of Missouri Civil Rules Committee, 1989 to 1992 and 1995 to 1998
  • Served on various other bar committees, including co-chair of the Jury Instructions Committee of the Labor Law Section of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis
  • Lectured in continuing legal education, bar exam preparation (before 1998) and law school preparatory courses
  • Chair and member, Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission, 2004 to August 2011
  • Distinguished visiting professor, Saint Louis University School of Law, 2007 to present


Community activities:
  • Chairman, board of trustees, Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, 1993 to August 1998

  • Active in various other civic, charitable, educational boards, committees and activities


Awards and honors:
  • Named "Lawyer of the Year" by Missouri Lawyers' Weekly, 2007
  • Recipient, The Missouri Bar's Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award, 2007
  • Recipient, Distinguished Non-Alumnus Award from University of Missouri Law School, 2007
  • Recipient, James C. Kirkpatrick Award from Northwest Missouri Press Association, 2007
  • Recipient, Joseph E. Stevens "Aspire to Excellence" Award from Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, 2006
  • Recipient, President's Award from the Missouri Association of Probate and Associate Circuit Judges, 2006
  • Commencement speaker, St. Louis University School of Law, 2006, 2011; Southern Illinois University School of Law, 2011
  • Restorative Justice Award, Center for Women in Transition, St. Louis, 2005
  • Distinguished alumni speaker, Lourdes High School, Rochester, Minnesota, 2005
  • Recipient, Clarence Darrow Award, Saint Louis University School of Law Public Interest Group, 2004
  • In college, served as editor-in-chief and chairman of the board of the student daily newspaper, The Dartmouth; was a member of the junior and senior honorary societies; and attended college on full scholarship. In law school, received the award for the highest grade-point average in class during his final year and received American Jurisprudence awards for highest performance in three courses


Additional Information:
  • Publications: As Chief Justice, Judge Wolff wrote a monthly "Law Matters" column for publication in Missouri newspapers. These columns are available online by clicking here and are available for re-publication.
  • Speeches:

  • Tributes:
    • A Tribute to the Honorable Michael A. Wolff, Vol. 50, No. 2, Saint Louis University Law Journal (pages 285-303):
      • Introduction, by Dean Jeffrey Lewis
      • Tribute to Chief Justice Michael Wolff, by the Hon. Richard B. Teitelman
      • Mike Wolff: Chief of Collegiality, by the Hon. Duane Benton
      • Mike Wolff: From Champion Law Clerk to Chief Justice, by Miles W. Lord
      • Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff: A Reflection, by Peter W. Salsich Jr.
      • A Tribute to the Honorable Michael A. Wolff, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, by Susan A. FitzGibbon
      • Tribute to Chief Justice Michael Wolff: Reminiscences of a Faculty Colleague, by Roger L. Goldman
      • Tribute to Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff, by the Hon. Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr.
      • Michael A. Wolff, Chief Justice, Professor and Scholar, by Joseph J. Simeone
    • Selected legal writings – Law reviews, books:
      • Mainstream sentencing - The urgent need for dramatic reform (Devil's Advocate Column, co-author: Paul J. DeMuniz, chief justice of Oregon Supreme Court) JUDICATURE Volume 92, Number 4 January-February 2009 (forthcoming).
      • Evidence-Based Judicial Discretion: Promoting Public Safety Through State Sentencing Reform (Annual William J. Brennan Lecture), 83 N.Y.U. Law Review 1389 (2008).
      • Cutting Recividism by Analyzing Sentencing Outcomes, 20 Fed. Sentencing Rptr. 320 (June 2008).
      • Charles B. Blackmar: Professor, Judge, Chief Justice and Charlie, 72 Missouri Law Review 220 (Winter 2007).
      • Building Support for Strong, Fair and Impartial Courts, 82 Indiana Law Journal 1257 (2007).
      • Missouri's Information-Based Discretionary Sentencing System, 4 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 95 (Fall 2006).
      • Tinkering with the Machinery of Death in Mental Capacity, Ability and Eligibility for the Death Penalty, St. Louis University Public Law Review 279 (Fall 2006).
      • The Most Important Course in Law School?  Introduction to symposium issue on teaching Civil Procedure, 47 St. Louis University Law Journal 1 (2003).
      • From the Mouth of a Fish: An Appellate Judge Reflects on Oral Argument, 45 St. Louis University Law Journal 1097 (2001).
      • Exploring Judicial Behaviors in the Laboratories of Democracy, 83 Judicature 267 (March-April 2000).
      • Ted McMillian:  The Happy Coincidence of Timing, Talent, and Persistence, 43 St. Louis University Law Journal 1297 (1999).
      • Federal Jury Practice and Instructions, (with Devitt, Blackmar and O'Malley) (West Pub. 4th ed.)  1987 (Volume 3) and 1992 (Volume 1); also, Supplement, and Cumulative Supplement, for 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991.
      • Health Reform in Missouri (co-author), St. Louis Bar Journal, Fall 1993, at 32.
      • Nursing Homes and the Law:  State Regulation and Private Litigation, with Johnson and Terry, (Harrison Pub. Co. 1985).
      • Personal Property Damages and Remittur and Additur, in Damages, Missouri Bar Continuing Legal Education, editorial committee (1988).
      • Court Upholds Expanded Practice Role for Nurses, 12 Law, Medicine & Health Care 26 (1984).
      • Discoverability of Hospitals' "Incident Reports," St. Louis Bar Journal, Winter 1983, at 34.
      • Charity Means Business:  Medicare Reimbursement for Hospitals' "Free Care" Obligations, 15 St. Louis University Law Journal 389 (1981), reprinted in Specialty Law Digest – Health Care (Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.).
      • Problems of Proof, Missouri Bar Continuing Legal Education, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, Chapter supplements:  Wrongful Death and Derivative Actions.
      • Attitudes and Health Promoting Behavior of Medical and Law Students, (Coe, Miller, Wolff, Prendergast and Pepper), 72 Amer. Journal of Public Health 725 (July 1982).
      • Law and Tactics in Juvenile Cases, (ALI-ABA 3d ed. 1977). Piersma, et al. Chapter: Federal Court Litigation.
      • Protecting the Disabled Minority:  Rights and Remedies Under Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 22 St. Louis University Law Journal 25 (1978).