Supreme Court celebrates investiture of Judge Zel M. Fischer

12 December 2008

Supreme Court celebrates investiture of Judge Zel M. Fischer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – New Supreme Court of Missouri Judge Zel M. Fischer took his oath of office during a 3 p.m. ceremony Friday, December 12, 2008. Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith presided over the formal ceremony in the Supreme Court's en banc courtroom in Jefferson City.

Judge Roger Prokes, presiding judge of the 4th Judicial Circuit (Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties); U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri’s Sixth Congressional District; and Platte County attorney James D. Boggs spoke to a courtroom full of family, friends and public servants in all three branches of government. The remarks of the speakers – all of whom have been friends of Fischer’s for years and spoke fondly of him, noting his integrity, his caring for others and his dedication to public service – were carried via closed-circuit television to a second courtroom, as the more than 200 people who attended the ceremony could not all be accommodated in one courtroom.

The Honorable Andrew Jackson Higgins, who retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 and for whom Fischer served as a law clerk from 1988 to 1989, administered the oath of office, while Fischer’s second-youngest daughter – Madison, the only one of his four children Fischer said wants to be a lawyer – held the Bible. Fischer’s wife of 23 years, Julie, assisted with the robing.

In his remarks, Prokes noted that the job of a judge is to settle disputes, noting that while that may sound trite, over the history of the world, many countries have been torn apart for lack of a system of resolving disputes peacefully. He stressed the importance of judges giving respect to those who come before them and wished Fischer “wisdom, compassion and understanding” on the Supreme Court, where he will have the opportunity “to give guidance to those of us on the front lines,” Prokes said.

Graves, who said he and Fischer had known each other since they played on rival football teams in high school, told the Supreme Court judges that they were “in for a treat,” describing Fischer’s hard work, fairness, integrity, intellect and temperament and noting that, when things are at their worst and tensions are at their highest, Fischer will laugh his “infectious laugh” and bring tensions back down.

Boggs, for whom Fischer worked in the private practice of law after leaving his clerkship at the Supreme Court, talked about how Fischer has done “the good things” in his life, which has given him a good life. He said that Fischer always has known who he is and that he wanted to serve on the Supreme Court. Quoting Scripture, Boggs said that as a Supreme Court judge, Fischer will “do justice … love kindly and … walk humbly with his God.”

In his remarks, Fischer thanked his family and friends and introduced his wife and children to the audience, saying, “I am humbled and blessed to have your friendship and encouragement.” He also introduced four women who have worked for him in his career, noting: “They say that behind every good man is a great woman. Well, behind this average man is a crew of great women.” He thanked Gov. Matt Blunt for putting his faith in him and said he hopes, 25 years from now when he will be forced to retire at age 70, that the governor will be able to say that Fischer had served the state well.

Fischer closed his remarks by saying he has “very big shoes to fill” – referring to his immediate predecessor, now U.S. District Court Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr., and the judge for whom he clerked, retired Supreme Court Judge Andrew Jackson Higgins – and said he believes they are two nonpartisan plan judges who “have stood the test of time” because they carried out their duties in accord with the phrases inscribed on the front of the Supreme Court Building, which translated mean “To declare the law, not to make it,” and “Where there is a right, there is a remedy.”

Born April 28, 1963, in Hamburg, Iowa, Fischer grew up in Watson, the most northwestern city in Missouri. He received his bachelor of arts degree, majoring in both philosophy and political science, in 1985 from William Jewell College in Liberty and his law degree, with distinction, in 1988 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. Fischer worked as an attorney in the private practice of law in northwest Missouri from 1989 to 2006, when he was elected associate circuit judge in Atchison County. Blunt appointed him to the Supreme Court in October 2008. Fischer lives in Tarkio.