Supreme Court celebrates investiture of Judge Mary Rhodes Russell

7 March 2005

Supreme Court celebrates investiture of Judge Mary Rhodes Russell

Contact: Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel
Supreme Court of Missouri
Desk: 573-751-3676
Cell: 573-619-2849

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Supreme Court of Missouri administered the oath of office as a Supreme Court judge to Mary Rhodes Russell during a 2 p.m. ceremony Monday, March 7, 2005. Chief Justice Ronnie L. White presided over the formal ceremony in the Supreme Court's en banc courtroom in Jefferson City.

Six people, including Gov. Matt Blunt's Chief of Staff Ken McClure; Rep. Richard Byrd, R-Kirkwood; former Gov. Bob Holden; former Supreme Court Judge Ann K. Covington and two other judges spoke to a courtroom full of family members, friends and public servants in all three branches of government. Their remarks were carried via closed-circuit television to another courtroom full of well-wishers. More than 300 people attended today's ceremony. Judge Robert M. Clayton II of the Tenth Judicial Circuit (Marion, Monroe and Ralls counties), who was Russell's law partner when she was in private law practice in Hannibal, Missouri, served as the master of ceremonies. Russell's husband, Jim Russell, assisted with the robing.

Covington lauded Russell's goodness, desire to help those around her, enthusiasm, dedication and loyalty. Covington noted that if there is a problem, Russell assumes she should be part of the solution, and said she believes Russell will be a consensus-builder on the Supreme Court and a "true ambassador" for the Judiciary. Covington said she thinks all the judges on the Court serve as a complement to one another. Covington, who now is in private practice, served as the Court's first female judge and first female chief justice.

In describing his perception of Russell, Byrd compared Russell to lady justice. He noted that Russell places no laurels on her head despite all the work she does, is able to rely the strength of her convictions no matter what happens, is diligent and extremely hard working and will approach her cases with a clear vision, common sense and balance.

In her remarks, Russell thanked all those who have been a part of her life, from childhood friends to her former colleagues on the Court of Appeals, Eastern District, noting that only one judge from that 14-member court was absent from her ceremony due to illness. She also thanked her new colleagues on the Supreme Court for their understanding during her transition, especially because both her parents became ill and died within a month after she was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Russell noted that, as a child on a dairy farm in northeast Missouri, she never dreamed of becoming a judge.

"I never thought I would become a judge," she said. "When I graduated from law school, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals, and only a few women were on the trial bench."

Russell says she now is assigned to the same chamber where she served the late Supreme Court Judge George Gunn as a law clerk for her first job out of law school. But she noted a few differences: "Now my name is on the door, and I sit on the other side of the desk." She said she plans to work hard in the performance of her duties and hopes never to let down any of the people who attended her investiture.

A Hannibal native, Russell graduated summa cum laude in 1980 from Truman State University and received her law degree in 1983 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She worked in private legal practice in Hannibal from 1984 to 1995, when she was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals. In September 2004, Russell was appointed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.