Draper to become first African-American chief judge of appeals court

29 June 2004

Draper to become first African-American chief judge of appeals court

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

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Judge George W. Draper III will become chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, on Thursday, July 1, 2004. His selection for the one-year term, ending June 30, 2005, was by unanimous selection of the judges of the Court.

"It is my honor to serve my colleagues as chief of such a distinguished, hard-working court of our state," Draper said. He will succeed the current chief judge, Sherri B. Sullivan.

With his selection, Draper will become the first African-American ever to serve as an appellate chief judge in Missouri. One year ago, Judge Ronnie White became the first African-American ever to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, a position he will retain until June 30, 2005. White formerly served on the Court of Appeals, Eastern District, although he never served as its chief judge.

"It is a great privilege for me to preside as the first African-American chief judge of the Eastern District, and to be serving at the same time as the first African-American chief justice of our Supreme Court," Draper said. "I am excited about the opportunity to advance our similar goals, and I welcome the bar and public to participate fully in our appellate judicial system."

Draper has outlined four goals for his term as chief judge. One is to continue promoting diversity, specifically with women and minorities, in the legal system. He notes that this is an aspiration he shares with Chief Justice White. A second goal is to emphasize professionalism within the bar. Draper also intends to increase public understanding of the court system by continuing the Eastern District's "traveling dockets," in which a panel of the court hears cases in locations throughout the district such as schools, community centers and retirement communities. Finally, Draper plans to continue the preparations to move the Eastern District to the Old Post Office site.

As chief judge, Draper will serve as the chief administrative officer for the court, which serves 25 counties and the city of St. Louis, an area that includes 45 percent of the state's population. The court is the largest in the state appellate system, with 14 judges and a workload of approximately 1,600 cases per year. The court's main facility currently is in the historic Wainwright Building in the city of St. Louis with a satellite office in Clayton, Missouri.

Draper, a St. Louis native, attended Hamilton Elementary School in St. Louis before his family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where he completed his education in the public school system. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology in 1977 from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and, following in the footsteps of his father and his wife, received his law degree in 1981 from Howard University in Washington, D.C. After his law school graduation, Draper completed a clerkship with the Honorable Shellie Bowers (also a St. Louis native) of the Superior Court, District of Columbia.

Draper returned to the city of St. Louis in 1984, when he worked as a prosecutor in the office of the circuit attorney. In 1990, he was promoted to a team leader position within the circuit attorney's office and, in 1993, he was named first assistant by Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes. In July 1994, Draper was appointed by Gov. Mel Carnahan to serve as an associate circuit judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit (St. Louis county), and four years later, Carnahan appointed Draper as a circuit judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit. In May 2000, Carnahan elevated Draper to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, and he was retained in November 2002.

Draper also serves as an adjunct professor at the St. Louis University School of Law, where he has taught trial advocacy since 1996. He is a member of The Missouri Bar Association, the Mound City Bar Association, the Missouri Asian Bar Association, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the Lawyers Association of St. Louis.

Draper is married to Judy P. Draper, an associate circuit judge in the 21st Judicial Circuit (St. Louis county). They have one daughter, Chelsea Westin Draper, who will be a senior this fall at John Burroughs School in St. Louis. Draper also is a member of the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons and the Covenant Community Church.

Journalists who wish to schedule individual interviews with Chief Judge-elect Draper may do so by contacting his judicial administrative assistant, Robin Johnson, at 314-340-6933.