Mary Rhodes Russell, an MU School of Law alumna, was named Monday to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Gov. Bob Holden appointed Russell, a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, to fill a vacancy on the seven-member court. Russell said she is considering joining the court in mid-October, although she has not yet made definite plans.
“Currently, there are no MU Law School grads on the Supreme Court,” Russell said. “I’m happy to represent the Law School on the Supreme Court.”
Russell received her law degree from MU in 1983 and was recognized by the MU Alumni Association with an Alumni Award in 2002.
“This is just a terrific choice by Governor Holden,” said Robert Bailey, assistant dean at the law school. “Judge Russell will be an invaluable addition to the Missouri Supreme Court. She is exceptionally bright, exceptionally thoughtful, hard-working and fair.”
Bailey said he knew Russell as a student and has remained close to her since she graduated.
“Even when she was here, Mary was a very energetic, thoughtful and involved student who was extremely well-regarded by faculty and by her fellow students,” Bailey said.
He said Russell has maintained a close relationship with the school.
“Whenever there is something happening at the law school and we’re trying to find a speaker, Mary will fit it into her schedule and come here to speak to students,” he said. “She lives life large, both professionally and personally.”
Russell was born in Hannibal in 1958. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University, in Kirksville in 1980.
Russell said that when she first became involved in legal work as a Supreme Court clerk in 1983, she never dreamed of serving on the state’s highest judiciary.
“Women didn’t do it in those days,” she said. “I’m happy that opportunity was given to me.”
Then-Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed Russell to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District in 1995. She lives in Kirkwood and is married to Jim Russell, a lobbyist in Jefferson City. She said she plans on moving to the state capital.
Holden chose Russell over two other finalists for the court vacancy, Nannette A. Baker and Clifton M. Smart III. Baker is a circuit judge in St. Louis, and Smart is vice president of Strong Law Firm in Springfield, Mo.
Russell will fill the seat left open after Duane Benton left the court for a position on the federal appeals bench earlier this year.