Edith Messina, appointed in 1984 as the first female circuit judge on the Jackson County Circuit Court, retired from the bench in late 2014. But she wasn’t quite done with public service; earlier this year, she began working part-time as a special advisor to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, where she is tasked with attorney training, examining the office’s diversion programs and other special projects.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? I’m very proud of having been on the bench for 30 years.
What inspired you to get involved in the justice system? As early as high school I wanted to be a lawyer. There were no lawyers in my family, so I don’t know where I got the idea I wanted to be a lawyer. Then after college I went into the Peace Corps and was sent to Nigeria. The experiences I had in Nigeria, I think, reinforced my desire to be a lawyer because I thought that would allow me the opportunity to level the legal battlefield and help people settle disputes in a peaceful way.
What has been your favorite part of the job? Being a lawyer and a judge gave me the opportunity to continue to learn. There were cases I was fortunate to preside over in which world-famous experts came into the courtroom to testify. I have spent my professional life listening to the best people in their fields educate me and jurors with enthusiasm, knowledge, and love of their disciplines. What an absolute treat that was!
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received? I have always considered Judge Jack Gant my mentor. He taught me not by giving me advice, but by being a superb example of what a judge should be. The judges who were on the bench when I was appointed were always generous with their time and wise in their counsel.