Missouri Lawyers Media honored 51 women for their contributions to the legal field at the 19th annual Women’s Justice Awards on Thursday at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis.
Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge received the Woman of the Year award.
More than 400 attendees celebrated the award winners, who ranged from attorneys, students, legal scholars and nonlawyers, for their work across the state.
Breckenridge was introduced by the 2016 Woman of the Year honoree, U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig.
Fleissig highlighted Breckenridge’s work as Chief Justice, including the creation of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, her work to improve municipal courts and the juvenile justice system in Missouri and an ongoing effort to address the issue of unwarranted pretrial incarceration.
She said Breckenridge has faced a “particularly daunting” two years as chief justice, from coming into the role post-Ferguson and then experiencing the loss of a colleague, Judge Richard Teitelman.
“When times are difficult, the need for strong leadership is at its greatest,” she said. “And true leaders don’t just study problems, they do something to address the problems. Chief Justice Breckenridge has shown herself to be such a leader.”
Breckenridge said the common thread that binds the awardees is their passion for the law and their compassion for others.
She said she stands on the shoulders of many women, from her homemaker mother to Judge Ann Covington, the state’s first woman to serve on an appeals court and the Missouri Supreme Court.
“When I went on the bench in 1982, there were 17 female judges and I don’t think any of us could have imagined an event like this,” she said.
Breckenridge noted that for the first time, the state’s chief justice, president of the Missouri Bar, chief clerk of the Supreme Court and the state court administrator are all women.
“When I look around this room tonight, I am confident that the future of women in the profession is a bright one,” she said.