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Joel P. Fahnestock, 48

Circuit Judge, 16th judicial circuit, Jackson County

Law school: University of Missouri-Kansas City

Every good mentor inspires, but Judge Joel Fahnestock has a special place in the hearts of those whose lives she has touched.

Whether it is helping an applicant overcome a fear of interviewing, giving wise counsel on the practice of law or helping students to sharpen their skills, Fahnestock has left behind a chorus of clerks who sing her praises.

“I decided that Judge Fahnestock was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be,” writes one nominator, “she has boundless energy at the workplace, treats everyone with respect and demands the same from everyone around her.” “I learned more from her about professionalism and attention to detail in a year than I had in all of law school or any previous job,” notes another.

She was appointed to the bench in 2009 after a stint as an assistant United States Attorney. She is a recipient of the UMKC Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Award, the ABA National Trial Competition Award and several American Jurisprudence Awards.

One former intern from her courtroom puts it best, “I always think, ‘What would Judge Fahnestock do?’”

What is something that would surprise people about you?

When I was in 6th grade, a television movie was filmed in Marshall. A casting director spotted me and cast me to “co-star” with Michelle Pfeiffer and Megan Mullally in the movie. I was chosen for the role not for my acting ability, but because I looked like a little boy in a hat and my long blonde hair would come tumbling out when the hat was removed. Sadly, Michelle, Megan, and I have not kept in touch, but I did learn to stay away from hats.

What is your favorite thing to do away from work?

While I am not an actor, my son is. My favorite thing to do is watch him perform.

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