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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / WJA 2018 / Public Service: Monique D. Abby

Public Service: Monique D. Abby

Assistant Circuit Attorney, St. Louis City & President, Mound City Bar Association

Growing up in a blue-collar family in North County, Monique D. Abby knew from childhood that one of only two career paths awaited her as an adult.

“My mom and dad always said, ‘Lawyer or doctor,’” said Abby. “I would ask, ‘What if I want to be an astrologer?’ ‘No, lawyer or doctor.’”abby-monique

Law won out over medicine after she watched “Eyes on the Prize,” the PBS documentary chronicling the U.S. Civil Rights movement. “After that, I knew I wanted to be a civil-rights attorney.”

Abby graduated from Howard University in 1997 and Saint Louis University School of Law in 2003. She also interned with the Circuit Attorney’s office in St. Louis, the ACLU and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, building a foundation for the career she intended to launch.

From SLU, she joined the state Public Defender’s Office in St. Louis City, spending three years as an assistant public defender in the juvenile division. Draining as the work was, she loved it.

“My juvenile cases pulled at my heartstrings because you feel almost like their aunt,” she said. “When I had a win for them, I felt like I was helping them to change their course of action, that they could go on to make better choices.”

But after the birth of her daughter — Alexis, now 21, and a junior at Hampton University — financial concerns spurred her in 2010 to open her private practice, handling criminal, family and other cases.

In 2015, her cell phone rang. Tensions lingered in the region following the Aug. 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the protests that followed, and the U.S. Justice Department’s finding that Ferguson’s police and courts engaged in systemic discrimination against African Americans. Scrutiny spread to other North County communities where confidence in police and municipal courts had eroded.

Her caller’s question: Would she become a municipal judge?

“The Department of Justice came in and said changes needed to be made. Positions started to open up, and I was one of the changes,” Abby said. “My ultimate goal had been to be a judge, and to get that call … I was shaking. From there, other opportunities opened up.”

Abby served in Normandy as a presiding municipal court judge in 2015, then as a provisional municipal judge until 2017; she also filled in as a municipal judge in Wellston in 2015. Between 2015 and 2017, she served as a municipal prosecuting attorney in Riverview and Northwoods, and as a provisional municipal judge in Pine Lawn.

“To see a black female on the bench or as a prosecutor, I think that gave the community a sense that change was being made, that people were being listened to, that the wheels of justice are turning,” Abby said. “To be in a position where you can make some changes, it’s overwhelming in a great way.”

In July 2017, Abby took the helm of the Mound City Bar Association, one of the nation’s oldest black Bar Associations, with which she’s been active since law school. In January, she became a St. Louis assistant circuit attorney in the child-support unit, prosecuting non-support and other cases.

“Being a single mom myself, I can understand where moms are coming from,” she said. “As a prosecutor, I like having the autonomy to address what needs to happen for this family. “

Abby aims to end her career as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. She’s less certain of the steps to that goal.

“I feel there is a purpose God needs me to fulfill, and I’m being obedient,” she said. “God puts you where he needs you to be when he needs you there.”