As befits someone holding a journalism degree, Judge W. Ann Hansbrough initially wanted to pursue a practice in First Amendment law.
“I was told, ‘Well, you’ll live in LA or New York.’ I said, ‘Well, you know, I grew up in Poplar Bluff, Missouri,” she recalled.
The coasts may not have been for Hansbrough, but the courts certainly were.
After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Law, where she won an American Jurisprudence Award for the highest grade in torts, she went to Swanson Midgley in 1985. There, she founded its Volunteer Attorney Project and eventually became the first female partner in the firm’s 112-year history.
She also worked on litigation for the NCAA which eventually overturned a decision by the U.S. Tax Court and still affects disclosure of promotions related to bowl games.
For a decade after that, she was on the nameplate of her new firm, Stout & Hansbrough, where she had a general practice before her appointment in 2014 to the bench of the Platte County Circuit Court.
“Every day, you can never be bored. Every day is a new day, and you never know when you hit the door each morning what your day is going to consist of,” she said. “I will say that it is probably the most exciting job I’ve ever had because I never know what is going to happen next.”
Hansbrough said her judicial philosophy is to recognize how hard it is to be a lawyer and to do what she can to help the process.
“My other philosophy is to be respectful to every individual who appears before you,” she said. “I don’t care if they’ve been charged with the most heinous crime ever. They are somebody’s child, and they could be somebody’s parent. They deserve my respect.”
Hansbrough said her desire to serve others was instilled by her parents. She described her mother as a kind woman who was heavily involved in volunteerism, while her father was an intensely hardworking man.
“If he hadn’t mowed his lawn [by nightfall], he would duct-tape his flashlight to the lawnmower,” she recalled. “His work ethic and my mother’s compassion [were] what I think led me to where I am now.”
A sitting member of the board of trustees for Park University, Hansbrough is also a recipient of a volunteer service award from the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. At present, she serves on the Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice’s realignment task force, and she is a member of the state’s leadership team for the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project.
Meanwhile, one of her two daughters was just admitted to Mizzou law school and the other just graduated from the school.
Hansbrough thinks the future of her career will mirror the path she’s followed so far.
“I think it will bring me staying right here in Platte County as far as I foresee, hopefully being able to serve the people of this community that I absolutely adore,” she said.