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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / ICON Awards 2019 / John D. Wiggins – Senior Circuit Judge, 25th Judicial Circuit

John D. Wiggins – Senior Circuit Judge, 25th Judicial Circuit

Through his career, Judge John D. Wiggins has amassed an impressive list of elected positions and legal accomplishments.

Yet when asked about what they most associate with him, most people who know Wiggins mention something else entirely: the “roasts” he’s organized for retiring members of the Phelps County Bar Association.

Wiggins said he held his first roast for a retiring judge in 1983 — 20 years before Comedy Central aired the channel’s first celebrity roast.

John D. Wiggins

John D. Wiggins

“We had eight roasters in that, can you imagine? They were all judges and lawyers, and they all talked for at least half an hour,” Wiggins said. “Now we never have more than four, and [we] limit their time — we try to get it done in a good amount of time.”

Wiggins said that 37 years later, the Phelps County Bar Association still holds a roast at least once a year.

“It’s just meant to bring members of the bar for a social evening, have some fun at someone’s expense and to promote collegiality in the bar,” the judge said. “I think the lawyers appreciate it because we tend to take everything so seriously, and this tends to take it down a level and we can have fun at times.”

Those who nominated him agreed on both the collegiality and the role Wiggins has played in nurturing it.

“Judge Wiggins has added that something ‘extra’ to every occasion,” one nominator wrote. “One of the things that the 25th Judicial Circuit has been known for is the hospitality of its local bar association. A large part of the camaraderie of the bar association was and is Judge Wiggins.”

Wiggins graduated from the former University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology, in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He earned his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1973.

After graduating he moved back to his hometown of Rolla, where he practiced with a local firm for two years. In 1975, he became city attorney and was re-elected to a second term in 1978. Then came two terms as Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney. During those years, Wiggins said he also maintained a private practice with a focus on real estate law.

In 1990, he took over the unexpired term of a circuit judge in the 25th Circuit. He was formally elected to the bench in 1992.

“I retired as an active judge in 2004 because I wanted to try my hand at teaching,” Wiggins said, adding that he did teach high school for a couple of years but did not care for it. “So I came back [to practice law] in 2006 and was at a firm in Rolla, and [I] did some special prosecution work and real estate work.”

Wiggins became a senior judge in 2009, and he remains involved with other groups in his community.

“I’ve been active in the community for 40-some years and still try to be a part of organizations and serve on boards,” he said. “I think that is a part of the responsibility of the members of the profession. I am deeply proud of that.”