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Diversity & Inclusion 2021: Duane Benton

U.S. Circuit Judge

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

The 45-year legal career of U.S. Circuit Judge Duane Benton is a testament to the value of looking beyond law school alone to lay that foundation.

bentonA graduate of Yale Law School — where he was managing editor of the law journal and a classmate of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — Benton then served as a U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General while also earning a night-school MBA and accounting degree from Memphis State University. He remained a Navy Reserve officer until 2002.

His CPA certification led to three years as Missouri’s Director of Revenue under then-Gov. John Ashcroft. Benton then served for 13 years on the Missouri Supreme Court, including a term as chief justice, and picked up an LLM from the University of Virginia School of Law while on the bench.

Appointed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, Benton also sits on the board of the Federal Judicial Center, the education and research arm of the federal courts.

What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?

 The ideals of the Constitution: We the People can be more perfect if we first establish justice. Power must be derived from the people. Power must be exercised in accordance with established procedures and within established structures — which cannot violate the basic rights of the people, especially those enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

What makes you most proud of your law firm/legal practice?

 That lawyers lead — in government, in organizations that do good, in their communities, in advocating for and protecting our rights to life, liberty and property, and most importantly, in embodying daily our profession’s ethics, civility and high standards.

What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?

 Each of us — attorneys, judges and paraprofessionals — must work to achieve “equal justice under law.” These words, etched above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court, are an unfailing guide to meaningful and long-term diversity in our justice system.

2021 Diversity & Inclusion Awards