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Diversity & Inclusion 2021: S. David Mitchell

Ruth L. Hulston Professor of Law

University of Missouri School of Law

Longtime Mizzou law professor David Mitchell is rightfully proud of his role training the next generation of lawyers, serving as “teacher, mentor and friend.”

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He’s also mindful of the sacrifices made by those who came before him, including his mother, Maude Bowser, and grandmother, Mary Hardy, both of whom grew up in a segregated South and were denied such opportunities “but who instilled in me a responsibility to assist others.”

“I’m motivated in my work . . . because of the need and commitment to pay it forward and sacrifice by so many,” says Mitchell, who also is co-director of the university’s Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice.

“The work that has been done by countless others to ensure that I can be a law professor and therefore demonstrate representation in the classroom means that I must continue to work towards the goal of expanding presence.”

The Penn Law graduate also holds a sociology Ph.D. from the Ivy League university — academic training that informs his interdisciplinary scholarly work examining the criminal justice system through the lens of social science.

How do you give back to your community?

I serve as advisor to the undergraduate Black Pre-Law Student Association, teach a Street Law class at Douglass High School in Columbia and am a member of the Missouri State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. I’ve previously been a member of the Boone County Offender Transition Network and served on the board of the Columbia Montessori School.

What goal remains unfulfilled for you as an attorney and advocate for Diversity & Inclusion? 

Seeing more successful representation of faculty and students in the law school and at the university, and a far better connection to the local community. Among our faculty, there are just three tenured professors of color, each male.

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

Missouri’s legal community must engage in a critical self-examination that recognizes the systemic barriers to access to the profession and to justice, as well as the vestiges of historical discrimination and bias that continue. It’s not enough to state a commitment to diversity and inclusion and then not hire associates or promote associates to partner. It is not enough to claim an equal justice system and then underfund public defenders or deny them the resources to provide a zealous defense. And it’s unacceptable to stay silent when the juvenile justice system and zero-tolerance policies disproportionately impact low-income people of color.

2021 Diversity & Inclusion Awards