For Jody Stockard, the path to receiving a Women’s Justice Award for public service began at the University of Missouri School of Journalism — the undergraduate alma mater for a quarter of this year’s honorees in this category.
“In terms of clarity of writing, it really helps me,” said Stockard. “As lawyers, we can be a little verbose.”
She’s now a Springfield-based federal prosecutor with a focus on organized crime, drugs and weapons trafficking.
In between her stints at Mizzou, Stockard spent four years cutting her teeth in Missouri GOP politics, first working as press director for Catherine Hanaway’s 2004 campaign for Missouri Secretary of State and then in the office of Gov. Matt Blunt, where she began as a speechwriter and junior policy analyst before rising to legislative director.
It was that exposure to law enforcement and public safety in the governor’s office which led Stockard to set her sights on practicing criminal law.
“I wanted to make a difference on more of an individual level,” she said. “Politics is high-level; it’s not the kind of individual difference you make in people’s lives.”
After law school, she spent a year clerking for then-Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell and then joined the Greene County prosecutor’s office as an assistant prosecuting attorney.
“Jody has spent her entire career in public service,” wrote former colleague Nhan Nguyen, an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City who hired Stockard when both were in Springfield.
“She is a problem-solver who treats people with respect and grace. Jody cares about the work that she does, is dedicated to doing it and is professional while doing it. I have never once observed her lose her temper, belittle, or show disrespect towards anyone, including defendants, witnesses, jurors, judges or opposing counsel.”
Other colleagues were similarly effusive, singling out Stockard’s talents not only as a litigator but also a trusted colleague, especially when it comes to mentoring the next generation. Her colleague Byron Black said that when he was immediately assumed a caseload with previous experience as a Minnesota state prosecutor, Stockard mentored him as soon as his first day, and helped him acclimate to federal criminal practice.
“I cannot say enough about (her) patience, knowledge and remarkable character — they are second to none,” Black wrote.
Stockard and her husband are expecting their first child, with a Halloween due date. Rather than singling out a particular prosecution, she cites her federal appointment as a sustained career highlight.
“Being an AUSA and being a federal prosecutor who can work across county and state and even international lines, I didn’t even know that was necessarily achievable,” she said. “These are the jobs people make TV shows about.”
She’s taking a moment to reflect on her achievements.
“I’m really proud that I made it here. And I’m also grateful to all the people who put me in a position to succeed and keep the community safe.”