09:45 AM

2020 Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Awards announced

The Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award is bestowed each year upon judges who set an example of judicial excellence by leadership in the advancement of justice, provide outstanding public and community service to the people of Missouri, and who are persons of the highest character, integrity and honor who inspire other members of the judiciary to similar noble purpose.  

Tom Bender, 2019-20 president of The Missouri Bar, said in announcing the award recipients that “Judge McMillian was an amazing jurist who obtained so many firsts over the course of his professional life, including first in his law school class, first African-American judge in Missouri on the circuit bench and the appellate court, as well as the first on the 8th U.S. Circuit. He also accomplished just as much in his service to others outside of the law and lived by the credo kept in a sign in his office - It is much more important to be human than to be important. 

Bender said The Missouri Bar this year wanted to recognize a trial judge and an appellate judge who exemplify the standards of excellence set by McMIllian, and the state bar is pleased to announce its two honorees, Supreme Court of Missouri Judge Patricia Breckenridge and 36th Circuit Presiding Judge Michael Pritchett, who follow in those footprints of service. 

Breckenridge received her BS in agricultural economics with honors and JD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. While practicing law in her hometown of Nevada, she also served as assistant municipal judge for the city. In 1982, she was appointed associate circuit judge of Vernon County and was elected to that position until 1990, when she was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.  

In 2007, Breckenridge was appointed to the Supreme Court of Missouri and served as Chief Justice from July 2015 through June 2017. She has shown deep commitment to the administration of justice and was instrumental in establishing the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, the Task Force on Criminal Justice and the Commission on Civil Justice Reform.  

Breckenridge helped create the Partnership for Child Safety and Well-being and was active in the adoption of Uniform Standards for Missouri Juvenile Officers. As a strong advocate of judicial education, she is a founding faculty member of the Missouri Institute of Court Management - Purposes and Responsibilities course. She also was instrumental in establishing the Supreme Court’s Committee on Civic Education in 2011. She has chaired the Supreme Court’s Judicial Education Coordinating Commission and the Appellate Court Education Committee as well as served as a judicial education faculty member for many years.  

Demonstrating her energy and wide array of accomplishments in the legal profession, in the last three years alone Breckenridge has been recognized with the National Center for State Court’s Appellate Judge Distinguished Service Award, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s Hon. Joseph E. Stephens Jr. Aspire to Excellence Award, the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies Champion of Children Award and was Missouri Lawyers Media’s Woman of the Year. During this time, she also received The Missouri Bar President’s Award, the University of Missouri School of Law Citation of Merit, and the Association of Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City Judge of the Year Award.  

Also being recognized with the 2020 Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award is Judge Michael Pritchett. Pritchett has served in the legal profession for 40 years. He graduated from Drury University in 1976 Summa Cum Laude with a degree in music education and obtained his JD from the University of Missouri - Columbia in 1980. He was in private practice in Poplar Bluff as well as served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Butler County and an attorney for the City of Poplar Bluff.  

 In 2011, Pritchett was elected presiding judge for the 36th Judicial Circuit and will begin his third term in 2021. Pritchett had the honor of serving as a special judge for one docket on the Supreme Court of Missouri during a vacancy in 2012. He has also received Supreme Court Judge Transfer Program recognition for the past nine years and has presided over the Butler County Alternative Services Court for eight years.   

Pritchett currently serves on the Diversity and Ethics Committee for the Poplar Bluff R-1 School District. He is a past board member of Poplar Bluff Industries, the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce, A.D.A.P.T. and an original board member of Poplar Bluff Transit Authority.  

Each year, The Missouri Bar recognizes individuals who have helped improve the state's justice system. For more information on The Missouri Bar’s annual awards click here.