Chief Justice Russell emphasizes gratitude, cooperation in 2024 State of the Judiciary
Chief Justice Mary R. Russell speaks to lawmakers Feb. 7 during the 2024 State of the Judiciary at the State Capitol. Photos by Tim Bommel of House Communications.
In a Feb. 7 address to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly, Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice Mary R. Russell delivered a message emphasizing gratitude and cooperation in addressing the state's judicial goals and challenges.
With a nod to her late husband, Russell introduced members of her family in attendance, including her grandchildren.
"My family consciously practices gratitude," she said. "We try to teach our youngest to have an 'attitude of gratitude.' At Sunday dinners at my house, we go around the table and we say what we are grateful for."
Expressing gratitude for her colleagues on the bench, Russell noted the recent historic milestone of a majority of female judges on the Supreme Court of Missouri.
“This is something I simply never imagined happening,” Russell said. “I truly hope this historic achievement inspires Missouri’s children – no matter their background – to believe that they, too, can become a state Supreme Court judge if they want.”
Throughout her address, Russell underscored the essential role of the 3,600 court personnel statewide who enable Missourians ongoing access to our courts.
"All of us should have immense gratitude for these frontline heroes and their daily work behind the scenes for your constituents," she said. “Thanks to them, we are problem solvers as we decide hundreds of thousands of legal disputes each year. Because of their hard work, I am proud to say the state of Missouri’s judiciary is strong.”
Russell's gratitude extended to the legislature for its support of key judicial initiatives, including the passage of the judicial privacy act and funding to aid with expungement procedures mandated by constitutional amendments. She also thanked lawmakers for ongoing investments in court automation technology, which has enhanced remote public access to public court documents.
Addressing the need for improved juror compensation, continued support for treatment courts, as well as pretrial services and juvenile detention programs, Russell urged lawmakers to prioritize statewide judicial initiatives. “Regardless of geography, defendants everywhere deserve the same opportunities,” she said.
Russell shared inspiring stories of individuals whose lives had been transformed through treatment court and pretrial services programs, emphasizing the importance of community-driven solutions in the growing number of cases where mental health and substance use concerns intersect with the criminal justice system.
“Growing up on a farm, I learned that silos are great for holding grain. But government cannot operate in silos,” Russell said. "We must work together – across all branches of government, at the state and local levels, and with the nonprofit and private sectors. Only by sharing our best ideas and pooling our limited resources can we make a positive difference.”
Concluding her address, Russell reaffirmed her commitment to collaboration and optimism in identifying long-term solutions to the challenges she noted.
"I am confident, working together as constitutional partners, we can succeed," Russell said.
Chief Justice Mary R. Russell was appointed to the Supreme Court of Missouri in September 2004. She was retained by voters at the November 2006 general election and again at the November 2018 general election for a 12-year term. Russell served a two-year term as chief justice from July 2013 through June 2015. She is serving a second term as chief justice, which began July 1, 2023. A full transcript of the 2024 State of the Judiciary is available at courts.mo.gov.