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Draper, Joyce, Prokes recognized for judicial excellence

Hon. George W. Draper III, Hon. Patricia S. Joyce, and Hon. Roger M. Prokes received this year’s Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award. 

Established by The Missouri Bar Board of Governors in 2004, the award recognizes judges who have inspired others of the judiciary through their integrity and leadership to help advance the administration of justice and provide outstanding public and community services to Missouri residents.  

Missouri Bar 2020-21 President John Gunn presented the awards at the Judicial Conference Awards Breakfast held Sept. 23 in St. Louis. 

Draper was appointed to the Supreme Court of Missouri in October 2011 and was retained in November 2012 for a 12-year term. He served as chief justice for the Supreme Court of Missouri from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021. Before serving on the Supreme Court of Missouri, he was a circuit attorney and a circuit and court of appeals judge. He graduated from Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C. 

“I was not surprised in the least at the thoughtful, principled, loyal, kind, and understanding leadership he exhibited in ushering our courts through what we certainly hope was the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gunn said. “Under Judge Draper’s leadership, the administration of justice continued. While we all surely noticed severe impacts to our professional lives, I cannot imagine how much worse it would have gotten without considered guidance from the top.” 

Joyce served as a circuit judge for 18 years – a majority of those as presiding circuit judge – for the 19th Judicial Circuit before retiring in December 2020. As presiding judge, Gunn said, she was “instrumental” in implementing the successful adult and juvenile drug courts and a veteran’s court for the 19th Judicial Circuit. As part of her nearly 40 years in the legal profession, Joyce also served as an assistant prosecuting attorney and associate circuit judge. Joyce graduated from Saint Louis University School of Law. 

“Judge Joyce’s 25 years of service on the bench and 37 years in public service highlight the honor it is to present her with the McMillian Judicial Excellence Award,” Gunn said.  

Prokes has served as a circuit judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit Court for 21 years, and currently serves as the presiding circuit judge. He has been an associate and adjunct professor at Northwest Missouri State University and practiced general law for nearly 25 years. He graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Law. 

“The kids might refer to Judge Prokes as ‘extra,’ performing work far beyond what was required,” Gunn said. “When asked by our Supreme Court to assume a judicial role in high profile or otherwise difficult matters, Judge Prokes not only accepted but performed his judicial duties admirably and with a focus on properly administering justice, not in seeking a name for himself.” 

Learn more about The Missouri Bar’s awards here