The SUPREME COURT of MISSOURI Historical Society

1820 First Three Missouri Supreme Court Judges

The original Supreme Court of Missouri, instituted in 1820 by the state constitution, comprised of three Supreme Court Judges: Chief Justice Mathias McGirk, Judge John D. Cook, and Judge John Rice Jones. An 1872 Constitutional amendment increased the Court’s size to five judges, and an 1890 amendment further increased the size to the seven-judge court of the present day. The first three individuals nominated to the Court by Governor Alexander McNair were Silas Bent, Mathias McGirk, and William Sprigg. However, only McGirk accepted the appointment. Governor McNair then nominated John Dillard Cook and Judge John Rice Jones, who accepted.

Judge John D. Cook
Judge John Rice Jones

1987 First Female Missouri Supreme Court Judge

Judge Ann Covington was the first female judge of the Missouri Supreme Court and the first female chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. She was appointed in 1987 and served until 2001.

Upon graduation from University of Missouri School of Law in 1977, Covington served as an assistant attorney general until 1979 and was in private practice in Columbia until 1987. She became the first woman to serve on the Missouri Court of Appeals in September 1987, appointed by Governor John Ashcroft. In December 1988 she accepted an appointment by Ashcroft to the Supreme Court of Missouri. She was retained by the voters in 1990 and served as chief justice from 1993 to 1995 before retiring from the bench in 2001. She then accepted a position as partner at Bryan Cave LLP, from which she retired in February 2010.


1995 First African American Missouri Supreme Court Judge

Judge Ronnie White became the first African American to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court with his appointment in 1995. He also was the first African American to be appointed chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

White earned his law degree in 1983 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, where he was president of the Black Law Student Association. After his admittance to The Missouri Bar in 1984, he worked as a trial attorney for the public defender’s office in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County and began private practice at Cahill, White and Hemphill. White was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1989 and served as the chairman of the House Judiciary and Ethics Committee and the Civil and Criminal Justice Committee while in Office. He resigned after three terms to become city counselor to Mayor Freeman Bosley in St. Louis.

2002 First Legally Blind & First Jewish Missouri Supreme Court Judge

Judge “Rick” Teitelman made it a routine of his to walk around the courthouse before proceedings began. He would often arrive late to the courtroom after his walk, so it was common for him to be waiting outside the room, greeting people by the door as they entered. Thus, his portrait is displayed just outside of the courtroom doors, as a permanent greeting to visitors of the Supreme Court.

The portrait above honors Judge Richard “Rick” Teitelman, the first legally blind and first Jewish judge selected to the Missouri Supreme Court and to be appointed as chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. He served on the bench from 2002 to 2016.


Today Current Supreme Court Judges

Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson
Jefferson City

Judge Mary R. Russell

Judge W. Brent Powell
Kansas City/Springfield

Judge Patricia Breckenridge

Judge Zel M. Fisher

Judge Robin Ransom
St. Louis

Judge George W. Draper III

Present Judges
From left to right, first row: Judge Russell, Chief Justice Wilson, Judge Powell, Second row: Judge Ransom, Judge Breckenridge, Judge Fisher, Judge Draper