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State's second female Supreme Court judge retiring

By Summer Ballentine The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Supreme Court Judge Laura Denvir Stith on Tuesday announced she's retiring from the state's high court.

Stith, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2001 by former Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, will step down March 8.

In this Feb. 24, 2016 file photo, Missouri Supreme Court Judge Laura Denvir Stith, left, sits on the bench at the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City, Mo. Stith is retiring. She was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2001 by former Democratic Gov. Bob Holden. She was the second woman appointed to the state high court.

She was only the second woman to serve on the state's seven-member high court. Stith was later joined by Judges Patricia Breckenridge and Mary Russell, who still sit on the court.

Stith will have worked two decades as a Supreme Court judge by the time she steps down. She is the longest-serving judge currently on the court.

“I hope that in some small way my service over the last 20 years has continued to be a model for women lawyers and other minorities throughout Missouri that the court system of Missouri is open to all those who wish to serve, whatever their gender, race, ethnicity or type of legal practice," Stith said in a statement.

Chief Justice George Draper in his State of the Judiciary address, delivered virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, called Stith a “dedicated jurist.”

“She will leave a lasting legacy in the areas of ethics, gender and justice,” he said.

Stith plans to do pro bono and other volunteer work once she retires. She said she’s offered to volunteer for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, which provides free civil legal aid to people who can’t afford it.

A board of governor-appointed citizens, lawyers elected by the Missouri Bar Association, and the chief justice will review Supreme Court applications to fill the vacancy and then recommend three to the governor. Republican Gov. Mike Parson will pick from those recommendations and appoint Stith's replacement.

Voters will weigh in on whether Parson made the right choice during the first general election following the judge's first year in office.