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Governor appoints 1st Black woman to Missouri Supreme Court

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Monday appointed Missouri Eastern District Appeals Court Judge Robin Ransom to be the first Black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court.

Ransom will replace Judge Laura Denvir Stith, who was the second woman appointed to the high court. Stith retired in March.

Ransom marks a new first for the court as Missouri’s only Black female Supreme Court judge. She’s the third Black judge, and she’ll join Chief Justice George Draper as the second Black judge currently serving on the high court.

Her appointment is especially poignant in a state known internationally for the 2014 fatal shooting of unarmed, Black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer. Brown’s death sparked months of sometimes violent protests, and Black communities continue to call for fair treatment by police and in the courts.

Ransom told reporters gathered at the Capitol that she grew up in North St. Louis, a primarily Black area near Ferguson. She said her father worked at a segregated fire station.

“I can’t cure all of the social ills and injustices that are out there, and this appointment won’t do that,” Ransom said. “What this appointment does show is that this governor has the courage to make such an appointment, that he has great vision for this state, and he knows how great this state is and what this state can be.”

She also emphasized that she is defined by more than her race.

“I have never lived by a label or by any identity that anyone’s tried to put upon me,” she said. “When i look in the mirror, I’ve always been Robin. And I’ve always lived my life to be kind to everyone and to be the best person that I can be.”

Parson noted the historic appointment but said “at the end of the day, it’s the hard work that she done” that earned her the position.

“She was the best qualified candidate for the Supreme Court,” Parson said, “and that’s why she was chosen for the position.”

Parson said it helped that he previously met Ransom when he appointed her in 2019 to serve as an appeals court judge. He said he wasn’t sure what day she will leave her position on the Eastern District Court of Appeals and start work at the Supreme Court in Jefferson City.

Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt first appointed Ransom to serve as a St. Louis County circuit judge in 2008.

She was one of 25 applicants for the Supreme Court vacancy.

In Missouri, a panel of lawyers, citizens and the chief justice review Supreme Court applicants, then submit three finalists for the governor to choose from.

Unlike U.S. Supreme Court nominees, Ransom’s appointment does not need state Senate confirmation.

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press