Missouri’s newest Supreme Court judge says she had plans in high school to become a rock star. Then, Judge Robin Ransom wanted to be the next Jodie Foster FBI Agent, like in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”. Ransom says when she realized that being a rock star was not realistic and the FBI obstacle course was a deal breaker, she instead decided to go to law school.
Ransom has had a long career serving as an attorney and judge. Before being appointed last month by Gov. Mike Parson to serve on the high court, Ransom was a Missouri Court of Appeals judge. Prior to that, she served as a circuit judge in St. Louis. She has also served as a Family Court Commissioner in St. Louis, in the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and in the St. Louis County Public Defender’s Office.
Ransom tells Missourinet serving on the Supreme Court is not where she thought she would land.
“There are some people who will tell you from the time they were knee high being a judge was their aspiration and certainly being on the Supreme Court was their dream job,” she says. “And for me, I just don’t live that way. I go in the direction that my life goes. It doesn’t mean you don’t have an outer sketch on I might want to go this way or that way. Certainly, you’ve got to take classes, meet people and you have to apply. But, if I’m told ‘no’, then I just figure that is not meant for me in my life at this time. I don’t live through my job. I love my job. I have good work ethics. I enjoy co-workers and I really enjoy serving citizens and helping them find direction.”
When Ransom was an attorney in St. Louis County juvenile court, that is when she first decided to take the leap from being an attorney to being a judge.
“Juvenile court had always been my primary area of work and is something I just love,” she says. “I just really fell in love with the work.”
The Family Court Commissioner in St. Louis was retiring. That’s when she decided to give it a shot.
“And so I thought, I like juvenile court, I really like the kids and the work, I think I’ll apply for that job. That’s what really inspired me to do it. Juvenile work and family work – they are the hardest areas to practice in. I’ve done termination of parental rights cases, which are terrible, divorce work. Adoptions are certainly the happiest things to come out of juvenile court. But all of those things just meant a lot to me and I wanted to continue in a judicial capacity,” Ransom says.
She says she has learned a lot about herself as a judge.
“What I’ve learned throughout my 19 years is that you are never as great as you think you are and you are never as terrible as you think you are,” Ransom says. “There are some days where you are going to come out of that courtroom and feel like you’ve knocked it out of the park. You know, everything was quick on all cylinders and you were able to really manage everything the way that it should be. And then you are going to have that day where it seems like everything implodes – nothing has gone right. Everybody is angry. You are miserable. But you’ve got to stay the course. Your temperament and your personal identity, I would say, can’t be fluid and fluctuate. You’ve got to figure out early on who you are as a person and as a judge and you’ve got to stick with that because if you start bending with the breeze and the wind, you are going to find yourself in a terrible situation. It’s very difficult. I’m saying it as if it’s simple but it’s not. You have to be the constant in the room at all times and that’s very difficult to manage.”
Ransom says friends she has had for at least 20 years have found out within about the last two years what she does for a living.
“At the end of the day, I really enjoy me. I tell people I’ve lived with me a long time. I’ve figured out who I am, what I like, and what I enjoy. So, the job has never defined me. It’s not pertinent to most of my social relationships. It’s just what I do and that’s just how I live. Anonymity is a wonderful thing. I’ve lost it now,” she chuckles.
Ransom says she hopes to be a force in the community. She enjoys visiting schools and community groups to talk about the legal system. Ransom says she wants the court to be very accessible to help the community understand and appreciate what it does.
“I remember as an attorney, and even as a judge, there’s sort of a – I’m not going to say veil of secrecy – but you know the Supreme Court is put on such a pedestal that I don’t think most people know what they do, how they interact, how it functions, and how important not only the Supreme Court is, but the judiciary as a whole.”
Ransom, of St. Louis, is the first woman of color to serve on the high court.
“While I may be the first African American woman to be part of this court, I’d also like to say that I have never lived by a label or by any identity that anyone has tried to put upon me. 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,” she said during last month’s announcement of her appointment to the court.
To hear the full interview, click below.
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