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Here comes the
(first female) judge

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

One of the most significant changes to the Sixth Circuit Court will arrive this month.

It's not a major renovation to a courtroom or a noteworthy change in the law, instead for the first time ever, a female has been appointed to serve as a judge in Platte County.

Ann Hansbrough, 53, has been appointed to serve as an associate circuit judge for the Sixth Circuit Court, stationed in the Platte County Courthouse, also known as the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center, in Platte City.

Hansbrough says she is a product of a hard-working and civic-minded family. As a young girl growing up with two older brothers she developed a love of sports. That particular interest led her to accepting a position with a law firm that represented the NCAA. The firm, Swanson Midgley, LLC, had a reputation in the legal community for solely advancing male lawyers.

Rather than shying away from the law firm, she accepted a position there as an associate lawyer. Her dedication to her clients and attention to detail eventually paid off and she became the first woman ever to make partner at the 100 year old firm.

“Five days after I became the first female partner, I had a baby,” said Hansbrough. “It was really a quandry.”

She describes the challenges of raising young children while juggling a career an “Olympic endeavor.”

“I remember thinking, these sports guys that I see at the Olympics are nothing compared to trying to get two children and yourself ready to be at work at 8:30 in the morning.”

During those busy times, she relied on her husband, David Stout, to assist with some of the parental responsibilities.

“We have been married for 25 years,” said Hansbrough. “During those early years, we learned before you schedule a deposition or a hearing” to let the other one know, so should the meeting run late the other parent can be available to pick up the kids from daycare.

“You just kind of learn to work that into your daily routine and you become a very good time manager,” she said.

“There are times you think: if I could just lie down and take a 10 minute nap, life would be good, but you know—you have another cup of coffee and keep going. If they ever outlaw caffeine I am doomed,” she said.

Now that her two daughters are much more mature, life is a bit more relaxed. The eldest daughter, age 22, attends the University of Missouri-Columbia and plans on following in her mother's footsteps. Her youngest daughter, age 17, is a junior in the Park Hill School District.

Hansbrough said she is “over-the-moon” to be the first appointed female to serve on the bench in Platte County.

Hansbrough said a female had previously sat on the bench in Platte County for a short period of time after the lady’s husband, who had served as a Platte County judge, died in 1834.

Lots of locals may consider Hansbrough a trailblazer, since she has helped pave the way for other females throughout her career. When asked if she considers herself a trailblazer she responded, “If people consider me a trailblazer, I would love to carry that torch,” she said.

When asked why the timing was right for her appointment to the bench, she said her dedication to the Platte County Bar Association had a lot to do with appointment. Hansbrough has served as the treasurer and secretary of the Platte County Bar Association and has been an active member of the Association of Woman Lawyers since 1985.

Another factor that may have contributed to her placement on the bench involved her personal values and the dedication she presented to the clients she represented at Stout and Hansbrough, the Parkville law firm she shares with her husband.

“I don't think I get out-prepared very often,” she said. “I really work hard to make sure I have thought of everything that I need to be prepared for my client at trial. I have exhibits pre-marked and I always have everything organized and ready to go. Hopefully that played a role in their consideration.”

Hansbrough says it will be an honor to work alongside the other judges on the bench.

“The bench and bar in Platte County is just incredible,” said Ann. “The judges are great. They work hard. Most of the bar knows each other and they are congenial to work with. I feel like I am getting the best of the best.”

Shortly after her appointment, Hansbrough's circle of friends met at All-Star Pizza in Burlington Creek to celebrate the accomplishment. Her friends would say she has a reputation for being a “warm and compassionate person.”

She admits there are areas of law she needs to direct her focus and preparation before taking the bench.

The passion Hansbrough has for her work was recently demonstrated while spending the last week of January in a judge workshop in Columbia. After an exhausting day of listening to continuous lecture, she worked on tying up her loose cases.

Rather than taking part in celebratory dinners with other recently appointed judges, she returned to her hotel room each night to properly conclude her current caseload.

The experience, she said opened her eyes to areas that will require painstaking hard-work.

“Last week, was a very good exercise in learning what you don't know and where to focus your preparation time,” she said.

During the past three decades, Hansbrough has specialized in several areas of law including civil litigation, corporate law, construction law, torts, and family law. Perhaps one area of law that will require her additional attention is criminal law. But unlike appointed judges with a history in criminal law, Hansbrough may present a fresh perspective on these types of often difficult and messy cases.

Hansbrough was born in Poplar Bluff, located in southeast Missouri just north of the Bootheel. Hansbrough, the youngest of three children, grew up in a tight knit community. Her mother was a housewife and dedicated civic-minded person who donated her time and effort to helping orphaned children and elderly people.

“I grew up watching her as an example of how to be compassionate for people of all walks of life,” said Hansbrough.

Her father worked as a general surgeon and served communities as close as Cape Girardeau and as far as Memphis.

“He would carry a beeper anywhere he went,” recalls Hansbrough. “Before he had a beeper he would have to call the hospital before we left the house, even if we were going to the grocery store.”

When certain circumstances would require his expertise, Hansbrough said he would always make himself available.

“Southeast Missouri is notorious for ice storms and I can remember many times when there was going to be a bad ice storm, my dad would go sleep at the hospital so that if there was a wreck and they needed him, he wanted to be able to be there and help,” she said.

Hansbrough describes her father as very dedicated and hard-working. She recalls him arriving home late in the evening, often past dark. On several occasions her father was forced to improvise and mow the lawn with a flashlight taped to the lawnmower.

“He was my work ethic example and my mother was an example of compassion and caring for your neighbors. I didn't have to look very far for role models. I had them right there in my house,” said Hansbrough.

Hansbrough's older brothers are practicing physicians in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Hansbrough earned a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1982. Three years later she earned a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.

Several years later when Hansbrough tied the knot, she decided to maintain her maiden name, rather than her husband's name. By the time she got married, she had already developed a reputation in the legal community as Ann Hansbrough. She figured it made more sense to keep her maiden name.

She acknowledges there is a benefit of having a unique name like Hansbrough for a last name.

“Some college basketball fans associate that name with my nephew, Tyler, who played at North Carolina and was named National Player of the Year in 2008.” That same year they won the national championship.

“My other nephew played at Notre Dame and was named Big East Player of the Year in 2011.”

Sharing the same last name with her two talented nephews has been her claim to fame to this point, she said.