First African American woman elected as St. Louis presiding judge

Judge Robin Ransom
Judge Robin Ransom

The circuit judges of the City of St. Louis on Monday voted unanimously at their en banc meeting to elect Robin Ransom as the first African American female presiding judge of the 22nd Circuit.

“I was humbled,” said Ransom, a circuit judge since 2008 who previously served as commissioner of the city’s family court.

Ransom is the circuit’s assistant presiding judge. She said her colleagues approached her two years ago and encouraged her to submit her name to serve in that role. She did, and she won. Customarily in the 22nd Circuit, the assistant presiding judge later is elected as presiding judge. Ransom will begin her two-year term as presiding judge on Jan. 1, when current presiding Judge Michael K. Mullen’s term expires.

According to local court rules, the presiding judge is “responsible for the administration and management of the Circuit Court.” Circuit spokesman Thom Gross said the position entails serving as probate judge and civil-docketing judge. Other duties include scheduling judicial vacations, handling all contacts with the news media on matters of court policy and approving supply purchases and repair services.

“If it’s a Saturday morning and there’s a hole in the ceiling with water coming through it, they’re the one who gets the call,” Gross said.

Ransom said that one person teased her in reference to her imminent role by saying, “My condolences.”

She is not the first African American to serve as presiding judge. In 1999 and 2000, Judge Michael Calvin served in the same capacity.

Ransom said she is from the Fairground Park neighborhood of North St. Louis and that, as a young person, she drove past the courthouse many times without ever imagining she would be such an integral part of it.

“To have your colleagues say, ‘We respect you as a person, and a black female and a judge,’ I’m really proud,” said Ransom, a 1991 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law.

The St. Louis bench also voted at the meeting to elect Judge Rex Burlison as assistant presiding judge.