JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – W. Brent Powell has officially joined the Missouri Supreme Court after taking the oath of office Friday afternoon.
Powell was appointed in April to fill the vacancy left by the death of Judge Richard B. Teitelman, who died last November. He was selected out of three candidates and can be considered to be a conservative voice for the court. At his investiture ceremony, Gov. Eric Greitens praised Powell for his integrity and generosity.
Prior to his judicial service, he was worked as an associate for Lathrop & Gage LC and then for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District. He would work there for three years before he was appointed a judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit in 2008.
Powell comes from a family in the legal system. Both his father and father-in-law are both attorneys. He is married to Beth Phillips, a United States district judge. His sister-in-law, Jennifer Phillips, is a circuit court judge in Jackson County. He also has other distant family members who are lawyers.
Powell was one of 30 applicants considered for the vacancy by the Appellate Judicial Commission, who then named three nominations. The Commission is comprised of elected members from the Missouri Bar, three residents selected by the Governor, and led by the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, who was at the time Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge.
At his investiture ceremony, over 200 people heard from his friends who are either lawyers or judges themselves. Judge Kevin Harrell from the 16th Judicial Circuit spoke about Powell’s humility, honesty, and commitment to the court.
“There are universal truths that you can’t get away from. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Hailey’s comet comes every 75 years or so. Water is wet. We all would agree… Here’s another universal truth that you can’t get away from – He’s the nicest guy you will ever meet… He’s one of the most honest guys you will ever meet,” Harrell spoke about his friend.
Governor Grietens spoke at the ceremony and talked about how rigorous the application process and Powell’s reputation. He spoke about Powell’s data, which included high approval rating and the number of votes he got in the 16th district. For Greitens, the biggest tell of his reputation was the letters of recommendation he received from Powell’s friends and colleagues, some of which he voted against their favor.
Greitens also spoke about the importance of the office and he felt that Powell was the best person for the job. “In Judge Brent Powell, we have a man who loves Missouri, a jurist who respects the Constitution, a mentor who helps young lawyers, a skilled advocate who understands the most pressing issues facing Missouri’s Justice system, and servant-leader who is devoted to his community.”
After he was sworn in, Powell was emotionally moved. He spoke about the importance of his family and invited his young nephew, cousin, and niece with him onto the podium in front of the bench. One of his most striking memories that shaped him was debating with his family who had extensive legal backgrounds.
“As you can see, the law runs deep in me and so this institution – this place – means very, very much to me. For this reason, I want to protect it and make it better,” he said.
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer