Circuit Judge, 38th Judicial Circuit
Growing up in a small town in Kansas, Jessica Kruse loved music and never dreamed she’d someday be a lawyer, let alone a circuit court judge. The desire to help her husband’s business led her to the law, and a series of career pivots brought her to the bench.
After starting out as a French horn performance major at Missouri State University with a goal of teaching and playing in a symphony, Kruse was still in college when she married her husband, a business owner. She decided to change course and enrolled at the University of Tulsa College of Law.
“I planned to get my law degree, then work for a big firm, helping other business owners and also helping our family business,” she said.
When the couple started a family, Kruse’s priorities shifted. Seeking a family friendly work environment, she teamed up with a law partner and acquired Ozarks Elder Law in Springfield when its previous owners retired. She loved the family friendly environment she created, and the firm thrived.
After helping a friend successfully campaign for a seat on the circuit court bench, friends suggested she seek a similar position. She won a primary for an associate circuit judge for Christian County, and facing no opponent in the general election, the governor appointed her to the position. Later, she was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge for the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, a position she still holds.
“If I had focused on one career path, I may have ignored other opportunities, but I kept an open mind,” she said. “I never thought this is where I would be, but I love what I do and I’m thankful I took chances.”
One of Kruse’s favorite aspects of her job is interacting with people in her courtroom, and she puts a premium on developing great listening skills.
“I have a sign in my office that says, ‘speak in a way that others love to listen to you and listen in a way that others love to speak to you,’ and I think that is an incredible lesson for most aspects of life,” she said.
Women’s Justice Awards 2023