Warren County

Unexpected opportunity leads attorney to become newest Warren County judge

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 11/9/23

Warrenton attorney Katie Joyce discusses her appointment as a judge to the 12th Judicial Circuit in Missouri that covers Warren County.

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Warren County

Unexpected opportunity leads attorney to become newest Warren County judge


Warrenton attorney Katie Joyce was named a judge of the 12th judicial circuit by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

The announcement was made Nov. 3. Joyce, 33, will fill the remainder of Judge Michael S. Wright’s term, which runs through the November 2026 election. Wright was appointed in September to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District.

“I am very excited, first and foremost,” Joyce said. “It really is an incredible opportunity and I am excited about what I’ll be able to do with this role for all of Warren County and all the 12th circuit.”

The 12th circuit covers all of Warren, Montgomery and Audrain counties.

“It’s possible that I will be handling more cases in the other counties of the circuit,” she said, explaining she could have a potential conflict with Warren County cases given her current role as a private attorney.

As a circuit judge, she could also be asked to oversee cases in counties outside the circuit should the need arise.

For Joyce, the opportunity to serve as a circuit judge comes far earlier than she had expected. She’s been a practicing attorney for 8 years, having graduated from Saint Louis University with her juris doctorate in 2015.

“I’ve absolutely been interested in being a judge,” she said. “I anticipated that it would be something later in my future, probably more 5 to 7 years from now.”

She was in Ireland on vacation when she learned about the vacancy, and she said the timing caught her off guard.

“This opportunity opening now was not what I planned or expected,” she said. “But it absolutely felt like an opportunity that opened.”

And it was an opportunity she said she’s thrilled to have the chance to capitalize on.

“This is my community and my home,” she said. “Warren County is very important to me. This is where I grew up. This is where I chose to have my practice.”

She believes that local connection is what sold the governor on her appointment to the bench. In addition to serving as both a private attorney, city attorney for Truesdale, and prosecuting attorney for Warrenton, Joyce is involved with several local groups including the Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, and Wags & Whiskers

“I am very familiar with how our circuit functions and then that practical understanding of our circuit and my desire to serve this community I believe made me the best choice for the role.”

As of Nov. 6, no date had yet been set for her installation, but Joyce said she was told it would happen within 30 days.

Law is a family affair

Joyce is the daughter of former Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Joyce, who also served as a private attorney in Warrenton and opened Joyce Law LLC, which Katie currently operates.

Tim Joyce was appointed prosecutor in 1981 by then-Gov. Kit Bond and served until the 1992 election when he was succeeded by Wright, who is now being succeeded on the bench by Katie Joyce. That fact did give her some pause when considering whether to apply for the open position on the bench.

“I wasn’t sure what my dad would think because I’m currently running the practice,” she said. “This was his and then he retired. What will he think if I leave the private practice to go be a judge?” she said.

But Tim was overjoyed to hear his daughter would soon wear a judge’s robe.

“She’s very smart but yet, she wants to hear everything before she makes up her mind,” he said. “I know she will be a fine judge.”

Her mother, Cheri, was “ecstatic” when she heard the news. 

“It’s every lawyer’s dream to become a judge and it’s every mother’s dream to have their children live out their potential,” Cheri said. “The impact she can have in our community is just so wonderful that it just makes me so proud.”

Her one regret

Taking the bench does mean Joyce will have to give up her positions as the city and prosecuting attorney for Truesdale and the prosecuting attorney for Warrenton.

“I will say that was a major hesitation in deciding whether I should apply for the appointment,” she said. “I absolutely love the work that I do for both of the cities.”

Truesdale was especially tough for her given that she succeeded her father as the city attorney. When she steps down from that position, it will end almost 40 years of Joyce’s serving in the role.

“Katie’s fantastic,” Truesdale City Clerk Elsa Smith-Fernandez said. “It’s definitely going to be different, but we couldn’t be more happy for her. We’re super proud that she took the steps that she wanted to take. We wish her the best.”

“Congratulations to Katie Joyce for being appointed to the 12th Circuit bench,” Truesdale Mayor Jerry Cannon said. “Katie is extremely knowledgeable, and will bring common sense and fair mindedness to the courtroom. As the city of Truesdale has seen firsthand, our entire area will now benefit from her dedication and service-minded community spirit.”

“We would all like to congratulate Katie on her new appointment and this new phase in her career,” Warrenton City Administrator Brandie Walters said. “She will not only bring her knowledge but her consistently composed personality, which is a great asset in this position.  Katie will do a great job as she has for us at the city of Warrenton.”

Joyce said that even though she is stepping down, she would love to continue serving both communities.

“I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to hand off both Warrenton and Truesdale to good hands,” she said.

But she’s now focused entirely on the future.

“I’m hopeful that my career path will now be a long term of service as a judge for Warren County,” Joyce said.

About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at jason@warrencountyrecord.com

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