Judge Joe Hensley

Missouri Bar recognizes Joe Hensley’s integrity, leadership in the courtroom

Judge Joe Hensley, of Webb City, on Thursday, Sept. 15, received the 2022 Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award from the Missouri Bar Association for his integrity and leadership in the courtroom.

Established by The Missouri Bar Board of Governors in 2004, the award recognizes judges who have inspired others of the judiciary to help advance the administration of justice and provide outstanding public and community services to Missouri residents.

Hensley is a Jasper County associate circuit judge and serves as the 29th Circuit Court’s presiding juvenile court judge. Prior to serving on the bench, he practiced in civil litigation and adoptions. Hensley graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law and was admitted to The Missouri Bar in 1998.

“It’s important for lawyers to remember that every case is important to the people involved,” Hensley said.

“The challenges we faced for our clients as lawyers did not end when we stopped billing hours and put on a robe,” he said. “We are charged with an awesome responsibility of unraveling complex issues in our communities, and it is a privilege to be able to use our talent and training to do it.”

Part of that unraveling involves explaining the law to citizens, which can help increase trust in the judicial system. Hensley encouraged new judges to justify their difficult decisions in their writings so that the parties understand that judgments are not arbitrary.

“By explaining to the parties the reasons for my decisions, the litigants understand I thought about it and there was reason behind it,” he said. “These explanations may open up grounds for reversal, but I believe that is a fair trade for providing justice and closure to those involved, while strengthening the public’s confidence in the judicial system.”

This year’s Theodore McMillian award was presented in conjunction with the Missouri Bar’s annual meeting, on Sept. 15 in Springfield.