Judge Mark D. Pfeiffer, President

My father-in-law died earlier this year; and, to make matters worse, so did my favorite dog of all time…

I get it. Those two events are hardly comparable to one another, but they both left lasting impressions on me. Given my father’s death at a young age, my father-in-law was much more of a father figure to me than anything else. And, my Black & Tan Coon Hound was plainly and simply one of the best exemplars of true friendship I’ve ever experienced.

The common thread? Placing the needs of others before self; truly serving others and not one’s ego.

My father-in-law’s nickname was “Bunky.” I mean, you’ve got to really dislike your birth name to embrace a nickname like that, eh? Well, Bunky was quite accomplished. I won’t recite all of his leadership positions because it would take up too much paper, but among his career experiences…Bunky was the President of the Missouri Bar Association; he was the General Counsel of the University of Missouri System (four campuses in the state including the flagship institution in Columbia, Missouri); Bunky argued (and won) an important administrative law appeal before SCOTUS in the 70’s; and he was the President of the National Association of College and University Attorneys. In short, Bunky was a powerful and iconic presence in the legal profession for the state of Missouri. Yet, to me, he was the person I could turn to for life advice and he would always listen to me before he spoke; to me, Bunky was more concerned about helping me (and many others) in my career than he was his own career; to me, Bunky was the legendary lawyer who could have scoffed at my mistakes, but he preferred to find the good in me and my many shortcomings; oh, and to my two sons, Bunky was the one who taught them how to cuss…

My Black & Tan Coonie, Daniel Boone (“Boone” for short) chose me as his person. If you’ve met my wife, you would understand why all of our pets tend to choose her over me; and, I don’t blame them. But, Boone and I had a special bond. Boone was a huge 100-plus pound beast of a dog who literally had the biggest, kindest, and warmest heart (his paws were pretty big, too!). There’s something about meeting anything or anyone that is literally joyous every time you come home from work and Boone was that presence for me; no matter how bad my day had been, Boone would treat me like a hero; Boone always brought a smile to my face, a feeling of friendship and love to my heart, and he was always, well, just “there.”

I wonder…wouldn’t we all do well as Chief Judges (and perhaps spouses, parents, friends…) to become better at active listening with our colleagues? …to choose to place the needs of others over self? …to be determined to find good in even the most “difficult” colleague? …to express joy in developing sincere friendships inside and outside the courthouse with our colleagues and to treat our colleagues like heroes, or at least someone we don’t consider an enemy? …to show up and be present in the lives of our colleagues?

This year—2023—while it has brought me sadness, it has also brought me joy; for, my first grandchild, a little girl named Victoria, has made her way into this world. It is also the year that a group of friends I admire—you—have allowed me to serve this organization in the role of President for the next year and, in return, I promise you this: I will join the other officers and leaders of this organization to run the 2023-24 CCJSCA race marked out for us with as much perseverance and energy that I can muster. And, to my granddaughter, I hope to pass along a few of the wonderful qualities her great-grandfather taught me; for, I feel certain that I will also teach her to cuss…

It’s a good day to be us! Cheers to 2024, mates!

Mark D. Pfeiffer, Judge
Missouri Court of Appeals—Western District
CCJSCA President