Q and A with Judge Colbert-Botchway

Submitted by Sherry Taylor on Tue, 05/14/2024 - 14:24
The Honorable Colbert-Botchway photo

The Law Library Association sat down with Law Library Association Board Member, the Honorable Nicole Colbert-Botchway, to learn more about her background and what motivated her to become a lawyer and a judge. Read her story below.

Did you grow up in St. Louis?

Yes, I grew up in North St. Louis and have been a city resident all my life.

Where did you go to college?

I attended Saint Louis University.

What motivated you to become an attorney?

In grade school, I committed my life to serving others.  As a vocation, I chose to be a voice for the voiceless and was passionate about protecting the rights of women and children. After attending an Upward Bound career fair in high school, I realized being a lawyer was a great career option for me after meeting Attorney Dorothy White-Coleman. 

Where did you attend law school?

I attended Saint Louis University School of Law.

Who are your role models?

My role model was Commissioner Frankie Muse Freeman, and she later became my mentor and part of my extended family.  We are blessed to have many great female lawyers and judges in the State of Missouri who are very generous with their time and talent and who also serve as role models for me, like Supreme Court Judge Robin Ransom and Court of Appeals Judge Angela Turner Quigless.

What motivated you to become a judge?

After practicing law in the City of St. Louis for several years, I was very impressed with the high quality of judges in the 22nd Judicial Circuit and admired their commitment to service.  Serving on the bench is the highest form of public service in the legal profession and I was encouraged to start applying.

What are your guiding principles as a judge?

I always treat litigants fairly, impartially, and with respect.

What inspired your idea for the Judicial Legacy Project? [A project that involves interviewing retired members of the Judiciary of the 22nd Circuit]

After completing the oral history of Civil Rights Attorney Frankie Muse Freeman for the American Bar Association's Women Trailblazers Project in 2014 and being appointed to the 22nd Judicial Circuit in 2015, I decided to initiate a Judicial Legacy Project for our Circuit.  Many of the great judges I had appeared before early in my career were retiring and I was driven to preserve their oral histories.  I was inspired by the Federal Judicial Learning Center's interviews conducted by U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri E. Richard Webber.  I wanted to create something similar.  Motivated by the need to highlight the history of this diverse bench and the legacy of the diverse judges who served the citizens of St. Louis, I began independently at first and then garnered support from the bench and bar.

Why are you committed to serving on the board of the Law Library Association of St. Louis?

The Law Library Association of St. Louis was one of the first places I went for help as a young attorney preparing for an unexpected contempt trial in 1998.  What I thought would be a quick trip to the Court to get a case continued resulted in a full bench trial after my request for continuance was denied.   The case was placed on second call which gave me enough time to run up to the library to research the issues and prepare the best defense I could on a contempt issue.  The Law Library is an important resource for the community, litigants, students, and attorneys and it should be preserved.  I chose to serve to pay it forward.

Do you serve on any other boards or professional organizations?

Currently, I serve as a Presidential Liaison for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, as a Missouri Bar Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and as a Catholic Charities Board Member for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.