Tarkio Baptist appointed Supreme Court justice
By Susan Mires
TARKIO—Zel Fischer, Missouri’s newest Supreme Court judge, is a Missouri Baptist.
Fischer, 45, was appointed to the court by Gov. Matt Blunt on Oct. 15. He’s a long time resident of Atchison County and a member of First Baptist Church here.
He’s also known for a common sense approach to the law.
“Zel will bring to the job hard work and integrity of what he truly believes,” said Glen Scott, pastor of First Tarkio. “He will not be swayed by political winds.”
Scott has served as Fischer’s pastor for 14 years. He worked with him through the legal system as a victims advocate.
“He has good common horse sense. He also brings intelligence with that,” Scott said.
Fischer graduated from William Jewell College, where he played varsity football, with degrees in philosophy and political science. After earning his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he was a clerk for Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Andrew Jackson Higgins. He served in private practice for 15 years and in 2006 was elected associate circuit judge.
Blunt selected Fischer from three candidates nominated by the Appellate Judicial Commission. In making the appointment, the governor pointed out that Fischer will replace Judge Stephen Limbaugh and shares Limbaugh’s philosophy of applying laws as they are written.
“He also has the right judicial temperament and a humility that I believe is important to bring to a position in which one often is the last say,” Blunt said.
The announcement was made on the Atchison County Courthouse lawn in Rock Port.
“I was really humbled and honored,” Fischer said at the time. “This is truly a dream come true for me. I hoped someday I would have the opportunity to serve on the court.”
Fischer has been married to his wife, Julie Ann, for 23 years. They have four children: Kenzie, a student at the University of Missouri; Zachary, a student at Northwest Missouri State University; and Madison and Courtney, both students at Tarkio High School.
Besides being dedicated to his family, Fischer is also a praying and caring man, Scott said. He has a boisterous sense of humor and knows how to work hard, he said.
“The average Missourian will relate to him more than some other judges,” Scott said.
According to information submitted to the governor’s office, Fischer started working at a local beef packing plant the day after he graduated from high school and continued to work there during summer and holiday breaks through college. He used to announce high school football games and likes to hunt.
Fischer is a member of the Law & Order Quartet, along with the Atchison County sheriff, who is also a member of First Tarkio.
“He’s not afraid of sharing his faith,” Scott said. “It’s not a hidden faith, it’s part of who he is.”
Fischer’s appointment to the Supreme Court draws attention to a part of the state that sometimes feels overlooked. Atchison County is in the extreme northwest corner of Missouri.
“We’re more like Iowa and Nebraska than the rest of Missouri,” Scott said. “It’s still a very conservative, old-fashioned community.”
Fischer was born in Iowa because even though his parents lived in Atchison County, they went across the state line to the nearest hospital.
Despite its remote location, First Tarkio is becoming better known. Besides a Supreme Court judge, its membership includes U.S. Congressman Sam Graves as well as a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. All of that is quite commendable, Scott noted, for a church that averages less than 75 in Sunday School.
He also said Missouri Baptists can be happy about Fischer’s appointment to the court.
“He will not legislate from the bench,” Scott said. “He believes what he believes is right according to the law.”
He encourages believers to lift up Fischer in prayer.
“We as Christians in our communities need to pray for our judges, our congressmen, our leaders,” Scott said. “Christian people are still out there working and praying.”