For the 27th year, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, returned to William Woods on April 3rd to convene court in the university’s unique model courtroom on campus. This year, the annual visit of the Court’s three-judge panel to WWU’s Bernard Wietzman Model Courtroom represented a homecoming of sorts.
Judge Kelly Broniec ’92 returned to her alma mater to hear oral arguments in four cases in the appellate court, serving alongside Presiding Judge Edward Ardini Jr., and Judge Rex Gabbert. An Associate Circuit Judge in Montgomery County, Judge Broniec was thrilled to be back at The Woods, taking part in what has become a unique benefit offered to students interested in a career in law at WWU.
“It’s fun being back on campus, I was excited when they asked me to do this and gave me the opportunity to come back,” she said. “I spent a lot of time in the Burton Business Building when I was here, so it’s fun to see, and to be in the courtroom that wasn’t even here when I was a student.”
Judge Broniec was a Business major at William Woods when she was a student, when her interest in Law was sparked by taking a Business Law class. After taking more Legal Studies classes, Judge Broniec added a Legal Studies minor, and her professors encouraged her to pursue law school. The summer after graduating from WWU, Judge Broniec had an internship working for a local prosecutor and was able to experience the criminal law aspect. She then went on to the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.
“Students should get as much experience as they can if they are interested in law school,” she said. “You do not get a lot of practical experience in law school, so I feel like getting out there and getting a job in the field is the best way to really get a feel of what the law is.”
The model courtroom at William Woods provides just that for students – great practical experience. Students not only get the feel of being in a courtroom, but also the added bonus of seeing the difference between the trial and the appellate level when they sit in on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District in action each year during its campus visit.
“I think a lot of people in the community just think you get a do-over at the appellate level and that’s not what it is,” said Judge Broniec. “Experiences like today’s docket here at William Woods also give students interested in becoming a lawyer an idea of what they need to do at the trial level if they want to appeal.”
In 2018, Judge Broniec was honored as the recipient of the Women’s Justice Award for Public Service by Missouri Lawyers Media. This award recognizes women in all facets of law, including general practitioners, litigators, in-house counsel, law students, public servants, and those doing pro-bono work. Serving in a rural county in Montgomery County, her circuit covers three counties including Audrain and Warren counties, where Judge Broniec handles all the juvenile court cases for the circuit.
“The biggest thing that made an impact on me when I came to William Woods was that it was an all-women’s school at the time,” she said. “So women held leadership positions on campus, which was a big shift from how I had grown up that made a positive impact on me. I had a great experience at Williams Woods, with a lot of professors who really encouraged me to go to law school and set me down this path.”