Sylvia B. Penner on cold cases, comfort food and a crucial encounter

Published in 2022 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers magazine

By Sylvia B. Penner on November 8, 2022


The lawyer I most admire is … my dad. He practiced law from 1977 to 1995, when he joined the bench. He retired from the 18th Judicial District Court in 2015.

If I weren’t a lawyer, I’d be … investigating cold cases, working at a nonprofit, or hosting a cooking and travel show on PBS.

When I win a case, I celebrate by … having dinner with my paralegals to decompress and celebrate the fruits of our hard work.

The SCOTUS justice I’d like to meet is … RBG. I realize this is no longer possible, but she will always remain on the top of my list.

A different practice that intrigues me is … immigration law.

I can’t believe more people haven’t read … Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s a wonderful book about the breadth of humanity and the power of purpose that should be read again and again.

My real-life hero is … my maternal grandmother.

On weekends, I … recharge by cooking. An afternoon in my kitchen, followed by dinner with family, is the best thing I can do to recharge my battery.

The talent I wish I had is … singing.

The most fascinating person I ever met is … Mrs. Esther Moses. In the eighth grade, my class studied the Holocaust. My dad, who is a history buff, arranged for me to meet Mrs. Moses, a survivor of the concentration camps. She shared stories with me of the camp—about the things she witnessed and endured. And she showed me a book about the concentration camp. One page contained photographs of men, women, and children as they arrived. She pointed to one particular photo of a woman and child. The woman was her mother, and she was the child. The photograph captured the final time she ever saw her mother. I was immediately overwhelmed by emotion. It was a moment I will never forget.
The craziest thing I witnessed in a courtroom is … an attempted kidnapping. An angry parent tried to flee the courtroom with her child that was ordered to be placed with his father.

The last TV show I binge-watched was … Ozark.

My favorite podcast is … Crime Junkie.

Nothing cheers me up like … dinner with friends.

My guilty pleasure is … warm peach cobbler.

My worst previous job was … cleaning the bathrooms in a men’s dormitory while I was in college. Yuck.

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