Missouri Lawyers Weekly doesn’t typically name a posthumous Lawyer of the Year. But then again, there’s never been a judge quite like Richard Teitelman.
Even before Teitelman’s recent death, we had settled on the Missouri Supreme Court judge as the natural choice for this paper’s top honor. At age 69, he was less than a year from constitutionally-mandated retirement, guaranteeing that his unique voice on the court would soon be replaced. Teitelman’s premature death changes that timeline, but not his impact.
From the moment he joined the court in 2002, Teitelman consistently approached every case with an eye toward justice, whether it was through a majority opinion or one of his many dissents. His effect on the court’s jurisprudence was formidable, but his jovial personality had a way of disarming his ideological opponents. This assessment that Missouri Lawyers Weekly penned in 2011 still rings true:
“Widely regarded as an incurable liberal, a frequent dissenter, the only appellate judge in recent memory to face a serious retention challenge, Richard B. Teitelman is the Missouri Supreme Court’s most controversial judge — on paper.
“In person, he is perhaps the court’s most beloved member. An unerring presence at parties, an inveterate glad-hander, he’s the judge who wanders through the courtroom before a hearing to say hello, then compliments the lawyers after their arguments.”
We will honor Teitelman’s memory and the accomplishments of 22 other lawyers at the Missouri Lawyers Awards luncheon on Friday, Jan. 27, at the Ballpark Hilton in downtown St. Louis. The winners will be profiled in a special section of Missouri Lawyers Weekly on Jan. 23. These awardees will be joined by our Verdicts & Settlements winners — lawyers with the largest verdicts, settlements and defense wins of 2016, who will be announced next month.
Lawyer of the Year
- Judge Richard B. Teitelman, a judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, who died Nov. 29
Awarded to the newsmakers, those Missouri lawyers who made substantial contributions to the legal community this year.
- Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, who made waves when he tried to assign the governor as a criminal defense attorney to raise awareness of the defender system’s budget.
- Kim Gardner, St. Louis Circuit Attorney-elect, who soon takes office as the first African-American top prosecutor in St. Louis.
- Jim Onder of the Onder Law Firm, co-counsel in millions of dollars’ worth of St. Louis jury verdicts linking baby powder to ovarian cancer.
- Lowell Pearson of Husch Blackwell, who helped win a judicial order that electric car maker Tesla Motors, like other car manufacturers cannot sell directly to consumers.
- Bill Thompson, clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court, who will soon retire after 38 years of service to the court, first as its general counsel and now as its clerk.
Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.
- Todd Lubben of Brown & James, who has worked to keep the New Life Evangelistic Center, a homeless shelter in St. Louis, open in the face of local opposition.
- Mae Quinn, who left her position as a law professor to open the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a firm that focuses on civil rights cases.
- Christopher Schmidt, who leads Bryan Cave’s commitment to handling international child abduction cases.
Influential Appellate Advocates
Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.
- Tim Belz of Ottsen, Leggat & Belz, who argued the case resulting in a rare federal appeals court ruling against the U.S. government in the ongoing dispute over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
- Michael Hamlin of Pitzer Snodgrass and Teresa Young of Brown & James, whose separate cases led to a pair of Supreme Court opinions that redefined co-employee liability for workplace injuries.
- JoAnn Sandifer of Husch Blackwell, who led the appellate trial team for an important decision in Illinois impacting levee districts.
- Paul Venker and Lisa Larkin of Williams Venker & Sanders, the lawyers behind the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding a noneconomic damage cap in wrongful death cases.
Law Firm Leaders
Awarded to chairmen, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.
- Ed Hershewe, who has begun opening branches of The Law Store, an unusual law practice that offers basic legal services from inside Walmart stores.
- Annette Heller, who has led her own firm concentrating on trademark law since the early 1980s.
- John Murphy, who is stepping down as chair of Shook, Hardy & Bacon after 15 years of helping steer one of Missouri’s largest firms.
- Bhavik Patel, whose recent election as head of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard makes him the first Asian-American managing partner of a major Missouri law firm.
- Tim Thornton, who took the reins this year as of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale’s first chief executive officer, representing a significant change in the way the firm is managed on a day-to-day basis.
Awarded to in-house counsel whose advice and leadership led to extraordinary results for their company.
- Martin Kerckhoff of Monsanto, who blends his knowledge of the law and the farm to advise one of St. Louis’ largest companies.
- Sharhonda Shahid of MilliporeSigma, who helped to close Merck’s recent acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich, creating the life science company that exists in St. Louis today.
- Keith Williamson of Centene Corp., a founding member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association who oversees Centene’s legal and compliance departments.