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Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr.- Armstrong Teasdale; former U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Missouri

A message that retired U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. would like to impart to all attorneys, young and old, is that obligations come with the practice of law.

“I think in addition to providing legal services for hire, lawyers have the obligation to provide pro bono service. And I think lawyers have the obligation to provide government service. I like to see lawyers in the legislature, on municipal boards and providing community services through agencies. Lawyers need to be doing all of this, and they should be doing all of this. They owe a duty to the community to pay back,” he said.

MONDAY, JULY 11, 2011 -Stephen Limbaugh is an attorney at Armstrong Teasdale LLP in St. Louis, Mo. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Now a senior counsel at Armstrong Teasdale in the litigation practice group, Limbaugh served as a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri from 1983 to 2008. He remembers the phone call about the appointment from President Ronald Reagan as a highlight of his career.

Limbaugh began his career doing real estate and title work for his father’s Cape Girardeau law firm after earning his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1951. His father, Rush Limbaugh Sr., lived to be 104.

“I was fortunate to be able to practice with my dad. He was an inspiration. He continued going into his office until the age of 102. He had all of his facilities still,” Limbaugh said. “We have good genes.”

Citing the tendency of lawyers to procrastinate, Limbaugh said he welcomes technology as a positive change in the practice.

“Lawyers tend to work right up to a deadline, and we used to have to race to the clerk’s office to file something by 5 [p.m.]. You really had to get to know your clerks. But now with e-filing, you can do what you need to do late and from your desk, and that’s a big help,” he said.

“Another change I’ve seen that I don’t think is good is the erosion of the right to a jury trial. There’s an emphasis on summary judgment, ADR, and it’s good in many situations to eliminate expense and emotions, but it’s not easy today if you really want a trial,” he added.

Limbaugh keeps busy helping to raise funds for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, playing tennis twice a week and walking in Forest Park. He said he enjoys his role as a mentor at Armstrong Teasdale.

“Every day younger attorneys come by with assigned work in federal or sometimes state court, and we talk and then they get on with it,” he said. “I think it’s helpful for them to talk with someone who’s been around a little bit.”

Repeating his challenge to lawyers to serve, Limbaugh said he hoped to be remembered for his professionalism.

“Unless you’re a Washington or a Lincoln or a Madame Curie, few people remember you after you’re gone. You’d like to be remembered for honesty and integrity,” he said. “All aspire to this, and few really are.”

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