One of the most consequential Missouri Supreme Court rulings of 2019 was one of the first cases Katherine E. Myers took on when she and her law-school classmates launched their small firm in 2012.
In February, the court ruled that her client — a transgender student identified in court records as R.M.A., who sought access to restrooms and locker rooms in line with his gender identity — could proceed in his discrimination suit against the Blue Springs R-IV School District.
The court went even further, declaring the district — and other state entities — to be “persons” who can be sued under the public accommodations provision of the Missouri Human Rights Act.
“We’re having one of those full-circle moments now,” Myers said. “It’s nice to see. Although it takes a very long time — the wheels of justice are slow — they do work.”
While there are still hurdles to clear as the case moves forward, Myers said the Supreme Court’s ruling is “just a fantastic result for the citizens of our state, and hopefully there’s some real-world impact there that people will benefit from.”
She said taking on cases such as R.M.A.’s are risky, but the benefit to the public outweighs the risk.
“Attorneys have to be brave enough to litigate these issues,” she said. “That’s how we have the rights that we have today — brave attorneys who are litigating issues that have to be litigated, have to be decided, so that we have a more peaceful, respectful and safe world to live in.”
A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Myers said she was attracted to law because of the analytical side of the work — she enjoys puzzles and digging into complex issues — as well as the opportunity to help give a voice to the voiceless.
As a young adult, Myers wore a back brace for five years due to a medical condition. Her peers were understanding, but she said sometimes she had problems with gym teachers and she felt badly about her condition.
Myers said she went on to study law at the University of Missouri–Kansas City because she wanted to have a career that “helped the little guy have a voice, because I knew what that’s like.”
In law school, she and two of her classmates, Alexander Edelman and Sarah Liesen, explored the idea of starting their own firm together.
After receiving advice from a number of attorneys in the community, they launched their firm, Edelman, Liesen & Myers, after graduating. Myers said a longstanding commitment of the firm is to advance and clarify LGBTQ rights, which is exemplified in the R.M.A. case.
Myers represents plaintiffs in employment law, as well as in civil-rights cases. She said she enjoys employment law because it helps to balance the scales between employees and employers.
“I really enjoy making sure that the employee is on the same level of the employer or the defendant and their voice is equally heard,” she said.
Myers also is dedicated to fighting discrimination in all forms. It’s important for everyone to realize the impact of discrimination on an individual and society as a whole if institutions say it’s OK to treat people differently — and particularly if young people are receiving that message, she said.
“The impact that’s going to have on society in the long term is huge,” she said.