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ICON Awards 2020: Tim Dollar, Dollar Burns & Becker

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In an age when lawyers might try a handful of cases each year if they are lucky, Tim Dollar’s estimated career number of jury trials is staggering.

Tim Dollar

It’s that kind of experience that has enabled Dollar to handle massive cases in 38 states across the country, ranging from a $39 million verdict for a deadly crash on an icy Texas road to a $37.5 million jury verdict for a man paralyzed in a crash on a Kansas City interstate.

And even when his cases end in settlement — as happened, for instance, with the confidential resolution in 2014 for the longtime portrayer of Kansas City Chiefs’ mascot KC Wolf after he was injured on a zipline — Dollar’s trial skills are put to good use. Learning to try cases by trial and error “demystifies” the experience.

“It allows you to see the big picture of a case and how it will unfold, and not through the microcosm of some single testimony or some single deposition from some single witness,” he said. “You can see in your mind’s eye how this case is going to play out in front of a jury.”

Dollar knew from the age of 10 that he wanted to be a civil trial attorney. His father was the pastor of a large Kansas City church, whose lawyer was Max Foust, one of the city’s premier plaintiffs’ lawyers. Yet after earning his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1984, he went to work at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I wanted as much trial experience as I could as early in my career as I could,” he said. “I think that was a rock-solid foundation for what I was ultimately fortunate enough to be able to do.”

After two years and 60 jury trials, including 27 homicide cases, Dollar was ready to move on. But then-Prosecutor Albert Riederer persuaded him to stay on as a part-time special prosecutor even as he built his civil practice.

“I thought that would last about six months,” Dollar said. “Thirty years and six elected prosecutors later, I’m still doing it.” His cases range from Kansas City’s “Precious Doe” case to the ongoing prosecution of David Jungerman, a businessman accused of killing a local trial attorney who won a sizeable verdict against him.

Dollar is a former member of the 16th Circuit Judicial Commission, which selects judicial candidates for the Jackson County Circuit Court under the Nonpartisan Court Plan. His six-year term bridged Republican and Democratic governors, as well as the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 to require the commission’s interviews with applications to be open to the public.

Between 2006 and 2011, Dollar helped select panels for nine local judgeships — including, in 2011, the one that went to Judge James Kanatzar, who was then the county prosecutor and thus Dollar’s effective supervisor. (Citing that conflict, Dollar recused himself from that vote.)

Dollar played a much more direct role in the career of Chris Koster, a litigator at his firm who also served as Cass County Prosecutor, a state senator, attorney general and, in 2016, as the Democratic candidate for governor.

“We had some exhilarating times together,” Dollar said. “I was involved in every one of his campaigns. It was great to watch — and terribly expensive.”

Dollar said his father also was the source of his interest in politics, as his church mission brought him in contact with everyone from local leaders to U.S. Sen Tom Eagleton. Dollar said he considered a run for an eastern Jackson County House seat before deciding against it.

“I decided I liked the behind-the-scenes side of politics rather than the front and center,” he said. “Nobody cares where I go to dinner.”