Were it not for eight years of effort by Missouri Lawyers Media’s 2021 Lawyers of the Year, Donald “Doc” Nash would almost certainly be sitting in prison today.
Charles Weiss, Stephen Snodgrass and Jonathan Potts of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner represented Nash on a pro bono basis in an effort to clear him of a terrible, decades-old crime. Nash’s girlfriend, Judy Spencer, was murdered in 1982; in 2009, Nash was convicted of her death on the flimsiest of evidence.
Now 78, Nash seemed destined to spend the rest of his life behind bars, despite his unwavering claims of innocence. With the BCLP team’s help, Nash won a review from a court-appointed special master, who tore apart the basis for the conviction. The Missouri Supreme Court accepted his recommendation that the conviction be thrown out.
That might have ended the case. But in an unusual move, the local prosecutor moved to try Nash again. Weiss, Snodgrass and Potts were preparing to defend their client once more at a bench trial when the prosecutor reversed course and said there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed. As of Oct. 19, the case was no more.
Weiss, Snodgrass and Potts are among 27 lawyers and judges to be honored at the Missouri Lawyers Awards in a virtual award ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 11. Click here for ticket information. The winners also will be profiled in a special section of Missouri Lawyers Weekly. These awardees will be joined by our Verdicts & Settlements winners — those who achieved the largest verdicts, settlements, judgment and defense wins of 2020, which will be announced in early January.
Lawyers of the Year
Charles Weiss, Stephen Snodgrass and Jonathan Potts of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, for their work to overturn the wrongful conviction of Donald “Doc” Nash.
Awarded to the newsmakers — the Missouri lawyers who made substantial contributions to the legal community this year.
Brad Zimmerman of Carmody MacDonald, who worked with lawmakers to change Missouri’s tax code to benefit the families of first responders from Missouri killed or injured by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Judge David Byrn of the Jackson County Circuit Court, who has guided the court as presiding judge through floods, protests and a pandemic.
Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.
Todd Graves and Dane Martin of Graves Garrett, for their work in keeping millions of dollars in taxpayer money from flowing to a Platte County shopping district.
Daniel Thomas and Michael Kilgore of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, who won hefty judgments against the federal government for men who were abused at a VA medical center in Kansas.
Kent Gipson and Taylor Rickard of the Law Office of Kent Gipson, for their work in freeing a wrongfully convicted man whose case was championed by WNBA star Maya Moore.
Athena Dickson of Siro Smith Dickson, who won a significant jury verdict for a wrongfully terminated shopping district manager.
Natasha Scruggs of The Scruggs Law Firm, whose work to improve society ranges from an annual law camp to advocating for the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people.
Sarah Bardol of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, who took part in a food distribution program to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Influential Appellate Advocates
Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.
Rosemary Percival of the Missouri State Public Defender System, who persuaded the Missouri Supreme Court to allow expert testimony to challenge the reliability of eyewitness identification.
Tom Weaver of Armstrong Teasdale, who got the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District to cut in half one of the biggest jury verdicts in Missouri history.
William Ray Price Jr. of Armstrong Teasdale and Robert Adams of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, who won a long-awaited and closely divided ruling in the Supreme Court that prevented a new trial against their clients.
Law Firm Leaders
Awarded to chairpersons, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.
David Braswell of Armstrong Teasdale, who has led the firm following the untimely death of his predecessor and helped redefine the firm’s strategic goals.
Michael Downey of the Downey Law Group, who has made his firm the go-to place for ethics advice, training and representation.
Shannon Johnson of Seigfreid Bingham, who led a trial team in a first-of-its kind recovery under a rarely used Missouri statute.
John Kennyhertz of Kennyhertz Perry, who, as managing partner, handles the day-to-day operations of the firm through the changing environment of the pandemic.
Amy Mistler of Spencer Fane, who leads one of largest offices of one Missouri’s fastest growing firms.
Christopher Pickett of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, a firm shareholder who leads its efforts to diversify the workplace and to recruit and retain diverse talent.
Scott Seitter of Levy Craig Law Firm, who has reorganized the firm’s management structure, brought in a new COO and worked to upgrade the firm’s technology.
Gregory Smith of Husch Blackwell, who has helped build the firm into the operation it is today during his eight-year tenure of firm leadership.
Patrick Whalen of Spencer Fane, whose leadership and vision have made the firm one of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation.
MoLawNow video: Charles A. Weiss and Jonathan B. Potts
Shoestring evidence: Nash case ends after prosecutor dismisses murder charge
Bryan Cave attorneys fight to overturn conviction in 1982 murder
Congratulations to Greg Smith, a great leader and great mentor.