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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / ICONS / ICON Awards 2021: Lawrence E. Mooney, JAMS; Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District

ICON Awards 2021: Lawrence E. Mooney, JAMS; Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District

Lawrence Mooney’s father was an insurance agent, but he also was a man with a dream.

Lawrence Mooney“He always said, ‘I wish I’d become a lawyer’,” said Mooney. “He had six children and three of us became lawyers.”

Mooney did more than that. He spent better than two decades on the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District, becoming the first openly gay judge in the state. Today, the 71-year-old University City native works as a mediator with JAMS, an alternative dispute resolution provider that handles about 18,000 cases annually.

After graduating from Saint Louis University Law School, he initially thought he’d be a transactional attorney. But after working for a firm, he ended up as an assistant prosecutor in St. Louis County.

“Part of it was that I felt we were serving the community,” he said. “Legally, when you are a prosecutor, you represent the state of Missouri but a lot of times we felt like we were the victim’s voice in court. We felt like we were getting wrongs redressed in our system.”

When prosecutor Buzz Westfall moved up to the county executive’s office, Mooney joined him as executive assistant. Later Gov. Mel Carnahan would appoint him to the appeals court. It was a job that he found rewarding.

“There is a lot of collegiality required because nothing gets done unless you get people to agree with you,” he said. “I enjoyed that process. I loved the people I was working with. We were from very different backgrounds in terms of our politics, our lifestyles, our histories but we got along great.”

Mooney said he’s proud of the work he did with Westfall to help shepherd a criminal justice reform bill through the state legislature that would help distinguish between first offenders and hardened criminals.

“To my mind, this is one of the critical issues in criminal justice,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the system we don’t want in the system. They may have mental illness. They may have an addiction that needs to be dealt with, but we want to get them out of the system and back to a productive life as much as possible.”

He’s also proud to have blazed a trail with his appointment as an openly gay jurist. The Appellate Judicial Commission even received anonymous notes attempting to scuttle his nomination with that fact.

“When it came time for me to be sworn in, I thought, ‘Well, everybody knows’,” he recalled. “My partner held the Bible while I took the oath of office.”

ICON Awards 2021