Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to expand Missouri’s Medicaid system. Joel Ferber, Chuck Hatfield and Lowell Pearson made sure it stuck.
Ferber, Hatfield and Pearson are Missouri Lawyers Media’s 2022 Lawyers of the Year for their resounding victory in the Missouri Supreme Court that upheld Missouri voters’ decision to expand the MO HealthNet program. In a unanimous ruling in July, the court said the expansion wasn’t an improper attempt to appropriate money through the constitution.
The suit was filed after state lawmakers refused to fund the expansion, and future appropriation battles over the Medicaid system are sure to come. But as a direct result of our Lawyers of the Year awardees’ lawsuit, an estimated 275,000 Missourians are now eligible for the health care coverage the constitution mandates.
It is an award that honors a partnership between one of Missouri’s most prominent civil legal organizations and two of its largest private law firms. Ferber is the director of litigation for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri; Hatfield is a partner at Stinson; and Pearson is a partner at Husch Blackwell.
They are among 28 lawyers to be honored at the Missouri Lawyers Awards in a ceremony at the Doubletree Chesterfield on Thursday, Jan. 27. 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
Joel Ferber of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Chuck Hatfield of Stinson and Lowell Pearson of Husch Blackwell, for advocacy that secured expansion of Missouri’s Medicaid system.
Awarded to the newsmakers — the Missouri lawyers who made substantial contributions to the legal community this year.
Mary Fox of the Missouri State Public Defender System, for her efforts to reduce the system’s backlog of cases while persuading lawmakers to increase funding.
Rob Huq of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Office, who helps lead both the circuit attorney’s office and the Washington University Law Prosecution Clinic while helping secure important victories in court.
Rachel Rutter of the Rutter Law Firm, who achieved a hard-won victory in a tough venue on behalf of a lesbian client who faced discrimination at the Department of Corrections.
Mit Winter of Kennyhertz Perry, whose expertise in sports law helped him found and lead the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s Sports and Entertainment Law Committee.
Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.
Robert Hoffman of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Tricia Rojo Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project, for their efforts to free Kevin Strickland after 43 years in prison for a triple murder he didn’t commit.
Ken McClain of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, who spent more than a year in trial conducting individual arbitrations for hundreds of employees who alleged their retirement plan was poorly managed.
Jay Nixon of Dowd Bennett, who put his brief-writing skills, his love of the outdoors and his knowledge as the state’s former governor to work on behalf of two important land conservation cases.
Pam Meanes of Thompson Coburn, Bob Bailey of the University of Missouri School of Law and Casey Wong of Sandberg Phoenix, who served as co-chairs of an effort by The Missouri Bar to address a timely issue: how to increase the retention of diverse lawyers in the profession.
Influential Appellate Advocates
Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.
T. Michael Ward of Brown & James, the firm’s managing partner who won a series of significant appellate decisions this year concerning insurance coverage.
Tim Aylward of Horn Aylward & Bandy, who achieved his third career win in the Supreme Court in the fraught area of medical malpractice damage limits.
Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard of Schuchat, Cook & Werner, whose work led the Supreme Court to strike down a sweeping law that governed public-sector unions.
Brian Shank of Evans & Dixon, whose patience in waiting two and a half years for a Supreme Court ruling resulted in a significant decision on the limits of co-worker liability.
Law Firm Leaders
Awarded to chairpersons, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.
John Franke of Franke Schultz & Mullen, whose management of the firm he helped found has led all four of its offices to grow even during the pandemic.
Desarae Harrah of Harrah Law, whose entrepreneurial spirit and leadership led her to open her own law practice in 2018 while giving back to the legal community.
Matthew Reh of Armstrong Teasdale, who leads firm’s national litigation practice group and was just elected to the commission that helps select judges in St. Louis County.
Julianne Story of Husch Blackwell, who shaped both the advice given to clients and the firm’s own policies on labor and employment law during the pandemic.
Bob Tomaso of Husch Blackwell, who has spent 20 years in senior law firm management positions and is the current president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Andrea McNairy of Brown & Crouppen, who is a managing attorney, an active litigator and the first female attorney to become a partner of the firm.
Samuel Wendt of the Wendt Law Firm, who has led not only his own firm but also the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association through the pandemic.
Julia Vander Weele of Spencer Fane, who took over in 2021 as managing partner of the firm’s Kansas City office, its largest nationwide.
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