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ICON Awards 2022: Michael David, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice

Michael DavidMargaret Neill served as a judge in the 22nd Circuit Court with Michael David for more than two decades and would talk with him every day.

“We would chat if we ran into a particular legal issue that was novel, or if we had a really obnoxious lawyer before us, just to calm down,” said Neill.

David, who spent more than 25 years on the bench and has since served as a mediator, has been effective in both roles, Neill said, because of three qualities: “He has a great sense of humor, and he is a good listener. He is very patient.”

While attending Saint Louis University School of Law, David interned at the city’s public defender’s office and then after graduating, spent two years on the felony trial staff.

He then worked in the law office of a former president of the city’s Board of Aldermen before entering private practice.

Afterwards, he ran for the Missouri State House and served for about six years.

David attributes his interest in the law — and in serving as a legislator — to a “recognition that law, in generic terms, is really the only hope we have of being able to live together without killing each other,” he said.

As a lawmaker, David sponsored legislation to make it easier for judges, where applicable, to admit evidence of battered woman syndrome, a psychological condition sometimes cited by defendants when arguing that a woman killed her spouse in self-defense.

“I have great respect for juries that sit through cases and listen, and then are asked to decide them,” he said. “There are sometimes some evidentiary issues that kind of prevent them from that. Whenever I had the chance to work on something that way, I was happy to do so.”

David also presided over a 2011 case in which Missouri hospitals sued tobacco companies over costs of providing health care to patients with smoking-related illnesses. A jury ruled the companies were not liable.

“We had jurors who were asking for exhibits by exhibit number. They took notes and they paid attention,” said David. “Quite frankly, I was darn proud of the integrity of the jury. I don’t root for one side or the other. I just want a level playing field.”

That case — among others — also helped prepare David for his work as a mediator. He has worked at Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice since 2015, including as a special master in the lawsuit filed by St. Louis authorities against the NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke concerning the team’s relocation to Los Angeles.

As a mediator, David can talk to the parties with some authority about “the range of things that can happen in case,” he said. “Sometimes laypeople come to a mediation” with a firm belief “that they are right, and that everybody will see that they are right. I sometimes have to burst their bubble.”

And according to John Riley, who also served as a judge in the 22nd Circuit Court, David “would never mislead you” on legal matters.

In short, “you can take what he said to the bank,” Riley said. “You can rely on him.”

ICON Awards 2022