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ICON Awards 2022: Michael Manners, Langdon & Emison

Michael MannersFew people can say a U.S. President was one of their mentors, but Michael Manners cultivated his love for American history during long conversations with President Harry Truman.

Manners, who grew up in Independence, the President’s hometown, spent time with Truman when his stepfather served as his bodyguard.

“As a kid, I got to know the President, and when my dad would pick him up at the airport, I’d go along and help carry his luggage,” Manners said. “He had a great influence on me and sparked my interest in history and books.”

Manners, 68 was the first member of his family to go to college. He majored in history and political science at Central Missouri State University, graduating summa cum laude. Afterwards, he enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, where he received his law degree in 1976. He began his career as a trial attorney at what is now Welch, Martin, & Albano and stayed for 24 years until Governor Roger Wilson appointed him to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

In 2013, Manners was appointed as a special master to take evidence in a habeas corpus proceeding in the Missouri Supreme Court. It was a death penalty case in which defendant Reggie Clemons had set out to prove he was innocent of two 1991 murders.

Clemons claimed the state had failed to provide critical evidence that police officers had beaten him into confessing to the crime, which might have impacted the outcome of his trial.

Manners spent four years reviewing thousands of pages of court documents, videotapes and evidence on the case and presided over a week-long hearing. In the end, he agreed prosecutors had withheld evidence supporting Clemons’ claims, but he also found the defendant had failed to prove his innocence.

In a new trial, Clemons pled guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to life in prison.

Manners worked for months drafting his findings, which after completion totaled 107 pages. He had a hard deadline — a required retirement from the bench and a new job at Langdon and Emison.

“Throughout the long process, I still had my regular judge’s job with my regular docket, and I worked on the report during nights and weekends,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t get the report done in time for my retirement, so I requested permission to stay on for an extra five days, working day and night.”

He finished the report and emailed it to the clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court at 12:30 in the morning on his final day of service and started his new job at 7:30 a.m. that same day.

His seven-hour retirement just might have been one of the shortest in the history of the Missouri Bar.

ICON Awards 2022