22nd Circuit Judge, State of Missouri
“I consider it a successful day when I go home feeling that I am protecting the right to full, fair and equal due process for all those who have appeared before me,” he writes.
But it is also important to recognize that the legal system hasn’t always treated people equally. That’s why Mason played a leading role in the recently unveiled Freedom Suits Memorial in St. Louis which commemorates the legal efforts of hundreds of Black Missourians who fought to make their way out of slavery through the courts under the “once free, always free” theory that they could not be relegated back to servitude after being in a free state.
The judge, a graduate of Washington University, began his career in the state attorney general’s office before moving to the Missouri Department of Corrections in the mid-1980s. Later, he’d work for both Peper Martin and Husch Eppenberger before being appointed to the bench in 1991.
A frequent CLE lecturer in trial advocacy, he was honored this year with the Royal Vagabonds Foundation Leadership Award and as a BAMSL Legal Pioneer. Last year, he was recognized with the state bar foundation’s Purcell Professionalism Award and as an Icon by Missouri Lawyers Weekly, the same publication whose survey named him the best circuit judge in Eastern Missouri in 2009. He is also a recipient of the NAACP’s Medgar Evers Medal of Freedom.
What makes you most proud of your law firm/legal practice?
Within the context of my work as a judge, I am most proud of my record on appeal in criminal cases. After 32 years I have only had a criminal trial verdict reversed once. Regarding my work as a teacher, I am most proud of the multiple trial advocacy championships my students have won. As a lawyer, I am most proud of my work securing federal court certification of the inmate grievance system for the Missouri Department of Corrections. As a civic/bar leader, I am clearly most proud of the Freedom Suits Memorial and how the process enlightened so many to the important and historic role these lawsuits and the verdicts won by so many enslaved persons impacted the history of our state and nation.
How do you give back to your community?
By knowing when to lead, follow or get out of the way.