Judicial Conference honors legislators during annual meeting

22 September 2005

Judicial Conference honors legislators during annual meeting

Contact: Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel
Supreme Court of Missouri
Desk: 573-751-3676
Cell: 573-619-2849

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- At an annual ceremony honoring service to Missouri and the state’s Judiciary, Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff recognized the efforts of various legislators, judges, court staff and others. The ceremony was held Thursday morning, September 22, 2005, as part of the annual meeting of the Judicial Conference of Missouri, the organization of all state judges, which is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of The Missouri Bar at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Mo.

The Judicial Conference honored 10 individuals with Special Recognition Awards for outstanding legislative service to the people of Missouri. The chief justice presented awards this morning to Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville; Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill; Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City; Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson; Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs; and Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.

Koster, an attorney and former prosecutor, was honored for fighting to preserve the integrity of the Judiciary and impartiality of the judicial process as well as his work in sponsoring legislation on behalf of the Judicial Conference, including a consent bill that clarified certain court costs. Jetton was recognized for opening a dialogue that matured into a productive working relationship with the Judiciary as well as for his spirit of compromise and frank and fair dealings with the Judiciary throughout the legislative session. Burnett, the longest practicing attorney in the House, was honored for creating bipartisan support for legislation such as the omnibus judicial bill and for advising fellow legislators in matters affecting the Judiciary and the practice of law in Missouri. Lipke, an attorney, was recognized for his exhausting work in ensuring passage of the omnibus crime bill and his indispensable work in saving various judicial programs from deep budget cuts and, in some cases, total elimination, usually by telling his colleagues how the Judiciary affects lives. Pratt, an attorney, was honored for his generous communication throughout the legislative session with all members of the Judiciary and for increasing the level of civic participation in Missouri, particularly by sponsoring legislation designed to increase juror participation. Stevenson, an attorney, was recognized for his work in preserving Missouri's drug courts and for his unwavering dedication to improving the laws affecting the state's juveniles and children.

Also receiving an award but unable to attend were Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, Sen. Charles Wheeler, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon. Mayer, an attorney, was recognized for his work on the Senate Judiciary, Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, including his sponsorship of what became the omnibus judicial bill, Senate Bill 420. Wheeler, the only lawyer in the Senate minority caucus, was honored for his work in preserving the integrity of the Judiciary and in ensuring bipartisan success of court-related legislation. Goodman, an attorney and the assistant floor leader in the House, was honored for his work on the House Judiciary Committee and in ensuring adequate funding of the Judiciary.

The Judicial Conference also presented a Special Recognition Award posthumously to the late Rep. Richard Byrd, R-Kirkwood, who was honored for his unwavering support of a strong and independent Judiciary and his persuasion of his colleagues to preserve the integrity of the state's court system.

"It will be a long time coming, if ever, before we see another legislator with his combination of great intelligence and fierce tenacity," Chief Justice Wolff said. "He knew no way of doing things other than the most thorough, thoughtful and complete way possible. Such a gift is becoming all too rare in society these days, and I know I am not alone in my deep fondness for this and the many other truly unique traits that made Representative Byrd the great man he was."

Byrd's longtime friend, Judge David Mason of the 22nd Judicial Circuit (St. Louis City), presented the award. The more than 120 judges in attendance rose in a standing ovation as Byrd's widow, Moira Byrd, went forward to accept the award on her husband's behalf.

In addition, Chief Justice Wolff gave special recognition to Joe Whisler, outgoing president of The Missouri Bar, for his efforts during the past year defending attacks on the state's Judiciary and nonpartisan court plan.