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10 Mid-Missourians among Bar honorees

The News Tribune received its third Missouri Bar “Excellence in Journalism” award in the past five years Friday night, during the Bar’s annual meeting.

The newspaper’s award was one of 10 presented to Mid-Missourians, among 47 honors given during the Awards Banquet.

The Missouri Bar began the journalism awards in 1991 to “recognize outstanding work in covering the legal world by the print and broadcast media ... which have: contributed significantly to public understanding of, and appreciation for, the law, the legal system and the role of lawyers within that system.”

The award also is given to media that have “pointed out a problem within the law and, through their efforts, have contributed to solving the problem; and/or have enhanced the administration of justice in Missouri.”

The News Tribune’s award was given for Bob Watson’s stories on legal issues involved in the Alyssa Bustamante murder case, which were published as companion pieces to Jeff Haldiman’s stories about the charges, the teen’s guilty plea to killing Elizabeth Olten, her 9 year-old neighbor, and the two-day sentencing hearing held in Cole County last February.

Two other media operations were honored — the 2-year-old online St. Louis Beacon and the 84-year-old St. Louis American, which began in the city’s black community and this year was identified as the state’s largest weekly newspaper.

Most of the night’s awards were focused on the legal community, including nine Mid-Missouri lawyers and one judge.

• Retired Missouri Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr. and Professor R. Lawrence Dessem of the University of Missouri Law School, received two of three Spurgeon Smithson Awards, created in 1976 to honor Missouri judges, teachers of law and/or lawyers deemed “to have rendered outstanding service toward the increase and diffusion of justice.”

Dessem served as the MU Law School’s dean from 2002 until this last summer.

Price, who maintains a Jefferson City home, joined the Supreme Court in 1992, appointed by then-Gov. John Ashcroft, and served as chief justice twice — from 1999-2001 and 2009-11.

He retired Aug. 1 and became a partner in the St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale law firm.

• Outgoing Bar President Lynn Whaley Vogel, a Jefferson City native, issued five “President’s Awards,” established to honor “one or more members of the state bar who have contributed significantly during the past year by way of actual participation in the work of the bar, value to the organization and leadership.”

Her honorees included Jefferson City lawyer and Oklahoma native Tina Crow Halcomb, who moved to Missouri after serving as a volunteer lawyer to those affected by the Oklahoma City bombing.

After eight years as an assistant attorney general, she entered private practice and represents several state agencies in their disciplinary proceedings, as well as clients in family law, criminal law and administrative law matters.

Halcomb also was recognized for her two-year, personal and ongoing fight against stage 4 breast cancer, and that “she has stopped neither her practice nor her volunteer work,” which includes her children’s schools’ parent teacher organizations and chairing the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service Committee.

She also is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education courses and a contributor to Missouri Bar publications.

Vogel also honored retiring Bar Executive Director Keith Birkes, who’s held that post since 1985 after joining the Bar as a staff member in 1975.

• State Reps. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and Chris Kelly, D-Columbia — both lawyers — were two of a dozen lawmakers honored with the Bar’s Legislative Awards for playing “a key role in supporting legislation of interest to the state bar, or who have taken the lead in sponsoring Bar-drafted legislation within the Missouri General Assembly.”

• John C. Reed, shareholder and officer of the Pletz and Reed law firm, Jefferson City, received the “Michael R. Roser Excellence in Bankruptcy Award,” presented to “an individual who manifests the highest standard of excellence in bankruptcy practice, who has contributed distinctively to the development and appreciation of bankruptcy law, and/or who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of bankruptcy administration or practice.”

• Gerard “Jay” Harms Jr., Osage Beach, was one of the four winners of the “Pro Bono Publico Awards” — presented to lawyers who have, “within the past year, rendered outstanding pro bono service to indigent or low-income persons in need of legal assistance.”

Harms’ practice concentrates on real estate, construction and family law, including adoptions.

• The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys recognized Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight as its “Prosecutor of the Year.”

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