Spirit of Justice Award Winners 2011
Abate is a Risk Manager for The Bar Plan. In that position she regularly provides risk management consultation services to law firms and attorneys. She graduated in 2004 with her J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law where she worked as a Rule 13 Certified Law Clerk representing juveniles in detention hearings and criminal bench trials, conducting intake interviews of clients and witnesses in preparation for trial and prepared motions on behalf of clients. She also served as a Rule 13 Certified Law Clerk while in school for Legal Advocates for Abused Women. Following graduation, Abate worked as an Assistant Public Defender for several years before joining The Bar Plan.
In addition to her full-time job, Abate volunteers extensively for many non-profits and charities including the Volunteer Lawyer’s Program (VLP) of the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM). She is also actively involved in St. Liborius Social Ministries (through LSEM), St. Vincent’s Home for the Children, the Volunteer Tax Assistance Program, Habitat for Humanity, Martineztown House of Neighborly Service (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Barrett House for Women (Albuquerque, N.M.). She actively looks for ways to help those for whom legal assistance and legal solutions are often out of reach and exceptionally challenging.
She was also recently named The Missouri Bar Young Lawyer Section Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates and selected as Co-Chair of the ABA YLD Ethics and Professionalism Committee.
But what makes her stand out, say friends and colleagues, is the compassion and caring she brings to both her professional and volunteer work, going above and beyond what is required in personal attention to their needs.
Brian Cooke believes in the administration of justice and is committed to serving others before himself. As a Marine Corps Captain and Judge Advocate, Cooke was deployed to Iraq about the same time Saddam Hussein was captured and Iraq’s semblance of a court system had collapsed. During his deployment as a field team leader for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, Cooke served his country as the first Western prosecutor to appear before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. In this capacity, he was tasked by the U.S. Department of Justice to restore the rule of law in Iraq, while respecting the country’s sovereignty under International Law. Under his leadership as a senior military officer, he prosecuted highly visible criminal suspects operating in Baghdad and the Eastern Anbar Province. He also helped restore the independence of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice by exposing former regime loyalists who had used the court system to commit human rights violations. When his tour of duty was completed, he left behind a fledgling, yet independent court system that applied the law impartially regardless of race, creed, sex or color – a human right that the Iraqi people had long been without.
Today, he continues his work in the private law firm of Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC where he represents personal injury victims, many of which are veterans. He also contributes a significant portion of his time to helping military veterans in court rooms throughout the St. Louis region on a pro bono basis. With a growing number of veterans returning home to face legal situations that have arisen while away serving in a foreign land, Cooke’s continued service to veterans illustrates his true identity and provides a telling example of how he tries to live his life and help service men and women.
Antonio French has put a fresh new face on being a politician in the City of St. Louis. In his first term as Alderman for the 21st Ward, where he was born and raised, he has already made a positive difference in the lives of his constituents and has shown no inclination of slowing down. He has exhibited the energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity to improve the quality of life for the ward’s citizens above and beyond making sure the streets are repaired and garbage is picked up on time.
He has focused on a wide variety of projects that he believes will not only restore the viability of the Ward, but the dignity of its citizens as well. Some of the initiatives that he has championed are designed to normalize the often traumatized North St. Louis community. Following a significant clean up and rehab of O’Fallon Park, French worked with the Sheldon Concert Hall to organize a summer-long jazz concert series that brought families back to the park for free entertainment and a greater sense of community – for many the first time in a long time.
His “Block by Block” partnership with the non-profit Rebuilding Together and The Boeing Company resulted in the rehab of more than 50 homes for seniors and disadvantaged homeowners by scores of volunteers and neighbors, ultimately providing needed stability to the older neighborhoods, and encouraging other that could to make improvements.
He has been instrumental in organizing and encouraging others to participate in community gardens that not only put food on the table for families who cannot afford fresh produce, but promotes a tighter-knit community too. And, with the St. Louis Police Department, “safe zones” for hundreds of children in North St. Louis were created so they can trick or treat on Halloween.
He can be seen organizing parks and recreation events such as the Northside 3-on-3 tournaments for neighborhood youth, often bringing “role model” athletes to participate with the at-risk youth.
Recently, Alderman French worked to bring greater public safety to his Ward with the installation of special surveillance cameras located on high crime corners in his ward to help identify criminals for police and provide evidence for prosecution. He was able to do this in spite of the Mayor vetoing his Northside Public Safety Bill. “The city is a slow-moving machine, sometimes frustratingly slow,” French said. But, because he cares about his Ward, he continues to not take no for an answer and to build a better community one day at a time.
For more than 48 years, Martin L. Mathews has dedicated his life to community service. A former coach of the Mathews-Dickey Knights, Mathews led his team of 30 young men to victories on the baseball fields and in their schools and communities and became a champion for youth. He has forged relationships with business and community leaders to developed innovative programs for thousands of young people. In 1960, Mathews co-founded the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ Club under a shade tree in St. Louis’ Handy Park.
Today, he is the full-time President and CEO of the Club, which annually serves more than 40,000 young men and women from the St. Louis-metropolitan area. Thousands of successful alumni have graduated from the Club’s programs. In 2001, the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ Club officially became the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club.
In 1982, the Club was declared a model for the country by President Ronald Reagan. Its successful programs were recognized by the NBC Today Show in the summer of 1994, and Vice President Dan Quayle and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also visited the Club to applaud the St. Louis Internship Program – which now operates in 36 cities.
Mathews serves on the boards of the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Foundation and Baseball Collegiate League. A founding member of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Board, he continues to work successfully with individuals from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds to improve race relations and community partnerships in our society.
“Because they wanted to be the best and they wanted to be winners, it was easy to convince my first baseball team that hard work and determination do pay off. Even though sports is the Club’s number one drawing card, our greater goal is to produce a Scholar Athlete — with programs that address the total needs of young men and women. Not only do we produce champions on the fields, we train members to become leaders in their classrooms, workforce and communities.” he said.
Mathews-Dickey continues to touch the lives of hundreds of families each year. Every day we receive numerous calls from parents and educators seeking counseling and mentors for troubled youth. We respond by recruiting alumni and other volunteers as coaches, tutors and mentors. Students are enrolled in a wholesome array of activities, including career-readiness workshops, culinary arts, crafts, fine and performing arts, swimming, baseball, basketball, football, softball, tutoring, cheerleading, computer training, and educational and leadership seminars. Special friends help us identify membership assistance for deserving families.
An attorney with Lashly & Baer, P.C. he is a past president of both the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) and the Missouri Bar, James McDaniel is no stranger to serving his profession and his community. In addition, over the years, he has served in the House of Delegates and as State Delegate for the American Bar Association and is a past president of the St. Louis Bar Foundation. As Bar Foundation President, McDaniel lead the Foundation through a study resulting in a realization that the Foundation needed to establish its own identify and be revitalized to remain an effective organization. His leadership ultimately resulted in the founding of the annual Golden Gala and Spirit of Justice Awards, among other significant changes.
In 2009 he served on the BAMSL Strategic Planning Committee leading the group to include “Professionalism” as one of its five main goals. He also led a group of Missouri attorneys in his tireless efforts to make “Professionalism” a part of the Missouri legal system, believing that a higher standards better serve everyone. Fifty years after his graduation from Washington University School of Law he has continued his dedication to the profession by tirelessly working on BAMSL and Missouri Bar Committees and advocating for higher standards of professionalism, while also setting a clear and strong example for others. He has not only been a leader, but has always set the example, for attorneys of all ages.
Mardi Montello passed away in August of 2011 after a long battle with cancer. She made an indelible impression on the St. Louis legal community for many reasons.
She was bright, engaging and sincere. After earning two Bachelor’s degrees, then two graduate degrees, and working in several businesses and industries, she decided she wasn’t finished and went to law school.
Practicing law to help others wasn’t enough. Mardi was always quick to give her time to help those who could not afford legal representation by providing pro bono legal services. The fact that some couldn’t afford the legal help they needed seemed to fuel her energy and passion even more.
Mardi regularly contributed to the many associations she belong to, and always ended up doing more than her share for the Motion for Kids annual children’s party put on by BAMSL.
In 2003 she received the Volunteer Lawyer Award from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) and the Legal Advocates for Abused Women Special Recognition Award in 2009.
She was a member of the Missouri Bar, BAMSL, Women’s Law Association, Collaborative Family Law Association, St. Louis County Bar Association, Legal Advocates for Abused Women Board, Family Resource Center Advocacy Board and the Lawyers for Kids Board. But above all, she was in the hearts of all who had the opportunity and pleasure to work with her on her quest to help others.
Amy Lorenz-Moser has become a champion for abused women that dates back to her sophomore year in college when she witnessed a man beat a female food service employee in front of a room filled with students. Everyone ran from the room except for Amy. She stayed with the woman and called the police. “Nobody would help her,” Amy said, “It struck a chord with me. I realized that if I could do something to help people in situations like this, I could really make a difference.”
In law school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, she began her pro bono work at the school’s Family Violence Clinic and for the Missouri Coalition for Battered Women Clemency Project.
She has continued her volunteerism by providing pro bono representation of battered women and in 2010 won the parole of Carlene Borden and Vicky Williams. Both had been convicted of murdering their husbands after suffering many years of physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Each spent more than 30 years in prison until they were released amid a firestorm of controversy in September, 2010. Evidence of the abuse was never presented at their trials.
Border, 65, and Williams, 55, won their freedom through Lorenz-Moser’s tenacious fight for their release Handling the cases on a pro bono basis, she also paid the litigation expenses out of her own pocket and spent hundreds of hours, many at night and on weekends, in the pursuit of justice for these women.
The women had remained in prison despite a Missouri law enacted in 2007 specifically intended to help cases like theirs. The law states that offenders who had murdered their spouses would be eligible for parole if they had served at least 15 years, had no prior violent felony convictions, had a history of “substantial physical abuse or sexual domestic violence” not presented at trial, and were sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.
The Missouri Board of Probation and Parole had denied parole to both women previously on two occasions in spite of the law. Lorenz-Moser filed a Writ of Mandamus, arguing the Board improperly delayed its determination and that when it finally issued a ruling, it had applied an incorrect standard and failed to issue a detailed report outlining its reasoning. The court ruled in her favor, but the parole board refused to release the two women.
More determined than ever, Lorenz-Moser persisted with a second Writ and convinced the court to force the parole board to revisit the issue of release. This time, arguing that the board had violated the previous court order, had still not issued proper reports, again applied an improper standard, and improperly considered the women’s offenses, the court found for her clients on every single point. The women were released.
She is now representing Tanya Mitchell who is serving a 15 year sentence for killing her abuser.
For 17 years now, the St. Louis Rams NFL Football Club has been instrumental in the ongoing success of the Motion for Kids (formerly Project Angel Tree) annual holiday party for disadvantaged children, many who have a parent who is affected by the criminal justice system. Partnering with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis and the St. Louis Bar Foundation, plus hundreds of other organizations and volunteers, the Rams have opened the doors of the Edward Jones Dome and the wherewithal of their staff to become the keystone of the event. They have worked tirelessly year after year to coordinate Rams players, cheerleaders, security and other personnel and vendors, along with their unique brand of hospitality to always make the party a success. Without the generosity of the Rams organization, the effort to bring a day of joy to these kids could not take on the proportions it has grown to.
The MFK Party in 2010 welcomed over 4,000 children who would not have received the holiday attention or a present to take home otherwise. All of the children arrive with anticipation and leave with broad smiles. Hundreds of hours are required to collect, stage, wrap and transport the presents to the Dome. Once there, the Rams staff makes every aspect of the day special for the children from the complimentary meal to crowd control so each child gets to see Santa, making sure the kids can get a picture with a Rams football star, play games on the Astroturf, and receive a personalized present when it’s time to go home. This is a special kind of justice delivered.
Video interviews of the honorees are available on YouTube.