Saturday, November 18, 2006

Super Duper Lawyers

I got my edition of "Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers" in my box last week. Here is their web site. I was all prepared to be filled with righteous indignation at the lack of criminal defense attorneys. But then the cover article is about James Wyrsch, who is described "as a giant of the Kansas City criminal defense bar" and reports on his practice. The edition also includes a nice article on Melinda Pendergraph, an assistant public defender in Columbia, Missouri who deals with capital cases.

And the top 100-ratings include several Kansas private defense attorneys that I have a lot of respect for, like Tom Bath and Dan Monnat. And in the overall rankings, within a criminal defense primary practice division, there are lots of great private practitioners--Stephen Ariagno, Pat Berrigan, Carl Cornwell, Robin Fowler, Pedro Ingonegaray, Steve Joseph, Kurt Kerns, Melanie Morgan, Richard Ney, Cheryl Pilate, just to name a few that I know personally (or know of personally).

While I had to temper my indignation somewhat, I still am somewhat disappointed in the lack of Kansas public defenders on this list, even within the criminal defense practice division. I can't imagine a list of the best criminal defense lawyers that doesn't include Wendell Betts, Cindy Sewell, and Tom Bartee from Topeka, Patrick Lewis and Michael McCullough from Olathe, Mark Dinkel and Pam Sullivan from Salina, Sarah Sweet-McKinnon from Hutchinson, Crystal Krier, Jeff Wicks, and David Freund from Wichita. And I can't imagine a list of the best appellate attorneys that does not include Rebecca Woodman, Janine Cox, Pat Dunn, Reid Nelson, and Debra Wilson. (Again, this list is not supposed to be remotely exhaustive--it's just some of the great public defenders that I personally know that I think should be on that list. I know there are many more that I have negligently forgotten or that I don't know personally).

Perhaps as public defenders, we are not very good at self-promotion. Or perhaps because of higher turnover, we don't get as many ballots (according to Super Lawyers, ballots are set to lawyers that have been in practice five years or more). Or maybe because a lot of public defenders practice in a localized area, they are not as well known in other parts of the state. And I suppose I really shouldn't care--I know that public defenders are not in it for the public glory--you are in it because of your commitment to a real free and just society.

But I guess I just wanted to say that I think there are a lot of Super Duper Lawyers who do great work every day protecting clients and defending the Constitution. They're called public defenders.

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