Missouri State Public Defender
2023 Award Recipients


Defender of Distinction: Kevin O’Brien
Kevin O’Brien serves as the District Defender of the Columbia Trial Office. Kevin initially joined MSPD in 1998 in the Sedalia Trial Office. He transferred to the Columbia office in 2001 and became District Defender of that office in 2004. Kevin left MSPD in 2009 and became a contract counsel in his private practice. Kevin rejoined MSPD in 2021 when he again became District Defender of the Columbia Trial Office.

The Defender of Distinction is an annual award presented to an attorney who “exemplifies the ideals of public defense by tirelessly working on behalf of clients regardless of the strengths of the case or the severity of the crime; takes pride in knowing that the clients have received the best service possible; actively seeks out training to further enhance the service to clients; treats everyone with the same dignity and respect with which all of us wish to be treated; and does all of this without seeking public recognition for the services rendered.”


Excellence Award: Brittney Rowe
Brittney Rowe is the winner of the 2023 Excellence Award. Brittney serves as a Mitigation Specialist on our Holistic Defense Services Team. Stationed in the Rolla Trial Office, Brittney provides services to our clients served by the Rolla, Lebanon, Ava and West Plains offices. In the short time that HDS has been in existence Brittney has helped many clients to success.

The Excellence Award recognizes a MSPD non-attorney member who demonstrates outstanding work by consistently and enthusiastically assisting colleagues, exemplifying team building and leadership, and consistently furthers the ideals of public defense by:
• Tirelessly working on behalf of clients and supporting colleagues in carrying out MSPD’s mission
• Working to ensure that MSPD’s clients receive the best possible service;
• Actively seeking ways to further support clients and colleagues
• Treating everyone with the same dignity and respect with which all of us wish to be treated.


Office of the Year: Case Contracting
Our Case Contracting team has been chosen as the 2023 Office of the Year. The Case Contracting Office contracted over 14,000 cases this last year to private counsel. That case contracting provided significant relief to the many offices struggling to fill attorney openings. Case Contracting is led by Maggie Johnston. She is joined in the office by Sara Watson, Jenny Young, Kim Long and Laura Serwe. Thank you to Case Contracting for their excellent work this last year.


Lon Hocker Award: David Wiegert
David Wiegert, a Senior Public Defender in the Kansas City Trial Office, has been chosen as a 2023 Lon Hocker Award winner by the Missouri Bar. This award is given to three young lawyer members of The Missouri Bar, who are under the age of 40 on Sept. 30 of the year the award is to be presented, from the three areas of St. Louis, Kansas City, and all other remaining counties.  The recipients shall be those lawyers who exemplify the qualities of a trial lawyer, including professionalism and high ethical conduct.  The recipients are chosen based on their demonstrated balance between zealousness and honor, strength and courtesy, and confidence and respect. They must possess a quick wit in the courtroom that is supported by meticulous preparation in the pursuit of truth.


David Dixon Award: Katie Curry
Katie Curry, a Senior Public Defender in the Columbia Appellate Office, has been chosen as a 2023 David J. Dixon Appellate Advocacy Award winner. The David J. Dixon Appellate Advocacy Award recognizes three young lawyers who are under the age of 40 selected from different regions of the state: St. Louis, Kansas City and all other counties. The recipients are chosen based on their performance of outstanding appellate work.  Those nominations are then sent to a selection committee of two appellate judges, a U.S. district judge and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who makes recommendations to the Missouri Bar Foundation Trustees for final selection.



Women’s Justice Award: Katherine Schmidt
Katherine Schmidt, the Deputy District Defender of our Rolla Trial Office, was chosen as a 2023 Women’s Justice Public Service Award honoree. The Women’s Justice Awards honors exceptional lawyers who have payed it forward, reaching a hand back to the women who will follow them into the profession.


NDIA Member of the Year: Jeffery Woodard
Jeffery Woodard, an Investigator in the Jackson Trial Office, was named the 2023 NDIA Member of the Year. Jeff was chosen for the award for his inspirational tenacity, dedicated work ethic and his unwavering veracity to help, aid and assist those that require indigent defense. Notably, he was nominated by Kyle West, also an investigator in the Jackson Office. The Jackson Office, and the clients we serve, are very fortunate to have such drive and talent in our office.