District Office of the Year

2019 District Office of the Year – Clayton Trial Office

Like all of the offices within MSPD, we share and act upon common values — whether it is Gideon’s promise of skilled and zealous legal advocacy or the development of client centered and holistic representation. Both are now the unconditional standards for all indigent defense services. We engage with clients and families. We listen to concerns and develop legal strategies which best accomplish what the client believes needs to be done. We answer the phones. We work with attorneys to investigate cases, find witnesses and prepare for trial. We do all the office support work so that the client always comes first. We collaborate. We support one another. We litigate. We take cases to trial. We win.

We have two additional thoughts we would like to share: Gerry Spence, one of the architects of modern criminal trial practice, valued the new attorney with little experience, the attorney who will put in the extra hours and who tries a case with a freshness, authenticity and sincerity that veterans sometimes have lost. It was the new attorney that Spence feared facing in court.

District 21’s new attorneys bring an uncompromising drive for justice and a genuineness to their practice which invigorates the office. They live up to the best ideals of indigent defense and criminal trial practice. They have come as transfers from rural MSPD offices. They have come from St. Louis. They have come from out of state, having never set foot in Missouri prior to the day they interviewed in our office. They all make us who we are.

In a public defender setting, Spence’s observation really should be considered a two way street. Our veterans (a few who have decades of experience) have dedicated their professional lives to public defense work. They have cultivated patience and compassion. They have been battle tested and developed court room skills which cannot be matched by the best trial attorneys. They provide the foundational expertise for new attorneys to draw from. They also have the dedication to do this job, day in and day out, which is extremely difficult and emotionally exhausting (in ways that only other indigent defense attorneys and MSPD office staff really understand). Clients benefit from their dedication and expertise. Their accumulation of practical experience and skill cannot be matched.

St. Louis County is on the front wave of needed criminal justice reform. A national conversation about the human costs of over-incarceration and the detrimental entanglement of race and criminal “justice” has begun. We will continue to challenge the need for punishment and prison sentences. We will continue to question the facts as laid out by the state and litigate cases. We will do our best under unreasonable caseloads to make sure the innocent are not convicted. We will try cases in an era of the disappearance of the jury trial. We will do our best to make St. Louis County a more just, reasonable and compassionate community.