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Gaitan, Henson, Pratzel honored with 2022 Spurgeon Smithson Awards

TW_2022 Spurgeon SmithsonHon. Fernando J. Gaitan Jr., Chuck Henson, and Alan D. Pratzel were named this year’s Spurgeon Smithson Award recipients for their contributions toward increasing the quality of justice.

Established in 1976, the Spurgeon Smithson Awards recognize judges, law teachers, and/or lawyers who have provided outstanding services toward the increase and diffusion of justice. The Missouri Bar Foundation Board of Trustees selects the recipients, who each receive a $2,000 stipend. 

Gaitan is a senior U.S. district judge for the U.S. District Court of Missouri-Western District. He previously served as a judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit Court and Missouri Court of Appeals-Western District, as well as worked as a lawyer for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, Gaitan was admitted to The Missouri Bar in 1974.

From an early age, Gaitan knew he wanted to help others and make a difference in society. He has presided over domestic, civil, and criminal matters, and notes that “no case is too big or too small” since each case is important to the parties involved.

“It has been rewarding to play a role in some of the pivotal societal issues of our times on a local, state, and national level,” Gaitan said. “Rulings on the issues of the day affect individuals, government agencies, and corporate entities, and my work has had a direct impact on shaping our future.”

Henson has worn many hats since joining the University of Missouri School of Law faculty in 2010. He is a senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution and teaches pretrial litigation and trial practice. He has served as an associate dean of the law school and as interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity, and equity. Henson is also a charter member of the Supreme Court of Missouri’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Law. He graduated from The Georgetown University Law Center and was admitted to The Missouri Bar in 2010.

Henson seeks out the meaning of justice and ensures his students focus on the special responsibility lawyers have for the quality of justice. A key part of this responsibility is serving others, he said. Lawyers can teach citizens about justice and can provide the “best service to our society,” he added.

“Our service puts a human face on an abstract concept which is often confused with the law,” Henson said. “Laws are not just; laws are words. Lawyers exist to bridge the divide between non-lawyers and the law. If we serve, then we can show our fellow citizens that justice exists.”

As chief disciplinary counsel, Pratzel oversees the system that receives, investigates, and litigates complaints about ethical misconduct by lawyers licensed in Missouri. He is also an adjunct professor at Washington University and the University of Missouri schools of law. Pratzel graduated from Washington University School of Law and was admitted to The Missouri Bar in 1978. He is a past recipient of the Purcell Professionalism Award, which recognizes Missouri lawyers who have shown a high standard of competency, integrity, and civility in professional and civic activities.

Pratzel said he is honored to receive this year’s Spurgeon Smithson Award, especially since his goal as chief disciplinary counsel over the last 15 years has been to “increase justice through a fair application of the Rules of Professional Conduct” to Missouri lawyers and their clients.

“The ethics rules are rules of reason: they seek to guide lawyers in their client relationships, in their interactions with the judiciary and with other lawyers, and as public citizens,” he said. “The public is protected, the integrity of the profession is strengthened, and justice is served when the ethics rules are fairly and consistently applied.”

Click here to learn more about annual awards presented by The Missouri Bar, The Missouri Bar Foundation, and other entities. Read about other 2022 award winners here.

This year’s award winners will be recognized at Annual Meeting Sept. 14-16 in Springfield.