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Judge, three Missouri lawyers honored with President’s Award

Award Winners

A Missouri judge and three Missouri lawyers have been named the 2023 recipients of The Missouri Bar President’s Award: Hon. Jeff Bates, Melinda J. Bentley, David W. Ransin, and Catherine Nelson Zacharias. The awardees were at the helm of educating Missouri’s lawyers and legal professionals on the importance of protecting clients’ confidential information and proper redaction in light of expanded remote public access to public court records per the Supreme Court of Missouri’s rule change which took effect July 1, 2023.

The President’s Award is given annually by the president of The Missouri Bar to recognize meritorious service to the state bar. This year’s recipients will be presented the award Sept. 13, 2023, during the Missouri Bar Foundation and Public Service Awards Luncheon at the Annual Meeting of The Missouri Bar held in Kansas City.

Lauren Tucker McCubbin, 2022-23 president of The Missouri Bar, said the joint efforts of the four individuals aided thousands of Missouri lawyers and legal professionals. Tucker McCubbin noted more than 5,000 lawyers and legal professionals attended the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) online seminar series they presented. In addition, she noted the online CLE videos garnered more than 6,000 views, while articles appearing in the Journal of The Missouri Bar and online at MoBar.org received more than 16,000 reads.

“As lawyers, we all strive to do our best to protect our clients’ confidential information and be in compliance with all relevant laws, regulations, and Courts rules.” Tucker McCubbin said. “As practitioners, we thank these four individuals immeasurably for educating us about the new rule and the associated ethical and practical considerations of these changes as our profession keeps pace with technology and consumer expectations.”

Hon. Jeffrey Bates was appointed to the Court of Appeals, Southern District, for a term beginning on Dec. 1, 2003, and was retained by Missouri voters in 2006 and 2018. Bates graduated in 1979 from Southwest Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science in Speech. He earned his J.D. in 1984 from the University of Missouri School of Law. Tucker McCubbin said Bates presented dozens of in-person CLE programs, in addition to his service on the statutorily created Missouri Court Automation Committee and judicial committees.

“After working on this project for a year, I have been gratified to see coordinated action from the Supreme Court, the Missouri Court Automation Committee, the State Judicial Records Committee, and the Case Management Oversight Team to revise court operating rules, create new forms, and review document security settings to make this project a success.” Bates said. “It has required the contributions of many dedicated judges, attorneys, and clerks, all working to develop procedures and forms to make more court documents accessible to the public without leaving home.”

Melinda J. Bentley serves as Legal Ethics Counsel in Missouri where she provides oral and written informal advisory opinions to lawyers on issues related to the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct. Previously, she worked for the Illinois State Bar Association as assistant counsel from 2001-03, first assistant counsel from 2003-11, and assistant director of legislative affairs from 2009-11. Bentley said her work is rewarding and that she is “passionate about legal ethics and am fortunate to have the opportunity to assist and educate my colleagues about the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

“I care about maintaining the integrity of our profession and helping my fellow lawyers,” Bentley said. “Lawyers really care about their clients and want to ensure they are protecting information that is confidential. It is really nice to see lawyers helping educate each other on this subject and the community response that reminds us we are a profession.”

David W. Ransin founded Ransin Injury Law in 1990 as a solo attorney in Springfield, Missouri, and exclusively represents people and their families in catastrophic injury and death litigation from car, bicycle, pedestrian, motorcycle, and tractor trailer crashes. Ransin earned his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1982. Ransin is a past chair of the state bar’s Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee and a respected presenter at its annual MOSOLO Small Firm Conference. Ransin shared tips on how to implement firm-wide procedures to ensure confidential information is properly redacted to help everyone “adopt the new rule into their daily practices with as few problems as possible.”

“I'm as humbled as I am honored,” Ransin said. “My goal for this task was never for any public recognition but was only to help colleagues across our state in their daily practices and to keep our judicial system moving as smoothly as possible.”

Catherine Nelson Zacharias has been legal counsel at the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) since 1998. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1989 and her J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1993. Prior to joining the staff at OSCA, Zacharias was an administrative hearing officer at the Department of Revenue and a litigation attorney at the Department of Social Services. She worked for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri during and after law school. Zacharias said it is a privilege to work for the judiciary and working to “strengthen public trust and confidence in the courts.”

“I am proud that I was able to provide input on the design to implement the Supreme Court rules changes for eFiling, work on the forms related to the changes, and provide training and answer questions that lawyers, court clerks, and judicial officers have about the changes and their obligations under the rules,” Zacharias said. “I am deeply humbled to be receiving this award. It is a recognition of the importance of public service and that the work that you do is important. Nothing gets done in the public sector with just one person and it really is a recognition that the office you work for provides a valuable service.”

Click here to learn more about annual awards presented by The Missouri Bar, the Missouri Bar Foundation, and other entities. Read about other 2023 award winners here.