Love and law
Vol. 79, No. 1 / January - February 2023
Nicole Roberts-Hillen is assistant editor of the Journal and communications coordinator at The Missouri Bar.
For many couples, there is a certain level of separation between work and personal responsibilities. These three sets of lawyers and judges, though, found love within their legal community and learned quickly how sharing a career with a significant other can be both wonderful and challenging.
Calderas find grace, support as lawyer couple
After meeting at a government office building in Jefferson City, Jose and Jessica Caldera quickly fell in love and got married Nov. 8, 2014.
Photo by Aloha Kelly Photography, used with permission.
Jose and Jessica Caldera met in “the most romantic place ever,” they say jokingly – a government office building.
The two young lawyers were working at the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in Jefferson City during the spring of 2012 when they first noticed each other – particularly Jose’s charm and Jessica’s feistiness. But that spark didn’t ignite until a happy hour event after work. Jessica invited Jose to the outing, but Jose learned that one of his friends planned to introduce Jessica to another potential suitor.
“I showed up to the happy hour a little early and plopped myself down right next to Jessica and basically intercepted his game,” Jose says with a laugh. “We clearly had a connection but there was something I wanted to explore more and more, and I’m glad I trusted my gut because it turned into a happy marriage.”
After some email conversations and flirting, the two started dating.
Both University of Missouri graduates – Jessica with her bachelor’s degree and Jose with his juris doctorate – it was only natural they found a way to incorporate their love of Tiger football into Jose’s marriage proposal.
During Mizzou’s 2013 homecoming weekend, the couple invited friends to tailgate before the game. That morning, Jessica recalls how they were running late but Jose insisted on her sitting down with him in their apartment.
“I was saying all these beautiful things and she was annoyed we were going to be late to the tailgate. Then I proposed, and she ugly cried out of happiness,” Jose says while touching Jessica’s shoulders lovingly.
The proposal was a surprise, Jessica adds, and there were a lot of “positive emotions,” especially since they celebrated with close friends immediately afterward.
On Nov. 8, 2014, Jessica and Jose were wed at Soulard Preservation Hall in St. Louis, and the pair beam when they think back to that day. During their first look on their wedding day, Jessica came up behind Jose and said “Hey, boo,” causing Jose to turn around and see his bride for the first time. Fast forward to 2022, when Jessica couldn’t find Jose at the airport following his return from deployment, Jose called out “Hey, boo” and the two were reunited once again – tying together the two emotional moments.
The couple made their wedding unique with nods to their legal professions. Jose’s public defender friend officiated the wedding, and the wedding party contained several lawyers.
During the ceremony, the couple cited Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that found the state must legally recognize same-sex marriage. The opening paragraph of the opinion discusses the importance of marriage and the role it plays in society, a passage Jose and Jessica find moving.
While the Calderas currently work together at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer in Columbia, their practice areas vary drastically. Jessica focuses on criminal defense while Jose handles business litigation.
“I’m grateful that we don’t do the same thing because we have different strengths and skills, and we found our way to practice areas that best suit us,” Jessica says.
Despite those differences, the Calderas have a high level of empathy for what each other does for work and can often use each other as sounding boards. The couple recalls bouncing strategies off each other ahead of Jessica’s jury trials when she worked at the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office, for example.
“He respects my work and supports me and understands if I’m in a five-day trial, there’s no time for anything else,” Jessica says.
A key part of their relationship is “giving grace and assuming the best” of each other, Jose says.
But, like all couples, there are bound to be challenges. As lawyers, they argue multiple points to support their clients’ cases. When disagreements arise at home, the couple has had to learn to recognize when it’s best to walk away from their disputes and cool down before returning to the table to compromise.
“I generally joke that we just argue longer,” Jessica says, making both laugh.
Ultimately, the two lawyers are there to support – and push – each other, they say.
“I think it’s very important for partners to understand that this is a partnership,” Jose says. “But also, as a partner, you’re there to advance your mate and be happy for them. She’s a phenomenal attorney and knowing that I get to be with her and I get to keep pushing her, that feels good.”
Avid Mizzou fans, Jose and Jessica snap a quick selfie ahead of a football game.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Caldera.
Abram McGull, Crista Hogan find love, laughter in unexpected moments
Crista Hogan and Abram McGull smile for their friends and family as they walk down the aisle of Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield following their wedding ceremony.
Photo by Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader, used with permission.
June 12, 2017.
For Springfield lawyers Abram McGull and Crista Hogan, that day represents a time when their friends and family came together to watch them tie the knot. But as an interracial couple, that date has an even deeper meaning – it’s the 50th anniversary of when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down state laws banning interracial marriage.
“We were both over 50 and to reflect on the fact that in this state and in Louisiana – where (Abram) was from – just 50 years before, it would have been illegal for us to be married,” says Crista.
Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman whose marriage was illegal under Virginia law, were arrested and charged with violating the state’s anti-miscegenation statute in 1958. The couple later filed a lawsuit, arguing for their convictions to be vacated. Loving v. Virginia went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it issued its landmark ruling in 1967.
Since June 12, 2017, was on a Monday and their ceremony was at noon, Abram and Crista anticipated a small crowd – with maybe 60 people. To their surprise, the entire Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield filled up with friends and family members. Reflecting on their wedding, Abram and Crista laugh at the number of lawyers, judges, and legal professionals who were in attendance.
Their wedding even made the front page of the Springfield News-Leader the following day.
“For a lot of people, it was a moving event being on the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,” says Abram.
The couple met in spring 2015 when Abram – then an assistant U.S. attorney – held a continuing legal education presentation at Missouri State University. He remembers a woman, who had papers all over the table, stood up to ask a question.
If you ask Abram, Crista’s question was just a statement. Crista insists she asked a clarification question. She jokingly adds she was only partially listening to the presentation because she was drawn to Abram’s voice.
Regardless of if it was a statement or question, that moment sealed their future.
Following the CLE presentation, Crista invited Abram to several events that evening, where he met her priest, best friend, sister, son, and daughter.
“I thought, ‘Wait, this is a setup,’” Abram says.
Crista adds: “I figured he was into me, or he was my new best friend because he went everywhere I asked him to, and like, who does that?”
The two went on a couple more dates and attempted to keep their relationship low-key. They went to a late-night movie, where they thought there would be few people in attendance, and they ran into Crista’s nephew. On a different date, they saw Crista’s mom and Abram’s coworkers.
The entire experience was “serendipity,” says Crista, executive director of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association.
“The universe was lining up everything for us to be together,” adds Abram, who now runs McGull Law Firm.
The universe having other plans continued to be a theme in their relationship.
In July 2016, Abram planned a detailed, romantic proposal in Paris. When the big moment came for him to pop the question, he got nervous – handing Crista a wrapped box and saying, “Well, it’s that time…”
“Abe has done three tours in Iraq, I’ve seen him stand up in front of 7,000 people and give an impeccable speech, and he married me,” Crista says. “He doesn’t have much fear, but he was terrified when proposing to me. So, when he said ‘Well, it’s that time,’ I asked, ‘Are you OK?’”
The two can’t hold back laughter as they recall the exchange.
To top it off, Abram had asked the band to play Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” once he proposed. Instead, they played “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson. The couple now jokes that “Billy Jean” is their song.
These unplanned, imperfect moments are what make their relationship special though, Crista says. It’s also what makes their marriage strong.
Springfield lawyers Crista Hogan and Abram McGull got married on June 12, 2017 — the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia.
Photo by Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader, used with permission.
Judges Lasater reflect on 20 years of marriage
Two-and-a-half years after meeting each other in a Clayton bar, Judges John Lasater and Julia Pusateri Lasater got married at a local church. The couple are now coming up on their 20th wedding anniversary.
Photo courtesy of Hon. Julia Pusateri Lasater.
Hon. Julia Pusateri Lasater swore she would never seriously date a lawyer. After Hon. John “JB” Lasater approached her at a Clayton bar 22 years ago, she realized it was time to break that rule.
Now coming up on their 20th wedding anniversary, the associate circuit judges for the 21st Judicial Circuit reflect on the path they have walked together.
When they met in August 2000, Julia was in private practice while JB was an assistant prosecuting attorney for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Though the couple had crossed paths at the courthouse many times, they hadn’t spoken a word to each other before connecting out on the town.
After having a 20-minute conversation with JB, Julia remembers telling one of her friends, “I don’t know where he’s been all my life.”
The Lasaters quickly felt sparks and started dating a month later.
The next two years tested the couple’s relationship since Julia’s mother was ill with cancer.
“I knew JB was special but I didn’t know how special until going through that,” she says. “He was very patient and there were a lot of things our relationship had to take the backburner [to] while my mom was sick … JB didn’t have to stick around through all of that because it was a really tough time and he persevered through that, especially the last couple of months before she passed away.”
It wasn’t a surprise that wedding bells were in the couple’s future.
In September 2002, Julia received a call from JB confirming she was still coming on their date that evening – something he had never done before and that now makes Julia laugh to think about. She shrugged off the strange reminder and went with JB that night to their favorite sushi restaurant, which had also been the site of one of their first dates.
“If I wanted to keep this a surprise, if I planned something fancy or different, she would be on it right away,” JB says.
Sitting in the intimate restaurant, JB asked Julia to marry him. While celebrating their engagement, one of the waitresses sang “Endless Love.”
Eight months later, in May 2003, the couple got married at a local church, where both their families and “work families” came together to celebrate. A highlight from their wedding was the reception, held at the Saint Louis Zoo. The Lasaters remember their wedding fondly – even if a rainstorm threw a kink into some aspects of the celebration. But as many brides and grooms know, wedding superstition states rain signifies a long, strong marriage.
Shortly after getting married, Julia left private practice and became an assistant prosecuting attorney for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
While working 12 years together at the prosecuting attorney’s office, though mostly in separate divisons, the Lasaters quickly learned the benefits and challenges of sharing office space. They each had busy work schedules, so they found unique ways to take care of their personal responsibilities without impacting their office tremendously. When one of their two sons was sick, for example, they could arrange for one person to stay with their child in the morning while the other took care of the child in the afternoon.
Ultimately, they agree, communication is key when working through those difficult times.
“If you can’t communicate, you’re going to have a whole lot of problems,” Julia says. “Being able to talk or work through how you handle a sick child and who covers what – if you can’t talk to each other, that’s a disaster.”
Despite Julia’s initial hesitation to date a fellow lawyer, the couple has since discovered the advantages of sharing a career with a significant other, particularly in terms of understanding – and that empathy has only grown since the Lasaters became judges.
JB was appointed to the 21st Judicial Circuit in 2017. Julia remained at the prosecuting attorney’s office until she was appointed to the 21st Judicial Circuit in December 2020.
“We do understand that perspective of being in trial or having a docket and what that means,” Julia says. “That helps when picking up the slack around the house … because we know each other’s schedules and we can work around that.”
While they may have a general idea of each other’s schedules, the couple emphasize that they are two individuals who handle trials and dockets differently. It was a common misconception at the prosecutor’s office and now at the circuit court that the couple thinks and acts the same way, JB says.
“Our style of lawyering and doing things is different, and I respect that,” he adds.
Judges Julia Pusateri Lasater and John Lasater enjoy a football game together. Photo courtesy of Hon. Julia Pusateri Lasater.