11:09 AM

Missouri Bar President Ray Williams' remarks: "Celebrating 75 years of working together"


In October 1943, Missouri lawyers gathered and approved a resolution seeking integration of the practice of law in Missouri.

In October 1943, Missouri lawyers gathered and approved a resolution seeking integration of the practice of law in Missouri. In response, the Supreme Court of Missouri created the Committee on the Integration of the bar. After Missouri lawyers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the committee’s recommendation and plan for integration, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a court rule on June 16, 1944, giving birth to our Missouri Bar. For the next 75 years, The Missouri Bar has grown from a few thousand to more than 30,000 members across the 114 counties, the City of St. Louis, and 46 circuits of our state. In Fiscal Year 2018, our Missouri Courts disposed of nearly 1.6 million cases in the appellate, circuit, and municipal divisions.

Missouri lawyers have achieved remarkable successes since that June day in 1944, and I welcome this opportunity to recognize some of those accomplishments. At the heart of many of those successes are the Missouri Bar committees that we celebrate here today.

The Missouri Bar does an amazing job of convening folks from all views and positions to improve Missouri’s laws. Working together through our committees, we’ve done some pretty awesome things:

  • Working together through our committees, we’ve helped ensure every citizen has a fair day in every Missouri court by establishing a consistent statewide court system with common rules, jurisdiction, and procedures across the courts of our state. This unified court system is the product of a complete revision of Article V of the Missouri Constitution in 1976, a process that began with the appointment of The Missouri Bar’s committee on Judicial Revision in November 1964.
  • Working together through our committees, with prosecutors and defense lawyers, side-by-side, we’ve better protected the people of Missouri by developing a comprehensive Criminal Code - twice.
  • Working together through our committees, we’ve kept pace with our clients’ changing lives and technology by repeatedly updating our probate and trust laws.
  • Working together through our committees, we’ve helped Missouri businesses thrive, thanks to commercial law improvements, such as the Uniform Commercial Code.
  • Working together through our committees, we’ve kept up with changes in society and technology by spearheading the adoption of a Uniform Digital Assets law, so family members now have a way to administer a loved one’s social media and online photos, such as Facebook and Twitter, after the loss of that loved one.
  • Working together through our committees, we have improved the quality of Missouri law - one major law after another:
    • Major revisions to Missouri’s Business Corporations Act
    • Creation of Marriage Dissolution Act
    • Since 1961, Missouri Bar committees have been involved in creating Missouri Approved Jury Instructions
    • Our committees have repeatedly been involved in protecting Missouri Citizens’ constitutional right to counsel, and an effective criminal justice system, since at least 1964.
    • 1976 we worked to create the small claims courts
    • 1978 Court Reform and Revision Act adopted the associate divisions of our circuit courts
    • 1982 Guardianship Code Revision
    • 1983 Trust Law Revision
    • 1983 Durable Power of Attorney Act
    • 2016 Missouri Commercial Receivership Act

These are just some of the ways that the work of your committees help you even better serve your clients and improve the law to benefit the lives of all Missourians.

Our unified bar has fostered 75 years of amazing service and accomplishment for our members and the citizens of Missouri.

The first president of The Missouri Bar was Charles Carr. And this morning we visited with Senior Judge Stephen Limbaugh, who was the 1982-83 president of The Missouri Bar. His father Rush Limbaugh was president of our bar in 1955, and was active in the formation of our unified bar. Judge Limbaugh knew Mr. Carr and talked about Mr. Carr’s leadership in forming the unified bar and all of the reasons that Missouri lawyers worked together to request the Supreme Court of Missouri to establish our unified bar. At the other end of the spectrum, two weeks ago I was honored to participate in the enrollment of Missouri’s newest lawyers at the Supreme Court of Missouri. I just received this note from one of those lawyers saying he hopes to make our profession proud by his service, and I’m certain that our newest lawyers will continue the work of the last 75 years.

These words of past president Forrest Hemker about the future of The Missouri Bar bear repeating today: “It can be forecast with assurance that it will keep its organizational structure adequate and efficient; service its members to maintain them in an appropriate level of competence; work in harmony with the Court and the legislature in every way possible; and endeavor to make legal services available to all.”

By continuing the work of your committees, I sincerely believe that the forecast for the future of Missouri’s lawyers and our Missouri Bar remain as bright and promising today as when Mr. Hemker penned these words. So today, we celebrate the committees of The Missouri Bar. We thank you for your service.