In the year 1931, as the nation was engulfed by the Great Depression and St. Louis became known for being the largest Hooverville in the country, two historic events happened. First, Esther M. Golly had the honor of being the first female admitted to the Bar of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County (June 29, 1931) and became the first female member of the St. Louis County Bar Association. Secondly, Amandus Brackman had the distinct privilege of being elected the first president of the St. Louis County Bar Association. Brackman served as a St. Louis County Circuit Judge (1929-1930 and 1942-1954).
Between 1931 when the County Bar Association was founded until its incorporation in 1941, the development, activities and history remain basically undocumented.
During the summer of 1941, as the United States was moving closer to the brink of war, the St. Louis County Bar Association was incorporated. Upon being incorporated, the young association headed by E. McDonald Stevens, its President, a highly respected Missouri attorney, spearheaded the campaign for the creation of a county law library. On Saturday, July 12, 1941, upon motion of the St. Louis County Bar Association, the Circuit Court of St. Louis County sitting en banc approved a contract entered into between the Bar Association and West Publishing Company for the purchase of law books for the newly established St. Louis County Law Library.
Since the end of World War II, the County Bar has taken positions of conviction regarding the issues of the times. Such positions by the Bar have run the gamut from denouncing McCarthyism to advocating the adoption of the non-partisan court plan for St. Louis County.
During the tenure of Hal B. Coleman as president of the Bar Association, the Executive Committee established the Roy F. Essen Award. Roy F. Essen was the owner and publisher of the Watchman Advocate. At the annual banquet of the Bar Association in 1959, Hal Coleman presented the first annual Roy F. Essen Award to J. Leonard Walther.
Nine years later, during the tenure of Thomas P. Howe as president of the Bar Association, the Distinguished Service Award was established. Receiving the first Distinguished Service Award was Carl J. Teichman, the then publisher emeritus of the St. Louis Countian and St. Louis Daily Record. He is the only non-lawyer to receive the Distinguished Service Award. In 2004, the name of the award was changed to the Dudley C. Dunlop Distinguished Service Award in honor of a lawyer who personified the essence of the award.
By 1954, public indignation over the inability of the Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement service prompted a citizens committee, along with the St. Louis County Bar Association, to recommend the creation of the St. Louis County Police Department through Charter amendment. The Department was to have authority to enforce state laws throughout the County; to enforce County ordinances in the unincorporated areas; and to contract with municipalities for some or all police services.
On November 2, 1954, voters flocked to the polls and overwhelmingly approved the Police Charter amendment by a vote of 117,547 for to 24,091 against. Designed to take effect on July 1, 1955 it did, but not without legal maneuverings by the Supreme Court of Missouri.
In 1962, William Shaw, the First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of St. Louis County was appointed to the newly created position of County Public Defender. The establishment of the County Public Defender’s Office, the first in the history of the State of Missouri, had been created through the diligent efforts of the St. Louis County Bar Association.
Since the founding of St. Louis County in 1877 and the establishment of the County Courthouse in 1878, the population of the County and government had increased at a phenomenal pace. By 1965, the need for adequate County government facilities posed an acute problem. In 1967 the County electorate passed the bond issue for a new St. Louis County Government Center.
On the weekend of January 1st, 1970, the new St. Louis County Government Administration Building was dedicated. Taking part in turning over the symbolic key to Supervisor Roos and County Council Chairman Maurice Stewart were Paul Brackman, president of the St. Louis County Bar Association, and the Honorable Ninian Edwards who were chief lobbyists for the government center. Through the relentless efforts of the County Bar Association, the St. Louis County Government Center became a reality. The present Courthouse was dedicated on November 23, 1971 where the County Bar Association maintained a lawyer’s room on the third floor and continues to do so.
The County Bar Association, which saw its efforts for a nonpartisan court plan go down to defeat in the summer of 1968, achieved its long-time goal in 1970. After a lawsuit contesting the wording of the ballot by opponents of the plan had been defeated in July 1970, voters flocked to the polls on Tuesday, August 4, 1970 and overwhelmingly approved the Missouri Plan for St. Louis County. Three weeks after the election of jubilant Governor Warren E. Hearnes, he formally proclaimed the nonpartisan court plan to be in effect in St. Louis County. Had it not been for a civic-minded County Bar Association, the judiciary in St. Louis County would not have been freed from the bonds of partisan politics.
On November 17, 1978, a petition was lodged by six members of the executive committee of the St. Louis County Bar Association requesting an increase of the number of magistrate judges in St. Louis County from 11 to 13. Donald W. Paul (President 1975) and Douglas R. Beach (President 1984) filed suit to establish that the administration of justice required the appointments. On December 21, 1978, after a hearing, the trial judge agreed. A few days after the hearing, the governor appointed Judge Ann Neiderlander to Division 41 and Judge Ellis Gregory to Division 43. By law on January 2, 1979, all magistrate judges became Associate Circuit Court judges, but it wasn’t over. St. Louis County filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Missouri. On April 25, 1979, the Supreme Court, en banc, affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court. (580 S.W.2nd 288).
In 1990, Thomas M. Lang, then president of the Association, wrote the other local bar presidents suggesting that all local bar associations join in hosting a black-tie event without speeches and awards to raise money for legal related charities. Richard Teitelman, then president of BAMSL and Executive Director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and Gerald Ortbals, President Elect of BAMSL, followed up with Tom. Under their joint leadership, the Justice For All Ball was founded. It has become the premier legal event in the area raising significant funds for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
In 1992, the Judicial Evaluation by Jurors was commenced and implemented through the efforts of the County Bar, under the leadership of the then president Richard C. Bresnahan, and is now being implemented statewide.
In 2011, a campaign was organized, under the leadership of the Honorable Douglas R. Beach (President 1984) and Thomas M. Lang (President 1990 and 2011), to place a One Hundred Million Dollar bond issue on the ballot that would finance the construction of a new Family Court building and renovate and upgrade the existing Civil Courts building and once that was accomplished to then educate and convince voters of the need to support the passage. On April 3, 2012, in the midst of difficult economic times, the voters of St. Louis County approved the bond issue.
Over the years, the Bar has always provided Continuing Legal Education for its members and has supported the St. Louis County Judiciary and the Court’s staff.
The Bar has sponsored debates of political candidates for County Executive and Prosecuting Attorney, has held Law Day programs, presented mock trials, participated in Habitat For Humanity, offered a Lawyers Referral Program, sponsored an explorer post, law student scholarships, supported many charitable causes, and has held many outstanding social events and gatherings for its members, the Judges, and court personnel.
For decades, the Association has held an annual picnic for its members which originally was held in Tilles Park in Ladue and then was moved to Shaw Park in Clayton. In recent years, to show appreciation and gratitude to the judges and clerks, staff and personnel in the courthouse, the Association has invited all of them to attend the annual picnic free of charge as our guests. Through the support and donations of its members and sponsors and the tireless efforts of former Executive Director Jill Lang and current Executive Director Lael Richter Simon, the event now includes barbeque, adult beverages, gifts, attendance prizes, softball, karaoke and expressions of thanks and gratitude.
In 1968, The St. Louis County Bar Association received the ABA Award of Merit. Most recently, the judges and staff of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court presented the Association and Thomas M. Lang an Award of Appreciation “For Their Tireless Dedication of Time, Commitment and Effort Toward the Passage of Proposition S on April 3, 2012."
During the past 90 years, the St. Louis County Bar Association has become a prestigious public oriented organization committed to improving the standards of the legal profession and the lives of the lawyers in this community and the people they serve.
Given the rich history of the St. Louis County Bar Association, we look forward to the future of our association.
Bharat Varadachari / President
Bryan M. Kaemmerer / President-Elect
Lauren E. Surdyke / Secretary
Matt Noce / Treasurer
Eric Michael Tuncil / Past President 2022