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Greene County Courthouse in Springfield, MO, location of the 2022 Missouri Bar Annual Conference. Photo by Kbh3rd.

Last month, RDM associate attorney Jay Gillen attended the 2022 Missouri Bar Annual Meeting in Springfield, Missouri. The event was the first in-person Annual Meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also Jay’s first opportunity to attend the meeting as an attorney since passing the bar exam in 2021.

Below, Jay provides his takes on the Annual Meeting from the perspective of a young attorney entering the legal field and stepping into the realm of post-pandemic, in-person networking.

Continue reading A Young Attorney’s Report from the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting
RDM attorney Nate Lindsey, winner of the 2022 Up and Coming Award.

Congratulations to RDM member attorney Nathan Lindsey! Nate has received Missouri Lawyers Media’s 2022 Up & Coming Award, an honor for outstanding attorneys who are under 40 or have been practicing for less than ten years. The award will be presented at a ceremony on October 14th.

Nate works primarily as an insurance defense attorney at Rasmussen Dickey Moore’s Downtown St. Louis office. His primary focus is on products liability law and asbestos defense litigation in Missouri and Illinois. He has extensive experience advocating for a broad range of national businesses, including manufacturers, premises owners, and contractors, during all phases of litigation with the ultimate goal of mitigating and eliminating legal risk.

Nate has also represented a variety of local professionals and entities, including retail owners, medical professionals, design professionals, financial planners, and construction contractors. He regularly appears for contested motions and trial settings in the circuit courts of Missouri and Illinois.

Nate began his career at RDM as a summer clerk in the Kansas City office while attending the University of Kansas School of Law, where he graduated in 2012. After becoming a full-fledged associate, Nate was tasked with establishing RDM’s new St. Louis office across the state. Nate quickly ascended the ranks to become a member of the firm in the following years and is currently the managing partner of the St. Louis office.

Prior to working at Rasmussen Dickey Moore, Nate gained experience as a law student extern at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas and as an extern clerk for the Honorable Carlos Murguia of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.

Leading Diversity and Mentorship Efforts

Along with member attorney Justin Ijei, Nate co-chairs RDM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The committee aims to lift the voices of young and diverse attorneys at the firm and to help those young attorneys take charge of their careers through mentorship and business development opportunities. Nate has presented at CLE seminars on the subject of diversity, equity, and inclusion at small and mid-sized law firms, as RDM has developed a reputation as a leader in promoting diversity at smaller firms.

Commitment to Community

Outside of his legal practice, Nate is the President of Dutchtown Main Streets, an economic development nonprofit in South St. Louis’ densest neighborhood that promotes a thriving community through shared prosperity. Dutchtown is among the most racially and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods in St. Louis.

Nate has been at the forefront of efforts to return vibrancy to a neighborhood that faced decline and disinvestment. In 2017, he helped establish the Dutchtown Community Improvement District, the largest community-driven CID in Missouri. Working alongside a diverse crew of neighbors, non-profit partners, and government officials, he has overseen vast improvements to the neighborhood: newly-filled storefronts, rehabbed and occupied homes, major capital improvements to Marquette Park, the Louisiana Calm Streets Project, and a host of family-oriented community events.

Nate, his wife Staci, and their sons Thaddeus and Francis are active parishioners at the historic St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Dutchtown.

The Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield, IL. Legislators recently approved a bill providing for prejudgment interest. Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil.

On May 28, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill 0072, which established the first pre-judgment interest regime in the state. The Amendment applies only to personal injury and wrongful death actions and imposes a 6% pre-judgment interest on future damage awards. The interest accrues from the date of filing. It does not apply to all such cases, though; the Amendment provides defendants the opportunity to set off the pre-judgment interest through speedy settlement negotiations.

The Carrot and The Stick

The setoff provision acts to encourage parties, particularly defendants, to engage in settlement negotiations within one year of filing. Under the Amendment, the interest does not apply to any amount totaling a defendant’s settlement offer which is 1) in writing, 2) made within 12 months of filing, and 3) either expressly rejected by the plaintiff or not accepted within 90 days. The Amendment acts as both the carrot and the stick, encouraging early settlement offers through interest relief while punishing a failure to offer a settlement with the potential for interest added on top of traditional damages and post-judgment interest.

Illinois Constitutional Issues

Immediately after the Amendment’s passing, defendants in Cook County, Illinois, filed a motion arguing that the Amendment violated the Illinois Constitution. On May 22nd, 2022, in Hyland v. Advocate Health and Hospital Corp. (No. 2017-L-3541), the Court rendered its judgment in favor of the defendants. Specifically, the Court held that the Statute violates the Illinois constitutional guarantee to a trial by jury and its prohibition of special legislation.

The Right to Trial by Jury

Article I, Section 13 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 provides “the right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.” Inherent in this provision, according to Illinois courts, is the right a jury’s determination of damages. Defendants argued that mandatory pre-judgment interest violates the right to a jury’s determination of damages, and the Circuit Court in Cook County agreed. Interestingly, the Court noted various jury studies which indicate that juries already include pre-judgment interest, at a rate above inflation, in their damage awards.

Special Legislation

Article IV Section 13 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 prohibits special legislation, which acts “to prevent arbitrary legislative classifications that discriminate in favor of a select group without a sound, reasonable basis.” Best v. Taylor Machine Works, 179 Ill.2d 367 (1997). Defendants argued, and the Court again agreed, that a pre-judgment interest regime serves as special legislation and therefore violates the Illinois Constitution. The Court held that the Amendment unjustly discriminates in favor of personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs and against plaintiffs in other tort suits, along with those defendants who were served over one year after the case was filed.

What’s next?

It is certain that we have not heard the last on the Amendment’s constitutionality. After the decision in Hyland, the Cook County Circuit Court issued a general order that anticipates a further ruling from the state’s higher courts. The status of the Amendment will likely remain in flux until the Illinois Supreme Court brings finality to the issue.

RDM attorneys Justin Ijei, Sarah Schwartz, and Dillon Williams host a webinar on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Rasmussen Dickey Moore attorneys Justin Ijei, Sarah Schwartz, and Dillon Williams recently recorded a webinar on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion at small and mid-sized law firms. The presentation is being presented by the Missouri Bar, and attorneys can sign up for any of several showings to receive CLE credit.

The webinar expands on RDM’s ongoing discussion of our own efforts to bring diversity to the forefront at our firm and our hopes to expand diversity alongside our peer firms. Justin and another RDM attorney, Nate Lindsey, originally shared their thoughts and experiences in their 2021 article, “Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Small and Mid-Sized Law Firms.” Nate also recently participated in an online panel discussion of issues of diversity in law available for CLE credit.

In the Missouri Bar webinar, Justin, Sarah, and Dillon expand on the subjects highlighted in the article and dive further into their own experiences as attorneys from diverse backgrounds. The open-ended discussion leaves plenty of opportunity for attorneys to contemplate what they have seen and experienced and how they can make their own progress to increase diversity in the legal field.

The Missouri Bar offers several timeslots to watch the webinar and earn CLE credit for Ethics or Elimination of Bias.

  • Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 · 12:00pm central time
  • Thursday, September 8th, 2022 · 2:00pm
  • Tuesday, November 8th, 2022 · 12:00pm
  • Thursday, February 16th, 2023 · 12:00pm
  • Wednesday, March 15th, 2023 · 12:00pm

Register for the course here.

The United States Supreme Court.

In October 2020, RDM member attorney Dyanna Ballou wrote an article about jurisdiction stripping, a doctrine that allows Congress to remove jurisdiction from federal courts, including the Supreme Court. In light of recent Supreme Court rulings on abortion, gun control, and climate change regulations, Dyanna takes a fresh look at the concept of jurisdiction stripping below.

Unsurprisingly, there is increased interest in jurisdiction stripping by legal commentators. Many commentators are encouraging Congress to enact legislation to protect abortion rights with a clause forbidding judicial review of the law. “It’s clear to me that this action is allowed under Article 3 of the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” says Dyanna.

Despite its legality, jurisdiction stripping raises big issues:

  • Who should decide our most contentious social and cultural issues?
  • Is it fair for nine people to make fundamental legal determinations for over 300 million Americans?
  • How is the minority to be protected from the majority?

One thing has become clear: our courts are not apolitical. “Why else do we have such furious confirmation hearings,” asks Dyanna, “if they are allowed to go forward at all? Everyone knows that each party nominates judges from its own side. The always-reliable liberal and conservative blocks on the Court are further proof of the court’s politicization.” Dyanna suggests that jurisdiction stripping is a tacit acknowledgment of the Court’s political nature.

How Does Jurisdiction Stripping Work?

First, the Senate and the House must pass legislation that removes the Court’s power to review that legislation. Then, the President must sign the legislation, or, failing that, Congress would need the votes necessary to override a veto.

The chances of both houses of Congress and the President agreeing on legislation on hot-button topics like reproductive freedom and gun control are unlikely. Even when a single party controls both houses of Congress and the White House, senators and representatives who refuse to toe the party line are common, as we’ve seen with several pieces of legislation that have stalled in recent sessions. Historically, single-party control has resulted in less rather than more legislation.

Similar Laws in Canada

Our northern neighbor Canada allows jurisdiction stripping. Section 33 of the Canadian Charter (similar to our Constitution) allows Parliament and provincial legislatures to override court decisions that interpret key sections of the Charter dealing with fundamental rights like freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Canada’s Section 33 became effective in 1982. What’s happened since then? Essentially nothing. It has never been used on a national level to override a court decision.

Will Congress Strip the Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction?

What does that mean for us? “I believe that like the Canadian experience, jurisdiction stripping would be difficult to realistically use in the United States,” says Dyanna, “especially on highly-charged social issues. I don’t see it as a practical solution to the problem of an activist Court.”