The Chair of our FBA Media, Marketing, and Newsletter Committee, Paige Bangerter, has fittingly coined “Gratitude” as the theme of this newsletter, which is arriving in your in-box at Thanksgiving time. I still have a vivid memory of when, although it was about 35 years ago, my first lawyer-mentor said: “Teresa, we are so fortunate as lawyers to have jobs in which we get paid to learn every day.” He was right. Not only that, we have the opportunity to practice law with (and against) such interesting colleagues. And, with our legal knowledge and skills we have the ability to positively influence the lives of many. Yes, indeed, we are very fortunate.
As I have become more actively engaged in the FBA over the past two to three years, I have been reminded over and over again of the powerful impact this group of lawyers and judges has had and will continue to have in our communities and beyond. Our FBA chapter has been very active over the past year. To learn more about the important work of the FBA, visit our website, fedbarkanmo.org, or simply continue reading – inside this newsletter you will find articles highlighting the many activities and programs we’ve sponsored and promoted. This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for the many interesting, caring, and fun-loving lawyers and judges I have met and worked with in the FBA, and for the important work you all are doing.
A significant focus of our FBA chapter this past year has been on expanding our Civics outreach through Law Day and Constitution Day programs, and by connecting our members with students and classes throughout the school year to discuss Civics, Government, the Rule of Law, What Lawyers Do, and related topics. Our Civics and Outreach Committee is gathering resources for use in such presentations and compiling a growing list of teacher and school administrator contacts. And, hopefully, more classes will be visiting our courts. I was reminded just how important our interactions with students are one afternoon last week, when a high school class toured the federal courthouse. At 10:14 the next morning, one very enthusiastic student emailed:
“I came to visit the district courthouse just yesterday and had a chance to talk to you and ask questions and I had a great experience. You told my group that there were opportunities to sit in on proceedings or even take advantage of an internship. When might a good time be to come in to watch something from your docket and discuss it further be? I’m seriously considering going into the field of law after being involved in my high school’s debate program and wanted to get a better look at the process.”
My family has a Thanksgiving tradition (many of you probably have similar traditions) – when we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, each family member (and friend) at the table says something they are grateful for. This year, in addition to whatever/whomever else you may be grateful for, I encourage you to think of a lawyer-mentor or colleague for whom you are grateful. And then do one thing more – think about how you might pay it forward to a young lawyer or potential future lawyer. Perhaps, one way to do that is by becoming actively involved in a FBA committee; there is plenty of work to be done. Please reach out to me, a FBA Committee Chair, or Board member – we will be happy to put you to work!
Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
The Honorable Teresa J. James was appointed on January 16, 2014 as a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Kansas in Kansas City. Judge James received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in 1981 and her Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas in 1984. Following graduation, Judge James was in private practice in Wichita until she joined the Overland Park office of Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Bauer, LLP in 2003. At Martin Pringle, Judge James was a partner, served a term as managing partner of the Kansas City Office, and specialized in Energy, Oil and Gas, Condemnation and Complex Litigation. Prior to going on the Bench, Judge James served on the board of the Kansas Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education Commission, on the Bench-Bar Committee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, and on the Kansas Appleseed Foundation Board. She is a Fellow of the Kansas Bar Foundation and the American Bar Foundation. Judge James is a Past President of the Earl E. O’Connor Inn of Court, for which she organized a group trip to England including a visit to the English Middle Temple Inn and a week of sightseeing in and around London. Judge James is also the current President-Elect and Chair of the Civics and Outreach Committee of the Kansas and Western District of Missouri Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. She is passionate about Civics education for students and is actively engaged in the FBA – Federal Court Constitution Day project that organizes public readings of the U.S. Constitution at the three District of Kansas Federal courthouses on Constitution Day, as well as efforts to connect lawyers and judges with schools to present Civics programs. Judge James continues to be actively involved in the Inn of Court and FBA and to serve on the Bench-Bar Committee.
Diversity Committee Spotlight
By Judge Lajuana Counts
The last couple of years have been a blur because of the pandemic, but hopefully we can see the light at the end of the tunnel! The Diversity Committee is excited to gear up and provide you with quarterly CLEs and other programming this upcoming year (hopefully in person). Now more than ever we need to focus on coming together in the legal field, which means understanding and embracing our differences in order to move forward as a strong profession where fairness and justice prevail.
The focus for the Diversity Committee this year is to partner with some of FBA’s other committees, local bar associations in Kansas and the Western District of Missouri, and other entities to talk about issues and bring in speakers to enlighten us and open up our minds to embrace diversity. I’m excited to serve as the chair of this committee, and I’m even more excited about those who have volunteered to make our goals and plans become a reality: Judge Stephen Bough, Judge Brian Wimes, Judge Gwynne Birzer, UMKC Law School Dean Barbara Glesner Fines, and attorneys John Shaw and Shaun Stallworth. We will be focusing on presenting CLEs that (1) tackle implicit bias; (2) educate us all so that we appreciate our differences in terms of age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation/identity; and (3) celebrate each other’s accomplishments. We are one great nation, and together justice and equality will be our reality as we all work together.One last exciting project we continue to work on will be with the Civics and Engagement Committee. We want to create a law day or week-long camp with school-aged students in both states that focuses on learning more about the Constitution and the various areas of the law – teaching these students the art of debate, encouraging them to be confident in public speaking, and showing them that being a part of the legal profession is part of making the justice system better. This is a lofty goal that will take, as they say “a village.” So, I’m inviting you to join the Diversity Committee to make this vision a reality – we need you and welcome you!We look forward to achieving these collaborations with you!
The Honorable Lajuana Counts was appointed in 2018 as a United States magistrate Judge for the Western District of Missouri. After graduating from the UMKC School of Law and serving as the Case Notes Editor of the law journal, Lajuana Counts clerked for Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. at the Missouri Court of Appeals. She then began a 29-year career at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chef of the Appellate Unit, gaining vast trial and appellate experience. Judge Counts has continuously been involved in organizations focused on helping people overcome adversity. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading and watching collegiate sports.
Membership Committee – A Very Grateful Federal Bar Association
By Hammons Hepner
As 2021 draws to an end, we would like to thank you once again for your continued support and involvement with the District of Kansas and Western District of Missouri chapter of the Federal Bar Association. For many, this past year was just as difficult and confusing as 2020. Despite the challenges, FBA members adapted and thrived. You continued to roll with the punches, attending virtual hearings, depositions, and socially distanced lunches, all while staying plugged in with the FBA. We hope that your membership in this Chapter provided a sense of familiarity and community. Brighter days are ahead, and we are grateful for your participation in the FBA!
The success of this Chapter is attributed directly to you, the members. We understand there are a myriad of different organizations, social events, family dinners, concerts, sports, and recitals to occupy your days, yet you have devoted your valuable time to this Chapter, and we are grateful. By spending time with the FBA, you know the impact this association can have on you—both on your legal career and on your personal life. Relationships are forged inside and outside of the courtroom. Members like you help make this association truly special, and an association that helps keep a cordial relationship
in a profession that is constantly adversarial. We are thankful that you have seen the value of the FBA and we are thankful for your membership.
The Membership Committee hopes you continue to remain involved in the Federal Bar Association! Outside of the fantastic camaraderie developed between you and your fellow legal practitioners and judges, membership in the FBA provides many other benefits. The Continuing Legal Education events offered to members at a discounted rate (or for free!) are led by some of the sharpest legal minds in the region, including the judiciary. Members also have the opportunity to educate the public, including young children, about civics and the importance of the rule of law. Further, advocacy and leadership opportunities are available for those in the membership who want to help the FBA make an impact and improve the federal legal system. We hope you continue your involvement with the District of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri chapter of the Federal Bar Association.In the spirit of holidays and the time for thankfulness, the FBA is feeling extra grateful this year. We hope you see the value this association has provided to you, and the value the FBA will continue to provide in the future. Happy Holidays!
Hammons Hepner joined Sharp Law as the firm’s first intern in June 2020 and continued to intern throughout his last year of law school at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and during bar preparation. Hammons’ practice at Sharp Law involves all aspects of the firm’s class action and complex litigation lawsuits. Before attending law school, Hammons received degrees in agricultural economics and finance from Oklahoma State University. As a student at Oklahoma State, Hammons interned as a student assistant to then-President V. Burns Hargis, researched consumer preferences in meat consumption and high-frequency commodity trading, and worked as a legislative assistant and lobbyist during the 2018 Regular Session in Oklahoma.
Hammons graduated from OU Law in May 2021. During law school, Hammons served as the Executive Articles Editor of the Oklahoma Law Review, where he oversaw outside article submissions and managed a team of eight substantive editors. His article examining the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act and its impact on agriculture was published in January 2021 in the Oklahoma Law Review. Hammons also co-founded the Agricultural Law Association and served on the executive board of several student organizations, including the Federal Bar Association, the Student Bar Association, and the Oil & Gas, Natural Resources & Energy Law Society (ONE-S).
NEWER LAWYERS COMMITTEE RECEIVES SHAW GRANT
By Susan Sposato
Our Chapter made history by receiving its first-ever Ilene and Michael Shaw Younger Lawyer Public Service Grant. This grant is designed to assist and encourage new lawyers to plan and implement public service programs.
The Newer Lawyers Committee submitted its application and was awarded $5,000.00 for its inaugural program “What Do Lawyers Do?
This is a two phased outreach program. In phase one, the new lawyers update a learning resource and provide teachers and students in grades K-5 personal contact with a newer member of the legal community to facilitate an understanding of “what lawyers do.
For many children, this may be the first time that they have met a lawyer or considered the positive roles that lawyers, judges, and the Rule of Law play in their lives.
For the newer lawyer visiting the school, this experience will reinforce their own commitment to the legal profession and provide an opportunity for service to the community.
In the second phase of the program, newer lawyers will reach out to area law students to involve them in this ongoing service project. Pairing a newer lawyer and law student presents a mentorship opportunity for the law student and a recruitment opportunity for the FBA Chapter Newer Lawyers Committee, which will be fully realized when the law students graduate and begin their practice.
The Newer Lawyers Committee is grateful for this award and for the support of Chapter President Judge James, Past President Tony Mattivi, Diversity Chair Judge Birzer, 2024 Nation Committee Chairs Kate Marples Simpson and Ethan Hall to reach this milestone.
The Shaw Grant Award
Susan first joined the firm Brown & Ruprecht Attorneys at Law as a paralegal and three years later, decided to pursue a law degree, thereafter, returning home to Brown & Ruprecht.
She has a background in foreign language and policy studies and a brief encounter with the Army at USMA West Point both as a student and later as a summer physical training instructor.
While in law school, Susan served as the President of UMKC’s Federal Bar Association and today she contributes to the FBA’s Kansas and Western Missouri Chapter as the inaugural Chair of the Newer Lawyers Committee.
Susan focuses her practice on complex construction litigation including large scale federal contracts, surety defense, small business matters, and general litigation.
In her off-duty time, Susan serves on the Board of her neighborhood homes association, has enjoyed small scale campaign management, and a variety of other civic pursuits.
Looking Back on the Year With Eric Weslander
Despite the ups and downs of the COVID pandemic, this year was a busy and productive one for the Chapter under the leadership of past president Tony Mattivi.
Highlights include, but are not limited to:
Instituting a much-needed civil jury verdict reporting service for the District of Kansas and Western District of Missouri. The Civil Jury Verdict report debuted in November 2021 with its first issue, providing valuable insight to the bar and the legal community.
Putting on an impressive array of programming, including the Civil Rights Etoufee CLE, a CLE on court procedures in the COVID-19 era, “Law Day” presentations involving attorneys and judges speaking to students, and a series of judges’ brown-bag lunches in chambers.
Participation in Capitol Hill Week to raise awareness of pressing public-policy issues impacting the federal bar.
Establishment of a Federal Litigation (FedLit) committee.
Obtaining a grant for a summer intern at the Federal Public Defender’s office.
Creating and publishing a video for students about the importance of civic engagement (discussed elsewhere in this newsletter), featuring an all-star, diverse cast of civic leaders not only from the bench and bar, but also from the political realm and business community. Along with these efforts, obtaining funding for civics-themed coloring books for students.
Hosting the latest in a series of annual “Constitution Day” events at the federal courthouses in Wichita, Topeka and KCK, with volunteers of all generations reading the U.S. Constitution in its entirety. (This year’s event included what may be the most adorable-ever reading of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, performed by preschoolers from Uncle Sam’s Academy for Tots and captured on YouTube for posterity’s sake.)
Continuing law-student mentorship efforts.
Continuing to work toward hosting the National Meeting in Kansas City in 2024.
Bringing in a new webmaster and updating the website.
Phew. This is not even an exhaustive list, but is meant to be only a sampling of the many great things that have happened in 2021 to promote the FBA’s and this chapter’s mission. By authoring this rundown I do not purport to have played a role in organizing or executing any of the above, and I join our readership in expressing gratitude for all of those who made these great things happen!
Eric Weslander is a litigator and former journalist who has used his investigative and storytelling skills to advocate for clients in a variety of lawsuits involving personal injury/tort, business disputes, media law, and governmental regulation with Stevens & Brand, LLP. Prior to joining Stevens & Brand, Eric practiced law for nearly seven years with Lathrop & Gage LLP in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a law clerk for the Hon. John W. Lungstrum of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. As a full-time news journalist from 1999 to 2007, he reported on subjects including courts and public safety, higher education and politics in Louisville, Kentucky; Tucson, Arizona; and Lawrence, Kansas; and was named the top beat writer in Arizona in 2001 by the Arizona Press Club. A proud 1999 graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Kansas University, Eric has taught Mass Media Law as an adjunct instructor in Washburn University’s mass-media program and is co-chair of the “Media & the Law” seminar planning committee sponsored by the University of Kansas School of Law and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.
Eric has lived in Lawrence continuously since 2002 with his wife and two children. Outside of practicing law, he enjoys following the news, playing and watching basketball, practicing yoga, playing stringed instruments, and cooking.
Gratitude for the Civics and Diversity Outreach Video
By Paige Bangerter
Another year, another Thanksgiving holiday, and another chapter newsletter from your very own Federal Bar Association Chapter for the District of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri. As my mind roams over the occurrences of the past year, one of our chapter’s projects sticks out most prominently in my mind: the FBA Civics and Diversity Outreach Video.
As a new lawyer (I was admitted to the Bar in April of 2020), I have been fortunate enough to discover that bar associations hold much potential for fostering relationships and mentorships with other legal professionals. Nowhere is this truer, in my experience, than with our chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Readers of this newsletter are likely familiar with the name Kate Simpson, and I am sure you share my confidence that someday Kate will run the world. I have the good fortune of sharing a hometown with Kate, but I had little insight into the opportunity my connection with Kate would create when I received an email from her, to the Young Lawyer Section at-large, asking for volunteers to serve on a Civics and Outreach Committee. As an idealistic optimist who believes in the power of the United States Constitution to solve pretty much any problem, I volunteered as tribute. I little understand when I sent that email how rewarding my experience on the civics committee would prove.
This past year, a considerable amount of the committee’s time has been spent developing a video with the mission of spreading excitement about civic engagement and education. It started as an idea on a Zoom call, and it turned into a trip across the district and over nine hours of interview time with some of our community’s most inspiring civic leaders. The theme of the video is “Finding Your Voice” (a theme brilliantly curated by Kate Simpson). The vision for this video is that it inspires youth in Kansas, the Western District of Missouri, and beyond, to engage with civic life, and that it educates on the myriad of opportunities for civic engagement available in our district. We also hoped to showcase the success of diverse civic leaders. Additionally, the video aimed to inspire youth from a wide variety of backgrounds to participate in civic life. America is a fabric of many colors, and we wanted a diverse array of kids to feel represented and inspired when watching this video. Diversity of race, gender, orientation, religious affiliation, and political ideologies was important to the committee. Yours truly, Paige Bangerter, somehow landed the awesome role of getting to sit down and ask these leaders questions about civics. The interviewees spoke with such passion, eloquence, and clarity, that throughout the days of filming, I was regularly struck by their words.
In such a divisive time politically, it was nothing short of inspiring to have the chance to sit down with lawyers, judges, and political leaders from across the spectrum and discuss something we all share: civics. Universally, our video-subjects called for increased civil discourse, for broadening of civic education, for diverse participation in civic engagement, and for kids across our district to “use their voice” in the civic arena. This experience made me hopeful about the positive role non-partisan organizations like the Federal Bar Association can play in building bridges and in helping us collectively focus on what we share, rather than what divides us. I am not exaggerating when I say that some of the responses to our interview questions emotionally moved me, or left me saying simply, “Wow,” before remembering I was the interviewer and not just watching a speech, and I better figure out what question to ask next. During one interview with Judge Birzer in the beautiful ceremonial courtroom of the Wichita Courthouse, I lost track of time so completely while she was speaking that she had to stop and remind me we needed to end the interview.
Because we had not planned on filming a documentary, most of the footage from these interviews ended up on the cutting-room floor for our first video. However, the Civics and Outreach Committee has high hopes and many ideas for how to use the remaining footage, so, keep an eye on our website: www.fedbarkanmo.com for more video projects to come.
In the spirit of gratitude, I would like to name and thank all of our video participants. This project has been meaningful and impactful already to me, and to the classrooms of kids it has been shown in. I am hopeful that the investment of time from our interviewees will continue to yield dividends of increasing civic education and engagement.
First, the Civics and Outreach Committee could not have been a more amazing group to work with. Most especially, Judge Teresa James, Danielle Atchison, and Kate Simpson exerted extraordinary efforts to gather interviewees, organize interview logistics, write questions, coordinate transportation between interviews, all while being exceptionally kind hosts to me, a western Kansas girl, as we traversed the state. Our videographer, Jalen Gifford, an exceedingly talented entrepreneurial young videographer from Dodge City, Kansas, became an honorary member of our committee during the filming of this project. We hope to continue working with Jalen and benefiting from his skills. We all had way too much fun together capturing these interviews, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to work on this project with them. Collaborating with them was just as meaningful of an experience as hearing the answers to our interview questions.
Second, I must express my gratitude to all the speakers who participated in this video project. Without exception, all our featured speakers lead enormously busy lives and have about a million options for how to spend their time when they wake up in the morning. I am humbled to have been able to spend time with each of them and discuss civics with them. Thank you to Congresswoman Sharice Davids, Chief Judge Arnold-Burger (whose interview could be its own episodic segment because she broke-down separation of powers so clearly and eloquently), Kate Simpson, Representative Brad Ralph, Dean Carla Pratt of Washburn Law, Dean Lou Mulligan of KU Law, Dean Barbara Glesner-Fines of UMKC School of Law, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Jabari Wamble of the United Stated Attorney’s Office, Judge Stephen Bough, Mayor Quinton Lucas, Judge Teresa James, Chief Judge Julie Robinson, Judge Gwynne Birzer, Senator Jerry Moran, and Judge Eric Melgren. Thank you all for your participation. I hope you know how grateful we are for your time and contributions. Please be on the lookout for more videos using the footage from your interviews that will further our goal of educating and inspiring kids about civics.
If you have not already done so, please check out the video at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aagsNY-u9wc&t=3s, or on our website, www.fedbarkanmo.com. The video is already in the process of being approved for mass distribution in public schools across the state of Kansas, but please do not hesitate to share this video, and the resources we are compiling for civics education, with a teacher in your social circle. In addition, if you too share our passion for spreading civic engagement, remember to keep an eye out for the sign-ups to go into classrooms and speak to kids on Law Day and Constitution Day. Thank you Federal Bar Association – District of Kansas and Western District of Missouri Chapter for a wonderful year.
Born and raised in Dodge City, Kansas, Paige Bangerter graduated from Dodge City High School, attended Dodge City Community College, and studied Political Science at Wheaton College, near Chicago, Illinois. After graduating, she attended the Kansas University School of Law (Rock Chalk), graduating December of 2019. After passing the bar exam, Paige was admitted to the Kansas Bar and the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Paige then decided that in the midst of a global pandemic would be a good time to start her own law firm. She formed PAB Legal, P.A. in April of 2020 and has been practicing criminal defense, juvenile defense, and serving as a representative for parents and children in Child in Need of Care (“CINC”) cases in the 16th Judicial District of Kansas. Paige is passionate about serving her community by serving her clients.
Paige also serves on the board of Santa Fe Trails Community Corrections in Dodge City, and Perfect Fit Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to provide families and individuals with special needs the support and resources they need at home in Southwest Kansas. In her free time, Paige enjoys spending time with family and friends, going on runs and bike rides around Dodge City, or re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
FBA Civics and Diversity Outreach Video “Finding Your Voice”
Upcoming CLE Event:
“Tools for Fostering Wellbeing in the Legal Profession”
CLE with the Lawrence Inn of Court
On December 8th at 5pm the Chapter will co-host a CLE with the Lawrence Inn of Court. The presentation, “Tools for Fostering Wellbeing in the Legal Profession” will focus on how to deal with anxiety and depression and foster wellbeing in our often high-stress profession.
Presenters include: Brynn Mroz, John Whipple, and Leah Terranova