Committee Selects Design Proposal by Sculptor Preston Jackson For Memorial to Slaves’ Lawsuits for Freedom Tried in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (March 28, 2016) — A steering committee has selected sculptor Preston Jackson’s design for a dynamic visual narrative to memorialize more than 300 courageous slaves and lawyers who went to court in St. Louis to sue for their freedom from 1806 through Emancipation in 1863.

The memorial is planned for the east plaza of the Civil Courts Building downtown. Fundraising from private sources will begin immediately.

Jackson is a professor emeritus at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where he continues to teach foundry techniques. He is owner of a gallery in Peoria, Ill. A specialist in cast bronze, his works include dozens of public sculptures, including a statue of Miles Davis in Alton; “Acts of Intolerance” in Springfield, Ill., celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NAACP; and “From Cottonfield to Battlefield” in Decatur, Ill., memorializing Abraham Lincoln’s decision to permit African American soldiers to fight in the Civil War.

His design for the Freedom Suits Memorial calls for a cast bronze work approximately 5 feet by 3 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Each angle of the sculpture will be a pictorial lesson on the lawsuits and the times. It will incorporate both free-standing and relief sculptures in a construction recalling the dome and cupola of the Old Courthouse.

“This is a very important project, which fits my life’s work, telling the visual history of our country in a compelling and effective manner that is appropriate for all,” Jackson said. “I feel it is imperative that the descendants of slaves see themselves as strong people, as survivors, and this sculpture will certainly send that important message.”

St. Louis Circuit Judge David C. Mason, who first conceived the memorial, said, “The design vividly shows how two centuries ago, St. Louis provided proof for the American ideal that even those with least means can achieve justice through the courts. It is likely this work will become another sculptural icon for St. Louis.”

Paul N. Venker, chairman of the steering committee, said, “This moving memorial compels us to reflect upon how the least powerful among us, exercising what imperfect legal rights they had, initiated what can only be described as nation-altering change.  We honor these African Americans who chose the Rule of Law, and the lawyers who embraced the Spirit of Justice to help them.”

The sculpture will be aligned with the Gateway Mall and the Old Courthouse, where most of these suits were tried — including that of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet. The Scotts initially won their freedom in the St. Louis court but lost it on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857, a decision that helped propel the nation into the Civil War.

The steering committee for the memorial advertised for proposals beginning in August. It received several responses and chose three finalists. Jackson’s proposal was the clear consensus of the committee.

The steering committee comprises 12 members representing the court, local lawyers, academicians, arts leaders and city officials. Fundraising will be conducted through the St. Louis Bar Foundation.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie M. Edwards Joins National Board Addressing Engagement of Minorities, Poor People in Courts

Judge Jimmie M. EdwardsWASHINGTON, D.C. (October 19, 2015) — St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards is collaborating with national leaders seeking to restore public trust and confidence in state courts, particularly among minority and economically disadvantaged communities.

Edwards participated in the two-day inaugural conference of the National Advisory Board on Community Engagement in the State Courts Oct. 15-16 in Washington. The 16-member board is part of the National Center for State Courts’ Conference of Chief Justices and National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness.

The advisory board will meet approximately monthly to remove the gap in trust and confidence in the courts between minorities and white non-Hispanics.

The growing gap has been evident in polling over four decades but has become more pronounced over the past year with such cases as those of Michael Brown in Missouri, Trayvon Martin in Florida, and Eric Gardner in New York. The goal of the board is to establish an engagement strategy that will increase public trust and confidence in the courts through dialogue and developing meaningful relationships built upon respect and understanding.

The Honorable Eric T. Washington, chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, is chairman of the advisory board. In addition to Edwards, the other members are:

  • The Rev. Aundreia Alexander of the National Council of Churches.
  • The Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, the D.C. Court of Appeals.
  • Cornell W. Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP.
  • Paulette Brown, president of the American Bar Association.
  • The Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sankauye, chief justice of the Supreme Court of California.
  • The Honorable Edward C. Clifton, retired, Superior Court of Rhode Island.
  • Jennifer Farmer, managing director of communications for the Advancement Project.
  • Ivan K. Fong, senior vice president, legal affairs, and general counsel, 3M Company.
  • Beatrice Garza, president and CEO of the Association for Advancement of Mexican Americans.
  • Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.
  • The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, chief judge, New York State Unified Court System.
  • The Honorable Eduardo Padro, New York Supreme Court.
  • The Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action
  • Tavis Smiley, broadcaster, executive producer and CEO, The Smiley Group, Inc.

Committee for Memorial to Freedom Suits for Slaves Issues Request for Proposals from Regional Artists

For more information please contact:
Thom Gross, public information officer
22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri

ST. LOUIS (Aug. 18, 2015) — From the time of the Louisiana Purchase until the Emancipation Proclamation 57 years later, approximately 400 slaves filed suits in Missouri Courts to demand their freedom, assisted by lawyers working without pay.

A memorial commemorating these brave litigants and their attorneys is planned for the east plaza of the Civil Courts Building downtown.

The Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee this week published a Request for Proposals from regional artists for a memorial sculpture. Copies of the RFP are available from Thom Gross, public information officer for the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri. Requests may be emailed to The RFP also may be downloaded from the website for the court, Proposals are due by Nov. 9.

The sculpture will be aligned with the Gateway Mall and the Old Courthouse, where most of these suits were tried — including that of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet. The Scotts initially won their freedom in the St. Louis court but lost it on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857, a decision that helped propel the nation into the Civil War.

The Steering Committee comprises 12 members representing the court, local lawyers and academicians, arts leaders and others. Fundraising will be conducted through the St. Louis Bar Foundation.

Commissioner Anne-Marie Clarke Addresses Students at Law Day

Law Day program 2015

Anne-Marie Clarke, commissioner of the Family Court/Juvenile Division, addressed students from four schools in the St. Louis region to start a Law Day program May 1 at the Civil Courts Building. Approximately 60 students and teachers observed courtroom action and heard from a variety of speakers about the justice system in the 22nd Circuit Court of Missouri.

Judges Appoint Drug Court Commissioner

The judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri have appointed Matthew C. Melton commissioner of the circuit’s Drug Court.

In a meeting April 16, the judges selected Melton from among three finalists, also including Scott A. Millikan and Michael L. Walton.

Melton, an attorney with the Missouri Public Defender’s Office, was the office’s Drug Court attorney from 2006 to 2007. He graduated from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2006 after completing a bachelors degree at Truman State University in 2003.
Melton replaces James Sullivan, who was appointed circuit judge in February.

Judge Michael David steps down to join private law practice

The Hon. Michael P. David
The Hon. Michael P. David

Michael P. David, who earlier this year celebrated 25 years as a judge in the St. Louis Circuit Court, is stepping down Jan. 2 to return to private law practice. He will be joining the law firm of Williams Venker & Sanders, where he will develop a mediation and arbitration practice as well as consulting and participating in the firm’s litigation practice.

David, who was the Circuit’s presiding judge in 2003-04, said, “I have been proud to be a member of this court and will continue to wear that pride ‘on my sleeve’ after I leave. It has been an honor to have served with so many who are always interested in being the best that they can be.”

David said his predominant memories probably would relate to the intense personal tragedies associated with the many cases he has heard, both criminal and civil. He recalled, for example, a murder trial in which the mother of a teenage girl who had been killed sat through the entire proceeding. Also present for the same time on the other side of the courtroom was the mother of the defendant, a young man, whom the jury found guilty.

“At the end, they realized that they had each lost a child. After the verdict, they came together in the middle of the courtroom and embraced. It was awesome to see each sense and acknowledge the loss of the other,” he said. “To see the quiet dignity of people who suffer these tremendous losses and not be touched by it would be less than human.”

David said he began thinking of making some kind of change from the court after presiding over two massive tobacco cases in 2011. “They were the most challenging thing I’d ever done in the law, keeping up with teams of excellent lawyers who worked long hours so that they could keep the jury fully occupied while on duty. Each case was an all-encompassing experience, exhausting but exhilarating,” he said. “After that, I began to feel that I had seen just about everything from the bench and wondered what I could do to keep my mind active and challenged,” he noted. “I never wanted to become the judge who should have retired five years earlier. The litigants and their lawyers do not deserve that.”

In discussing what he will miss most besides the people, he said, “Being a judge allows you to be involved with the law in its purest form. Your only client is the law, and you can represent that client with no external constraints. I have cherished that and suspect I will miss it.”

David then smiled broadly and added, “But I am very excited to be getting off this horse and onto another as I continue to ride off into my sunset.”

An avid baseball fan, he drew an analogy of a judge to an umpire: “I’ve been calling balls and strikes now for 25 years — I’ve had a front row seat to Bob Gibson/Willie Mays’ showdowns.” But he acknowledged, “I haven’t thrown a pitch or swung a bat in that same time, and I’d like to see what’s left in the tank.”

David worked in private practice and as an assistant public defender before being elected to the state legislature in 1983 from a district that included parts of downtown and the Near South Side. He was appointed associate circuit judge in 1989 while serving a fourth term as state representative. He was appointed circuit judge three years later.





Senior Judge Thomas Grady retires after 38 years












Thomas C. Grady, the senior judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court and its unofficial historian, will retire Jan. 1, 2015, after 38 years on the bench.

Grady has had a keen lifelong interest in St. Louis history and architecture and often peppers his remarks from the bench with historic references — occasionally to the puzzlement of younger lawyers. For example, when a lawyer’s questioning of a witness meanders too far, he will caution that growing up in South St. Louis, he always preferred the Grand streetcar, which ran in a straight line, to the 39th Street streetcar, which “ran all over the place.”

He has compiled a collection of thick scrapbooks and poster boards of court history, often annotated with his comments and opinions, which he will bequeath to the new presiding judge.

His love of history and architecture has put him on several local boards, including the Commission of the Missouri History Museum, and sometimes expresses itself in his personal style. He is one of the fashion holdouts for straw hats in the summer. He drove a ’54 Mercedes 220S sedan through the Eighties, replacing it with a ’48 Packard. A self-effacing man, he sold the Packard when a friend told him it attracted much attention in his travels about town.

After a period of relaxation — “You’re always on when you are a judge, and it’s stressful,” he says — Grady plans to finish a book on the history of Vandeventer Place and to write an article on the sociology of the larger cotton boats that once frequented the St. Louis wharf.

Grady was elected a city magistrate in 1976, assigned to criminal misdemeanors. In a reorganization of the courts, he became an associate circuit judge in 1978, where he contributed to the administrative design of the present 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri.

As the court’s presiding judge in 2007-2008, he had to rebuild the current centralized docketing system to eliminate the potential for lawyers steering cases to specific judges. “I stood my ground on the importance of random assignments,” he recalls. “At the time, few seemed to understand how to develop a central assignment system.”

He added, “The thing I’m most proud of is appointing Judge Joan Moriarty as the first Criminal Assignment Judge in Div. 16. In her first year, she disposed of 1,000 backlogged cases. It relieved jail crowding and saved city budgets hundreds of thousands.”

The thing he has appreciated most about serving on the bench is the interaction with lawyers. “The trial lawyers here have a very high standard,” he said. “The young lawyers have been very patient with me. I have tried to help them develop a three-dimensional perspective on St. Louis.”

Asked to recall outstanding cases over his 38 years, he struggled. “My point of view has always been that each case is important in its own right, and that’s what our laws provide,” he said. “I’ve always been a little embarrassed about everyone standing when I enter the courtroom. But it’s out of respect for the law, and not for me, so I endure it.”

After some thought, he settled on a 1998 civil case involving tainted blood products that led some hemophiliacs to develop AIDS. “There were excellent lawyers on both sides, and it was a pleasure to work with them,” he said. A three-week trial resulted in a plaintiffs’ verdict of $1.4 million. “It turned out to be something of a landmark, because 36 similar cases around the country rapidly settled after that.”

While he acknowledges that certain court reforms have improved justice, he complains that they have sanitized the atmosphere and removed some of the charm and colorful people from the courthouse. “In those days, when a young person got into trouble, he had to seek out help from adult friends and family to gather funds, and that usually involved a bail bondsman. This, in turn got more responsible people involved in the young person’s life. The bondsmen were some tough characters, and they tended to worked with certain attorneys, and they each had their collection agents waiting around in the hallways. I miss that Damon Runyon environment.”

St. Louis Drug Court Holds 100th Graduation Ceremony

ST. LOUIS (Nov. 21, 2014) — The St. Louis Drug Court conducted its 100th Graduation Ceremony today at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown, as 22 participants joined the ranks of 1,718 successful graduates who have completed the program since 1997.

Drug Court Commissioner James Sullivan said, “As our program reaches this milestone, I congratulate each of the graduates for the courage and commitment they have made to breaking the damaging cycle of drug addiction and crime. Drug Court is very demanding, and by successfully completing it, our graduates prove to themselves that they have the personal strength, resources and resolve to turn their lives around. The community benefits, too, by returning these citizens to productive lives without the expense and frequently failed outcomes of imprisonment.”

The St. Louis Drug Court program is designed to divert nonviolent felony offenders who are addicted to drugs and alcohol from the normal criminal justice system. The court provides judicial oversight, intensive supervision and treatment to positively impact the life of the individual while focusing on community safety.

Retired Judge James R. Dowd delivered the graduation address, inspiring those completing the program to share their recovery success with others in the community. Dowd pioneered the treatment court concept and created the drug court program in the 22nd Judicial Circuit, serving as its first judicial officer.

A reception following the ceremony was hosted by the Be There Alumni Association.

Retired Judge James R. Dowd addresses the 100th graduation ceremony of the St. Louis Drug Court. In the background are Drug Court Commissioners Rochelle Woodiest and James Sullivan.
Retired Judge James R. Dowd addresses the 100th graduation ceremony of the St. Louis Drug Court. In the background are Drug Court Commissioners Rochelle Woodiest and James Sullivan.

22nd Circuit Now Accepting Payments Through Internet

Beginning Dec. 2, the St. Louis Circuit Court will accept payment of court costs through Pay By Web, the Missouri judiciary’s new online payment service.

The system can be used only to pay court costs balances owed on disposed cases. Payment by credit or debit cards or electronic check may be made using the following link:

The service charges a convenience fee for each transaction.