The Kansas Bar Association honored 23 at its annual luncheon during its annual meeting in June at the Doubletree Hotel in Overland Park. This year’s honorees ranged from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office to the past public information director for the Office of Judicial Administration.
Phil Lewis Medal of Distinction
The Phil Lewis Medal of Distinction is the KBA’s highest honor and reserved for individuals or organizations who have performed outstanding service and conspicuous service at the state, national or international level in the administration of justice, science, the arts, government, philoso¬phy, law or any other field offering relief or enrichment to others.
The Kansas Informed Voters Project is a nonpartisan voter education project intended to educate citizens about the judicial system, to inform them that politics and special interests have no place in the courts. The project strives to provide citizens with the tools they need to exercise informed voters in both retention elections and partisan contests. The Kansas Project has educated and continues to educated members of the public about the importance of protecting America’s democracy by keeping the third branch of the government, the judiciary, fair and free, as the Founding Fathers intended it to be.
Distinguished Service Award
The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for continuous long-standing service on behalf of the legal profession or the public, rather than the successful accomplish¬ment of a single task or service.
Thomas A. Hamill, of Overland Park, began his legal career at a small firm in western Kansas and served briefly as an officer in the trust department at Commerce Bank of Kansas City. Soon he became an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, where he tried many civil and criminal cases over the next four years. In 1996, Hamill and Scott Tschudy opened the Martin Pringle office in Overland Park.
Throughout his career, Hamill has been active in numerous professional associations, including past president of the Johnson County Bar Association, Johnson County Bar Foundation and Kansas Bar Association. He served as a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates for 18 years, serving as the KBA delegate to the House and the state delegate to the House, and as a member of the ABA Board of Governors for three years. He also served as chair of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Systems board of trustees.
The Professionalism Award is given to an attorney who has practiced law for over 10 years who, by his or her conduct, honesty, integrity and courtesy, best exemplifies, repre¬sents and encourages other lawyers to follow the highest standards of the legal profession.
Larry E. Keenan, of Great Bend, attended the University of Kansas, where he received both his undergraduate degree and law degrees. In 1954 he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After five months as a private, he was admitted to the Judge Advocates General Corp., where he served three additional years primarily at Fort Riley, prosecuting and defending cases. He was discharged as a captain in 1958. He then returned to his hometown of Great Bend and joined his older brother, Robert, at the Keenan
Law Firm, where he still practices today. He served as the Barton County attorney from 1960 to 1964. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Kansas University Law School board of governors. His practice of law drew him into the banking business having been the past chairman of Farmers
Bank & Trust and is a member of its board of directors. His practice also drew him into the oil business as he serves as president of Globe Exploration Inc. Keenan has been a longtime member of the KBA and is a member of SOAB.
Distinguished Government Service Award
The Distinguished Government Service Award recognizes a Kansas lawyer who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to government service. This year, two attorneys were honored with this award.
Richard A. Euson, of Wichita, has served as the Sedgwick County counselor for 34 years. He has held the position of county counselor since 1997, having twice-served as interim county counselor prior to that time. His role as county counselor is unique in that he must not only advise a public entity on a myriad of diverse subjects but also navigate the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct on a daily basis. He serves as attorney and advisor to the Board of County Commissioners, the Sedgwick county manager and county department heads, as well as representing the county’s other elected and appointed officials. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas and his juris doctorate from Washburn University School of Law. Euson has been a member of the KBA and the Wichita Bar Association for many years.
Anita Tebbe, of Overland Park, is a law professor and chair of Legal Studies Department at Johnson County Community College. She earned a juris doctorate from Washburn School of Law, Master of Arts-Education from University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Loyola University, Chicago. Tebbe is active in the Johnson County Bar Association and chairs the Naturalization Committee. She is also a member of Kansas Bar Association and a member of the KBA Paralegals Committee. As a member of the American Bar Association, Tebbe served as chair of ABA Paralegal Approval Committee. Tebbe received three distinguished service awards from Johnson County Community College, been an exchanged professor with Udmurt State University, Izhevsk, Russia, and assisted in the establishment of the JCCC Legal Interpreting Program. She also coordinated numerous Kansas Court of Appeals oral arguments at JCCC yearly and in 2012 coordinated the Kansas Supreme Court oral arguments on campus.
Courageous Attorney Award
The Courageous Attorney Award recognizes a lawyer who has displayed exceptional courage in the face of adversity, thus bringing credit to the legal profession.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office was honored with the Courageous Attorney Award due to its staff’s willingness to come forward and file a complaint regarding the actions of a judge against the female staff attorneys. The Kansas Supreme Court issued its finding to the complaint on Feb. 27, 2015, and found Judge Timothy Henderson’s misconduct was wide ranging, with multiple female attorneys and staff members were subject to repeated inappropriate and offensive comments for years. Despite widespread knowledge, the conduct went on for years unchallenged, and without the district attorney, Marc Bennett, and his attorneys, Melissa Green, Amanda Marina, Kristi Topper and Sandra Lessor, to go on record, the misconduct would have continued.
Evan H. Ice, of Lawrence, is a fourth generation Kansas lawyer born in Newton. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He returned to KU in 1990 and graduated from its law school in 1993 as No. 1 in his class. That same year he joined the firm of Stevens, Brand, Winter, Lungstrum & Golden (now Stevens & Brand LLP). His practice has been mostly devoted to business organizations and governance, trusts and estates, real estate, banking, municipal government and tax law. At the age of 49, Ice was diagnosed with ALS. Since his diagnosis, he has continued to work full time, maintaining a high level of work production, despite his struggles with diminishing muscular and motor functions, great pain and discomfort. With the help of special speech activated software, Ice continues to communicate through emails and prepare legal documents required for clients and with assistance, he continues to communicate with clients by phone, as well as meeting with clients in person. Ice realizes that he will lose that ability to speak, so he has been creating a voice bank, recording different words, phrases, sentences and sentences so he can still communicate with his friends and family. Despite the struggles he may have, Ice is at work everyday with a smile and can be heard laughing or telling jokes.
Outstanding Young Lawyer
The Outstanding Young Lawyer Award recognizes the efforts of a KBA Young Lawyers Section member who has rendered meritorious service to the legal profession, the community or the KBA.
Sarah Warner, of Lawrence, is an attorney at Thompson Ramsdell Qualseth & Warner, where her practice focuses on resolving state and federal constitutional claims, insurance disputes, and other business and personal claims. She also teaches Conflict of Laws as an adjunct professor at Washburn University School of Law. Before joining the firm, she worked for three and one-half years as chambers counsel to Chief Justice Robert Davis of the Kansas Supreme Court. She earned her bachelor’s degree (with honors and distinction) from the University of Kansas in 2003 with majors in French, mathematics, international studies and political science, and her juris doctorate, magna cum laude, from Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2006. Warner recently completed her term as president of the KBA Young Lawyers Section and has been appointed to the KBA board of governors beginning July 1. She also serves on the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys and is treasurer of the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel and president of the Douglas County Bar Association.
The KBA Diversity Award is only given to a law firm; corporation; government agency, department or body; law-related organization or other organization that has significantly advanced diversity by its conduct, as well as by the development and implementation of diversity policies and strategic plans.
Zackery E. Reynolds, of Fort Scott, graduated in 1982 from Washburn University School of Law with honors. He has been in private practice ever since, concentrating primarily on litigation and estates. He served as president of the KBA in 1999 and received an Outstanding Service Award for his service to the Ethics Grievance Committee in 1992. His interest in promoting diversity began when he was KBA president. His KBA Journal Article, “Diversity in the Kansas Bar: A 2020 Vision,” was followed by the creation of the permanent Diversity Committee, which continues today to promote diversity in the bar. He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Outstanding Service Award
The Outstanding Service Award award is given for the purpose of recognizing lawyers and judges for service to the legal profession and/ or the KBA, and for recog¬nizing non-lawyers for especially meritorious deeds or service that significantly advance the administration of justice or the goals of the legal profession and/or the KBA. This year, six attorneys were chosen to receive this award.
Paul Davis, of Lawrence, is a partner with the law firm of Fagan Emert & Davis LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and the Washburn University School of Law. Davis served 12 years in the Kansas House of Representatives. From 2009-15 he served as the House minority leader. During his time in the Legislature, Davis developed a reputation as someone who could form bi-partisan coalitions. He was also a steadfast supporter of public education and the judiciary. Davis has been active with a number of organizations, having served on the board of directors of the Arc of Douglas County, the Health Care Access Clinic, Leadership Lawrence, the KBA Board of Governors and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation.
Dennis Depew has served as chief of the Civil Litigation Division of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in Topeka since May 2015. Prior to that position, he was a partner in the Depew Law Firm in Neodesha since graduating from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1983, where he maintained a general law practice with his father, Harry Depew, and his brother, Doug Depew. The family’s firm was founded in 1953. Depew was a pioneer in Southeast Kansas in the area of alternative dispute resolution. He was one of the first attorneys in the area to become a certified mediator in civil and family law cases in 1995. He was also an approved domestic case manager in high conflict post-divorce cases in three judicial districts. Outside of his family, his two passions over the years have been public education and service to members of the bar. He was first elected to the Neodesha school board in 1985 and went on to serve the Southeast Kansas area on the board of the Kansas Association of School Boards before serving the entire state as he worked through the officer chairs of KASB from 2010-14. He served the profession as a member of the Kansas Board of Discipline of Attorneys for five terms from 1999 until 2014. He was elected in 2005 to the KBA board of governors and is now completing his run through the officer’s chairs of the KBA. He participated in the group that in 2014 reinstated appellate judicial evaluations and has been a constant proponent of merit selection for the Court of Appeals and Kansas Supreme Court. Depew is a Fellow Silver of the Kansas Bar Foundation and will begin a term on the KBF board of trustees in July. He was also recently elected to serve on the Kansas University School of Law board of governors.
L.J. Leatherman, of Topeka, is a partner in Palmer Leatherman White & Girard LLP. He specializes in plaintiff’s tort litigation in automobile negligence, wrongful death, third-party claims against insurance companies and insurance bad faith. Leatherman is a graduate of Washburn University School of Law. He is an active member of the Kansas and American associations for justice, Topeka and American bar associations, and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. He serves as a member of the Topeka/Shawnee County Ethics Committee.
Patricia E. “Patty” Riley, of Topeka, has practiced law since graduation from Washburn in 1977. In 1983, she and her husband, Wesley A. Weathers, formed Weathers & Riley L.P., now Weathers, Riley and Sheppeard LLP. She was elected to serve on the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission from the 2nd Congressional District from 2003-11. She chaired the Topeka Bar Association’s Nominating Committee and the statewide Gender Bias Committee of the Kansas Women Attorney’s Association, served on the KBA’s Insurance Committee, served on the board of the Kansas Association for Justice, served on a Washburn Law School Search Committee for a new dean and currently serves as a member of “GNIP GNOP,” a group that evaluates and awards stipends for Best Note and Best Comment for the Washburn Law Journal. She is a member of the Women Attorneys Association of Topeka, the Kansas Women Attorneys Association and the Topeka, Kansas and American bar associations.
Judge Dale L. Somers, of Topeka, is a native Kansan who grew up in Norton. He received his undergraduate degree from Kansas State University in 1968 and his juris doctorate from the University of Kansas School of law in 1971. He was in the private practice of law in Topeka with the firms of Eidson, Lewis, Porter & Haynes and Wright, Henson, Somers, Sebelius, Clark & Baker for 32 years until he became a U.S. bankruptcy judge in 2003. Somers was appointed to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in 2010. He also serves as a member of the Judicial Resources Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. Somers served on the KBA board of governors from 1988-98 and as president from 1995-96. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a Fellow of the Kansas Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.
Judge Gregory L. Waller, of Wichita, is a fifth generation Kansan. He attended Hutchinson public schools and graduated from Hutchinson High School. Waller obtained an Associate of Arts degree from Hutchinson Community College. He graduated from Washburn University with honors in 1970 and from Washburn University School of Law in 1972. Waller then went into private practice with G. Edmond Hayes at the firm of Hayes and Waller. In 1975 he joined the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney and later became the chief administrative assistant district attorney. In 1993 he was appointed judge of Division 5 of the Sedgwick County District Court. From 2002-08, Waller was the presiding judge of the criminal department of the Sedgwick County District Court. Additionally, he served as a trial judge of civil, criminal, juvenile, probate and traffic. Waller is a member of the Kansas and Wichita bar associations, Kansas District Judges Association, American College of Prosecuting Attorneys, Washburn University Foundation board of directors, CASA, and numerous other civic and social organizations. Waller is presently a member of the WBA’s Professional Diversity and Criminal Law committees and the KBA’s Diversity Committee.
Pro Bono Award
The Pro Bono is given for the delivery of direct legal services, free of charge, to the poor, or in appropriate circumstances, to charitable organizations whose primary purpose is to provide other services to the poor.
Mira Mdivani, of Overland Park, is a business immigration attorney at the Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm. Over 10 years ago, Mdivani established a pro bono program at her firm where she and other firm’s business immigration lawyers accept referrals from Kansas City area domestic violence shelters, assistance programs and Legal Aid offices from as far away as Liberal and Springfield, Missouri. They successfully helped pro bono clients apply for U Visas for victims of violent crimes and helped battered women and children obtain legal status, work authorization and travel documents under the Violence Against Women Act. Clients hailed from countries around the globe including Laos, the Netherlands, Guatemala and Sri Lanka. Mdivani currently serves on the board of governors of the Missouri Bar Association, the KBA, the Earl O’Connor Inn of Court, and Jackson County CASA. She recently completed terms as president of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association, the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City and the Human Resource Management Association of Johnson County.
In addition, six Pro Bono Certificates* were given to honor attorneys who are employed full time by an organizations that has the provision of free legal services to the poor; who have made a voluntary contribution of a significant portion of time to providing legal services to the poor without charge; and/or whose voluntary contributions have resulted in increased access to legal services on the part of low- and moderate-income persons.
Eric Hartenstein is a member/manager of Hartenstein Poor LLC and practices in many areas, including business, real estate, family, juvenile, probate and criminal law. He is a 1982 graduate of Kansas State University and 1986 graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law.
Joann Johnson, of Olathe, is an attorney with the Law Firm of Martin & Wallentine, where she represents clients on a variety of civil and criminal matters. She has volunteered her time through Kansas Legal Services and the Economic Opportunity Foundation Inc., both in Kansas City, Kansas. She earned her law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law, and holds a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Tech, as well as a Master of Science from the University of Florida.
Keven M.P. O’Grady is a district court judge for the 10th Judicial District in Olathe. He graduated from Rockhurst University and received his law degree at the University of Kansas School of Law. O’Grady was in a private law practice in Overland Park for 25 years before being appointed to the bench in October 2012. He has been a member of the KBA since 1987 and is a past president of the Family Law Section.
Robert T. Stephan, of Overland Park, is a past attorney general for the state of Kansas, having served that position from 1979-95. Since that time, he has served as chair of the Governor’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, Johnson County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, Kansas Attorney General’s Senior Consumer Advisory Council and Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence 30th Anniversary Committee. Stephan also served as a member of SAFEHOME Capital Campaign Steering Committee, Kansas Supreme Court Access to Justice Committee and Johnson County Developmental Supports Governing Board.
Gabrielle Thompson, of Manhattan, has been in private practice as an elder law attorney since 2007. Prior to entering private practice she was a managing attorney for Kansas Legal Services in Manhattan and Seneca for 13 years, after serving 12 years as a prosecutor.
*Pro Bono Certificate awardee Catherine Foulston’s biography was not available at press time.
Honorary KBA Membership
Ron Keefover retired in 2013 as the education-information officer in the administrative office of the Kansas Supreme Court after 32 years of service. He is a founding member of the United States and International Conference of Court Public Information Officers and served as the organization’s first president. He is the current president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, and represented that organization in helping the Kansas Association of Broadcasters and Kansas Press Association lobby for legislation that has opened court records that had been sealed for 35 years. Before joining the Kansas courts, Keefover spent 17 years as a legal affairs reporter and taught English as an adjunct assistant professor for 25 years. He holds a Master of Science degree from Kansas State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washburn University of Topeka.