During its recent Annual Meeting, The Missouri Bar presented one of the 2012 Pro Bono Publico Awards to Crista Hogan, Executive Director of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association (SMBA).
Crista Hogan was nominated by Legal Services of Southern Missouri (LSSM) to honor her individually for the programs created in her role as executive director of the SMBA. Crista’s passion for the needs of the community and her unique ability to innovate programs and mobilize the members of the bar as a catalyst for change, has expanded LSSM’s services to its clients.
In 2007 LSSM desperately needed volunteer lawyers. Crista and SMBA board member Brian Hamburg designed a program called Legal Services Spotlight. The Legal Services Spotlight featured two LSSM cases at each SMBA monthly luncheon allowing members of SMBA to volunteer to accept these cases. Not only did the project dramatically increase the number of volunteers, it resulted in the direct placement and disposition of 98 cases, and enrolled 101 new attorneys in pro bono service. What began as a novel way to promote attorney volunteerism generated over 500 attorney hours and became the primary placement and lawyer recruitment tool for LSSM. This project ended in February 2012.
In 2008 the public defender caseload reached crisis level and the Greene County Presiding Judge was given 30 days notice that indigent defendants might be declined public defender representation. Crista along with SMBA leadership met with the primary stakeholders on this issue. The result of that meeting was that Crista was tasked with the development of an emergency program to ensure that indigent defendants received constitutionally guaranteed representation. That volunteer public defender program is credited by the Missouri Public Defender’s office with reducing the local public defender caseload from 190 percent to 120 percent, and has been recognized as the only program to respond to the statewide crisis, including recognition in the Missouri Supreme Court State of the Judiciary address on the floor of the Missouri General Assembly.
These programs have been recognized by the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court and have won national awards, but individually, Crista’s efforts have gone virtually unnoticed. The hundreds, and eventually thousands of people in our community who have benefited and will continue to benefit from her vision will never know her name or have the opportunity to thank her.
Crista has been making an investment in LSSM and its Volunteer Lawyer’s Project for the past 10 years. In addition to the aforementioned projects, Crista also provides LSSM space in the SMBA Newsletter. This free space allows LSSM to recruit volunteers, promote its volunteer opportunities and the overall mission of LSSM on a monthly basis. This opportunity enables LSSM to keep its name and volunteer/financial needs in front of over 800 licensed attorneys in southwest Missouri.
In addition, Crista finds time to represent LSSM clients herself. She leads by example, and her support and generosity has helped LSSM expand its services to the poor.