Congratulations to Thomas Prebil and Robert Cohen on their retirement from the bench in St. Louis County! Judge Cohen had served for 42 years as a Judge – first being elected to the position before the Missouri Court Plan was passed. Judge Prebil tried cases as a defense lawyer, as a plaintiff’s lawyer and then took the bench for many years as well.
Both are shining examples of what lawyers and judges should be: compassion for the citizens, companies, and other entities that come before them, hard work ethic and drive to mete out fair justice. Both worked from law school to retirement without missing a beat.
Gary Burger had the good fortune of having Judge Prebil as a mentor in his first years of practice. He taught Gary how to zealously litigate and be a gentleman while doing so. Judge Prebil second chaired Gary in his first jury trial and major verdict. Together, they obtained a strong compensatory and punitive damage verdict and kept it on appeal (including to the Missouri Supreme Court). The insurance company denied the claim in bad faith, and they collected over $1 Million on a $500,000 policy for our client Evelyn Goodlow. As serious as the practice of law can be, Tom always found the right time to chuckle.
Gary Burger was lucky to try two cases before Judge Cohen in his last six months. Judge Cohen is working and trying cases to the very last day he is on the bench – no shirking. In his last trial in front of him four weeks ago, we were the only jury trial going that week in the St. Louis County courthouse.
Gary Burger’s second favorite part about being in front of Judge Cohen is that he argues both sides of any issue. If you argue a matter before him, he will set forth the legal rational on both sides of the argument. Mr. Burger you would say this, this, and this in support of your argument and I suppose the defense would say this, this, and that, and then your response would be this. Is there anything to add? And then both lawyers would sit there and say “uh no you basically said it better than we would have”, and then he rules.
It becomes obvious he has done this before. But, it is never condescending to you or dismissive in any way. He synthesizes your case better than you can – Gary Burger asked Judge Cohen to close for him the last trial (but so did opposing counsel).