Camdenton lawyer Erik Bergmanis, managing member of the Bergmanis Law Firm, L.L.C., was sworn in as the 2015-16 president of The Missouri Bar at the opening luncheon of the 134th Annual Meeting of The Missouri Bar held October 8, 2015, at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. He succeeds St. Louis lawyer Reuben Shelton, lead litigation counsel for Monsanto Corporation, as president of the 30,000-member organization.
The theme of Bergmanis’ presidency is “20/20 Vision for the Future” with a five-year plan focused on programs and initiatives to improve access to justice and modernize the state’s courts and the legal profession by the year 2020.
Bergmanis said in its efforts to improve access to justice, the state bar will continue to be involved in municipal court reform efforts.
“My experience as a lawyer and municipal court judge has convinced me that, for a majority of our citizens, their confidence in our country’s judicial system is often derived from their experience at the municipal court level,” Bergmanis said. “That is why I envision The Missouri Bar continuing to provide resources and information to the Missouri General Assembly to assist with the pressing changes that will affect our justice system, citizens and state resources.”
Bergmanis also appointed a committee made up of lawyers from various areas of practice and interests to gather information for the legislature concerning proposals which would apply the federal Daubert standard in Missouri state courts for expert testimony. The committee is charged with examining and reporting on the potential impact if the federal standard were enacted across all areas of law and types of cases in Missouri.
“I believe the need for equal access to drug and DWI courts is also critical in improving access to justice for Missourians,” Bergmanis said.
To that end, Bergmanis plans to promote the operation and success of Missouri’s current drug courts and identify areas in the state where citizens lack access to this type of court, while also studying available treatment resources and funding mechanisms.
“I am interested in efforts to maintain a statewide panel of complex litigation judges supported with education and training, along with sufficient funding to provide adequate resources, such as law clerks and current technology,” Bergmanis said. “At the same time, members of the Supreme Court and The Missouri Bar’s Joint Task Force on the Future of the Profession are working to determine what the future holds for the legal profession as well as provide actionable recommendations for the Court and bar to consider in order to help judges, lawyers and the public better meet the changes and potential challenges we face.”
The joint task force was formed in early 2015 and is expected to present its final report encompassing the topics of access and sustainability, legal education and entry into the profession, legal technology, and leaving or limiting the practice at the 2016 Annual Meeting set for September 21-23, 2016, at Lake of the Ozarks.
Under Bergmanis’ leadership, The Missouri Bar will continue to promote equal access to justice for all as well as strive to share all relevant information to help educate the public and enhance citizens’ understanding of the legal profession.
Bergmanis noted he will continue work on several key initiatives already underway, including legislative outreach, large firm and corporate counsel outreach, fostering diversity in the profession, collaborating with other bar associations on lawyer assistance programs, a citizens’ advisory task force, veterans’ clinics, pro bono outreach, and civics education.
Bergmanis will serve a one-year term as president. The election for his successor will be held at The Missouri Bar’s Annual Meeting in September 2016.
Personal and Professional Background
A member of the Board of Governors since 1999, Bergmanis spent the past two years serving as an officer and chairing several committees and projects. Bergmanis coordinated the bar’s third annual Legislative Day at the Missouri State Capitol. He also was co-chair of the Task Force on Relevancy, leading the Members Subcommittee which spearheaded efforts to launch a redesigned website and develop Practical Skills Sessions which are short, how-to videos for lawyers offering basic tips and techniques on how to handle different types of cases.
In addition to his duties with the bar, Bergmanis has served in many civic and professional organizations. He has served on the Advisory Board of ALTECCO, a mission organization which serves the Amazon region in South America. He is a past board member of the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce, the Lake of the Ozarks West Chamber of Commerce and the Advisory Board of People's Bank. He also is a former president of the Camden County Jaycees and has served as a member of the Camdenton Rotary Club. He also has served as a coach for various Jefferson City hockey teams, including the Jefferson City High School Varsity Hockey Team in 2008-2009 and 2010-2011.
Bergmanis received his legal education at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Accounting and Business Administration, graduating with honors from Drury University in Springfield, Mo., where he was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Delta Phi and Kappa Alpha Order fraternities.
As managing member of the Bergmanis Law Firm, L.L.C. in Camdenton, he represents plaintiffs and defendants in both state and federal courts in a wide variety of cases, including personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, criminal defense, social security disability, workers' compensation, commercial litigation and various other areas of civil litigation.
In 1963, in the midst of the tumultuous civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. – a man who knew more than most about our nation’s justice system – made a simple but powerful statement: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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