Court News & Notes

Jefferson City Naturalization Ceremony
Springfield Naturalization Ceremony
Naturalization Ceremonies in Jefferson City and Springfield

The Central Division held its first naturalization ceremony in the new Christopher S. Bond Federal Court House on May 4, 2012. Thirty-nine individuals were administered the Oath of Allegiance, finalizing the requirements for becoming American citizens. The ceremony began with welcoming remarks by Judge Laughrey, followed by a presentation of the flag by the color guard of Boy Scout Troop 11 of Jefferson City. Webelo scout, Blaine Smallwood, son of Probation Officer Cheryl Smallwood, led the new citizens in the pledge of allegiance.

Members of the Show-Me Showboaters Chorus performed “God Bless America” and also sang the national anthem. A reception for the new citizens and their guests was sponsored by the Cole County Bar Association.

On June 8, 2012, Judge Richard Dorr presided over the first of two naturalization ceremonies to be held this year in the Southern Division of the Missouri Western District. The Oath of Allegiance, the final step on the path to citizenship, was administered to 40 petitioners representing 27 countries.

Four members of Boy Scout Troop 24 of Springfield, Mo., opened the ceremony with the presentation of the colors, followed by an inspiring rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” performed by Martin Wilson of the Springfield Regional Opera. This year’s guest speaker was Teresa Grantham, president of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association.

On Oct. 12, 2012, the Southern Division will host a special naturalization ceremony at the George Washington Carver National Monument.

Serbian Delegates Visit
District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey (center) welcomes Serbian guests with Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Stewart (right).
District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey (center) welcomes
Serbian guests with Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Stewart (right).

In 2011, Judge Nanette K. Laughrey volunteered to facilitate a judicial exchange with a group of Serbian delegates through the International Judicial Relations Committee. She was appointed as a member of the committee by Chief Justice John Roberts and through that affiliation, she was introduced to the Open World Leadership Center. The Open World Leadership Center administers the Open World program through the Library of Congress. Since the beginning of the program in 1999, more than 17,000 leaders from countries of the post-Soviet era have participated in this program. According to Dr. James H. Billington, librarian of Congress and founding chair of the Open World Board of Trustees, “the net effect of Open World is to strengthen the democratic process in their (Eurasia) countries." The program brings judges, prosecutors, legislators, civil servants and other professionals from the legal field to the United States through funding provided by the Open World Leadership Center. The Serbian delegation consisted of a prosecutor, a special prosecutor for the organized crime unit, a trial judge, a practicing lawyer, the president of the bar, the chief police officer of the organized crime unit and a professor from the University of Belgrade School of Law.

The delegates were interested in learning more about the U.S. criminal justice system in order to make changes and to introduce a more adversarial model. In Serbia, judges run the investigations and decision-making of cases, and the lawyers play a much more passive role. Lawyers complete tasks, but they do not initiate action. The U.S. Department of Justice has helped to change that system by introducing Serbian lawyers to advocacy practices here in the United States.

According to Judge Laughrey, many conversations with the delegates revolved around criminal law and sentencing. Numerous examples of criminal charges were discussed and how similar conduct would be dealt with in Serbia. Based on information from Nenad Simic, Serbian chief police officer of organized crime, Serbian sentences were substantially less punitive than those here in the United States. Although they don’t have the level of violence that we have in the U.S., there is a bigger organized crime presence.

The visitors were also interested in the “checks and balances” of a democracy and how both state and federal judges are chosen and/or appointed. They enjoyed observing a mock trial as part of the Open Doors of Justice program and were impressed with the U.S. desire to educate and interact with the young leaders of our future, which is not a current priority for their government.

The staff in the Christopher Bond Court House enjoyed the interaction with the Serbian delegation. As Judge Laughrey stated: “I was most impressed with their fluency in English and their ability to have engaging conversations with no language barrier.”

Open Doors of Justice

Open Doors of Justice is a national initiative that local federal judges conduct in their courtrooms. The annual event is a realistic trial simulation, and the topic is a new, teen-relevant issue every year.

Open Doors of Justice participants

This year’s trial, held in Jefferson City and hosted by Judge Laughrey, was titled “Reality Check: Sometimes There Are No Do-Overs” and is based on the real case of Sidney Young v. Riley Gardner. The scenario revolved around a civil suit arising from a car crash that may have been caused by texting while driving.

Participants in this year’s mock trial program included students from Southern Boone High School in Ashland, Mo., and Fr. Tolton Catholic School in Columbia, Mo. One of the cast members from Southern Boone was Cesilie Centobie, the daughter of Tony Centobie from the Central Division IT Department.

Students were encouraged to learn and act out their parts. Many of their parts were scripted, but the closing arguments were not. Selected students worked in conjunction with Larry Miller from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Troy Stabenow from the Federal Public Defender’s Office to develop their closing arguments for the trial.

The students also participated in a career showcase hosted by various professionals from federal agencies. Additionally, a K-9 Unit demonstration was provided by Todd Marsey and his partner, “Brava,” from the Cole County Sheriff’s Department. The day’s activities culminated with a group lunch where students were able to engage in informal discussion with all of the legal professionals.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Larsen
U.S. Magistrate Judge
Robert E. Larsen

Larsen Takes Show on the Road

In addition to his role with the Ross T. Roberts Trial Academy (formerly Inn of Court), U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Larsen will be presenting his course "Preparing for the Federal Trial" in both Columbia (Sept. 21) and Springfield (October 26) this fall. Sponsored by UMKC, Judge Larsen shares his insight during a full day session which includes general trial preparation and practice techniques but focuses especially on the process in federal court. Visit the link below for additional information on the training.

UMKC School of Law is also presenting "20 Years of Landmark School Speech Cases" on September 20-21, 2012 in Kansas City. The program will feature presentations and expert panel discussions on Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and more. For details and registrations, visit


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