A Year in Review: Joseph, Hollander & Craft 2022

Published: 6 May 2024

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2022 YEAR IN REVIEW | In Omnia Paratus

Back to Court, Back to Winning: Criminal Defense Team Shines as Trials Resume

The jury trial drought of 2020 and 2021 was followed by a steady stream of jury trials in 2022. As jury trials returned, so did Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s characteristic courtroom success. JHC’s criminal defense attorneys tried six cases to a jury in 2022—and earned full acquittals in all of them.

Dustin Curry led the criminal team in trial victories, closing out the year with a 3-0 record. Proving that the trial skills he perfected as a prosecutor are equally effective on the defense side, Curry obtained not-guilty verdicts in cases where he combatted charges for criminal threat and DUI.

Chris Joseph and Dionne Scherff, who are undefeated in cases tried together, continued their winning streak into 2022. This year, they vindicated a Douglas County defendant accused of rape and a Shawnee County defendant facing multiple off-grid, sex crime charges. Known around the firm as the “Dream Team,” Joseph and Scherff have developed a courtroom dynamic that is a force to be reckoned with.

Keith Edwards came out on top in a Greenwood County case where he defeated a felony domestic battery charge. The jury deliberated for less than half an hour before finding Edwards’ client not guilty.

Longtime leaders in the courtroom, JHC’s criminal defense practitioners have always been steadfast protectors of the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers. The results of this year’s trials reinforced why it is so important that criminal defendants have the opportunity to test the allegations against them.

So, too, did an appellate victory secured by Carrie Parker. Over a four-year period, Parker’s client twice prepared his off-grid felony case for trial and was twice foiled by the State’s last-minute dismissal of the charge. The second time, the court entered the dismissal with prejudice—prohibiting any further attempts at prosecution. The State appealed, but Parker successfully defended the order as a reasonable protection of her client’s right to have his guilt or innocence timely determined.

When the Covid-19 pandemic halted jury trials, many began to wonder when—or whether—the backlog of criminal cases would finally clear. Growing numbers of unresolved cases made headlines as defendants waited and waited for their day in court. Now, after multiple years filled with news of justice delayed, JHC is pleased to report on justice delivered.

Personal Injury Team Wins Multiple Seven-Figure, Policy-Limit Recoveries for Clients in 2022

Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s personal injury team continued its track record of success by recovering millions of dollars for clients in 2022, including two seven-figure results for Kansas City families that lost loved ones in structure fires. In the last two years, JHC’s Drew Goodwin and Matt Johnston have tallied three separate seven-figure recoveries for the victims of house and apartment fires. They have two additional fire cases scheduled for trial in 2023.

“Every fire death or injury is tragic, especially when it could have been avoided by safety measures on the part of a landlord, property manager, product manufacturer, utility company, or electrician,” said Goodwin, who leads the firm’s personal injury and wrongful death litigation practice group.

“The families we represent that have lost loved ones in structure fires have suffered immeasurably,” added Johnston. “In several of our fire cases, we have found that cost-saving shortcuts were ultimately to blame. By raising awareness and holding the at-fault parties accountable, we’re hopeful that we can play a part in creating safer living environments for tenants in Kansas and Missouri.”

Goodwin and Johnston further emphasized how unique each fire case is and the importance of exercising due diligence and care when investigating the source and cause of the fire. Indeed, their recent successes demonstrate that attention to detail, timeliness, and mastery of the complex framework of fire and electrical codes are instrumental in building a winning fire case.

With extensive experience litigating matters involving fire deaths, traumatic brain injuries, and commercial motor vehicle accidents, Goodwin and Johnston are quickly establishing themselves as the go-to advocates for individuals who have been seriously injured or lost family members due to the negligence of others in Kansas and Missouri.

Family Law Team Grows by Four

Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s family law practice grew again in 2022, with the addition of three seasoned practitioners and one new graduate.

Taryn Folston joined the Wichita family law team in June. Bringing with her over nine years of experience in family law, criminal defense, and personal injury representation, Folston is a tested trial lawyer with an unflappable courtroom presence. A natural advocate with a knack for strategic thinking, Folston hit the ground running with our Wichita domestic group.

The next month, rising star Rachel Whitsitt set up shop in JHC’s Overland Park office—taking on the firm’s growing family law practice in the greater Kansas City metro area. Whitsitt brings to the firm over 10 years of experience litigating domestic actions in Johnson County, Leavenworth County, and Wyandotte County. She skillfully navigates high-asset divorce cases and adeptly assists clients facing complex child custody and child support situations.

In August, former Jackson County, Kan. District Attorney Shawna Miller joined our Topeka family law team. The extensive trial experience Miller gained as a prosecutor enables her to navigate intense circumstances with ease. Her experience assisting clients in divorce, custody, support, and paternity matters dates back to 2005, when she opened Miller Law Office to serve clients in and around her hometown of Holton, Kan.

Finally, in September, former summer associate Rachel Highsmith returned to the firm as a full-time attorney. Highsmith graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in May, sat for the Kansas State Bar Exam in July, and was sworn in as a barrister on September 20, 2022. Highsmith offices in Overland Park, where she works closely with Whitsitt.

Scherff to Help Rewrite Local Criminal Rules for District of Kansas

Veteran federal criminal defense attorney Dionne Scherff has been asked to serve on a committee dedicated to revising the local rules applicable to criminal cases in the District of Kansas.
Chaired by Magistrate Judge Angel Mitchell, the committee is comprised of federal judges, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, an attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office, and four private federal criminal defense lawyers from across the district. “I’m honored by the invitation to represent the criminal defense bar and thankful for the opportunity to improve the way justice is administered in Kansas federal courts,” Scherff said.

If you were thinking the local rules had just been amended, you’d be correct. Revisions focused on general matters and civil practice became effective December 1, 2022. However, none of the 2022 revisions addressed the 23 rules unique to criminal practice. This new committee will pick up where the last revisions left off. Anyone with input or suggestions on the local rules applicable to criminal cases in the District of Kansas can contact Scherff via email.

Kindling and Bellquist Launch Health Law Ed Webinar with Richelle Marting

JHC’s Anne Kindling and Diane Bellquist recently began a webinar series to help healthcare professionals more competently and efficiently navigate the increasingly complex web of healthcare compliance regulations. Dubbed “Health Law Hacks: Cracking the Code of Healthcare Compliance,” the webinars quickly and conveniently update busy medical professionals on recent legal developments related to healthcare compliance.

Kindling and Bellquist launched the Health Law Hacks series in partnership with fellow attorney Richelle Marting, of Marting Law. In addition to holding a juris doctorate, Marting is a registered health information administrator and certified coder who focuses her practice on healthcare coding, billing, and reimbursement issues. Kindling has devoted her entire legal career to health and hospital law—including 10 years managing claims and risk management for a 500-bed hospital and multi-specialty clinic. Bellquist dedicates her practice to providing licensure defense services for professionals and entities, with a significant portion of her practice focused on licensed medical practitioners and organizations.

With decades of collective experience handling legal matters related to healthcare administration, Kindling, Bellquist, and Marting are three of the foremost attorneys practicing healthcare law in Kansas and Missouri. To learn more or sign up for notifications about future webinars, visit josephhollander.com/healthlawed.

CLE Programs Draw Over 2500 Attendees in 2022

As regular defenders of attorneys and judges confronting ethics and malpractice issues, Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s legal ethics and malpractice group was delighted when KU Law professor Mike Hoeflich asked to join forces in offering interesting and accessible legal ethics and malpractice resources to attorneys and judges throughout the region. The practice group, which includes Diane Bellquist, Christopher Joseph, Christopher McHugh, and Carrie Parker, was even more delighted upon realizing just how far this educational endeavor could reach. And it just keeps growing!

JHC’s free, quarterly continuing legal education seminars covering ethics and malpractice law are consistently approved for CLE credit in Kansas and Missouri, and they routinely draw hundreds of participants per session. This year, CLEs sponsored by JHC drew over 2,500 attendees—the most since JHC began offering the program and a 20% increase from the previous year.

This year’s CLE topics included Defensive Lawyering; Ethics in Hiring; The Lawyer as Interviewer; Representing Sanctioned Clients; and The Impact of the 1918 Flu Pandemic on the Practice of Law (a collaboration with the Tenth Circuit Historical Society). The programs featured 10 different presenters, including JHC’s Chris Joseph and Diane Bellquist; the Hon. James P. O’Hara; the Hon. Eric Melgren; retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric McMillin; Dr. Michael Hoeflich of KU Law; Dr. Freddy Sourgens of Washburn Law; attorney Nick Badgerow; attorney Alleen VanBebber; and attorney James Oliver.

For information about future CLE programs, including a form to subscribe to the email list, visit josephhollander.com/ethics.

JHC and Friends Celebrate Co-founder Ross Hollander’s Retirement on October 6 in Wichita

After the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted the firm’s attempts to properly celebrate founding member Ross Hollander’s retirement last year, JHC was finally able to honor him with an in-person celebration on October 6th of this year. Around 50 of Hollander’s family members, friends, former coworkers, and law colleagues attended his open-house-style retirement party, which was held at Larkspur Bistro and Bar in Wichita. Over 45 years of practice, Hollander distinguished himself as one of the Midwest’s foremost labor and employment attorneys, In 2001, he and Steve Joseph cofounded Joseph & Hollander P.A., now Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC.

JHC Earns Spot among “Best Law Firms” for 13th Straight Year; 14 Attorneys Earn Individual Awards

2022 proved to be another decorated year for Joseph, Hollander & Craft, as the firm and a majority of its attorneys collected a number of the legal industry’s most prestigious honors. For the 13th consecutive year, JHC was named to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Firms list—this year earning rankings in two states, four metro regions, and five practice areas. Additionally, nine JHC attorneys were included in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Lawyers list; four were named “Ones to Watch”; and two received Lawyer of the Year honors. Likewise, seven JHC attorneys made Thomson-Reuters’ 2022 Super Lawyers list, and four were named “Rising Stars.” Each of these awards is the result of a rigorous peer and client review process.

Lawyer of the Year:

Best Lawyers:

Ones to Watch:

Super Lawyers:

  • Chris Joseph – criminal defense – Lawrence, KS
  • Julia Craft – family law – Wichita, KS
  • Kristine Lawless – family law – Topeka, KS
  • Dionne Scherff – criminal defense – Overland Park, KS
  • Diane Bellquist – professional licensure defense – Overland Park / Topeka, KS
  • Ardith Smith-Woertz – family law – Topeka, KS
  • Chris McHugh – criminal defense, cannabis law – Kansas City, MO

Rising Stars:

  • Carrie Parker – criminal defense and appellate practice – Lawrence, KS
  • Casey Meek – criminal defense – Kansas City, MO
  • Rachel Whitsitt – family law – Overland Park, KS

Gratitude for the Past Year; Resolve for the Coming One

We at Joseph, Hollander & Craft have much for which to be grateful as we close out 2022. We thank our clients for trusting us to handle their complex, delicate, and consequential matters with the utmost expertise, sensitivity, and professionalism. We thank our peers, families, and friends for confidently referring clients to us on a daily basis. We thank our CLE partners who have helped us provide free, quality legal ethics education to thousands of attorneys across Kansas and Missouri. And we thank our countless colleagues in the bar for their continued devotion to fulfilling and improving the administration of justice in Kansas, Missouri, and beyond.

In the coming year, we resolve to continue dedicating ourselves to exceptional service to our clients and the legal community. We will do so by continuing to:

  • communicate candidly and consistently with our clients,
  • hold ourselves to high standards of professional ethics,
  • recruit and develop talented lawyers and support staff,
  • provide quality CLE resources free of charge, and
  • offer our clients unparalleled value through wise business management.

Stay tuned for a new and improved website to launch early this year. And be sure to subscribe to one or more of our newsletters if you haven’t already.

Cheers to you and yours for a happy and successful new year!

Our Locations

Kansas City | 816-673-3900

926 Cherry St
Kansas City, MO 64106

Lawrence | 785-856-0143

5200 Bob Billings Pkwy, #201
Lawrence, KS 66049

Overland Park | 913-948-9490

10104 W 105th St
Overland Park, KS 66212

Topeka | 785-234-3272

1508 SW Topeka Blvd
Topeka, KS 66612

Wichita | 316-262-9393

500 N Market St
Wichita, KS 67214

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