Five Questions

Springfield Business Journal (Tuesday, July 27, 2010)

On June 25, 2010, Robert Palmer began his term as President of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. Palmer, who is the first Springfield President of MATA since 1994, has been practicing for 28 years. He said MATA works to protect the civil justice system, the Missouri nonpartisan court system and victims rights.

Q:  You’re one of the founders of The Law Offices of PalmerOliver. What type of work do you do?
A: I set up my practice, which was primarily a plaintiff’s practice, with a heavy emphasis in product liability litigation and large catastrophic loss cases. Most of my cases, though not all, have involved cars and trucks.
You’ve heard about the Firestone tire thing, when roofs crush, car seatbelts fail, airbags don’t work when they’re supposed to, that has been the primary focus of my practice. So I’ve done farm equipment and all other kinds of (cases) as well, and I’ve also done personal injury work.


Q: What is your role as president of MATA?
A: I’ll be heading up the drive to continue to protect the Missouri Court Plan, to continue the high level of our educational opportunities, to increase membership and to work with the Missouri legislature to defend Missouri’s citizens’ rights and access to the courts.

Q: One of the issues MATA has been involved with recently is preserving the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, also known as the Missouri Court Plan. What is the plan, and what was at stake?
A: The Missouri Court Plan is designed to take politics out of the selection of judges. You have a seven-member panel. … They go through all the candidates, interview them and then they select the three best, in their opinion, and submit those three names to the governor (who) selects the finalists. … (A ballot petition drive pushed) to go to an elected system, like they have in Mississippi or Illinois. I don’t know if you’ve ever traveled in Illinois; it’s very disgusting, they have all of those billboards up and these guys have to raise millions of dollars to get elected to these judicial positions. ... Businesses don’t like having elections either, it’s not just citizens. Actually – and you may not know this – but most litigation in our country is not someone suing because they got in a car accident. Excluding divorces and criminals, it’s mostly businesses suing other businesses, and they want to be sure that the judges are fair and not just ruling a certain way because someone gave them a lot of money.

Q: What are some key issues facing trial attorneys today?
A: Well, I could give you a whole speech on that, but one thing that’s happening, as you know, is that budget cutbacks in Jefferson City are hurting the administration of justice across the state. It’s hurting judges because they haven’t been getting pay raises in five or 10 years. They’re having to cut staff. It’s taking much longer to get to a jury trial, so that’s a big issue that’s confronting all of us across the state.

Q: How often do you hear jokes about sharing a name with the musician, and what’s your favorite comeback?
A: I hear that all the time. In fact, it’s weird, I’ve actually had a couple of hotel clerks, and this is a couple of years ago, who actually asked me if I was the Robert Palmer. I always say, ‘Yes I am, but the one you’re thinking about is dead.’ I always kid about (having) the girls in black behind me. It’s really weird, though, because he was exactly my age.