By Brittany Ruess
As she meets with her newest client in jail, Amy Lorenz-Moser, gets a phone call. She ignores it. It can wait.
Lorenz-Moser, a Webster 1997 alumna, was meeting with a victim of domestic violence who murdered her abuser. The call was from Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly to tell her she is the 2010 Missouri Lawyer of the Year.
Lorenz-Moser, 35, is a lawyer for Armstrong-Teasdale, specializing in complex injury-product defense, including product liability. On the side, she defends domestic violence victims who murdered their abusers on a pro bono basis.
“My favorite part of my practice is product defense,” Lorenz-Moser said. “I love my business clients, but nobody needs you like somebody in jail.”
On Oct. 15, 2010, two of her domestic violence clients, Carlene Borden and Vicky Williams, were released from jail after 32 years. Both were sentenced in the 1970s, a time when self-defense and Battered Women’s Syndrome were not defenses for murder. In the case of Borden, Lorenz-Moser said, the legal system failed.
Borden went into hiding and filed to divorce her abusive husband, but eventually he found her with help from a private investigator and threatened to kill her if she didn’t come back to him. Borden dismissed the divorce case. When Borden couldn’t take the abuse any longer, she killed him.
“Carlene’s lawyer was her husband’s divorce attorney,” Lorenz-Moser said. “She said this was a conflict of interest but wasn’t given another choice. Her lawyer didn’t file any motions; basically, he did nothing to dismiss the case.”
Borden was convicted to a life sentence without the possibility for parole for 50 years, and appealed.
“She said look, my lawyer did a bad job,” Lorenz-Moser said. “Ineffective assistance of counsel, basically my lawyer screwed up.”
Then, Borden’s lawyer for her appeal was her defense attorney’s law partner.
“It was a really sad situation,” Lorenz-Moser said. “You hear these things and you just can’t believe it.”
When both women were released, Lorenz-Moser described it as surreal — a moment these women waited three decades for.
“I gotta tell you, there were a lot of times throughout this process that everyone felt like giving up but you just can’t,” Lorenz-Moser said. “When someone is in jail, every day is a day they aren’t living their life. And so you just can’t give up. Bar none.”
Anne Geraghty-Rathert, a legal studies professor, taught Lorenz-Moser in four classes and admires her pro bono work.
“What is really amazing about her pro bono work is her complete unwillingness to never give up, no matter what the odds were,” Geraghty-Rathert said. “She is an extremely creative person, and I think she put that to work to break down what would normally be complete barriers to the outcome she achieved for these women.”
Lorenz-Moser, also a mother of two girls, said balancing her work for Armstrong-Teasdale, her pro bono work and motherhood is a daily challenge. As a lawyer and mother, Geraghty-Rathert understands Lorenz-Moser’s struggle.
“I told her that this award proves that she is an excellent example of a woman who fights for other women, and that makes her both an incredible lawyer and an incredible mother,” Geraghty-Rathert said.
When Lorenz-Moser was asked to come work for Armstrong-Teasdale, she and her husband Mike Moser decided he would be a stay at home father.
“Mike’s wonderful, but you know, I always wish I could do more for my daughters,” Lorenz-Moser said. “Somebody once told me, and it’s kind of true, that when you’re a mom and lawyer that at the end of the day, you either feel like you’ve been a good lawyer or you’ve been a good mom. But, very few days you feel like you’ve been both.”