Graves, Martin honored with “Legal Champion” award for role in high-profile municipal bond litigation

Graves Garrett is pleased to announce Missouri Lawyers Weekly recently named partners Todd Graves and Dane Martin Legal Champion honorees in the 2021 Missouri Lawyers Awards. Legal Champion honors go to lawyers “not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.”

Graves and Martin were featured in a profile in a special section of Missouri Lawyers Weekly and recognized during a virtual ceremony Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, for their work in keeping millions of dollars in taxpayer money from flowing to a Platte County shopping district.

In late August, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District affirmed a judgment in favor of Platte County, a Graves Garrett client, in a lawsuit against UMB Bank, N.A., the trustee for bonds issued by a third party for the Zona Rosa shopping district. The Missouri Supreme Court later denied a request to hear an appeal, effectively ending the litigation and setting a precedent that Platte County was not legally obligated to pay shortfalls in pay shortfalls on the Zona Rosa Bonds.

Platte County filed the lawsuit after the Trustee threatened to sue it for non-payment.

“A lot of times, it is a situation where people don’t know that they have a decision to make,” Martin said in the article. “They feel like they just have to pay it. One thing that this litigation clarified is that that’s not always the case.”

Graves also noted how the municipal bond finance bar is a tightknit group.

“Many times, no one wants to step outside that [group],” he told Missouri Lawyers Weekly. “We came in this as litigators, not as members of the municipal finance bar, so we’re willing to challenge the hierarchy. And in the past, I would say that the trustees and bondholders have bullied many municipalities and political subdivisions into paying when they weren’t required to. We’ve sort of broken that chokehold.”

To read the full article from this week’s special section of Missouri Lawyers Weekly, please click here (subscription required).