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Berch, Gallagher receive legal honors


June 29, 2007
Michael Berch, a professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and Michael Gallagher, a graduate of the college and a leading Phoenix attorney, will receive top honors at the 2007 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

Berch and Gallagher will receive the President's Award from Jimmie D. Smith, state bar president, at a luncheon June 29.

The 74th annual conference will take place June 27-29 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.

The three men have known each other for nearly four decades. Berch joined the college's faculty in 1969, and Smith and Gallagher were members of its first graduating class in 1970.

Smith says Berch and Gallagher have had extraordinary careers that have improved the legal profession in Arizona.

“Mike Berch has devoted 40 years of his life to training trial lawyers in Arizona, and that's a long time,” Smith says. “He could have left many times for jobs in one of the big law firms as a senior trial lawyer and made a lot of money, but he chose not to.”

Berch, who taught a federal courts class when Smith and Gallagher were in their last year of law school, says the award is gratifying.

“The award is very special to me because it is from the State Bar, and it is being presented to me by Jim, who was my student in the very first year of my teaching career at the College of Law ,” Berch says. “And to be on the same platform with Mike Gallagher, who was also a distinguished student in the entering class, makes the award even more gratifying.”

Gallagher was selected by Smith because of his involvement in the community and success in building his law firm, Gallagher & Kennedy.

“He built that firm from the ground up and has attracted what I would call the best lawyers in Arizona ,” Smith says. “And he was instrumental and played a major part in bringing professional sports to Arizona , the Arizona Cardinals and the Diamondbacks, and that has been a great thing for the state.”

The President's Award is given to one or more individuals who've contributed significantly to furthering the president's goals and priorities. Past winners include Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, former state legislator Art Hamilton, former Maricopa County Superior Court judge Rebecca Albrecht, and attorneys David Rosenbaum, Barry Wong and Daniel Ortega, among others.

“It's an honor to be recognized by your peers, and I'm very appreciative,” Gallagher says. “It means more than it might otherwise because Jim was a classmate of mine in the first class. And it was nice to be nominated with a professor such as Mike Berch, who has a long and distinguished history.”

Another graduate of the College of Law , Michael B. Scott, will be posthumously awarded the Tom Karas Criminal Justice Award. Scott, a 1971 alumnus, was a skilled prosecutor, serving as assistant U.S. attorney in the 1970s. But he made a name for himself in criminal defense, going to the mat for former Gov. Evan Mecham and for Richard Kleindienst, attorney general under President Richard Nixon.

Scott died in March 1997.

The Karas award recognizes a criminal law practitioner who has worked tirelessly to advance the principles of criminal justice by representing clients of the public with integrity, fairness, tenacity, creativity, brilliance and professionalism.

“Mike represented anyone and everyone,” says Tom Crowe, Scott's longtime law partner. “On the one hand, he represented and obtained acquittals of a former governor of Arizona and a former attorney general of the United States . He represented a prominent chief of police, court personnel and several business leaders. On the other hand, Mike represented the downtrodden and the penniless with the same tenacity and dedication he devoted to all of his clients. He simply would not give up – and, in several of his successful appeals, he helped to make Arizona law in significant areas.”

Other awards to be presented to alumni of the College of Law at the bar convention include:

• The Public Lawyer Career Achievement Award to Kerry G. Wangberg, a Phoenix city prosecutor and 1976 alumnus. Wangberg was instrumental in creating manuals for the major law areas handled by his office, which are shared with prosecutors statewide, free of charge. The award honors a retired or retiring public attorney who's had a distinguished career. Wangberg plans to retire at the end of this year.

• The Distinguished Public Lawyer Award to Randall M. Howe, a 1988 alumnus and chief counsel of the Criminal Appeals Section of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. This award acknowledges both distinguished work in the field of law and community service.