Diversity Update

Hispanic Heritage Month Attorney Spotlight

Meet Stephanie Lopez!

Stephanie Lopez is a senior public defender II in the Kansas City Trial Office, and she has been a PD for 13 years. Before attending University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, where her favorite classes were applied evidence and consumer protection, Stephanie worked as a paralegal in the areas of family law and contracts. Stephanie loves criminal law because she believes in rooting for the underdog and protecting her clients' constitutional rights by keeping the government in check.

When asked what keeps her motivated to fight for her clients, Stephanie says, "A member of my family was represented by my office and the repercussions of the criminal legal system affected the path of my life. I understand and can relate to our clients on a personal level and know what they are going through and fight for them to have a better chance." Stephanie backs that up with her trial work. This past March, she won a not guilty on a five count case that included a count of assault in the first degree, and the case was prosecuted by the attorney general's office. Additionally, she had a murder case overturned on appeal last year, State v. Tyler Gates, 635 SW3d 854 (Mo. en banc 2021).

When Stephanie is not defending her clients in court, she hangs out with her kids, listens to music and takes walks. She and her family enjoy going to beaches when they can, and like just spending time together. Stephanie says that hard work and family are central to Hispanic values and culture. When asked how we can support our Hispanic colleagues, she gives sound advice. "Individuals can honor Hispanic clients and colleagues just by educating themselves about the contributions and impact that our culture has had in the United States. As with every culture, everyone is different. Individuals can have a stereotype in their head that gets placed on our clients. I recently had this experience at a national training where a faculty member informed me that maybe I should rethink the way I spoke because I didn't appear to be Hispanic.

Don't assume we look a certain way, that we just crossed the border and that we all speak Spanish."

I asked Stephanie what advice she can give to new lawyers and core staff just starting out in public defense. She states, "Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you are trying to fight the world. Don’t be afraid to go to trial and hype music is essential." I agree!

Thank you for all you do for your clients, Stephanie! MSPD is lucky to have you on our team!

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