TRIAL LAWYERS SECTION REPORT AT BOARD OF GOVERNORS
THE TRIAL LAWYERS SECTION:
The Trial Lawyers Section celebrates its 50th year, making it one of the oldest specialty sections in The Florida Bar. We continue our mission of enhancing excellence, ethics, and professionalism in the trial bar. This year was declared the year of the trial for the section, with recognition through all of our programs of the critical role of the trial in the judicial system, the government, and society. Our ranks include a diverse cross section of the profession, including personal injury, defense and plaintiff, commercial, construction, products liability, intellectual property, insurance, family law, probate, and construction trial lawyers.
Our annual Trial Summit took place in Jacksonville in January for the second year. The summit features two major programs. The Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition brought together the mock trial teams of 10 Florida law schools in one of the nation’s premiere events. The competition took place at the beautiful Duval County Courthouse with over 20 judges from the Fourth Circuit presiding over the mock trials. Judge Brian Davis of the U.S. district court presided over the final, with Stetson prevailing. At the same time, with help from ABOTA, the section put on the Teachers Law School. Seventy teachers of the subjects of history and government from Northeast Florida middle and high schools were hosted at the Downtown Doubletree, and participated in two days of lectures and programs on the constitution, and the role of the judicial branch and legal profession. The teachers also attended the mock trial competition final. The program provides teachers with tools to instruct their students about these critical subjects, and it again received rave reviews from attendees. The Duval County Schoolboard honored the section with an award thanking them for providing this outstanding program for Jacksonville teachers.
In May, the section put on the Advanced Trial Advocacy program at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. This program, one of the first of its kind when created 40 years ago, is an intensive trial advocacy training program for practicing lawyers. Approximately 60 lawyers attend training, with a faculty composed of more than 50 outstanding trial advocates and judges from around Florida. The program also hosts barristers from England, with a Queen’s counsel serving as guest faculty, and four junior barristers attending as students. The program sharpens trial skills and enhances ethics and professionalism in trial advocacy.
This year also featured the civil trial board certification review in Tampa, which not only provides excellent preparation for those seeking board certification, but also offers training and topics for those wanting to enhance their knowledge of litigation and trial advocacy. The section will also host a Medical Malpractice Seminar in September in Ft. Lauderdale.
The section continues to publish a periodic newsletter, The Edge, providing insights into developing law and new cases, the work of the section, and other topics of interest for trial advocates. The Discovery Handbook and Professionalism Guidelines have been updated and remain authoritative resources in Florida trial courts.
The section continued its efforts to monitor and assist with the legislative process consistent with pursuing its legislative goals. These included maintaining access to courts and the right to trial, and the independence of the judicial branch and the legal profession. Numerous bills were monitored, with the section most notably opposing term limits for Florida judges as damaging to the constitutional fabric of the state and a threat to the future quality and independence of the judiciary. The section continued to provide information and comment to the legislature on the potential impact of proposed legislation on the trial courts.
A 50th anniversary celebration of the section takes place during the Bar’s annual convention. During that time, the section cosponsors the Chester Bedell Memorial Lecture and Luncheon. The section is in the midst of another great and successful year and continues to grow in membership, quickly approaching 6,000. We are rightly proud of the section and its tradition of excellence and leadership.
THOMAS EDWARD BISHOP, Chair