Chair’s Report to BOG



The Trial Lawyers Section (TLS) had another productive and successful year, proudly serving its members. The Section continued its efforts to provide educational opportunities for its members and to promote the art of advocacy as well as its efforts to preserve access to courts and judicial independence. A few of this year’s Section highlights are:

Publications:The Florida Handbook on Civil Discovery Practice, a joint project of the TLS with the Circuit and County Judges Conferences, was revised and the 2016 (fifteenth) edition published and furnished to all Florida Circuit and County Judges through the efforts of Committee Chair John Williams. The Discovery Handbook, a reference for Judges and lawyers to quickly access legal authority on recurring discovery problems, is available on the TLS website at, the Section began emailing Monthly Updates to its members to keep them timely apprised of Section activities as well as continued its quarterly publication by electronic means as The Edge. Both of these efforts were spearheaded by Committee Chairs Kim Ashby and Wil Murphy.

Chester H. Bedell Mock Trial Competition:For over 30 years the TLS has annually conducted the prestigious Chester H. Bedell Mock Trial Competition for mock trial teams from Florida’s accredited law schools. The 2016 competition, chaired by Wiley Hicks, was hosted at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach from January 20 -22, 2016. Eighteen teams from ten Florida law schools competed. There were two preliminary rounds and then quarter finals, semi-finals and the finals. Each round was presided over by a sitting judge and scored by five lawyer jurors. Through the efforts of committee member Thomas Edwards, Judges and lawyers from the Fourth and Seventh Judicial Circuits graciously volunteered their time to make the competition a success. We were honored to have U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Corrigan of the Middle District of Florida preside as the finals Judge. This year the finalists were a team from FSU and a team from FIU. For the first time ever, FIU emerged as the Chester H. Bedell Mock Trial Champions. Additionally, FIU’s Elroy John was the recipient of the Best Advocate Award.

Teachers Law School:The TLS, under the lead of Committee Chair Wes Smith, hosted its fourth installment of the Teachers Law School in conjunction with the Chester H. Bedell Mock Trial Competition, on January 21st and 22nd in Ponte Vedra, Florida. This year’s school featured over 70 middle and high school civics teachers from Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Putnam, Sarasota and Palm Beach counties for the two day program which featured presentations on the three branches of government and the court system, the role of the independent lawyer, the right to a civil jury trial, criminal justice, family law and First Amendment and school issues. Special presentations included topics such as Bush v. Gore, the Casey Anthony trial and the Constitution Revision Commission. For the first time this year, the teachers, in addition to observing the Chester H. Bedell Mock Trial finals, served as the trier of fact, rendering their verdict on the substantive issues in the mock trial problem. The teachers raved about the program and their overall experience and were enthusiastic about sharing with their students the importance of lawyers, judges, and the judicial branch in our democratic society. The school has been a rewarding and fulfilling program not only for the teachers but for all of the speakers and executive council members who have participated in the program. The TLS looks forward to continuing the program around the State in order to promote civics and the important role of lawyers and our justice system.

CLE: The Section hosted its Annual Civil Trial Update and Board Certification Review on February 4-5, 2016 in Tampa, Florida for those preparing to take the Civil Trial Board Certification exam as well as for those in need of a refresher course and update on civil trial practice. This year’s seminar received some of our highest ratings ever, with thanks to Ed Cheffy who chaired the program, and is available by online webcast replay or cd/dvd. The Section’s second Advanced Medical Malpractice Seminar, under the lead of Committee Chair Mindy McLaughlin, was hosted at the USF Health/Center for Advance Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in Tampa on Friday March 11, 2016. The seminar, designed for those practitioners who practice law in the area of medical malpractice and personal injury, was a sellout. It provided the latest insight into expert witness discovery, the pre-suit process and requirements, the privileges claimed under PSOQIA, evidentiary issues and both a legislative and case law update. Last but not least, the Section’s premier annual CLE, the Advanced Trial Advocacy Seminar, was held at the University of Florida Levin Law Center, May 10-14, 2016. As always, the program had an outstanding faculty consisting of state and federal judges and premier trial lawyers from around the state as well as barristers from England. The ATA Seminar is hands-on, learning-by-doing trial skills training. Participants hear lectures, and join in discussion and demonstrations. Participants also receive suggestions from experienced Florida trial lawyers on making far more effective presentations. Presentations are videotaped and critiqued in one-on-one sessions. Only fifty-six attorneys are selected to attend and the TLS once again provided four of those spots for legal aid lawyers through scholarships in conjunction with the Florida Bar Foundation in an effort to assist with providing access to courts to low-income residents.

Legislation: In January 2016 the Florida Legislature convened its regular session, after more than 25 weeks of committee meetings, session, and special sessions, in calendar year 2015. The “part-time” Florida legislature became nearly full-time this year. The TLS continued its efforts to monitor and assist in the development of legislation that falls within the three Legislative Platforms that form the basis for the Section’s involvement with the Florida Legislature: access to courts, independence of the judiciary, and adequate funding of the state court system. Section members and the Section’s lobbyist Bob Harris met with Senators and Representatives leading up to the start of the 2016 session in January and continued throughout the session.

Chester Bedell Trial Lawyers Luncheon: At the Annual Bar Convention in June, the Section will again jointly sponsor with the Criminal Law Section a luncheon featuring a lecture on “The Independence of the American Lawyer.” We are fortunate this year to have “The Life and Times of Henry Lee Adams, Jr.,” presented by Judge Henry Adams and William Sheppard.

As my term as chair of the section comes to a close, I would like to thank each member of the TLS Executive Council for your hard work and support as well as that of our Bar liaison Wayne Helsby and our section administrator Chase Early. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as chair of the TLS.

All the best,
Courtney K. Grimm, Chair