One goal is to promote the importance of judicial independence to the public Board approves three-year strategic plan Board approves three-year strategic plan January 15, 2006 Regular News When lawyers and judges talk about judicial independence, the public may not be hearing the same message the legal professionals think they are conveying.President-elect Hank Coxe cited that as an example of the difficulties the Bar will face in pursuing its strategic plan. Coxe presented the plan for the next three Bar fiscal years at the Board of Governors’ December 16 meeting. The board approved the plan.One of the goals is promoting the importance of the judicial branch and judicial independence to the public. But Coxe said a recent poll conducted by the State Bar of Georgia found that lawyers and the public have different definitions of judicial independence.“One of the things they came to a conclusion on. . . was that the phrase judicial independence strikes a negative note with the public,” he said. “The term judicial independence [to the public] denotes free-wheeling, do-their-own-thing, when-they-want-to judges.”Terms the public does respond to positively are “fair” and “impartial,” Coxe reported.“We need to look at how we deal with the public to ensure judges are separate, equal, and independent — independent in how we understand the term,” he said.The strategic plan, Coxe said, is prepared by the Bar’s Long Range Planning Committee, which is the Executive Committee with some additional members. It has an annual retreat which includes in-depth discussions, with a facilitator, of where the Bar is and where it is going.The committee seeks to provide continuity and stability for an organization that has a different president — perhaps with different priorities — each year, he said. He noted the plan not only includes goals, but ways for measuring whether those goals have been achieved.The plan addresses the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 fiscal years. Goals include supporting adequate funding for courts, getting funding for new judges, encouraging legislative candidates who support judicial independence, monitoring judicial nominating commissions, having the board deal with the recommendations of the Special Committee on Lawyer Regulation, working with the Supreme Court as it considers just-filed recommendations to amend Bar advertising rules, and continuing to educate the public about the importance of the judicial system.Internally, the plan calls for the Bar to continue seeking ways to involve members in Bar work and help them in their practices. That includes continuing diversity efforts, improving the Bar Web site as a tool to help members, and continuing Bar advocacy on core legal issues.