Russell takes office

first_imgRussell takes office Associate Editor Pledges to fight for judicial independence and work to provide equal access Passionately proclaiming his dual mission to protect the independence of the legal system from political interference while striving to bring equal access to justice for the poor, Terry Russell of Ft. Lauderdale was sworn in as The Florida Bar’s 53rd president. The June 22 General Assembly at the Bar’s Annual Meeting in Orlando was a happy celebration of bright legal stars and the congratulatory swearing-in of new officers that included the historic testament to diversity in the Young Lawyers Division with two minority women in leadership roles: President Elizabeth Gicella Rice, of Hispanic descent, and African-American Juliet Rouhlac, as president-elect.Plenty of laughter, handshakes, hugs, snapping cameras, and well-wishing from family and friends filled the room, but the ceremony was also a sobering call to action at a time of increased criticism of the Bar and judiciary from legislators. Russell takes office • Don Horn “in recognition of distinguished service to the legal profession, his outstanding leadership as a member of the BoG, the Citizens Forum and liaison to the Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee, and for his wise counsel and dedication to The Florida Bar for the benefit of all.” Horn receiving his award from Russomanno Providing the backdrop for his message, behind the podium, a giant screen showed a picture of the Florida Supreme Court and the convention’s slogan: “Celebrating the Independence of Our Judiciary.”“Make no mistake about it, the order in our society rests upon the goodwill of our citizens and their respect for the law,” 56-year-old Russell continued.“That respect is embedded firmly in the perception of the great majority of Americans that our courts are open to them for the fair, impartial, nonpolitical resolution of their grievances. For us to do nothing in the face of the challenges to our legal system would be to risk anarchy. To fail would be unthinkable.”U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson promised to congratulate Russell in person later that evening, and delivered the keynote address via videotape, because he was committed to stay in Washington, D.C., during the debate on the Patients Bill of Rights.“Congratulations, Terry Russell, on taking over the reins for the coming year,” Nelson said. “Mr. President, Terry Russell, you’ve got a major task ahead, as the Florida Legislature failed our courts by passing a bill that gives the governor almost total control over the nomination of judges, and it minimizes the role of The Florida Bar. By allowing one person to decide the makeup of our courts and thereby lessening the checks and balances of our system we jeopardize the independence of our judiciary. Unfortunately, Gov. Bush signed this legislation into law.. . . All of us must watch closely to see who is going to be put on these 26 judicial nominating commissions. We can hope that a future legislature will remedy this mistake before it does too much damage to our judiciary.”In giving the annual state of the Bar address, outgoing President Herman Russomanno said: “The state of the Bar is in good shape.”But Russomanno also acknowledged that “justice was under fire in the House of Representatives. Lawyers of The Florida Bar responded to our call for action, and rightly so. There were assaults on the Bar and vitriolic attacks on the judiciary. Fortunately, editorial boards of newspapers of the state have been supportive to help expose the extremist position of some. This education continues.”Russomanno said it was a privilege to work with Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Wells, whom he called “a fearless leader who faced unprecedented attacks on our court.”The audience gave Wells a rousing standing ovation.“There is a rising tide of judge-bashing in our state,” Russomanno said. “Although not new, it is more vitriolic, more determined, and thus more dangerous, because it threatens the independence of the judiciary as an institution, and equally important, the public’s trust and confidence.”But voicing a tone of hope, Russomanno continued: “Each and every day, we are building bridges and continue to work on that struggle so we will have no extreme positions in this state. We want moderation and respect for all branches of government. And I believe with everyone’s help, we will be able to accomplish that.”Turning to Russell, Russomanno said, “I can’t think of a better person to succeed me than Terry Russell. If I look at the attributes of what makes a great leader, I think of someone who gives service to his community, service to his family, service to his God, and service to the profession. This is a gentleman who epitomizes all of those qualities.”Russomanno said Russell is up to the challenge of defending the judiciary under fire.Presidential GoalsRussell outlined his plans, saying he has asked the Bar’s Legislation Committee, executive director, legislative staff, and outside governmental consultants to begin a comprehensive review of the Bar’s legislative programs and policies to “ensure that our ability to deal with state government is as effective as the law will permit.”Paired with that pledge to protect the independence of lawyers and judges, Russell said, is the sworn duty to keep the courthouse doors open to all who seek justice at a time when, despite the generosity and creativity of lawyers, legal aid organizations are forced to turn two out of three eligible persons away because of a lack of resources.“The legal system is ours to care for, and we must work tirelessly to ensure its availability to young and old, rich and poor, alike. We cannot successfully fight to maintain our exclusive stewardship of the legal system without such a commitment,” Russell said.“I am absolutely convinced that our profession’s tradition of public service is its first line of defense against political mischief. Our commitment to public service truly sets us apart from all other professions. Be ever mindful, however, it is not what we say we do, rather what we do, that makes the difference.”One of the first things Russell will do is sponsor a public service retreat focused on equal access to justice issues when the Board of Governors meets in Naples August 24-25.With The Florida Bar Foundation’s help, Russell said, “The Florida Bar will move forward with an ambitious legislative proposal to bring Florida in line with 39 other states in providing some measure of public assistance for civil legal services for the poor. We will ask the governor and the legislature for a $10-million annual budget allocation, and I am pleased to announce that I have secured both Senate and House sponsors for the initiative. With your help and the help of our 70,000 colleagues, we can accomplish this worthy goal.”Along with noble goals, Russell promised, “We won’t forget that our lawyers have to earn a living, and we will continue our strong commitment to helping them do that more efficiently.”A Technology Task Force will bring lawyers and judges the benefits of high-tech innovations. At the behest of the American Bar Association, the Bar will continue studying the multijurisdictional practice concept and will continue the work of the Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice and Ancillary Business.“Globalization and its effect on the modern day practice of law must be clearly understood and cannot be ignored by the organized bar,” Russell said.And with an additional grant from the BoG, the Commission on the Legal Needs of Children, chaired by 11th Judicial Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan, will continue its work.“The Florida Bar is justifiably proud of the important leadership role it has played in defining the legal rights and remedies of the most defenseless among us our children and we will finish that important task this year,” Russell said.Ribbing Russell The speech-making was not all serious, as long-time partner Carl Schuster, who hired young Russell in 1970, took a few good-natured jabs at Russell’s girth and hearty appetite when he introduced the Bar’s new president, while Russell’s wife Mary Kay and daughter Cristy joined in the laughter.“You can take the boy out of Jacksonville, but you can’t take the Jacksonville out of the boy,” Schuster said, of Russell’s hometown.On the serious side, Schuster listed Russell’s many accomplishments and dedicated service to the Bar.“Terry has certainly paid his dues to the Bar, and he certainly deserves the honor being bestowed upon him today as incoming president,” Schuster said.“Terry is absolutely goal-oriented.. . . His ultimate goal is to leave his surroundings a little better than they were when he arrived. Terry has never considered that any goal or task was beyond his reach or ability. He would always rather light a candle than curse the darkness. Now, today, Terry is becoming the president of the 70,000 lawyers of The Florida Bar.“This would be considered a mammoth undertaking to most ordinary human beings. But in Terry’s case, he certainly considered it a responsibility of his to provide leadership to The Florida Bar when this leadership was most needed to counteract the apparent desire of some members of the Florida Legislature to remove some of the Bar functions from the auspices of the Supreme Court and put it under control of a state agency. With President Russomanno’s leadership this year, and a great deal of help from Terry, and a great deal of help from a lot of other people, this attack was staved off this year. As president, Terry will probably again next legislative session have the same fight on his hands. We can have confidence that Terry will be strong-willed and tireless in maintaining the integrity of The Florida Bar.”Leaders Lauded Andy Leinoff, a Coral Gables lawyer, delivered a poignant introduction to Bar President-elect Tod Aronovitz, of Miami, his former law partner and dear friend he’s known since they graduated from the University Miami law school in 1974.Leinoff recounted how Aronovitz met his wife, Leslee, when she was a 15-year-old girl inviting him to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Before she passed away about a year ago, she told her husband that if he really wanted to be Bar president, to go for it, “but promise me you’ll be the best president the Bar has ever had.”With emotion filling his voice, Leinoff said that he knows Aronovitz will “keep his promise to his Sadie Hawkins sweetheart of 36 years ago.”Ed Rice introduced his wife, Liz, as president of the YLD, detailing her talents and accomplishments, both academic and athletic, since he first met her in Dade City at age 12. He’s watched her become who she is today, an accomplished commercial litigator, mother of two little girls, and loving and dedicated wife (“no easy task, I assure you, given her partner”).“But Liz wasn’t elected president because she’s a great mommy, because she’s a terrific wife, or because she’s an exceptional lawyer. She was elected because of her dedication and her service to the Bar. Over the last year, in her position as president-elect, she devoted over 700 hours of her time to this Bar and our profession. Liz, I’m proud of you. Your family is proud of you. And this Bar is lucky to have you in service,” Ed Rice said.Liz Rice told of an e-mail story with the simple words at the end that captured her attention: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but rather by the moments that take our breath away.”“That stuck with me, and it also reminded me of one of the major accomplishments of this division this year. Through Stu Ratzan’s excellent leadership, the YLD adopted a Quality of Life resolution to memorialize our commitment to quality of life initiatives.”Rice said her goal for the next year is to use the award as a springboard to showcase law firms that have successfully implemented quality of life initiatives in order to help persuade other law firms to realize that balancing family life and professional life “does not detract from, but rather enhances, the bottom line for all of us.“Our value systems are changing, and if we are to keep pace with this fast-changing environment, the legal profession is going to have to address not only the quality of life issues, but diversity and gender sensitivity issues, as well. Who better than the YLD to lead us from an old to a new way? Our board exemplifies this very spirit of new thinking,” Rice said.“I am so proud to announce that our incoming board is reflective of our constituents’ commitment to diversity and gender sensitivity, not only in the profession, but in Bar leadership, as well. Our incoming board this year has 21 nearly half women; eight Hispanics or direct descendants, such as myself; and five African-Americans.“To show our commitment to diversity and gender sensitivity, our board also adopted this year a Diversity and Gender Sensitivity resolution and created an award to recognize law firms that not only promote diversity but have actually achieved a diverse workplace.” “The students say this jurist is cool,” Lawrence said. “And the teachers say this jurist makes the law more fun than it ought to be.”In accepting the award, Justice Lewis said: “I am tremendously humbled. To be honored for what you love to do is a real blessing. I learned a long time ago that it’s not what we say about our children, but it’s what we do for them.” John Cardillo received the G. Kirk Haas Humanitarian Award that “recognizes the unique human qualities that all strive to attain but very few achieve. These include an abiding respect and caring for others, coupled with the ongoing demonstration of actual deeds of legal service with no reward beyond that of the deed itself.”The Claude Pepper Outstanding Government Lawyer Award went to Deborah Kearney, general counsel of the secretary of state, for her dedication to get an overwhelming job done during the presidential election contest.Noel Lawrence, chair of the Law Related Education Committee, presented the outstanding attorneys of the year award to Bobby Pickels, employee of Congressman Allen Boyd, who developed an exercise with the middle school program that used the role of a congressman in the lesson, and Laurie Chane, with Chane & Eble, who coached mock trial teams for many years and worked with the local high schools in organizing and developing local competitions. Rice and Roulhac When Rice introduced Juliet Rouhlac, next year’s YLD president, she said with a smile: “History is being made here today. For the first time in the 50-plus years of The Florida Bar, two women have been elected to lead the Bar’s YLD in two consecutive years. Second, for the first time in the history of the Bar, an African-American has been elected as president-elect.” “Well, we’ve heard it previously, haven’t we? Incoming presidents of the past have warned us that the profession is challenged as never before. I issue the same warning to you again today, the same call to action. Only this time, as recent events have shown, the threat is palpable; it extends across our nation; and our democracy is at risk,” Russell told those gathered for the pomp and pageantry that marked the official dawning of his presidency. Russell is sworn-in by Chief Justice Wells, as his wife looks on. Awards Aplenty Russomanno thanked outgoing YLD President Stuart Ratzan for his leadership, and said: “You’ve set an example in diversity initiatives, which we all embrace.”With that, Ratzan was given a standing ovation before he proceeded to hand out accolades to others.“Remarkably, one school won all three awards,” Ratzan said in presenting the YLD moot court awards of best team, best oralist (Richard Martin), and best brief to the Florida State University College of Law.The YLD presented the outstanding jurist award to 17th Judicial Circuit Judge Renee Goldenberg, which goes to a judge with “the finest credentials, finest demeanor, finest commitment to justice, and the finest respect for young lawyers practicing in the state of Florida.”The most productive young lawyer receiving the Lynn Futch Award went to Kelly O’Keefe, of Tallahassee, who is active in the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, coaches a high school moot court team, works as an intake attorney at a homeless shelter, and received 25 letters of support for her nomination.The YLD Most Significant Single Project for 2001 went to the Palm Beach County’s “Michelle Project,” for providing computers and printers to all 26 “independent living” foster care homes for children ages 16 or 17, who will most likely not be adopted. Lisa Small accepted the award.The first YLD Diversity Award was presented to the Miami law firm of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, which Ratzan described as a firm that “has proven itself to be truly committed to the value of diversity and to see the richness that that brings.”The Quality of Life Award was given to Keane, Reese and Vesley of St. Petersburg. Russomanno presented President’s Awards of Merit to:• Vivian Hobbs “for her wisdom and counsel given during her service as a public member on the Board of Governors, for leadership as chair of the Citizens Forum, guardian of the Constitution and protector of judicial independence for the benefit of all citizens of the state of Florida.”• Manuel Morales, Jr., “in recognition of his distinguished service to the legal profession, his outstanding leadership during eight years of service on the Board of Governors, and for his wise counsel and dedication to The Florida Bar which has benefitted all lawyers.”“I know people refer to my baseball analogies,” Russomanno said, “but this individual had a streak of 48 in a row,” never missing a single BoG meeting in eight years of service. July 15, 2001 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Lawrence presents award to Justice Lewis Outstanding judge of the year was presented to Justice Fred Lewis, who three to five times a month steps out of his black robe and into classrooms for his “Bill of Rights Rap,” reaching more than 15,000 students a year. last_img

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