It’s been a whirlwind of a year, and I could not have enjoyed it more. The Section is full of committed, hard-working members who make the job of chair a pleasure. I wanted to take this last opportunity to write to you to provide an overview of the Section’s activities, much of this taken from our Annual Report. I leave the Section at the end of this month in the very skilled and capable hands of Sarah Lahlou-Amine who has been a constant support and has already made great strides on planning an even better year ahead.
Pro bono services. Our Section has consistently provided pro bono services on appeals through our pro bono committee, but this year the committee went above and beyond. Partnering with the Statewide Guardian ad Litem office and with the assistance of Thomasina Moore, its Director of Appeals, Section members provided over 1000 hours of pro bono service as part of a Defending Best Interests Project. The Section’s efforts received special recognition in The Florida Bar News, and the Section was recently notified it will be receiving the GAL’s “I Am for the Child” Award. Section member Joe Eagleton has spearheaded this effort and deserves enormous credit. Thanks to Joe and the groundwork laid by Sarah Lahlou-Amine, our incoming chair, the Section’s pro bono efforts have been included in an American Bar Association publication and become a model for other states. Not enough, you say? Don’t worry—the Pro Bono Committee has recently started work on a new project with the Domestic Abuse Council Partnership assisting victims of domestic violence.
In addition to the pro bono services the Section facilitates, the Section also continues to update and distribute our Pro Se Appellate Handbook. This year the Handbook was translated into Spanish and Creole and distributed throughout the state, thanks to the leadership of Bretton Albrecht and Raemy Charest-Turken. This is a huge resource for a vast number of underserved Floridians.
Continuing Legal Education. The Section’s CLE team made a big leap this year, bringing what was traditionally monthly telephonic CLEs into the modern age and presenting them as webinars that members can now participate in live or at their convenience if a conflict arises. Unsatisfied with having to host a webinar once a month, CLE leadership Chris Donovan, Kansas Gooden, and Amanda Neff also put on a new CLE format, a 4-hour webinar presented with the Criminal Law Section, and a number of live CLEs including Practicing Before the Second District (complete with appearances by 13 of the 16 judges on the Court), Appellate Certification Review, and most recently, Practicing Before the Florida Supreme Court. Their continual efforts make it easy for Section members and others to receive affordable and convenient CLEs around the state on a variety of topics.
Legislative efforts. Section member Courtney Brewer had her hands full leading this year’s legislative efforts. The Section tracked not only legislation but also proposals to the Constitutional Revision Commission, and it even submitted a white paper on a CRC proposal thanks to the efforts of a group of retired appellate justices and judges brought together by Section members Chris Altenbernd and Gerald Cope. The Section continues to work with The Bar to support our profession and an independent judiciary.
DCA Judges Conference and Section Retreat Planning. Every other year, Section members have the honor of participating in the DCA Judges Conference with appellate jurists from around the state. This year was another successful event including a welcome reception and CLE and CJE programming. Next year, incoming chair Sarah Lahlou-Amine has plans well underway for a one-of-a-kind Section Retreat – in Washington, D.C.!
Outreach. The Outreach Committee did wonders this year. Through its efforts, the Section was able to find new opportunities to work with other Sections, and to participate in diversity and inclusion programs around the state. Jared Krukar put this Committee into unprecedented action and put the Section in the forefront.
25th Anniversary Celebration and Dessert Reception. The 25th Anniversary of the Section is being celebrated it in style thanks to the leadership of Carrie Ann Wozniak and Diane DeWolf. We’ve got Judge Scales as our emcee, comments from past chairs Tony Musto and Ceci Berman, and special remarks from Justice Lawson. And then we have An Evening in Paris—mais oui! C’est magnifique! A dessert reception under the lights of a quaint Parisian street.
We’re celebrating not only the Section, but also the contributions of the three Justices of the Florida Supreme Court who will be retiring at the end of this year, Justice Barbara Pariente, Justice Fred Lewis, and Justice Peggy Quince. They have made longstanding contributions not only to the law but also to the community at large.
And we’re celebrating our award winners. We’ve renamed our pro bono award the John R. Hamilton Pro Bono Award, after our dear colleague, John Hamilton, who was dedicated to pro bono efforts and constantly devoted his time for the good of the profession. This year’s awardee is former chair, Tony Musto, who has similarly made a lifelong commitment to pro bono. And our Adkins awardee is none other than Justice Peggy Quince. In addition to all of the other contributions Justice Quince has made, she has been a consistent supporter of and contributor to the Section. She embodies all of the traits our Adkins award recognizes, and we are grateful for her commitment and her service.
Communications. Appellate attorneys are rocking Twitter and Facebook these days, and the Section’s in on the action thanks to Dineen Wasylik. We’ve also got a nice new online edition of The Record, thanks to Laura Triplett, and Thomas Seider keeps a regular stream of appellate articles going to The Florida Bar Journal. And we continue to keep our members informed thanks to Jonathan Streisfeld’s ability to get an email out on a moment’s notice with the help of Lisa Graham, as well as their work constantly updating our website.
Our new administrator. Have you met Cheri Wright, our new administrator? I can sum her up in one word: Amazing! Cheri joined The Bar’s staff in December, and there’s a huge learning curve to get up to speed with an active and demanding Section like ours. Cheri climbed that mountain quickly, and she’s well on top of it now. There’s nothing she can’t do—and she’ll try anything! Please welcome her when you can. Her hard work keeps our Section running.
My biggest fear, dear reader, is that I will leave off one of the many amazing people who have worked so hard for the Section this year and deserve all the credit for the successful year we have had. That includes my fellow officers, Chair-Elect Sarah Lahlou-Amine (who has done so much I have recognized her above also and promises to have an incredible year ahead); my rock of experience, Duane Daiker, past chair; my mentor and friend, Chris Altenbernd; and the ever-entertaining and supportive Nick Shannin. The Section is blessed to continue to have active support from all of its past chairs and appellate judges from around the state. And none of this would go smoothly without the help of Bar staff, who spend countless hours keeping us organized and moving forward. This year we had the assistance not only of Cheri Wright, but also JoAnn Shearer, Dixey Teel, and Ricky Libbert.
I am humbled to have had the experience to lead the Section, and I look forward to seeing it continue to grow and achieve even more under future leadership.