When I first took office as President of this great organization last December, my primary concern was finding interesting speakers to attend our monthly dinner meetings. I quickly realized that would be the easiest of my duties. Late last year I attended an FJA telephone conference call which included the leaders of local “trial lawyer” organizations across the State. Initially, many of the issues discussed seemed to be remote and of little interest to me, sitting as I was in my office in Broward.
However, as I listened, my concern grew. It was apparent that the other county Justice Associations around the State were much more involved in the fight to protect our clients and practices than we were.
I immediately cancelled my January speaker and requested a panel of FJA leaders come to our first dinner meeting of 2009 to provide our membership with a “Pre-Legislative Briefing”. Attendance at (and feedback from) that meeting was good. I took that as a mandate to urge our organization and membership to become more involved in Statewide politics and the legislative process in Tallahassee. Historically, Broward County was on the front lines of the battle to protect justice in Florida, and it was time for us to take up that position again.
2010 will be a critical, pivotal year in Florida politics. We will be presented with both rare opportunities and formidable challenges. Florida’s voters will be asked to fill an open U.S. Senate Seat, the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office and, indeed, every open Cabinet position. Moreover, we face an unprecedented number of State Senate races, which will be particularly important to our clients and practices. What does this mean to us? Well, only everything. As FJA President Mike Haggard recently put it:
“If we do not participate in these elections in a significant way to ensure victory, Florida’s civil justice system will be under attack for the next decade. The fate of your clients and your practice is all on the line.”
This is not just hyperbole: the State Senate has long been where our most important battles have been fought. Unfortunately, legislators like Skip Campbell and Steve Geller are gone from Tallahassee, and many of our other friends are term-limited in 2010.
Now, more than ever, we must pull together and support the FJA and the candidates that place the interests of civil justice, access to courts and an independent judiciary ahead of big business. Otherwise, candidates supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Medical Association will run without significant opposition. Without our lobby, the consumers of this State will suffer the consequences of next year’s elections for many years to come.
I urge our organization and membership to continue supporting the FJA and take our rightful position as leaders in the fight to preserve the civil justice system in Florida.
Our legislative committee members will be contacting many of you to organize lobbying trips during session. Please take their calls. If you don’t hear from them, reach out and volunteer. 2010 promises to be an interesting year for all of us.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as President of the BCJA. My thanks to our Executive Director, Laura Silverman, our Board of Directors, and all of you.
Andrew Winston served on the BCJA Board of Directors from 2003-2009, and was President in 2009. The BCJA (Broward County Justice Association) was founded to serve members of the legal profession who focus on civil litigation, as well as the judiciary of Broward County, Florida. More information may be found at www.BrowardJustice.net