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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 7, 202007:23 AM EST

Annual Bench & Bar Conference sees an attendence increase

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Attendees learn about a new standard for expert witnesses, the pitfalls of settlement proposals, discovery issues and more.

By Philip W. Vineyard II, JBA Judicial Relations Committee chair

The Jacksonville Bar Association and its Judicial Relations Committee presented the second annual Bench & Bar Conference on Feb. 26 at the Duval County Courthouse.

The conference was the brainchild of former committee chair Adina Pollan, who has since taken her talents and experience to the JBA’s board of governors.

Pollan observed how Bar associations from across the state were guiding their constituencies by way of leadership, education and a commitment to open communications with the judiciary.

Unwilling to cede the high ground to those Bar associations south of Duval, Pollan created the template for what she and I believed would become the preeminent continuing legal education conference in Northeast Florida.

That template really was a recipe: One part judiciary, one part attorney, one part logistics, one part committee, one part Rolodex and a double portion of time, flexibility and dedication.

What resulted was a set of 10 seminars focusing on the most pressing topics in family, civil and criminal law, guided by some of the biggest names in Northeast Florida, both judge and attorney.

It included a lunch to begin the conference and a networking reception at its conclusion.

With only a few months to put everything together, Pollan and her committee attracted nearly 100 participants to the first conference, not bad for a first at-bat.

My goals as the committee’s current chair were to build on last year’s success and learn from its few mistakes.

Our committee sought to increase attendance to 125 participants and sponsorship commitments by 10%. We surpassed both goals. 

Having focused on attorney “legends” for last year’s panels, we actively sought the next wave of litigators who are writing their own chapters in the annals of Florida law.

We also moved the conference to a Wednesday in February to accommodate judicial and attorney calendars, leveraging friends and supporters to help where they could.

Finally, the executive and administrative staff of the JBA acted as the glue that kept everything together.

If you attended the 2020 Bench & Bar Conference, you learned about the new Daubert standard for expert witnesses, taught in part by one of the few local judges with experience on the subject: U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Magistrate Judge Patricia Barksdale. 

If you worried whether your proposal for settlement would be enforceable, the lunch seminar with practicing attorneys Jay and Holly Howanitz, 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Harvey Jay, 4th Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace and The Florida Bar President-elect Mike Tanner were there to guide you through the pitfalls.

If you have been trapped in a case in which your client was exposed to both civil and criminal discovery, you learned, thanks to Duval County Judge Gary Flower and his hand-picked panel, that the Fifth Amendment is not as bright-lined as you once thought.

The conference also covered the issues of special needs children, business valuations and domestic violence injunctions in the family law seminars, which showcased practitioners such as attorneys Heather Quick, Lee Lockett and Charlie Jimerson, as well as Circuit Judges John Guy and Karen Cole, just to name a few.

The JBA and its Judicial Relations Committee thank everyone who attended, sponsored or served as a panelist or moderator at this year’s Bench & Bar Conference. We could not have done it without them.

If you did not attend or participate, we hope to see you next year. 

And for the daring, we suggest becoming a JBA and Judicial Relations Committee member.

An effective organization relies on a constant renewal of membership, and the JBA and the Judicial Relations Committee are not exceptions.

As my time as chair comes to a close, I can attest to the wonderful people and sense of accomplishment that I derive from the committee. Won’t you join us?

Philip W. Vineyard II is the founder and principal of Vineyard Legal Services LLC, splitting his time equally as mediator and civil litigator.

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