by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
There was a lot on the plate at the latest luncheon of The Jacksonville Bar Association.
The Wednesday luncheon at the Hyatt was packed with a holiday project update, an award for a local legislator and guest speaker Mayanne Downs, The Florida Bar president.
“Our goal is to reach out to 450 seniors who are served by the Meals on Wheels program and provide them with gifts this holiday season,” said Rose Marie Preddy, The JBA Holiday Project chair.
JBA President Courtney Grimm talked about the personal connections that are made through the program.
“It’s a great feeling to show up on the doorstep and give a gift to a person who may not have gotten one otherwise,” said Grimm.
A special presentation was also made to State Rep. Charles McBurney during the luncheon.
“In 2005 the American Bar Association, and, subsequently, The Florida Bar, surveyed adults to find out what Americans, especially Floridians, knew about their government,” said Noel Lawrence, president of the Florida Law Related Education Association. “About one-third of Americans could not identify even one of the three branches of government.”
McBurney cosponsored the Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act in the Florida House, which requires Florida students starting middle school in the 2012-13 school year to take a semester-long civics class, with 7th graders completing a civics course and 8th graders passing a statewide standardized civics test to be promoted to high school.
“One of the inspirations for me pursuing this is The Florida Bar survey revealed 40 percent of Floridians can’t tell you what the three branches of government are,” said McBurney. “I would urge you as members of our profession to be leaders in the area of civic education. It is necessary ... to preserve our republic.”
The Florida Bar President Mayanne Downs followed the presentation with a speech regarding issues such as the Bar’s efforts to research the decline of jury trials.
“It’s a very complex subject, very interesting,” said Downs. “I don’t know if there is anything we can do about the decline in jury trials, nor should do. I don’t know the answer. I just wanted to get some smart people together to think about it.”
Downs also mentioned the need for the membership to be involved with improving the perception of the profession and the legal system.
“Each one of us has the ability to move that needle on perception,” said Downs. “It’s the services we provide to our clients, taking the opportunity to tell your clients about the difficulty this state faces. You can tell clients that the judges they are waiting to get a hearing from have to deal with 31 percent more cases with 11 percent fewer judges.
“Each and every one of us can advance the perception of the profession by what we do every single day,” said Downs.