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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 19, 202005:10 AM EST

The Marbut Report: Local candidates on The Florida Bar ballot

Online and vote-by-mail polls close March 23.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The 2020 Florida presidential primary election went into the books this week, but there’s another election, exclusive to the legal community, that’s just halfway through the voting period.

Local candidates for offices in The Florida Bar are campaigning for president-elect and seats on two boards of governors.

At the top of the ballot is Michael Tanner, a partner in Gunster’s Jacksonville office, who wants to be president of The Florida Bar.

If elected, he will become in 2021 the first president of The Florida Bar from Jacksonville since Hank Coxe led the state organization in 2006-07.

Tanner, 66, graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and was admitted to the Bar in 1978.

He practices business litigation, appellate law, professional liability defense and election law.

The other candidate on the ballot for president-elect is Renee Thompson, a civil litigator and mediator at Upchurch Watson White & Max in the firm’s Ocala office.

Thompson is chair of the Bar’s Technology Committee and has represented the 5th Circuit on the board of governors since 2013.

Gillam, Phillips seek seats on board of governors

When Michael Tanner resigned from The Florida Bar board of governors to mount his statewide campaign for president-elect, that created a vacancy on one of the 4th Judicial Circuit’s two seats on the board.

Two candidates qualified for election to the term that expires June 25, 2021.

W. Braxton Gillam IV is a partner at Milam Howard Nicandri Gillam & Renner.

He served on the Jacksonville Bar Association board of governors from 2004 to 2014 and is a former president of the association.

In 2008, Gillam was appointed to the Jacksonville Ethics Commission and was chair in 2011 and 2012. He has served on the city Downtown Investment Authority’s board of directors since 2017.

Gillam is board-certified by The Florida Bar in business litigation and civil trial and is a member of the Trial Lawyers Section Executive Council.

John Phillips is founding partner of Phillips & Hunt.

He was selected “Best Lawyer,” “Righteous Crusader” and “One of the 29 Most Influential People in Jacksonville” by the readers of Folio Weekly magazine; “#1 Lawyer” by the readers of Void magazine and “Face of Justice in the 904,” “Top Lawyer” and “Company with a Heart” by 904 Magazine.

Phillips served on the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission from 2015 to 2017. He is board-certified by The Florida Bar in civil trial.

Three seek seats on the YLD board of governors

Three candidates are seeking election to represent the 4th Circuit on The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division board of governors.

Valeen Arena is a 2015 graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Brian Davis.

She has been a member of the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section board of governors for the past three years. Arena served as chair of the Social Committee and co-chair of the Judicial Relations Committee.

Angela Huston Miller is a tax attorney at Fletcher & Phillips.

While attending law school at Florida State University (Class of 2012), Miller was a member of the YLD Law School Division board of governors.

Sarah Morris is a 2015 graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law.

She joined the public defender’s office in the 7th Judicial Circuit, where she was co-chair of the St. Johns County Bar Association YLS Committee.

In 2018, Morris joined the state Office of Criminal Conflict & Civil Regional Counsel in Jacksonville.

Ballots must be cast online or paper ballots returned by mail by March 23. Results of the election are scheduled to be published March 24.

Visit to view each candidate’s platform statement.

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