Attorney offers insight after attending the ABA national meeting in San Francisco.
Attorney Alan Pickert, a partner at the Terrell Hogan law firm, is the Jacksonville Bar Association’s representative on the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
Of the nearly 400,000 ABA members, about 600 are members of the House of Delegates, the association’s policymaking body. Only 72, including Pickert, represent local Bar associations.
He said after returning from the ABA’s national meeting Aug. 8-13 in San Francisco there was a substantive takeaway from the hours of discussion and debate of issues facing the legal profession:
“I think Jacksonville and Florida are ahead of the curve.”
For example, one of the issues Pickert said drew debate on both sides of the issue involved a proposed resolution to support prohibiting possession of firearms inside courthouses by anyone other than sworn law enforcement officers.
Pickert said some of the delegates thought the ABA was limiting the Second Amendment by passing the resolution, but that isn’t Pickert’s position.
“I don’t believe anyone visiting the courthouse or a judicial center of some kind needs to bring a gun nor do I believe bailiffs should be armed. Police and security officers yes, everyone else, no,” he said.
Florida Statutes Chapter 790 prohibits anyone other than police officers from possessing firearms or other weapons in courthouses; police and sheriff’s offices; schools, colleges and universities unless the carrier is a student, faculty or staff member; polling places; public government meetings; establishments licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises; and other places, including where prohibited by federal law.
A resolution Pickert said he argued in favor of and that was adopted encourages law schools to develop “pro bono scholar” programs.
That would allow students in the final semester of their third year in law school to elect to secure an externship placement and provide supervised pro bono hours, replacing three of the five classes usually taken in the final semester.
As an incentive, students in the program would be allowed to take the Bar exam in February after graduation, instead of having to wait for the July exam.
“They have tested it at a couple of universities in New York. The students who participated ended up on average with 350 pro bono hours for that semester and had a higher passage rate on the Bar. If Florida Coastal (School of Law) did that, think how much it would help Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Three Rivers Legal Services and other understaffed pro bono programs,” Pickert said.
In orders issued June 6-Aug. 22, the state Supreme Court disciplined 22 attorneys: Six were disbarred, three had their license revoked, 10 were suspended, three were reprimanded and three received additional discipline.
Two of the disbarred attorneys practiced in Duval County.
• Christopher M. Chestnut, 301 W. Bay St., Suite 1400, was permanently disbarred, effective immediately following an Aug. 22 court order.
In four combined grievance files, Chestnut was found guilty of failing to communicate with his clients and failing to diligently pursue their cases.
• Brett Allen Mearkle, 547 Selva Lakes Circle in Atlantic Beach, was disbarred, effective immediately following a July 25 court order, and ordered to pay $2,500 restitution to one of his clients.
Mearkle was hired and paid $2,500 to handle a business bankruptcy, but failed to file the case or communicate with the client.
In another case, after appearing for a client in federal court, he subsequently failed to appear in court and did not communicate with his client. In both cases, Mearkle did not respond to court inquiries and grievance complaints.