It’s where professionalism is cultivated and an opportunity for attorneys to talk, in an informal setting, to the judges before whom they practice.
Circuit Judge Thomas Beverly and attorney Dan Iracki described Thursday’s meeting and annual judicial panel presented by the Jacksonville Justice Association as such.
The association is a group of about 200 lawyers who specialize in personal injury litigation representing plaintiffs, Iracki said.
Once each year, the group’s meeting is devoted to an open forum between members and a panel of civil trial judges to discuss issues affecting civil practice from the viewpoints of the judiciary and the Bar.
Circuit Judge Tatiana Salvador, who joined Beverly on the panel, said she enjoys being able to talk about civil practice with practitioners because “it certainly fosters collegiality.”
As more lawyers enter practice in the 4th Judicial Circuit, both local and counsel from out of town, the faces Salvador sees from the bench are changing, she said.
“Several years ago, we all knew each other. Now, I’m seeing a lot of attorneys I don’t know,” said Salvador.
Beverly also commented on the number of new faces and the need for the legal community to be involved with continuing to develop The Bar.
“People don’t know each other, especially the young lawyers. If you know a young lawyer who’s out there on their own, take them to lunch and ask them what’s going on,” he said.
“Foster the great atmosphere we have here in Jacksonville with everybody getting along.”
Salvador suggested that while most attorney groups maintain mentoring initiatives, working collectively could be more effective to match mentors with mentees.
“We need to come together and create a group effort,” she said.
Iracki pointed out that more cases are going to trial now than in the past, which is causing judges to have less time for pre-trial hearings — an important issue for plaintiffs’ attorneys, since they cover costs of litigation until a settlement or verdict, he said.
Beverly advised the group to attempt to work with the defendant’s counsel to resolve issues instead of scheduling a hearing before the judge. He also said communicating with the judge’s assistant can be helpful.
“Hearings can cancel. There can be unexpected openings,” Beverly said.
On the subject of the increase in technology in practice and in the courtroom, both judges agreed it’s become the norm and attorneys should use it in the best way for their clients and for the court.
Salvador said she and her colleagues expect attorneys to use high-tech presentation aids in court. Beverly advised the lawyers to use technology, but it’s not a substitute for competent practice.
“It’s in the writing and the presentation. You don’t have to use technology to get your point across. The jury wants to hear the facts. I’m totally convinced of that,” he said.
Asked if they have any pet peeves concerning the attorneys who appear before them, neither judge offered examples such as lawyers arriving to court late, unprepared or being rude.
“I have so few bad experiences. It’s rare,” said Beverly.
“We have a great Bar here,” Salvador said.