Fla. Bar Has 3-Way Race for Leader

By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida
By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 16, 2010 --

Three longtime Florida lawyers have filed to run for president of the Florida Bar, seeking to run the professional and regulating organization for more than 90,000 attorneys throughout the state.

Former State Sen. Skip Campbell, Jacksonville attorney John “Jake” Schickel and Tampa lawyer Gwynne Alice Young, all members of the Bar’s Board of Governors, qualified to run by submitting signatures of 1 percent of the Bar membership. Young and Schickel had publicly declared their intention to run over the past year, but Campbell was a latecomer to the election, creating competition in a race that is often uncontested.

The next president comes in at a time when law firms have downsized because of the economy, and some new law school graduates are having a hard time finding a job.

But the biggest issue has been court funding, which has remained low with the sluggish economy. Courts have struggled to keep pace with the deluge of cases pouring in, particularly in the mortgage foreclosure area.
“I think that the issue of adequate funding for the court system is going to remain the number one issue facing the Bar in the next few years,” said Young, an attorney at Carlton Fields.

The Bar has partnered with various organizations in recent years to promote court funding, but with little success. The Supreme Court has written opinions the past two years explaining the need for additional judges to keep up with the caseload, but the state’s budget situation has left little room for growth. The Legislature did, however, set aside specific funding in the current year’s budget to help with foreclosure issues.

For the 2011-2012 budget, the state is already facing a $3.5 billion shortfall, making more cuts possible.

“The lawyers have to get out and talk to the community as well as the legislators and let them know they have to fund the courts,” Shickel said.

Campbell, who served in the state Senate from 1996 through 2006, said he had originally planned to run for Bar President in 1996, but was persuaded to run for Senate instead. He too said the Bar needs to remain focused on advocating for better court funding and creating a stable working relationship with the governor’s office and the Legislature.

“We can’t do anything but make sure the Legislature understands that the system has to work or we’re going to have some major problems,” he said.

The winner of the race will serve as president elect starting in June 2011 and then would be president for the 2012-2013 term. Ballots will be mailed to all lawyers throughout the state by March 1 and must be returned to the Bar prior to midnight on March 21, 2011. Results will likely be certified the following day.

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