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March 1, 2011
Trial Lawyers Section hosts First Annual Summit

“Justice — Celebrate, Educate, and Advocate” was the theme of the first annual Trial Lawyers Section Summit, which featured educational seminars, the Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition, and a keynote address by CNN legal correspondent Jeffrey Tobin.

CNN CORRESPONDENT Jeffrey Tobin, left, provided the keynote address at the Trial Lawyers Section’s First Annual Summit. In the center is Cliff Higby, the section’s chair, and to the right is Burton Scholarship winner David Weber. Held in Orlando in January, section Chair Cliff Higby of Panama City said the summit was the brainchild of Glenn Burton, who passed away June 25, 2009, on the eve of his taking the reins as section chair.

“The entire event was a success, particularly in light of the fact that we have never attempted to host all of these events at one location,” Higby said. “We are looking for ways to get Trial Lawyers Section members more involved, and this annual meeting is a perfect format.”

The first event of the summit was the section’s long-standing Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition, which provides students from all of Florida’s law schools with experience in utilizing trial skills before lawyers and judges. Ten different law schools, each with two teams, participated in this year’s event dealing with a wrongful death action. St. Thomas University School of Law defeated Barry University School of Law in the final round.

“This is the greatest victory our team has accomplished thus far,” said St. Thomas Mock Trial President Joey McCall, who was also named “Best Advocate” at the competition. “This victory is truly a reflection of the hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence that St. Thomas University School of Law is all about.”

Members of the first place team also included William McHugh, Lincoln Atten, Bryan Paschal, and Jennifer Pena. Also representing St. Thomas University School of Law were Thomas Mirigliano, Christine Louissaint, Vladimir Larios, and Ramon Crego. Judge David M. Gersten and Judge Rosa Figarola, along with Michael Mayer, Kimberly Kanoff, and Tara Kawass, coached the St. Thomas teams.

The judge for the final round was U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Wilson.

At a luncheon honoring Glenn Burton, former American Judicature Society president and Miami criminal defense lawyer Neal Sonnett spoke about the ongoing issues facing the legal profession. Sonnett described the challenges both the AJS and ABA have in educating the public on the need for a truly independent judiciary. David Weber of Tampa also was awarded the section’s Glenn Burton Scholarship to the five-day Advanced Trial Advocacy Seminar the section holds each May in Gainesville.

The summit also provided a variety of CLE offerings, including the section’s annual Trial Certification Review, coordinated by Ed Cheffy of Naples. Thirteenth Circuit Judge James Barton conducted a seminar on the newly adopted Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, and the section hosted a medical malpractice update seminar coordinated by Mindy McLaughlin of Tampa.

Attendees also toasted Burton’s good friend, Bob Mansbach, the immediate past chair of the section, who passed away December 25, 2010. Friday evening’s entertainment began with New Yorker and CNN legal correspondent Jeffrey Tobin giving his views and insight on the U.S. Supreme Court, noting Justice Clarence Thomas’s ongoing streak since 2006 of never having asked a question during oral arguments.

Summit Chair Bob Palmer of Pensacola said the section hopes the annual event will grow in the coming years “with even greater participation from the Florida Justice Association, Florida Defense Lawyers Association, and the Florida chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates, as well as other trial lawyer organizations throughout Florida.”

[Revised: 08-28-2014]