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July 15, 2012

Gene Pettis and family
GENE PETTIS is sworn in as president-elect of The Florida Bar June 22 in Orlando, as his wife and daughters look on. “Our Creed of Professionalism states: ‘I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.’ I can’t think of a better way to fulfill our creed than to serve The Florida Bar,” Pettis said.

Pettis is on deck

By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

Since Gene Pettis’ first interview for his first job as a lawyer, James Haliczer has known him.

So it was fitting that when 51-year-old Pettis was sworn in as the first African American president-elect of The Florida Bar, Haliczer was there to introduce his longtime friend and partner at Haliczer, Pettis & Schwamm, the Ft. Lauderdale firm they co-founded in 1996.

“You know about his humble beginnings. You know about his lovely family. You know about the years he spent at the University of Florida, the years he still spends at the University of Florida,” Haliczer said, referring to Pettis’ bachelor’s
degree in political science in 1982, his law degree in 1985, followed by eight years of service on the UF Foundation’s board of directors and his current service as trustee at the UF Levin College of Law.

“You probably don’t know about the time he offered to sacrifice his wife and children for tickets to a game,” Haliczer said, as the crowd gathered at the General Assembly June 22 erupted in laughter.

“What you may not know, but will soon know, is he has the makings of a great president of The Florida Bar,” Haliczer said, saying Pettis possesses a leader’s understanding of his constituency, and a vision about how he wants to address their needs.

“Gene will bring all of the resources of the Bar together for its betterment, and for the betterment of the community at large. Gene believes genuinely that the Bar is filled with talent, brimming with talent.”

Pettis, a trial lawyer — in the areas of medical malpractice, personal injury, employment law, professional liability, and commercial litigation — will be “steadfast in the face of adversity,” his partner continued.

“Everybody in this room who knows Gene better than to just say, ‘hello,’ knows he has energy and enthusiasm.”

A member of the Board of Governors since 2005, Pettis serves on its Executive Committee and chaired for three years the recently renamed Constitutional Judiciary Committee that fights to preserve the independence of Florida’s judiciary. He co-chaired the Hawkins Commission, which conducted a review of the Bar’s lawyer discipline system.

No other candidates challenged Pettis in the 2011 Bar elections. When Pettis officially became president-elect, he said: “Our Creed of Professionalism states: ‘I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.’ I can’t think of a better way to fulfill our creed than to serve The Florida Bar. The reach of the Bar and its members’ contributions to public good is unparalleled. Through my travels across the state, I have seen hundreds of lawyers who are using their skills in service to their communities.”

Becoming the Bar’s first African-American president in 2013, Pettis said, demonstrates the importance of diversity and that barriers are disappearing.

“A key factor to success is believing, and we most believe that which we see,” he said shortly after his election. “So the fact that I will become the first African American president of The Florida Bar will be symbolic proof that we, as a profession, have come a long way toward true inclusion for all. I am certainly not the first person of color that has been qualified to serve, but many of the obstacles of yesterday are gone, and we recognize there is a strength in one Bar, representative of all sectors of our profession and communities.”

[Revised: 11-16-2014]