By Jan Pudlow
From the first day of the creation of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, former Bar President Greg Coleman insisted lawyers and volunteers can’t do it alone, and the “innovative, problem-solving” business community must be involved, too.
When the permanent commission met in Miami on June 2, Coleman, chair of the Executive Committee, introduced the new Council of Business Partners:
• Tere Blanca, founder, chair, CEO, and president of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Inc.;
• David Faulkenberry, president, FBMC Benefits Management, Inc.;
• Cathy Roth, senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel at Universal Parks & Resorts in Orlando;
• Byron Russell, chair and CEO of Cheney Brothers, Inc. (who served on the original commission);
• Lynn Wines, Harvard University, Advanced Leadership fellow.
Coleman said Florida’s is the only access commission out of more than 30 across the nation focused on partnering with the business community.
“We are unique in that we are engaging the business community, and, ultimately, I think the partnership between the third branch — the independent branch of government — and business will create the fastest road to solving this problem.
“I am confident that with all of your knowledge and expertise in the different business sectors, all of us working together will truly make an impact in tackling the access to justice problem in the state of Florida,” Coleman said.
“I know we all share a serious commitment facing the challenges this commission is tackling, which are significant. These challenges are of the utmost importance to the individual lives of so many of our neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. We also understand that access to civil justice is no less important for the healthy functioning of the rule of law, which is a necessary prerequisite for any civil democratic society and any civil democratic government. It’s now our turn to accomplish the task the court has asked us to accomplish. . . . Working together, I am convinced that we will change the lives of Floridians.”
Only Blanca and Roth attended the June 2 meeting. Blanca introduced herself as born in Cuba, raised in Puerto Rico, and a “passionate member” of the Miami-Dade County community since 1979, “concerned with the well-being of our residents.”
Roth said: “I am particularly interested in the work of this commission, due to the fact that a great portion of our employee base faces the needs that are presented from lack of access to justice. I have often had employees in my office faced with problems that they didn’t know how to begin to address.”
Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, who created the commission two and a half years ago, said employers have a stake in access to civil justice, too, because their employees with unmet legal challenges have higher absenteeism and lower productivity, and are more likely to leave their jobs.
“The council will fulfill a very important role in helping the commission develop strategies to inform the business community about how the lack of meaningful access to civil justice affects not only the employees’ personal lives but also their work performance,” Labarga said.
“In short, the lack of access to civil justice disrupts the employee, which in turn disrupts the employer. On the flip side of the coin, access to civil justice can help reduce domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, and the cost of government services, which benefits the business community and all of us.”