In Memoriam: Russell Troutman, Bar President 1977-1978
Russell Troutman died in May at the age of 81 from Alzheimer’s disease. His year as president of The Florida Bar was marked by bellwether change for the legal profession, and his last Florida Bar Journal President’s Page in May 1978 began with “advertising, discipline, and specialization,” three of the pivotal issues that surfaced during his presidency.
Bates and O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona was a 1977 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, in which it upheld the right of lawyers to advertise their services. Russell said that “more blood was spilled over this issue than any other” as the Board of Governors adopted, amended, and rescinded guidelines during five consecutive meetings. He was skeptical of attorney advertising and felt it was “highly doubtful that lawyer advertising will work to the benefit of the consumer” and will be “a monster to regulate.” Some would agree with his prediction.
Lawyer discipline was thoroughly overhauled during his presidency with long debate over confidentiality and immunity. Russell wanted the public to be assured the Bar was aggressive in its disciplinary program but at the same time “protect the valuable reputation of the lawyers who are eventually acquitted.” He supported the addition of nonlawyers to circuit disciplinary committees. “With lay people in the system, public confidence will be enhanced….My investigation [into other states’ inclusion of nonlawyers in the disciplinary process] reveals you have little to fear; but to the contrary, have every reason to believe the accused lawyer will not be prejudiced in receiving a fair hearing, but public confidence will be strengthened, and the image of the Florida lawyer improved.”
“Specialization,” as it was called in 1978, was a program he believed a “positive step forward” for Florida’s attorneys. During his year, tax and trial certification plans were approved.
His column went on to mention the Florida Supreme Court’s approval of the Bar’s petition for the deposit of lawyer trust funds in interest-bearing accounts. “There is little doubt it will create a fresh source of revenue that will enable us to serve the public needs like never before.” The program was a first in the nation, and Russell said it was one of the “exciting things” that happened that year.
Russell was proud of the Bar’s conducting over 60 continuing legal education seminars and credited Bill Henry, chair of the CLE Committee, with the improved quality of the seminars. (Bill would become Bar president in 1983.) Videotaping was implemented that year, too.
Russell was born in West Virginia and attended Marshall University, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1955. He moved to Orlando after graduating from law school at the University of Miami and joined Akerman Senterfitt, eventually moving to Winter Park to open his own law firm. He was a founding member, first vice president, and president of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar and president of the Orange County Bar in 1968.
He is survived by his sons, Richard and Holmes Russell, Jr., a daughter, Teresa Troutman Lind, and nine grandchildren.
As his term ended, he wrote, “I wish I had been twice as smart and energetic and had done a better job. I certainly am richer for the experience and no doubt got more out of it than you did. My reward is recognition from any of you who feel that I ‘fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished the course.’”
The previous month, Russell had invited comments from Bar members for his personal response in the Bar Journal. One member wrote: “I appreciate your frank approach to the problems of The Florida Bar. I feel the ‘average’ lawyer in Florida who actually has to practice law to make a living has been well represented by you as president.”