Foster-Morales presents awards of merit, special appreciation awards
Outgoing Bar President Dori Foster-Morales has, with a touch of humor, referred to herself as the pandemic president.
Her term started as the COVID-19 pandemic, which had already shut down courts, law offices, and in-person Bar activities, was still building momentum and ended as the legal system and public at large began inching back to normal life.
Foster-Morales used President’s Awards of Merit and President’s Special Appreciation Awards at the Bar Annual Convention’s General Assembly to honor three board members and two committees that helped her navigate an unprecedented year.
The Awards of Merit went to veteran Board of Governors members Steve Davis, Jay Kim, and Renée Thompson and the Special Appreciation Awards went to members of the board’s Technology Committee and the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force.
As Communications Committee chair for the past year, Davis helped coordinate the 20 Town Hall meetings Foster-Morales held last year and the pandemic updates that the Bar disbursed to its members through emails, the Bar News, social media, and other venues.
Foster-Morales also cited Davis’ long work on the Budget Committee, including four years as chair and vice chair.
“As one of the top stewards of our annual fees, Steve’s leadership helped to stave off fee increases and to ensure that Bar members receive the very best value for their fees,” Foster-Morales said. “He also made it a priority to educate the members of the board and Florida Supreme Court about not only the operating budget, but also about the long-term financial health of our organization….
“In all of this, Steve’s recipe for the Bar’s success was to be forward-thinking, collaborative, and inclusive. He also brought some needed humor in times of extreme anxiety and is — and always will be — the consummate professional.”
Kim chaired the Technology Committee for the past year, including convening weekly Friday afternoon meetings to address numerous issues facing Bar members adjusting to pandemic impacts.
That included providing advice to lawyers on using online meeting programs, working with Zoom and Microsoft to make improvements to their conferencing programs specifically to help the legal system, assessing risks to attorneys for using free business services, and preparing “The Best Practices for Remote Court Proceedings” to help lawyers with a court system that switched to almost entirely online proceedings. He also led the work of committee members that resulted in the non-emergency IT helpline for small firm and solo practitioners that is in a three-month trial.
“I’ve been particularly amazed with Jay’s ability to promote and empower committee members to formulate tools and information quickly to stabilize the profession during a time when the ground shifted constantly,” Foster-Morales said. “Jay is also a thoughtful voice on all matters brought to the board. He is kind, energetic, responsive, and results oriented. The Florida Bar is fortunate that he is one of our hardest working leaders and that he motivates others to get things done.”
The committee “hit the ground running this year with an unprecedented agenda that focused on ways to facilitate remote court proceedings and analyze the effects of technology on attorney-client privilege,” Foster-Morales said. “They developed the concept of a Tech Support Helpline and created the remote proceedings best practices guide.”
Besides Kim, other members of the committee are Paige Greenlee, Laird Lile, Duffy Myrtetus, Jorge Piedra, Larry Sellers, Renée Thompson, Greg Weiss, Scott Westheimer, and Tad Yates.
Thompson was recognized for her assistance in organizing the 20 online Town Hall meetings last August and September and coordinating attendance by board members, judges, and other panelists as well as setting agendas.
“When I asked Renée for her help, she literally jumped right in with her characteristic enthusiasm, creativity, and boundless energy. This was a time-consuming task — again 20 events, in 20 circuits in 58 days,” Foster-Morales said. “The members of The Florida Bar are very fortunate to have had Renée serve in many statewide leadership roles since her tenure as YLD president 10 years ago through her devoted service on the Board of Governors since 2013.”
The Special Appreciation Award to the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, which was chaired by President-elect Michael Tanner, recognized its efforts to “educate members, monitor conditions, collect resources, update website information, advocate for solutions, and anticipate future changes.
“Another significant contribution was your member survey and consultations with committees and sections,” Foster-Morales continued. “The findings showed a substantial majority of lawyers prefer to continue conducting routine and non-evidentiary matters virtually but prefer in-person proceedings for evidentiary hearings and trials. These findings are particularly important as the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee proposes rule changes.”
Besides Tanner, other members of the task force are Amy Farrior, Cory Brandfon, Esther Jacobo, Jacob Brown, Jeremy Branning, John Agnew, Jorge Piedra, Laird Lile, Laura Davis Smith, Larry Sellers, Masimba Matumba, Sia Baker-Barnes, and Stephanie Marchman.