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Trial Lawyers Section’s Teachers’ Law Symposium goes virtual

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Trial Lawyers Section’s Teachers’ Law Symposium goes virtual

Determined not to let the COVID-19 pandemic threaten one if its most valuable traditions, the 5,500-member Trial Lawyers Section has published its first virtual Teachers’ Law Symposium.

Every January, the section invites some 150 high school and junior high social studies, civics, government, history and law-related teachers together to hear presentations from some of the state’s most highly respected judges, lawyers, and legislators on topics that range from the importance of the independence of the judiciary, to the separation of power and the vital role that lawyers play in the system.

The program’s purpose is not only to provide teachers with additional information to use in their classrooms, but also to thank them for the tireless efforts they provide on behalf of Florida’s students.

When the pandemic threatened to cancel the event, executive council member and Teachers’ Law Symposium Chair Paul Scheck reached out to the Florida Association of Social Studies Supervisors.

The result is a series of five video lectures available on an eye-catching webpage.

FASSS president Kimberly Garton wasn’t at a loss for superlatives when she saw the final product.

“This is simply just amazing!” Garton told Scheck in an email. “You, the speakers, and the entire [Trial Lawyers Section] went above and beyond! I can’t wait to get this out to districts/teachers.”

The section laments on the webpage that an in-person symposium was too risky, but it notes that the new platform has certain advantages.

“Instead, we have partnered with FASSS leadership to create a virtual program that we can share with every social studies, civics, government, history, and law-related teacher in the state of Florida,” the webpage states. “The topics were strategically chosen so you, as teachers, can easily incorporate them into your lesson plans.”

And when it comes to civics in action, the timing couldn’t be better.

In the 60-day session that convened March 2, lawmakers will be debating CS HB 611, by Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg and an attorney.

The measure would require the development of a civics curriculum that would “help students evaluate the roles, rights, and responsibilities of United States citizens and identify methods of active participation in society, government, and the political system.”

The measure would, among other things, require the Department of Education to develop minimum criteria for a civic literacy practicum that may be incorporated into the school’s curriculum for United States Government courses.

“Civic participation is fundamental to our American way of life, and our education system plays a central role in preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens,” Diamond said when he filed similar legislation last session.

The Trial Lawyers Section’s first virtual Teachers’ Law Symposium, funded by a civic education grant from The Florida Bar, includes the following presentations:

• How to Start and Create a Competitive Mock Trial Team: An hour-long lecture by attorney Steve Resnick, a member of The Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee and a 23-year veteran high school mock trial coach.

• First Amendment in School Issues: A nearly hour-long lecture by Ft. Myers attorney Richard Aikin, who has represented multiple Florida school districts.

• The Role of the Supreme Court in Our Constitutional Democracy: An hour-long lecture by Stetson Law School Professor Louis Virelli, a former trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and a widely published author.

• Criminal Law in a Nutshell: An hour-long lecture by Clearwater criminal defense attorney Denis deVlaming, a board certified criminal lawyer, former Sixth Judicial Circuit assistant state attorney and past president of the Clearwater Bar Association, Pinellas County Bar Association, Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and Pinellas County Trial Lawyers Association.

• Federal and State Courts and Judges: The Third Branch of Government: An hour-long lecture by the Judge Julie Sneed, who was appointed United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida on June 15, 2015. A past president of the Tampa Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Judge Sneed handled complex litigation in private practice as a partner at Akerman LLP and Fowler White Boggs Banker, P.A., before coming to the bench.

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