Who We Are
The American Board of Trial Advocates, founded in 1958, is an organization dedicated to defending the American civil justice system. With a membership of 6,700 experienced attorneys representing both plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases, ABOTA is uniquely qualified to speak about the value of the constitutionally mandated jury system as the protector of the rights of persons and property. ABOTA publishes Voir Dire magazine, which features in-depth articles on current and historical issues related to constitutional rights, in particular the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury. ABOTA and the ABOTA Foundation’s national headquarters are in Dallas.
The Florida Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates (more commonly known as FLABOTA), was formed in 1992, and is one of four regional chapters chartered by the National Board. Other regional chapters include CAL-ABOTA, TEX-ABOTA and SEABOTA. FLABOTA’s Board of Directors consists of three representatives from each of the 11 local ABOTA chapters in Florida, plus all past presidents of FLABOTA, and endeavors to assist those local chapters to carry out the programs promoted by ABOTA. This article from the Palm Beach Post shares a nice introduction to FLABOTA and our Past President Nancy L. La Vista.
There are 11 local chapters in Florida. They include:
Preservation of Trial by Jury
Educating the American public about the history and value of the right to trial by jury is the primary goal of the ABOTA Foundation. We have a number of educational programs for teachers and students to preserve the constitutional vision of equal justice for all Americans and to preserve our civil justice system for future generations.
There is a tremendous need youth as an informed citizenry is essential to the preservation of our democratic republic and the fair and equitable administration of justice under the rule of law. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer young people are learning about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. In the overcrowded school day, where achieving student goals on standardized tests in reading and math (such as the FCAT) are top priorities, the teaching of civic values is rapidly disappearing.
In 2010, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) U.S. History tests were administered to 31,200 students in grades 4, 8 and 12 across the nation. The results, reported in The Nation’s Report Card, revealed increased proficiency among 8th graders in their knowledge of American History. However, results for the 12,400 students in grade 12 who took the test remained essentially unchanged from 2006. Only 12% of 12th graders performed at the “Proficient” level and only 1% performed at the “Advanced” level. These are the young people who will soon graduate and be eligible to vote and become active citizens.
Professionalism, Ethics and Civility
ABOTA is an organization that requires its members to be responsible for elevating the standards of integrity, honor, ethics, civility and courtesy in the legal profession. Members cultivate a spirit of camaraderie and fellowship among each other and work to encourage and advance members of ABOTA professionally. ABOTA’s Code of Professionalism and Principles of Civility, Integrity and Professionalism provide a guide of proper conduct for lawyers.
ABOTA recently produced an new program called Civility Matters, an effort to promote the first specific purpose in ABOTA’s constitution: “To elevate the standards of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession.” ABOTA created “Civility Matters” with the hope that the program would be presented at all ABOTA educational activities, other bar and professional programs, and, especially, in every law school in the country.
The two Civility Matters publications — Why Civility and Why Now? and Presentation Materials — and accompanying DVDs are available through ABOTA provide all the resources needed to host a Civility Matters session, as well as some guidelines for doing so.
FLABOTA Chapters host and promote successful Civility Matters programs. The programs feature first-hand lessons learned and experiences of ABOTA members who’ve successfully implemented these programs in the past and offered their wisdom during its development.
If you are planning an event, please let ABOTA know by calling (800) 779-5879. We’d be happy to address any questions or concerns you might have and to help you make your event a success.
Preserving the Independence of the Judiciary
Preserving the quality and independence of the judiciary has been a hallmark of ABOTA’s efforts over the years. ABOTA works to maintain and support public confidence in the judiciary by providing timely assistance to members of the bench in responding to adverse publicity, misinformation, or unwarranted criticism of an individual judge or the judiciary.
ABOTA establish guidelines for each chapter of ABOTA to use to provide responses to misinformation or unwarranted criticism of an individual judge or the judiciary. These guidelines — Protocol for Responding to Unfair Criticism of Judges — have been successfully used by chapters for a number of years.
Many ask why the judiciary even needs this type of support. The answer is addressed in a number of different ways.
Therefore, cooperation of attorneys is necessary to respond accurately, quickly, and fairly to unwarranted criticism of judges and courts.
FLABOTA members deal with errors and misinformation in reporting criticism of judges, courts, or the administration of justice. Members make themselves available to the news media to provide information concerning judicial activities, court process, or other information about the administration of justice. By working with the media, members improve the public image of the legal system and provide a better understanding of the legal system and the role of lawyers and judges.
ABOTA has worked to improve judicial independence in a number of other ways as well. ABOTA has urged the restoration of compensation levels to the their past equivalence, in terms of real income, for justices and judges of the United States courts. ABOTA has recommended changing the procedure for adjusting future compensation. ABOTA recommended that the U.S. Congress increase the funding of the judicial system and that there be increased salaries paid to those who serve as judges. Sometimes judges are unfairly targeted for recall, and there have been unfortunate cases where retaliatory physical threats have been made to judges. ABOTA’s goodwill responses often transform a difficult situation into a positive experience.