2020-2021 President's Welcome

Chief Judge Nelly Khouzam

I am truly honored to be President of FLABOTA during 2020/2021. I have been a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter since 1988 and continue to be grateful to be a part of such a dedicated group that exemplifies Civility and Professionalism in the practice of law. Now more than ever during these trying times, it is important to highlight the mission of FLABOTA to preserve the right to jury trial in civil cases as guaranteed by the 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, promote professionalism and civility in the practice of law, and protect the independence of the judiciary so that it is free from political influence.

I am proud that many chapters continue to pursue this mission by having programs such as The Teachers' Law School, Otis Lecture series, the 7th Amendment Symposium, and Professionalism programs for civil and criminal trial lawyers. I am also grateful for the efforts that have been made to defend our judges against unfair criticism in the media as well as to support the judiciary and our legal system through legislative efforts and other outreach.

I will be reaching out to our eleven FLABOTA chapters to share ideas and to keep the lines of communication open. While there are significant challenges resulting from the pandemic, it is important that we continue our work to the extent possible. I plan to follow Scott Costantino's practice of sending out email newsletters to keep everyone informed. The newsletter will contain different segments that I hope will be informative, such as important information from each chapter, from our judiciary, and from National ABOTA, and I will occasionally highlight a member who has gone above and beyond in pursuing ABOTA's mission. We have a great team with Joe Kalbac as President-elect and Raul Alvarez as Treasurer, along with a very engaged executive board.

I am also excited to let you know that FLABOTA for the first time will have a Statewide Membership Committee Chair to work with the individual Florida chapters to promote new membership. Rebecca Brock has graciously agreed to take on this role. Rebecca understands the need, she is a dynamic individual, and she has the leadership qualities that will make this successful.

Finally, I am hoping to spark involvement and leadership interest from those of you who have not gotten involved in the past. One of the ways to get involved is to attend the 2020 FLABOTA Fall Retreat at the Renaissance World Golf Village in St. Augustine, from Friday, October 23rd - Sunday October 25. Kelly Karstaedt did an amazing job getting a room rate for only $179 per night. As I write this, I am hopeful the retreat will take place as scheduled, but we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will, of course, do whatever is best under the circumstances.

Because we had to cancel our annual meeting in July, we will be giving out the annual awards in October. I am pleased to announce that the Jurist of the Year award will go to Judge Bertila Soto, the Trial Lawyer of the Year award to Mr. Lou La Cava, the Fran Peacock Coker Community Service Award to Judge Patricia Seitz, and the Joseph P. Milton Professionalism and Civility Award to Mr. Chris Schulte. All indicated they will attend the meeting in October. In addition, our National ABOTA President Luther Battiste and other national ABOTA leaders indicated that they will also attend. This will be a great opportunity for you to come and meet your colleagues and make new friends especially since this meeting will be in Florida for the first time that I can recall (in the past it has taken place in Cashiers, NC). Again, Kelly and I will continue to monitor the situation involving the pandemic and will remain optimistic that the meeting can proceed as scheduled.

Feel free to reach out to me with any suggestions or concerns; my "door" is always open. Thank you again for allowing me to serve as President during the next 12 months. It is a privilege to be working with all of you, and I am looking forward to a great year!

Chief Judge Nelly Khouzam
FLABOTA President

 


 

History

In 1957, the American jury system was under fierce attack by the press, legislators, judges and scholars. California’s Governor, Edmund “Pat” Brown, suggested a commission to hear workers’ compensation, liability and other civil cases. It was this dark cloud – the potential death sentence for the civil jury system – that provided the seeds for the birth of the American Board of Trial Advocates. A handful of young lawyers began an organization (ABOTA) that was “revolutionary,” according to most of their elders. The same forces are at work today as they were in the late 1950′s – some people continue to attempt to dismantle the civil jury system in our country — and the attacks are far less subtle.

The preservation of the civil jury trial, “Justice by the People,” is the primary purpose of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We seek attorneys who display skill, civility and integrity, to help younger attorneys achieve a higher level of trial advocacy and to educate the public about the vital importance of the Seventh Amendment. Thomas Jefferson was of the opinion that the right to trial by a jury of fellow citizens was a more important safeguard of personal liberty than even the right to vote. With a jury, the rights and duties of each of us will be decided by our fellow citizens, not by a bureaucrat or governmental functionary. ABOTA embraces this philosophy of Jefferson and is a leader in the fight to preserve and protect the rights of every American to a jury trial. ABOTA is dedicated to “Justice by the People.”



This documents the video history of FLABOTA since its inception in 1992. Past President Josh Whitman engaged Video Law Services to interview past presidents of FLABOTA, leaders of ABOTA National and others to chronicle FLABOTA’s history, and the excellent video here, is the result.