North Central Florida Chapter

North Central Florida Chapter Mid-Year Report

The North Central Florida (NCF) Chapter of the Federal Bar Association is mid-year in its 2015-2016 programming and agenda. In summary, the Chapter is actively involved in hosting and co-sponsoring events with the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida and with other bar associations in Gainesville and Ocala; it is actively recruiting former and new Chapter members; and it remains prominently involved in regional, statewide and national federal practice activities.

Chartered in 1999, the NCF Chapter includes the Gainesville and Ocala Divisions of the Northern and Middle Districts of Florida. Our Chapter's Judges, Boards of Directors, lawyers, law students and faculty members have always focused on several key objectives - enhancing communication between the bench and bar; promoting practical and progressive educational programs in federal practice; and maintaining close relationships with the state bench and bar, as well as with the UF College of Law. While we are not a large Chapter in comparison to others nationwide, we certainly are well recognized statewide and throughout the country as a Chapter of consequence. For that, we thank all members of the Chapter for their dedication and vision.

My term as President this year started in September, following the Chapter’s "Meet Dean Rosenbury" reception in late August. Since her July 2015 start as UF's newest law school Dean, Dean Rosenbury is quickly establishing her agenda to enhance educational and employment opportunities for law students, while enhancing the national prominence of the state's strongest public law school. We were the first local bar organization to introduce Dean Rosenbury to our legal community and we look forward to maintaining a strong relationship with her and the College of Law in coming years.

We were honored to have Mark Vincent, then President-elect and now President of the national FBA and a senior Assistant US Attorney in Utah, make the trip to Gainesville to attend the Dean's reception. Mark spent the day with various FBA members. Special thanks to Peg O’Connor, Board Treasurer and immediate past President of the Chapter, for helping to engineer this appearance. The national FBA has become a very powerful national advocate for the federal bench and bar and offers programs and benefits to FBA members that many of us can take advantage of, from federal practitioner networking to specialized CLE programs. I encourage any Chapter member who has questions to contact Peg, who is an invaluable resource in obtaining information about the national FBA.

With further regard to the College of Law, the Chapter Board of Directors has committed funding this year to assist students in joining the national FBA and our Chapter. The Board voted last fall to fund membership fees for the first 10 law students who applied to the national FBA; within a few weeks we had filled that quota. Student interest remains high, so funding for an additional five student memberships was recently approved by the Board. Our UF student representatives to the Board of Directors, along with Ron Kozlowski (Board membership chair) and Rob Birrenkott (UF Law School Liaison to the Board), have done a great job of not only helping to recruit UF law students to the Chapter, but also assisting those students to plan and promote their own events.

One honorable mention in this regard was a recent joint program with the College of Law’s Jurist-in-Residence program, which successfully collaborated with the annual FBA Federal Judicial Clerk panel on February 23 at the College of Law. Magistrate Judges Jones and Lammens, along with current federal law clerks in our Divisions and Jurist-in-Residence Richard Clifton, Circuit Judge, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, discussed the advantages and requirements of federal judicial clerkships to a large UF student audience at the College of Law. Hat’s off in particular to UF student Board rep Joshua Jacobson for moderating that panel – no easy task with a table of federal judges -- and student Board rep Marie Moyle for helping to organize a successful event.

From a programs standpoint, we have a straightforward schedule of federal bench/bar events remaining this year. We now are completing the “brown bag” lunch programs with our Gainesville and Ocala Divisions. The first lunch during my tenure was last month in Ocala, with Senior Judge Hodges. We had a good turnout, and the question-and-answer session with the Judge was, not surprisingly, very educational and also humorous.

The next brown bag will be this Friday, March 4 in Gainesville with Northern District Bankruptcy Chief Judge Karen Specie. Chief Judge Specie, a founding member of our Chapter, is a very experienced federal litigator. We will address an array of topics, including the impact of bankruptcy law on other practice areas. There is no question that the Judge is an expert in this field, after her significant experience as a practitioner and now as the Northern District’s bankruptcy Judge.

The Leadership Roundtable, which is FBA Board program chair Stephanie Marchman’s project, is next Friday, March 11. I understand it is almost near capacity, with numerous federal and state judges attending. Current ABA President Paulette Brown is a keynote speaker. Stephanie has done remarkable work for this Chapter and other local bar organizations for some years, and she continues to do so with this Roundtable. The FBA is a co-sponsor with the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association and other organizations for this event.

We then have a spring “Judicial Reception” planned for April 7 at The Wooly. We expect this to be well attended. Our federal bench - Judges Walker, Hodges, Jones and Lammens - plan to be there, and we’re hoping a few of their colleagues will join. This event was mostly the judges’ idea. They enjoy informal time with the federal bar, and the Chapter has always had success with this kind of function. We hope you can make it to this reception. I personally ask former leaders of the Chapter, from Presidents to Board members, to attend. This really will be a “social” – our annual Chapter meeting will be next fall. There is no formal program; no admission cost; and a number of firms within our Chapter’s jurisdiction have committed (and hopefully others will) to help fund this function, which will assist us financially with future programs.

Finally, we have a CLE event planned for October 7, in conjunction with ABOTA. The program will address the very current topic of "civility Board member Jennifer Lester is working with Chapter member Mark Avera on this; both also are members of ABOTA. More details to come, but save that date!

I was the Chapter’s first President in 1999, and things have changed quite a lot since then in the Chapter. Our members are more diverse in practice areas and geographically; the civil and criminal litigation bars are well represented, as is the Ocala bench and bar and the College of Law. We have developed strong relationships statewide with other FBA Chapters over the years, especially in Jacksonville, Tampa, Tallahassee and Orlando. We are strongly connected to the Florida Bar’s Federal Court Practice Committee. We should be proud of our accomplishments, even as we further our Chapter's commitment to the federal bench and bar in the Gainesville and Ocala Divisions.

I look forward to seeing you again as the year progresses. I especially welcome any suggestions and interest in the Chapter's future programs and leadership.

Rob Griscti
North Central Florida Chapter President