The profession faces challenges that must be met

by ,

first_imgThe profession faces challenges that must be met Jan Pudlow Senior Editor Even though former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding considers himself an optimist, challenges faced by the judiciary can be downright depressing.“I feel like the guy walking around with the sign: ‘Repent! The end is near!’” Harding said in his keynote address at the General Assembly at the Bar’s Annual Convention in Boca Raton June 23.“But there is something we can do. We can repent. We can change. And we can meet this challenge.”Among the challenges Harding listed: • There is a need to educate those who come to America from other countries about the value of an independent judiciary.“One out of two people living in Miami-Dade County was born in another country. Did you know that?” Harding asked.“Yeah, I did,” said Bar President-elect Frank Angones, born in Cuba.“He’s one of the two,” Harding continued, to laughter.“These people come into our country, many of them have no tradition of an independent and nonpoliticized judiciary. I’ve been told by lawyers and judges, throughout the state and throughout the country, that many of these people have a tradition of bribery and corruption to get favorable decisions. I think it presents to us, as members of the Bar, a significant challenge to tell these friends what a wonderful system we have and how things get done better the way we do it.”• There is a growing divide between the rich and the poor. “We hear that many families making a living wage cannot find adequate housing for their families. A startling headline in the Jacksonville paper just a few days ago said that one out of 50 on the First Coast are homeless. One out of 50! My friends, that is startling!”• County courts have become a collection court, primarily for credit card debt. “Whether these assertions are true, they are statewide; they are a concern; and we as members of the Bar should consider them a challenge,” Harding said.• Eighty percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met, and half of those who come to legal aid seeking civil legal help are turned away, according to a recent report from the Legal Services Corp.• In family law cases, one or both parties are unrepresented in 70 percent of cases. “Even more alarming is that the pollsters tell us that there is a greater satisfaction rate for those who go through the system without an attorney than those who go with an attorney,” Harding said.• A constitutional amendment petition drive by Florida J.A.I.L. 4 Judges “claims to be able to sanction corrupt judges with civil lawsuits and even jail. It claims that J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law) is totally in the hands of the people and is accountable to no government body,” Harding said. “And, my friends, this is an effort to undermine the very foundation of our country and places at risk freedoms and liberties we have been so blessed to have.”In a call to action to Florida lawyers, Harding said he is signing up to take legal aid cases, now that he is a lawyer once again after 34 years as a judge.“I have a particular interest in contributing to the legal aid in Jacksonville. It’s housed in a building entitled the Major B. Harding Center. As my wife, Jane said, ‘It’s wonderful to have a building named after you because you have to behave yourself the rest of your life!’”Harding said he is also going to support Chief Justice Fred Lewis’s efforts to educate children “about our precious heritage of our governmental role in securing our liberties and freedoms. More than that, Justice Lewis, I am going to volunteer the Bar, the whole Bar, to join in an education blitz with you for civics education.”For those who may laugh about whether Florida’s lawyers can meet the challenges, Harding quoted Florida lawyer Martha Barnett, former president of the ABA:“One vote, one act, one person can change the course of history. I thought of the lawyers who daily and tirelessly labor in the vineyards of justice, men and women who represent their clients with integrity, ethics, and professionalism, and who think nothing of it. Because that’s what lawyers do. Yet often these individuals are the very people who change the world.”To Florida’s lawyers, Harding challenged: “You can be that one person. You can join with me to reduce the number of people who are turned away from legal aid. You can be the one who will contribute with me to send money to legal aid associations in your area. You can be the one who will help change the course of history and help preserve this wonderful heritage created for us by our founders. You can be the one who will help the efforts of our new Florida Bar President Hank Coxe, who this year will walk in the shoes of those who have so faithfully gone before him.” July 15, 2006 Regular Newscenter_img The profession faces challenges that must be met last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *