Just returned from Naples for the 25th annual meeting of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The foresight of those men and women who stepped forward in 1987 has paid off in spades with the status of the organization within the system, the recognized professionalism of the criminal defense bar statewide and the camaraderie of mostly individualists who defend the constitution daily for different reasons.
The willingness of the experienced lawyers to stand up and give away their hard earned knowledge is admirable. Probably not common in other workplaces but truly the standard for the Florida defense bar. Lawyers famous for recent victories discussing the ins and outs, for all to hear, of the travails of trying high profile cases. Telling other lawyers, young and old alike, how to swim against the tide of public opinion fueled by a media onslaught that may have predetermined a verdict without the full story only available to a jury. IT professionals lecturing mostly tech illiterates on the developments of electronic equipment and services to make our lives better. Having started off as an office boy - runner is the preferred modern term - when libraries took up whole floors of high rise buildings in downtown Jacksonville I am still amazed at how much info is at your fingertips without leaving your desk, keyboard and monitor. Also amazing is the chasm that exists between the old plow horses of the profession and the new young thoroughbreds when it comes to technology.
Like the big legal news throughout Florida of late, the stand your ground law was a major topic of discussion. Lawyers who have litigated the same issues facing Mark O'Mara as he defends Mr. Zimmerman were there to tell all- the good and the bad - of what you face with the courts, the prosecutors and public opinion. When the legislature passed this law a few years back it wasn't seen as anything other than a codification of the right to defend oneself. The talk then was it extended the "castle doctrine" that lets us do what is necessary in our homes when danger is at hand. Few complained and the NRA and other conservative leaning groups led the charge with Representatives and Senators who already leaned their way. A tragic chain of events leading to the death of a teenager combined with the hype of Al Sharpton and the marketing savvy of someone has pushed this issue to the point where a fair trial may never be had. Now there is a statewide panel set to review the law and what changes may be necessary - politically that is - to soothe the angry crowds. Mob justice is an oxymoron! The criminal justice system works and works well until outside entities with little or no experience with the process try to force a wanted outcome.
I was fortunate to learn many things in my three days down south. The sharing of knowledge is worth the trip alone. The realization that this part of Florida is truly God's country was reinforced once again and maybe the pearl of the entire lesson. Glad to be home! Glad all over again to be a part of the best segment of the legal profession!