Criminal Law Section searches for ways to mentor young state attorneys and PDs

first_img ‘They’re learning to become lawyers in their kitchens by themselves’ Criminal Law Section leaders are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic is denying young prosecutors and public defenders the mentoring they need to succeed.“They’re learning to become lawyers in their kitchens by themselves,” 11th Circuit Judge Angélica Zayas told an October 9 meeting of the CLS executive council. “There are attorneys in the 11th who have gone through their whole juvenile rotation without ever entering the courthouse — ever.”The council discussed various proposals for nurturing the future of the criminal trial bar, from improving section representation on the 52-member Board of Governors, to assigning more liaisons to Bar rules committees and attracting younger members.During a brief appearance by President Dori Foster-Morales, executive council member David Rothman lamented that the board has only one active criminal trial lawyer.“Someone has to step up to become a member of the Board of Governors, it is difficult, it is a pain, but it is tremendously rewarding,” he said.Foster-Morales, a former prosecutor, said she first ran for the board when she noticed no women were running for an empty seat.“Sometimes you have to think outside of yourself and think about what’s good for the law, and the state of Florida,” Foster-Morales said.Foster-Morales urged the council to forward any rule change proposals for dealing with the health crisis to the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force.She also urged the council to consider innovative ways to use remote technology.“I believe that virtual jury selection works…I would ask that you think about what parts of the virtual platform work,” she said. “The Supreme Court is super open to being flexible and figuring out new ways to doing things.”Later in the meeting, the executive council voted unanimously to extend free membership to 3L students, and to offer discounted membership to 1L and 2L students.“1Ls and 2Ls are hot to trot, they want to join things,” said Executive Council Chair Warren Lindsey.The Criminal Law Section also plans to send representatives to law school orientations.The section suffered a major blow this summer when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the Gerald T. Bennet Prosecutor/Public Defender Trial Training Program.The section has partnered with the University of Florida College of Law to sponsor the program every year since 1979.“This is one of the crown-jewel programs of the Criminal Law Section,” Lindsey said.Immediate past Chair Jennifer Zedalis, who planning the next program, is negotiating with hotels for accommodations.“The program is integral to the criminal justice system because it represents both sides, and it can’t be replaced,” she said. “We want to see if it will be possible, late July, early August, to have a live program. It’s critical.”However, Zedalis said, if the health crisis shows no signs of abating, organizers may be forced to consider moving the program online.Zedalis stressed that she prefers a live event, but organizers will have no choice if prosecutors and public defenders insist on virtual.“We have to have a backup plan,” she said. Criminal Law Section searches for ways to mentor young state attorneys and PDs Oct 13, 2020 By Jim Ash Senior Editor Top Storieslast_img read more