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Chair's Message

Summer 2014

It's Been A Wonderful Year, Here's To The Road Ahead

Jack R. Reiter
Caryn Bellus

The year that I have been Section Chair has flown by, and I can hardly believe that this amazing year is now drawing to a close. I want to thank all of the Appellate Practice Section's judicial liaisons, committee chairs, editors, officers, executive council members, and Section members who devote their time, brilliance, and energy to develop and coordinate all of the Section's programs, events, and publications. Each of you ensure that the Section remains a vital part of The Florida Bar and continues in its mission to promote excellence and professionalism in appellate practice.


The Appellate Practice Section began the year at the Annual Convention of The Florida Bar in June 2013 with a wonderful celebration of its 20th anniversary. The Section hosted several memorable celebratory events, including an anniversary dinner to commemorate the Section's work over the past 20 years. The keynote speaker, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, delivered remarks to a packed house of appellate practitioners and judges, providing insight into the importance of appellate practice and the Section's work. Founding members of the Section regaled the audience with the history of the Section. Later in the evening, the Section held its signature dessert reception with the theme "Great Gatsby Gala." The ballroom was transformed into a speakeasy where practitioners and judges became a crowd of flappers and men in fedoras, celebrating the Section's entry into its "Roaring 20s."

The annual events mixed important business with the festivities. The Section's executive council met to continue planning for the Section's future, and the Section hosted another of its signature events, a discussion with the Florida Supreme Court justices following the final round of the Robert Orseck Memorial Moot Court Competition. Over the past few years, this discussion with the court has become a highlight of the annual convention. It provides practitioners and law students with the unique opportunity to ask questions of the justices, after which the court announces the winning moot court team. We again thank the justices of the Florida Supreme Court and the Young Lawyers Division for participating in this annual event.

This year, the Section focused on mentoring and expanding its membership with new and diverse practitioners. In July, the Section made presentations at the William Reece Smith, Jr., Bar Leadership Academy Fellow meetings and encouraged the Fellows to participate in the Section. The Section also continued to grow its Outreach Committee and interact with other sections of The Florida Bar, as well as with the local and appellate bar organizations. We appointed more than 30 liaisons to help ensure the Section remains involved in both statewide and local legal communities.

In September, the Section was honored to once again participate in the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges. The conference took place in Ft. Myers and was attended by more than 45 appellate practitioners. On the first evening of the conference, the Section hosted a reception that was attended by Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court. Over the next day and a half, Florida Supreme Court justices, Florida's appellate judges, and Section members collaborated together in insightful educational seminars. Participants also earned advanced appellate continuing legal education credits. Given the close proximity in time of the Appellate Judges' Conference to The Florida Bar's Midyear Meeting, the Section held its fall executive council meeting at the Judges' Conference. The conference was a fantastic experience for Section members, and the Section looks forward to continued opportunities to work with, and learn from, Florida's appellate judiciary.

Later, in October, I had the honor of making a presentation on behalf of the Section at Tom Hall's retirement ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court. Tom, a former Section Chair (2004-2005) and active member, retired as clerk of the Florida Supreme Court after 13 years of dedicated service. He has been an invaluable resource to both the Court and the Section. He is also one of the founders of the Section's Appellate Practice Workshop, an outstanding educational appellate practice seminar. The Section is currently planning to hold the workshop again in the next couple of years. It is a unique, intensive, three-day continuing legal education program in which participants develop brief writing and oral argument skills under the tutelage of a faculty of appellate judges and highly experienced appellate practitioners. More details to follow!

In January, the Section's executive council again had the opportunity to meet and continue to plan for the future. Thanks to the Section's work and the efforts of the CLE Committee, the Section is able to provide valuable services to its members and the legal community. The CLE Committee spearheaded four successful CLE programs this year, including "Advanced Appellate Review" in January, "The Art of Objecting: A Trial Lawyer's Guide to Preserving Error for Appeal" in March, "Practicing Before the Second District Court of Appeal" in May, and in partnership with the Government Lawyer's Section, "Practicing Before the Florida Supreme Court" also in May. And for those too busy to attend these larger in-person programs, the Section continued to host monthly Tuesday lunch-time telephonic CLE courses.

Appellate attorneys are, of course, writers. In that vein, and continuing its tradition of publishing educational and informative materials, the Section's Publications Committee remained active. The committee submitted monthly articles for publication in The Florida Bar Journal. The committee also prepared two issues of the Section's signature publication, The Record, the second of which is pending publication now. And the committee continued the online publication of The Guide, which offers insight into Florida's appellate courts. The Section's Pro Bono Committee also remained active handling appeals for litigants who cannot afford an appellate attorney. Not to be outdone, the Self-represented Litigant Committee has been updating the 22-chapter Pro Se Appellate Handbook, an informal but helpful guide for pro se appellate litigants.

The 20-year anniversary of the Section made clear that the Section's history is rich and should be preserved. Thus, the Section appointed its first Historian and History Committee, who, along with the Website Committee Chair, will continue to gather and update the content of the Section's website.

To conclude what has been another great year, the Section's officers, executive council, committees, and membership will meet again in June at the 2014 Annual Convention of The Florida Bar in Orlando. The Section will again host its annual dessert reception and discussion with the Florida Supreme Court. Please join us! I look forward to seeing you there, and to another great year as the Section welcomes Ceci Berman as its new Chair.

— Caryn Lynn Bellus
Kubicki Draper
25 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33130-1712
(305)982-6634
cb@kubickidraper.com