In this issue of The Record, I want to address the Appellate Practice Section's long-range planning. In particular, I would like to focus on the Section's budgeted reserves and the Section's long-term goals for those reserves. Those of you who are long-serving Section members can remember a time when the Section did not have any extra money. Some of you might even recall a few years when the Section operated in the red. While the Section was never close to bankruptcy, our leadership during these lean years recognized the need to build up the Section's reserves by working hard and making tough decisions to ensure we could get back (and stay) in the black.
Since then, the Section has flourished financially. After much careful stewardship, our reserves now hover around $400,000. And that has prompted some discussion. On the one hand, there are many in the Section who would like to continue to grow the reserves. Those folks have good goals in mind and have suggested a variety of meaningful uses of the Section's resources down the road, not the least of which is assuring that the Section's solvency for many years to come, even in the tough times. Some have also discussed growing the Section's money until we are able to make a meaningful splash: establishing an endowed scholarship, or making a large gift to pro bono appellate service, or doing something else altogether (yet equally deserving).
On the other hand, some members are of the opinion that we should spend the money now. Our Section has at its disposal the largest level of reserves in our history, and there are those who want to feel as though their dues are accomplishing something larger in the here and now. Perhaps there are greater benefits the Section can provide its members ‐ even if that's just one more drink ticket at the dessert reception, or a gift to a worthy cause that needs help right now.
Your leadership has heard this debate. And, the Section is finally, and thankfully, at a point where it can comfortably discuss the options. Even among leadership, opinions are mixed: the result of being faced with a number of good options. So, in the coming months, Section leadership is hoping to send out a survey seeking input from you, the individual members, as to how you would like to see the Section handle its reserves. Do you have a minimum amount of money you think we should always have on hand? Do you have an idea for a long-term project, and, if so, what is it? Do you want to maintain the status quo for now, continuing to build our resources while knowing there is a little more freedom to fund smaller events and projects here and there? We want to hear from you.
Please be on the lookout for the survey and let your opinions be heard. This project will take some time, and might even roll into next year under Chris Carlyle's leadership. But please do know that your Section leadership is reevaluating its missions and goals, and we want our members to be a part of that process.
— Ceci Culpepper Berman
Brannock & Humphries
100 S. Ashley Drive, Suite 1130
Tampa, FL 33602