2017 Message from the President
KELLY O'KEEFE


I'm honored to be back leading the Society for a second year, at a time when our mission is more important than ever. Our mission is twofold. First, the Society preserves the Florida Supreme Court's history through oral histories, collections of historical papers and artifacts, the Justices' portraits and its various publications. Why does the Society preserve these historical treasures? So that they can use them to educate the public about our courts' mission to protect personal rights and freedoms, uphold and interpret the law and resolve disputes that arise between citizens of the state.


An educated public, the second facet of the Society's mission, is the best tool for increasing understanding and confidence in our courts. If the public lacks confidence in the courts, the courts cannot fulfill their responsibilities which are essential to our democracy. Recognizing this, both the Society and the Florida Supreme Court have made improving the public's understanding of our courts a priority in their respective long range strategic plans, and the Society is working closely with the Florida Supreme Court and Chief Justice Labarga to achieve our mutual goals.


Of course, the Society cannot make education a priority without two critical resources — historical content and committed members. As a result, we have made cultivating historical collections and content and developing resources and members our two remaining key priorities. These priorities will guide the Society as we map out plans to achieve the specific goals we have identified.


The Society's Committees, composed of our talented and dedicated Trustees, are currently immersed in identifying the formative steps we must take to achieve those goals and implement the Society's strategic plan. The work of the Committees will ultimately be the force that drives the Society's continued success for years to come.


Simultaneously with this intensive planning process, the Society is already engaged in many programs and projects that reflect our priorities.


Priority I: Cultivating Historical Collections and Content

  • At the core of the Society's mission is preserving the stories that are the history of the Florida Supreme Court. In 2016, our Oral History Committee, led by Mary Adkins, worked diligently to preserve the stories of Justice James E.C. Perry, who retired effective December 30, 2016. To obtain a better understanding of the contributions Justice Perry made to the courts, the legal profession and our community as a whole, we encourage you to view Justice Perry's Oral History page.
  • Oral History interviews are also being coordinated for Justice Barbara Pariente, Justice Fred Lewis and Justice Peggy Quince, all of whom must retire effective January 8, 2019. Through these Oral Histories the Society will capture for future generations the stories that each Justice has to share. The Society, in collaboration with local bar associations throughout Florida, is also leading the charge to celebrate the contributions of the retiring Justices. Justice Perry's retirement dinner is set in April 2017, and promises to be an event that will be just as inspiring as he is.
  • Another important window to the past, The Supreme Court History Volume III: Journey Toward Justice, will also be available in the upcoming year. The book covers the tumultuous years 1972 to 1987 — a time of significant political and social change. The book tells the stories of the jurists and lawyers, including some of our own Trustees, who made significant contributions to Florida law. Publishing the book is not the end of the story though. The Society will be promoting the book with an educational series for local bar associations, community associations and in classrooms. Watch for Continuing Legal Education opportunities associated with the book as well.
  • Our annual Magazine also provides many historical pieces and perspectives. We hope you fmd this year's articles insightful and intriguing. Do not miss Justice Parker Lee McDonald's glimpse into his fourteen-plus years on the Court. Justice McDonald, in his unassuming and good-natured way, describes his colleagues, the mutual respect between the Court and the Legislature, and his and his colleagues' desire to maintain a court in which the public had confidence. Throughout the years, Justice McDonald and his wife Ruth have tirelessly given of their time to maintain that public confidence, and have made sure that goal remains a priority for the Society.


Priority II: Improving Understanding Through Education

  • This year's Supreme Evening our annual dinner event, the keynote speaker is dedicated to educating the public about the Constitution. He is the President and CEO of the National Constitution Center which educates millions, young and old, about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis. You can fmd out more about the Center at: constitutioncenter.org/  In his newest book, Louis Brandeis: American Prophet, Mr. Rosen describes Justice Brandeis' unifying vision of liberty and democracy. Brandeis concluded that both oligarchic businesses that were too big to fail and overregulation by the government were primary factors that prevented the common person from achieving his or her full potential. He looked for balance in these arenas which seemed as unattainable then as it does today. 
  • Recognizing the opportunity Mr. Rosen's visit presented, the Society arranged for him to speak to the first-year law students at the Florida State College of Law and to a local community organization. In addition to increasing educational opportunities using our existing programs, such as the Supreme Evening, we are partnering with the Florida Supreme Court to expand the channels through which we increase awareness and understanding of the courts. 
  • The Society recognizes the need to look at other ways to circulate  the content we cultivate. By collaborating with the Florida Supreme Court as they develop policies, procedures and content for their podcasts and social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, we will reach not only more, but more diverse audiences.

Priority III: Developing Resources and Members

  • Reaching larger and more diverse audiences is also important to developing a larger more diverse membership. The good news is our membership is increasing at about 10 percent annually. Our efforts to recruit young lawyers, past and present Florida Supreme Court law clerks and Appellate Section members have been successful and will continue. We will also continue our grant programs, like the "Archive Project" featured in this year's Magazine. Through this project, in which law students are archiving the Justices' papers, we are instilling in a new generation of lawyers an appreciation of the Court's history, preserving the Court's history for future generations and developing potential future Trustees and Members.I could not end on a brighter note than the success of a program which reflects all of the Society's key priorities. Let me close by saying thank you to all of you who support the Society and its mission. I invite all our readers to join me, Justice McDonald, Ruth McDonald, our Justices, Trustees and Members, in building strong and continuing confidence in our courts around the state and beyond.

Kelly O'Keefe
President
kokeefe@stearnsweaver.com





    

Message from the President  
Kelly O'Keefe

Dear Members and Friends of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society,

 

          The Supreme Court Historical Society has moved in leaps and bounds over the last few years in furtherance of its mission to preserve and honor the rich history of the Florida Supreme Court.  We are very excited about our achievements and we are planting the seeds for many more to come.

          This year the Society is focused on two primary goals.  The first is increasing awareness of the Society and its mission and the second is building active and enthusiastic core committees equipped with the tools each needs to achieve its specific goals.  The Trustees serving on each committee are the Society’s greatest asset.  We have among us, and will continue to recruit, extraordinary Trustees with valuable experience like Mary Adkins who developed Oral Histories for the Middle District of Florida.  Mary’s experience will be of great help as the Society develops a new template for the Florida Supreme Court’s Oral Histories.  Mary is also in the process of publishing a book she authored and is sharing invaluable information about that process with the Publications Committee, which is coordinating publication and release of the Society’s much anticipated third book in early 2017.   

          The Society’s book, by Neil Skene, has received rave reviews from our Trustees who volunteered to read it on the Society’s behalf.  The book not only recounts key cases from 1973 to 1986, but also grabs the reader’s attention by focusing on the story of the people in the life of the court, including lawyers who moved key cases to the Court and the Justices who brought resolution to the issues those cases presented. 

          The Society’s publications remain one of its core tools for increasing awareness of the Society and our mission.  In addition to our book we are very excited about this year’s magazine, which is now in your hands thanks to the work of Daniel Hoffman, Susan Rosenblatt and Stanley Rosenblatt.  They have donated countless hours and resources to the Society’s magazine and to preserving the Court’s history.

          This magazine includes tributes to several pillars of our legal community that we recently lost.  Justice Shaw's legacy will live on in what he did for others and in the many people he helped through his work both on and off the bench.  Sheldon Schlesinger, a long-time Trustee of the Society, will be remembered for his dedication to achieving justice for his clients.  The Society is not only preserving the stories of individuals like these that shaped the Court and Florida’s judicial system, but is spreading them more widely with the use of our website and other social media.  The Society’s website (flcourthistory.org) is evolving as we continue adding historic content and updates on the Society’s activities, and it is receiving positive feedback from many, including members of the judiciary.  The website link’s to the Society’s very own You Tube channel where you can view the Society produced “History of Merit Selection and Retention in Florida’s Supreme Court,” the unveiling of the newest Justices’ Portraits and several past Annual Dinner speakers.

          The Society is also working to spark the interest of young lawyers with a social media presence.  Trustee Stephanie Varela, former Law Clerk to Chief Justice Labarga, is developing a Florida Supreme Court Historical Society Twitter account which should act as a doorway for new generations to learn about the Society and its mission.  Thanks to the Membership Committee and its Chair Sean Desmond, we are also gearing up to disseminate historical articles and Society information on the Young Lawyers Division’s social media platforms.

          We are not stopping there - the Society is reaching out to law students as well.  The Society is offering FSU’s Law Student Organizations the opportunity to receive a $2500 grant for assisting the Society with its Archiving Project.  The Law Student Organization receiving the grant will work with the Society and the Supreme Court archivist to place former Justices’ papers in archival quality folders so they are accessible to future generations.  This project has future generations of lawyers learning first-hand about the importance of preserving the Court’s history and we hope it will result in future Society members and Trustees!

          The Law Student Organization receiving the grant will be announces at the Annual Dinner, which promises to be an outstanding event.  Our featured speaker this year is David Bois, Chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, and one of the most renowned lawyers of our time.  Chief Justice Labarga will also provide an update on the state of the judiciary and the work of the Florida Commission on Access to Justice, which the Chief focuses on in his column here.

          The Society has also been working very closely with the Justices on several projects.  When the Society’s Justices’ Bio Project is complete each Justice’s biography will appear on the Supreme Court website, the Society’s website, and below each portrait in the Supreme Court building.  The Acquisitions Committee, chaired by Tom Hall, is assessing procedures for preserving the Justices’ papers and the Special Projects Committee, headed by Renee Thompson, has started planning retirement dinners to take place in each of the Justices home towns.  We are also working with the Court’s Docent Program to develop much needed new materials for the presentations made to the thousands of school children visiting the Court each year. 

          To assure the continued success of all these great existing and future projects, our Long Range Planning Committee, chaired by Sylvia Walbolt, is conducting a retreat in March.  Sylvia was an outstanding President and we thank her for her past service as well as her continuing dedication to the Society.  Look for the Long Range Plan at our June meeting and in the meantime please enjoy the magazine, attend the Annual Dinner and let me know if you would like to sign up for a committee!    

 

Kelly O’Keefe

President

The Society has moved forward to further its mission in a number of ways this year. One part of our mission is to honor and preserve the rich history of the Court; in doing so, the Society commissioned portraits of five justices earlier this year; four of the paintings are of our sitting justices and one retired justice. All of the portraits are now complete and I am pleased to announce that their public debut was during the Society's Annual Dinner on January 29th 2015 at the University Center Club in Tallahassee. 

The official installation ceremony of the portraits is being planned for the Spring, when the current justice’s portraits will be placed on public display in the lawyers’ lounge of the Florida Supreme Court building. When a justice retires from the bench, the portrait is then moved into the Supreme Court chambers to join the portraits of the other former justices.

On June 30, 2014, Justice Jorge Labarga was sworn in as Florida’s 56th Chief Justice and Florida’s first Cuban-American to hold the post, succeeding Chief Justice Ricky Polston. This year, we were pleased to revive the tradition of the Society's involvement in the Passing of the Gavel of the Chief Justice,  a custom started in 1996 when then incoming Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, for the first time in the 150 years of Florida history, opened the installing of the Chief Justice ceremony as a public event. 

To honor the original historic event, the then president of the Society, Robert M. Ervin commissioned a special ceremonial gavel. This handcrafted Florida Cherry wood gavel has the Great Seal of the State of Florida carved on one side and the Great Seal of the Supreme Court of Florida on the other side.  The gavel has been passed from one Chief Justice to the next at each “Passing of the Gavel” ceremony since then. At Chief Justice Jorge Labarga’s installation, the Society was pleased to sponsor the post-ceremony reception that featured coffee and desserts honoring his Cuban-American heritage.

The Society’s mission also includes informing the public about the court and this year we are involved in two exciting educational projects. Earlier this year, the Society was pleased to sponsor the graphic redesign and updating of the “Evolution of Justice” historical panels for public use on the Court’s website.  Visit us at www.flcourthistory.org  and enjoy our newly designed website, view the updated historical panels, and take advantage of our many new resources profiling court history available for our members and the general public. 

Under the leadership of Kelly O’Keefe, First Vice President, the Society is re-instituting the docent program at the Supreme Court Florida Bar.  The docent program recruits and trains volunteers to provide guided tours of the Supreme Court building.  This opportunity to share the Court’s rich history with visitors and students is a key feature in communicating our message to the public.  The Society is extremely grateful to Irene Kogan, the original creator and champion of this program over 30 years ago.  Irene continues to assist the Society and has been an invaluable resource as the Society breathes new life into this program.

Planning is well underway for the Society’s Annual Dinner, scheduled for Thursday, January 29, 2015, in Tallahassee.  The evening will feature the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Sandy D’Alemberte, the public debut of the five recently commissioned portraits of the justices, along with our keynote speaker, Gilbert King, the best-selling author of “Devil in the Grove:  Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America”. Once again the talented and articulate Hank Coxe, former Society President, will be the Master of Ceremonies. Mark your calendar now and plan to join your friends and colleagues for this wonderful event, registration is now open on our web site, please visit us at www.flcourthistory.org   

Last year was a significant transition year for the Society. Among other things, we updated our financial protocols and invigorated our membership rolls. Many thanks must be extended to the active involvement of many of our Trustees.  But there are two individuals in particular who deserve special recognition for their leadership and hard work that made the transition possible.

Miles A. McGrane III, as the then president of the Society, provided his experience and wise management style, as the organization evolved to the next level and its continued growth, which we are all grateful.   Ruth McDonald has provided decades of service to the Society from its very beginning through the last few years as the dedicated Treasurer that ensured that every dollar of the Society's hard-earned funds were accounted for and well spent on its mission. 

Ruth has chosen to step back from her day-to-day active role as of July of 2014; however, she has graciously offered to be of assistance whenever her expertise and historical perspective is needed. With her years of service and endless dedication to the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, the Board of Trustees was pleased to honor Ruth with an Honorary Life Membership; the recognition of this honor was etched into a crystal vase and presented to her by Kelly O’Keefe, first vice president of the Historical Society, at a special lunch in her honor at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee.

We look forward to a successful year for the Society in 2015!

The Society has moved forward to further its mission in a number of ways this year. One part of our mission is to honor and preserve the rich history of the Court; in doing so, the Society commissioned portraits of five justices earlier this year; four of the paintings are of our sitting justices and one retired justice. All of the portraits are now complete and I am pleased to announce that their public debut was during the Society's Annual Dinner on January 29th 2015 at the University Center Club in Tallahassee. 

The official installation ceremony of the portraits is being planned for the Spring, when the current justice’s portraits will be placed on public display in the lawyers’ lounge of the Florida Supreme Court building. When a justice retires from the bench, the portrait is then moved into the Supreme Court chambers to join the portraits of the other former justices.

On June 30, 2014, Justice Jorge Labarga was sworn in as Florida’s 56th Chief Justice and Florida’s first Cuban-American to hold the post, succeeding Chief Justice Ricky Polston. This year, we were pleased to revive the tradition of the Society's involvement in the Passing of the Gavel of the Chief Justice,  a custom started in 1996 when then incoming Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, for the first time in the 150 years of Florida history, opened the installing of the Chief Justice ceremony as a public event. 

To honor the original historic event, the then president of the Society, Robert M. Ervin commissioned a special ceremonial gavel. This handcrafted Florida Cherry wood gavel has the Great Seal of the State of Florida carved on one side and the Great Seal of the Supreme Court of Florida on the other side.  The gavel has been passed from one Chief Justice to the next at each “Passing of the Gavel” ceremony since then. At Chief Justice Jorge Labarga’s installation, the Society was pleased to sponsor the post-ceremony reception that featured coffee and desserts honoring his Cuban-American heritage.

The Society’s mission also includes informing the public about the court and this year we are involved in two exciting educational projects. Earlier this year, the Society was pleased to sponsor the graphic redesign and updating of the “Evolution of Justice” historical panels for public use on the Court’s website.  Visit us at www.flcourthistory.org  and enjoy our newly designed website, view the updated historical panels, and take advantage of our many new resources profiling court history available for our members and the general public. 

Under the leadership of Kelly O’Keefe, First Vice President, the Society is re-instituting the docent program at the Supreme Court Florida Bar.  The docent program recruits and trains volunteers to provide guided tours of the Supreme Court building.  This opportunity to share the Court’s rich history with visitors and students is a key feature in communicating our message to the public.  The Society is extremely grateful to Irene Kogan, the original creator and champion of this program over 30 years ago.  Irene continues to assist the Society and has been an invaluable resource as the Society breathes new life into this program.

Planning is well underway for the Society’s Annual Dinner, scheduled for Thursday, January 29, 2015, in Tallahassee.  The evening will feature the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Sandy D’Alemberte, the public debut of the five recently commissioned portraits of the justices, along with our keynote speaker, Gilbert King, the best-selling author of “Devil in the Grove:  Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America”. Once again the talented and articulate Hank Coxe, former Society President, will be the Master of Ceremonies. Mark your calendar now and plan to join your friends and colleagues for this wonderful event, registration is now open on our web site, please visit us at www.flcourthistory.org   

Last year was a significant transition year for the Society. Among other things, we updated our financial protocols and invigorated our membership rolls. Many thanks must be extended to the active involvement of many of our Trustees.  But there are two individuals in particular who deserve special recognition for their leadership and hard work that made the transition possible.

Miles A. McGrane III, as the then president of the Society, provided his experience and wise management style, as the organization evolved to the next level and its continued growth, which we are all grateful.   Ruth McDonald has provided decades of service to the Society from its very beginning through the last few years as the dedicated Treasurer that ensured that every dollar of the Society's hard-earned funds were accounted for and well spent on its mission. 

Ruth has chosen to step back from her day-to-day active role as of July of 2014; however, she has graciously offered to be of assistance whenever her expertise and historical perspective is needed. With her years of service and endless dedication to the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, the Board of Trustees was pleased to honor Ruth with an Honorary Life Membership; the recognition of this honor was etched into a crystal vase and presented to her by Kelly O’Keefe, first vice president of the Historical Society, at a special lunch in her honor at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee.

We look forward to a successful year for the Society in 2015!

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