I would like to personally thank our Past Presidents. Before you were presidents, you were vice-presidents, secretaries, treasurers, directors and committee chairs. Each one of you molded, shaped and guided this organization. Each one of you strengthened this organization in your own way. Each one of you preserved our mission. Our mission is justice.
Tim Boone, thank you. During Tims year, we: changed our name (COAJ); brought back the Louisville Slugger Award; created the position of Information Director (Mark Lewis); began educating the public on The Judiciary: The Least Understood Branch of Government; held various committee gatherings; created a Young Lawyers Committee; and initiated a Past Presidents gathering.
COAJ was awarded The Best Local Trial Lawyer Association last Friday by the Ohio Association for Justice because of Tims initiative on the judiciary. Every one of Tims programs and initiatives will be retained during my year as president. Please join me in giving a round of applause for Tims leadership, dedication and service to the COAJ
Jami Olivers pro bono project, initiated during her year as president in 2005- 2006 will also be maintained. This is an excellent program designed to preserve access to the judicial system for those who otherwise would not have the resources to preserve and protect their legal rights.
We will continue our judicial screening program which began under Mike Millers presidency in 2004-2005. This august we will interview and evaluate incumbent and challengers for a number of Franklin County judicial races.
Your Board recently voted to expand the screenings to Delaware County as well. As the Central Ohio Association for Justice, your Board felt our responsibilities to serve are not confined to only Franklin County.
The purpose of the judicial screenings is to educate the public and in turn, improve the judicial system.
We will continue our annual seminar on ethics, substance abuse and professionalism. This years seminar will take place December 9, 2008 at a cost of only $50.00 for members.
We will be maintaining our other member services and benefits which include 3 dinner / luncheon meetings, discounted costs for CLE seminars, networking, fellowship, and collegiality opportunities, discounted rates through preferred vendors, outstanding speakers at our dinner and luncheon meetings, lawyer referral, list serve, online deposition day, a great website, the Judicial Reception in September, our Members Only Seminar, and the quarterly newsletter.
To complement our new name, we selected, at our leadership retreat, a new logo and motto. The new logo is on your tables. Our new motto, which will be on all official letterhead, promotional materials, brochures, correspondence, and our website, is: *JUSTICE* SERVICE* PROFESSIONALISM.* Our motto capsulizes our new mission statement which is Promoting justice for individuals in all local, state and federal courts; supporting members; assisting the legal communities; improving the judicial system and serving the citizens of central Ohio.
Our motto and mission statement also encompasses our core values, which are assisting the legal profession, the courts, and the community to .envision and affect changes that improve the judicial system, promoting the highest levels of professionalism and ethics within the legal profession, promoting the free access of individuals to the courts, encouraging cooperation, the sharing of ideas, goodwill and professionalism among the trial lawyers of Central Ohio, upholding the dignity and rights of families, children, and individuals in the courts of Central Ohio, preserving the rights of individuals in the civil and criminal justice system, promoting understanding and goodwill , among trial lawyers, the judiciary, and the public in Central Ohio, inspiring excellence in advocacy in dispute resolution through training and education, and upholding the honor and dignity of the legal profession.
The Central Ohio Association for Justice began in 1962 with Russell Volkama as our first president. We are 46 years old. We enter our 47th year with optimism, enthusiasm and a great sense of tradition. Today, we have approximately 265 members, a 9-member board, and 9 subspecialty committees.
I would like for you to meet our chair persons. As I call your name, please stand and remaining standing so that we may honor you as a group: Consumer Law-Dave Mayer & Matt Wilson; Criminal Law Mark Miller & Robert Essex; Domestic Relations, Brad Frick, Employment Law, Mark Granger & Jason Dewickey; Medical Malpractice: Craig Barclay & John Alton; Negligence & Insurance, Sidney Mclafferty & Rebecca Weiss; Probate Law,Tom Bonaserra & Michael Bonasera; Workers Compensation, Bill Thorman; Young Lawyers, Logan Phillips & Jessica Johnson, Ethics Seminar, Chenika Pierce; Members Only Seminar, Scott Wright, Past Presidents Gathering, Chenika Pierce, Information Director: Bob Wagoner; Judicial Screening: Bob Wagoner; Louisville Slugger Award: Mark Lewis; Newsletter: Ron Petroff & Morgan Masters; Pro-Bono Project: Jami Oliver; and Website: Shawn Harris. These Chairs and Co-Chairs are leaders of leaders. Thank you for your service.
In our leadership retreat we did some long range planning and prepared a strategic plan for this organization. The board established 5 goals: 1. increase membership 10% per year for the next 5 years; 2. increase attendance at luncheons, dinners and seminars; 3. develop and include other practice areas into our Association; 4. strengthen our relationships with the Ohio Association for Justice, the American Association for Justice, the Columbus Bar Association, and the Ohio State Bar Association; and 5. increase member services and benefits.
My theme this year is Improving the Judicial System. Our thrust could include a number of different potential avenues, including: education of the public; judicial screening; improving the image of trial lawyers; preserving the contingency fee agreement; preserving access to the judicial system; preserving the independence of the judiciary; defending the judiciary; community involvement; problem solving courts; racial and ethnic bias in the judicial system; and user friendly courts.
At all of our dinner and luncheon meetings during the upcoming year, our guest speaker will be a judge. Judges will come from Municipal Court, Common Pleas Court, the Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, and Federal Court. The judges will share their thoughts on improvements which are needed in the judicial system.
I have also established an ad hoc committee, made up of the officers of COAJ, to focus on action steps that we can take to improve the judicial system.
We will create a positive atmosphere at our luncheon and dinner meetings this year. We will provide opportunities for you to share good news at our meetings. We will create opportunities for members to share their humor, their stories, their talents and their successes. We want you to leave our meetings feeling uplifted, educated and inspired. We will find new ways to lift each other up, support and encourage each other.
Bring a guest to our meetings this year. Your guest just might join our organization. Your guest just might become a committee chair. Your guest just might become a Director. Your guest just might become an officer. Your guest just might become President of this organization and lead us into the future in new and powerful ways. Bring a guest to our meetings.
Receiving justice is hard work. We pray for justice. We work for justice. We fight for justice. We are all in this together and we need to do everything we can to help each other. Our fellowship, our friendship and our relationships are our greatest strengths.
Before he died, John McConnell said: I would not be who I am today if I had not responded to my own deep-rooted belief that the friendships I cherish and the people I help, ultimately define me as a person. Our friendship and the people we help will ultimately define us as lawyers and as people.
Helping people achieve justice is our business. Improving the judicial system is our challenge. Together we can make a difference. Membership in this organization can help us achieve both. Thank you.