September 15, 2000 Managing Editor Regular News Professionalism seminars target public defenders, state attorneys Professionalism seminars target public defenders, state attorneys Mark D. Killian Managing Editor The Bar’s Center for Professionalism has launched a series of professionalism programs aimed exclusively at lawyers who serve in Florida’s state attorney and public defender offices. “This program is designed to bring these two groups together annually in each circuit in order to jointly address the issues of ethics and professionalism,” according to Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead. “This is a top priority of the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.” The Bar’s Center for Professionalism provides the program to the local state attorney and public defender offices free of charge, and those who attend earn five CLE professionalism hours. Each agency needs only provide the meeting space. So far, seminars have been held in West Palm Beach, Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach and one is scheduled for Tampa. Justice Anstead said it is important to promote professionalism within the ranks of the state attorney and public defender offices because when the public thinks of the justice system they generally think of the criminal arena. “Prosecutors and public defenders really carry the criminal justice system on their shoulders, and I think we should place a great deal of emphasis on our professionalism initiative with those groups that are most viable in the public eye,” Anstead said. “How they work really determines the public’s perception of how well the justice system is working. I think it is just so important that the system works in a highly professional way, and we have an obligation to see that those two groups come together.” Justice Anstead also said similar groups tend to view the system in a like way, and it is good to bring those who oppose each other in the courtroom together to discuss the system as colleagues. “We all tend to view the world just through our own eyes, so just like when judges get together the likelihood is we will say, `There are problems out there in the system,’ but we aren’t going to say `They are judges’ problems,’” Anstead said. “We will talk about other people’s role in the system and say judges are doing great.” More is learned, Anstead said, when people with different outlooks constructively critique the system. “While we always reserve the right to agree or not agree, it is very helpful to just listen to constructive criticism from someone who has a different perspective,” Anstead said. The first State Attorney/Public Defender Professionalism Seminar was held in West Palm Beach to an audience of more than 200. Fifteenth Circuit First Assistant Public Defender Paul Damico and State Attorney Barry Krischer devoted much time and planning in working with the Center for Professionalism in the development of this program, said the center’s Terri Anderson. Anderson also said Chief Judge Walter Colbath, agreed to close the court for the afternoon so everyone within the two agencies would have an opportunity to participate. The seminar commenced with opening remarks from Chief Judge Colbath followed by commentary by Justice Anstead. Justice Anstead spoke of the history of the professionalism efforts in Florida and the role each lawyer should play in striving to improve the profession. Kenneth Marvin, a Bar staff counsel, then presented an introduction to professionalism and addressed the difference between ethics — the rules — and professionalism — not required, but the right thing to do. Anderson said attendees also were divided into breakout groups and were given a hypothetical dilemma to discuss and specific questions to answer. They were then brought back together to discuss and debate the issues raised by the hypotheticals. Anstead said in order for other governmental offices to properly present the State Attorney/Public Defender Professionalism Seminar, a full commitment from all players must be obtained. “Hopefully, we will see that this is done in every circuit and that they will take over the responsibility after that to get together at least once a year to constructively discuss issues and problems,” Anstead said. The materials developed for this program are available through the Center for Professionalism, and can be used as a model for others wanting to conduct a similar activity. The seminar is approved for five hours of CLE in professionalism, and the center can provide assistance as needed. For more information call Anderson at (850) 561-5745.