Arkansas and Louisiana Chapters earn ABOTA’s Chapter of the Year Award

The Arkansas and Louisiana Chapters of ABOTA received Chapter of the Year honors for their outstanding accomplishments in 2012. Arkansas Chapter President David R. Matthews and Louisiana Chapter President S. Gene Fendler accepted the awards at ABOTA’s National Board of Directors Meeting held at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“The Chapter of the Year Award drew a number of entries making the competition exceptionally tough. This year’s winners demonstrated an outstanding focus for members, their commitment and their desire to promote the 7th Amendment’s right to civil trial by jury,” said Michael T. Callahan, National President of ABOTA. The accomplishments over the past year touched on every one of ABOTA’s purposes and goals, Callahan said.
 
The ABOTA National Chapter of the Year Award is given to the chapter that exhibits exemplary activity and hard work that furthers the goals of ABOTA, according Alan I. Dunst, Awards Committee Co-chair. 
 
There are several elements the Awards Committee considers, including:
  • Growth in membership
  • Pro bono and scholarship contributions
  • Diversity
  • Collegiality and camaraderie
  • Social activities
  • Collaboration
  • Community involvement
  • Professional education
  • Youth education
  • Judicial involvement
  • State involvement
  • History
  • Fellows participation
    Note:  This list is in no particular order, nor does it represent everything a chapter can do to be nominated.

 

Louisiana Chapter President S. Gene Fendler (left) and Arkansas Chapter President William H. Edwards accept the 2012 Chapter of the Year Awards  from Awards Co-Chair Alan I. Dunst at ABOTA’s National Board of Directors Meeting held at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla.


Arkansas Chapter of the Year Summary of Accomplishments:
Introduction: The Chapter has had a busy and successful year. All activities have been designed to promote the specific purposes of the Association. The chapter has a long history of leadership in pursuit of ABOTA’s goals, both as a chapter and through the individual efforts of some of its members.  
 
Civility and Professionalism:
Civility Oath:  On Feb. 23, 2012, the Supreme Court of Arkansas entered a per curiam order adding the ABOTA civility pledge to the Oath of Admission required of all new admittees to the Bar. The Court specifically thanked the Arkansas members for their efforts in promoting respect and civil conduct in the practice of law. The involvement of the Arkansas Chapter of ABOTA was well publicized in The Arkansas Lawyer.
 
Civility Matters Program:  The Chapter has coordinated with the University of Arkansas School of Law at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas School of Law in Little Rock to include Civility Matters programs at both of the law schools. Civility Matters Program materials have been provided to both of the law schools and Chapter members have volunteered to conduct these programs.  The Deans at both law schools have been receptive to promoting the programs on an ongoing basis. 
 
Honorary Diplomate of ABOTA: The ABOTA National Board approved the nomination of Senior United States District Judge G. Thomas Eisele of the Eastern District of Arkansas as the 27th Honorary Diplomate member of ABOTA.  Judge Eisele has long been a champion of the jury trial for his support of the civil jury trial system.  
 
James M. Moody Civility Award:  The Arkansas Chapter awarded the James M. Moody Civility Award to past chapter president David Donovan for his years of civility and professional courtesy. In particular, he was acknowledged for having maintained the highest standards of ethical, professional, and civil conduct while practicing law and dealing with the pain and inconvenience of recovering from major surgery.
 
Professional Education:  
CLE at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville:  On March 30, 2012, the Chapter presented The Art Of Voir Dire, a live demonstration, to a courtroom full of approximately 200 law students and various members of the bench and bar at the University of Arkansas School of Law.  This live demonstration allowed the Chapter to bring over 30 of our members, National President Bob Stone, a visiting ABOTA member from Texas, and federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson to the event.  
 
Masters in Trial at the Arkansas Bar Association Annual Meeting:  On Friday, June 8, 2012, the Chapter presented a Masters in Trial program as part of the annual meeting of the Arkansas Bar Association in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It is conservatively estimated that some 500-600 lawyers attended the one-day program on Opening Statements and Jury Selection.  Attendees received 6.5 hours of continuing legal education.  This was the second year in a row that the Arkansas Bar Association had called on ABOTA to present a substantial part of their annual meeting program. 
 
Trial Practice Course at the University of Arkansas School of Law at Fayetteville:  In the weeks following the successful live voir dire demonstration, the Chapter and the University of Arkansas School of Law entered into an agreement for ABOTA members to offer a one semester, two-hour course on trial practice at the University of Arkansas School of Law.  The class will be offered in the spring semester of
 
2013. Each class will be a lecture format for 1 hour 40 minutes.  Subjects will include:  
  • The evaluation of a case
  • Preparation, presentation and argument on jury instructions
  • Pre-trial motions and conferences
  • The importance of scheduling orders
  • Voir dire
  • Opening statements
  • Direct examination of witnesses
  • Cross-examination of witnesses
  • Presentation of cross-examination of experts
  • Closing arguments
  • Making and defending objections
  • Dealing with judges and civility in the courtroom
  • Preparation of witnesses
This will become an annual offering at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
 
ABOTA National Trial College — On July 29 through August 3, 2012, three of Chapter members participated in the ABOTA National Trial College at Harvard Law School — Gordon Rather, John V. Phelps and Steve Quattlebaum, who wrote the popcorn lung case that was used at the Trial College. On his own initiative, Mr. Quattlebaum also arranged for six highly qualified experts who spent a full day participating with the student lawyers in the direct and cross-examination of expert witnesses and then served as plaintiff and defense experts in the three simultaneous jury trials that were conducted on the last day of the Trial College. By way of financial support, the Chapter made a $2,500 contribution to ABOTA toward the National Trial College. National President Gordon Rather gave the commencement address
 
Membership:
The Chapter held its Annual Meeting at the Fairmont-Copley Plaza in Boston on August 24-25, 2012.  At this meeting, they inducted three new members, two of whom are women.  Having adopted the local option rule in 2010, they were especially gratified to increase the diversity and youthfulness of our membership by bringing in two members under the local option provisions.  
 
In order to further encourage and support continued participation by our officers and National Board Representatives, our Chapter unanimously voted to increase the reimbursement of officers and National Board Representatives from $500 to $1,000 for attendance at national meetings.  
 
Youth Education:
Teachers’ Law School:  On July 27, 2012, the Chapter participated in a law school for teachers co-sponsored with the Arkansas Bar Association Law Related Education Committee. This seminar was attended by approximately 40 teachers from throughout Arkansas and received rave reviews. National Board Representative, Teresa Wineland, and President-Elect, Kathryn Pryor, were instrumental in this presentation. 
 
Diversity of Membership:  The Chapter has consistently been one of the leading chapters in ABOTA with respect to the percentage of women who are members. Three new women members were added this year bringing the total to 10. Women have served as chapter leaders (two presidents and National Board Rep.).
 
National Recognition:
At the 8th Circuit Judicial Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in early August of 2012, Arkansas member Robert L. “Skip” Henry was given the Richard S. Arnold Award for distinguished service and lifetime achievement. 
 
Woody Bassett of Fayetteville was awarded the prestigious Richard S. Arnold Award for the Western District of Arkansas in the 8th Circuit.  
 
Past National President Gordon Rather received a Golden Gavel Award from the Arkansas Bar Association at the Arkansas Bar Association’s annual meeting in June 2012.  He was honored for his years of service as Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Arkansas Lawyer magazine.  
 
National Board Representative Steve Quattlebaum received the C.E. Ransick Award of Excellence from the Arkansas Bar Association in June 2012.  This award recognizes “outstanding contributions to the profession.”
 
Arkansas Chapter President David Matthews was appointed in June 2012 to serve as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Arkansas Bar Association, and Arkansas Chapter member Jim Simpson took office as 2012 President-Elect of the Arkansas Bar Association.
 
Collegiality and Camaraderie:
For the 24th consecutive year, ABOTA’s National President visited the Arkansas Chapter. On March 30, 2012, Chapter hosted National President Bob Stone at three separate events — the ABOTA CLE for the University of Arkansas Law School, the University of Arkansas reception, and chapter meeting.
 
To maintain the collegiality of our association and keep one another informed of the activities of the Chapter, several Chapter newsletters were published during this recent year.
 
 
Judicial involvement:
The Chapter joined with the Walmart Legal Team, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, to host the trial judges from Washington and Benton Counties in Arkansas, and the Western District of Arkansas at a reception at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. As noted, National President Bob Stone was in attendance and spoke on the efforts of ABOTA nationwide to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
 
State, Regional and National involvement:
Chapter members serve on the ABOTA National Executive Committee, the ABOTA National Trial College Committee, the Long Range Planning Committee, the Financial Accountability and Responsibility Committee.
 
In April 2012, the Chapter sponsored a reception in honor of fellow member Darryl “Chip” Baker who served as 2012 SEABOTA President.
 
 
Louisiana Chapter of the Year Summary of Accomplishments:
Introduction:  The Chapter has been actively pursuing ABOTA’s education goals and has expanded our seminar programs.
 
Membership:
The Chapter has increased its membership over the years. They held luncheons throughout the state (Lafayette, Lake Charles and Alexandria) and invited potential members to attend. These luncheons were successful since it helped get the ABOTA name and mission statement recognized. 
 
To keep Chapter members up to date on news and events, they send out the Chapter newsletter “ABOTA Journal” semi-annually.  They also send out news alerts to all members as needed.
 
The Executive Committee has a telephone conference once a month to go over tasks list and any other important items.
 
Every year they hold the Annual Meeting and Dinner where they install new officers and welcome new members.  Members and their guests are invited to attend.
 
Professional Education:
The Chapter co-hosted two Masters in Cross Examination programs — one with the East Texas Chapter and the other with the Mississippi Chapter.  These programs were produced for the trial lawyer that might find himself/herself in a courtroom, facing the obligation of cross-examining and impeaching both lay and expert witnesses.
 
In 2011, the Chapter produced the Masters in Jury Selection featuring the Portia Group. The Portia Group has conducted focus groups, mock trials and juror interviews with thousands of jurors and juror research participants all over the country on a wide variety of cases for both plaintiffs and defendants for over 20 years including members of ABOTA.
 
The Civil Jury Trials in Louisiana-Rights and Pitfalls seminar was held in New Orleans and Lafayette.  Each seminar had a panel of Judges who held a lively discussion on the right to trial in civil cases in Louisiana.  Both seminars raised awareness of the Chapter among members of the Bar who are not yet members and proved invaluable to those attorneys with moderate jury trial experience to those who have jury trial aspirations.
 
The Chapter sponsored the 2012 ABOTA National Trial College at Harvard held in August 2012. The ABOTA National Trial College will be returning to Harvard Law School in the summer of 2014 and the Chapter will continue to support this program.
 
Judicial Involvement:
The Chapter sponsored Judge Guy Holdridge to attend the ABOTA National Jury Summit in Chicago. Judge Holdridge reported back that the summit was very informative and dealt with many of the problems, which courts face in having civil jury trials. 
 
Frank Lamothe, Chapter President, reached out to all judges in the State of Louisiana to make them aware of the Chapter and to make sure that the judges who would like to receive a copy of Voir Dire, the National publication, receive it electronically.  Many Judges throughout the state now receive a Voir Dire by email quarterly. 
 
2012 Louisiana Jury Summit:
The Chapter presented the Louisiana Jury Summit in connection with the Louisiana Judicial College’s Evidence and Procedure Seminar.  Chapter members  participated in the seminar by moderating five panels: “Improving Access to Jury Trials,” “Improving Efficiency of Jury Trials,” “Jury Innovations,” “Pattern Jury Instructions and Interrogatories and “Technology.” The judicial attendees were interested in the presentations and audience participation was active and lively.  Of note was the response of the judges when asked by the panel whether they would like to see more civil jury trial in the courts.  Those who responded in the affirmative were in the minority.  It was clear from the active participation of the judges that they were very interested in the topics for discussion and appreciative that ABOTA had made the effort to bring the program to them. 
 
A reception was held at the Windsor Court Hotel the night before the Jury Summit for the Judiciary, guest speakers and panelists.  
 
Youth Education:
The Chapter will hold its first James Otis Lecture Series in September in Baton Rouge at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse, 11th Floor, Main Courtroom. Topics to include Judicial Independence, the First Amendment, the History of the Constitution. ABOTA members will put on a jury trial/mock trial demonstration. Each attendee will receive a pocket U.S. Constitution and a James Otis Lecture Scholar certificate. 
 
National Involvement:
Two of the chapter members serve on several National ABOTA committees, including Judicial Independence Committee, the Judicial Liaison Committee, the Professional, Ethics and Civil Committee, the Seventh Amendment & Jury Innovation Committee, the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, and Presidential Task Force Committee. 
 
Civility and Professionalism:
The civility/professional education program is an initiative led by Gene Fendler, Chapter President. In May 2012, Mr. Fendler met with the chairman of the Louisiana State Bar Association Committee on the Profession, Mr. Barry Grodsky, and discussed the Chapter sponsoring a mentoring program for young lawyers, participating in a professional orientation for first year law students; or participating in professional programs at law school. The goal is to have the pilot mentoring program up and running in 2014. 
 
Expedited Jury Trials:
In April 2012, Gene Fendler appeared before the Louisiana House of Representatives Civil Procedure Committee in support for increased civil jury trials in Louisiana when it was considering legislation to lower the jurisdictional amount for Louisiana jury trials. The Louisiana Legislature passed a joint resolution urging the Louisiana State Law Institute to prepare legislation that would allow for expedited civil jury trials. 
 
The State expressed interest about Louisiana adopting an expedited jury trial system, similar to the California model.  The Civil Procedure Committee meets in October and has invited the Chapter to send representatives to attend the committee meeting with a view toward drafting and recommending to the Louisiana legislature that it adopt expedited jury trials in Louisiana.

Chapter of the Year Award Winners

1995 Miami and Arkansas
1996 Los Angeles
1997 Jacksonville (Fla.)
1998 Arkansas and San Francisco
1999 Orange County (Calif.)
2000 Rochester (N.Y.)
2001 South Carolina
2002 Michigan
2003 Tennessee
2004 Jacksonville
2005 Northern New Jersey
2006 South Carolina and Tampa Bay
2007 Orange County and San Bernardino/Riverside
2008 Washington
2009 Austin
2010 Palm Beach
2011 Tampa Bay
2012 Arkansas and Louisiana
 
ABOUT ABOTA: 
The American Board of Trial Advocates, founded in 1958, is an organization dedicated to defending the American civil justice system. With a membership of 7,000 experienced attorneys representing both plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases, ABOTA is uniquely qualified to speak for the value of the constitutionally mandated jury system as the protector of the rights of persons and property. ABOTA publishes Voir Dire magazine, which features in-depth articles on current and historical issues related to constitutional rights, in particular the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury. ABOTA and the ABOTA Foundation’s headquarters are in Dallas.