eNews Guest Editor – Pamela Presnell

I am very grateful that I was asked to co-chair the Justice/Law program day for Leadership Tallahassee Class 31. It reminded me again how much my own experiences in LT 22 enhanced my life, through the friends that I made and the knowledge and insights I gained about our community. Staying involved with Leadership Tallahassee keeps it fresh! Having the opportunity to see first-hand the bond between the members of LT 31, how close they are, how supportive they are of one another, and how enthusiastic they are about the LT program, makes it all the more clear why every LT class believes it to be the “best class ever!”

About the LT 31 Justice/Law day: As two attorneys and proud Leadership Tallahassee graduates, Sonya Daws (LT24) and I were very excited to plan the Justice/Law Day. The challenge was limiting all we wanted to do into an eight hour day. We are fortunate to have so many LT graduates who work in some aspect of the judicial system who were willing to participate in the day.

Starting at the Leon County Courthouse, County Court Judge Judith Hawkins (LT19) explained the first appearance procedure, and the facts taken into consideration in setting bond and terms of release for the individuals who had been arrested during the preceding 24-hours. To make this process hit home, Major Mike Wood (LT 22) with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office “arrested” and “charged” one of the classmates with possession of marijuana. After giving the “prisoner” her first appearance, County Court Judge Ronald Flury presented an overview of Florida’s Court system, giving both humorous and heart-felt examples of the role and impact of our courts. We were joined by Assistant State Attorney, Jack Campbell (LT 23), and Assistant Public Defender, Owen Chin, who discussed the duties and responsibilities of their respective offices and their individual roles in the criminal justice system.

Judge Flury presided over a mock trial with class members filling all the roles and with the assistance of Campbell and Chin, the criminal trial of the “arrested” class member was held. Both teams gave it their all and the jury was split on the verdict, resulting in a hung jury.

To round out the morning, Lauren Walker (LT 18), with the Florida Department of Corrections, spoke to the class about the Department’s Re-Entry Program with the goal of improving inmates’ re-entry into society once their sentences are served. Sara Blumenthal with the Guardian ad Litem Program described how their program trains volunteers to be a voice for children in need of legal support.

After lunch the group headed to the Florida Supreme Court where the class participated in an activity where they were forced to rank the amendments in the Bill of Rights. This provided a lively debate on which rights are most important and why. The day ended with Justice Jorge Labarga speaking to the class about the role of the Florida Supreme Court. Justice Labarga gave a very interesting, informative, and humorous account of the history and function of the Court, and the types of cases which come before the Court, all the while answering numerous questions posed by the class.

–Pamela Presnell (LT 22) 

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