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Time for a New Year’s Resolution
As the calendar turns to 2012, many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions. Experience shows that few of us will be keeping those resolutions by the time March gets here. I am asking you to consider adding one resolution to your list and doing your dead-level best to keep this one: become and stay informed about what is going on in the legislature, get involved and stay involved.
The past few years have seen momentous changes in the law that have had a profound impact on our profession and on the administration of justice. Some see these changes as positive signs. Others decidedly less so. One thing that all reasonable observers should be able to agree upon is that these changes were made, advocated and opposed by a relatively small group of very active citizens, lobbyists, interested parties and legislators. Considering the huge potential to change our lives in fundamental ways, one might expect that we would have seen a huge turnout of attorneys, clients and concerned citizens. That just didn’t happen.
This legislative session is every bit as important as last year’s. This year the legislature will take up merit selection, performance evaluation and retention elections. The legislature will take up judicial discipline. The legislature will also continue to look at tort reform and, in particular, workers’ compensation. The justice system of the future might look very different than the one of today if we are not involved in a significant and grass roots way.
We are not suggesting that you have to agree with the positions that we have taken on these issues: supporting the Tennessee Plan as is, supporting only minor modifications to the process of judicial discipline and opposing any further tort reform. With as broad a membership as we have, it would be difficult to ever find a position on which we could all agree. We are asking you to: get informed and stay informed, get involved and stay involved.
Get Informed and Stay Informed
If you are not familiar with the arguments for and against these and other important questions, do some homework. Question our position. Question those who do not agree with us. Our position has been reached through serious and thoughtful deliberation after consultations with both Republicans and Democrats. Our positions can best be described as motivated by what is best for the administration of justice and best for the profession whether that position happens to support or oppose any particular political party.
Our website has great information to help you stay informed about the status and progress of any bill. TBA Today, our daily e-mail, contains legislative updates all along the way. Do your homework, reach a thoughtful position and then advocate for your position.
There are a few ways that you can get involved. Let your voice be heard in the legislature. Write, e-mail and call your legislator. Better yet, make a trip to Nashville, make an appointment with them and let them know how you feel. For the long term, develop a relationship with your local legislator.
Let your voice be heard in the community. Despite the plethora of lawyer jokes, the community wants to hear from us on these issues. Raise them in your civic groups. Agree to speak on them and to advocate your position. Invite a legislator to speak on these issues. Ask others to write, e-mail, call and/or visit their legislators and communicate their positions.
Money: like it or not, money is the lifeblood of all politics. Money talks. You know what walks. Donate to a PAC (like LAW PAC), a political party, an advocacy group, anyone doing the daily work that supports your position.
Once you have made the effort to get educated and to get involved, you need to stay involved. Watch our bill tracker service. Check back to find out what is going on. A one-time effort and show of force from our profession isn’t enough. They have to know that we are watching, we are leading and will act to support the administration of justice and promote our profession.
Hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is the opposite of love. Silence and inaction are completely inexcusable when so much is at stake. The TBA will be leading the way supporting our positions. We can and will be effective. We will be even more effective with you. We truly will get the government, the legal system and the profession that we deserve. The time is now to demand better.
Whether you agree with us or not, we strongly urge you to make new resolutions this year and then to keep it.
TBA President DANNY VAN HORN is a partner with Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC in Memphis.