A Simple Prayer - Articles

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Posted by: Daniel Van Horn on Jun 1, 2012

Journal Issue Date: Jun 2012

Journal Name: June 2012 - Vol. 48, No. 6

Father Milton Guthrie was one of the men who had a huge positive influence on my life. One of the things he taught me was to begin prayer with an expression of thanks: gratitude for what has been, gratitude for the wisdom to discern what can be, and gratitude of the gifts needed to make our world a little better place. In that context, I say,

“Thank you” to all of you, to our amazing staff and to all the attorneys who devote their time to the betterment of our bar, our profession and our state.

As I look back on this year as Tennessee Bar Association president, I am grateful for having been there in Nashville last October for our very first diversity hiring forum. To meet a woman from Atlanta who rode a bus to Nashville just for the chance at a job was inspirational. It reminded me how lucky we all are that we have jobs and clients who place their trust in us.

I am grateful for the work that Deb Stevens and the Glass Ceiling Initiative did to look at practical ways we can improve access and economic opportunities for women in our profession.

I am grateful for the work that we did to redistrict our board to make it more representative of you, our members.

I am grateful to all those worked with the legislature to make sure that our voice was heard.

I am grateful to the group that worked with our Supreme Court to pass a truly model approach to judicial recusal.

I am grateful to Riney Green and his group for all the work that they did this last year to advance the state of business law in Tennessee.

There is much to be grateful for over the past year. We can all give thanks for gifts like [incoming President] Jackie Dixon, [President-Elect] Cindy Wyrick and [Vice President] Jonathan Steen. Their willingness to step up and lead us in the years to come means that we will be in good hands. I pray that they will be given wisdom and guidance to know what to do and how to do it.

As we move forward, we need your support, prayers, involvement and membership more than ever. We face a future in which merit selection is in peril. Although there is no amendment that would keep the current system, some form of merit selection and retention can still be saved. Business interests have favored retention of the current system. The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker have all at one point or another said that they favor some form of the current system. Yet, merit selection is in need of your help.

Legal services faces more need now than at any point in the past. Yet, funding for legal services continues to decline. We can and should take on additional pro bono cases. We can and should also step up and help bridge the funding gap for legal services.

We now have a state in which a burned person has a cap on the damages that they can recover. Yet, we create a new cause of action to give parents the right to sue teachers for their kids holding hands or kissing. We can now carry a gun darn near everywhere including a bar, but we can’t carry one on the floor of the Senate or the House. Some of what we have seen in the last two years from Nashville is absolutely maddening. It defies common sense. It is past time for us to develop relationships with our legislators to make sure that some of the craziness stops.

We have a world in which civic education continues to lag far behind where it needs to be. The lack of understanding of our system and how it works threatens the fair and efficient administration of justice. There are those in Nashville who deny that the courts are a separate and equal branch of government. They refer to the courts as a department like the Department of Agriculture. The time has never been better to continue to advance the cause of civics education. It is not a matter of a luxury or time that could have been spent on math or science. It is a matter of a way of life and a form of self-governance. Civics education is a necessity. It is time that it once again be treated as such.

Before I close my last column, there are several people I really need to thank: my wife and kids. I couldn’t have done this without their support and incredible patience. No one ever succeeds by themselves. In terms of gifts from God, there are no greater gifts that I have ever been given. I’m coming home! Well, at least I’ll be home for a little while before I get involved in the next great adventure. I love you guys.

As grateful as I am for what has happened and to those who are coming, I am grateful that I will have an opportunity to continue to work with you and for you to serve our profession, our people and our state. I love being a Tennessee lawyer. I’ve loved darn near every moment of the chance to be your president. I look forward to all that we can accomplish together in the future.

Danny Van Horn TBA President DANNY VAN HORN is a partner with Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC in Memphis.