On Dec. 4, 2000, as I walked into my law office in the McCrory Real Estate building in Marysville, I was happy to be back from visiting the East Coast over Thanksgiving. My friend and landlord Jerry McCrory asked me about the trip. I said I was now able to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, having been made a member of that bar by Chief Justice Rehnquist on November 27 – he said my name and along with 20 or so other lawyers, we were sworn in before the Court.
I told Jerry and Barbara Clements, of the real estate office, I went back on Dec. 1 as well. Really, they said. Why would I do that, did I get to argue a case or something?
No, I said, I wanted to see the Court and bar member attorneys argue the Bush vs. Palm Beach County (Gore) case, which had been specially set for that day, and I was there to see and hear and feel the energy in the courtroom as the Court debated how to decide what votes and ballots should be counted. You will recall that was the year of the hanging chads.
Jerry said call the newspaper. He said this was news. I was on the front page of the local newspaper the next morning. The next week, legal reporter Tom Nadeau came over to interview me for the Daily Recorder.
Twenty years have passed. We are finally emerging from the COVID-19 emergency. I look and see this country is moving past the immediate conflict of the day. Bush won. Biden won. We will get past this. I hope the image of attorneys in the community is better after all this time, and the legal system and courts, which were criticized for taking the rights of voters and putting it in the court of last resort which decided that election of 2000.
Most lawyers think of themselves as courtroom advocates. As a trial lawyer, I understand and respect that aspect of law practice. However, it is time for lawyers to refocus to include a more vital need in the current social and economic climate: their responsibility to act as problem solvers and peacemakers.
President Abraham Lincoln recognized this 150 years ago when he said: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser, in fees, expenses and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good person. There will still be business enough.”
Just as Lincoln recognized, lawyers need to accept and act upon the public’s need for lawyers to be not only advocates, but to be problem solvers and peacemakers. During and after the pandemic of 2020, this will be more critical than ever. Things are changing for the better, albeit slowly. The courts offer many more ways to resolve disputes now and provide self-help guidance online. The future is bright; there is light ahead, winter will end. Here comes 2021.
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