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October 2021

Jeff Braun headshot When I took the oath to be your President in January, I expressed my goal to increase membership and diversify our Chapter in every way possible during 2021. Later this month our National Board will vote to approve those three new members we have vetted in 2021 at the local level. The three new members are all men, and all white. We must do better. I urge you and our incoming 2022 board to continue this mission of becoming more inclusive and more diverse.

Unfortunately, with the pandemic closing courts for a large portion of the year, it has been increasingly difficult for very qualified lawyers to meet the threshold requirements outlined in our bylaws. As we slowly work towards some sense of normalcy, the courts are becoming more accessible for the jury trials our clients are entitled to under the Seventh Amendment. To that end, I write to remind you of the threshold requirements for a lawyer to be considered for ABOTA.

Any trial lawyer, who is of high personal character and honorable reputation, who is a member of the Bar of the State in which he or she practices, and who has tried at least 10 civil jury trials to jury verdict or hung jury as lead counsel may become a member upon nomination, election, and payment of initiation fees and dues.

What many of you may not know is that it has become much easier to qualify as “lead counsel." Lead Counsel is an attorney substantially responsible for the personal representation of the client during the trial. “Substantially responsible” means, at a minimum: (1) Selecting a jury, or opening, or closing, and; (2) Presentation of live witnesses through direct or cross examination.

Today, the average reported age of an Orange County Chapter member is 65 years old. We must take it upon ourselves to develop opportunities for our younger lawyers to gain trial experience as a “lead counsel” or else we face the possibility of becoming obsolete.

In today’s day and age, mini-opening statements have become a common practice at trial. Every trial also includes a witness who may not provide testimony upon which the case turns. Knowing you have the chance to groom our young lawyers through their presence at trial, I ask you to do everything in your power to make it a memorable experience. Let them handle the mini-opening and the direct exam of a witness, at the very least, as this will satisfy the requirements for consideration by ABOTA.

This week, on October 13, 2021, we will gather for Judges' Night at the Center Club where we will honor the Clerk of the Year, Becky Chumpitazi (Clerk to Hon. Gregory Lewis), the George Francis Judicial Civility Award recipient, the Hon. Melissa McCormick, and the Judge of the Year, the Hon. Nancy Zeltzer.

Additionally, we will be presenting a special award to Judge Kirk Nakamura, Court Executive Officer David Yamasaki and the Orange County Superior Court for navigating us through these crazy times and keeping our courts more accessible than any other county in the country.

Please join me in congratulating these outstanding selections and we hope to see you there to do so in person.

Jeff Braun
Orange County ABOTA
2021 President

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