first_imgAronovitz is ready to lead the Bar Associate Editor The Florida Bar’s new President Tod Aronovitz seized the golden opportunity of his swearing-in ceremony to deliver his spirited Dignity in Law message to a roomful of the state’s best and brightest lawyers and judges. ( Click here to view the inaugural speech of the 54th president of The Florida Bar, Tod Aronovitz and learn about the Bar’s Dignity in Law program.)“I have one message to deliver today. Our profession will tell the whole story to all Floridians!” Aronovitz, a 52-year-old trial lawyer from Miami, proudly proclaimed at the General Assembly June 21 in Boca Raton.The upbeat ceremony, filled with awards, standing ovations, and Gator jokes from the chief justice, was also the swearing-in of Bar President-elect Miles McGrane III, Young Lawyers Division President Juliet Roulhac, and YLD President-elect Mark Romance.It was also the occasion of the State of The Florida Bar farewell address from outgoing President Terry Russell, who concluded, “It’s time now for me to step away from the helm of the great institution we know as The Florida Bar. It’s been a wonderful voyage, the most rewarding of my professional life. President Aronovitz, I am pleased to report to you and to our membership that we are steady on course, the seas are calm, and the winds follow. The ship is yours.”Aronovitz took the helm by holding a copy of the June 1 Bar News where front-page stories were hidden behind a jagged black blob.“We challenged our members to see what it’s like to get only part of the story. It was frustrating, wasn’t it? Well, most Floridians are not getting the whole story about the work we do, and their frustration has translated into a lack of confidence in our profession,” Aronovitz said.A giant screen delivered the visuals that included film clips of client testimonials about honorable lawyers helping them in their time of need, as Aronovitz continued in a strong voice, confident from years of successful closing arguments at trials.“We must draw a line in the sand and tell everyone of the impact that lawyers and judges make every single day for their clients in their courtrooms and in our communities. Why? Not to make us feel good. Not to boost our egos. I believe that cynicism is insidious. Lack of trust of our judges and our legal system cannot be tolerated! Misperceptions about the legal profession are turning people in need away from the law, and that’s a dangerous trend. And, while trashing lawyers may be good politics, it’s bad policy,” Aronovitz said.“The current negative climate is not conducive to the work our dedicated legislators do as they make decisions about budgets and staffing for the courts, judges, public defenders, and legal aid.”Aronovitz acknowledged he’s heard from some colleagues that his goal cannot be accomplished, that lawyer-bashing is just a part of life to shrug off.With a broad smile, Aronovitz countered: “I say it can be done, it must be done, and the time to start is now!”But before he left the dais to hug and kiss a throng of well-wishers, family and friends — including mother, Elinore, and sons Cary, Michael and Abel along with Abel’s new bride, Amy — Aronovitz said he couldn’t leave without telling the whole story about himself, his family, and the honor he feels to be chosen to serve the lawyers of Florida as Bar president.“I wouldn’t be standing here today if it was not for two people,” Aronovitz said, referring to his late father, Sidney Aronovitz, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and his wife, Leslee, who died of colon cancer two years ago.“My father was a high school and college nationally ranked debater. Public speaking was important in our house,” Aronovitz said. “As a boy, I had a terrible stutter. My father helped me learn to speak by putting hard candies under my tongue and having me read out loud, slowly, articles from the Miami Herald. In our house, you learned that you do a job and you do it right!“Today would mean a great deal to my dad. You see, he told my sisters and me that contributing to society is important and that not everyone is gifted in a manner to be able to do so. Not everyone can, and that those who have the talents should use them wisely,” Aronovitz said.Describing Leslee as “the love of my life, my inspiration, and my cheerleader,” Aronovitz said she encouraged him to run for the Board of Governors and ultimately to become Bar president.“Her fight to live, against all odds, set an example that my family and I will always remember. She is the wind beneath my wings.”Aronovitz was introduced by his friend from college days, former Bar President Edward Blumberg, who said, “Being the president of The Florida Bar is no easy task. It’s tough stuff. It requires a lot of very special qualities in order to be a successful president. Tod’s got all the right qualities.”Those qualities, Blumberg detailed, are Aronovitz’s talents as “a born leader who comes from a family of leaders,” as a great lawyer who is not driven by money but wanting to help others and help the system, and as a “a true blue loyal and trusted friend.”“As part of the adversary system, people tend sometimes not to understand what we do, and how we have to represent our clients zealously, and sometimes people don’t appreciate us,” Blumberg said. “It is important that our leader be someone we can count on and be a true friend to us.”A round of Gator jokes came into play when outgoing Chief Justice Charles Wells, a zealous University of Florida Gator fan, swore in President-elect McGrane, who went to law school with former Bar President Herman Russomanno at Cumberland in Birmingham, Alabama.“As Miles points out, he didn’t go to the University of Florida, so I’ve got to make these real small sentences,” Justice Wells joshed, before launching into the oath of office.Florida State University Seminole fan Russell retorted: “Your honor, I thought we sort of had an implied truce on these Gator jokes. I have one thing to say: ‘We’ve still got Bobby Bowden!’”Later, Blumberg said he first met Aronovitz at the University of Georgia, and told the chief justice: “Your honor, we call that the Harvard of the South, so you can give the oath as fast as you want.”Just before swearing in the newest president of the Bar, Chief Justice Wells joked: “This is a strong and lasting institution, The Florida Bar, but we are testing its foundation by passing the gavel from a Seminole to a Bulldog.”On a serious note, as Russell gave his farewell address, he said, “I was told to expect the unexpected, but even that admonition could not prepare me for the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the challenges that day would present to American democracy and the rule of law.”Russell said he was shocked by a recent unscientific CNN Internet poll that said 79 percent of those responding approved of the indefinite incarceration, without formal charges, of an American citizen by the U.S. government.“At what expense do we fight terrorism?” Russell asked. “I firmly maintain that nothing happened on September 11, 2001, or since, that our constitution, our bill of rights, and our justice system cannot handle.”The most significant accomplishment of his term as president, Russell said, was “passing the first proactive public service legislation in the history of The Florida Bar.”It was Russell’s 20-year dream come true when the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act was signed into law May 30 and will provide $2 million for seven pilot projects for legal services for the poor.In the end, the bill passed by a combined House and Senate vote of 154-1, Russell said, “because of the purity of its purpose and the power of its message” to provide equal access to justice.“I believed then, and I believe even more strongly now, that we are judged as a profession by what we do and not by what we say,” Russell said.“For instance, those who would tell us that the public’s confidence in our legal system has not been undermined, and the image of our profession not tarnished, by garish lawyer advertising on billboards, on television, and radio on and the back of the phone book, with the perception of greed inherent therein, are kidding themselves. The public is not naive.”As Board of Governors member Don Horn noted in an eloquent invocation, “Terry Russell’s legacy will be that he did for those who cannot do for themselves.”Russomanno introduced his longtime friend and college buddy McGrane as a “born leader,” active with him in student government, when Russomanno served as student body president of the Cumberland School of Law.“More importantly, he possessed the passion for justice, the passion to help people, the passion to do good,” Russomanno said. “In those early days, we were touched by a special person, the former president of The Florida Bar and ABA president who came to our school. He talked about the attributes of public service as a lawyer. He talked about how no person could subvert the constitution or be above the law. He spoke to Miles and I and all of our people about the attributes that a lawyer should have: courage, conviction, and compassion. That person was Chesterfield Smith, who has played such a role in Miles’ life and in my life.”The audience paused to applaud Smith, who waved from the special seating stage of former Bar presidents.“And when you talk about these ‘three Cs,’ they have stayed with Miles throughout his professional career when he returned to Miami,” Russomanno said. Recently, McGrane “set the record for the largest compensatory award in the history of the United States against the tobacco industry,” Russomanno said, noting that he has served in leadership roles with the Legal Services of Greater Miami, and gave “a generous six-figure gift” to that group.“As the torch passes from President Terry to President Tod and then to President Miles, they join those great presidents of The Florida Bar, which I refer to as the champions of justice — people who have cared about trial lawyers and the profession. He, too, will lift the spirit of the profession and The Florida Bar.” YLD President Roulhac received a glowing introduction by her lawyer husband Derick Roulhac Ali, who promised “You are going to love this utterly amazing and energetic woman!“I immediately recognized Juliet’s extraordinary demeanor, her culture, and character before I actually laid eyes on her. One evening in September 1988, while attending a bar function in Ft. Lauderdale, I heard a voice in the room. And it was the softest and most perfect voice ever. The diction, the articulation, and pitch were perfect to my ears. It excited me and filled me with anticipation,” Ali continued, as laughter rippled through the Grand Ballroom of the Boca Raton Resort and Club.“This voice I heard motivated me to put on my best behavior, and then I turned to receive the most striking and pristine woman in all of my life experience. It was Juliet. At that moment, she captured my heart, and without speaking a word to her, I decided I would marry this woman.”As Roulhac came to the podium, she said with a grin, “After that speech, I wanted to greet him as Al Gore greeted Tipper at the National Convention.”Roulhac said her goals for the year are “very simple and focused: to communicate the many compelling stories of Florida’s Young Lawyers Division projects. Young lawyers unselfishly donate their time to endless community projects which help children, the elderly, and the poor,” Roulhac said.A communications committee will write articles about community-service projects and distribute them to the media.“We need to get out and share what we are doing. . . . This goal of mine melds so well with our soon-to-be President Tod Aronovitz’s Dignity in Law program, to inform our community about the good that we do, so the public gets a more balanced view of our profession,” Roulhac said.A second goal, she said, is to educate the Bar about cutting-edge practice trends, such as ancillary businesses.“While we recognize that these trends may increase opportunities for both lawyers and the public that we serve, we remain ever-vigilant to monitor and assure compliance with our precious rules of ethics,” she said.A third goal is to launch innovative programming in what she called “our flagship, ABA-award-winning Practicing with Professionalism seminar.. . . We will be assuring greater diversity in our presenters. Our board is so committed to diversity.”Turning to flash a smile to Aronovitz, Roulhac said: “I cannot help but be exited about this year. Tod, you have such infectious enthusiasm and high level of optimism about your Dignity in Law program. You can count on our division to walk with you every step of the way. The destination: respect.” Aronovitz is ready to lead the Barcenter_img July 15, 2002 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img