President’s Message – October 2014

Nicholas A. Shannin is the President of Orange County Bar Association. Each month, he writes a newsletter. His October 2014 newsletter is below:

Protect the third branch
Supporting the rule of law
Come Election Day!
Interconnectivity: Bar and Government

GOVAHMENT. That’s the way it’s pronounced in Massachusetts, site of so many of our building blocks of liberty. It’s also where this year’s ABA convention was, hence my picture in front of the Old State House. This fascinating building was the headquarters first for the sitting governors from England, then the headquarters for the rabble-rousers-turned-patriots, and after that the place from which the state government met and conducted its day-to-day governance. No offense to our lovely capitol building in Tally, but it’s hard to beat the history of “first reading of the Declaration of Independence came from that balcony” when you are remembering the importance of our role in government and the government’s role in what we do.

Which brings me to my message in my continuing series on connections. Our bar is not and should not be completely independent of the working mechanisms of our governing bodies. Many of us serve our professions by assisting governmental bodies at the local, state, or national levels. Others serve our elected officials directly; behind every great mayor is a great city or county attorney! And there are still others who have received the call to serve the people by being what is a crucial component of any legislative body, the lawyer-legislator.

Lawyer-legislators are crucial for many reasons, but foremost amongst them are two. First, the craft of statutory interpretation is one for which we lawyers have been trained, and whether litigators or transactional attorneys, the parsing of a phrase or the nuanced placement of a comma is a specialized skill we have acquired. The second, and still more important reason, is this: to protect the Rule of Law. We have a third and co-equal branch, true, which I will turn to momentarily. But if another branch starts to encroach on the independence of the judiciary, we will be in the proverbial hand-basket headed down quickly.

Florida’s newest Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, the Honorable Jorge Labarga, provided a rousing speech about a Constitution that promised freedom, liberty, and rights to every citizen. A Constitution anyone would be proud of. That Constitution: The 1940 Constitution of Cuba. His point: a constitution is nothing but a piece of paper unless judges and lawyers exist to uphold those rights. A strong and independent judiciary is the most patriotic of all governmental concepts to foster, and the most necessary to truly protect those freedoms included in our revered document from 1787.

Nicholas A. Shannin, Esq., Board Certified Appellate Attorney at Shannin Law Firm, P.A., practices appellate and governmental law and serves as a Certified Circuit, Appellate, and Federal Mediator. He has been a member of the OCBA since 1994.

Orange County Bar Association The Briefs, Octobert 2014, Vol. 82, No. 9. All rights reserved.