My term as President is at an end. In fact, this is my last responsibility as President of this organization. As I write this letter on the eve of September 11, I cannot help but go back to that dreadful morning some 17 years ago. I suspect that most of us can recall exactly what we were doing as the events of that morning unfolded. I was on the 5th Floor of the Douglas County Courthouse in the middle of a jury trial when the towers fell. Shortly after the terrorist attacks the courthouse in Omaha, some 1,200 miles away from the epicenter of the attacks, was closed for fear of further attacks. When we returned to the courtroom the next morning, the Judge granted the defendant’s motion for a mistrial. Defense counsel argued that the defendant could not possibly get a fair trial when the jury was focused on the events affecting the nation. The Judge agreed and noted that the jury may feel it was their patriotic duty to award the plaintiff excessive damages to correct the injustice facing the nation. My argument that as citizens of this country it is our honor and privilege to serve on juries, and that the events of September 11th only stood to highlight the importance of this hallmark of our democracy fell on deaf ears.
As I sit here some 17 years later, I still believe that the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers is a paramount hallmark of our democracy. This fundamental right, in part, is what separates us from autocratic governments. We, as lawyers, owe a duty to our profession. A duty to protect the right to trial by jury, and to improve the practice of law. NATA is committed to this cause, and with the help of our membership we work diligently to carry out our mission. Our respective role as trial lawyers and as members of this organization has never been more important. The rule of law must prevail.
As I reflect on the last year, I can report with confidence that NATA is heading in the right direction. The life blood of any organization is its membership. In the past year, I have been impressed by the willingness of trial lawyers to contribute to our profession by donating their time and talent to this organization. As a collective group, our members have had a great impact on improving the practice of law and changing the lives of our fellow citizens across this great state. The Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys has never been stronger, and I am confident that we will be strong well into the future.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the President of this organization. A special thank you to NATA’s Executive Director, Stella Huggins. Stella’s dedication to this organization is an inspiration. Thank you, Stella, for all you do. As I step down and pass the gavel to Dan Thayer, I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your President. I am truly grateful.