Most King County Bar Association CLE programs are organized around very specific areas of practice: family law, probate, arbitration, aviation, employment and labor law, etc. While those targeted sessions are well received, they are understandably attended by lawyers and judges who focus primarily in those areas.
What’s missing from that approach is the ability of attorneys and judges to check in about the legal system more broadly, to talk with each other about the issues facing our courts, to get acquainted with practitioners in many different areas of the law, and to engage in policy discussions about law-related topics of significance to the bar and bench.
Our annual Bench-Bar Conference — Friday, November 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Washington State Convention Center — is designed to bridge that gap. And the post-program evaluations indicate that this is one of the best CLE programs that KCBA organizes.
We meet on Veterans Day for one main reason: The courts are closed for the holiday, so judges can attend without impacting the courts’ dockets. And key to this program’s success is having as many judges in attendance as possible. We traditionally see more than 20 judges attending this program each year. Most of these judges are not on panels, but sitting in the audience with lawyers. What a great opportunity to mingle and chat with judges outside the formal courtroom environment.
Beyond the draw of having so many judges in attendance, the program sessions themselves have something for everyone. Our keynote speaker is Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. She will review major initiatives under way in our state courts and more importantly take questions about any issue of interest to the lawyers in the audience. That could make for an interesting phone call later with a client, right? “I was at a program with the chief justice the other day talking about a problem just like yours.”
In addition to the chief justice, we have a very engaging program planned. One session will feature presentations from the presiding judges from all of our courts in western Washington, including the U.S. District Court for Western Washington (the Honorable Ricardo Martinez), the Washington Court of Appeals Division I (the Honorable James Verellen), King County Superior Court (the Honorable Susan Craighead), King County District Court (the Honorable Donna Tucker), and Seattle Municipal Court (the Honorable Karen Donohue). Each judge is confirmed and each will share updates on the latest rule changes and technology issues from their courts that affect the bar.
Next up will be a deep dive into a public policy topic of interest to the bench and bar. This year we will look at the role of the judiciary in citizen initiatives and referendums. We’ll hear the perspectives of judges who must rule on the validity of these measures — from both a trial court judge (King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel) and Chief Justice Madsen. This should prove quite timely coming just days after an election with many such measures on the ballot.
That will be followed by an in-depth “litigators’ roundtable” featuring plaintiff and defense trial lawyers, along with two King County Superior Court judges — the Honorable Sean O’Donnell and the Honorable John Chun — giving practice tips about how to best serve your clients whether in the motions or trial stages of proceedings. And the judges will learn how their colleagues approach trial management issues. Even for those attorneys who don’t find themselves regularly in court, this session should prove helpful to have some up-to-date understanding of the best way to present your case.
The day concludes with an ethics hour where we will feature both a judge (the Honorable Veronica Galván) and a disciplinary defense lawyer who will review hypothetical ethical dilemmas that the bar and bench regularly encounter in the courtroom.
To learn more details about the program (5 CLE credits for a $155 registration fee that includes lunch — and complimentary for judges), visit www.kcba.org/benchbar. You may also register onsite on November 11 and join us for as much of the day as your schedule permits.
I hope you’ll be able to be part of this special conference. We look forward to seeing you there.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-267-7061).
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