Monday, March 2, 2015

Ten Years of “Law and Sarasota”

      It was sometime in 2005 when Jan Jung and Art Hardy asked me to accompany them to a meeting with Leanne McIntire at the Education Channel.  The result was that I agreed to host an ongoing series of television programs focused on Sarasota’s legal community.  For the first episode, I handled First Appearances in front of Chief Justice Bob Bennett and then interviewed him afterwards inside the historic courtroom at the old Sarasota courthouse.
      My producer, Bob Gray and I, completed four additional episodes that year with distinguished guests such as Earl Moreland, Charles Williams and Rick DeFuria. We focused on criminal law topics and filmed inside the library at the Public Defender’s Office. Poor Bob would have to tote all of his cameras and microphones and lights into the office for each new episode. At the end of that first season I thought we were done. But the Education Channel liked the program and told me to continue if I could find new quests. At this point we have now filmed about fifty episodes.
      Within the first few years the program won the “public service award” presented by LexisNexis and the National Association of Bar Executives. Along with the award came a donation of a substantial block of free legal research on Lexis that was donated to Gulfcoast Legal Services.  In 2010 we won a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation to allow production of a video outlining the criminal justice system from arrest through trial. The great thing about this video was that as I filmed in English, Varinia Van Ness hosted the Spanish language companion. Both of these videos can still be found on YouTube and on the Sarasota County Bar Association website.
     A couple of years ago the Education Channel moved into its new production headquarters and studio on the campus of Sarasota County Technical Institute. The new studio allowed for a professional upgrade of the entire look of the program. Thanks in part to the generosity of the Sarasota Community Foundation we are now uploading the programs onto YouTube where they can found at TheEdChannel20. There you will find Robert Lincoln discussing code enforcement, Carol Kalish discuss the Affordable Health Care Act, and see Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis visit students at Booker High School.
     So far this year I have filmed episodes featuring Kurt Hoffman discussing the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, Teri Cromley talking about workman’s compensation and Social Security disability, and Jane Windsor who discussed individualized learning plans for students suffering from learning disabilities.  The program is broadcast on Comcast Channel 20 and Verizon Channel 33 in Sarasota, and is typically shown several times a day. The Education Channel is also broadcast throughout the Sarasota County school system, and it is always cool when the young person bagging my groceries looks up, sees me and says “Law and Sarasota!”
      So I thank the Sarasota County Bar Association and all of my guests for allowing me to spread some legal knowledge throughout our community. If you have an idea for a program, feel free to let me know.