Webster, Peter D., Judicature
I joined the American Judicature Society in 1975, as a young lawyer, at the urging of my senior partner and mentor, Chester Bedell, who impressed upon me the organization's importance to the rule of law. As he explained, in his usual succinct manner, one cannot hope for the law to rule absent an independent judiciary, and AJS was the oldest nonpartisan organization in America dedicated to the concept of an independent judiciary. I soon became an avid reader of Judicature and I like to think my membership in AJS helped to pique my interest in our third branch of government, setting me on the path to a 25-year career as a judge.
A year ago, in August 2011, I was selected to lead AJS. The past year has been both exciting and challenging. I have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of AJS both in print and in person. Prior President's Reports have predicted 2012 would be a critical year for those of us who recognize the importance of fair and impartial courts and worry about the effects of unjustified assaults on judges and our system of justice. I have urged AJS members and those of a similar mind to mobilize and prepare for when this battle comes to their states. In my home state of Florida, those predictions have proved accurate, as three supreme court justices standing in merit retention elections find themselves the subjects of unwarranted attacks by special interest groups and certain elected officials. In the past month, I also participated on one panel discussing merit selection at The Florida Bar's Annual Meeting in front of an audience of nearly 400, and on another addressing the state of judicial independence at the Annual Meeting of the International Association of Defense Counsel.
In my previous President's Report, I addressed AJS's recent accomplishments. In the past year, these have included release of the initial report of the AJS National Eyewitness Identification Field Studies, "A Test of the Simultaneous vs. Sequential Lineup Methods," which challenges traditional approaches to conducting photo lineups; the hugely successful 22nd National College on Judicial Conduct and Ethics; and release of "Inside Merit Selection," a report that makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge about how merit selection systems actually work based on survey responses from judicial nominating commission members. …