Special Issue of The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

In May 2016, the Florida Bar Journal released a special issue entitled Civic and Law-Related Education, featuring two articles by Executive Director, Annette Boyd Pitts. Below are the articles from the special issue.

“Raising the Bar on Civic Education” by Annette Boyd Pitts

National polls and surveys continue to document the limited knowledge held by Americans about civics, including our government and its corresponding institutions, processes, and practices. Studies publicize even the most basic knowledge deficits that plague our citizenry. This deficiency, coupled with the decline of quality civic education in our nation’s schools, is cause for concern. If democracy lies in the hands of ordinary citizens, who ultimately serve on juries, vote in elections, evaluate public issues, and possibly run for office, what impact will this civic education deficit have on self-government? Read more

“Preserving a Fair and Impartial Judiciary: The Cornerstone of Our Democracy” by Justice Barbara J. Pariente and F. James Robinson

I write to highlight the important civic education program of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), the Informed Voters Project, available online at ivp.nawj.org, and why I urge every lawyer and judge to become familiar with the program’s materials, PowerPoint presentations, and award-winning video narrated by former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. These materials are also available and easily accessible at The Florida Bar’s website. Read more

“The Informed Voters Project” by Linda Leali

In recent years and throughout the United States, there has been a significant increase in money being funneled into judicial elections in an effort to target judges whose rulings are unpopular, regardless of whether the decisions are reasoned applications of the law. The fairness and impartiality of our courts is threatened by these powerful special interests who are seeking to tip the scales of justice in their favor. The success or failure of special interest efforts to weaken the courts rests on their ability to mislead voters, particularly if voters lack sufficient knowledge about how impartial courts uphold the rule of law. Read more

“Crisis of Knowledge: The Importance of Educating the Public About the Role of Fair and Impartial Courts in Our System of Government” by Richard H. Levenstein and Judge Michelle Sisco

The United States is suffering from a significant and widespread adult civics education deficit. This deficit has resulted in a large-scale lack of knowledge and skills on the part of the adult population in the areas of civics and government, and perhaps most importantly, with respect to the existence of, purpose for, and workings of the judicial branch of government. Read more

“A Vision of Justice” by Justice R. Fred Lewis

Come Share with Me Your Vision of Justice.” Those were the words inscribed at the entrance to the courtroom of the Florida Supreme Court as I assumed the role of chief justice in 2006. I had observed the “Vision of Justice” of many Floridians as I commenced visiting approximately three public schools each month in 1999 to discuss the concept of fundamental liberties with our students. From those visits, however, it became readily apparent that our students demonstrated a concerning lack of civic competence, although it was not at all attributed to a lack of interest or effort on the part of our students, teachers, and schools. Read more

“Justice Teaching: A Rewarding Experience” by Sheri L. Hazeltine

I have been fortunate to work as a volunteer with Justice Teaching, founded by Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis in 2006, with the ultimate goal to pair a legal professional with every elementary, middle, and high school in Florida. Read more

“Teaching Our Teachers: The Justice Teaching Institute” by Annette Boyd Pitts

Teaching about the courts, and particularly the appellate process, can be a challenging task for many teachers. Hundreds of thousands of Florida students are immersed in the study of civics, government, and law throughout the state, creating a need for quality professional development. Training is needed to equip teachers with the knowledge and strategies to teach effectively about the judicial branch, the role of the courts in our constitutional structure, and the judicial decision-making process. Read more

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