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VOL. 119 | NO. 211 | Thursday, November 17, 2005

Zoccola Prepares to Lead Local Bar Association

By Tracy Adams

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"I want to make sure everyone has a voice at the table. Having a diverse membership and reflecting that membership on the various committees and sections ensures everyone has an opportunity to be heard."
- Barbara Zoccola
incoming president, Memphis Bar Association

Each year at the Memphis Bar Association annual meeting, the presidential gavel is passed. This year, Barbara Zoccola will receive the gavel and assume the presidency at the Dec. 1 event.

Zoccola automatically succeeds to president after serving a term as MBA vice president. David M. Cook will become vice president. The positions of treasurer and secretary, as well as members of the board of directors, are currently being decided in the MBA's annual elections and will be announced at the Dec. 1 meeting.

Goal to inspire. Zoccola, 44, has served as assistant U.S. Attorney for 14 years, specializing in bankruptcy law. As bar president, Zoccola will be tasked with overseeing all aspects of the MBA, making committee appointments and setting objectives for the organization, which serves attorneys in both the city of Memphis and Shelby County.

Zoccola's theme for the MBA meeting and the year is "Law Inspires."

"I chose the theme because law does inspire," she said. "It inspires many lawyers to do great things in the courtroom and in the community."

Among Zoccola's first initiatives will be to install a House of Delegates, which will serve as a mini-legislature. A representative from the body will sit at the MBA's decision-making table.

"The House of Delegates will give a greater voice to the professional," she said.

Increasing public service opportunities sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association is another of Zoccola's goals.

"I believe that as attorneys, we serve the community by providing quality legal service," she said. "But we can also serve in other ways, and we will strive to increase the opportunities for community service offered by the MBA."

Service, diversity. Currently the MBA offers several public service opportunities for its members, including work with Habitat for Humanity, the annual High School Mock Trial Competition and the Minority Pre-Law Conference.

Zoccola also has pegged increasing diversity among bar association committee chairs as one of her top priorities.

Memphis Bar Association
Annual Meeting

When: Dec. 1, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Memphis Cook Convention Center, Ballroom B
Basics: The 2006 MBA board of officers will be installed at the annual event. Cost is $35 for individuals; $350 for tables seating 10. Call 527-3573.

"I want to make sure everyone has a voice at the table," she said. "Having a diverse membership and reflecting that membership on the various committees and sections ensures everyone has an opportunity to be heard."

Zoccola has arranged a series of inspirational speakers to address the MBA membership and general public during 2006 as part of an "Inspiration Series."

"The series will feature very inspirational speakers who will address topics of interest and concern," she said. "It will be part of our continuing education offered by the association."

The four-part series will feature Bernice Donald, district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee; Tu Pham, U.S. magistrate judge for the Western District of Tennessee; and Herman Morris, former Memphis Light, Gas and Water CEO. The series will conclude with a seminar given by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Judicial independence. Zoccola also has lined up the speaker for the MBA annual meeting, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

At that meeting, scheduled for Dec. 1, Daughtrey will speak about "Judicial Independence in the Age of Culture Wars."

Daughtrey, who was appointed to the bench in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, received a law degree from Vanderbilt Law School in 1968.

The topic chosen for the MBA meeting is especially timely, Daughtrey said.

"Unlike the federal judiciary where judges are appointed, at the state level judges are elected, and every judge in the state will be up for re-election next year," she said. "The topic is of interest now because of what is going on."

The Tennessee judiciary is composed of three appellate courts, four trial courts of general jurisdiction and three courts of limited jurisdiction. Every judge in the state judiciary will be up for re-election Sept. 1, 2006.

At the MBA meeting, Daughtrey will discuss decisional and institutional independence and how the political climate and pressures imposed by the electorate can harm the judiciary.

Timely topic. The focus of Daughtrey's speech will likely be of interest to all legal practitioners, said Barbara Kritchevsky, associate dean of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Kritchevsky is a Harvard Law School graduate and teaches on the federal courts, as well as administrative, civil rights, constitutional and criminal law.

"Depending on the (political) climate and the issues before the court, these things may influence what happens in the courtroom," she said. "Our hope is that they do not, but that is where the topic of judicial independence comes in.

"Do judicial elections focus on the way a judge rules on a certain issue or that the judge is ruling according to law?"

The U.S. Constitution provides federal judges freedom from such pressures, Kritchevsky said, by allowing life-long terms and prohibiting the executive and legislative branches from imposing salary reductions as a means of swaying the judiciary.

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