ABOTA is back.
The Virginia chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates has enjoyed a renaissance during the past year under President Irv Cantor.
Cantor rushed eight new members for the group, which has about 50 lawyers in the commonwealth.
ABOTA is a different kind of bar group. It does not skew to the plaintiffs’ side in civil litigation matters. Nor does it favor the defense. ABOTA is a band of experienced trial lawyers dedicated to preservation and promotion of the right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment.
Membership is by invitation, and a lawyer must have been lead counsel on a minimum of 10 civil jury trials to be considered.
The group held its annual dinner Dec. 12 in Richmond. Two of the eight new members – John Owen and Stephanie Grana, both of Richmond – had completed all the necessary requirements and paperwork, and they were inducted into the group.
Owen, a defense lawyer, and Grana, who represents plaintiffs, will serve as the new president and vice president, respectively.
Cantor explained that the group makes a point to alternate between the defense and plaintiffs’ bar year to year. The other two new officers are Roanoke’s Mark Cathey, treasurer, and Scott Bucci of Richmond, secretary.
Joel Collins, a South Carolina lawyer who is the national president of ABOTA, was on hand to present a new honor for the chapter, the “Champion of Justice” award.
The recipient was an ABOTA stalwart: Bill Wilson of Covington.
Wilson, who has been practicing law since 1963, is a past president of the Virginia ABOTA chapter. He was been active in the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the Boyd Graves Conference. Wilson served 16 years in the House of Delegates and was the founding chair of the Senior Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar.
ABOTA also tipped its hat to its outgoing past president, Chris Hedrick of Newport News.
2015 has been a watershed year for legal historians – it was the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. Prof. A.E. Dick Howard of the University of Virginia law school was on hand to close the program with a discussion of that important document, which included among its guarantees the right to trial by jury.