Monday, September 10, 2001
Reno Tells State Bar Gathering Legal System Needs More Creativity
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Judges and lawyers must become more creative if they are to realize their potential to improve life in the United States, former Attorney General Janet Reno told the California Women Lawyers late Thursday.
“What lawyers need to become are better problem-solvers” and not focus solely on guilt and innocence, Reno told a sell-out crowd at the California Women Lawyers annual dinner at the State Bar convention in Anaheim.
“Lawyers go down their little pig trails,” the Florida gubernatorial candidate said. “They are different from the doctors’ pig trails, different from the teachers’ pig trails.”
Calling for a more interdisciplinary approach, Reno noted that the first three years of life are when children develop a conscience and learn what punishment means. If that fails to happen, the courts and prisons will be hard put to make up for the lost time.
Citing the example of drug courts that first appeared in Dade County, Fla. more than a decade ago and have been adopted by courts around the nation, Reno said a system of judicial problem solvers can help deal with mental health, domestic violence, and a host of other problems.
“There is nothing quite like a judge in a robe who says, ‘ma’am, what’s the problem?’” and then works with defendants and experts to help craft a solution.
“I think the courts can become one of the great forces for change in this nation and make a profound difference,” Reno said.
But Reno also called on judges and lawyers to recommit themselves to the basic purpose of the justice system—finding the truth.
She called on the nation—and bar associations in particular—to conduct a conference on truth, and the technical and procedural aspects on how to reach it.
“This is particularly important in the area of death penalty cases,” Reno said. “At least there let us make sure we have our facts straight.”
Reno also took questions from the audience, many of which focused on what she hopes to accomplish if she is elected governor of Florida.
Reno, who said Wednesday she intended to seek the Democratic nomination for the office, cited improvements in early childhood education, preservation of her beloved Florida rivers and a final goal that got many of the attorneys in the audience to their feet to cheer.
“I’d like to make sure that Florida’s election in 2002 is a model for the nation,” she said.
Reno disclosed that on the day she left office she was served with a jury summons. She was pleased to be a private citizen again after eight years as attorney general, she said. But she added that problems continue even after the weight of responsibility is lifted from one’s shoulders.
“We cannot stand on the sidelines,” Reno said. “We cannot say ‘let someone else do it.’”
Reno also wasted no time Thursday in urging the California Women Lawyers to set their sights ever higher.
“Ladies, the next step is the presidency,” Reno said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company