My father’s maternal great grandfather was a man named Adelbert Eugene Heath of Hastings Michigan. Adelbert Heath was a farmer and a chronicler of his daily life by and through his diaries which he kept from 1867 until his death in 1927. A few years ago, I was able to obtain a copy of these diaries and then they began to gather dust on the shelf for many subsequent years, until this year. This year, I decided to open them looking for the existence of any passages regarding the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. During the winter and fall of 1918 and the winter of 1919 the world experienced both the Spanish flu outbreak and World War I. I suspect that many at that time has a general mood of unsettlement and the diary passages regarding this time sound particularly familiar. The passages mention churches not meeting as a result of the pandemic, schools closing for extended periods of time, and an underlying fear of becoming ill with the flu. Despite all of the tragedy of the moment, I am struck by the significant appreciation by this ancestor of anything that represented a return to anything that made life seem normal. In particular, his appreciation for family meals, visits with neighbors, good news coming from the war front and the ability of children to attend school in person once deemed safe.
This article will come out during the month of November, which is the month of Thanksgiving. This will be the last newsletter column for calendar year 2020 for the Mecklenburg County Bar. To say it has been a bit of a hellacious year is an understatement. I suspect that there is no reader of this column that will ever long for a repeat of 2020 and dare I say that there are large number of fellow members counting the days until January 1, 2021. In spite of this experience, as my great-great-grandfather before me, I too want to recognize and highlight my appreciation for those that have risen to the challenge to help make our daily lives as practitioners to be as normal as possible.
I am thankful for Judge Bob Bell, Judge Elizabeth Trosch, Clerk of Court Elisa Chinn-Gary, TCA Charleston Carter and all the other key court personnel. At no time in modern history have our courts been forced closed for expanded periods of time due to health considerations. Our Court leaders had to create a new unproven system of operations made entirely out of “whole cloth”. The results have been extraordinary. The Court leaders have implemented processes that have allowed our Courts to continue to function and our profession to move forward. Moreover, these leaders have continued to adapt those processes to increase the functionality of the same and have explored many alternative methods of moving matters forward for the preservation of the access to justice. I might add that these changes have been made with limited resources and under present budget considerations, which is in of itself a challenge. We appreciate the efforts of these Court leaders to move our profession forward.
I am thankful for the work and efforts of the Justice Access Initiative. In May, I asked Chase Saunders and Kathi Lucchesi to take on the herculean task of reviewing all areas of practice with multiple practitioners in order to find a way forward during the pandemic and post pandemic. The response from our Bar has been overwhelming with grassroots efforts of approximately 100 members from multi-practice areas taking time to offer their input and assessments of how we can move overcome the delays placed upon our profession by the pandemic. As far as we can tell, there is no other comparable effort being performed by any Bar across the United States which means that these efforts could prove to be important for other such Bars to evaluate the best way for them to return to normalcy. During the two months of the publication of this column, we expect that the JAI report will be ready for publication, if not published. We appreciate the efforts of Chase and Kathi, the JAI Core Team members, the JAI teams and their leaders and anyone else that have taken the time to provide their input on these important efforts.
I am thankful for Leah Campbell and the staff of the Mecklenburg County Bar. Leah in her first year as Bar Director was forced to create and oversee the functionality of the Bar during a pandemic without the benefit of any instruction book. There are no blueprints for how to make the work of the MCB continue without being able to meet in person, however Leah and her staff have not only figured it out, they have made it seamless and functional. They have embraced creativity and flexibility. When we look back at this year in the future, I believe that one will find that many of the efforts of Leah and her staff will have not only changed many of the operations of our Bar, I think it will be evident that their work will make the Bar more responsive to members and members more engaged with their Bar.
We are collectively not out of the proverbial woods yet by any measure as it is related to this pandemic. We as practitioners still have challenges to overcome. There will be growing pains when jury trials are resumed. Technology will not always be cooperative for connectively for the practice of law. Nevertheless, the support system that we as members have in our Bar are solid and sound and provide us an underlying fortified base that which we can resource to continue to build good and solid practices.