West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer was voted in as president-elect designate of The Florida Bar, beating a local Tampa attorney.
Suskauer won over fellow Board of Governors member Lansing “Lanse” Scriven, who specializes in business litigation at the Trenam law firm.
Suskauer received 12,993 votes to Scriven’s 10,188 in the first contested election for Bar president since 2011. She will be sworn in as president-elect at the Bar’s annual convention in Boca Raton on June 23.
The current Bar president for the 2016-17 term is William J. “Bill” Schifino Jr., managing partner in the Tampa office of Burr & Forman LLP. Waiting in the wings is President-Elect Michael J. Higer of Miami, who will be sworn in as president at the Bar’s annual convention this June.
Suskauer will begin her term as Bar president in June 2018.
“It was a tough campaign,” Suskauer said. “Lanse was a fantastic competitor. He is a candidate who is incredibly well qualified with a wife who is a respected member of the federal bench.”
Scriven, her opponent, has served as past president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, the Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association, and the George Edgecomb Bar Association, the Tampa-based chapter of the NBA. He is married to U.S. District Court Judge Mary Scriven, who sits in the Middle District Florida in Tampa.
Suskauer ran on a platform of inclusion and noted that she has friend and colleagues in Tampa. “We have a lot of challenges facing the profession,” she said. “I’m a small firm lawyer and the majority of lawyers in the state are in firms of five lawyers or less.” As a result, her first and foremost priority will be attorney quality of life, she said. “We have lawyers who are graduating from schools with no jobs and crushing debt,” she said. On the other end of the spectrum are older attorneys who are confronting the rapid changes in technology. “The Florida bar has an obligation to take care of all of its lawyers.”
As president-elect, Suskauer will focus on the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to propose changes to be approved by Florida’s voters. The Bar has a special committee that will advise the commission.
Another priority for Suskauer will be access to justice around the state, she said. In Miami, Tampa and Orlando, she noted there are “bigger crush of people seeking access” to the courts and legal advice.
Suskauer, 50, is a criminal defense attorney in a two-lawyer office in West Palm Beach. She is married to Judge Scott Suskauer of the 15th Circuit in Palm Beach County. She launched her own firm, Suskauer Law Firm PA in 1997.
Suskauer is also president of the board of directors of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County and past-president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and the Palm Beach County Chapter of FAWL. She has held several positions with The Florida Bar, including chair of the Disciplinary Review Committee, the Communications Committee and the Annual Convention Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, Criminal Law Certification Committee and Program Evaluation Committee. Among her special appointments was chairing the Fourth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission Screening Committee.