Since 1979, the University of Florida College of Law and the Criminal Law Section bring together young assistant public defenders and assistant state attorneys from across the state for a week to work on trial skills.

Most have between six months and two years of trial experience, so they already have some context to polish and refine their skills. In mock trials, actors play the defendants and witnesses, and real fingerprint technicians and forensic psychologists take the stand as expert witnesses. The faculty is an impressive array of experienced trial lawyers, prosecutors, professors, and judges.

One aspect of the program is the attendance of British barristers and Queen’s Counsel. The British barristers attend the program as students and Queen’s Counsel assist as faculty members. More than 50 barristers have graduated from the program and over 20 Queen’s Counsel have served as faculty. The attendance by our British colleagues is highly educational as we each learn about the differences between our criminal justice systems.

It’s all part of the Gerald Bennett Prosecutor/Public Defender Trial Training program, which provides trial advocacy skills to new prosecutors and public defenders. Since its inception, over 2,000 attorneys have graduated from the program.

Paying for this training, however, takes money. So the University of Florida Foundation has established an endowment fund to help ensure the continued vitality of the program and tax deductible donations are now being solicited for the program, which provides skills the attorneys use throughout their careers, even if they choose to leave public service.

Those who want to support the program can make a donation by making a check payable to The University of Florida Foundation and in the memo section of the check note it is for the Gerald Bennett P/PD Endowment Fund.

Checks should be mailed to The Florida Bar, Criminal Law Section, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300.