Afi Johnson-Parris

Message from the President – May 2106

I wish you could see me dance.  Know this–I am dancing and smiling as I write this last column. I love to dance. I’m partial to latest line dance and I promise that one day I’ll be the old lady on the dance floor, cane tossed to the side, getting her groove on because I just heard my favorite song.  This dance is a happy dance because I’ve made it to the finish line. I too will wear the Cheshire Cat grin that immediate past president Jim Bryan has sported all year because I will be in the same position very soon.  It’s not so much that I’m happy to be passing the reins of the Association to Ken Keller, but I’m happy that this is my very last column. I’m going to miss everything else, just not this deadline.   

When I started this term, past presidents told me that I would ask members for their help and input and I would receive it. Those words were true.  The members who agreed to chair or staff committees were generous with their time when taking on tasks and making them happen. I received support from many corners of our Association and I am so very grateful for it. At many times I’ve been in awe of what our members have done to advance our Association through their work on various projects this year.

As an Association, our reach can be much farther than we ever expect. Who knows the seeds of promise that we’ve sown with the participants in our Bone Marrow Drive sponsored by the Health and Wellness Committee.  Although Judge Carl Fox, our Orange County colleague in need of a donor, has not found a matching donor, our work could help others with similar needs. Our signature pro bono project, The Second Chance project, added many newly trained advocates to the cause of obtaining criminal record expunctions for Legal Aid clients. Our volunteers have helped to erase barriers to gainful employment and affordable housing for citizens with non-violent convictions or dismissed charges that still stain their record. The Legal Aid Fundraiser Committee’s hard work and the generosity of our members provides financial support to our local Legal Aid Office. These funds help to fill the gaps left by steadily decreasing government support for low-income citizens’ civil legal needs.

I hope our members have enjoyed the opportunities for fellowship and education through our member meetings and CLE courses. Our speaker committee of one, Paul Daniels, has worked hard to make each meeting an opportunity to learn something interesting or to be entertained by our guest speaker. He did a great job. The CLE committee continued their excellent offerings this year and many of us have benefitted from the knowledge gained and the CLE hours earned.

We can all take pride in the work that has been done this year and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead when Ken Keller charts the Association’s course for the 2016-2017 year. With all that we’ve accomplished, there is work that remains undone. With the celebration of Law Day this month, it is a perfect time to reflect on the role of law in our country and its importance to our society. We all play a part in that vital construct that makes this country great. I feel blessed and humbled to just be a part of it all.

Just like the 85 other presidents that have gone before me, my season has ended and the year flew by. As I reflect on my term, I’m wistful hoping that I made a difference and lived up to the promises that I made and the promise that others saw in me when I was nominated for this position. For as much growth as I’ve experienced this year, I feel like I’m right back where I started. I still love being a lawyer and being the president of this Association has only made that love stronger. This has been a great opportunity to serve this profession and have fun all the while. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Afi Johnson-Parris practices Family Law and Veterans Disability with Ward Black Law

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