The American Board of Trial Advocates has announced the installment of Luther J. Battiste III as its new National President at the organization’s National Board Meeting at the Hotel Bennett. Mr. Battiste, a pioneering shareholder of Johnson, Toal & Battiste, P.A., succeeded retired Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.
The appointment of Mr. Battiste as the National President marks the first African-American in the history of the organization to serve as National President.
More so, he made history in 1983 by becoming one of the first two African-Americans elected to Columbia City Council since Reconstruction. Thereafter, he served 15 years as a member of the Columbia City Council, including two terms as Mayor Pro Tempore. In 1998, he was honored with the Monument and Plaza for his dedicated service as a public servant by the City of Columbia.
Mr. Battiste recorded a number of achievements with ABOTA after receiving him in 2000, where he began serving as a National Board Member. He served for two terms as National Treasurer and as a chair or member to a number of committees and task forces. In 2011, he began serving as the President of the Southeastern Chapters of ABOTA, a regional organization representing 11 ABOTA chapters.
Mr. Battiste and his wife, Judy, are leading the Foundation’s newest effort launching this year, the Civics Education Literacy Program, which grants free books related to the U.S. Constitution to elementary schools. ABOTA members are financially supporting the program and also serving as volunteers to read to the students.
Mr. Battiste acknowledges his mentor, the Hon. Matthew J. Perry, Jr., who served as the first African-American United States District Judge in South Carolina. “Judge Perry demonstrated under complex circumstances that lawyers who practice with civility, integrity, and skill are respected,” Mr. Battiste said.
“We should, therefore, proceed, as an organization, to stress that in an increasingly intemperate world civility and integrity matter. We must continue the efforts of the ABOTA Foundation to communicate the need for civility among lawyers and to impact, educate our youth through civics education.”
As a member of the board for the National Center for State Courts, Mr. Battiste said that working side by side with judges nationwide provided a perspective into the challenges faced by the Third Branch. “We must strive to support making the judicial system accessible to all and responsive to the changing needs of technology. Advocating for an independent judiciary is important,” Mr. Battiste said. “Understanding the past and preparing for the future to safeguard our valued legal system should be our greatest desire.”