Black Robe Day gives perspective the commonalities of law and medicine

Keeping citizens connected to our country’s court system – and its central tenet of the jury trial system – is a focus of an annual program that helps USF Health faculty, administrators and students spend a morning in the Hillsborough County Courthouse to see firsthand the similarities of the medical and legal professions.

Members of the USF Heath Community had an opportunity to visit the county courthouse to have a firsthand experience of the relationship between the law and medicine.

Members of the USF Heath Community visit the county courthouse to have a firsthand experience of the relationship between the law and medicine.

Called the Black Robe Day, this year’s event was Oct. 25 and included about two dozen people from USF Health shadowing lawyers and judges and sitting in on cases in courtrooms throughout the George Edgecomb Courthouse in downtown Tampa.

“There is a great role the community plays in determining justice and keeping that community voice involved in the our court system is why we’re here today,” said Mark McLaughlin, president of the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), a national group that aims to protect and preserve the jury trial system. ABOTA sponsors the annual Black Robe event in Tampa.

Mark McLaughlin, president of ABOTA.

Mark McLaughlin, president of ABOTA.

The main goal of Black Robe Day is to give a glimpse of our legal system so USF Health students and faculty gain better perspectives of the commonalities of law and medicine, said Jay Wolfson, JD, DrPH, USF Distinguished Service Professor and associate vice president for Health Law, Policy and Safety at USF Health and senior associate dean for the Morsani College of Medicine.

The yearly day in court is organized by Wolfson and Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, and coordinated by Dionne Ferguson, JD, PhD, director of Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, and Laura M. Daniels, judicial assistant to Judge Holder. The program is also linked to the Law and Medicine Scholarly Concentration, one of several programs offered by the Scholarly Concentrations Program in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

After a morning in courtrooms, where attendees heard details about drug possession, medical malpractice, domestic violence, theft, and battery, among other types of cases, the students, faculty and staff gathered in a conference room to reflect on what they had seen and heard. Those reflections included gratitude for the inside look at the court system, a newfound appreciation for the legal process and the complexities of each case, and the realization that patients involved in legal proceedings have hardships that might greatly affect their health, as well as their compliance of health care advice.

Some of the many judges who hosted USF Health on Black Robe Day.

Some of the many judges who hosted USF Health on Black Robe Day.

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.