A History of the Willson American Inn of Court

In 1989, Second District Court of Appeal Judge John M. Scheb organized a steering committee of nine judges and lawyers of varying experience to establish a local Inn. The Willson American Inn of Court, as it is now known, was originally founded in 1989 as the Polk County American Inn of Court. It was the 113th Inn chartered in the United States. Fred Lotterhos, an attorney then practicing with Holland & Knight, accepted the charter for the Inn at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. Judge Scheb served as the first President. Upon his retirement from the Second District Court of Appeal, Judge Scheb returned to his Sarasota home where he founded another Inn, which has since been named The Judge John M. Scheb American Inn of Court.

From 1989 to the present, hundreds of lawyers, including many of our appellate, circuit and county judges, as well as professors of law from Stetson University College of Law, have been members of the Willson American Inn of Court. The Willson American Inn of Court continues to be associated with Stetson University College of Law.

Along with the legal education provided to Inn members, the Inn also reaches out to educate the community and future attorneys who are not yet enrolled in law school. In this effort, the Inn has sponsored a number of mock trials for the students of Florida Southern College. These miniature trials include all aspects of a trial from voir dire to actual student jury deliberation. At each phase of the trial, an experienced trial judge, who doubles as moderator, explains the purpose of and legal issues associated with each step. This has been a wonderful opportunity for Inn Associates to learn first hand while teaching others.

As originally conceived, the Willson American Inn of Court continues its focus on general trial litigation, whether civil or criminal, including an emphasis on trial techniques, and practice and ethical issues. American Inns of Court are now permitted to have a specialized focus. In other areas of the state and country, Inns are being formed, specialized by the types of law practiced (e.g., family law, bankruptcy, commercial litigation, etc.).