Kentucky Defense Counsel - History
The concept of forming an organization of good Kentucky lawyers with a bent toward defense had its genesis over a conversation at lunch between Charles Landrum, Jr. (deceased), Ben Cooper and Charles English at the 1976 or 1977 Kentucky Bar Convention at the Executive Inn in Louisville. Charlie Landrum talked about communication he had gotten from DRI regarding state legal defense organizations (“SLDO”), how DRI was encouraging the states to form such organizations, and the need to establish such an organization in Kentucky. Bill Grubbs was instrumental in getting Kentucky Defense Counsel, Inc. (“KDC”) in motion. The national organization for plaintiffs’ bar at that time was called National Association of Claimants Compensation Attorneys.
When the initial meeting of three took place, they knew they would get immediate interest in such an organization. One of the plans was to hold a seminar sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas to encourage attendance; by holding the seminar in Louisville, spouses would willingly come along because they could shop in Louisville during the seminar hours. They would hold the seminar on Friday, followed by a reception, then everyone on their own for dinner. The seminar would continue Saturday morning, breaking up at lunch time.
The Annual Meeting for election of officers was to be held during the KBA Convention. It was usually held on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon – the nominating committee gave report, and officers and directors were elected.
It is believed a similar group was established in Tennessee, which included Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, and was active. Kentucky would have representatives attend those meetings.
As time moved along, the work of KDC became more work than manageable for the President. They then hired Elizabeth Oberst, Lexington, Kentucky, who was very active. The development of a newsletter and exchange of ideas evolved.
While KDC was officially incorporated November 17, 1981, it started up in 1977. The initial officers at the time of formation included, Directors: John (“Jack”) T. Ballantine, Uhel O. Barrickman (deceased), Robert G. Breetz (deceased), Robert C. Cetrulo (deceased), Reford H. Coleman
Incorporators: John (“Jack”) T. Ballantine, William D. Grubbs, and Charles E. English
The office of President was first held by Charles Landrum, Jr., of Lexington, Kentucky from 1977-78. The first and, to date, only female President, Serieta Jaggers, held the position for the 2003-04 term; she went on to serve as the DRI State Representative from 2004-2007. Ernest “Hank” Jones served as President for two terms, 1988-89 and 1998-99. The 1985-86 KDC President, Robert G. Breetz, left the practice of law to help organize a legal malpractice insurance company, Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of Kentucky (LMICK). Former KDC President, Donald P. (“Pat”) Moloney was instrumental in organizing very successful one-day, two locations spring seminars in which KDC joined forces with Kentucky’s association for plaintiffs bar.
While five of the Past Presidents of KDC are deceased (Charles Landrum, Jr., Uhel O. Barrickman, Robert Breetz, Jay O’Hara and Robert Cetrulo), only one Past President switched to “the dark side.”
There have been some really great “learning” seminars put on by KDC which created great opportunities to renew and develop good friendships among defense lawyers.
KDC became more involved with Defense Research Institute (“DRI”) in the early 1990’s. DRI had a national conference of state and bar leaders which predated the annual meeting. Officers of the state organization were invited to come in for a meeting, to which KDC’s President-Elect was sent. Eventually, KDC began sending both the President and President-Elect. At that point, DRI got geared up about pushing things with local and state organizations.
Before DRI’s re-organization, there was a “State Chairperson” who was the liaison for Kentucky, which is now known as the “DRI State Representative.” At that time, the regional vice president position began as well. Bill Tooms was the first to serve as Kentucky’s Regional Director. Initially, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan made up one region. Bill Tooms petitioned to join another region due to the fact “we had nothing in common with those Yankees”; Bill was accused of trying to secede from the North (all in fun!). However, due to Bill’s efforts, KDC is now part of the Southern region.
Jack Ballantine stated that the expert witness “searches” were very valuable to him in the days he went into “the pits”. He also recalls KDC having been an amicus curiae participant in some appeals – one of which two other lawyers and he were counsel for the appellant in a big-verdict bad faith case. Collectively, they received a reversal, but the opinion was ordered not to be published and, “I certainly won’t hazard a guess as to which part of what brief was considered by the Court of Appeals to be the most valuable to the Court.”
Bill Tooms wrapped it all up by stating that, prior to his involvement with DRI, he knew so many attorneys here in Kentucky that he could reach out to if he needed assistance. Because of his involvement with DRI, he now knows attorneys throughout the U.S., and internationally, that he can lean on if the need arises.
In January, 2012, the KDC Board invited John Trimble to facilitate its first Long Range Planning Meeting. At that time, Melissa Calabrese stepped up to head the Young Lawyers Section, which is still going strong today. In January 2013, John Trimble joined us again; at that time, Jason Kuhlman, Mitch Hall and Miller Grumley volunteered to create a publication, and our fantastic publication Common Defense continues successfully today. Mitch Hall and Jason Coltharp served as Editors after Jason Kuhlman, and Kristen Fowler will be the first female editor for Common Defense. In January 2016, the KDC Board invited James Holland to facilitate the Long Range Planning Meeting, who assisted in fine tuning things we were doing. KDC is one of the only SLDO that meets annually to discuss long range planning, working to provide value to its members.
Those contributing to this article include Past Presidents: John (“Jack”) T. Ballantine (1981-82), Charles E. English (1980-81); William D. Grubbs (1979-80); Brad Hume (1999-2000); Serieta Jaggers (2003-04); R. William Tooms (1992-93)