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The Florida Bar News
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November 15, 2012
Letters

Merit Retention
The concern about opposing any particular justice for merit retention as being “political” overlooks a key fact. The reason the justice came to be on the bench in the first place was because he was appointed, which is a political decision to begin with.

So, the real question is whether all subsequent generations are bound to the original politics which put the justice on the court, or whether politics may again intervene in the judicial process to further an agenda of a subsequent governor (or political party). So long as Florida does not follow a policy of lifetime appointments, as with the federal judiciary, then there is no real reason to oppose actions to either place, or replace, justices on the court because of some “political” motivation.

Also, opposing voting for a judge on the basis of political persuasion seems a little naïve. Judges are people too, just like the rest of us. They have their own predilections in particular directions, as far as social agendas are concerned. For example, some justices take an “activist” approach to constitutional and statutory construction, while others are more prone to “stick with the text.” Not to mention differences in direction as to creating or modifying the common law.

Consequently, the populace should be permitted to have a hand in selecting those who govern via judicial fiat, just as they do with the legislative or executive branches. After all, government is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people” — or so I thought.

Thomas F. Harkins, Jr.
Ft. Worth, TX

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I believe one life tenure judicial system is enough; therefore, I oppose merit retention. Florida’s merit retention is nothing more than another name for a state system of life tenure, as opposed to the federal system of life tenure. The only difference being the state system has a retirement age, and the federal is truly for life.

I vote not to retain as a matter of principle for all names listed on any merit retention ballot. I recommend to all who ask me how to vote on the merit retention of judges, they “vote not to retain.” Most thank me for the advice and tell me they will vote as I recommended.

Perhaps I am in violation of some pseudo-standard of The Florida Bar and/or the Bar’s leadership regarding merit retention. I do not care. The last time I checked, I could vote as I desired for any reason.

I will continue my current position as long as I vote and I am asked how to vote on merit retention.

Warren Adrian Rachels
Tampa

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I read all of the letters in the October 15 News about the involvement of “outsiders” in the merit retention process.

I found the contents of one letter to be inappropriate. That letter not only “played the race card,” but also played the gender card, doing so not just once, but twice, in each instance.

Look, the question of a particular justice’s merit retention should stand or fall upon that justice’s body of work, not that justice’s body’s anatomical configuration or skin color.

Claudos G. Spears
Young Harris, GA

Health Insurance
I just recently got a quote from The Florida Bar member coordinator for group health insurance. The quotes from Aetna were higher than the premiums I am able to get on my own from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the benefits are for far less coverage.

This is shameful considering the leverage The Florida Bar has as an organization with over 94,000 members. Surely The Florida Bar can do better than a solo practitioner with three employees. I have tried for years to get health insurance from The Florida Bar, but always found the premiums to be higher for substandard coverage.

Surely, the Bar can do better. Someone is not doing their job. Why are there not more agents competing for the business of the Bar?

Did you know that the Bar’s agent demands $400 per year on top of premiums collected as a service fee? I have never heard of such a thing. Insurance agents are paid by the companies, not the customer.

The members of The Florida Bar deserve better benefits from an organization with the leverage of 94,000 members as potential customers.

Lawrence J. Marraffino
Gainesville

Editor’s Note: Terry Hill, director of the Bar’s Programs Division, responds: The Bar’s health-related member benefit insurance products are offered through BPC Financial (The Florida Bar Member Benefit Insurance & Retirement Programs). BPC Financial, as the third-party administrator for The Florida Bar, has on several occasions initiated requests for proposals to underwriters seeking a guarantee issue group insurance plan for members of the Bar. Evidently, the issue is that the major carriers have not been interested in bidding on a guaranteed issue group plan for the Bar members because of the vast range in age (young and veteran) and health. As recent as 2010 and 2011, BPC submitted requests for proposals to several major carriers (including Aetna and Blue Cross), but none of the carriers were interested in submitting a proposal to offer guarantee issue group health insurance to Bar members. Individual health insurance policies are available through the member benefits plan but are quoted on an individual basis based on the Bar member’s age, health, risk factors, etc. (through Humana and United Health). Thousands of these policies are currently in existence within the Bar member benefit program. The Member Benefits Committee will continue to work with BPC Financial in the coming months to incorporate the changes resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into The Florida Bar Member Benefits Insurance & Retirement Program.

Residencies
The November 1 News article on the concept of requiring “legal residency” sounds like it would improve attorney competency. However, it also sounds like a move in the direction of the English system.

The UK has a system that is similar to a residency requirement. The downside is that the number of positions is limited and it favors those with the preferred class and family connections. This has made it more difficult in the UK than in the U.S. to encourage diversity in the practice of law.

Though they are sensitive to this problem and have programs to increase diversity, the problem remains.

Joy A. Bartmon
Boca Raton

[Revised: 01-05-2014]