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June 15, 2013
Letters

Death Penalty
I just read this article about the new death penalty bill that went to our governor who will probably sign it as is or send it back to make it even more draconian than it already is. 

The Republicans in the Legislature, of course, would be happy to do that and then he’ll sign it.

Here’s something interesting: Rep. Rehwinkle-Vasilinda’s observation, “Florida has been involved in more exonerations, in other words, has put more people on death row and has been mistaken about it.” True words. Here’s my question: If we have competing interests, namely the lives of individuals convicted of murder versus the interests of the survivors of murder victims in having legal revenge carried out, what is an acceptable margin of error? Is it all right to kill a few innocent people to satisfy our need for revenge (which really is what the death penalty ultimately is)? 

And you have to love the title of the bill: “The Timely Justice Act.” Justice, of course, means “we’re going to kill this guy, and we’re going to do it sooner rather than later.” It’s all very efficient, isn’t it? 

It’s interesting that Islamic countries like Iran and Pakistan, along with certain communist countries like China, still have the death penalty, and all of the Western European democracies have done away with it. In other words, those who are further along the social evolutionary scale have taken a more enlightened approach to this issue than those who are still dealing with the same notions of retribution that date back to antiquity. 

None of the debate that is currently going on in Tallahassee and elsewhere in this otherwise great country speaks well of us as a people. The death penalty doesn’t deter crime. It’s far too expensive and time- consuming. It wastes resources that could be better utilized elsewhere. It needs to be eliminated altogether.    

Ernest J. Mullins
Kissimmee

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Teresa J. Sopp states her objection to the death penalty in the June 1 News. She relies on the societal costs. However, there is a lot of money spent on a lot of things by our governments.The question is whether there is some societal justification for the practice that may warrant the expense of carrying it out.

In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” And there are numerous other instances calling for such a law in the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

Of course, some would cry foul to make any reference to any religious literature to inform our American policies. However, American statutory and common-law rules are largely based on the Judeo-Christian heritage (at least until recently). Even more importantly, there is nothing wrong with people relying on their religious beliefs when deciding what laws to support, any more than for other people to rely on “humanist” or other principles.

Also, the rule of “a life for a life” makes a lot of sense, both philosophically and practically. Philosophically, a person who has no respect for the life of another person has no place to object to a “lack of respect” for his own life. Practically, a realization that the death penalty will be “speedily” imposed cannot help but motivate some who would murder another not to do so. Witness the intense fight to avoid the death penalty by those convicted murderers who push for life imprisonment instead.

Finally, of course, we bemoan those instances where someone who really is innocent is found guilty and executed. But it is simply impossible for some mistakes not to be made in any criminal justice system. This is why we have as many safeguards as we do. “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” “Right to counsel.” “Cannot be compelled to testify against oneself.” Etc. Even under Mosaic law, no one could be executed except upon the testimony of at least two witnesses. So, we make every effort we can, but in the end we can’t just let every criminal go free because in some very rare occasions a mistake may be made.

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

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Florida has been indeed blessed by divine providence to have the Florida Senate working to speed up our sacred execution protocols.

I am sick of hearing about innocent people being killed. We know that thousands will be killed in auto accidents, yet we still make cars. Killing a few innocents is a small price to pay to make the Republican party look tough on crime.

The United States Supreme Court has done everything but hold the entire state in contempt for refusing to make death sentences demand a 12-to-0 verdict. Has anybody but me wondered why they keep reversing Florida death sentences?

Our Mensa-challenged Legislature puts pandering over killing. If they would just kowtow to the Supremes, we could kill five a week or better one a day. It would take us two years to wipe out death row, but 460 photo-ops would make it all worthwhile

Charles B. Tiffany
Kissimmee

Discipline
The Florida Bar has come up with a unique way to take care of its own. What if its own Bar counsel are getting bored, always pursuing the bad guys?  What if they could switch over to represent us defendants?   Wouldn’t that be a trip? All that has to be done is to generate prospective clients.

For just such purposes, apparently, the Bar seems to go through its roster and find just enough solo practitioners and lawyers in small firms to pursue through the disciplinary process. Since 1996, I have been picked on at least 14 times. A dozen times the Bar has come up empty. But now if I could hire one of their own and prevailed, at least the organization would know that I did not have a fool for a lawyer.

In the past I did not understand why the Bar seemed to want to spend so much time with me (in truth, they never turned the same Bar counsel loose on me twice.) Now I have a better idea since I started looking at the News more closely. I have a better understanding of this cottage industry The Florida Bar has built.

No less than 25 percent of the two pages devoted to the Attorneys Exchange were filled with nine purveyors of credentials under the heading “Attorney Discipline & Bar Admission Professional Licensing Ethics Opinion.” Faced with four Bar counsel pursuing me since last September, I checked to see whether there was one I might select who could get me through this process in less than two years.

My favorite was one with whom I earlier spent more than two years while the Bar wrenched a public reprimand and $250 costs out of me. He was reluctant to give me an estimate, and apparently did not provide a free hour of consultation. I say he because each of the nine ads were for a “he.” By name, it appears that there are few if any Asian or Hispanic surnames. Were any African- American? Of course, they could not say.   They had to be color-blind.

Of course, I could get a lot of particular expertise for my money, depending on which era I believe my current problem arose most frequently in the past. One of the advertisers was Florida Bar counsel (1990-1998). A second was with The Florida Bar, Department of Lawyer Regulation (1984-June 2000).  A third was a former Bar counsel more recently (2005-January 2012).

Surely their hourly rate exceeded $350 an hour. Mine is only $200, but I do not specialize. And I do wonder how the younger fellas and women can make a living at all, once they are presumed guilty of violations of Bar rules and regulations.

If I thought I had a chance to get meaningful access to the court system for one of the cases I am handling, I would be glad to turn myself over to the mercy of the court. But, alas, it seems it is that very case which caused the Bar to come after me again, generally on grounds similar to those I faced in 2005. On that occasion, the Bar filed eight charges. None stuck.

But this time there is more at stake. I am appealing a decision of a successor trial judge. He had thrown out 20 hours of testimony, dismissed all pleadings, and allowed one of clients to go forward, pro se.   She thought he was prejudiced against me, but he assured her he had a right to be, so she probably was wise to go forward without me.

The judge had dismissed my corporate client and refused to allow me either at a deposition or in the courtroom in case my human client called me as a witness. The Bar might have left me alone, if I had not persisted in wanting the appeal. In all likelihood, the First District Court of Appeal can be counted on to affirm without an opinion, but the facts are such that media might get wind of them.

To tell you the truth, it would really be fun to see this letter in print, but the News does not seem to want to indulge me as it once did three to four times a year. Too bad.

Gabe Kaimowitz
Gainesville

E-filing
I needed to file three papers in a Duval County existing action. The page on which one inputs the case number informs that leading zeros are not necessary.

Funny thing: Until I added leading zeros, the system could not locate the case. Oh well, no huge deal — just another small example of the many glitches.

One of the three papers was a Proof of Publication; under the “Common Civil Codes” drop-down list that paper is one of those listed. Good deal! But whoops, upon hitting the “save” button, I received an error message telling me that Proof of Publication cannot be filed through the portal because it is larger than 8.5 x 11 inches. Well, it could not know if it was larger or not because it had not accepted that paper for filing; and the one I was — still am — trying to file is precisely that size.

Finally (probably not), if the system assumes that a POP is going to be too large, why include it in the drop-down list to begin with?

William Nussbaum
Jacksonville

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I find the questions and answers contained in the May 15 “Frequently asked e-filing questions” story enlightening. However, I have yet to see a method described for payment of filing fees by cash or check.

Did I miss that? Am I correct in presuming such payment may be made to the appropriate clerk’s office by presenting the “Filing I.D.” to the clerk at the courthouse, or clerk’s satellite office, together with cash or attorney’s check for the sums owing?

James E. Knight
Clemmons, NC

(Editor’s Note: The Florida Courts E-Filing Portal accepts payment by certain credit cards or by ACH. ACH generally refers to a process wherein the filer authorizes funds to be taken from a bank account. Payment is to be rendered when the filing is made.)

Hold No Grudges
Roger Angel, who recently passed away, was a great lawyer and human being.

I had the good fortune of meeting him when he was a solo practitioner in Miami around 1991. I was between jobs and was very down on my luck, and Roger showed me immense compassion and attention during that difficult period in my life.

He gave me a lot of good advice on how to practice law in the criminal law field, something I still follow to this day and even took me out to a local Waffle House for a nice treat.

He was like a “father figure” to me. He advised me to hold no grudges against those who hurt me, and that time will always show that I was right and they were wrong. I kept in touch with Roger for many years, even though I was in another part of the state, and obtained his valuable input and guidance not only on various practice matters but matters that affected me on a personal level.

I hope that he will be remembered by all those whose lives he touched and molded for all times as a “man for all seasons.” May Roger be at peace wherever he is.

Roshani M. Gunewardene
Ft. Myers

Potemkin Equality
The governor’s letter vetoing the alimony reform legislation made explicit reference to the alimony provisions, yet said nothing about the proposed presumptive 50/50 time-share provision, which fell without discussion.

This was feel-good legislation — without regard to children, school, history of care, and the more than adequate statutory scheme set out in Chapter 6, which is without any presumptions. These concepts further a general trend in law and elsewhere to replace reality with the euphemistic rubbish.

Part of the progressive agenda is to sandpaper over words which have, to some, negative connotations. Thus, we eliminated the term “custody” and “visitation” from our legal lexicon. In the wider world, “prisons” are “departments of corrections,” and the “War Department” is now the “Defense Department. The Associated Press has recently banned the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.” The act of Major Hasan and the slaughter at Ft. Hood is to this day regarded by the Defense Department as “workplace violence,” thus avoiding that unseemly term, “terrorist attack.”

Back to the Legislature. Aside from those feeling good about the legislation — mostly men? — the proponents claim that historically the alimony and parenting time are simply unfair, unequal, and medieval. The support for the legislation was considerable, suggesting a sign of what could become a new officially recognized coalition of the oppressed, that is, men.

And the basis, implied but unstated, is a concept called, “disparate impact.” It has been used honorably in voting and prisoner rights cases, but mostly in employment law. Simply, a facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.

How does this apply? I concede the following: If one were to review every family law case in the Southern Reporters, one would discover that in, let us estimate, 81 percent of the time the mother was awarded “custody,” or a majority of the parenting time. Ergo? Unfair, says the Legislature. We don’t know why, but we want to fix it, therefore presumptive 50/50 time-share. This legislation presupposes the requirement of affirmative action in its most irrational form.

All of which reminds me of a personal anecdote. One evening, while I was attending a large dinner party in my honor at the Veranda. (Now you will say that this story never happened. May I remind you that is precisely beside the point!) I was seated on the dais adjacent to a gentleman. We talked of many things. As the evening wore on, he began to become sad and intense and talked of the horrific toll drunk drivers inflict on us all. He spoke knowingly of methods to lower the blood alcohol test from .08 to .01. Clearly, I was in the presence of someone hurting from some personal tragedy. “No, I just believe we have to stop all of this slaughter.” And he poured forth more statistics, and I nodded empathically and finally inquired, “What do you do for a living?” He said, “Well, I am the chief lobbyist and director of the Southwest Florida Taxicab Federation.”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Joseph P. Hoffman
Ft. Myers

[Revised: 11-17-2014]