Our Plans for the 2012 Session
Dear Florida Bar Members:
The leadership of The Florida Bar diligently prepares for every legislative session by developing not only a legislative strategy, but a comprehensive communications plan so that Florida Bar members are made aware of important legislative issues affecting the administration of justice as they may arise.
The Florida Bar carefully reviews all pre-filed bills and shares relevant information regarding those measures on the Bar’s website with leaders of any affected Bar sections and committees, as well as our full membership and the public at large.
In addition, your Florida Bar leadership is committed to providing as up-to-date and comprehensive legislative communications to our members as possible. In that regard, beginning Friday, January 13, and continuing each of the following Fridays during the legislative session, the Bar will post at www.floridabar.org/2012legislativesession an update outlining the progress of any bill that implicates The Florida Bar’s legislative platform. Each weekly update will summarize what the Bar has done during the week. This 2012 Legislative Session webpage will be linked from the homepage, and you may bookmark the direct link or add it to your favorites.
To place these matters in context, it is also important to outline for you the restrictions and parameters on The Florida Bar with regard to its legislative activities. We are a unified bar with mandatory membership requirements.
United States Supreme Court case law and well-established First Amendment principles restrict the legislative issues about which The Florida Bar may lobby to those core topics regarding the regulation and discipline of attorneys; matters relating to the improvement of the functioning of the courts; judicial efficacy and efficiency; increasing the availability of legal services to society; lawyers’ trust accounts; and the education, ethics, competence, integrity, and regulation of the legal profession.
Additional Bar advocacy is allowable if an issue is recognized as being of great public interest; lawyers are especially suited by their training and experience to evaluate and explain the matter; and the topic affects the rights of those likely to come into contact with the judicial system.
Hence, Florida Bar leadership and those lobbyists who represent this organization will not and cannot lobby for or against issues that are either outside the purview of our constitutional authority or that are not part of the Bar’s official legislative platform. Bar committees are similarly bound.
However, the Bar’s sections — operating in their own name and with their own voluntary dues — have more flexibility in their ability to lobby regarding political issues. But since these sections are still a part of The Florida Bar, they nevertheless have certain limitations on their legislative advocacy (i.e., sections may not lobby for issues that are outside their subject matter jurisdiction, are contrary to any position of the Bar, or which are unduly divisive).
Please understand, however, that these restrictions do not interfere with an individual member’s right to lobby for or against any legislative issue. Similarly, voluntary bar organizations that are not formally affiliated with The Florida Bar are not subject to the same advocacy restrictions that apply to The Florida Bar.
The Florida Bar’s legislative positions — which have been formally approved by the Board of Governors — as well as talking points on key issues, links to bills and to legislators, and other valuable information can also be found at www.floridabar.org/2012legislativesession.
Thank you for your interest in The Florida Bar’s legislative process and for your understanding of the principles that will be guiding your professional organization in the upcoming legislative session.
Scott G. Hawkins, President