Daily News Summary
An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department. Electronic links are only active in today's edition. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.
Oct. 10, 2012
REJECT LEGISLATIVE MEDDLING WITH COURTS-- Tampa Bay Times, editorial, http://www.tampabay.com, Oct. 10, 2012. [Also: REJECT AMENDMENT 5-- The Palm Beach Post, editorial, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Oct. 9, 2012].
The Tampa Bay Times editorial states: "Amendment 5 on the general election ballot has a long, complex summary of nearly 600 words that is purposely confusing to voters. Here's the bottom line: The amendment is an attack on the independence of the state judiciary by the . . . Florida Legislature. . . . If the needed 60 percent of voters approve Amendment 5, the Legislature would gain dangerous new authority over the state's judicial branch. Voters should reject it and maintain the judiciary branch's independence."
The Palm Beach Post editorial states: ". . .Amendment 5 is designed to make Florida's judicial branch more subservient to the legislative branch. Currently, the Florida Supreme Court sets rules and procedures for the court system. The Legislature can repeal those rules, but it requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber. The amendment would lower that to a simple majority. . . . Amendment 5 is unnecessary and potentially dangerous."
PICKING SIDES AND POINTING FINGERS DOESN'T ADVANCE DEMOCRACY-- Tampa Bay Times, column, http://www.tampabay.com, Oct. 9, 2012. [Also: BAR TO OPPOSE AMENDMENT 5-- News Service of Florida, http://www.newsserviceflorida.com, Oct. 10, 2012].
The guest column by outgoing Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon states: "After several years of court decisions that encroached on the separation of powers, the Florida House of Representatives started a conversation by proposing some big, deliberately provocative ideas. Representatives, senators, lawyers, judges and others engaged in a continuous dialogue until we finally passed the compromise now known as Amendment 5. The proposed amendment, which would bring our court system closer to the federal system, requires more of a conversation between the branches on rulemaking, allows Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices within a 90-day window, and increases transparency into the secretive process governing judicial misconduct. An altogether modest proposal, Amendment 5 will be a step in the right direction."
IMPARTIAL JUSTICE AT RISK-- New York Times, editorial, http://www.nytimes.com, Oct. 6, 2012.
The editorial states: "The success of right-wing forces two years ago in ousting three Iowa Supreme Court justices for participating in a unanimous ruling that allowed same-sex marriage has inspired similar efforts there and elsewhere in the country this fall. . . . Unfortunately, Iowa is not alone. Another attempted hijacking of what are supposed to be nonpolitical retention elections — essentially referendums focused on a judge's competence and honesty — is gathering steam in Florida. The state has not removed a sitting Supreme Court justice in 40 years, but this year three worthy justices standing for retention — Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis — may not survive an onslaught from the political right."
WOMEN LAWYERS: VOTE FOR JUSTICES BASED ON ETHICS, NOT HIGH PROFILE CASES-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Oct. 9, 2012.
The number one factor voters should consider when deciding whether or not to vote for a judge in a merit retention race is the judge's ethics and integrity, according to an August polls of members of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. The 3,000-member organization said that lawyers surveyed said that the next top factors voters should consider when deciding whether to retain justices are the judge's impartiality, commitment to the law, judicial temperament and demeanor and legal abilities. The least important factor, according to 75 percent of those surveyed, was the judge's ruling in high profile cases. The survey was part of the organization's effort to educate its members on merit retention. The Florida Association of Women Lawyers is a voluntary bar association that provides a statewide voice for Florida's women lawyers.
--Civil Justice Issues--
FLORIDA BALLOT SNAFU DRAWS FEARS OF VOTER CONFUSION IN COURT ELECTIONS-- The Palm Beach Post, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Oct. 10, 2012.
At least 60,000 absentee voters in Palm Beach County may have difficulty finding the names of three Florida Supreme Court justices, who have been targeted for defeat by conservative groups, on the November ballot. While the error appears to be a far cry from the infamous 2000 butterfly ballot that spurred people to vote for a different presidential candidate than they intended, the effects could be equally severe, said Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard, an attorney for the justices. He added if Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher doesn't take aggressive action to inform the voters about the problem, he may go to court to ask a judge to force her to do so. Unlike the dozens of other offices and referendum questions on the ballot, there is no heading on the section where voters can decide whether Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis deserve another six years on the high court. While voters are alerted elsewhere on the ballot, for instance, that they are voting for a county commissioner or a state senator, there is nothing to indicate that in this section they are being asked to vote for a Supreme Court justice. The same problem exists for the two judges seeking reappointment to the 4th District Court of Appeal.
SUPREME COURT CASE COULD AFFECT KEYS LAND DECISION-- Florida Keys Keynoter, http://www.keysnet.com, Oct. 10, 2012.
Florida Keys attorneys are keeping a close eye on a U.S. Supreme Court land-rights case whose roots are in Orange County in Central Florida. The case — Koontz vs. St. Johns River Water Management District — contains many of the same elements that have marked Monroe County property-rights disputes over the decades. One of the issues in the Koontz case centers on the plaintiff's refusal to pay for mitigation on nearby government land, one of the stipulations sought by the Water Management District for the owner to receive needed permits to develop other land. Elements of the Koontz case may apply in a land-development case from the Lower Keys that will reach the state's Third District Court of Appeal on Nov. 5.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY BACKS PAROLE FOR KILLER-- The Ledger, http://www.theledger.com, Oct. 10, 2012.
In June 1988, Assistant State Attorney John Aguero stood before a Polk County jury, seeking to convict 16-year-old Johnny Eugene Johnson for the murder of a Winter Haven grandmother. He won that conviction, and Johnson went to prison for life. Today, Aguero will stand before the Florida Parole Commission to support Johnson's early release. It's a first for the veteran prosecutor, who many times has challenged a pending parole. "What makes this case different is that he was 15 years old when he did it, and I don't believe that he was the actual killer," Aguero said.