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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.


Links to online newspapers

April 3, 2014

--Legislature--

SENATE PRESIDENT DON GAETZ PUSHES OPEN RECORDS ATTORNEY BILL, BUT FOR WHOSE BENEFIT? -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, April 3, 2014.
Also published by the Tampa Bay Times. This year, Senate President Don Gaetz’s priorities include SB 1648, which could improve business for attorneys specializing in public records lawsuits. If SB 1648 passes, public records law could become more lucrative. Currently, lawyers are only compensated if they win such cases. Under the bill, lawyers would win “reasonable costs” for each count on which they prevail, even if they lose the overall case. The bill would allow lawyers to be paid for time spent negotiating for the legal fees they win in cases. Currently, they are only paid for the time spent on the case. On Monday [March 31], the legislative counsel for the Florida League of Cities warned a House committee that the legislation would lead to more lawsuits against government.

--Judiciary--

MARTIN DYCKMAN: IF SCOTT GETS TO PACK THE COURT, EXPECT MORE EXECUTIONS -- ContextFlorida, http://www.contextflorida.com, March 31, 2014.
Columnist Martin Dyckman writes, "As it had done many times before, the Florida Supreme Court last week set aside a death penalty because the punishment didn’t fit the crime. This time, though, there was an ominous dissent, largely ignored by the media, challenging the court’s authority to do that. There could be many more executions if the dissent ever becomes the court’s majority view . . . A proposed constitutional amendment would allow [Gov. Rick Scott] to pack the court before leaving office. Scott’s predecessor and current challenger, Charlie Crist, took care to balance his Supreme Court appointments. He’s responsible for [Charles] Canady and [Ricky] Polston, but also for [Jorge] Labarga and another moderate, James E. C. Perry. Nothing about Scott’s judicial appointments so far reflects any preference for balance."

--Legal Profession--

MIAMI BEACH MAY SOON HAVE NEW ATTORNEY -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, April 3, 2014.
A possible successor to lead Miami Beach’s legal department has emerged as current Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith mulls an offer to leave for North Miami Beach. Mayor Philip Levine told the Miami Herald on Wednesday [April 2] that he wants to appoint a new city attorney whenever Smith leaves. Levine said said he’d ask commissioners at their April 9 meeting to name Chief Deputy City Attorney Raul Aguila to take over the city’s legal department. The North Miami Beach City Council on Tuesday [April 1] voted to offer Smith the position of city attorney. Smith’s departure would be the latest in a succession of high-profile changes in Miami Beach’s city government after the November election, when voters booted incumbents out of office following a series of public corruption arrests at city hall.

--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--

ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE: 13 PUNISHED IN SOUTH FLORIDA -- South Florida Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, April 3, 2014.
The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 13 South Florida attorneys in recent actions brought by The Florida Bar. Of those disciplined, one attorney was disbarred, four suspended, five publicly reprimanded and three received disciplinary revocations.

COURT: 'ROMANIAN MUMBLE' MEANS CONTEMPT FOR LAWYER -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, April 3, 2014.
By The Associated Press. The Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that Miami lawyer Alexander Michaels' "Romanian mumble" of profanity during a hearing equals contempt of court. Wednesday's decision partially upheld a lower court's finding of contempt against the attorney in a May 2013 hearing. He had been given two days' jail for his behavior, which included the Romanian profanity and a hand gesture. Michaels himself admitted using profanity in his native Romanian language, according to a transcript of the contempt hearing. The appeals judges upheld that contempt finding and sent the case back for resentencing. The matter is being referred to The Florida Bar.

DISBARRED MIAMI ATTORNEY ALLOWED TO AMEND MALPRACTICE SUIT -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, April 2, 2014.
The Third District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday [April 2] that disbarred Miami attorney Daryl L. Merl can amend his malpractice lawsuit against two lawyers who represented him on a Florida Bar grievance. Merl consented to disbarment in 2007 and also faced felony charges for misappropriating his clients' money in his trust account and cocaine possession. Miami attorneys Jeffrey Weiner and Mycki Ratzan represented Merl in his grievance hearing. Merl later filed a pro se malpractice lawsuit against Weiner and Ratzan, claiming legal malpractice and fraud for allegedly mishandling the grievance. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto granted Weiner's motion to dismiss the suit with prejudice after Merl missed a filing deadline, but Merl appealed the decision.

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[Revised: 04-04-2014]