The Florida Bar

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.

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Nov. 28, 2012

--Legal Profession--

LAW SCHOOL CUTS FIRST-YEAR CLASS SIZE-- Tallahassee Democrat,, Nov. 28, 2012.
A diminishing job market coupled with fewer applications to law schools has prompted Florida State University's law school to change its approach. Choosing quality over quantity, FSU has opted to decrease its first-year law class to 188 students, down from 200 the previous year and 220 just three years ago. A major concern for many students is the amount of debt they will be saddled with after three years of law school. FSU, at about $20,000 tuition per year for in-state students ($40,000 for out of state), is among the least expensive law schools in the country. The National Jurist magazine has ranked FSU among the top 15 "best value" law schools in the country for four years in a row. Don Weidner, longtime dean of FSU's law school, said it's not unusual for the economy to go through peaks and valleys, but the prolonged recession is playing out differently. "This recession is so deep and so profound, and there's been such coverage of some of the law firms restructuring — and in some case, filing for bankruptcy — we appear to be looking at a new normal."

--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--

Miccosukee Tribe member Jimmie Bert testified in a Friday deposition that he did not pay millions of dollars to his former defense attorneys in a fatal car-crash lawsuit, putting him at odds with the position they have taken in the long-running case. Bert also denied obtaining advances or loans from the tribe to pay his legal fees — contradicting the assertions of his former attorneys, who collected more than $3 million defending him and his daughter. Bert, who admitted fault at the trial along with his daughter, says he never saw the bills from Miami attorneys Guy Lewis and Michael Tein and paid only a small fraction of their legal fees years ago. Lewis and Tein are facing potential perjury sanctions for allegedly lying about who paid them. The lawyers maintain the tribe advanced money or made loans to Bert and his daughter, Tammy Gwen Billie, so the defendants could pay their legal bills. The source of the legal payments to the lawyers carries significant weight. If the funds came from the tribe as opposed to the Billies, it means there indeed was more than enough money available to pay an outstanding civil judgment of nearly $3.2 million. The pair has refused to pay, insisting they cannot afford it.

--Civil Justice Issues--

JUDGE ASKED TO TOSS FAMU HAZING LAWSUIT-- Orlando Sentinel,, Nov. 28, 2012.
A judge will be asked today to throw out a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the mother of FAMU drum major Robert Champion, based on evidence that Champion willingly participated in the hazing that killed him. However, lawyers for Pamela Champion, who represents her late son's estate, challenged FAMU's view that he volunteered to take part in the fatal hazing ritual, and portrayed the drum major in written arguments as a victim who eventually yielded to overwhelming social pressures. Pamela Champion, who earlier this month rejected Florida A&M University's offer of $300,000 to settle legal claims against the school, also has sued Fabulous Coach Lines, which owns the bus where the hazing took place, and the bus driver. While Robert Champion's reluctant participation in the ritual, known as "Crossing Bus C," is irrelevant in the on-going felony hazing prosecutions of 10 members of FAMU's Marching 100, the issue could be pivotal in the civil case.

The forms used by property insurers across the state to calculate insurance discounts for homeowners are seriously flawed and must be completely thrown out, an administrative judge has found in a potentially groundbreaking ruling. The decision could have far-reaching implications for homeowners who receive wind-mitigation discounts for hurricane-resistant measures in their homes — and specifically for those who lost discounts during a mass home reinspection program by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. While the impact of the ruling could be widespread, no homeowner will see any changes any time soon because the legal battle is still playing out in court.

Three years after Acreage residents were rocked financially and emotionally when health officials determined an unusually high number of their neighbors had cancer, a federal judge this month tossed out two lawsuits that blamed aeronautics giant Pratt & Whitney for making people in the rural community sick. In two separate but nearly identical rulings, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp said attorneys seeking millions for Acreage residents offered no proof that Pratt & Whitney was responsible for the so-called cancer cluster. Ryskamp expressed frustration that he had given attorneys three chances to craft lawsuits that would pass legal muster. Because they failed to do so, he said he was dismissing both lawsuits "with prejudice," meaning the court cannot be asked to rule on the same issues again.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

JUDGE SCOLDS MURDER SUSPECT DEEDEE MOORE-- Winter Haven News Chief,, Nov. 28, 2012.
A judge scolded murder suspect Dorice "DeeDee" Moore for using body language Tuesday [Nov. 27], saying her behavior could be viewed as a way of communicating to potential jurors in her murder trial. Wiping away tears, Moore insisted that she didn't want to appear rude and was just looking at the jurors. Moore is accused of gunning down Lakeland lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare and burying him under a concrete slab after taking control of his remaining fortune. Opening statements are expected today in the high-profile case, which has grabbed national media attention. A cable program called "In Session" plans to provide trial coverage. Outside the presence of the jury pool, Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles warned Moore's lawyers Tuesday to stop her from nodding her head or making other expressions as potential jurors were answering questions. Battles suggested such behavior could be seen as an attempt to communicate to people who might end up deciding her case. A panel of 12 jurors was selected, consisting of eight men and four women. Two women were selected as alternates.

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[Revised: 11-29-2012]