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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.

Oct. 9, 2012

--The Florida Bar--


THE FLORIDA BAR OPPOSES AMENDMENT 5 ON THE NOV. 6, 2012, GENERAL ELECTION BALLOT-- The Florida Bar, news release, http://www.floridabar.org, Oct. 9, 2012.
The Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to oppose Amendment 5 – a proposed Florida constitutional amendment relating to state courts – at its October 5 meeting. Amendment 5 would increase the Legislature's authority regarding court rules, increase the access by the Legislature to records of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and require confirmation by the Senate of Supreme Court justices. The Florida Bar has had a long-standing position in opposition to altering the Supreme Court's authority to adopt rules for practice and procedure in all courts, or any change in the manner by which such rules may be repealed by the Legislature. "First and foremost, The Florida Bar supports a fair and impartial judicial branch free from any political influence and true to the separation of governmental powers that is critical to our democracy," according to Gwynne Young, President of The Florida Bar. "The courts' rulemaking process should be primarily within the purview of the court," she said. "Court procedural rules do not concern substantive rights or policy matters which are properly the domain of the Legislature. Amendment 5 would erode the meaningful balance of governmental powers now clearly outlined in Florida's Constitution." Article V, Section 2(a), of the Florida Constitution provides for the adoption of rules for practice and procedure in all courts by the Supreme Court. Rules of court may now be repealed by general law enacted by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature.

--Judiciary--

JUST A POWER GRAB-- The Gainesville Sun, editorial, http://www.gainesville.com, Oct. 9, 2012. [Also: AMENDMENT REVIEW: NO ON 5, 12-- Northwest Florida Daily News, editorial, http://www.nwfdailynews.com, Oct. 9, 2012].
The Gainesville Sun editorial states: "an attempt by legislative leaders to disrupt the balance of power in state government and politicize the Florida Supreme Court is one power grab voters should reject. Amendment 5, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would toss aside a system of selecting Supreme Court justices that has worked well for 40 years. . . . Amendment 5 would still give the governor the power to appoint justices from a list of JNC nominees. But the Senate would be required to confirm those appointments. It also would allow the Legislature to overturn any court-imposed rule with a simple majority vote, rather than the two-thirds vote now required. . . . There is no need to inject more politics into a system that is serving the people with dignity and ethics."
The Northwest Florida Daily News editorial states: "Amendment 5. . .would affect state courts. It would give state lawmakers authority over changes in the rules governing the court system. It would direct the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which looks into complaints of judicial misconduct, to make its files available to the speaker of the House. And it would grant the Senate confirmation power over Florida Supreme Court appointees. These changes would upend the balance of power in Tallahassee by giving the legislative branch more authority — and more political influence — over the judicial branch."

THREE JUSTICES SAY MERIT RETENTION BATTLE IS ABOUT 'SURVIVAL' OF AN INDEPENDENT COURT-- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Oct. 9, 2012. [Also: ROD SMITH ON JUDICIAL POLITICS-- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Oct. 9, 2012; FLORIDA JUSTICES SAY FAIR COURT SYSTEM THREATENED-- St. Augustine Record, http://www.staugustine.com, Oct. 6, 2012].
From the Orlando Sentinel: Florida's three state Supreme Court justices facing voters this fall say they are under assault by conservative groups who want to re-make the court to take unrivaled control of all three branches of government. Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince said Monday [Oct. 8] the campaign being waged against their merit retention this fall was a dangerous attempt to politicize the state's highest court. The Republican Party of Florida made the unprecedented move last month of urging GOP voters to oppose retention of all three justices. Outgoing Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, an Alachua County lawyer and former state legislator, has said his party will stay out of the merit retention issue.

YES ON DCA JUDGES-- The Miami Herald, editorial, http://www.miamiherald.com, Oct. 6, 2012.
The editorial states: "In 1957 the Florida Legislature created an intermediate legal arbiter between the trial courts and the state Supreme Court. These are the district courts of appeal, where litigants seek a second opinion or a reversal of circuit and county court decisions. . . . Today, there are five DCAs, with two districts — the Third and the Fourth — covering South Florida between Monroe and Okeechobee counties. . . .District court judges are nominated by the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by the governor. Like state Supreme Court justices they must run for retention every six years. Newly appointed judges face retention votes in the next general election. Five judges from the Third District and two from the Fourth District are on the Nov. 6 ballot. A recent statewide Florida Bar poll asked its members if the three Florida Supreme Court justices and the 15 district court judges up for retention votes this year deserved to be retained. The poll responses for retention of all the justices and district judges averaged 90 percent for keeping them on the bench. And we agree, in so far as the judges in the two South Florida district appellate courts deserve another six years on the bench."

--Civil Justice Issues--

COURT URGES CHANGES IN FLORIDA WORKERS COMP LAW-- The Bradenton Herald, http://www.bradenton.com, Oct. 6, 2012.
The article is by The Associated Press. The 1st District Court of Appeal is urging the Florida Legislature to reconsider a state law that makes injured employees pay employers' legal costs if they lose good faith workers compensation appeals. A three-judge panel of the court in Tallahassee made that recommendation Friday [Oct. 5] in upholding such an order. It requires Gina Frederick to pay the Monroe County School District $11,834. There's no dispute Frederick was hurt on the job, but two doctors disagreed on whether she had a permanent total injury. A medical adviser appointed by a compensation claims judge, though, offered the opinion she's not totally and permanently injured. Frederick then withdrew her claim but still was ordered to pay the district's costs. The court noted the law on the other hand limits fees for workers' lawyers.

FORECLOSURE MILLS IN THE CLEAR; FLORIDA CLOSES CASES WITH NO FINDINGS-- The Palm Beach Post, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Oct. 6, 2012.
Florida's attorney general has closed a high-profile investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the state's largest foreclosure law firms with no findings. The probes were opened by former attorney general Bill McCollum in 2010 but ended with a slow fizzle of court judgments, law firm implosions and the firing of two top state investigators by Attorney General Pam Bondi. A February Florida Supreme Court decision that upheld a ban on the state from investigating the firms under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act was the real decider, attorney general communications director Jennifer Meale said Friday [Oct. 5]. The Florida Bar has maintained it only has the power to investigate individual attorneys.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

FLORIDA JUSTICES DENY DEATH ROW INMATE'S APPEAL-- St. Augustine Record, http://www.staugustine.com, Oct. 9, 2012.
The article is by The Associated Press. A convicted mass killer who is scheduled for execution next week after spending 34 years on Death Row lost an appeal Monday [Oct. 5] in Florida's highest court, but his lawyer plans to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorney also asked the state Supreme Court to stay the scheduled Oct. 16 execution of 64-year-old John Errol Ferguson to provide more time for a separate case challenging Gov. Rick Scott's finding that his client is competent to be executed. The justices upheld a trial judge's decision that included the denial of a separate request for a legal competency hearing. The trial judge reached that decision even though she acknowledged Ferguson "undoubtedly suffers from mental illness." Ferguson was convicted of killing eight people in South Florida. Six victims died in 1977 in a drug related, execution-style mass killing in Carol City. He also was convicted of killing two Hialeah teenagers on their way to a church meeting in 1978.

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[Revised: 10-10-2012]