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.
June 16, 2014
FLORIDA LAWYERS: CHARGE US HIGHER BAR DUES TO FUND LEGAL SERVICES FOR POOR -- WFSU, http://news.wfsu.org, June 16, 2014. [Also: AS FLORIDA CUTS CASH FOR CIVIL LEGAL AID, QUESTIONS RISE OF HOW TO SERVE THOSE IN NEED -- Stuart News, http://www.tcpalm.com, June 16, 2014.]
Florida lawyers agree there’s a funding crisis that threatens legal service for the poor, but there’s disagreement among them on how to fix the problem. Florida Legal Services Executive Director Kent Spuhler and hundreds of other attorneys—former Supreme Court justices and Florida Bar presidents among them— will ask the Florida Supreme Court to raise lawyers’ Bar membership dues by $100 for an annual cash influx of $10 million. The Florida Bar Board of Governors has unanimously voted to oppose the fee hike. For one reason, Bar President Eugene Pettis says private attorneys already donate millions of hours of pro bono legal help on top of millions of dollars in cash donations to the cause. Pettis says, “It is not just a legal crisis, it’s a societal crisis, and we do not look to any one sector of our society to resolve its own problems singularly.” He says the Bar believes the legal aid system—not just in Florida but across the nation—is in need of a major efficiency overhaul. Pettis says he looks forward to continuing the discussion this fall at a planned “access-to-justice summit” to be hosted by future Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. Meanwhile, he says, the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors is moving forward with its consideration of a $6 million bridge loan to The Florida Bar Foundation.
NUMBER OF BLACK JUDGES IN JACKSONVILLE AREA LOW, CONCERNING MANY -- Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, June 16, 2014. [Also: COMMENTARY: DIVERSITY ENRICHES OUR LEGAL SYSTEM -- Palm Beach Post, Guest Column, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, June 16, 2014.]
Of the 35 circuit judges in the 4th Judicial Circuit, only one judge, Henry Davis, is black. Civil rights groups, The Florida Bar and court watchers say the lack of minority judges threatens to undermine confidence in the fairness of the judicial system and could lead to unfair rulings. A Florida Bar task force released a report last month calling for increased diversity in the Florida judiciary. It also called for more diversity on judicial nominating commissions that recommend judicial candidates to the governor, and it makes multiple recommendations on how a more diverse judiciary can be achieved. Advocates for a more diverse judiciary acknowledge obstacles exist. A Palm Beach Post guest column by attorney Quentin Morgan states that "Initiatives are underway in the legal community to identify and remedy impediments to inclusiveness . . . Closer to home, the newly formed South Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Diversity Inclusion Committee now provides another forum where lawyers with different perspectives and life experiences can learn from one another, close the gaps in the difference in those life experiences and how to interpret them to effectuate meaningful conversation and thrive professionally."
JUDICIAL PROFILE: PUBLIC SERVICE IN JUDGE BARRY COHEN'S BLOOD -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, June 13, 2014.
Profile of Palm Beach County Court Judge Barry Cohen. A New York native, Cohen followed his brother Harold south to get his law degree at the University of Miami. After graduation, Cohen became a Palm Beach County prosecutor and then a public defender. In 1990, Cohen followed in his brother's footsteps again: He ran for judge and won. His courtroom style depends on the situation. He doesn't like mandatory minimum sentences, nor what he sees as racial profiling. Speaking out about them got him in trouble with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission and earned him a reprimand from the state Supreme Court.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
VOLUSIA, FLAGLER DEFENSE ATTORNEYS COMPLAIN ABOUT PLEA DEALS -- Daytona Beach News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com, June 16, 2014.
Local criminal defense attorneys are arguing that prosecutors are withdrawing plea offers to punish defendants who exercise their constitutional right to confront their accuser and see what the evidence is against them. Prosecutors counter by emphasizing the need to protect victims and pointing to the murder of a confidential informant and a threatening note accompanied by a dead rat. The State Attorney’s Office is evaluating its negotiating practices throughout the circuit covering Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties after the defense attorneys’ complaints.
END IMPASSE ON JUVENILE JUSTICE -- Daytona Beach News-Journal, Editorial, http://www.news-journal.com, June 14, 2014.
Editorial regarding a dispute between Florida counties and the state Department of Juvenile Justice on how the jurisdictions split court and detention costs. "Florida taxpayers deserve adult adjudication in figuring out the best way to pay for juvenile justice costs. And the designated adult in the room — the state Legislature — has run from its responsibility of resolving this ongoing dilemma . . . [The Legislature will] need to balance the DJJ’s contention that current law requires counties to pay all expenses before a juvenile case’s final court disposition. But the counties argue that the state is exploiting loopholes — such as charging counties to pay for proceedings when convicted juveniles violate probation — to save money at their expense . . . Lawmakers must have another go at fixing this unseemly intra-state feud. And this time they must produce definitive results."
JAMES DOUGLAS MCDONALD -- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com, June 15, 2014.
James Douglas McDonald died on Tuesday, June 10. McDonald moved to Venice, Florida in 1997. He became a member of The Florida Bar in 1998 and worked as volunteer legal counsel for various national and local non-profit organizations. He spent two years as a consultant with Morris & Widman in Venice and then worked for eleven years as a full-time volunteer lawyer at Gulfcoast Legal Services in Sarasota. In 2010, he and Gulfcoast's managing lawyer Elizabeth M. Boyle received the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence in Legal Aid Impact from The Florida Bar Foundation and in 2013 he received The Florida Bar's Pro Bono Award.