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.
Jan. 17, 2014
CORRINE BROWN'S MEANDERING DISTRICT DRAWS FEDERAL LAWSUIT -- Tampa Bay Times, http://www.tampabay.com, Jan. 17, 2014.
Florida’s famously convoluted congressional district, held by Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, is under fire again as two Gainesville men have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to order the Legislature to redraw the map before the November election. The plaintiffs claim that the “serpentine route” of the meandering district violates their constitutional rights to equal protection because it packs blacks into the district in an effort to “bleach” the adjoining districts to benefit Republicans. The Florida Supreme Court in December ordered the Legislature and its staff members to testify under oath about their intentions when drawing the congressional districts. A trial date has been set for May 19, nearly two weeks after the filing deadline for congressional races in Florida.
--Civil Justice Issues--
SOUTH FLORIDA, STATE LEAD U.S. IN FORECLOSURES -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, Jan. 16, 2014.
South Florida and the state led the nation in foreclosure activity last year, topping the rankings as lenders and judges moved aggressively to reduce the backlog of cases from the housing crash. The tri-county region posted the highest foreclosure rate among 209 metro areas, with one in 25 homes in some stage of repossession, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Florida led all states with a foreclosure rate of one in 33 homes. A new law designed to speed up foreclosure filings took effect July 1, and the state spent more than $6 million hiring retired judges to cut through the backlog of cases. Despite the move to reduce case backlogs, it still takes an average of 944 days to foreclose a home in Florida, up from 853 days a year ago, RealtyTrac said.
CONSERVATION AMENDMENT EARNS A BALLOT SLOT -- The Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, Jan. 17, 2014.
Organizers of a water and land conservation amendment claimed victory in their campaign to get on Florida's 2014 ballot Thursday [Jan. 16]. Florida's Water and Land Legacy, the campaign organization backing the conservation measure, announced it had 685,971 voter signatures validated by county supervisors of election across the state. The Division of Elections website verified that total and showed that the campaign had exceeded the required number of voter signatures in at least 15 congressional districts -- one more than needed to show statewide interest. The water and land conservation amendment would dedicate 20 years of funding for conservation, management and restoration of resources. It would set aside one-third of documentary stamp tax collections from real estate transactions for restoration of the Everglades, protecting wildlife habitat, funding the "Florida Forever" conservation program and other purposes.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
FLORIDA LEGISLATORS HEAR PUSH FOR ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATING YOUTHS -- Florida Times-Union (requires subscription), http://www.jacksonville.com, Jan. 16, 2014.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, which oversees policy and funding for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, listened to concerns about the number of juveniles in state custody and the facilities that keep them. Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters spoke to the committee about the department’s detention programs and how it chooses the contractors who run private facilities. In the Jacksonville area, court officials are working to better use its civil citation program, which allows juvenile offenders who committed their first misdemeanor to pay a fine and complete community service instead of being arrested. Advocates of the program say it’s a more effective way to keep low-level offenders out of trouble and it has less of a burden on taxpayers and long-term impact to the offender.
FORMER DEATH ROW INMATE CHARGED IN SECOND MURDER -- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Jan. 17, 2014. [Also: ROY SWAFFORD INDICTED IN 2ND ORMOND SLAYING FROM 1981 -- Daytona Beach News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com, Jan. 17, 2014.]
Former death-row inmate Roy Clifton Swafford, who was granted a new trial two months ago, was charged Thursday [Jan. 16] in a separate murder. A grand jury indicted Swafford in the 1981 killing of 17-year-old Spruce Creek High School senior Diane Markland. Swafford is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the girl's death. Swafford was awaiting execution for the February 1982 fatal shooting of Brenda Rucker, a gas-station clerk. In November, however, the Florida Supreme Court vacated the death sentence and ordered a new trial. Newly discovered evidence cast doubt on the rape conviction and therefore on the entire case, which relied on circumstantial evidence, they wrote. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday [Jan. 17] in Daytona Beach.