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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.

Dec. 28, 2012

--Judiciary--

JUDGE HAWKINS DENIES MISCONDUCT IN RESPONSE -- Tallahassee Democrat, http://www.tallahassee.com, Dec. 28, 2012.
Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins is asking the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission to dismiss a misconduct charge that she used her position to advance a side ministry business. In a notice filed Dec. 5 with the Florida Supreme Court, the JQC said Hawkins sold study guides at the courthouse and used her office space, equipment and staff to work on the for-profit business Gaza Road Ministries. The commission alleged she took time away from her judicial duties to promote the business “to the detriment of the prompt and efficient administration of justice.” But in a response filed Wednesday, Hawkins’ Coral Gables-based attorney said the judge did not intend to use her position to advance the ministry business, which earned $13,518 in 2011, and her duties as a judge were not compromised.


GOVERNOR TO CHOOSE NEW COUNTY JUDGE -- Fernandina Beach News Leader, http://www.fbnewsleader.com, Dec. 27, 2012.
The governor's search for a Nassau County Judge to replace Granville "Doc" Burgess has begun. The application deadline for candidates vying to succeed the late judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit is Jan. 18 and the Judicial Nominating Commission will interview candidates on Jan. 31. The nominating commission will narrow the field to between three and six candidates, whose applications will be recommended to the governor's office for final consideration. From that point forward, Gov. Rick Scott has 60 days, by law, to select Burgess' successor. It is expected that Scott would fill the vacancy by March or April, but the appointment could come sooner. The governor's selection would serve until 2014, when an election for a full six-year term would be held. Burgess died on Dec. 6 at the age of 63 at his family home in Fernandina Beach.

--Civil Justice Issues--

COLLIER, LEE MERCHANTS FIND NUISANCE LAWSUITS AN INCREASED COST OF DOING BUSINESS -- Marco Island News, http://www.marconews.com, Dec. 28, 2012.
A 2007 Harris Poll of small business owners and managers found more than a third had been sued, 73 percent said business suffered due to time-consuming litigation, and 62 percent made business decisions to avoid lawsuits, making products and services more expensive. For retailers, the slip-and-fall lawsuit was the most common, but two years ago, the Florida statute involving slips and falls on wet substances changed. "Laws passed in the last two decades have made it more difficult to sue businesses," said Naples attorney Ted Zelman, who has defended businesses and sued them. "Cases are more difficult to file, there are more defenses that can be raised and there are more limits on awards."

APPEALS COURT TO HEAR FLORIDA COUNTIES' ONLINE-TRAVEL TAX CASE -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, Dec. 27, 2012.
The state's First District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in February in a long-running tax fight between Florida counties and online-based travel companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. A state circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled earlier this year against 17 counties that argue the companies had not properly paid tourist-development taxes — an issue that also has flared in recent years in the Legislature. Counties say the total cost should be taxed, while the industry says taxing its markup would amount to a services tax. Last week, the appeals court scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 12.

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[Revised: 12-31-2012]