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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Feb. 24, 2014

--Legal Profession--

Among the findings of a recent Florida Bar survey designed to evaluate the profession in the state is that many Florida lawyers think the most serious problem the legal profession faces today is too many lawyers. They also prefer to use iPhones rather than other smart phones in their practices. The organization's researchers survey members every two years. Nearly 1,000 lawyers responded to the lengthy, mailed survey conducted late last year. Respondents cited too many lawyers as their main concern, followed by difficult economic times and poor public perception -- the same three problems named in 2011. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents feel current restrictions on lawyer advertising in Florida are too liberal while 20 percent believe the restrictions are balanced.


RICK SCOTT WANTS JUDGES WHO SEE IT ALL HIS WAY -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Column,, Feb. 23, 2014.
Column by Martin Dyckman, retired associate editor of the newspaper formerly known as the St. Petersburg Times. He wrote this for Context Florida. Dyckman writes, "The Florida Bar is all but begging lawyers to apply for once-coveted memberships on the panels that nominate judges for the governor to appoint. With too few applications on hand for 12 of the 20 judicial circuits and one of the five district courts of appeal, the Bar has extended the deadline from Feb. 11 to March 21 . . . Unlike his predecessors, Gov. Rick Scott apparently wants every member of every commission to see the justice system through his eyes . . . Diversity is suffering in the commissions and, as a result, on the courts themselves. Bar President Eugene Pettis warned the organization's Board of Governors last month that diversity has become "very, very scarce" in the judiciary . . . Of the 231 nominating commission applicants, there are only 18 blacks and 27 Hispanics. This dearth will be reflected in nominations to the bench, and it will be interesting to see how many get past Scott."

ED SCALES SWORN IN AS APPELLATE JUDGE -- Florida Keys Neww (requires subscription),, Feb. 22, 2014.
For the first time ever, a lawyer from Monroe County will sit on the Third District Board of Appeals, the appellate court that serves Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys. The swearing in ceremony for Edwin A. Scales III took place Friday [Feb. 21]. The biggest courtroom in Key West, Courtroom A in the Freedom Justice Center, was filled to standing room only with more than 200 people. It looked as if every lawyer from the Florida 16th Judicial District, which serves the Keys, was on hand to celebrate the historic moment. Also in the room was Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Ricky Polston, who read the oath of office to Scales.

BROWARD COURTHOUSE PROJECT HITS NEW HEIGHTS -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel,, Feb. 22, 2014.
Future litigants at the new Broward County Courthouse, now under construction in downtown Fort Lauderdale, will have a little something to leaven any misery engendered by their visit: spectacular ocean views. Eight floors of courtrooms, levels 9 through 16, will have waiting areas whose massive glass windows look eastward over the city, its waterways and port. Nina Gladstone, an architect with AECOM, the firm that helped design the highrise, highlighted the new courthouse's features to a 40-some strong contingent of county and court officials who toured the building Friday [Feb. 21] afternoon. The project is about 45 percent complete, with a scheduled finish date of May 2015. The new building, much to the relief of court personnel, will replace the ailing courthouse on Southeast Sixth Street between Andrews and Third avenues.

JUDGE TOSSES LAURA WATSON'S DEFAMATION SUIT -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription),, Feb. 21, 2014.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko threw out a 5-year-old defamation lawsuit brought by Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson against the Miami law firm that won a judgment against her, Stewart Tilghman Fox & Bianchi. The firm was sued by Watson after Palm Beach Circuit Judge David Crow entered a $1 million judgment against her. He found her law firm was unjustly enriched by its participation in a secret $14.5 million settlement with Progressive Insurance. On Feb. 12, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission concluded a three-day ethics trial examining her role in the 2004 settlement. In Butchko's order Thursday [Feb. 20], she reviewed Crow's judgment and Watson's claim that "she successfully defended and defeated an action" and "was exonerated of all wrongdoing." "The court finds that Ms. Watson's allegations to that effect are false and untrue," Butchko said.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

LAWYERS RIPPED HIM OFF, NOW A HOUSE IS HIS PAYBACK -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel,, Feb. 23, 2014.
Patrick Coulton's lawyers ripped him off to the tune of $275,000 and left him to rot in prison. But Coulton now lives in his former lawyer's home as part of a court-ordered punishment of the two misbehaving attorneys. Coulton was arrested in March 2008 on federal drug and money-laundering charges for smuggling cocaine and marijuana. His family hired Emmanuel Roy and he brought his friend, Peter Mayas, a Plantation attorney, on board too. Eventually, the attorneys stopped communicating with Coulton. Paul Petruzzi, a Miami attorney, was brought into the case and set to work. As he delved deeper, he said he was shocked by how Roy and Mayas had ripped off Coulton and the extent of their greed. U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff ruled that neither man had been qualified or legally permitted to practice in federal court in South Florida and that they had wrung cash and property out of Coulton's family for doing a minimal amount of work. Roy began serving a seven-year federal prison term in January for unrelated mortgage fraud convictions in New York. He has been permanently disbarred. The Florida Bar also is investigating a related complaint against Mayas.


Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties all have populations over 80 percent white. Santa Rosa and Walton counties are closer to 90 percent. Even given those numbers, the dearth of African American representation in law enforcement and the legal system is eye opening. Only five of the 71 assistant state attorneys employed in the First Judicial Circuit are black. And just one of 35 judges in the First Judicial Circuit — County Judge Joyce Williams in Pensacola — is black. Bill Bishop, the chief assistant state attorney in Okaloosa County, agreed that ethnic diversity in the State Attorney’s Office is as important as it is anywhere else.

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[Revised: 02-25-2014]