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. 2, 2013
--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--
SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 34 ATTORNEYS -- The Florida Bar News, http://www.flabar.org, Nov. 27, 2013. [Also: FORT MYERS ATTORNEY DISBARRED, ANOTHER SUSPENDED BY FLORIDA SUPREME COURT -- Fort Myers News-Press, http://www.news-press.com, Nov. 27, 2013; SUPREME COURT DISBARS TWO LOCAL ATTORNEYS -- Northwest Florida Daily News, http://www.nwfdailynews.com, Nov. 28, 2013; THREE NORTHEAST FLORIDA ATTORNEYS DISCIPLINED -- Jacksonville Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Nov. 28, 2013; LAKELAND LAWYER IS DISBARRED, TWO OTHERS REPRIMANDED -- The Ledger, http://www.theledger.com, Nov. 28, 2013; PALM BEACH GARDENS ATTORNEY DISBARRED -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription), http://www.pbpost.com, Nov. 28, 2013; SIX LOCAL ATTORNEYS DISCIPLINED BY THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT -- Orlando Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Nov. 28, 2013; 11 SOUTH FLORIDA ATTORNEYS DISCIPLINED -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Nov. 29, 2013; DAYTONA BEACH ATTORNEY DISBARS SELF AS INVESTIGATION BEGINS -- Daytona Beach News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com, Nov. 29, 2013; FIVE AREA LAWYERS DISCIPLINED -- Tampa Bay Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Dec. 2, 2013.]
The Florida Bar, the state's guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 34 attorneys; disbarring 13, revoking the license of one, suspending 11 and publicly reprimanding nine. Six attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Three were placed on probation and four were ordered to pay restitution.
JIM GREER LAWYER AMONG CENTRAL FLORIDA ATTORNEYS FACING DISCIPLINE, BAR SAYS -- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Nov. 27, 2013. [Also: EX-GOP BOSS'S LAWYER IS SLAPPED BY FLORIDA BAR -- Palm Beach Post, http://www.pbpost.com, Nov. 27, 2013; JIM GREER ATTORNEY FACES DISCIPLINE -- Tampa Bay Times, http://www.tampabay.com, Nov. 27, 2013.]
Prominent Seminole County attorney Damon Chase, whose clients have included ousted Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, is among several Central Florida lawyers facing discipline from the state Supreme Court, The Florida Bar said Wednesday [Nov. 27]. Chase, of the Lake Mary-based Chase Freeman firm, faces a public reprimand after an Oct. 1 court order. According to the Bar, he failed to adequately supervise a young associate in a complex real-estate litigation case. Chase also used potentially threatening language in an email to a client, "failed to communicate adequately" with clients and "directed unprofessional language" to an opposing party in the case, the Bar said.
LAWYER CHARGED IN ROTHSTEIN FRAUD CAN PRACTICE LAW - UNDER SUPERVISION -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, Nov. 30, 2013.
Douglas L. Bates, a Broward lawyer who was barred from working as an attorney while facing criminal charges that he helped Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme, is now allowed to practice law — so long as he is supervised by a colleague. Bates was arrested in August on one count of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in late January in federal court in West Palm Beach. As a condition of his release on a $250,000 bond, a magistrate judge barred Bates from practicing law while the charges were pending, saying there was evidence he had "committed horrific breaches of his duties and responsibilities." Ultimately, the judge signed off on an agreement between the prosecution and defense that lets Bates practice law under the strict supervision of Eric Berger, a lawyer who works with him.
GLUT OF LAW GRADS MAY GO UNEMPLOYED -- Tampa Tribune, http://www.tbo.com, Nov. 30, 2013.
Florida continues subsidizing an industry that’s trending downward — the practice of law. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put it, “more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available.” The National Association for Law Placement reported in June that for 2012 law grads, “of those graduates for whom employment status was known, only 64.4 percent obtained a job for which bar passage is required,” the lowest percentage ever measured. At the same time, bills filed for Florida’s 2014 legislative session would provide up to $44,000 in student loan repayment assistance for lawyers working as prosecutors, public defenders and in the Attorney General’s and Statewide Prosecutor’s offices. The proposed subsidy comes on top of the millions of taxpayer dollars the Legislature gives to state university law schools above what they collect in tuition and fees. Still, law school representatives remain bullish on their future.
EDITORIAL: ALLOW FOR JUDGES' DISCRETION WHEN SENTENCING -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription), Editorial, http://www.pbpost.com, Dec. 1, 2013.
"Florida would save far more taxpayer dollars locking up fewer people — particularly drug addicts — than filling up private prisons with offenders serving unnecessarily lengthy sentences . . . Far too many are behind bars because of Florida’s draconian minimum mandatory sentencing laws. These statutes make cops and prosecutors the arbiters of justice, and turn judges into nothing more than clerks who sign sentencing orders. Judges cannot consider the facts or mitigating factors of each case . . . Lawmakers should repeal minimum mandatory sentencing laws across the board, and allow judges to use their discretion to mete out punishments that actually fit the crimes."
EDITORIAL: MORE WINNERS IN SHORT SALES -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription), http://www.pbpost.com, Nov. 30, 2013.
Rhonda Swan writes for the Post editorial board. "Foreclosure judges in Palm Beach County’s 15th Judicial Circuit are understandably suspicious when homeowners and lenders seek delays, given that banks routinely have filed cases then let them languish for years since the start of the Great Recession. That, however, should not preclude judges from holding off on foreclosures when litigants can prove that a delay will get a better result. We applauded an order this spring by then-Chief Judge Peter Blanc to fast-track foreclosure cases filed more than three years ago because too often the parties seek delays simply for the sake of delay. Judges are right to expedite those cases where it’s clear foreclosure is inevitable. But as The Post’s Kimberly Miller reported last week, they are sending too many cases to auction that were on track to be disposed of by short sale."
--Civil Justice Issues--
FLORIDA JUSTICES TO HEAR ARGUMENTS OVER MEDICAL MARIJUANA ON BALLOT -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription), http://www.pbpost.com, Dec. 1, 2013. [Also: MEDICAL POT FOES LOOK TO JUSTICES -- The Ledger, http://www.theledger.com, Dec. 1, 2013.]
The Florida Supreme Court this week will consider a measure asking voters to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for a range of illnesses. Much of Florida’s Republican leadership is being joined by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state’s medical association and law enforcement organizations in fighting the proposed 2014 ballot measure. On the opposite side, leading Democratic donor John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer, is bankrolling the campaign. A former Democratic House Speaker, Jon Mills of Gainesville, will make the campaign’s case before justices on Thursday [Dec. 5]. For medical marijuana opponents, the Supreme Court review is potentially make-or-break, because it looks virtually guaranteed of winning voter approval if organizers collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
IN FLORIDA, PUERTO RICANS WANT EQUALITY BACK HOME -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Dec. 1, 2013.
By The Associated Press and published by several Florida newspapers. A record number of Puerto Ricans have left the island in recent years -- more than 60,000 in 2012 -- the majority landing in Florida. Most are fleeing Puerto Rico's economic crisis, yet their presence on the mainland is drawing newfound attention to an age-old question of whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state, remain a territory or become independent. A loose coalition of civic leaders in Florida and on the island is seeking to leverage the state's growing Puerto Rican presence to turn this issue into a fight for equality and the right to vote. This fall, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida held its second annual moot court, inviting law school teams to argue the constitutionality of giving the island full political rights.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
DEATH PENALTY: UNANIMOUS JURY VOTE -- The Ledger, Editorial, http://www.theledger.com, Nov. 30, 2013.
"There are numerous problems with Florida's death penalty, with no better evidence than the fact there's been about one exoneration for every three executions since they resumed here in 1976. Florida leads the nation in exonerations over that period. It's no coincidence that Florida also is the only state that allows a majority jury vote to recommend the death penalty . . . Florida State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, recently reintroduced a bill requiring a unanimous jury vote to recommend death here. The measure died in committee during the previous legislative session, without a House or Senate vote . . . Requiring unanimous verdicts is a needed change. It would be a sensible safeguard to help prevent mistakes with the state's ultimate punishment. Florida's Legislature should make the change rather than waiting for the courts to force the issue."
DEATH SENTENCE FOR CRAIGSLIST KILLER TO GO BEFORE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT -- Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, Dec. 1, 2013.
David Kelsey Sparre, the man who killed a Navy wife after answering her personal ad on Craigslist, may end up changing the way death-penalty cases are defended in Florida. Lawyers for Sparre are asking the Florida Supreme Court to throw out his death sentence for the murder of 21-year-old Tiara Pool in July 2010. In court filings, Tallahassee Assistant Public Defender Nada Carey argues that Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt was wrong to sentence Sparre to death without allowing evidence to be presented on his mental-health and substance-abuse issues. Sparre told his lawyers he didn’t want to mount a defense. But Carey said that when death-penalty defendants refuse to defend themselves, the state still has an obligation to consider factors that would justify life in prison without parole instead of Death Row. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for Tuesday [Dec. 3].
SOUTH FLORIDA FIRMS FACE 'RANSOMEWARE' ATTACK, TECH EXPERT SAYS -- South Florida Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Nov. 28, 2013.
Technology threats to businesses are nothing new, but there's a new cybersecurity risk in the business world that is making inroads in South Florida called ransomware. This form of malicious software attacks data in a computer system and encrypts it, making it impossible for a company to access its own files. At the same time, the hackers often send a message to the company demanding payment -- ransom -- in exchange for releasing the data. Silka Gonzalez, president of Coral Gables-based Enterprise Risk Management, said she has seen two recent ransomware attacks on businesses in South Florida. The Business Journal sat down with her to discuss her business and how to prevent such attacks.