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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Jan. 21, 2014

--Legal Profession--

Attorney Elizabeth F. Swanson is profiled. Swanson had worked 38 years teaching special education in elementary, middle and high schools as well as in colleges, preparing others to teach those with special needs. But law, she decided was "a different angle in the field." She graduated from Barry University's school of law in 2004, when she was almost 60. These days, Swanson is a special education attorney at Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida in Ocala. Swanson moved to The Villages in anticipation of landing the position seven years ago and recently trimmed her work back to part-time. She has about a dozen cases going currently. She also accepts court appointments to represent foster children in dependency court.

LAW DEAN SEARCH NARROWED TO 10 -- Gainesville Sun,, Jan. 18, 2014. [Also: FIU LAW DEAN ALEX ACOSTA UP FOR DEAN AT UF LAW SCHOOL -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription),, Jan. 18, 2014.]
The search committee charged with finding the next dean for the University of Florida Levin College of Law has settled on an eclectic list of 10 candidates from a list of nearly two dozen who put in for the job. The candidates will be brought to Gainesville for 75-minute interviews at the University of Florida Hilton on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, said Glenn Good, the dean of the College of Education and chairman of the search committee. Committee members discussed the things they wanted in the ideal dean: a history of academic achievement, proven leadership and administrative skills, the ability to engage students and faculty, a knack for working with alumni and other outside groups, and a gift for fundraising. Several committee members were impressed with the administrative accomplishments of Alexander Acosta, the dean of the Florida International University College of Law.

ABA CANCELS FAMU HEARING -- Tallahassee Democrat,, Jan. 21, 2014.
The American Bar Association’s accrediting board had told officials at Florida A&M University that their presence was required for a Jan. 24 show-cause hearing in San Diego. The ABA was concerned about the attrition rate — students leaving prior to graduation — at FAMU’s College of Law in Orlando. It no longer is, as a result of new figures submitted by LeRoy Pernell, dean of the university’s law school in Orlando, and his staff. FAMU has been informed that Friday’s show-cause hearing has been canceled. The ABA awarded FAMU’s College of Law full accreditation in 2009, and issues that have popped up during the past 18 months have all been part of the routine, three-year review required by the ABA, said Pernell. It appeared that FAMU’s attrition rate had spiked during the 2011-12 academic year, going from 12.8 percent the previous year to 16.5 percent. FAMU’s number changed, Pernell said, when the university realized what the ABA wanted to have reported; the revised calculation dropped the 2011-12 dropout rate to 12.2 percent.

BIG LAW -- Business Observer,, Jan. 18, 2014.
Carlton Fields, Tampa’s largest law firm and a pillar of the area’s legal establishment for more than a century, has embraced a popular paradigm of the legal business: size matters. To that end, Carlton Fields and boutique law firm Jorden Burt announced in October they had struck a deal to merge. The firms completed the merger on New Year’s Day and initially will operate under the name Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. Terms of the deal were not were not disclosed.

DUNK-A-LAWYER AT SOUTH FLORIDA FAIR RAISES MONEY FOR FOOD BANK -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription),, Jan. 21, 2013.
Numerous fair goers took the opportunity to “Dunk-a-Lawyer” Sunday at the South Florida Fair at the Palm Beach County Fairgrounds. Attorneys and their staffs from the law firm Craig Goldenfarb P.A. of West Palm Beach volunteered for the dunkings, all in the interest of collecting money for the Palm Beach County Food Bank, the largest food-aid organization in the county.


JUDGE CHARLES WILLIAMS RECOGNIZED AT MLK JR. DAY EVENT -- Sarasota Herald-Tribune,, Jan. 18, 2014.
Circuit Judge Charles Williams believes his efforts to create inclusiveness in the Sarasota community pales in comparison to the work of other public servants. Because of that, he is humbled to be recognized as the Public Service award recipient at Monday's [Jan. 20] Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast. Williams became a judge in 1998. He is a member and former chair of the Sarasota County Bar Association Diversity Committee, which provides scholarships and internships for minority law students. The committee also donates money, books and equipment as well as arranges speakers for Booker High School's Law Academy. As an African-American, Williams said there are still struggles. "I believe education, hard work and a desire overcomes any obstacles in your path," Williams said.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

Ninety seven people in Volusia and Flagler counties have been found not guilty by reason of insanity in recent years, according to a public defender's database established in 2006 and utilized by Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare in Daytona Beach. Mental health experts, law enforcement officials and prosecutors are hard pressed to nail down the reason behind the high number of local patients, but one longtime local defense attorney cited the county's large transient population — and the mental health issues it brings to bear on the criminal justice system — as a possible contributor. The News-Journal did an extensive report on the subject of insanity defense.

Mark O'Mara's name is forever linked to George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who in 2012 sparked protests nationwide after killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen. The Orlando attorney says he has no regrets about representing Zimmerman, who was acquitted in July in a trial that drew worldwide attention. O'Mara, 57, says that the case that consumed most of his time also opened doors for him. He has moved on to other cases and other issues, notably a justice-outreach program he started to help youngsters avoid crime. He talked recently with the Orlando Sentinel at his office.

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[Revised: 01-22-2014]