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.
March 26, 2014
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT ALLOWS COUNTY CLERKS TO POST RECORDS ONLINE -- Florida Times-Union (requires subscription), http://www.jacksonville.com, March 26, 2014. [Also: MOST RECORDS COULD SOON BE AVAILABLE ONLINE -- Tampa Tribune, http://www.tbo.com, March 25, 2014.]
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled to lift a 2006 ban against giving the public access to court records. In its place, the Supreme Court outlined guidelines for how clerks of court can make records more readily available, if they choose to do so. The new order’s calculations determining who should get access to which documents were based on a Manatee County program. In Manatee County, except for lengthy documents like depositions, records are automatically redacted and made available to anybody. The changes are expected to trim costs and save the public's time. Duval County Clerk of Courts spokesman Charlie Broward said the clerk’s staff will discuss and decide if it wants to open access to records. Duval County allows attorneys and certain qualified people to see records online, but the general public has to use courthouse computers. In Hillsborough County it will likely be more than a year before the public can view court records online, according to Clerk Pat Frank. She said her office is still working on its electronic case management system and has to explore redaction software for removing confidential information from electronic records before allowing online access.
IMMIGRANT SUPREME COURT JUSTICE UNDERSTANDS INEQUALITY OF LAW - BECAUSE HE'S LIVED IT -- Palm Beach Post (requires subscription), Column, http://www.pbpost.com, March 23, 2014.
Columnist Frank Cerabino writes about Jose Godinez-Samperio, the undocumented resident who can't practice law in Florida. Cerabino states, "Whenever I write about the plight of people who arrive in this country illegally as children, some readers invariably write me something like this: “What part of the word ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” The argument is that you can’t reward illegality . . . I’ve taken several stabs at countering that argument, but nothing I’ve written has come close to the perspective offered by Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga . . . Labarga acknowledged that reality in a recent court opinion, while expressing the ultimate injustice of this situation . . .We’re fortunate to have a voice like Labarga’s on the state’s highest court, a voice that reminds us that the barriers we construct can just as easily be taken down. And that inflexibility is an excuse, not a requirement."
INITIAL COURT BUDGETS RELEASED -- The Florida Bar News, http://www.floridabar.org, April 1, 2014.
State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner said budget proposals released by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and the House Justice Appropriations Committee are good starting points in addressing the state court system’s funding needs. Although funding for the courts’ top priority -- $15.6 million for employee pay and retention -- was not included in either budget, Goodner said she believes lawmakers will make good on promises to address the issue. Both chambers are expected to release their full budget proposals by the end of March, after which the entities will go into conference to work out the differences between the House and Senate proposals. In a comprehensive study of employee pay across the three branches of state government, the courts system found the average salary of its employees is 12.59 percent lower than other government employees.
ABANDON COURT-PACKING AMENDMENT -- The Ledger, Column, http://www.theledger.com, March 26, 2014.
Columnist Paula Dockery writes about the proposed constitutional amendment SJR 1188. She writes, "Technically, the constitutional change would require the governor to prospectively fill a vacancy in a judicial office on the Florida Supreme Court or a district court of appeal. The proponents claim it is necessary to clear up ambiguity in the system and avoid costly litigation. Opponents claim it is a blatant attempt to pack the court by a lame-duck governor and to deny the incoming governor the ability to make the appointments. At the heart of the issue is the age ceiling for the justices, combined with the timing of their departures . . . Under this change, the outgoing governor would have incredible power to shape the court by selecting a majority of the justices. Three of the justices would be appointed after the new governor had been elected and had taken office. Something just doesn't seem right with that. Unfortunately, the battle is taking place along party lines. It really should come down to what is better policy. It is my hope that sponsor Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, will withdraw the joint resolution from further consideration."
--Unlicensed Practice of Law--
WALL STREET ARBITRATOR BOOTED FOR FAKE CREDENTIALS HEARD NEARLY 40 CASES -- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, March 25, 2014.
By Reuters. The outcomes of nearly 40 securities arbitrations dating back more than 15 years could be compromised because James H. Frank, the arbitrator who heard them, allegedly lied about being a lawyer. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on Monday [March 24] confirmed that it removed Frank, of Santa Barbara, California, from its roster of arbitrators last year. Frank said he was a lawyer and a member of the bar in several states, including California, Florida and New York, when in fact, he was not, a FINRA spokeswoman said. Frank claims that he was a "lawyer" - putting the word in quotes - and that the California bar must have lost his records. The revelation raises questions about whether the parties could attempt to overturn some of those arbitration decisions in court, lawyers said, but timeliness could be a problem, as parties must typically make the request within 90 days of receiving the arbitration order.
OREN LEWIS JR. -- Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, March 26, 2014.
Oren Lewis, Jr., 85, passed away peacefully at home March 25. He was a member of The Florida Bar, the District of Columbia Bar and and the Virginia State Bar, as well as a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oren always found time for community service and involvement with various charitable organizations. He was a volunteer for the Broward Bar Association's committee for pro bono legal assistance for children and battered women.