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.
June 23, 2014
TIME TO PROVE DIVERSITY MATTERS IN JUDGESHIPS -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Editorial, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, June 22, 2014.
"When it comes to diversity on the bench, the ball is in Gov. Rick Scott's court. The Florida Bar has lobbed a perfect lay-up. First, it issued a report that highlights the lack of women and minorities who serve as judges. Now, it has recruited a diverse list of men and women willing to serve on the committees that vet future judges, committees that themselves fail to reflect the state's ethnic and racial makeup. Scott should applaud the Bar's noble effort and comb its candidate pool to pick more black, Hispanic and Asian attorneys for the state's 26 Judicial Nominating Committees. To dismiss the effort would be a mistake . . . Credit Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis with shining a light on the problem and helping recruit a high-quality stable of candidates willing to serve to fix it . . . Thanks to the Bar, Scott has an important resource to tap more minority attorneys in the process of selecting a more diverse group of judges. The Bar has done its part. It's time for the governor to do the same."
PUBLIC CAN E-FILE COURT DOCUMENTS STARTING SATURDAY -- Ocala Star Banner, http://www.ocala.com, June 20, 2014.
The Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers Association announced that starting Saturday [June 21], the public will be able to start electronically filing court documents to the Florida Courts E-filing Portal, where legal professionals can already file court documents electronically. Currently, about 60,000 Florida Bar members are able to file through the portal. Members of the public who are pro se, or proceeding without an attorney, should find the option helpful. When an individual reaches the website, they must register, scan their documents and pay an equivalent clerk filing fee like they would if filing physically at the clerk's office. The system will send the documents to the clerk's office electronically, where the submission will be accepted. Some records, however, such as a will, where an original is required to be on file, must still be filed in person until an electronic verification system can be put in place. Other expansions are expected in the future.
RETIRED JUDGE: JUDICIAL CANDIDATES MUST HAVE INTEGRITY -- Florida Today, http://www.floridatoday.com, June 21, 2014.
Brevard Senior Judge Preston Silvernail shared his advice for picking judicial candidates at an event held Thursday [June 19] night in Viera. Silvernail served on the bench for more than 20 years before retiring last year, though he still works at the courthouse part-time. He served as president of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state body that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct, and twice as chief judge. Silvernail said to look for integrity — someone who is honest and treats everyone fairly, and someone who makes decisions based on law, not personal beliefs or popularity — character and diligence. To make a decision, he recommended reviewing the candidates' personal and professional life experience. The dinner event was hosted by the Space Coast Tiger Bay Club, a non-partisan political club, and the Brevard County Association for Women Lawyers.
ABA: LAWYERS CAN SCOUR JUROR'S SOCIAL MEDIA SITES -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, June 22, 2014.
By The Associated Press. The American Bar Association says it's ethical for lawyers to scour online for publicly available musings of citizens called for jury service — and even jurors in deliberations. But the ABA does warn lawyers against actively "following" or "friending" jurors or otherwise invading their private Internet areas. Jurors' online postings have disrupted many legal proceedings over the years, causing mistrials and special hearings over the effects of Facebook musings, tweets and blog writings about their trial experiences. Lawyers and judges have also been wrangling over how far attorneys can go in assembling a jury with help from online research of jurors' social media habits. The ABA's ethics committee began reviewing the issue about two years ago and concluded in April that looking at Facebook posts, Twitter tweets and other information gathered passively is ethical research.
--Civil Justice Issues--
FLORIDA IS EPICENTER OF FIGHT AGAINST BIG TOBACCO -- Tampa Bay Times, http://www.tampabay.com, June 21, 2014.
Two decades ago, the husband-wife team of Miami lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt took a David and Goliath swipe at Big Tobacco, filing a class-action suit on behalf of 500,000 Floridians. That class action was finally dismissed eight years ago, splintering into thousands of individual lawsuits, making Florida the epicenter of tobacco litigation. Only a few clients have collected, and cases have crept along so slowly that many plaintiffs died before getting their day in court. Now the pace of litigation may pick up, as court actions recently stripped the industry of a potent defense that could have wiped out thousands of cases. Florida has 2,000 to 3,000 suits that descended from the Rosenblatts' class action, compared to around 100 pending antitobacco suits in all other states combined.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
FINAL ARGUMENT: FLORIDA LAWYER NAVIGATES CAPITAL PUNISHMENT'S MACHINERY -- Tampa Bay Times, http://www.tampabay.com, June 21, 2014.
Account of attorney Baya Harrison III's last-minute attempts to appeal the execution of convicted killer John Ruthell Henry. The second-to-last appeal had been denied 12 hours before his last attack, a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court. Henry's execution had come down to the final grind of the modern death penalty: a convicted killer who was sentenced to die, a state trying to carry out that sentence and a defense attorney trying to keep his client alive. Harrison had been on this case for 14 years, assigned by a judge who knew he wouldn't say no. He believes in the concept of the death penalty, thinking it a deterrent against future crimes, but he does not believe it should happen unless all valid legal issues have been considered. At nearly 7 p.m., the Supreme Court denied the appeal and the execution proceeded. Henry was executed at the Florida State Prison on Wednesday [June 18].
MAN WHO CURSED JUDGE APOLOGIZES, GETS 364-DAY JAIL SENTENCE DROPPED -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, June 21, 2014.
One week after receiving a 364-day jail sentence for cussing out a Broward judge, Christopher Colon returned to court to say he was sorry. On June 12, Colon defiantly cursed Broward County Judge John "Jay" Hurley 20 times, dropping nine "F" bombs and repeatedly telling Hurley to perform a sex act. Hurley accepted the apology, dropped the sentence and chalked it up to time served. Colon is being held without bond in the Broward Main Jail on a charge of aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.