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.
Nov. 5, 2007
CONFLICT COUNSEL OFFICE: WHILE AWAITING SUIT, FUNDING TOUGH FOR INDIGENT PROGRAM-- Daily Business Review,http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Nov. 2, 2007. [Also:SHAKY START FOR LEGAL AGENCY FOR POOR-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Nov. 5, 2007].
From The Daily Business Review: The director of the state's new Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in Miami lost his first appeal last week — but it wasn't in court. Miami-Dade County denied his request for office space. Representatives say the Florida Constitution states that "no county or municipality shall be required to provide any funding for court-appointed counsel," and that the state is responsible for funding court-appointed counsel. Attorneys from the state’s criminal defense bar have been bristling over this confrontation. They worry that in addition to facilities, the funding disputes will adversely affect the pay of private criminal defense attorneys who represent indigent defendants. In turn, they say, indigent clients could be denied their constitutional right to effective counsel. All of this is the subject of litigation, lobbying efforts and a scramble by the directors of the Conflict Counsel Office to secure publicly funded office space.
PUBLIC DEFENSE TAKES A HIT-- The Panama City News Herald, http://www.newsherald.com, Nov. 3, 2007.
Budget cuts handed down from Tallahassee last week might force the periodic closure of the Public Defender’s Office in Bay County. Public Defender Herman Laramore said Friday [ Nov.2] his $4.2 million budget was slashed up to $260,000. The problem with that is that about 93 percent of his budget is salary. Two assistant public defenders are leaving the office during the next month, but Laramore said he can’t allow their positions to remain open. He said it would help trim the budget, but his lawyers already are handling caseloads that exceed state and bar recommendations and he couldn’t put more work on them. Additionally, Panama City State Attorney's Office spokesman Joe Grammer said budget cuts to the prosecutor’s office amounted to about $161,112.
BAR ASSOCIATION SETS UP EXHIBIT AT COURTHOUSE-- Treasure Coast Newspapers, http://www.tcpalm.com, Nov. 3, 2007.
The Palm Beach County Bar Association, with support from its members and local law firms, is creating "And Justice for All," an educational exhibit for the courtroom in the restored Historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach. The exhibit will feature interactive displays and information about the state and federal constitutions, the Bill of Rights, and the Separation of Powers, as well as significant events in Palm Beach County's legal history. Tours for the public and schools will be given by the Historical Society beginning in April.
--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--
TANGLE OF CHARGES PUTS LAWYER'S CAREER ON LINE-- St. Petersburg Times, http://www.sptimes.com, Nov. 4, 2007.
Back in August, lawyer Jessica Miller left the West Pasco Judicial Center in handcuffs. A judge had her jailed for criminal contempt of court, saying she had ignored his commands to appear before the court. Now Miller faces an even more serious problem: She could lose her license to practice law. The Florida Bar said it has found reason to believe that the Port Richey family law attorney may have violated the rules governing a lawyer's conduct. Miller has denied to the Bar all the allegations against her.
--Civil Justice Issues--
COURT REVERSES ABORTION RULING-- Treasure Coast Newspapers, http://www.tcpalm.com, Nov. 3, 2007.
A 17-year-old girl who wanted an abortion without her parents' knowledge, but was denied by a circuit judge, can now get one under an appeals court ruling. It was the first time the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which covers the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach and Broward counties, had heard such a case. It's still a new area of the law, and although the statute is "pretty straightforward," there's the potential for the appeals court to hear more such cases in the future as new issues come up, said Attorney Melissa Duncan, who represented the girl. Since 2005, when a state law went into effect requiring parents to be notified when children under 18 seek an abortion, 44 girls in Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties have asked judges to bypass the requirement. Only eight of those requests were rejected, according to records from the Florida Supreme Court.
FORECLOSURE AMONG THE UPPERCLASS-- The Tampa Tribune/MSNBC, http://www.tbo.com, Nov. 4, 2007.
Once, they were dream homes, with views of the golf course and a taste of the good life behind the gates of some of Tampa's most posh communities. Now, they all sit abandoned and in foreclosure. All were bought sight unseen by a South Florida investor who is suing his former business partners and lawyer for fraud and identity theft. The homes were purchased by Atlantic Coast Investments, which is partially owned by Boca Raton businessman Alan Nathan, and deeded the same day to Nathan's partners at inflated prices. Nathan and his partners acknowledge the mortgages were phony, but they say they're the ones who were defrauded. Nathan and his wife and Gordon Cone, a business partner who bought one houses, have filed a lawsuit against their former attorney, Jill Newman, former investment partners Maurice and Linda Bates, and about 50 other people or businesses involved in the sales. According to the lawsuit, Newman and the Bateses used "dummied up and/or forged documents including but not limited to contracts, appraisals, mortgage documents, title documents and closing statements and in some if not all cases two sets of documents were used."
SENIORS SHOULD USE CAUTION WHEN SEEKING ADVICE ABOUT RATE INCREASES FOR MEDICARE-- The News-Press, column, http://www.news-press.com, Nov. 4, 2007.
The column by Lee County tax attorney William Edy, who also is a certified elder law attorney, states: "It is understandable that the potential devastating costs of medical care has motivated many to attend seminars advertising to protect the senior's assets from both nursing home costs and estate taxes, both equally feared risks. However, seniors should realize that it may be more cost effective to consult your attorney to discuss these risks than to attend a seminar with someone you do not know or seek help from a We The People type group not regulated by The Florida Bar."
UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT DETAINED AFTER TESTIFYING IN CASE-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Nov. 3, 2007.
An undocumented day laborer was detained after he testified in court against a man accused of attacking him, a move denounced Friday [Nov. 2] by immigrant rights groups. Carlos Cruz Gallego, a Colombian immigrant, was taken into custody at his Miami home shortly after he left the stand Thursday [Nov. 1]. Brooke Greco, an attorney with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, argued that Gallego has temporary legal status while his visa application is pending. Gallego was eligible for a "U" visa, given to victims of violent crime who cooperate with authorities. The alleged attack took place in November 2006. However, an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Gallego was arrested in March for overstaying his original nonimmigrant visa, and was granted bond for the sole purpose of testifying in the assault case. Gallego was detained after his testimony because the state attorney's office said they no longer needed him for the trial, according to an ICE official familiar with the case.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
JUDGE ORDERS EVIDENCE IN NOWAK CASE TOSSED-- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Nov. 3, 2007. [DIAPERS, STATEMENTS DISPOSABLE, JUDGE RULES IN NOWAK CASE-- Florida Today, http://www.floridatoday.com, Nov. 3, 2007].
From the Orlando Sentinel: Former astronaut Lisa Nowak won a legal victory Friday [Nov. 2] when a judge agreed to toss out her statements to Orlando police and evidence taken from her car. Orange Circuit Court Judge Marc Lubet issued a 24-page order that admonished Orlando police Detective William Becton for the way he handled the interview with Nowak. Becton, the lead investigator on the case, questioned Nowak for six hours after her Feb. 5 arrest at Orlando International Airport. Police say Nowak attacked her romantic rival Colleen Shipman, who was dating Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, also an astronaut at the time. "This court must ensure that the Constitutional protections afforded by our forefathers are scrupulously honored. Unfortunately, in this case those protections were not as thoroughly followed as the law demands," Lubet wrote in the order.