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.
Sept. 12, 2013
--The Florida Bar--
GUIDELINES ESTABLISHED FOR ALLOWING TITLE INSURERS TO AUDIT TRUST ACCOUNTS -- The Florida Bar News, http://www.floridabar.org, Sept. 15, 2013.
The Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee has approved Proposed Advisory Opinion 12-4, which concludes that attorneys must decide that it is in their clients’ best interests — and the clients must have not prohibited it — before allowing title insurers to audit trust accounts containing funds from clients who are not using that insurer. Now the committee is seeking input from Bar members. The opinion came from a Bar member inquiry stemming from F.S. §626.8473(8). The law requires attorneys acting as title agents or real estate settlement agents to deposit client funds for those transactions in a special trust account and allow title insurers to audit that account “unless maintaining funds in the separate account for a particular client would violate applicable rules of The Florida Bar.”
COURT DENIES BLANKET REQUEST TO SLOW IMPLEMENTATION OF CRIMINAL E-FILINGS -- The Florida Bar News, http://www.floridabar.org, Sept. 15, 2013.
A blanket request made by the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association to delay the Oct. 1 deadline for mandatory electronic filing of criminal court cases has been rejected by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, but Polston said the court remains ready to consider individual applications. The FPAA asked that each state attorney be excused from the deadline until 90 days after every clerk in his or her circuit is ready to accept electronic filings through the statewide e-filing Internet portal. The authority board already had said it expected several counties to miss the deadline. Polston previously had said the court was ready to grant extensions as long as it was satisfied diligent efforts were being made to accomplish electronic filing of criminal cases.
29 APPLY FOR BROWARD COUNTY COURT OPENING -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Sept. 11, 2013.
Five prosecutors, two general magistrates and a public defender are among 29 applicants hoping to fill a Broward county court vacancy. Broward Assistant State Attorneys Mari Blumstein, Susan Hugentugler, Kal Le Var Evans and Samantha Rosen applied to the Broward Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the seat vacated when Stacy Ross was promoted to the circuit bench in July. A fifth prosecutor, Abbe Rifkin from the Miami-Dade County state attorney's office, also applied. Broward General Magistrates Phoebee Francois and Giuseppina Miranda applied, as did Broward Assistant Public Defender James Rubin. More than half the candidates are in private practice.
BENTLEY ONE OF THREE FINALISTS FOR U.S. ATTORNEY -- Tampa Bay Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Sept. 12, 2013. [Also: JUDGE MENDOZA A FINALIST FOR FEDERAL JUDGESHIP -- St. Augustine Record, http://staugustine.com, Sept. 12, 2013.]
Lee Bentley III, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, is one of three finalists nominated for the post. He was chief assistant to former U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill, who left in July to work for a private firm. Other finalists are Roger B. Handberg, an assistant U.S. attorney in Orlando, and Jacksonville lawyer Curry Gary Pajcic. The Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Committee also named four finalists for U.S. district judge, including a current circuit court judge working in Putnam County, Judge Carlos Mendoza. The finalists' names have been submitted to U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who will make recommendations to the White House.
--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--
FORT LAUDERDALE ATTORNEYS SANCTIONED FOR FRIVOLOUS LENNAR ACTION -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Sept. 11, 2013.
The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami ordered sanctions against Grumer & Macaluso managing partner Keith T. Grumer and associate Jason N. Goldman for filing a frivolous action tied to a stipulated $584 million judgment for Miami-based home-builder Lennar Corp. in its fraud lawsuit against convicted swindler Barry Minkow. The penalty, to be set later, will be half of Lennar's attorney fees on the issue. The court also referred the attorneys to The Florida Bar for possible disciplinary action.
IT'S NOT TOO SOON TO REVISIT 2011 GROWTH LAW CHANGES, STATE'S FIRST PLANNING CHIEF SAYS -- The Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, Sept. 12, 2013.
Robert M. Rhodes, who was Florida's first growth management administrator in the 1970s, says the massive rewrite of Florida's growth management laws by the Legislature in 2011 has left uncertainty over what the "important state resources and facilities" are that require protection. Critics of Florida's Growth Management Act of 1985 won law changes in 2011 that substantially reduced state oversight of local growth decisions. Some environmentalists complained that the law was uncertain when it was passed. In a Florida Bar newsletter article this summer, Rhodes wrote that the uncertainty can't be resolved without revisiting the legislation. Lawyer Nancy Linnan, one of architects of the law, said that not defining the terms allows their definitions to be redefined by agencies in response to emerging issues, such as sea level rise and climate change.
--Civil Justice Issues--
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT TAKES EXPEDIA ONLINE HOTEL FEE CASE -- South Florida Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com, Sept. 12, 2013. [Also: HIGH COURT TO HEAR ONLINE TRAVEL CASE -- Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, Sept. 12, 2013.
The Florida Supreme Court said Tuesday [Sept. 10] it will hear a long-running feud over tourism taxes between 17 Florida counties and online travel websites including Expedia. The question is whether companies like Expedia can be taxed for fees they charge when someone books a room in a Florida hotel. The high court said a lower court ruling on the question is in direct conflict with other Florida Supreme Court decisions. Florida’s First District Court of Appeal ruled recently that such fees are not taxable – that the tax is only owed on the actual room rate.
--Criminal Justice Issues--
DUVAL MUST STEP UP JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM PROGRAM -- Florida Times-Union, Editorial, http://www.jacksonville.com, Sept. 12, 2013.
Florida’s overly harsh treatment of juveniles in trouble is needlessly expensive for taxpayers and is harmful to children — especially in Duval, the Times-Union editorial states, noting that efforts toward reform have been slow compared to other parts of the country. Part of the reason for Duval’s low use of civil citations is objections by State Attorney Angela Corey, who has refused to abide by a memorandum of understanding implementing a more robust program. The editorial concludes that "Duval’s parents, taxpayers and all who care about children should applaud the civil citation effort. It works better and it saves money. No first-time offender should be jailed for a low-level misdemeanor when clearly better options are available."