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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 6, 2013

--Judiciary--

DUVAL COURTHOUSE PROJECT ALMOST OUT OF MONEY, BUT BARELY INSIDE BUDGET -- Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, June 6, 2013.
Bills for the Duval County Courthouse complex are approaching the $350 million budget Jacksonville’s City Council approved, but won’t cross it, the city’s public works director pledged Wednesday [June 5]. The city shifted some costs, such as handicapped-accessible doors, into other city funds that mask the total impact on taxpayers. The city and courthouse builder are still working through fixes to problems with the new courthouse’s fire-control system, which turned up in inspections last month.

LARGER ISSUES PLAGUE COURT SYSTEM -- Citrus County Chronicle, Editorial, http://www.chronicleonline.com, June 6, 2013.
The editorial is critical of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that public defenders can refuse cases to alleviate stress on the public defenders’ office, claiming that it does not solve problems with imbalance in the justice system. It states that "the level of funding is not commensurate with the amount of work" that public defenders have to handle. It suggests that "the answer is for legislators to revisit funding for the state attorney and public defender offices and at least attempt to maintain a level of balance."

--Legislature--

SCOTT SIDES WITH BIZ GROUPS OVER TRIAL LAWYERS IN EXPERT WITNESS FIGHT -- Palm Beach Post, http://www.pbpost.com, June 6, 2013. [Also: SCOTT SIGNS MED MAL, EXPERT WITNESS BILL -- News Service of Florida, http://www.newsserviceflorida.com, June 6, 2013.]
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Wednesday [June 6] a pair of lawsuit-limiting measures that increase the standard for expert witnesses called to testify in cases. The Florida Chamber of Commerce hailed the changes. “These improvements . . . will provide predictability in our state’s courtrooms and create stability for our businesses and entrepreneurs, so they can grow their workforce and take us down the road toward economic prosperity,” said Dave Hart, a chamber vice president. The Florida Justice Association disagrees, claiming that the change will cost businesses and individuals more in legal fees and other expenses tied to finding experts.

--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--

STATE RE-SEIZES COMPUTER OF JACKSONVILLE ATTORNEY CHARGED IN ALLIED PUBLIC CORRUPTION CASE -- Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, June 6, 2013.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has re-seized the computer server of the Jacksonville law firm where Kelly Mathis is a partner. Mathis was arrested three months ago and is accused of being the mastermind behind a veterans charity that prosecutors say was actually a $300 million gambling operation. On Tuesday [June 4], FDLE agents used a search warrant signed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston to take the computer. The warrant did not say why law enforcement wanted it. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester told prosecutors they could not look at the server until a hearing to determine why it was seized. That hearing is expected to occur Friday [June 7].

FORMER OKALOOSA ATTORNEY GETS EIGHT YEARS FOR RACKETEERING -- Pensacola News-Journal, http://www.pnj.com, June 5, 2013.
James Harvey Tipler, a former Okaloosa county attorney already serving 30 years in prison for trying to kill a prosecutor, took a plea deal for his pending racketeering case Monday [June 3] afternoon. Tipler was sentenced by County Judge T. Patt Maney to eight years in prison after he pleaded no contest to one count of racketeering and one count unauthorized practicing of law. All other racketeering charges were subsequently dropped. Tipler was set to go to trial Wednesday [June 5] on allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients while working as an attorney. He also continued working after The Florida Bar disbarred him.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN JURORS WILL BE ANONYMUS AT TRIAL, JUDGE RULES -- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, June 5, 2013. [Also: GEORGE ZIMMERMAN IN COURT FOR HEARING ON KEY AUDIO EXPERTS, SANCTIONS -- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, June 6, 2013.]
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, the judge in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder case, Wednesday [June 5] ruled that his jury will remain anonymous throughout the trial that begins Monday [June 10] in Sanford. Nelson's ruling notes that the media outlets covering the trial have agreed not to photograph the jurors. Though defense attorney Mark O'Mara had asked the judge to sequester the entire pool of prospective jurors, Nelson ruled that "such drastic measures are unnecessary and, in fact, not practical based upon the resources available to the Court." Attorneys in the case this morning [June 6] will debate whether jurors should hear expert testimony that could be key to the state's case. The day's most important motion concerns forensic voice- and speech-identification experts, who say the voice heard on a 911 call screaming for help before the fatal gunshot was Trayvon.

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[Revised: 06-07-2013]