The Florida Bar

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.

Links to online newspapers

Feb. 7, 2014

--Legal Profession--

MIAMI STARTUP COMPANIES OFFERED FREE LEGAL ADVICE -- South Florida Business Journal,, Feb. 6, 2014.
Dade Legal Aid announced the launch of the Venture Law Project to provide free legal assistance to early stage startups. The project is supported by $75,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, said the project "creates a tremendous resource for early-stage entrepreneurs to get the answers they need to move forward." Specific topics will include business formation, drafting of legal contracts, negotiating lease agreements, copyrights and trademarks, tax planning and related matters. In addition, entrepreneurs will have free access to training and legal materials, as well as regularly scheduled workshops from partner law firms and local incubators.

--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--

SUPREME COURT ISSUES RARE PUBLIC REPRIMAND OF ATTORNEY -- News Service of Florida (requires subscription),, Feb. 6, 2014.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday [Feb. 6] delivered a rare public reprimand for ethical misconduct to Jeffrey Alan Norkin, a Plantation attorney. The high court ordered the reprimand in an Oct. 31 ruling, along with a two-year suspension that was twice as long as The Florida Bar had requested. Florida Bar authorities filed a complaint against Norkin in 2011 for his actions while defending a client in a lawsuit brought by the client's business partner. According to the Supreme Court's ruling, despite repeated warnings from judges, Norkin continued to engage in "rude and antagonistic behavior," screaming in legal proceedings and denigrating other professionals. "It's very unusual for a lawyer to be reprimanded in person before the Supreme Court," Chief Justice Ricky Polston told Norkin.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

FLORIDA'S NEW DEATH DRUG UNDER REVIEW AFTER HIGH-COURT RULING -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel,, Feb. 6, 2014. [Also: HEARING ORDERED ON STATE'S USE OF EXECUTION DRUGS -- Tallahassee Democrat,, Feb. 7, 2014.]
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday [Feb. 6] ordered a review of the new drug used in the state's lethal injection cocktail in the case of Paul Augustus Howell, a Death Row inmate scheduled for execution Feb. 26, to find out whether substitution of the drug midazolam violates the constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment by the government. Howell's lawyers argued in briefs filed Tuesday [Feb. 4] that midazolam is problematic because it will not anesthetize him and would leave him "unable to communicate his agony" when the other drugs are administered. The high court ordered the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Jefferson County, where Howell was originally tried and convicted of the murder of a highway patrol trooper in 1992, to hold a hearing and enter an order on the issue by 2 p.m. Wednesday [Feb. 12].

The Public Policy Institute of Marion County has studied some big local issues in the past and is now taking up the justice system. The non-profit, non-partisan, citizen-based institute kicked off its latest study The True Cost of the Justice System with a gathering Thursday [Feb. 6] morning at the Klein Conference Center on the campus of the College of Central Florida. In the end, the institute will issue a report with some common sense recommendations. They could cover all sorts of areas: alternatives to incarceration, ways to improve the recidivism rate, different approaches to handling juvenile offenders. The project's goal is to advance public safety through evidence-based practices and policies. Guest speaker Allison DeFoor said the justice system badly needs a dose of study, evidence gathering and accountability.


JUDGE MARY ROBINSON STRICKEN ON BENCH, HOSPITALIZED -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel,, Feb. 6, 2014. [Also: THIS BROWARD JUDGE COLLAPSED IN COURTROOM DURING TRIAL -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription),, Feb. 6, 2014.]
Longtime Broward County Judge Mary Rudd Robinson collapsed on the bench during trial and was rushed to the hospital Wednesday [Feb. 5] evening. Robinson, believed to be in her late 50s, was presiding over a drunken driving case around 5 p.m. when she began to twitch and make gurgling noises, said Assistant Public Defender Lyle Long. Michael Wagner, a toxicologist with the Broward Medical Examiner's Office, was testifying when Robinson fell ill. Wagner and Long raced to administer aid with a defibrillator. Robinson's husband, Circuit Judge Michael Robinson, arrived within minutes. Paramedics quickly put the stricken judge on a stretcher and she was taken to Broward Health Medical Center. Her condition is unknown but considered very serious.


Two proposed committee bills protecting community association managers took their first steps Wednesday [Feb. 5], receiving unanimous support from the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. The bills would protect community association managers from criminal penalties for the unlicensed practice of law and define the duties that can be practiced without fear of unlicensed practice sanctions. A pending decision from the Florida Supreme Court could rule some of their duties as the unlicensed practice of law. The Florida Bar petitioned the court for the decision, which if given would require CAMs to use lawyers to draft amendments to homeowners association bylaws and prepare contracts and construction liens.


BYRON THOMAS "B.T." COOKSEY, 86, VERO BEACH -- Vero News,, Feb. 6, 2014.
Byron Thomas "B.T." Cooksey, 86, Vero Beach, has passed away. Cooksey graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law with an LLB in 1955. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1956. He served as an associate at McCarty & Brown in Fort Pierce and later as a partner in the firms Brown & Cooksey and McCarty, Brown, Cooksey & Alderman in Fort Pierce. He was a founding partner of the Law Firm Gould, Cooksey & Fennell where he practiced law for more than 50 years. He was a past president of the Indian River County Bar Association and a member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers, American Bar Association, American Association of Trial Lawyers, American Judicature, Federal Bar Association, American Arbitration Association and the 19th Circuit Grievance Committee.

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[Revised: 02-10-2014]