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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.

March 17, 2011

--Legislature--


GOVERNOR WOULD GAIN MORE CONTROL OVER JUDICIARY UNDER NEW HOUSE PROPOSAL-- Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, March 15, 2011.
A proposed committee bill that would remove the Florida Bar from the judicial appointment process and allow Gov. Rick Scott complete control over the panels that select judges was released by the Florida House  on Tuesday [March 15] night. The measure makes changes to the Judicial Nominating Commissions which recommend a list of finalists to the governor for judicial appointments. The measure, CVJ8, would terminate the terms of all members of the nominating panels and the boards would be reduced from nine members to seven. The legislation would be the most far-reaching bill to affect judicial appointments since the GOP-controlled Legislature gave then-Gov. Jeb Bush additional control back in 2001.

BILL LIMITING ATTORNEY FEE FIRST OF MANY ADDRESSING PIP IN LEGISLATURE-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 16, 2011.
A House subcommittee approved a controversial bill that would limit fees for attorneys who sue insurance companies in disputes about PIP claims. State Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, who is sponsoring the bill, said the combination of legislative proposals would help reduce what he described as a “fraud tax” that is driving up the costs of auto insurance in Florida. Paul Jess, a lobbyist for the Florida Justice Association trial lawyers group, said people committing fraud don’t take their cases to court. He called the attorney-fee issue a “red herring.” [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

BUSINESS LOBBY PUSHING FOR FUNDING OF JUDICIAL SYSTEM-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 16, 2011.
Barney Bishop, chief executive of the Associated Industries of Florida, said while his organization is often at odds with trial lawyers it has sided with the judiciary in opposing underfunding of the judicial system. “We recognize how important the civil side of the justice system is. It is 95 to 98 percent us — it’s businesses suing businesses or suing somebody,” Bishop said today in a meeting with Daily Business Review editors. “There’s no question that we need to have properly qualified judges, we need to have judicial assistants so that they can manage their huge case load and we need to do everything we can to solidify the judiciary in Florida so that it can operate as efficiently as possible.” Bishop also said that his group opposes the use of court fees for general revenue purposes. [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

THE REAL COURT FIGHT-- The Suncoast News, editorial, http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com, March 16, 2011.
Last week, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon caused more than a few raised eyebrows by suggesting an overhaul of the Florida Supreme Court. Cannon wants to turn the seven-member court into two separate courts, each with five members. The Associated Press report on Cannon's proposal noted he has criticized the Supreme Court for throwing proposed amendments to the state constitution off the ballot. This prompted some people to suggest Republican Cannon is trying to engage in a bit of conservative court packing.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN WOULD BRING LITIGATION TO HALT-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 17, 2011.
Calling the lack of a budget a "dire situation," the chairman of the Judicial Conference executive committee warned a government shutdown could bring litigation to a halt with delayed jury trials, limited pre-trial services and deferred payments to court-appointed lawyers. Addressing reporters following a Judicial Conference meeting Tuesday [March 15], Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said essential personnel would be asked to work without pay during a government shutdown. In separate action Tuesday, the House passed a measure blending $6 billion in budget cuts with enough money to keep the government running for an additional three weeks. [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

SENATE LIMITS LAWSUITS AGAINST AUTOMAKERS-- Bradenton Herald, http://www.bradenton.com, March 17, 2011.
Automakers and other manufacturers scored a victory in the Florida Senate on Wednesday [March 16] as the chamber passed a bill that would make it more difficult for injured parties to win product liability awards in some cases. The bill would undo a 2001 Florida Supreme Court decision that came in a suit against Ford Motor Co. that says evidence of the primary cause of a crash, such as driver error, cannot be introduced in lawsuits alleging defective products caused additional or more serious injuries. “This bill requires that the jury hear the whole story,” said Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican sponsoring the bill.

STATE'S BUSINESS LOBBY FINDS FRIENDLY EARS IN TALLAHASSEE-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 17, 2011.
Florida's largest business lobby, with support from a sympathetic governor and a super majority of like-minded lawmakers, is in the best position in years to get its wish list passed in the current Legislative session in Tallahassee. Trade, legal issues and incentives that encourage manufacturers to bring their facilities and jobs to Florida are among the top priorities, said Barney Bishop, president of the Associated Industries of Florida, during a meeting with Daily Business Review editors and reporters on Wednesday [March 16]. The main thing hurting Florida's recruitment of companies, he said, is the state's cumbersome permitting process and the delays and costs involved for businesses. The other must-have is for the state to put financial incentives on the table: Cash, infrastructure improvements, tax rebates on property taxes. [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

TODAY IN TALLAHASSEE: BID TO REVAMP SUPREME COURT GETS HEARING-- St. Petersburg Times, http://www.tampabay.com, March 17, 2011.
House Speaker Dean Cannon's proposal to revamp the Florida Supreme Court will be the focus of a three-hour hearing today. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, will consider Cannon's package of proposed changes at an afternoon meeting. Cannon, a Winter Park lawyer, wants to split the seven-member Supreme Court into two courts of five members each — one to handle civil cases and the other to handle criminal cases. He also wants investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public, and he wants to ask voters to amend the state Constitution to require that appeals judges receive at least 60 percent of the vote in a merit-retention election.

--Civil Justice Issues--

3RD DCA: COMPANIES IN FORECLOSURE MUST STILL MAKE PAYMENTS-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 17, 2011.
A Doral company must make monthly payments to its lender regardless of the expected outcome of its commercial foreclosure cases, the 3rd District Court of Appeal decided Wednesday [March 16]. The ruling on the cases brought by the Bank of Miami against Farah Real Estate and Investment marks the first appellate decision addressing a 2010 law forcing commercial real estate owners to continue paying lenders while foreclosure matters are pending, according to bank attorney Eric D. Isicoff of Miami. [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

COURTS STILL CLOGGED WITH FORECLOSURE CASES-- ABC Sarasota County,http://www.mysuncoast.com, March 17, 2011.
More than four years after the housing bubble burst, the state's foreclosure crisis continues. Last year the state legislature tried to help clear the backlog. It gave the 12th Circuit Court $212,000 just for foreclosures. “With that money we had four case managers and recalled three senior judges dedicated solely to foreclosure reduction assistance,” says Judge Lee Haworth. Judge Haworth's court still has 17,000 cases unresolved. Meanwhile, the legislature is taking a hatchet to the budget. “I think it's easier to get support if you're saying we're protecting citizens rather than saying the courts need more money. While we want to unclog the court system, we also want to make sure it's done fairly,” says State Senator Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

HERNANDO COULD DOUBLE ITS DEATH ROW INMATES-- Hernando Today, http://www2.hernandotoday.com, March 17, 2011.
Three men convicted of homicides in Hernando County currently sit on death row. The State Attorney's Office wants to double that number by the end of the year. Nine murder defendants await trial for seven slayings that took place in 2010. Three of them, if convicted, face the death penalty. Five others are charged with first-degree murder and are looking at life sentences. The ninth is charged with second-degree murder. Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, who handles the bulk of homicide cases for Florida's 5th Judicial Circuit, is the prosecutor in all eight of Hernando's upcoming first-degree murder trials.

--Other--

FIU'S LAW SCHOOL MAKES INITIAL SHOWING ON U.S. NEWS ANNUAL LIST-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, March 16, 2011.
Florida International University made its first appearance in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of law schools, and the University of Miami tumbled 17 spots. FIU squeaked in at No. 132 in a report issued Tuesday [March 15] that assigns numbers to the nation’s top 140 schools. For UM, the school continued bouncing around, hitting 77th place after rising to 60 last year. The University of Florida held steady at 47th, and Florida State University climbed four notches to 50th place. [The Daily Business Review no longer provides free links to articles.]

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[Revised: 03-18-2011]