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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.

Dec. 6, 2013

--Legal Profession--

FIU LAW STUDENT COMPETES, WINS NATIONAL TRIAL TEAM AWARD -- South Florida Times, http://www.sfltimes.com, Dec. 5, 2013.
Terry-Ann Howell, a Florida International University third year law student, won the “Exceptional Advocate” Award at the 17th Annual National White Collar Crime Mock Trial Invitational, sponsored by the Georgetown University Law Center Barrister’s Council in Washington, D.C. The White Collar Crime Invitational is a three-day trial advocacy competition that features a federal criminal trial focused on white collar issues. This year’s tournament, held at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse at Judiciary Square, featured 80 student-competitors from 20 law schools, including Georgetown, George Washington, John Marshall, South Texas, Stanford and the University of Virginia.

--Judiciary--

JUDICIAL NOMINEES SUBMITTED TO GOV. RICK SCOTT FOR REPLACEMENT OF VOLUSIA JUDGE -- Daytona Beach News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com, Dec. 6, 2013.
Gov. Rick Scott has six nominees to choose from for the Circuit Court of the 7th Judicial District vacancy, with Judge Hubert L. Grimes set to retire in January. Chosen by the Judicial Nominating Commission for consideration are David P. Gillespie, Howard O. McGillin Jr., Dawn D. Nichols, Regina Nunnally, Michael S. Orfinger and Alicia R. Washington. Grimes, Volusia County's first black judge, will retire after 25 years on the bench, his resignation effective Jan. 30, 2014.

--Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline--

ATTORNEY MAX RICARDO WHITNEY SUSPENDED FOR MALPRACTICE -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Dec. 6, 2013.
A one-year suspension was imposed Thursday on Deerfield Beach attorney Max Ricardo Whitney, who did nothing on his client's case, squandered the fees, then obstructed the trial court when he was sued for malpractice. Whitney, a solo practitioner, was suspended for his treatment of Dr. Michael G. Hill and Leila Mesquita de Oliveira. Whitney was hired to try to resolve de Oliveira's immigration status and received $19,365. He made two trips to Brazil, ostensibly to work on her case. For more than a year, no progress was made. When Hill sought information, Whitney avoided him. Hill fired Whitney and demanded a full refund and the return of de Oliveira's personal identity documents. Whitney refused. Hill sued for malpractice in 2005. As the case progressed, Whitney was uncooperative about producing records and sitting for a deposition.

--Civil Justice Issues--

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES QUESTION MEDICAL MARIJUANA BALLOT -- Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Dec. 6, 2013. [Also: COURT HEARS POT ARGUMENTS -- The Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, Dec. 6, 2013; FLORIDA JUSTICES QUESTION WORDING OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA BALLOT MEASURE -- Daily Business Review (requires subscription), http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Dec. 6, 2013; MEDICAL MARIJUANA SPONSORS SAYS LAWMAKERS ARE OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE -- The Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, Dec. 6, 2013.]
Florida Supreme Court justices held a one-hour, sometimes testy hearing Thursday [Dec. 5] on a proposed medical marijuana amendment to determine the constitutionality of ballot language. Some of the justices grilled People United attorney Jon Mills about the scope of the proposed amendment, which he countered is narrow. Much of the discussion focused on the term debilitating disease, which is used in the ballot summary, versus medical conditions, which is used in the amendment language. The most conservative judges on the bench, Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justice Charles T. Canady, appeared to aggressively challenge Mills while more liberal judges Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince were inclined to ask questions to help explain the amendment. The seven-member panel has until April 1 to make a decision.

FLORIDA FORECLOSURE BACKLOG HITS A LOW -- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com, Dec. 6, 2013.
Courts throughout Florida are moving foreclosures through the system at a faster clip, with the current backlog of cases now the smallest since the housing crisis began. Analysts attribute the recent progress to the new foreclosure fast track law aimed at further expediting home defaults. With home values on the rise, mortgage lenders are also hustling to move delinquent loans from their books to capitalize on the thriving market. Since the start of the state's fiscal year in July, a special task force dedicated to handle these delinquencies was able to resolve 3,268 cases — more than they cleared in the previous year. The foreclosure reduction efforts are part of a $4 million state initiative to relieve overwhelmed foreclosure courts by employing retired judges, trained case managers and special magistrates in the areas hardest hit by the housing recession. Florida's backlog has now shed 105,237 foreclosures in the past 16 months, records show. But many market watchers warn that the area is not out of the woods yet, with the number of mortgage borrowers who are underwater or delinquent still dangerously high.

--Criminal Justice Issues--

PAULA DOCKERY: MAKE SURE THAT THE PUNISHMENT FITS THE CRIME -- Tallahassee Democrat, Column, http://www.tallahassee.com, Dec. 6, 2013.
"Recently, Florida announced that it would reopen some of the prisons it closed a year ago due to projections of a growing inmate population. In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott announced prison facility closures as a cost-saving measure. It seems those closures were premature . . . While the crime rate continues to decline, a good thing, the time spent in our state prisons has been going up -- at an average cost of nearly $18,000 per inmate per year. Besides longer mandatory sentences for violent offenders, our prisons are getting filled with nonviolent offenders, now roughly 47 percent of the inmate population . . . While it might be necessary to reopen facilities to deal with estimated growth in the prison population, we should explore smart-justice proposals that would reduce the need to build more facilities and to warehouse people who are nonviolent and do not pose a threat to the safety of our citizens . . . Those who break the law should be punished. But we need to take a serious look at current laws, their corresponding sentences and the need for judicial discretion to ensure that the punishment does in fact fit the crime."

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[Revised: 12-09-2013]