The Florida Bar
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April 1, 2013

I must sympathize with Howard T. Sutter in his March 1 letter. There is no logical reason for the e-file system to require the changing of the password every three months

However, I am a cynic. It becomes perfectly logical. It is to keep “The People” from accessing the courts. No other explanation is available, and Mr. Sutter hits the nail on the head.

N. Richard Schopp
Port St. Lucie

(Editor’s Note: The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority has removed the requirement that e-filing e-portal passwords must be changed every 90 days. There is now no deadline. Passwords are good until changed by the registrant.)

Alimony Legislation
As a 30-year attorney, a member of Florida Alimony Reform, and a lifetime alimony payer, I want to dispel the notion that the Family Law Section speaks for The Florida Bar in general (it does not and cannot) or the majority of Florida lawyers in opposing HB 231, which is in fact crafted to bring Florida’s alimony laws into the 21st century.

Notwithstanding Family Law Section Chair Carin Porras’ assertion that “Florida laws are among the most progressive in the nation, having been extensively overhauled in 2010 and 2011,” those amendments apply only to dissolution actions commenced after July 2010 and July 2011 respectively. As a result, there are thousands of lifetime alimony payers who are laboring under the burden of a statute enacted in the middle of the last century under far different economic and social circumstances.

HB 231 is modeled on a nearly identical statute enacted into law in Massachusetts in 2012 (without opposition from the Massachusetts Family Law Bar) which will treat all alimony payers and recipients equally and will eliminate uncertainty in the alimony process so that payers and recipients can move on with their lives in a fair and reasonable manner.

HB 231 is good public policy and many Florida attorneys, whether they are alimony payers or not, support the effort to enact truly progressive alimony statutes.

Jon. D. Derrevere
West Palm Beach

I am an attorney in Miami practicing family law for many years. I represent either husbands or wives in seeking a divorce with and without children. I am also a guardian ad litem.

It is obvious that SB 718 is being presented to protect the paying spouse and not the one in need after many years in the marriage. Having represented both the payor and the payee, it becomes necessary to find the equitable measure between the parties. That is why the family court is an equity court. Marriage and children cannot all be categorized into a single statute. One size does not fit all.

Let it be known that many of my contemporaries and I are opposed to SB 718 and will take all legal measures to ensure that it does not pass or will be overturned.

Stuart A. Markus

Perry Mason Effect
Lawyers everywhere, regardless of area of practice, owe a debt of gratitude to lawyer-turned-author Erle Stanley Gardner. From the mid-1930s until his death in 1970, Gardner was a tireless advocate for the legal profession, particularly criminal defense lawyers. Gardner’s greatest contribution to the practice was his creation of fictional criminal defense lawyer Perry Mason.

During the last 50 years (interestingly, exactly how many years it’s been since CBS aired the final episode of “Perry Mason”), new lows in public respect for attorneys have been plumbed. It wasn’t always that way. From the release of Gardner’s first Perry Mason novel in 1933, The Case of the Velvet Claws, the American public was captivated with the courtroom dramas of the Mason novels, especially the flair, wit, and surprise successful acquittals Mason managed to engineer over and again.

In all 81 Perry Mason novels, Gardner drove deep a portrayal of criminal defense lawyers as ethical, hardworking, and dedicated to the cause of justice. As a result, the public grew to understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by those defending citizens accused of a crime. Gardner’s Mason novels sold more than 185 million copies.

Gardner and Perry Mason soon found themselves in Hollywood, where during the 1930s and 1940s, a variety of films featured the crafty trial lawyer. Gardner, however, dissatisfied with Hollywood’s portrayal of Mason, canceled his approval of the Warner Bros. film franchise. A more satisfying medium proved to be the coast-to-coast national radio show “Perry Mason,” premiering in 1943 and broadcast five days a week for 12 years. Gardner’s contractual agreement for script approval helped guarantee that Perry Mason and the legal profession received fair and proper characterization.

Transitioning from radio to television in 1957 brought Perry Mason his greatest courtroom triumphs and acclaim. For nine years and approximately 300 episodes, Americans watched transfixed as Raymond Burr channeled Perry Mason exactly as Gardner envisioned. Though at times predictable, the formulaic plots’ surprise endings and Mason’s deft courtroom strategies amazed and entertained millions. The final episode of the CBS series, aptly titled “The Case of the Final Fadeout,” featured Gardner in his first and only appearance on the show acting as the trial judge. Dick Clark played the murder suspect.

Gardner’s continuous insistence that criminal defense lawyers be characterized in an ethical manner reflected his own deep-seated feelings about the legal profession and particularly criminal defense lawyers. He held the highest respect for those who dedicated their professional life to defending the criminally accused. To Gardner, criminal defense lawyers stood watch over precious constitutional rights.

Gardner’s personal feelings on criminal defense lawyers were captured in the Perry Mason novel The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito, in which Mason answers criticism that he “sticks up” for criminals: “I have never stuck up for any criminal. I have merely asked for the orderly administration of an impartial justice. Due legal process is my own safeguard against being convicted unjustly. To my mind, that’s government. That’s law and order.”

CBS canceled the series in 1966. It lives on in syndication with hundreds of stations nationwide still airing reruns. Between 1985 and 1995, 30 Perry Mason made-for-TV shows were broadcast.

Gardner’s commitment to protecting the innocent and promoting the cause of justice went beyond “Perry Mason.” In the 1950s, he helped start “The Court of Last Resort,” uniting top investigators, lawyers, and forensic scientists to review, and where needed, try to reverse, wrong convictions. Of particular interest to Gardner’s group were convictions due to inadequate legal representation, wrongful prosecutions, or misapplication of forensic science. Gardner’s book on The Court of Last Resort earned him the prestigious Edgar Award in 1952.

Gardner passed away in 1970, but his impact on America’s legal profession remains. During her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the strong, positive impressions that “Perry Mason” played in shaping her desire to become an attorney.

Richard Kibbey
Joshua Deckard

[Revised: 10-09-2016]