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September 15, 2013

Citizenship Is Not the Issue
As an attorney who applied to The Florida Bar without either citizenship or permanent residency, I strongly support that citizenship should not factor in Bar admissions.

The proposed amendment to Bar Rule 1-3.1 to provide, “No person who has complied with the requirements for admission to The Florida Bar shall be disqualified because he or she is not a United States citizen” remains reasonable and appropriate.

But the issue of undocumented or out-of-status applicants is an appropriate factor in meeting the requirements for admission to The Florida Bar.

While there is great sympathy for many who find themselves — often through no fault of their own — in the United States illegally, this is a continuing criminal act that is incompatible with being admitted to The Florida Bar. Currently, the Bar application requires a photocopy of “the immigration document that documents your status for submission to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for verification of authenticity” for all non-U.S. citizens. This is an appropriate and sufficient check.

The federal government often puts huge obstacles to achieving legal status in this country: Once a person has achieved that legal status, it would be appropriate to recognize and defer to their findings, but until the applicant has achieved such status the Department of Justice is correct in suggesting that they should be disqualified.

There is much reform that should be undertaken in immigration law in which our Bar members can participate. As lawyers, let us not flout the law but change the law. The new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a small, but important, step in that direction.

Phil Wigglesworth
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Bradley Manning
I’m Bradley Manning.

Come arrest and prosecute me as well, because I fully support everything he did.

I pray those who have prosecuted and judged Bradley Manning will eventually stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Hague, and will hopefully hang no different than the Nuremberg Nazis.

David F. Petrano

Public Defenders
These last months have seen the rather heavy news coverage of the Zimmerman case in Seminole County.

At its peak core are the defense attorneys O’Mara and West. During the trial and its ultimate verdict, they were rather celebrated as almost folk heroes and kudos of brilliant lawyers. They were and are, in my personal opinion, very effective trial lawyers.

However, after the verdict came in, in their first statements to the press is where I feel bound to stand up for the lowly public defenders of the world. By that, I mean the negative comments they made about the state erroneously seeking to obstruct them in obtaining discovery by employing means like they would often get away with when public defenders were representing the defendants.

On behalf of old public defenders, I would like to set the record straight and not let their comment go uncontested.

As a public defender in the ’70s and ’80s in the 18th Circuit, I tried an abundance of first degree murders and, yes, many second degree murders, as attorneys O’Mara and West successfully had with defendant Zimmerman.

Speaking of quality and effectiveness of their defense as a public defender, I would like to draw attention to 1977. As the week of May 16 started in Sanford, I started that week with two cases of second degree murder.

The first murder case that week ended on Tuesday, May 17, when the Sanford jury brought in a verdict of not guilty. On Wednesday, May 18, I started the second murder case. On Thursday evening, a second Sanford jury brought in the second not guilty and was the story that appeared in the Sanford Herald.

I must admit that those two wins so close together almost made me believe what my mother said about me was true. She always said I was the “greatest trial lawyer.” I was a public defender on both of these cases and probably made about $36 a day.

As for the discovery, I never asked for any. My file consisted of about five or six pages. Mv domicile was always in Brevard County. I traveled to Sanford on a regular basis in those days long ago.

The Zimmerman attorneys took two weeks to try and acquit their innocent client. I took one week to try and acquit two guilty defendants.

With the volume of homicide cases I tried in those days, I had a simple technique: I always looked for and found a butler to hang it on. That trick I learned from watching old Charlie Chan movies.

I can assure you that the state will always supply you one, with their tendencies to over witness a case.

Back then, there were veteran and very able defense lawyers. Guys like “Big Peg Leg” John McCarey, Frank Clark, Wendell Harris, David Porter, and Thurman Justice. They have long since passed on, and when they did, I felt the courthouse was no longer quite as safe as when Ole Big John and his like roamed the corridors.

Franklin D. Kelly

[Revised: 02-03-2016]