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January 1, 2013
Letters

Aging Lawyers
I read “Bracing for the ‘Tsunami’ of aging Florida lawyers” in the November 15 News and couldn’t believe my eyes. I graduated from law school at the age of 43 and opened my own private practice at age 44. I never dreamed that 11 years later I would be lumped into a group of “aging lawyers.”

I am now 57 years old and feel I am doing my best work ever.

Senior attorneys are our elder statesmen and stateswomen and some of our best resources. When I have a question or need advice, I do not call a younger attorney. I go to a seasoned older attorney with many years of experience. To cast them (us) away as though all suffer from dementia is not only wrong but age discrimination and could end up in federal court.

There are great attorneys of all ages and incompetent ones of all ages, as well. If we want to clean up our profession, we need to look at all members of the Bar and weed out the ones who are not fit for the practice of law regardless of age.

I do hope that more of us “aging attorneys” will rise up and let the Bar know that experienced, seasoned attorneys are great for our profession. There is no automatic slippery slope that we suddenly hit at age 55 and go downhill from there.

Would love to write more, but I have to get my cane and reading glasses and head out to court. Has anyone seen my briefcase?

W. Michael Thornton
Tampa

Scams
Keith H. Johnson’s letter on scams in the December 15 News was interesting, and I commend him for taking the time to inform us all.

Why is there almost no accountability for those using the Internet and various email services, such as Google, AOL, and others, to conduct fraudulent schemes?

The U.S. Postal Service has an enforcement unit, and there are federal criminal laws specifically targeting mail fraud. The postal inspector’s website recommends sending complaints about spam and fraudulent email scams to the Federal Trade Commission. But, the FTC complaints webpage states that it does not resolve individual complaints.

We need a system-wide solution to the problem of the use of the Internet for direct solicitation by scammers.

Joy A. Bartmon
Boca Raton

Conflict Attorney Fees
In the December 15 article discussing conflict attorney pay, where flat fees are addressed, it’s interesting that so many in the private bar see this as setting up, as stated by Derek Byrd, “ineffective assistance of counsel on its face.”

This is basically stating that any of the cases currently handled by the Office of Regional Counsel, the various public defenders offices, and even the state attorneys offices are on its face ineffective assistance of counsel. In the June 15 News story, “The role money plays in wrongful convictions,” Jan Pudlow laid out the averages that face both the state attorneys and public defenders. In that article it states the state attorneys in 2011 averaged “about 900 case referrals annually per assistant state attorney.” The public defenders office averaged about 500 cases per lawyer. Based on the flat rate system that has been called “ineffective assistance of counsel on its face,” using the lowest dollar amount allowed per case ($400) each assistant state attorney would be paid $360,000 per year, and each public defender, $200,000.

Even if one were to reduce that amount by half to compensate for the cost of staff and other expenses that are paid by the state, there would still be a significant increase from the low $40,000 that is the starting pay for the attorneys employed by these offices.

If the flat rate structure is “ineffective assistance of counsel,” then by all means the average rate paid to assistant public defenders, regional conflict counsel, and assistant state attorneys would also be a clear indicator of ineffective assistance of counsel.

The average assistant state attorney currently makes less than $65 per case handled; if the $400, $2,500, or even $15,000 from the flat rate schedule is ineffective, why are we paying those who, but for the conflict, would normally handle these cases so much less? Also what about the conflict between a state-appointed conflict counsel sitting on one side of the courtroom making $2,500 on the life felony case, and the assistant state attorney making $65? Both are paid by the state to do the same job: one to represent the interests of the accused, one to represent the interests of the general population of the state.

If the dollar amount is too little for the private bar, then it is too little for the public bar, as well.

Adam Patton
Lakeland

[Revised: 09-23-2014]