The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on March 11, 2016. The major actions of the Board and the reports received included:
The Legislation Committee reported that Florida’s 2016 legislative session was scheduled to conclude that day. A bill to impose term limits on appellate judges was not heard by the Senate (and did not pass by sine die). The Florida Bar opposed term limits for any state court judges in Florida, either on the trial or appellate bench. A death penalty bill was approved by the governor on March 7. The state budget, as approved by the Legislature after the board meeting ended, contained the following court funding priorities: Infrastructure needs for the Supreme Court facility, including security support: $315,774; Operational support for State Court Systems: $707,789 (including 6 FTEs); 3rd DCA Court remodeling for ADA, security and building systems upgrades: $6,482,222; 4th DCA courthouse construction: $7,509,276; 2nd DCA facility space study: $200,000; 2nd DCA facility lease needs: $518,000; Restoration of Glades County courthouse: $350,000; Renovation, restoration or expansion of Charlotte County Justice Center: $1,000,000; Renovation, restoration or expansion of Okaloosa County Courthouse: $1,000,000; Emergency renovation and repairs for the Nassau County Courthouse: $300,000; and Operational increases for the Judicial Qualifications Commission: $115,671.
A report was received from the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics and the Board Technology Committee regarding amendments to rules 4-7.22 and 4-7.23, the lawyer referral service and lawyer directory rules. Proposed amendments were accepted on first reading and will be published for input from members. In the proposed amendments, the definition of a qualifying provider is broadened and restrictions and requirements to participate are reduced.
An informational report was given for the Special Committee on Legal Education which was recently appointed to review proposed changes to the certified legal intern rule and to the bar exam. The special committee is comprised of law school deans, Florida Supreme Court justices, representatives of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and other attorneys. Law school deans have said they spend countless hours preparing students to pass a 27-part exam that includes subjects the students may never use in their careers, rather than allowing them to work at externships and get real-life training. The committee is also looking at the background clearance necessary to serve as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI). Under the current rules, the student must apply to the Board of Bar Examiners and receive a clearance letter before being certified as a CLI. There is some concern regarding how long this process takes with the result being fewer students becoming certified as CLIs. Other reasons for the decrease are also being studied. Upon graduation, CLIs have to pass all parts of the bar exam.
The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division’s Survey on Women in the Legal Profession has received national media attention. A link to the survey was emailed to a random sample of more than 3,000 female members of Young Lawyers Division (YLD) and more than 400 responded. Key findings include: many respondents indicated they had experienced one or more serious issues, such as gender bias and harassment from opposing counsel, and employer or the court; more than one-quarter reported resigning from a position due to a lack of advancement opportunities, a lack of work-life balance and/or employer/supervisor insensitivity; 21% of respondents felt that they were not paid comparatively to their male counterparts; and 42% cited difficulties in balancing work/life responsibilities as a challenge or concern they face as practicing attorneys. In April, the YLD is presenting weekly free CLE webinars open to all Florida lawyers to support and recognize the achievements of women in the legal profession and at the Annual Convention in June will present “Engage: Advancing Women is a Cause for All Lawyers,” a three-hour seminar. In addition, the YLD is introducing the Outstanding Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award this year. The programs and the webinar schedule will be published in the April 1 issue of The Florida Bar News.
One special appointment was made: Mark Herron of Tallahassee was appointed to a four-year term on the Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee beginning July 1, 2016. Three applicants for one of the two public member seats on the Board of Governors were approved to be sent to the Supreme Court to make a two-year appointment: Judy Doyle, of Orlando, Sharon B. Middleton, of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Herbert E. Polson of St. Petersburg beginning in June 2016.
Applications and deadlines for these special appointments are posted on the website.
ABA House of Delegates (2 lawyers – includes under 36 delegates for 2-year terms beginning August 2016)
Florida Legal Services, Inc. Board of Directors (5 lawyers for 2-year terms beginning July 1, 2016)
Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. Board of Directors (3 lawyers and 2 non-lawyers for 3-year terms beginning July 1, 2016)
Florida Board of Bar Examiners (2 lawyers for 5-year terms beginning November 1, 2016)
Florida Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association (1 lawyer for 2-year term beginning July 1, 2016)
Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism (5 lawyers for 4-year terms beginning July 1, 2016)
Judicial Nominating Commissions (1 lawyer for each of the 26 JNCs for 4-year terms beginning July 1, 2016)Receive important Florida Bar announcements and news on the profession via social media at www.floridabar.org/socialmedia