The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on December 8, 2017, in Fernandina Beach. The major actions of the Board and reports received included:
Florida Bar members are encouraged to apply by Jan. 3 to be recommended for two vacancies on each of 26 Judicial Nominating Commissions. A Jan. 16 deadline is set for applying for other important opportunities for Bar service, including appointments to 2018-19 committees and to the Wm. Reese Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy.
Preparations for the Jan. 9 opening of the 2018 Legislative Session are underway with budget requests completed and bills being filed and heard in committees. The Florida Bar will again advocate for adequate funding of the state courts system, state attorneys’ offices, public defenders’ offices, court-appointed counsel, and the offices of the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions. In addition, legislation of importance to Bar members is being tracked, including payment of bar fees and CLE for state employees and an act requiring payment of due process costs of pro bono attorneys appointed to represent dependent children with special needs. Four bills have been filed regarding Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs) that would revise the procedures for appointing members to JNCs; The Florida Bar supports a merit-based process for selecting Florida judges through independent JNCs and opposes any changes to the current JNC process that would impair the independence of the commissions. To track bills, view session weekly updates, and peruse the legislative positions of The Florida Bar and Florida Bar Sections, visit floridabar.org/legislativeactivity.
The Bar’s Special Committee on the 2017-18 Constitution Revision is assisting the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) by working with Bar Sections to develop white papers on legal topics and, in partnership with the Young Lawyers Division, provided the commissioners with a 12-part video education series on each section of the Florida Constitution. That series is available for free continuing legal education credits to all Florida Bar members. The CLE link, a schedule of meetings and hearings, the timeline for the CRC’s work, and additional information are posted at floridabar.org/CRC.
A May 2017 poll revealing that only one in 10 Floridians could correctly identify Florida’s CRC process and its importance to Floridians, is being addressed by a Florida Bar public education program, Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts. The program is reaching millions through digital platforms, a “Floridian’s Guide to the Constitution Revision Commission,” and volunteer speakers for legal and community groups. In addition, the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) is printing and distributing 10,000 copies of the guide in Spanish. Visit www.ProtectFLDemocracy.org to learn more about the CRC, subscribe to weekly email updates, and request a speaker.
Three new member benefits were approved: HMC Healthworks and Wellbeing Coaches; discounts for Orlando area theme parks, attractions, and hotels; and Frames4Diplomas. These programs will soon join the more than 60 other free or discounted products and services for personal and professional needs, and some offer free trials, demos and complimentary initial services. Visit floridabar.org/memberbenefits to tap into the savings.
The Board voted to oppose a Bar member-initiated petition filed with the Florida Supreme Court to amend Bar rules for automatic discipline when a state or federal appellate court finds lawyer has made a frivolous filing as such action could infringe on the due process protections provided in the grievance process and various other reasons. The Board also opposed a proposed amendment to the comment for Bar Rule 4-8.4 regarding intimidation or bullying other lawyers because it was too vague. Additional information on the Board’s discussions of these proposals will appear in the January 1 Florida Bar News available online Dec. 26.
A Proposed Advisory Opinion (17-1) was presented, finding it is not a violation of Bar rules for a Bar member working as co-counsel with a lawyer from another state to share fees with that lawyer although that lawyer may be in a firm that is partly owned by a nonlawyer. The opinion notes that nonlawyer ownership of law firms is not allowed in Florida, something that only two U.S. and some foreign jurisdictions allow. Ethics advisory opinions and resources are available at floridabar.org/ethics.
Responding to an inquiry from a Florida Bar member, the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics recommended, and the Board agreed, to advise the inquirer that Avvo Advisor – a private company’s online system for connecting potential clients to lawyers for 15-minute consultations for $39 – is a lawyer referral service under Florida’s rules. For-profit lawyer referral services must comply with Rule 4-7.22 for Florida Bar members to participate (local bar association-sponsored, non-profit referral services are governed mainly by Rule 8). Twenty-eight lawyer referral services are current in their quarterly reports to The Florida Bar. For-profit lawyer referral services must comply with Rule 4-7.22 for lawyers to participate – the rule requires that the services receive no payment that constitutes a division of fees, furnish or require lawyers to have professional liability insurance, affirmatively state in ads that the system is a lawyer referral service, and other requirements. The January 1 Florida Bar News (online Dec. 26) will provide more information for Bar members about participating in Avvo Advisor. The advisory opinion addresses only the Avvo Advisor service.
IMPORTANT LINKS & REMINDERS
The 2018 Pro Bono Awards Ceremony is Jan. 25, at 3:30 p.m., at the Florida Supreme Court and will be streamed live at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel.
Watch new video segments on Florida’s court system funding needs, the CRC’s debate on the retirement age for judges, and a new program for handling outstanding warrants on YouTube at FloridaBarNews.TV.
Check out the latest edition of The Professional, a newsletter published by the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, featuring articles including, “What Power, Professionalism, and Spider-Man Have in Common” and “The Next Step on the Road to True Civility: Embracing Our Shared Humanity.”
Follow The Florida Bar and many programs, sections and committees on social media for the news and information: FloridaBar.Org/SocialMedia.