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Daily News Summary

The purpose of this summary provided by the Communications Department of The Florida Bar is to present media coverage that may be of interest to members. Opinions expressed in the articles are attributable solely to the authors. The Florida Bar does not adopt or endorse any opinions expressed below. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.

August 15, 2019

  1. Judiciary

    EDITORIAL: GOV. RON DESANTIS REJECTS FLORIDA BAR NOMINATIONS

    South Florida Sun-Sentinel | Editorial | August 14, 2019

    “The news is not good for people who believe Florida’s courts need to be something more than extensions of the governor’s office. Picking up where his predecessor left off, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently rejected The Florida Bar’s nominations for lawyers to serve on seven judicial nominating commissions. The organization, which represents all 106,000 lawyers licensed in Florida, has called for new volunteers. . . . . During his eight years in office, Scott rejected 33 sets of Bar recommendations for nominating commission positions. Neither of the prior Republican governors had turned down any.”

  2. Legal Discipline

    FLORIDA BAR: ‘NO PROBABLE CAUSE’ THAT GAETZ VIOLATED RULES OF CONDUCT WITH COHEN TWEET

    Pensacola New Journal | Article | August 14, 2019

    A Florida Bar grievance committee found “no probable cause” that a tweet by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz to Michael Cohen earlier this year violated the bar’s rules of conduct. The bar does, however, plan to issue a “letter of advice” to Gaetz. A spokeswoman with The Florida Bar confirmed to the News Journal on Wednesday that the committee that investigated the case found no probable cause to believe that Gaetz violated any of the rules regulating Florida Bar members. In February, Gaetz drew a complaint against his license with the Florida Bar after tweeting to Cohen, the president’s former attorney, the day before Cohen was set to testify before Congress.

  3. Judiciary

    FLORIDA JUDGE SHOULD HAVE RECUSED HIMSELF WHEN LITIGANT HIRED HIS FIANCE’S FIRM, FEDERAL JUDGE RULES

    Daily Business Review | Article | August 14, 2019

    U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida threw out three rulings in a long-running case over claims that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson should have recused himself because his then-fiance accepted a job with the firm representing one of the parties. Defendants in a 2008 adversary proceeding brought by trustee Soneet R. Kapila claimed Olson was not a neutral figure because the trustee had hired the firm that employed his then-fiance. They filed a motion to vacate three of Olson’s rulings against them, claiming the judge’s spouse George Steve Fender, a Miami bankruptcy and commercial litigator, had joined Ruden, McClosky, Smith Schuster & Russell’s bankruptcy practice group during litigation. The couple would later wed in 2010. Even though Fender wasn’t involved in the case, Altonaga agreed with defendants. She found that having the judge’s spouse working for the plaintiff’s firm could raise the specter of impropriety and be enough to damage public confidence in the judiciary.

  4. Civil Justice Issues

    APPEALS COURT BLOCKS CITY STYROFOAM BAN

    Florida Politics | Article | August 14, 2019

    Siding with the Florida Retail Federation and upholding the constitutionality of state laws, an appeals court Wednesday [Aug. 14] rejected a 2016 move by the city of Coral Gables to ban the use of Styrofoam food containers. A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by a Miami-Dade County circuit judge who found three state laws unconstitutional and determined Coral Gables was not prevented from enacting the Styrofoam ban. The case focused heavily on a wide-ranging Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services bill that state lawmakers passed in March 2016. The bill barred local governments from regulating food-related polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers and made that prohibition retroactive to any local ordinances passed after Jan. 1, 2016.

  5. Civil Justice Issues

    EDITORIAL: STATE ATTORNEYS HELP TO RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS

    Ocala Star Banner | Editorial | August 14, 2019

    “Look who’s coming to the aid of ex-felons who’re being cheated out of the right to vote: prosecutors. That’s not a joke. It’s a dead-serious effort by the state attorneys of Florida’s four largest counties to work around the barriers created by the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis to, basically, obliterate the historic enfranchising effects of Amendment 4. That ballot measure, approved by nearly two-thirds of the electorate last November, was meant to automatically restore voting rights for most former felons (not murderers or felony sex offenders) who’ve completed their sentences — voting rights largely denied in this state for 150 years. But SB 7066, which went into effect July 1, requires returning felons to pay off all court fines, fees and restitution before they are eligible to vote. With 83 percent of such obligations expected to go uncollected because of inability to pay, voting rights for most ex-felons are as out-of-reach as ever.”

  6. Civil Justice Issues

    JUDGE BACKS STATE ON TEACHER UNIONS LAW

    Gainesville Sun | Article | August 14, 2019

    A Leon County circuit judge has rejected arguments by teacher unions that a controversial 2018 education law violates collective-bargaining rights and improperly singles out teachers among public employees. Judge Angela Dempsey on Friday [Aug. 9] issued an eight-page decision siding with the state’s arguments on the constitutionality of the law, which can require teacher unions to be recertified to represent employees. Such recertification is required if fewer than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation are dues-paying members. The Florida Education Association, unions in several counties and individual teachers filed the lawsuit in July 2018 challenging the law’s constitutionality. In part, they argued that the new requirement violated collective-bargaining rights and equal-protection rights as the requirements did not apply to other public-sector unions.

  7. Criminal Justice

    ‘WE’RE GOING TO GET BETTER,’ FLORIDA’S NEW PRISONS CHIEF VOWS

    Florida Phoenix | Article | August 14, 2019

    The recent reports of abuse in Florida prisons are disturbing. The Department of Corrections fired three guards at Lake Correctional Institute last month after they were captured on a cellphone video brutally attacking a prisoner.  A month ago, four guards allegedly attacked inmate Carlton Hart at the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando.  The department was also embarrassed this spring when a handful of its employees were caught participating in a social media meme called the #feelingcute challenge, where they posted comments about abusing inmates.  Stepping into the hot seat is retired Army Major General Mark S. Inch, a former Trump official that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed to take control of the troubled department in January. With more than 24,000 employees, it’s the biggest public agency in the state. Speaking with the Phoenix, Inch promised serious reform on his watch. His goals include restoring programs to keep inmates from being idle, addressing aging infrastructure and “steadying the staff” who are now working with their sixth corrections secretary in a decade.

  8. Civil Justice Issues

    FLORIDA’S TROUBLED GUARDIANSHIP SYSTEM RIDDLED WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, CRITICS CLAIM

    Orlando Sentinel | Article | August 14, 2019

    Jack Meagher says his court-appointed guardian, Rebecca Fierle, doesn’t respect his wishes, and he doesn’t need someone to make decisions for him. James “Jack” Meagher thought he was capable of managing his own affairs, but his sons said their father was mentally ill, suicidal and abusive, and needed a guardian to manage his money and health-care decisions. They went to court in 2018, asking a judge to declare their father legally incapacitated. The judge turned to Seminole County’s Guardianship Examining Committee, a roster of doctors, psychiatrists and other experts who help determine whether someone is incapable of caring for himself or his property. Florida law requires a three-person committee to examine someone before he can be declared incapacitated, and one member must be a psychiatrist or physician. After being examined, the judge ruled Meagher incapacitated and placed him under the care of Orlando-based professional guardian Rebecca Fierle, who was suddenly in charge of making every decision in Meagher’s life. Meagher, 67, was surprised to learn, months later, that Fierle had a close connection with Thomas Sawyer, the doctor who helped declare him incapacitated: Sawyer’s son-in-law is Thomas Moss, an attorney who has frequently represented Fierle in dozens of her guardianship cases across Central Florida. Sawyer and Moss denied any impropriety.

  9. Civil Justice Issues

    FLORIDA CITIES TAKE AIM AT WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY LAW

    Tampa Bay Business Journal | Article | August 14, 2019

    The Florida League of Cities and three communities this week filed a renewed constitutional challenge to a state law that is expected to help telecommunications companies install wireless technology on city-owned utility poles and in public rights of way. The league and the cities of Fort Walton Beach, Naples and Port Orange filed the lawsuit Monday [Aug 12] in Leon County circuit court, about three months after filing a similar challenge to a 2017 state law. The new case incorporates changes the Legislature made this year to the law, which involves the installation of antennas and other equipment that telecommunications companies need for new 5G technology.  The revised case, in part, targets a change that lawmakers made this year that could open cities to lawsuits in state or federal courts – including being required to pay costs and attorney fees – if they violate the wireless-technology law. Attorneys for the state argued in briefs filed in June that the initial case should be tossed out, in part because of a “lack of judiciable controversy” as telecommunications companies had not started offering 5G services.

  10. Obituary

    A ‘QUIET AMERICAN’: FORMER MIAMI BEACH COMMISSIONER MARTIN SHAPIRO DIES AT 83

    Miami Herald | Article | August 14, 2019

    Long before he became a judge, a Miami Beach commissioner and a mayor of Bay Harbor Islands, Martin Shapiro was a studious college student, a record-setting track athlete, and a loyal friend who despised confrontation. Shapiro died Aug. 5 at age 83. “I would call him a quiet American. In 73 years, I never saw him raise his voice. I never saw him get angry,” said 82-year-old Stuart Blumberg, the former president of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association. He has known Shapiro since the two met playing on the street as children when they were both new to Miami Beach.  After graduating from UF, Shapiro attended the university’s law school and went on to work as an attorney before entering the public sector.

  11. Legal Profession

    FEDERAL BENCH AND BAR SPONSORING STUDENT ESSAY CONTEST

    Jacksonville Daily Record | Article | August 14, 2019

    The judges and attorneys of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, in cooperation with the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, are sponsoring the 2019 High School Essay Contest. In its second year, the contest is open to students in grades 10 through 12 in counties in the Jacksonville Division of the Middle District: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Hamilton, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Suwannee and Union. This year, students entering the contest are asked to reflect on the concepts of balance of powers and checks and balances.

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