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 16, 2019
Unlicensed Practice of Law
South Florida Sun-Sentinel | Article | August 15, 2019
Kenneth Frank tricked people into thinking he was a lawyer so he could bilk them out of thousands of dollars for services he was not legally allowed to provide, a jury has decided. The verdict came late Wednesday [Aug. 14] after a day and a half of deliberations. Frank was found guilty of 16 out of 18 counts and faces a recommended 11 years in prison or, though it’s unlikely, a maximum of nearly 100 years. Defense lawyers portrayed Frank as a businessman who never claimed to be an attorney, betrayed in one case by a would-be business partner and in others by clients and lawyers protecting themselves from misconduct accusations. “He broke the law by practicing law,” said prosecutor Justin McCormack. “He broke the law by taking the money from his clients for it.” Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 27.
Tallahassee Democrat | Article | August 15, 2019
The Florida Supreme Court suspended former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox from The Florida Bar, a step toward his likely disbarment. The Supreme Court issued the suspension order Thursday [Aug. 15]. The suspension came after The Florida Bar filed notice that Maddox pleaded guilty to federal charges involving a public corruption investigation. The matter has been referred to the chief judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit. Because of his felony conviction, there will be no Bar proceeding on the underlying facts; instead, his case will proceed directly to the recommended penalty phase. Maddox and his accomplice, Paige Carter-Smith, former head of the Downtown Improvement Authority, pleaded guilty earlier this month to honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government through tax returns.
Florida Politics | Article | August 15, 2019
Sen. Annette Taddeo has filed a bill that would allow local governments to approve stricter gun measures without state approval. Currently, local governments are preempted from passing gun control measures that are more restrictive than those passed by the state Legislature. But Taddeo’s bill (SB 134) would fully repeal a 1987 law that preempted that state action. The late Wednesday [Aug. 15] filing comes less than two weeks after a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. In addition to that preemption, approved in 1987, Florida lawmakers added penalties in 2011 for local officials who violate the preemption. Those penalties include fines and removal from office.
Civil Justice Issues
WCJB | Article | August 14, 2019
Many North Central Florida residents will soon see new bilingual ballots for Spanish speaking residents. The first will be for Ocala’s municipal election next month. In May a federal judge ruled that 32 counties must now provide Spanish-language ballots and other assistance during elections – this includes bilingual poll workers and a dedicated phone line for Spanish speaking residents. Marion, Alachua and 30 other counties across Florida will now offer a Spanish-language ballot to voters in addition to an English one. But Marion County’s Supervisor of Elections, Wesley Wilcox said it doesn’t stop there. “Our polling place signage that says vote here will also have the Spanish translation,” Wilcox said.
Florida Politics | Article | August 15, 2019
Will this be the year Florida passes legislation charging sales tax for online purchases? State Sen. Joe Gruters once again filed a sales tax bill aimed at leveling the playing field for traditional stores. The bill (SB 126) revises a number of definitions as far as remote and mail-order sales. The ultimate impact, Gruters said, should be an e-fairness measure that has companies like Amazon charging sales tax the same as if a shopper purchases goods at the Mall at Millennia. While sure to be decried as a tax increase, Gruters said it’s not one. That’s because a 2018 ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair says states can charge sales tax on online retail.
Bradenton Herald | Article | August 15, 2019
Alan Heide, a former executive for bankrupt Hallandale cash advance company 1 Global, has been charged with helping run a $322 million fraud on 3,600 investors in federal cases filed Thursday [Aug. 15] by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. Prosecutors claim that fraud came in various forms of lies Heide, the chief financial officer, told investors, from their investment being used solely to make short-term, merchant cash advance loans to 1 Global’s financial situation, even as it began to function like a Ponzi scheme. The scheme caused a shortfall that reached $50 million in June 2018 and was covered up by using new investor money to pay earlier investors, according to the court filing.
Civil Justice Issues
Miami Herald | Article | August 15, 2019
Florida’s constitutional amendment to automatically restore most felons’ voting rights could itself be unconstitutional, a federal judge suggested Thursday [Aug. 15] in a surprise twist to a lawsuit aimed at invalidating a law passed by the Republican-led state Legislature. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ordered parties in the case to address whether the law approved by voters in November as Amendment 4 could violate the U.S. Constitution if it requires that voting rights are restored only after someone with a felony record has satisfied all the financial obligations of his sentence. “Does it mean that Amendment 4 is unconstitutional, and we’re back where we were before it was passed?” Hinkle asked lawyers in a telephone conference. Hinkle set an Oct. 7 hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to block the law.
Criminal Justice Issues
WPLG | Article | August 14, 2019
When John Hogan was researching his family tree, he never imagined that paying for a DNA kit from Ancestry could one day help detectives to solve a cold case. The murder suspect turned out to be a second cousin he had never even met. In 2001, Christine Franke was shot in the head, after working her shift as a server at a bar near the Universal Studios Theme Park Resort in Orlando. The 25-year-old University of Central Florida student’s killer left semen on her body and stole about $300, police said. About 17 years later, Parabon NanoLabs, which provides forensics services to law enforcement organizations, linked the preserved DNA evidence to Hogan’s great-grandparents. There are several legal dilemmas that arise from the use of genetic genealogy, the forensic technique that allows investigators to link DNA from a crime scene with DNA from biological relatives. The companies entrusted with the data that is gathered through direct-to-consumer genetic testing are siding with the social benefit of solving cold cases, even though they are being done through unwarranted government searches.