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.
March 15, 2023
The Florida Bar
HOUSE COMMITTEE LAUDS MEASURE THAT GIVES CLERKS A MORE STABLE FUNDING SOURCE
The Florida Bar | Article | March 15, 2023
The measure that would diversify revenues, support staffing needs, and account for services without a dedicated funding source for the Florida clerks, received high praise during its first scheduled hearing before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on March 14. HB 977, by Rep. Adam Botana, R-Bonita Springs, would give Florida’s court clerks access to $31.2 million that would have otherwise flowed to the state’s general revenue fund. It’s part of a multi-year effort to stabilize a revenue source largely dependent on fines and fees.
SOUTH FLORIDA JUDGE REMOVED FROM CASE
Daily Business Review | Article | March 15, 2023
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of Karen Erren, who asked for Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Darren Shull to be disqualified from presiding over a post-divorce action filed by Erren’s ex-husband. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this,” said Eddie Stephens, one of Erren’s attorneys, referring to opposing counsel’s ex-parte petition leading the trial court to say Erren violated the “Florida Bar Mental Health and Wellness initiative” and “The Florida Bar professional expectations.” Stephens said no such rules exist. Erren accused Judge Shull of “rubber stamping” Erren’s former husband’s proposed order, adopting the language verbatim, according to the ruling. She also sought to reverse a trial order denying the motion to remove Judge Shull, alleging the trial court made evidentiary findings at a non-evidentiary hearing and had ex-parte communications.
CRITICS ACROSS POLITICAL SPECTRUM SAY FLORIDA DEFAMATION BILL WILL CHILL FREE SPEECH
Tampa Bay Times | Article | March 14, 2023
A Florida House committee on Tuesday [March 14] gave preliminary approval to a sweeping bill to make it easier to sue for defamation despite warnings from across the political spectrum that the measure is unconstitutional and could lead to a flurry of lawsuits against news organizations, talk radio hosts and even politicians. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 14-4 for HB 991 by Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, which he described as a way to “provide some clarity, some certainty, remove some vagueness and subjectiveness from the private cause of action and tort, known as defamation.” Opposition came from all sides of the political spectrum as the conservative Americans for Prosperity warned that the bill provides new incentives for people to sue someone who speaks out in public opposition to a government policy, while First Amendment advocates warned that the bill will be the “death knell” for public discourse.
BILL MAKING IT HARDER TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION ADVANCES
Florida Politics | Article | March 14, 2023
A bill that would require a greater proportion of voters to support amending the state Constitution is advancing. Republican Rep. Rick Roth of West Palm Beach is proposing legislation (HJR 129) that would raise the required share of “yes” votes for a constitutional amendment to pass from 60% to 66.67%. On Tuesday [March 14], the House Judiciary Committee gave its nod to the measure the resolution’s second committee stop, with Democrats opposed. The bill heads next to the Judiciary Committee and then, if advanced, to the State Affairs Committee.
FIRED POLICE CHIEF FILES $10 MILLION LAWSUIT AGAINST FORT LAUDERDALE
Sun Sentinel | Article | March 14, 2023
Larry Scirotto, the onetime Fort Lauderdale police chief fired after just six months on the job, filed a lawsuit against the city on March 3 in U.S. District Court claiming wrongful termination and seeking a jury trial with damages approaching $10 million. Scirotto was hired partly to help boost diversity at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, only to be fired in March 2022 amid allegations he promoted minority officers based on skin color. The federal suit accuses Fort Lauderdale of launching an unwarranted and retaliatory investigation against Scirotto and firing him for refusing to participate in the department’s “racist and prejudicial promotion/hiring practices.” Scirotto says he and his attorneys estimate the early exit cost him an estimated $9.6 million in lost wages, health care and pension benefits.
MIAMI ATTORNEYS FLIPPED DEFENSE MEDICAL EXPERTS FOR $13M VERDICT
Daily Business Review | Article | March 14, 2023
Seven years after a nightclub bouncer’s felony battery left a man near dead in a coma, the man’s attorneys convinced a Florida state court jury to return a multimillion-dollar verdict for their client—in part by flipping objective defense experts into plaintiff experts. Attorneys for Eduardo Gonzalez-Gotera, who has since physically recovered from injuries inflicted by bouncer Billy Jackson Bourciquot, had to prove to the jury the magnitude of the injuries sustained by their client. One of Gotera’s attorneys, Judd G. Rosen said that the strategy behind their “presentation to the jury was that we had nothing to hide.” “We didn’t hide from the fact that we weren’t making a wage claim,” Rosen said, nor a claim for future medical expenses, he added. “We took all the facts and used them to our benefit.”
MICHAEL HANZMAN, JUDGE WHO PRESIDED OVER SURFSIDE CONDO-COLLAPSE CASE, STEPPING DOWN
Miami Herald | Article | March 14, 2023
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, among the best-known jurists in the state after presiding over a $1.1 billion settlement in the high-profile Surfside condo-collapse case, is stepping down from the Miami-Dade bench. The decision might surprise some in the legal community, but Hanzman told the Miami Herald on Tuesday [March 14] that once the complex and emotional lawsuit over the failure of Champlain Towers South was finished, he knew “it was time to move on.” He notified Gov. Ron DeSantis of his resignation, effective at the end of the month, in a letter dated Monday. His term was going to expire in January 2025.
PUBLIC RECORDS SUNSHINE WEEK IS MARCH 12-18
Jacksonville Daily Record | Article | March 14, 2023
Florida’s court clerks and comptrollers are observing 2023 Sunshine Week March 12-18, the annual week honoring the state’s commitment to transparency and government in the sunshine. Clerks of court ensure transparency in county government and the court system with accurate record-keeping and reporting. The public has access to official documents such as court records and services to shed light on allegations of fraud and waste. In honor of Sunshine Week, clerks offer tips for requesting public records from their local offices: Be precise with your public records requests, put your request in writing, be specific with your request, and check online for public records.
THE SEVEN THINKING HABITS OF HIGH-HOPE PEOPLE
The Florida Bar | Article | March 15, 2023
Hope is emerging as a viable scientific positive emotion worthy of direct investigation. In studying high and low-hope people for the book Learned Hopefulness, author Dan Tamasulo noticed an intriguing pattern in the differences between the two groups concerning their thought habits. Thoughts follow patterns that have outcomes that show consistency. High-hope people have sustainably better physical and mental well-being. They also tend to live a longer and happier life. What we know about high-hope people compared with their low-hope counterparts is that they see and respond to the world differently. They use their thoughts to focus on what they can control.