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.
September 14, 2023
The Florida Bar
The Florida Bar | Article | September 14, 2023
The Board of Governors has formed a workgroup to determine if and how The Florida Bar should respond to an ongoing study that is considering if some of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits should be consolidated. At a September 8 meeting, President Scott Westheimer asked the workgroup and the Bar’s Legislation Committee to study the issue and begin drafting a proposed comment. Florida lawyers are following the issue closely, Westheimer said. He noted that the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida Public Defender Association are opposed. The full Board of Governors will vote on whether to issue a comment, and to approve any subsequent comment, Westheimer said. Stressing that the Supreme Court has not formed an opinion at this time, Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz appointed a Judicial Circuit Assessment Committee. His June 30 administrative order directs the committee to make its recommendations by December.
Miami Herald | Article | September 13, 2023
Securities fraud, personal injury settlement money going where it shouldn’t, and ignorance of rules put nine South Florida lawyers on the monthly list of attorneys disciplined by The Florida Bar. Disciplinary revocation has been called “tantamount to disbarment” by the Florida Supreme Court. The discipline cases go away, but the action doesn’t affect any civil or criminal cases. In return, the attorney gets kicked out of The Florida Bar, usually with the ability to apply for readmission in five years.
Unlicensed Practice of Law
Miami Herald | Article | September 13, 2023
Doral resident Jeneffer Natally Gaskin Azuaje is being accused of posing as a lawyer and taking advantage of a Venezuelan migrant who turned to her for help in getting child support payments from her ex. Gaskin Azuaje was arrested Monday [Sept. 11] on charges of labor trafficking, scheme to defraud and unlawful use of a communications device. In October 2022, the victim went to Doral police and said she was exploited by Gaskin Azuaje for almost a year. She met Gaskin Azuaje in 2018 through a neighbor who was childhood friends with the Doral woman. When the woman and Gaskin Azuaje spoke on the phone for the first time, she told the victim she was an attorney and vowed to help her as long as she’s honest, court records say.
Associated Press | Article | September 13, 2023
The rare ghost orchid found mainly in Florida and Cuba should be immediately protected by the U.S. as an endangered species, three environmental groups claimed Wednesday [Sept. 13] in a lawsuit arguing that federal officials are unduly delaying a decision. The lawsuit filed in Florida federal court contends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed a January deadline on the orchid’s status and now doesn’t plan to make a decision until possibly late 2026. “Delaying protections will make it that much harder to draw ghost orchids back from the brink of extinction,” said attorney Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director at the Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuit seeks to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make an endangered species decision on the ghost orchid within a 12-month timeline, which the environmental groups say it has already missed.
Tampa Bay Times | Article | September 14, 2023
Jason and John Accardi, owners of Ybor Properties and 717 Parking, filed a petition late last month in Hillsborough Circuit Court arguing that Tampa City Council violated their rights by voting to overturn a decision that they say allowed them to continue operating two parking lots in Ybor City. The parking lot dispute traces its origins back 23 years, when the city announced that all vacant Ybor lots would be rezoned as mixed-use, a measure they hoped would promote residential development. Mixed-use properties cannot be used as full-time parking lots under city code. But a property owner could have opted out of the rezoning before a set deadline. The city cited 717 for a code violation in March 2021. The Accardi brothers say they submitted the necessary paperwork for their properties to stay zoned for parking by 717, which has at least 40 parking lots throughout downtown, the Channel District and Ybor.
Daily Business Review | Article | September 13, 2023
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday [Sept. 13] that a jury could have based its decision to award punitive damages on, or was influenced by, improperly admitted conspiracy claim evidence, leading to a $2 million punitive damages award being reversed for a decedent’s estate. The Fourth DCA held the Palm Beach Circuit Court erred in letting jurors consider evidence of the conspiracy in determining the entitlement to, and the amount of, punitive damages by the plaintiff, the estate of Lloyd Spurlock, against defendant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The appellate court found that the error had been committed despite the trial court ultimately ruling that the conspiracy did not cause the decedent’s injury. The dispute, in this case, centered on the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant of negligence, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy to commit fraudulent concealment relating to injuries he sustained from using the defendant’s tobacco product, court records show.
Miami Herald | Article | September 14, 2023
The Broward State Attorney’s Office will run a workshop Oct. 5 on sealing and expunging arrest records. When a criminal history record is sealed or expunged, the public won’t have access to it and only certain governmental or related entities will, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That may help someone to attend school, find a job or even rent an apartment without having an exposed record. You may qualify to have a single arrest record expunged if you were charged with a crime and the case did not result in a conviction. If you were charged with a crime and you received an “adjudication withheld,” that case may be eligible to be sealed. Only cases that occurred in Broward County are eligible for review.
Jacksonville Daily Record | Article | September 13, 2023
Former Jacksonville City Council member Randy DeFoor, on Sept. 13, announced she is withdrawing her nomination to be the city’s next general counsel. Mayor Donna Deegan nominated DeFoor, senior vice president and national agency counsel for Fidelity National Title Group, on Aug. 9 to be the city’s next top attorney. Her successful confirmation by Council became increasingly uncertain in recent weeks as some Council members questioned whether that term would violate Florida statutes that prohibit a former elected official from lobbying for compensation for two years. The Deegan administration and Council sent individual memoranda to the state Commission on Ethics requesting an opinion on whether DeFoor’s ability to serve as general counsel would be prohibited or limited by her time on Council. Council President Ron Salem announced Sept. 5 that he would not defer legislation to confirm DeFoor’s nomination and hold a vote before the state ethics commission issued its opinion on her eligibility. That binding opinion is expected Oct. 20.