I am a board certified civil trial lawyer with 30 years experience. I worked from 1984 to 1996 in Boca Raton, practicing in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. I relocated to Gainesville in 1996, and I was pleased to discover that professional courtesy governed the behavior of attorneys in North Florida and made the practice of law more enjoyable.
Regrettably, professional courtesy is becoming less and less common. During a recent telephone conversation with a Marion County attorney to reschedule a deposition, I requested the attorney to withdraw a motion to compel and request for attorney fees that he had filed two days after I had emailed him advising the deposition could be rescheduled without difficulty. When I asked the attorney to withdraw the motion, he immediately became angered and cursed at me by stating,“f**k you,” at least three times before hanging up on me.
This conduct has become all too common in litigation practice. The demand on trial lawyers from clients, judges, and deadlines makes the practice difficult enough without attorneys making each other’s lives more miserable.
I urge every attorney to resolve for the new year to live by the Golden Rule and treat every other attorney as they would wish to be treated.
Lawrence J. Marraffino
For the years that I have worked as an attorney in Florida, The Florida Bar News has always been a popular forum to air grievances with common industry practice. But I wonder if it really has the capacity to harness all the issues, grievances, and problems that exist with the practice of law here, and I am not sure, given the time commitment, that the Bar has other organs that can do so either.
Accordingly, I would like to propose that The Florida Bar do the following:
Create an office of ombudsman, similar to what other large organizations have, to patrol the organization’s best practices. It should be charged with making semi-annual reports on the problems confronting the Bar, its practice, and how to best serve the citizens. The ombudsman would be elected for a two-year term and not be under the authority of The Florida Bar president or Florida Supreme Court. She or he would be empowered to conduct regular public hearings throughout the state among lawyers, to seek out opinions, and to consult experts.
Theoretically, many important issues could be addressed under the aegis of this office. It would also have the side effect of stirring accountability from the Bar beyond its election process. All in all, it would be a win-win for lawyers and the public we serve. We should be very interested in what the public has to say, and how better to work for them, instead of constantly looking in the mirror to do so, although I will be the first to say that I prefer mirror analysis to hearing criticisms from others.
But then, that’s the very problem, isn’t it?
Christian W. Waugh
Although at my age of going on 87 years, I could not excuse myself from commenting at this time. As a retired member of The Florida Bar after practicing for over 50 years, Gabe Kaimowitz’s January 1 letter struck a nerve for me personally as a sole practitioner who had a disciplinary action brought against me, which concluded in a public reprimand.
The disciplinary actions by The Florida Bar deprive attorneys of a fair and impartial proceeding because it is the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury embodied in one.
Forthwith, I petitioned the Supreme Court of Florida, under its plenary jurisdiction over attorneys, to dismiss this proceeding against me. Incidentally, on my behalf, all my pleadings, exhibits, positions, and objections to the referee’s report and findings were sent directly to the court by certified mail with requested receipts returned to me.
I further requested a hearing before the designated referee to dismiss the findings of the grievance committee. This was not granted after two hearings before different judges after being admonished by one of them to engage an attorney.
The referee’s findings to the court determined I was not mentally fit to practice law in Florida, which was referenced in a footnote in the final order. I can only suspect this particular finding by the referee was based upon my sense to directly petition the highest court in Florida, as well as my emotional tears that flowed during the first referee’s hearing for dismissal.
From the beginning, I intended to request a rehearing of the Supreme Court’s order; however, my wife said she could not handle further emotional distress because of this disciplinary action against me.
Finally, an admonishment by one of The Florida Bar’s attorneys that I could not speak to the Board of Governors [when the reprimand was administered] was very disconcerting to me to say the least.
I must emphasize that appearing before The Florida Bar’s management group was the most humiliating incident for me as a person and citizen in this United States of America, which is considered worldwide to be the most democratic country on this earth.
Russell Lee Johnson
Pro Se and Discipline
The January 1 News printed two letters to the editor regarding pro se practitioners and Bar discipline, the first decrying legal forms that take the mystique out of the process by cutting to the chase and furthermore seeking to make the judiciary a forum only to be addressed by licensed attorneys and thus denying that process to anyone else, and the second denigrating the Bar and the judiciary for imposing disciplinary costs starting at $1,250.
As a member of The Florida Bar for going on 35 years with no disciplinary history whatsoever, I am appalled that disciplinary costs start at only $1,250. Instead of thinking about raising my Bar fees to subsidize enforcement of our rules against those who continually ride the ethical and legal fencerow, start those costs at $5,000.
As to the notion that only attorneys should be allowed to address judges, I hope and pray neither any Bar nor our courts ever promote such an idea so contrary to the notion of freedom and redress to grievances by our citizenry, whether they be attorneys or not.
Saint Charles, Iowa