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January 15, 2013

CLE Diversity
I just copied this off the Journal’s November President’s Page on “Diversity: The Florida Bar’s objective is to foster an inclusive environment in which lawyers, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability are motivated to succeed professionally and contribute to the goals of their profession.”

Evidently, the Criminal Law and Appellate Practice sections don’t believe that this goal extends to women, judging from the speakers chosen to speak at their seminars. I have written to chairs of the Criminal Law Section and the Appellate Practice Section on several occasions; they uniformly fail to address the issue.

The latest response I received pointed out that there is one woman speaker this year, and there was one woman speaker in each of the last two years at the annual Criminal Law Section’s Advanced Federal Practice Seminar. That is true; of course, it is a different woman every year, and there has been no increase in the numbers of woman presenters with the passage of the years. Whereas, not only do the men continue to dominate, 5-1 or 6-1, they are mostly the same men who are invited to speak year after year.

It’s the same story with the Appellate Practice Section. Their January Appellate Certification Seminar has six men (all mostly the same men over the years), and only two women — and one of them is the program chair.

Given that women belong to both sections in large numbers — and we pay the same high dues for the privilege — there is no excuse for this systematic exclusion of women. In fact, if only women were presenters from now on, it would probably take decades for the past pattern of discrimination to be fairly redressed.

This might be funny, if it were not that the people doing the excluding are, to a man, self-proclaimed champions of liberty and defenders of due process. Despite all their public chest-pounding on behalf of their clients, they are evidently content to permit and participate in this exclusion of their professional colleagues from these high-profile seminars, which are heavily attended by influential practitioners, and thereafter widely circulated around the state.

Nancy C. Wear
Coral Gables

The Criminal Law Section Responds: The Criminal Law Section is strongly committed to diversity and inclusion at all levels. Particularly as to women, in section leadership our immediate past chair, chair-elect, secretary, and Board of Governors liaison are all women, and our Executive Council is comprised of one-third women. As to CLE, two of the program chairs of our post-conviction seminar last September were women; our half-day Advanced Federal Practice seminar, which Ms. Wear herself has previously hailed as a “first-class presentation,” always features one or more women experts in their field; our Masters of DUI seminar coming up on February 22 has four women presenters; several women speakers are slated for our Annual Criminal Law Update in Tampa in April; and our mental health symposium, to be held later this year, was founded by a woman and will feature numerous women panelists.

Still, we agree we can do better to be even more inclusive and more representative of our membership, and those whom we serve, as a whole. As a section of The Florida Bar dedicated to the profession of criminal law, our devotion to justice can only be measured by our fidelity to core principles of equality, liberty, and access to all.

As always, we encourage judges, educators, and practitioners of all backgrounds to come forward, join our section, and pledge to serve. There is no time like the present, and there remains much to do in promoting and protecting our freedoms.
The Executive Committee of the Executive Council for the Criminal Law Section:

Judge Lisa M. Porter
Immediate Past-Chair

H. Scott Fingerhut

Susan Odzer Hugentugler

David B. Rothman

Judge Angelica D. Zayas

The Appellate Practice Section Responds: The Appellate Practice Section takes the matter raised by Ms. Wear’s correspondence very seriously and respectfully disagrees with her contention. I would encourage Ms. Wear and all section members to become active and attend our section meetings, which are publicized and open to all section members, and where many decisions regarding speaker selection and seminar topics are made.

Contrary to Ms. Wear’s sentiments, the Appellate Practice Section is firmly committed to diversity. Indeed, both the Continuing Legal Education Committee chair and the program chair of the seminar she references in her letter are female, and the section makes a conscious effort to promote diversity in connection with our speaker selection and leadership. The section’s history reflects this. In 1993, when the section was first created, its first slate of officers included a female vice chair and treasurer. From 1993 through 1997, the section consistently had at least one female officer and in June 1998, we had our first female section chair. The section has had five female chairs since then, and the current chair-elect, vice chair, Publications Committee chair, Continuing Legal Education Committee chair, Pro Bono Committee chair, Outreach Committee chair, Anniversary Committee chair, Programs chair, and Pro Se Handbook chair, are all female. The section has been and always will be committed to diversity in its membership, its leadership, and its events.

Jack R. Reiter

Caryn Lynn Bellus

Ceci Culpepper Berman
Vice Chair

Christopher V. Carlyle

Matthew John Conigliaro
Immediate Past Chair

CLE Costs
The December 15 News published a letter critical of the CLE requirements imposed on all Florida Bar members as a huge money-making endeavor that should be done fee free.

In 33 years as a member in continuous good-standing, many Bar members. including myself, have paid nothing for CLE by simply listening to the Bar’s Surveys of Florida Law that have been available almost since the inception of mandatory CLE and completely fulfill the hours to be reported every three years.

I have been critical of our Bar for years, but in my opinion it has done a remarkably good job with CLE for all our members if we choose the available fee-free approach.

John Hadsall
Saint Charles, Iowa

Indigent Services
There seems to be a much easier and cheaper way to provide indigent services for Florida criminal defendants.

Each region would hire independent-contractor attorneys and pay them $4,000 per month. These independent-contractor attorneys would retain their own private practices. The present iteration of regional conflict counsel would be eliminated. The new regional administrative office would do nothing more than approve independent-contractor attorneys and administer a regional investigative fund.

This theory would do away with overhead, health insurance, retirement payments, and any other legacy costs. Additionally, it would be an awfully large case that utilized all of these independent-contractor attorneys and necessitated a specially appointed public defender.

In multi-county circuits, these independent-contractor lawyers could be designated to handle only one county and would only go across county in multiple defendant cases. Attorneys handling dependencies would also be required to do Baker Act cases, etc., and would be the tail-end appointees in large defendant cases.

The regional conflict counsel in Southwest Florida had an $8 million budget. If every independent contractor attorney was paid $4,000 a month, there would be 166 independent-contractor attorneys available in Southwest Florida. Recognizing there would be some administrative cost and some hold-back for investigative fees, it is not unreasonable to assume that 120 lawyers could be put in the field, and we would never be faced with (other than death penalty cases) the need to appoint a special-appointed public defender.

If we wanted to sub out the misdemeanors, dependencies, Baker Acts, we could sub those out for less than $4,000 a month.

You would have a line out the door, down the block, and around the corner signing up for $4,000 a month with no possibility of a death penalty case.

Chris Pratt

[Revised: 11-26-2017]