Annual Reports of Committees of The Florida Bar
Admiralty and Maritime Law
The Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee held its annual meeting in June 2015 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton. In keeping with a new tradition, its inter meeting on January 22 was held in Coral Gables at the St. Thomas University School of Law, as a joint meeting with the American Bar Association/Torts and Insurance Practice Section, Admiralty Law Committee, providing its members at both meetings with CLE credits and advanced credit toward certification. The committee reports that both meetings were well attended with the majority of committee members appearing in person or via telephone. The committee is appreciative of The Florida Bar leadership recognizing the importance of these outreach efforts with other organizations.
The June 2015 meeting covered caselaw updates and circuit splits on the 30 percent “Rule of Thumb” for seaman status under Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995), presented by Robert L. Gardana, the vice chair of the ABA/TIPS, Admiralty Law Committee; a primer on Florida Bar rules on advertising and social media, presented by Matthew J. Valcourt, past chair of the committee; and an update on forum selection clauses, presented by Christine Walker.
The committee continues its work within the subcommittee devoted to the presentation of a yearly maritime law seminar, promoting ethics and professionalism in the practice of admiralty and maritime law, and reviving the Florida Maritime Law Practice Manual . These efforts remain a priority for the coming year and will be led by our incoming chair, Ryan Eslinger.
We have continued our outreach goal to partner and co-market the committee with other maritime law organizations. Our desire is to have the committee recognized as the thought leader in the development of admiralty and maritime law, not only within Florida, but also nationally. The committee continues its efforts to encourage the participation of members of the maritime industry in the committee, which provides a practical component to the meetings. The inclusion of maritime industry representatives also fosters a closer relationship between the maritime bar and the community it serves.
The committee’s January meeting was the second in what we hope to be a new tradition. The meeting was hosted at St. Thomas University School of Law. The committee appreciates the efforts of committee member Attilio Costabel and Robert Gardana, newly appointed vice chair, in leading the effort of this joint committee venture. The committee focused upon reaching more law students and appreciates the efforts of the St. Thomas University and University of Miami Maritime Law Societies, and the Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program (PREP) of the University of Miami School of Law for their participation and assistance in the program. The joint meeting addressed substantive topics and was titled, “A Maritime State of Disformity.” The seminar covered: Retraction of Uberrimae Fidei in Admiralty Under the UK Insurance Act of 2015, presented by Attilio Costabel, Robert Gardana, and Michelle Otero Valdes, past chair; The McCorpen Defense in Light of Meche, presented by Steven Moon, past chair, and Ryon Little; Arbitrability of Crew Claims in Italy & the Philippines, presented by Stefano Ghibellini (who appeared from Italy via Skype), Luis Ayala and Carlos Felipe Llinás Negret; Ship Owners’ Duty to Provide Medical Care: The Impact of Franza, presented by Andrew Waks, past chair; and an Ethics Update for the Admiralty Attorney, presented by Danielle T. Gauer, PREP intern & president, University of Miami Maritime Law Society, Sarah J. Bujold, PREP intern, and Jan L. Jacobowitz, lecturer in law & director, PREP. In addition to being well attended by admiralty and maritime law practitioners, the meeting was attended by law students from the South Florida area. all reports, this joint venture was a great success and offered continued exposure of the committee.
The committee is excited to move into 2016 with new leadership and renewed momentum. We will continue to allow members to appear via teleconference for CLE and meetings. We further invite interested members of the Bar to attend meetings and encourage them to apply for committee membership. As this will be my last annual report as chair, I thank the committee membership and past leadership for their continued support and guidance; and I especially thank my law partners, Rick Rumrell and Michael McLeod, for their support of the investment of time required to chair this committee.
Lindsey Brock, Chair
Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification
This year the Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee continued its work of preparing a comprehensive exam to test for the knowledge, experience, and abilities of Florida lawyers striving to become certified in the area of admiralty and maritime law. This unique area of the law provides a challenge to test preparers and test takers. Recent court decisions related to the definition of a “vessel,” punitive damages for maritime workers, and the employment status of cruise line doctors have added another layer of challenge to the exam.
The certification exam covers 15 distinct areas of admiralty and maritime law, including admiralty jurisdiction, marine insurance, limitation of liability, maritime liens, and maritime personal injuries. Each area may contain as many as five or six subtopics, all of which are important areas of inquiry for the exam. The exam includes 100 mandatory multiple-choice questions, and six fact patterns, two mandatory and two chosen by the taker. The questions reflect the various specialties within the field, testing the applicant’s broad knowledge of admiralty procedure and maritime law.
One goal of the committee and the Bar is to increase the number of certified lawyers to 75 as soon as possible. The committee encourages certified attorneys and law firms to mentor younger lawyers who are practicing admiralty and maritime law and will soon be meeting the five-year minimum experience requirement for taking the exam. Presentations promoting certification have been made at admiralty and maritime conferences including the Southeast Admiralty Law Institute held every year in June, Mariner’s Club conferences in Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee meetings, the ABA TIPS — Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee, St. Thomas University Maritime Law Society, and The University of Miami Maritime Law Society symposium on “A Maritime State of Disformity.”
During 2015-16 the committee met both by telephone and in the Bar offices in Orlando to prepare and review test questions. This preparation also included asking certified attorneys not on the committee to review a section of the proposed exam to ensure the accuracy of the questions. The committee also reviewed the applications submitted by potential test-takers to ensure applications met the minimum qualifications for certification. In addition, the committee reviewed applications for recertification along with applications for advanced admiralty and maritime law certification credits based on seminars and presentations given in Florida and around the country.
Admiralty and maritime lawyers who were certified in 1996, 2001, 2006, or 2011, will be due to file a recertification application by June 15. The filing period for initial applications is July 1-August 31.
Thank you to the members of the 2015-2016 committee for their hard work and commitment to ensuring the highest standards for certification are maintained. Committee members for 2015-2016 are Vice Chair Raul J. Chacon, Jr., Theresa M. Bennett, Mark J. Buhler, Barbara A. Cook, Mark R. Ercolin, C. Ryan M. Eslinger, Allan R. Kelley, and Michael W. McLeod. A special thank you to our former Bar staff liaison, Rachael Moulton, whose hard work and support were indispensable to our work throughout this past year. And welcome to our new liaison, Charlotte Bell, who will guide us through the next phase of exam grading and then starting the process of test preparation and application review all over again.
I invite all eligible admiralty and maritime law attorneys to apply for certification. There is no better way for a maritime attorney to advance his or her skills, professionalism, and ability to network in this exciting and expanding area of the law.
Joanne M. Foster, Chair
Adoption Law Certification
The Adoption Law Committee had a productive year in 2015-16. The committee continued its outreach to potential board certification applicants for this specialized area of law. The committee held its October meeting in conjunction with the Florida Adoption Council’s conference in Orlando. The committee marketed certification to the adoption attorneys in attendance at the conference and invited certified attorneys to apply for committee membership. The committee was pleased with the positive response. Additionally, with the assistance of our Bar staff liaison, the committee contacted all attorneys who report adoption as a practice area with The Florida Bar to encourage them to consider certification.
The committee met throughout the year by phone and in person to review applications for certification and to prepare the examination and model answers. This year the committee also posted model questions to The Florida Bar website for the benefit of applicants. Four applicants were approved to sit for the examination in March and grading was completed in April. The applicant review process includes a determination as to whether each applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. This incorporates a comprehensive peer-review process. The committee wishes to express its sincere appreciation to all of the attorneys and judges who responded to requests for peer reviews and evidence of substantial involvement. The committee carefully considered all submissions in the evaluation of each applicant.
Additionally, the committee continued refining amendments to the standards for substantial involvement that were drafted last year by committee member Amy Hickman. During the rule vetting process, the committee was asked to consider an accommodation for Bar members residing out of state. The committee extensively discussed this issue and will continue to research, analyze, and debate the best proposal for such an accommodation in this state-specific area of the law.
Those adoption attorneys certified in 2011 are due to recertify this summer. Recertification applications have been posted to The Florida Bar website. Recertification requirements must be met by May 31, and the recertification application must be postmarked by June 15. If you need an extension to meet the recertification requirements, the extension paperwork is also posted and due June 15 and will provide an extension until August 31. The filing period for initial certification applications begins July 1 and ends August 31, and the committee encourages all eligible adoption attorneys to apply.
Thank you to my fellow committee members for their contributions this year: Vice Chair Ellen Kaplan, Amy Hickman, Mary Ann Scherer, Susan Stockham, Jeanne Tate, Anthony Marchese, Michelle Hausmann, and Brian Kelly. A special thank you to our inaugural committee members for their six years of service and hard work. Finally, a huge thank you to our staff liaison, Maritza McGill, for her dedication, experience, and patience with the committee during the rule-amendment process.
Danelle D. Barksdale, Chair
The Standing Committee on Advertising is responsible for advising members of The Florida Bar on permissible advertising and marketing practices. The committee, which generally meets monthly, reviews appeals of opinions issued by staff counsel, offers guidance to staff in evaluating lawyer advertisements, makes recommendations regarding rule changes, and provides guidance to Bar members concerning both the substantive and procedural requirements of the advertising rules.
The committee advises Bar members on the substance of the advertising rules through a variety of different methods. An in-depth analysis of the filing requirements, substantive regulations, and committee interpretations is provided by the committee’s Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, which is regularly updated by Bar staff and is posted on the Bar’s website for easy access by Bar members. The Handbook is currently available on the website and reflects important changes that have occurred. The Handbook and other information addressed in this report are available on the Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org under “Ethics,” then “Advertising Regulation and Information.”
This was a busy year for the Standing Committee on Advertising. In addition to reviewing advertisements filed by members of The Florida Bar, the committee responded to changes made by the Board of Governors regarding advertising:
• Direct Communication Via Text — The Board of Governors reversed a committee decision, finding advertisements delivered via text message are not prohibited solicitation under Rule 4-7.18(a) but must comply with the requirements of Rule 4-7.18(b). Recipients must never be charged for the texts, the advertiser must comply with FCC regulations for commercial text messages, and the recipient may be able to opt out of receiving the texts.
• Ethics Opinion A-00-1 Revised — The Board of Governors revised Ethics Opinion A-00-1 to conclude that direct communications via live, real-time electronic messages in a chat room do not constitute prohibited solicitation if they do not involve face-to-face communications (such as video conferencing) and comply with the requirements for written communications in Rule 4-7.18(b).
• Other Accomplishments — far the most time-consuming task of the committee this year, as in past years, has been reviewing advertisements filed by members of The Florida Bar to determine whether they comply with the advertising rules. The committee reviews decisions of its staff regarding lawyer advertisements if the staff’s interpretation of a particular rule or advertisement is appealed by an advertising attorney. Advertisers may appeal decisions of the committee to the Board of Governors. The committee also provides guidance to its staff and advertisers, pursuant to requests for guidance, in order to foster compliance with the rules and to permit advertisers to accomplish their legitimate advertising goals. The committee works hard to apply the advertising rules fairly to all types of advertisements and to balance the rights of advertisers with the needs and concerns of the public.
The committee has also taken the lead in investigating services that may be lawyer referral services and has spent extensive time monitoring such services to protect the public and the lawyers of Florida from services that do not follow the advertising and ethical standards on The Florida Bar
The committee, through its staff, continues to publish a column in the Bar News from time to time, titled “Advertising Updates.” Articles have been published explaining the most recent revisions to the advertising rules and providing information regarding recent opinions of the Board of Governors and the committee regarding advertising. The committee further updates the Bar’s website with new material and information in order to provide Bar members with as much information as possible to assist them in compliance with the attorney advertising rules.
• Composition of the Committee and Florida Bar Staff — The Standing Committee on Advertising is made up of nonlawyers as well as lawyers. We believe that this has contributed substantially to our work and our broad perspective on advertising and marketing. I thank each of our committee members: Carolyn Bell, Connie Reeves Bookman, Winston “Bud” Gardner, Anthony J. Jackson, Viviana Varela, and Melvin B. Wright.
Finally, the committee thanks our board liaison, Carl B. Schwait, Division of Ethics and Consumer Protection Division Director Lori Holcomb, and our hardworking staff: Assistant Ethics Counsels Cynthia E. Booth, Joy A. Bruner, Huy-Yen T. Cam, Gail E. Ferguson, Jonathan D. Grabb, Jeffrey M. Hazen, and LiliJean Quintiliani, Legal Assistant Donna Hostutler, Administrative Secretary II Pamela Brown, Administrative Secretaries Diane Lee and Louise Averette, and Program Assistant Faye B. Miller, headed by Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Clark Tarbert. Without the participation, guidance, experience, and hard work of these individuals, the business of this committee could not be accomplished.
Sammy Michael Cacciatore, Chair
This year is the most exciting yet for the Animal Law Committee (ALC). The ALC transforms to the new Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar on July 1, and the new section will be on this year’s Bar dues statements, distributed in May, prior to publication of this report. I invite everyone to join the new section and participate in the development of this diverse and interesting area of law. The section is open to anyone interested in this area of law, regardless of whether you practice animal law. The section is also open to affiliate members, such as law students and paralegals.
The Board of Governors gave the final approval of our new section last year and I want to thank everyone involved in the project for contributing time and expertise, which involved many of our members and Bar leaders. I especially thank our Board of Governors liaison, Renée Thompson, and our program administrators, Dixey Teel and Jeremy Citron, for their guidance, hard work, and support for the ALC. I also thank ALC leadership Gregg Morton, Ralph DeMeo, Sarah Taitt, Jennifer Dietz, Laura Triplett, Phyllis Coleman, and Aleksandra Sikorska for their efforts and dedication.
The ALC’s 2015 meeting at the Annual Florida Bar Convention in June included discussions of the ALC’s planned activities on other important ALC topics. The meeting also included outstanding service awards to one lawyer and one law student, and awards to two Bar leaders for their dedicated service. The attorney outstanding service award winner was our Past Chair Ralph DeMeo and the law student outstanding service award winner was Christine Clolinger from Florida State University’s College of Law. Our Board of Governors liaison, Renée Thompson, and our program administrator, Dixey Teel, received awards for their dedicated service and outstanding contributions.
The ALC also presented a four-hour CLE seminar at the annual Florida Bar convention in June 2015. The popular seminar included two Florida legislators; two Florida state lobbyists; the former chair of the ABA’s Animal Law Committee and animal law author, Yolanda Eisenstein; a Florida law professor; and several Florida animal law attorneys. I thank our CLE subcommittee chair, Aleksandra Sikorska, for arranging the successful seminar and Ralph DeMeo and Diana Ferguson for assisting with speaker arrangements. We have planned our 2016 CLE and it again includes interesting speakers, including Professor Joan Schaffner, Washington, D.C.; a panel discussion by legislators; a point-counterpoint attorney panel involving assistance animals; and a Florida law professor presenting on ethics. I invite everyone to attend our CLE and again thank Aleksandra Sikorska for preparing the CLE.
The ALC, Florida State College of Law’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Tallahassee-based not-for-profit Pets Ad Litem, Inc., presented the third annual Student Animal Law Legal Writing Competition. In 2015, the winning student was Kara Graham from Florida A&M University Law School.
The ALC has a considerable number of popular publications. The ALC issues a newsletter and has monthly or bimonthly eUpdates to our members and other interested individuals on our email list. The ALC also has Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and a plan to prepare a new website is underway. I thank Laura Triplett, David Brunell, and Gretchen Myers for their hard work creating the eUpdates and newsletter.
The ALC monitors animal law legislative bills and provides regular updates. I thank Diana Ferguson for her diligent work, insights, and skills in regularly informing ALC members about bills and activities in the Florida Legislature.
The ALC’s first section column is published in this issue of the Journal. I thank the author and editors for their high-quality work.
I invite everyone interested in the ALC or its activities to contact us and again invite everyone to join the new Animal Law Section by selecting the Animal Law Section on the Bar dues form. Members of the Bar interested in being added to the ALC email notification list should contact Jeremy Citron at [email protected] Questions about the ALC or the new Animal Law Section should be directed to me at [email protected]
Gil Panzer, Chair
The Annual Convention Committee has worked hard this year planning the 2016 Florida Bar Annual Convention that will take place June 15-18 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Located minutes away from all Disney and other local theme parks, this is the first year that the convention will be hosted at this luxury golf and spa resort property.
A goal of this year’s convention is to enrich the lives and practices of the Bar’s membership by offering meaningful seminars and presentations covering a variety of current topics that will enhance members’ law practices and professional lives. Indeed, as a result of the committee’s planning, 19 outstanding seminars will be available to registrants, many offered at no additional cost. Such educational opportunities begin on Wednesday when the technology seminar series presented by Clio takes center stage. Highlights of Thursday and Friday include two featured president’s showcase seminars focusing on The 50 Years of Miranda, presented by the Criminal Law Section, and Engage: The Women’s Power Summit, presented by the Young Lawyers Division.
Social activities and networking events planned by the committee include the ever-popular All Members Reception on Thursday evening in the Lawyer’s Marketplace, which provides an overview of the latest products and services available in today’s legal environment. Located in the Hilton Bonnet Creek Foyer, convention attendees can unwind, visit with friends and colleagues, and thank the wonderful convention sponsors and exhibitors for their support. To that end, this year, more than 80 generous law firms, voluntary bar associations, and law schools are sponsoring the judicial luncheon, featuring a keynote address by William Hubbard, the immediate past president of the American Bar Association. The convention closes with the Friday night president’s reception honoring outgoing President Abadin and incoming President Schifino. This year’s Mardi Gras-themed party boasts themed buffet and dessert stations; music by internationally acclaimed New Orleans funk band, the Brass-a-Holics; dancing; and more.
In addition to planning this year’s convention, the committee has begun work implementing the recommendations of the Program Evaluation Committee (PEC) of the Board of Governors to continue improving the look, feel, accessibility, and value of the convention so that Bar members derive the maximum value from this annual event. This year, members will enjoy initial enhanced benefits, such as a Lawyers Charging Lounge and increased communication and interactive engagement through social media boards, and should anticipate the rollout of additional member benefits during the 2017 annual convention.
Be sure to visit The Florida Bar website and download the 2016 convention app for the latest convention details and to register for all programming and activities. The many events that will be seamlessly hosted in Orlando are made possible by the efforts of The Florida Bar Meetings Department, led by Kathy Tucker, and the following committee members: Barbara Cocciolo, Sean Desmond, Mariane Dorris, Iris Elijah, Judge Alan Forst, Kimberly Gessner, Elizabeth Gibson, Laura González-Marqués, Yolonda Green, Paige Greenlee, Ward Griffin, Erin Jackson, Charles Cole Jeffries, Jr., Wilnar Julmiste, Barbara Leach, Dayanna Lopez, John Maceluch, Jr., Kristen Hanna McMullen, Yvonne Patterson, Stacy Perez, Alice Sum, and Jill Weiss. They have truly made this year’s convention one to remember.
Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!
Melanie Griffin & Renée Thompson, Co-Chairs
Antirust and Trade Regulation Law Certification
Antitrust law covers the practice of law dealing with anticompetitive conduct or structure that may reduce consumer welfare in the United States under the federal Sherman Act and analogous Florida Statutes. Trade regulation law covers the substantive area of law dealing with deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair methods of competition under the Federal Trade Commission Act and Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Throughout the year, the Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law Certification Committee focused on the process of adopting proposed rule amendments to the standards for certification that expand the practice areas covered by this certification. Previously, the committee drafted revisions that incorporate state and federal consumer protection laws and related class actions into the committee’s certification expertise. These amendments are consistent with the expansion of substantive expertise by antitrust and trade regulation bar organizations at the ABA and state levels and reflects the evolution of the practices of many Florida attorneys who are certified in antitrust and trade regulation law. The proposed rule amendments are currently circulating through the Bar’s review process. The committee is always attuned to other methods for increasing the number of board certified attorneys in antitrust and trade regulation law.
I thank my fellow committee members for their contributions through the year: Vice Chair Patricia Conners, D. Matthew Allen, Judge Edward LaRose, and Lawrence Silverman. I also commend our hardworking staff liaison, Maritza M. McGill, for her organization, guidance, and especially her patience with me.
Hal Litchford, Chair
Appellate Court Rules
The Appellate Court Rules Committee had another busy year. The bulk of the committee’s work was focused on completing the committee’s three-year cycle report that will be submitted to the Board of Governors in July and filed with the Florida Supreme Court by February 1, 2017. However, the committee also worked on a number of other important issues that resulted in out-of-cycle reports filed with the Florida Supreme Court. What follows is a brief summary of the committee’s work. Additional details are available on the committee’s page on the Bar’s website: /cmdocs/cm205.nsf/WDOCS.
The committee’s three-year cycle report includes proposed amendments to 36 of the 51 existing appellate rules and the creation of one new rule. Some of the more significant proposed amendments are:
• Rule 9.030(c)(4) is added to require three-judge panels in all circuit court proceedings governed by the appellate rules.
• Rule 9.130(a)(3) is amended to add two new categories of nonfinal orders that can be appealed: (1) orders that determine as a matter of law that a settlement agreement is enforceable, set aside, or never existed; and (2) orders that grant or deny a motion to disqualify counsel.
• Rule 9.200(b)(4) is amended to add timeframes for the filing and approval of statements of the evidence in lieu of a transcript.
• Rule 9.210(a)(6) is added to limit the number of briefs that can be filed by an attorney representing multiple parties in the same case and to require a party responding to multiple briefs to do so in a single brief.
• Rule 9.330 is substantially reorganized and additional grounds are added for requesting a written opinion, and the scope of the rule is limited to orders/opinions disposing of the appeal.
• Rule 9.331(a) is amended to require the court to notify the parties when a case or issue is under en banc consideration.
• Rule 9.380 is created to authorize the filing of a notice of related case or issue.
• Rule 9.440 is amended to opt out of the proposed Rule of Judicial Administration governing appearance of counsel.
• Rule 9.800 is completely reorganized and the citation forms in the rule are updated.
The committee also worked on several important issues that resulted in the filing of out-of-cycle reports with the Florida Supreme Court, including a joint report with the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee to implement the new juvenile sentencing legislation, see 175 So. 3d 980 (Fla. 2015); a joint report with the Juvenile Court Rules Committee to implement the holding in J.B. v. DCF, 170 So. 3d 780 (Fla. 2015), regarding ineffective assistance of counsel claims in termination of parental rights cases; and assisting the Criminal Court Steering Committee in drafting a rule in response to Powell v. State, 167 So. 3d 392 (Fla. 2015), to provide for review of unpreserved sentencing errors in Anders cases, see Case No. SC15-2296.
The committee could not have accomplished all that it did this year without the hard work of all of the committee members and the subcommittees on which they serve. The subcommittee chairs — Judge John Newton, Jeffrey Kuntz, Andy Stanton, Christine Davis Graves, Wendie Cooper, Stephanie Serafin, Elizabeth C. Wheeler, David Luck, Stephanie Silver, and Judge Stephanie Ray — deserve special recognition for their efforts in coordinating the work of the subcommittees.
The committee’s officers also deserve special recognition. Vice Chairs Tom Hall, Lance Curry, Judge Kitty Pecko, and Kristin Norse, and Parliamentarian Betty Wheeler helped me keep the meetings running smoothly and spearheaded various special projects. Secretary Courtney Brewer did an excellent job keeping the minutes again this year, and Stephanie Zimmerman did an outstanding job in keeping the committee apprised of the work of the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee in her capacity as liaison to that committee.
Finally, the committee’s Bar liaison, Heather Telfer, deserves especially special recognition. She did an exceptional job tracking all of the issues referred to the committee and she was primarily responsible for compiling the materials for the reports filed by the committee with the Florida Supreme Court. Heather is an invaluable asset to the committee and the Bar.
The committee is comprised of 50 of the best and brightest lawyers and judges in the state, and it has been an honor and privilege to serve as the chair of the committee this year. I leave the committee in the good hands of incoming chair Kristin Norse, and I am confident that under her leadership the committee will continue its dedicated efforts to improve the appellate rules and enhance the operation of the appellate process.
T. Kent Wetherell II, Chair
Appellate Practice Certification
For the 2015-2016 certification year, the Appellate Practice Certification Committee focused its energies on performing the usual core tasks of evaluating applicants for initial certification and recertification. The committee began the year by reviewing the results of last year’s examination, in which 12 out of 18 examinees passed, raising the total of board certified appellate lawyers to 171. The committee closely reviewed feedback from last year’s examinees to look for ways to improve the examination process.
During this year, the committee reviewed 29 applications for recertification and 21 applications for initial certification. The committee approved 20 applicants to sit for the 2016 board certification exam. Of those applicants, 19 ended up taking the exam, which had not yet been graded at the time of this report. Obtaining sufficient peer review for applicants for both initial certification and recertification continues to be a difficult issue, as many judges and lawyers either do not return peer review requests or simply state that they do not have sufficient knowledge to evaluate the applicant. This requires the committee to send out more requests for peer review and is by far the most time-consuming aspect of the application process.
As first implemented with the 2013 exam, the committee continued the practice of pretesting exam questions before use in the 2016 exam. The committee finds this practice to be extremely beneficial to the drafting and editing process, and expresses its gratitude to the following former members who gave up their free time to serve as pretesters: Tracy Carlin, Shannon Carlyle, Angela Flowers, Susan Fox, Nancy Gregoire, Susan Lerner, Loren Levy, Jack Reiter, and Debra Sutton.
The committee also revised its Standing Committee Policies to clarify practices of the committee in reviewing applications for certification and recertification.
As has consistently been the case with this committee, all nine members were very engaged this year, and the committee did not miss a single meeting or deadline due to lack of a quorum or participation. The chair recognizes all eight of the other members of the committee for their substantial contributions: Vice Chair Paul Nettleton, Dock Blanchard, David M. Caldevilla, Andrea Cox, Barbara Eagan, Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Robert Hauser, and John Mills. As always, the committee could not have accomplished its mission without the tremendous experience and dedication of our remarkable certification specialist with the Bar, Carol Vaught, and the BLSE’s director, Diana Polston Kellogg.
John G. Crabtree, Chair
Aviation Law Certification
The Aviation Law Certification Committee notes there is an all-time high 36 attorneys who are certified in this area. This is an addition of one newly certified attorney. We expect to continue growth, as seven applicants applied for the 2016 examination and six took the examination. In addition, five attorneys recertified in 2015 with 11 attorneys due to recertify in 2016. As always, this committee, along with the Aviation Law Committee, continues its efforts to generate interest among aviation law practitioners to become certified. Our efforts in this regard include contacting attorneys in various aviation law-related organizations, such as the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association and the Independent Safety Board Bar Association.
The committee takes pride in our certification examination, which tests applicants in the many sub-areas of the practice, including defending pilots, mechanics, and various aviation entities in actions brought by the Federal Aviation Administration against their certificates, space law, aircraft accident litigation, aviation labor law, sale and leasing of aircraft, importation and exportation of aircraft, airport land use, and others.
I thank Vice Chair Pat Phillips for his great assistance during the year as well as all the committee members: Don Andersen, Galen Bauer, Ed Curtis, Bruce Green, Patricia Leid, Chad Roberts, and Jerry Trachtman for their dedicated service and hard work to make this year a success for our committee. I also especially thank our staff liaison, Carol Vaught, for her invaluable knowledge and assistance.
Stuart A. Goldstein, Chair
Board of Legal Specialization and Education
This year, the Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) adopted a mission statement that codifies the guiding principles developed over the 30-plus years of the BLSE’s existence:
The mission of the Board of Legal Specialization and Education is to improve the practice of law and the delivery of legal services to the public through the enhancement of technical skills and substantial competence, united under the highest standards of professionalism. In pursuit of that mission, the BLSE oversees the award of board certification, evaluates and accredits continuing legal education, and ensures all Florida Bar members comply with the educational requirements established by the Florida Supreme Court.
In furtherance of our mission, the BLSE administers the board certification program, which certifies lawyers who have practiced law for at least five years and have met the other requirements established by the Florida Supreme Court. Whether described as the gold standard for verifying a lawyer’s competency, experience, reputation and professionalism or, in the words of former Justice Anstead, as “the capstone of a lawyer’s career,” there is no doubt that certification is an objective way for the public to evaluate lawyers and motivates lawyers to increase their skills.
There are currently 4,680 lawyers who are certified by The Florida Bar, with 199 of those lawyers having become certified in 2015. These lawyers are certified in 24 certification areas that have been approved by the Florida Supreme Court. The area certification committees perform a yeoman’s task of carrying out their duties as the bedrock of the certification program, including reviewing certification applications and writing, grading, and reviewing examinations, as well as vigilantly monitoring approved area standards to propose amendments that are needed.
Increasing the numbers of certification areas to meet the demands of the public and the profession is fundamental to the progression of board certification. In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court approved Juvenile Law as the 25th certification area. The inaugural certification committee for this area is developing specifications and an examination that will be given for the first time in May 2017.
The Florida Supreme Court created the 26th certification area in Condominium and Planned Development Law in March, which as the newest certification area, is in the beginning stages of implementation. The BLSE’s recommendation that International Litigation and Arbitration Law be approved by the Florida Supreme Court as the 27th certification area is currently under consideration by the Board of Governors. Adding new certification areas to The Florida Bar Certification program would not be accomplished without the advocacy and hard work of the substantive law committees and sections of The Florida Bar.
We are very pleased that the Program Evaluation Committee (PEC) has conducted the first overall review of the certification program, including a review of the areas of certification, certification examinations, and surveys of lawyers regarding the program, while making suggestions to heighten the public awareness of and to enhance the program. The BLSE is greatly indebted to the PEC and the Board of Governors for their support of board certification, as well as their consideration of the various proposals and amendments that have been proffered this year.
Although The Florida Bar’s Certification Program is well-regarded on a national level, the BLSE continually focuses on ways to enhance and promote the program for the benefit of the public and certified lawyers. BLSE Vice Chair Scott Rubin and I convened a BLSE Council of Chairs discussion during which we gained valuable history and insight from seven past chairs of the BLSE, with written input from several others. Building on this legacy, the BLSE has focused on maintaining the fairness and integrity with which the program has been administered in the past, increasing the presence of the certification program on social media, refining the electronic magazine Capstone to better promote board certified lawyers, and taking steps to fortify the board certification brand as an objective way to verify the competence and expertise of lawyers.
The other important duty of the BLSE is oversight of continuing legal education (CLE) requirements for all lawyers, basic skills course requirements for new lawyers, and course accreditation for groups providing CLE courses. The Legal Specialization and Education (LSE) staff handles voluminous numbers of notices, applications,and approvals that are involved with carrying out this duty. As urged by the Young Lawyers Division, the BLSE recommended and this year the Florida Supreme Court eliminated the requirement that the practicing with professionalism course be completed in person, so that lawyers may now complete the course online to satisfy their basic skills course requirement.
It has been a great privilege to serve as this year’s chair of the BLSE, during my sixth and final year on the BLSE. Special acknowledgement is owed to Gary Saltzman, the current chair of the BLSE’s Standards Committee, as he also concludes his last year of service, as well as all of the BLSE officers and board members. Each of them has helped meet this year’s challenges with creativity, practicality, determination, and an abiding commitment to the BLSE’s mission. We all greatly appreciate the hard work and leadership of Legal Specialization and Education Director Diana Kellogg and her dedicated staff whose daily work is the foundation for the success of these programs.
Cynthia Johnson-Stacks, Chair
Business Litigation Certification
Business litigation is the practice of law generally dealing with the legal issues arising from commercial and business relationships, including litigation of controversies arising from those relationships. Certification in business litigation includes the practice of law involved with evaluating and resolving these controversies before state courts, federal courts, administrative agencies, mediators, and arbitrators. Thus, board certified business litigation attorneys must possess very specific skills in a broad array of substantive areas and also demonstrate a high level of proficiency and professionalism. The Business Litigation Certification Committee members personally encourage our colleagues who are interested in this area of certification to review the materials on The Florida Bar’s website, to discuss the requirements with others certified in this area, and to reach out to the Bar’s dedicated staff for additional information about the requirements and the manner in which they can be satisfied.
The number of board certified lawyers in business litigation has continued to grow at a steady rate. There are now 253 Florida lawyers currently certified in business litigation. Initial applications for board certification in business litigation, as in recent prior years, continue to be submitted at a steady rate. Nine attorneys are expected to sit for the 2016 business litigation examination. Twenty-one attorneys were recertified in 2015, and 65 certified business litigators are due for recertification in 2016.
The business litigation examination tests for competency in the areas of procedure and substantive law relevant to the litigation of business disputes. In 2015, 11 attorneys passed the exam and have been welcomed into the growing number of Florida board certified business litigators.
The Business Litigation Certification Committee members devote time to a host of activities to improve and enhance the certification process in business litigation law. In particular, over the past year, the members of the committee have strived to use the best practices of exam drafting and grading. Toward that end, the committee members revised the examination format and developed and refined questions for the exam. The committee members are dedicated to achieve the goal of creating an exam that is a valid and reliable test of knowledge, skills, abilities, and judgments. Each committee member has devoted significant time and energy in drafting and grading the exam, and in reviewing applications. Attendance by committee members at the certification leadership conferences in the past few years has proved invaluable in assisting the committee to improve and focus the test materials and the certification process.
The committee members are collectively and actively dedicated to enhancing the certification process for those business litigators who seek to achieve the designation “board Certified specialist.
For all of their time and efforts this past year, I thank each of the committee members, including Vice Chair David Steinfeld, Past Chair Maxine Long, members Judge Paul Huey, Charles Wade Bowden, Garry O’Donnell, Donna Solomon, Hank Jackson, and Jeremy Slusher. On behalf of the committee, I especially thank our Florida Bar certification specialist, Laurinda Babers. The committee appreciates all of her efforts, assistance, and hard work.
Steven H. Meyer, Chair
Citizens Forum — Citizens Advisory
The Florida Bar Citizens Forum is an advisory group of 12 citizens with varied interests and backgrounds who serve to provide two-way communication between the state’s major citizen constituencies and the Bar’s Board of Governors. Its objectives are to serve as a feedback mechanism and sounding board on Bar plans and programs and to advise the Bar regarding public understanding and support of significant legal and justice issues. Up to three attorney members are also appointed to the forum annually to serve as resources. The forum meets three times a year, twice in conjunction with Board of Governors meetings and once at annual convention, and may also meet by teleconference on certain matters between meetings.
Four new members appointed for the 2015-2016 year were: Jan Jung of Sarasota, a retired bar association executive director; Ruth Lynch of Lauderhill, owner and president of R&R Business and Political Consulting; Paul Martinez of Jacksonville, director of Intra-Governmental Services; and Victor Treutel of Winter Garden, president of Maracas Technology. These members will serve three-year terms ending in 2018.
The chair for this year is Lorna Brown-Burton, a member of the Board of Governors representing the 17th Circuit. The vice chair is Ralph MacNamara who is in his third year serving on the committee. He is director of advisory services at Kaufman, Rossin & Co., a Miami accounting firm.
For the 2015-2016 Bar year, the committee met at the July and January Board of Governors meetings. President Ramón Abadin attended both meetings and expressed the appreciation of the entire board for the committee’s contributions.
In July, the committee discussed creating an inactive status for board certificated members; received an update on Vision 2016; and discussed the preliminary report of the Multijurisdictional Practice — State Focus Committee of the Vision 2016 Bar Admissions Subgroup.
The committee also had two teleconference meetings. In October 2015, they further discussed the preliminary report of the Multijurisdictional Practice — State Focus Committee of the Vision 2016 Bar Admissions Subgroup and specifically the recommendation on admission by motion/reciprocity. Their report was given to the Board Communications Committee at its October meeting. In November, the committee discussed the interim report of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice and suggested ways to make Floridians aware of the commissions’ efforts. That report was presented at the Board Communications Committee meeting in December.
In January, the committee participated in the Benchmarks activity “Every 20 Years” and discussed the importance of The Florida Bar helping to educate Floridians about the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission. They also heard a presentation by President Abadin on “Professionalism as a Survival Strategy in the Changing Legal Environment.” In addition, members attended the Pro Bono Awards Ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Historical Society Annual Dinner.
The third and final meeting of the 2015-16 Citizens Advisory Committee will be held at the 2016 annual convention and an orientation will be given to the four new members appointed to the committee for 2016-2019. Leaving the committee after serving three-year terms are Valdez Demings, Orlando; Ralph MacNamara, Miami; Ralph Merritt, Ft. Lauderdale; and Larry Tyree, Orlando. Their service has been greatly appreciated.
More information on the Citizens Advisory Committee, including its charter and members’ photos and biographies, can be found at www.floridabar.org/citizensadvisory.
Lorna Brown-Burton, Chair
City, County and Local Government Certification
City, county, and local government law is the practice of law addressing legal issues of counties, municipalities, and other local government entities. A practitioner must be well versed in a variety of legal topics from sovereign immunity to public finance and must be prepared to face a variety of legal issues.
To be certified in city, county, and local government law, a lawyer must be a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and must have practiced law for at least five years (four years if the lawyer received an LL.M. degree in urban affairs or a related field). Each certified lawyer must have substantial involvement — 40 percent or more — in the practice of city, county, and local government law during the three years preceding application. Also, within those three years, each certified lawyer must have completed 60 hours of continuing legal education specific to topics in city, county, and local government law. Certification further requires lawyers to submit to rigorous peer review and pass a comprehensive written examination. We are proud to have 249 attorneys certified in this multi-faceted and diverse area of the law.
This year, the City, County and Local Government Certification Committee reviewed 25 recertification applications and 24 initial applications to sit for the exam, which was held in May in Tampa. Throughout the year, the committee met several times in person and via conference calls to review the applications, and prepare and grade the examinations. Members focused on structuring an exam that remains fair, challenging, and pertinent to the practice of city, county, and local government law. Special care was taken to ensure that the questions follow the criteria as outlined in the committee’s exam specifications.
The purpose of the certification exam is to assist the committee in identifying those lawyers who have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency that distinguishes them from other attorneys who practice in this area. The exam tests the applicants’ knowledge of 12 practice areas: conflict of interest/financial disclosure, ethics, civil rights, home rule and exercise of police power, land use and zoning, practice and procedures before local government legislative and quasi-judicial bodies, sovereign immunity, public finance, public sector liability, Sunshine Law and public records law, procurement and public contracts, and eminent domain.
I had the pleasure of working with a tremendous group of knowledgeable, hardworking, and well-respected members of the local government law community. As chair, I thank my fellow committee members who worked so hard throughout the year: Vice Chair Ken Tinkler, Donna Marie Collins, Don Crowell, Katherine Latorre, Bob Pritt, Pamala Ryan, Rafael Suarez-Rivas, and Rodney Wade. I also extend a special thanks to Don Crowell and Rodney Wade, who are completing their sixth and final year of service on the committee. Their hard work, dedication, and expertise will be greatly missed. Finally, I thank our committee liaison, Rebecca Arcia, who has been a pleasure to work with and has provided the necessary coordination between the committee, the BLSE, and The Florida Bar.
Rosemary E. Perfit, Chair
Civil Procedure Rules
The Civil Procedure Rules Committee addresses both proposed new rules and proposed amendments to extant rules. The proposals may come from judges, attorneys, or citizens. As well, the legislature, appellate court decisions, and Supreme Court directives may prompt our committee to set up a new subcommittee to study, discuss, and make a recommendation to the full committee on a proposal to draft and vote on a new or modified rule; or to take no action at all. Once the full committee votes, the recommendation is sent to The Florida Bar Board of Governors, and sometimes to other Bar committees, which might have an interest in the recommendation. It is also sent to the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. The recommendations are published at that same time in The Florida Bar News, with an invitation to the readership for comments on these recommendations. Finally, the Florida Supreme Court rules on whether to adopt all or any part of a recommendation. Any interested party is encouraged to make proposals to the committee for new or amended proposals.
This past year, the committee has continued to accept and review new proposals while also preparing its three-year cycle report for submission. Amendments to 18 rules and 12 forms were submitted. The majority of amendments replaced the term “papers” with the word “documents” due to the advent of paperless filing and service. Changes to the forms largely include new signature blocks for inclusion of telephone numbers and email addresses.
The committee has continued to labor in an effort to find ways to improve the Proposal for Settlement Rule, as well as creating a rule to address Additur and Remittitur. Many thanks goes to the subcommittee chairs, Alan Landerman and Bard Rockenbach, respectively, for their efforts in this regard. Also, our liaison to the Rules of Judicial Administration, Judge Rodolfo Ruiz, has chaired several subcommittees while coordinating with the RJA to work on a proposal for 2.330, Motions to Recuse, itself an enormous task.
Our (finally) completed “clean-up” work on the foreclosure rules and forms would not have been possible without the hard work and countless hours meeting on the phone with the subcommittee, especially Miguel Chamorro, R.J. Haughey, and Donnie MacKenzie.
I wish to give special thanks to my vice chairs, R.J. Haughey, Alan Landerman, and Jane Kreusler-Walsh, who were of invaluable assistance to me. I also want to acknowledge our past Chair Kevin Cook, who continues to give sage advice and donate much brainpower to an already brilliant bunch of lawyers and judges on the committee. Our new staff attorney, Greg Zhelesnik, had to fill the big shoes of his predecessor, Ellen Sloyer, while dealing with one of the largest and most active committees anywhere. Greg has done a fabulous job this year, and we are all deeply indebted to him.
It has been a tremendous and productive year. Thank you to everyone. You are a dedicated and productive lot of attorneys to whom the entire Florida Bar owes much.
I, for one, thank you all.
Jacqueline Hogan Scola, Chair
Civil Trial Certification
Civil trial law is the practice of law dealing with the litigation of civil controversies in all areas of substantive law before courts of general jurisdiction. In addition to the pretrial and trial process, “civil trial law” includes evaluating, handling, and resolving civil controversies prior to the initiation of suit.
Civil trial law is one of Florida’s first certification areas, having been approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 1983. Currently, Florida has over 1,000 board certified civil trial lawyers. More than 100 board certified civil trial lawyers have been continuously certified since 1983.
The Civil Trial Certification Committee is charged with the responsibility of reviewing and recommending changes to the standards for certification in civil trial law; evaluating applications for certification and recertification; and preparing and grading the annual examination, which is a requirement for all applicants. In 2015-2016, the committee reviewed 190 applications for recertification. There were 30 applicants for initial certification that were approved to take the March examination. The committee will grade the examinations and results will be sent to newly board certified attorneys before June 1.
This year, considering the current realities of a trial practice, the committee continued its review of the standards for certification in civil trial law, along with the Board of Legal Specialization and Education, the committee has also made recommendations to the Board of Legal Specialization and Education regarding the number of trials required in the five-year period immediately preceding initial application and in the granting of additional trial credits for multi-week trials.
A member of the Civil Trial Certification Committee participated in The Florida Bar’s Annual Civil Trial Update and Board Certification Review in order to provide information on examination procedures. This year, as in recent years, a portion of the examination was presented by video so that the applicants would have an opportunity to better demonstrate their understanding of courtroom performance skills.
The committee members, Chair Bob Moletteire, Vice Chair Woody Isom, Jeff Fleming, Henry Hunnefeld, Chuck Ingram, Charles Morehead, Michael Feiler, Maria Trenzado, and Lou Mracheck gratefully acknowledge the efforts of Lisa Kustel, The Florida Bar’s certification specialist, whose knowledge and competence made our work so much easier.
Robert Michael Moletteire, Chair
Clients’ Security Fund
The Florida Bar Clients’ Security Fund was established in 1967 as a voluntary, discretionary fund to reimburse clients who have suffered a monetary loss as a result of misappropriation, embezzlement, or other wrongful taking by a member of The Florida Bar in the course of an attorney-client relationship. The Fund is currently financed by $25 of every Bar member’s annual dues and has over $2.4 million budgeted for fiscal year 2015-16 to pay claims brought by former clients. The Fund reimburses clients under two circumstances: when an attorney takes an advance fee, but then fails to provide any services up to a maximum amount of $5,000; and for misappropriation or theft of client monies up to a maximum amount of $250,000. In the last fiscal year, the Fund received 358 new claims and paid out over $2.2 million to clients for claims filed against 144 Florida lawyers. As of the date of this report, for the fiscal year ending June 30, the Fund has received 217 claims against 103 lawyers and has currently approved 122 claims with approved losses of nearly $1 million. Claims are paid only after a lawyer has been disbarred, suspended, or in the event of a death of an attorney when a client’s money is unaccounted for. Fee claims are paid promptly after approval. Misappropriation claims are paid on a pro rata basis after the end of the fiscal year with the new exception of those misappropriation claims approved in the amount of $1,000 or less. These claims are also now paid upon approval.
Since its inception, the Clients’ Security Fund has processed over 12,000 claims and paid out over $35 million dollars to victims of attorney theft.
Claims are filed in writing by the former client, reviewed by Bar staff and, when appropriate, referred to a voluntary member of the committee for investigation. The 2015-16 Clients’ Security Fund Committee is composed of 22 of these volunteer attorneys appointed from all regions of Florida by the Bar’s president-elect. The committee meets four times during the year, but its volunteer members are actively engaged in the review and investigation of claims throughout the year. This is a true working committee. Membership on the committee is not for the faint of heart, but involves extensive time and energy in the investigation of claims and preparation of reports, similar to that which counsel would undertake in handling its own client matters. Guided and assisted by dedicated Bar staff, claims are thoroughly investigated and members make recommendations for approval by the committee. Many investigations require active debate at committee meetings and discussions of claims at meetings are spirited, but always with the goal of doing the right thing for the injured client. Although committee meetings are confidential, final action on claims is subject to limited disclosure. Committee recommendations are ultimately submitted to the Board of Governors for final consideration.
As lawyers, we tend to hold ourselves in high regard, especially after the rigors of law school, scrutiny by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and continued oversight by The Florida Bar throughout our careers. Even though we feel this way about ourselves, during the investigation of claims and discussions with clients, we are repeatedly humbled by the notion that individual clients impart an unbelievable amount of trust in their chosen counsel. Breach of this trust devastates clients financially and emotionally. Bar staff and the committee are devoted to repairing the public’s trust in members of the Bar and the legal system in general. In return, the hard work of the members is also rewarded as most clients are very grateful to be compensated.
There are more than 100,000 lawyers in Florida, and claims under the Clients’ Security Fund are made against less than 0.1 percent of Florida lawyers. The work of the Clients’ Security Fund is an integral part of recovery and mitigation of losses to clients and the public whose trust and confidence in the legal profession has been negatively impacted by the wrongful acts of a few. The Fund is one way in which the Bar strives to improve the public’s perception of Florida lawyers as a whole and to restore confidence in the profession.
I have served on this committee for six years and am term limited. It will be difficult for me to end my tenure on the committee. As is the case for every investigating member of the committee, each call to an injured client allowed me the chance to right a wrong and attempt to reestablish lost trust in lawyers. On the committee, I have met some of the finest lawyers the Bar has to offer. Every member of the committee is to be commended for his or her diligence and hard work in processing claims.
All who serve on a Bar committee, especially the chair persons, know that this important work would not be accomplished without the dedication of the Bar staff. Committee members and the clients rely heavily on Bar staff, and without their commitment, we could not do our jobs. Profound thank you to P.J. Osborne, CSF coordinator, and Lori S. Holcomb, division director of ethics and client protection, for the tremendous effort, work, and discipline they have given to this committee. I will miss working with them and all of the other members of the committee.
Jacob Justin Payne, Chair
Code and Rules of Evidence
This year for the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee has been the most contentious in recent memory. The legislature’s attempt to change the standard upon which expert witnesses are gauged from the current Frye standard to the Daubert standard has had a particularly polarizing impact on the members of The Florida Bar.
This year has been very taxing on the members of the committee and especially for those who undertook the task of presenting the research and recommendations of the Frye / Daubert subcommittee to the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee as a whole and furthermore, presented the substantial efforts of the committee to the Board of Governors this past December.
Although the Frye / Daubert issue was the most highly contested and analyzed issue this year, the committee considered and made recommendations on other pieces of legislation that impacted the procedure of the evidence code. The first was the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Governors to reject the legislative change requiring physicians providing affidavits in medical malpractice cases to be bound to the same specialty as the defendant physician. The committee considered the significant effort on behalf of the subcommittee and voted to present those findings to the Board of Governors, who concurred with the recommendations of the committee to recommend to the Florida Supreme Court to reject incorporation of that legislation into the Code and Rules of Evidence. Furthermore, the committee considered legislation passed that would provide a hearsay exception for witnesses of mentally handicapped victims of crime, much like the change championed nearly a decade ago regarding child hearsay. This time the committee recommended to the Board of Governors that this legislation be adopted into the Code and Rules of Evidence.
The committee is continuing its ongoing work including traditional projects such as our annual CLE presentation. Additionally, the committee is entrenched with providing a blog and more modern methods of communicating the proposed changes to the Rules of Evidence to the committee and those members of our profession that find these changes valuable to their practice. Furthermore, the Fast-Track Subcommittee is currently monitoring numerous bills regarding child pornography and vulnerable persons to brief the committee as a whole this coming year.
Finally, this year would not have been the success it was without the exemplary efforts of certain members of the committee whom deserve special recognition. First, Tim Moore, immediate past-chair, has expended considerable effort in his spearheading of the Code Improvement Subcommittee and in providing input for the Frye / Daubert issue that culminated after three years of effort in the committee.
Additionally, Wayne Hogan and David Jones have my eternal gratitude for undertaking the enormous task of presenting the majority and minority opinions respectively to the full committee for their final vote and furthermore for performing the daunting task of providing the research and recommendations of the full committee to the Board of Governors for their consideration. Their efforts are an indication of their commitment not only to the committee but to our profession as a whole.
Peter Anthony Sartes II, Chair
During the 2015-16 year, the Constitutional Judiciary Committee:
• Planned a seminar for the annual convention that will explore the various avenues for achieving balance between judicial independence and accountability, as well as possible initiatives affecting the judiciary through constitutional amendments or legislation.
• Redesigned the Guide for Florida Voters and prepared for distribution 150,000 copies around the state in advance of the 2016 election.
• Changed the mission statement of the committee to better reflect its ongoing educational work in support of a fair and impartial judiciary and the rule of law.
• Produced an article on the Benchmarks program for a special edition of The Florida Bar Journal on civics education.
• Created a new Benchmarks presentation, “Every 20 Years,” to acquaint both attorneys and the public with the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission.
• Presented Benchmarks to the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida.
• Recorded a webinar with the Young Lawyers Division regarding the “Every 20 Years” Benchmarks activity.
• Presented three Benchmarks training seminars — at the fall and winter meetings with one planned for the annual convention.
• Had its Benchmarks program included in The Florida Bar’s Reporters Workshop in Tallahassee.
• A Respected Judiciary Seminar for Annual Convention — In 2017, the members of the Constitution Revision Commission will be selected and the commission will start its work at the end of the 2017 legislative session. If history is any guide, the commission will consider various amendments affecting Florida’s judiciary. In addition, in the past several years, the Florida Legislature has debated numerous proposals related to the judiciary. The seminar, to be held June 16, explores and debates the various issues surrounding the selection and retention of Florida’s judiciary to ensure Bar members are fully informed as to how these proposals may affect the judiciary and, in turn, the practice of law in Florida. The questions raised by this seminar are nearly as old as the nation:
• What is the best way to select and retain judges?
• How do we ensure that judges are independent but also accountable?
The discussion is moderated by Mary C. McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts. In addition to the chair of the Constitutional Judiciary Committee, 13th Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco, panelists are:
• Dean Cannon, former speaker, Florida House of Representatives.
• Brian Fitzpatrick, professor, Vanderbilt University Law School.
• Judge Major B. Harding, retired Florida Supreme Court justice.
• Judge Mark D. Martin, chief justice, North Carolina Supreme Court.
• Melinda Gann Hall, professor, Michigan State University.
• Guide for Florida Voters — With mailings, billboards, social media, the internet, and TV, voters have plenty of information about candidates and issues on the 2016 election ballot. But when it comes to judicial races, it’s another matter. For one thing, candidates for judicial offices cannot make promises about how they’ll rule. They also are governed by judicial canons about their conduct. Educating voters about the role of trial and appeal court judges and answering questions about the merit retention system are the primary reasons The Florida Bar Constitutional Judiciary Committee produces a “Guide for Florida Voters: Questions and Answers about Florida Judges, Judicial Elections and Merit Retention.”
This year, 150,000 copies of a newly redesigned guide will be distributed through civic groups, public libraries, and voluntary bars as well as with the help of the League of Women Voters Florida and Florida’s 67 supervisors of election. The guide is available in both English and Spanish from the Bar website. The guide, which was distributed for both the 2012 and 2014 elections, is part of the Bar’s effort to inform members and the public about the pivotal role of a fair and impartial judiciary in Florida’s three-branch system of government.
• New Mission Statement — “The charge of the Constitutional Judiciary Committee is to strengthen the public’s understanding of the role of the judicial branch of government, the Constitution, the rule of law, and the role of judges and juries in the administration of justice.”
The Florida Bar formed the Constitutional Judiciary Committee, originally named the Judicial Independence Committee, more than a decade ago in response to attacks on the judiciary in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case. The committee’s original mission statement was broad and encompassed activities that, in the years since, more naturally fall to other committees of the Bar. The Constitutional Judiciary Committee has staked out the area of educating attorneys about various facets of civics and the role of government and the courts so that they, in turn, can make presentations to civic groups. Much of the committee’s work is accomplished through Benchmarks.
Each Benchmarks activity comes with an overview and handouts. All materials can be downloaded from The Florida Bar website. Currently there are 12 presentations. I encourage you to review these materials, attend a training session and help promote civics education in your community.
• Bar Journal Article — I, along with Richard Levenstein, an emeritus member of the committee, wrote an article for May, The Florida Bar Journal special edition on civics education, “Special Issue: Civic and Law-related Education.” Our article, “Crisis of Knowledge: The Importance of Educating the Public About the Role of Fair and Impartial Courts in our System of Government,” recounts how The Florida Bar commissioned a Harris poll in 2005 to assess the state of civics knowledge among adults in Florida. The results, sadly, showed many Floridians lacked a fundamental grasp of how their government and courts work. That knowledge served as the springboard for the creation of the Benchmarks program by the committee. The article gives synopses of the Benchmarks presentations: the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; courts and the judicial branch; and special topics, such as the new presentation detailed below on the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission.
• New Benchmarks Presentation: “Every 20 Years” — The committee continued its work with Annette Pitts, executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association, in developing activities for Benchmarks. Pitts is recognized nationally for her civics education expertise. In preparation for the work of the commission, the committee added the presentation: “Every 20 Years,” which explains:
•What the CRC is: A commission appointed every 20 years to review proposed changes to Florida’s Constitution and put directly on the ballot proposals to be considered by Florida voters in 2018.
• CRC Membership: Thirty-seven people; 15 appointed by the governor, nine by the Senate president, nine by the House speaker, and three by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The attorney general is automatically on the commission.
• Citizens’ Role: Suggesting people to be appointed to the CRC; offering issues to be considered; attending hearings; and voting on proposed changes.
Proposals approved by the CRC will be on the ballot in 2018. In 1998, the CRC put nine proposals before voters, who adopted eight of them. The Benchmarks presentation is available at www.floridabar.org/Benchmarks. Also available on the Bar website is a colorful brochure about the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission.
• Benchmarks Presentation for County Court Judges — Through the efforts of member Judge Augustus “Gus” Aikens, Jr., president of the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida, a Benchmarks training session was held in July at the conference’s annual meeting. This summer, Benchmarks is already on the agenda for a plenary session of the 2016 Circuit Court Judges Conference.
• Young Lawyers Division Webinar on “Every 20 Years” — Working with the Young Lawyers Division, which represents 25,000 Bar members, Pitts recorded a webinar in May on the Constitution Revision Commission activity. The webinar was broadcast live and is available on the Benchmarks’ website as well as the YLD page. The goal is to get attorneys acquainted with the operation of the CRC so they, in turn, can help inform the public.
• Benchmarks Training of Attorneys Continues — The committee held a Benchmarks training session at the fall meeting in Tampa and the winter meeting in Orlando. A third one takes place at the annual convention in Orlando at which Chair Judge Michelle Sisco will present with Pitts and Levenstein. Those who want to attend the seminar do not pay a convention registration fee, but will need to register.
• Reporters Workshop Presentation — While they won’t be making presentations, the 24 reporters who attended the Reporters Workshop in October in Tallahassee received a Benchmarks overview and gave the program rave reviews.
One hundred percent of the reporters attending rated the session as excellent or very good. Pitts presented the activity: “Is It Reasonable: A Fourth Amendment Case Study.” Noted one reporter: “This session was helpful as a review of the basics, many of which I didn’t know when I started the beat a few months ago. It also underscored the lack of civics knowledge among the general public, which I think is important for us to keep in mind as we write our stories.”
Sponsored by The Florida Bar Media and Communications Law Committee, the Reporters Workshop is a two-day event for reporters new to legal reporting and the courts or new to Florida. This was the third year reporters received a Benchmarks overview. A session is already scheduled for the 2016 Reporters Workshop in September.
• Moving Forward — In the coming year, the committee has a goal of increasing outreach to law schools, so young attorneys in the making become acquainted with Benchmarks at the beginning of their legal careers. Currently sessions are planned for Stetson University College of Law and St. Thomas Law School. A special thanks to member Thomas Graham for the outreach to St. Thomas Law School. The committee plans to eventually connect with all 12 Florida law schools.
Additionally, in the year ahead, to make it easier for attorneys to learn how to make Benchmarks presentations, the committee will produce brief webinars featuring each of the current 12 presentations. The webinars will be posted online for convenient viewing any time at www.Floridabar.org/Benchmarks.
Special thanks to committee Vice Chair Sacha Dyson for her Benchmarks outreach to the Hillsborough County Bar Association. Thanks, too, to Judge Alan Forst, Richard Levenstein, and Sacha Dyson for their work on the committee’s annual convention seminar, “A Respected Judiciary.”
Judge Michelle Sisco, Chair
Construction Law Certification
Construction law deals with matters relating to the design and construction of improvements on private and public projects including, but not limited to, construction dispute resolution, contract negotiation, preparation, award and administration, lobbying in governmental hearings, oversight and document review, construction lending and insurance, construction licensing, and the analysis and litigation of problems arising out of the Florida Construction Lien Law, F.S. §255.05, and the federal Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. §270. Construction law is the fourth largest certification area with 356 board certified construction lawyers and continues to experience increasing growth. In 2014-15, the committee received the then highest number of initial applications, 57 outside of the inaugural year when 119 attorneys applied. That number was surpassed in 2015-16 with the committee receiving 59 initial applications for the 2016 exam. In 2015-16, the committee received 124 recertification applications. As a result, the total number of applications reviewed by committee was far more than double the number of applications reviewed in a typical year.
The committee has continued to pursue efforts to improve the quality of the Construction Law Certification exam while streamlining the process for preparing the exam. These efforts have paid off. The committee completed the initial drafting of the 2016 exam earlier than in years past allowing more time for pre-testing and review of the exam. This should result in a higher quality and more consistent exam. The 2016 exam kept the format adopted last year with 100 multiple choice questions and 4 essay questions. Last year, 45 attorneys sat for the exam, and 25 passed.
The Construction Law Certification Committee continues to enjoy very strong support from the Construction Law Committee through the annual exam review course. This year, 80 participants registered for the Construction Law Certification Exam Review Course held over three days in conjunction with the annual Construction Law Institute seminar in Orlando. The efforts of the Construction Law Committee reinforce the high ethical and competence standards expected of Florida Bar board certified construction law attorneys.
The Construction Law Certification Committee members have devoted countless hours writing exam questions, grading exams, and thoroughly reviewing certification and recertification applications. The increasing interest in construction law certification has served to increase the committee’s workload, and I thank each of the committee members, including Vice Chair Steve Sellers, and committee members Amanda Baggett, Alex Espino, Fred Dudley, Kim Gessner, Dan Greene, Bruce Partington, and Jayne Pittman. Finally, I recognize the dedication of the committee’s certification specialist, Julie Coiro, who has kept the committee well organized and on track. Julie has done much for our committee and I will miss working with her next year when my term ends.
David Charles Willis, Chair
Consumer Protection Law
The Consumer Protection Law Committee’s mission is to educate consumers and Bar members about consumer protection laws and issues, as well as to provide expert resources to attorneys, judges, and lawmakers. Among its accomplishments, this year the committee:
• Organized a full-day seminar for the annual convention in Orlando focusing on cutting edge developments in litigation, compliance, and regulation, as it relates to technology;
• Organized a community outreach event in Tampa to provide brief guidance and counsel to members of the community who cannot afford legal representation;
• Used Twitter to educate and share resources with consumers and attorneys;
• Monitored proposed legislation and invited lawmakers to contact the committee for an assessment of any bill that would affect consumers;
• Shared an analysis of proposed changes to the Florida Consumer Protection Practices Act, and its potential impact upon consumers;
• Continued to finalize a resource manual on consumer protection topics for judges;
• Planned to give a deserving attorney The Florida Bar Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year Award; and
• Reviewed and updated The Florida Bar’s consumer pamphlets.
• Full-Day Seminar for Annual Convention — The committee is planning to present a seminar, “At the Corner of Technology & Consumer Law,” at The Florida Bar Annual Convention in Orlando. This seminar will provide crucial information to those who advise businesses, as well as litigators and consumer advocates who face technology and privacy issues on a daily basis. Specifically, the course will:
• Discuss employer background checks, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and judicial expungement issues;
• Examine the intricacies of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with two panels of experts focusing on prerecorded calls and automatic telephone dialing systems;
• Explore privacy litigation and children’s privacy online;
• Cover the ethical issues when advising clients regarding social media; and
• Evaluate the privacy challenges presented by technology’s rapid development, including data breach litigation, Florida’s new drone privacy laws, and developments in payment technology.
In addition to 11 featured guests, who are highly regarded employment law, litigation, and consumer protection professionals and attorneys, four current members of the Consumer Protection Law Committee will be presenting as well — Jared Lee (current vice chair), David A. Weintraub, Steven Salzer, and Lesly Longa (current chair). They will be joined by past member John Yanchunis (chair, 2013-14).
Vice Chair Jared Lee is owed many thanks for organizing this year’s agenda and acquiring the speakers for the CLE. The full-day seminar will be held on Saturday, June 18th at the 2016 Annual Convention in Orlando.
• Community Outreach — Recognizing that for many in our community, legal representation is cost prohibitive, Chair Lesly Longa organized a free Ask-A-Lawyer event in Tampa on March 26 to provide individual, 10- to 15-minute attorney consultations on a variety of areas of law. The successful event helped nearly 40 members of the community over the course of two hours. Seven attorneys, including committee members Craig Rothburd, Mike Ziegler, and Lesly Longa, as well as Tampa attorneys Arthur Ruben, Alan Borden, Dan Reigle, and Sandra L. Hibsch, volunteered at the event.
• Social Media Outreach — Once again this year, the Consumer Protection Law Committee, a pioneer in social media for The Florida Bar, continued to use Twitter to communicate with and educate attorneys and the public on consumer law issues. Committee members Alice Vickers, Ryan Moore, James Giardina, and Jennifer Newton led the way by posting to the committee’s two accounts. One Twitter account updates Florida attorneys on consumer law issues (@FLBarCPLCLawyer), while the other is geared toward consumers (@FLBarConsumer), highlighting the Bar’s consumer pamphlets, outreach events, and useful resources.
• Legislative Outreach — Under the direction of Legislative Subcommittee Chair Alice Vickers and assisted by Jared Lee, Laura Boeckman, and Lisa DiFranza, the subcommittee continued to follow bills with a consumer interest and advise members on any changes in legislation. Before the start of the legislative session, Chair Lesly Longa sent a letter to the legislature to notify lawmakers and their staff of the committee’s availability to provide review and analysis of any bill that could affect consumers. Additionally, Alice Vickers, on behalf of the committee and in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Section, and Chair Lesly Longa, sent the Board of Governors a letter expressing the committee’s concerns about legislative proposals having to do with debt collection and foreclosure. Chair Lesly Longa also delivered to lawmakers in Tallahassee a technical memorandum providing an analysis of the potential impact upon consumers of the proposed changes to F.S. §559, the Florida Consumer Protection Practices Act. The technical memorandum was prepared by Lesly Longa with the assistance of committee members Alice Vickers, Ryan Moore, and Mike Ziegler.
• Judicial Manual — The committee has continued to finalize a manual on consumer topics that judges across the state can use. The manual is to serve as a neutral resource on consumer issues and laws, such as Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice Act, automobiles and automobile dealers, credit card actions, government enforcement, and residential eviction, among others. Under the direction of committee member Mary Ann Etzler and with the assistance of Patrick Cousins, the manual has been presented to a judge for review. Once the manual has been finalized and approved, it will be printed and distributed to judges.
• Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year — For the sixth year, the committee will honor an attorney for excellence, character, and commitment to the practice of consumer protection law. Vice Chair Laura Boeckman and member Craig Rothburd co-chaired this subcommittee tasked with gathering nominations and selecting the Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year for 2016. The goal for this year was to increase the number of nominations by raising awareness of the award and updating the form to make it easier to submit nominations online. Last year’s winner, Laura Boeckman, who has been advocating on behalf of consumers for over 12 years, received the award on September 1 from Attorney General Pam Bondi.
• Pamphlet Updates — The Consumer Protection Law Committee reviews and updates The Florida Bar’s consumer-related pamphlets available on the Bar’s website and in print. These 47 publications provide the public with basic legal information on a variety of topics. Special thanks go to Courtney Durham and Lisa DiFranza for leading the committee in its efforts to update the pamphlets scheduled for review and also to members Ryan Moore, Samantha Duke, Mary Ann Etzler, Laura Boeckman, Mercedes Hale, Lesly Longa, and past member Lynn Drysdale (chair, 2011-2012) for their efforts in this endeavor.
I thank Vice Chairs Jared Lee and Laura Boeckman for their dedication to the committee and their diligent work for both the committee and Florida consumers. Their efforts, along with the efforts of our active members, contributed to a successful year for the Consumer Protection Law Committee.
Lesly Carmen Longa, Chair
Criminal Law Certification
The Criminal Law Certification Committee is responsible for overseeing the process of certifying attorneys as either criminal appellate law specialists or criminal trial law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar, and for reviewing the applications of currently certified attorneys seeking recertification because their terms are expiring. The certification process includes the following requirements: satisfactory peer review references, passing the certification examination (initial applicants only), substantial involvement in either criminal appellate law or criminal trial law; and a handling of either appellate actions or trials. For initial criminal appellate applicants: representation of at least 25 appellate actions. For recertification criminal appellate applicants: representation of at least 10 appellate actions. For initial criminal trial applicants: at least 25 contested criminal cases, with 20 jury trials, tried to a verdict, 15 involved a felony charge, 10 as lead counsel, and five that occurred within the five years preceding application. For recertification criminal trial applicants: at least five contested criminal cases, with four that were before a jury, and three that involved a felony charge.
As chair of the Criminal Law Certification Committee, I am happy to report another successful year of overseeing the certification of Florida criminal lawyers. The committee is comprised of 12 board certified attorneys who work throughout the state. The committee was previously comprised of nine members, but it was increased by the Board of Governors prior to the 2015-16 year, upon the committee’s request. The increase allows additional members to review of the high volume of applications, to assist in promotional efforts, and to draft, evaluate, and grade the examination questions.
The committee first met in August 2015 to begin drafting the 2016 examination and to review initial and recertification applications. Over the next several months, the committee worked to continue the prior committees’ improvement of the quality of the certification exam to meet the high standards expected by committee members and The Florida Bar.
Both the criminal trial and criminal appellate law exams contain five essay questions and 50 multiple-choice questions addressing procedural and substantive law in both state and federal court. The exam is written to assess criminal lawyer’s fundamental knowledge of the law, analytical reasoning, and skill in applying knowledge to practical situations. On May 20, in Tampa, applicants answered these questions in two three-hour blocks and will be advised of their results by August 1.
At its final meeting, the committee will grade the 2016 examination. The committee grades the examinations on an anonymous basis, with each examinee identified to committee members only by a number assigned by Bar staff. Those attorneys who meet all requirements for a certified attorney and achieve a passing score on the examination will earn the designation as a criminal appellate law board certified specialist or criminal trial law board certified specialist.
Of the more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar, 391 are currently board certified in criminal trial law and 48 are board certified in criminal appellate law. An ongoing effort of this committee is finding ways to increase the number of board certified criminal appellate lawyers.
Sixty-two attorneys applied to take the 2016 criminal trial law certification exam. Thirteen of these applicants submitted “abbreviated applications” after either failure or nonattendance at the 2015 exam. Six attorneys applied to take the 2016 criminal appellate law certification exam. Two of these applicants submitted “abbreviated applications” after either failure or nonattendance at the 2015 exam. The committee also reviewed 82 recertification applications this year.
The committee is grateful to the lawyers who participate in the confidential peer review process. Without candid commentary from applicants’ peers, the committee’s ability to properly review applicants’ qualifications would be severely curtailed. The committee emphasizes to Bar members and judicial officers that commentary is confidential and will not be divulged to any applicant.
It has been an honor to serve as chair of the committee this year, along with Luke Newman (vice chair), Elizabeth Bourdon, Judge William Burgess, Joseph Caimano, Judge James Colaw, Karen Kinney, Pamela Koller, Ilana Marcus, Lisa McLean, Jessica Travis, and Michael Ufferman.
Robert Norgard, Chair
Criminal Procedure Rules
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee is comprised of members from all representative areas of practice including the judiciary, educators, prosecuting attorneys, and both publicly funded and privately retained criminal defense attorneys. The committee strives to incorporate various viewpoints by promoting discussion on numerous issues confronting criminal practitioners. The committee also emphasizes collegiality and the setting aside of any partisanship to ensure rules are balanced, understandable, and most importantly, capable of being practically, fairly, and uniformly applied in the courtrooms throughout the state of Florida.
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee consistently reviews legislation and relevant caselaw, and evaluates referrals from various persons and entities to propose consistent amendments or new rules of criminal procedure. The committee monitors all rule changes and their impact on the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Among the highlights of this year’s work, the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee undertook a comprehensive review of every rule of criminal procedure to determine whether it is necessary, current, and complies with applicable case law. Additionally, the committee reacted quickly in light of the Florida’s new capital sentencing statute, assigning the task of drafting additions or amendments to the chair of the Fast Track Subcommittee. The committee expects to vote on, and approve, rule amendments during its June meeting. Likewise, the committee filed two proposed new rules to comport with Florida’s new juvenile sentencing statutes and with recent caselaw from the Florida Supreme Court. The court adopted these two new proposed rules in October 2015.
This year, the committee worked closely with other committees in proposing amendments to rules governing the practice of criminal law. In particular, the committee worked with the Criminal Court Steering Committee to propose revisions to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.801 (correction of jail credit) to clarify that this post-conviction rule applied only to convictions and sentences that were already final. Additionally, the committee worked closely with the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee to propose out of cycle amendments to Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.425 (minimization of the filing of sensitive information). The Florida Supreme Court adopted these new proposed amendments in February 2016. Finally, the committee worked with the Appellate Court Rules Committee to amend rules concerning discovery and appeal proceedings in criminal cases.
My term as chair concludes this June, and I extend my thanks and appreciation to the dedicated members of the committee and especially to Heather Telfer, our attorney liaison, for all of their hard-work and professionalism. This is a busy and hard-working committee, based upon the number of referrals and legislative and caselaw changes that necessitate rule revisions. I would also like to thank the leadership of The Florida Bar for not only giving me the opportunity to chair this committee but for its leadership and support throughout the year. I look forward to remaining an active member of this committee and in participating in the work that lies ahead.
Meredith Charbula, Chair
Diversity and Inclusion
This year, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) continued to develop and implement various projects and programs to further its mission to increase diversity and inclusion in the Bar so that the Bar will reflect the demographics of the state, to develop opportunities for community involvement, and to make leadership roles within the profession and the Bar accessible to all attorneys.
The CDI administers the Diversity Leadership Grant Program, which provides funding to local and specialty bar associations for conferences, initiatives, and programs that encourage diversity, provide diversity training, and provide opportunity for dialogue about diversity and inclusion issues in Florida. In partnership with more than 30 local and specialty bar associations, all Bar funds budgeted for this program year were allocated and used to fund 24 diversity and inclusion programs around the state. Not all eligible programs were funded because available funding was exhausted. However, the high demand for funding is a good indicator that diversity and inclusion programming is a high priority for local and specialty bar associations, and these efforts are continuing statewide at the local and regional levels.
This year, the CDI was authorized by the Bar to use Facebook, Twitter, and the Bar’s YouTube account to more effectively communicate and promote local, regional, statewide, and national diversity and inclusion events and issues. The use of social media will support and reinforce the Bar’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and enable the CDI to reach the general public and a greater cross-section of the legal profession. The use of social media will also benefit local and specialty bar associations and committees and sections of the Bar that seek to undertake diversity and inclusion efforts.
The CDI has also produced a five-minute “Get Involved” video to kick-off a campaign to promote involvement in the Bar and increase diversity within the leadership of the profession. Diverse members of a variety of Bar committees are featured in the video and share how their experiences in the Bar have impacted them personally and professionally. The video will be shown at Bar events, promoted using the CDI social media platforms, and shown via the Bar’s YouTube account.
Numerous legal organizations conduct surveys to gather and aggregate diversity information regarding their members. This information is used to determine the diversity composition and level of participation of diverse members at every level of these legal organizations. This year, the CDI reviewed the diversity information gathered by various legal organizations, such as the American Bar Association, the State Bar of California, which is a mandatory bar association, and the New York State Bar Association, which is a voluntary state bar, as resources for developing diversity data regarding race, religious affiliation, disability, gender, and sexual orientation. The CDI has approved diversity data metrics and provided this information to the Bar with the expectation that Bar members will be surveyed for this diversity information, the collection of which will enable the Bar to evaluate the success of its diversity and inclusion efforts over time consistent with the initiatives already in place in other parts of the country.
The CDI is committed to parental leave and believes it is important for attorneys to be able to balance work and family. Accordingly, the CDI passed and adopted a resolution in support of the amendment of Fla. R. Civ. P. 2.565 to provide a presumption that a continuance for parental leave will be granted unless an exceptional reason is shown.
The CDI has continued its multi-year partnership with the Continuing Legal Education Committee and the Board of Legal Specialization and Education to design a pilot program to increase the diversity of CLE program presenters. The CDI prepared and approved a draft proposal for consideration by the CLE Committee and the BLSE. Based on feedback from the CLE Committee, the CDI is continuing to refine and improve upon the proposal.
Finally, the CDI has started planning for the 2017 Inclusion Conference. A steering committee has begun the work of planning this event, which will be held in the spring in central Florida. Stay tuned for additional information regarding this exciting event.
The CDI is a uniquely inclusive committee. We currently have no limit on the number of CDI members and no dues requirement. CDI membership includes members of the judiciary, representatives from law schools and universities, members of other Bar committees, and representatives from many statewide, local, and specialty bar associations. We welcome the participation of all individuals and groups that support diversity within the legal profession.
Many CDI members, including (but by no stretch limited to) Robert Vaughn, Caryn Carvo, Brittany Maxey, Jarred Reiling, Susan Healy, Larry Smith, Miriam Ramos, Khurrum Wahid, Harriet Williams, and Matthew Dietz, have been responsible for the development and implementation of the CDI projects and programs this year. On behalf of the entire CDI, I thank the Bar leadership, Arnell Bryant-Willis, the Bar diversity initiatives manager, and other Bar staff for their dedication and support.
Chasity H. O’Steen, Chair
The Education Law Committee proposal was approved by the Board of Governors in fall 2000. The Education Law Committee is a substantive law committee of The Florida Bar and currently has 94 members. The scope and function of the Education Law Committee is to bring together education law practitioners who work in-house for K-12 or post-secondary public and private educational institutions, who work for private law firms that represent educational entities, and who address educational issues on behalf of other governmental entities or students and/or their parents/guardians.
Attorneys practicing education law may address a variety of substantive areas of the law, ranging from construction and real estate, constitutional law, personnel, public procurement, the APA, to personal injury — all within the context of educational settings. The committee studies, analyses, and reviews recent developments in education law; keeps the members of the committee informed of significant developments in this practice area; and tracks and monitors proposed legislation that could impact the operations of clients of the committee members. As this year’s chair, I had a goal of continuing to provide relevant CLEs, of further enhancing the use of technology to better serve the members of the committee, and to encourage the members to be actively involved in various activities/issues relating to our Florida Bar membership. Indeed, this year, under the leadership of Patricia Lott, the committee was able to prepare video recordings of its entire day-long education law certification review course and distribute complete electronic copies of course materials to all participants.
Per the committee’s handbook, which was updated at The Florida Bar’s annual meeting in June 2014, the committee has three business meetings per year. During my chair, the committee met on October 16, 2015; January 22 during The Florida Bar’s midyear in Orlando; and hosts its final meeting on June 17. CLE seminars are an integral component of each meeting. A CLE course was offered on October 16, 2015, and addressed financing issues for charter schools and institutions of higher education; a January 22 CLE concentrated on recent developments in labor and employment law. The webinar offered in February was a full-day CLE, with 14 different presenters, who concentrated on topics that would appear on the education law certification exam in March. Additionally, written materials were provided to members of the committee on subjects, such as copyright/fair use, federal grants and contract compliance, student rights and responsibilities under FERPA, and other state and federal privacy laws. Those attending the CLE webinar were eligible to receive 7.0 general CLE credits and 7.0 education law certification credits. All of the materials were compiled into a booklet that is accessible to anyone interested in education law. Additionally, the committee will host a final CLE for the year which will be offered at the final meeting on June 17.
The law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Bar liaison Tom Miller, and Vice Chair Patricia Lott deserve special recognition for their contribution to the committee’s efforts to expand the use of technology to better serve members of the committee. The committee was able to offer audio conferencing capabilities to those who could not physically attend the midyear meeting, and the webinars were hosted free of charge through the generosity of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
The year has not yet seen the publication of a newsletter. As a committee, we recognized that the current system places too great a burden on the newsletter editor, Vice Chair Jason Fudge and Bob Harris, to not only edit the newsletter but to secure articles as well. Next year, under the leadership of Patricia Lott, the committee will be exploring the creation of a publications subcommittee to assist in securing materials for publication. As always, the committee welcomes articles on education law topics and encourage submission of articles for the newsletter.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve as chair of the Education Law Committee this year, and I thank each of the vice chairs for their support and efforts: Patricia Lott (CLE) and Jason Fudge (Publication). I am also thankful for the assistance of the IT staff at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Most of all, I thank all of my colleagues who graciously volunteered many hours of service to the committee so that the CLE presentations would be possible and did so without hesitation. I look forward to staying engaged with the committee’s efforts in the years ahead.
Mark E. Lupe, Chair
Education Law Certification
The Education Law Certification Committee is committed to promoting certification among the attorneys who practice education law. This is the sixth year of education law certification. After five years, there are 51 board certified attorneys in this area; in addition, six took the 2016 examination. The committee has made steady progress in furthering this very significant certification area in Florida — one that is seen nationally as an important pioneering certification.
The committee has held regular meetings through the year. It has concentrated on improving the examination and creating a comprehensive and accessible question/answer bank for the use of future committee members. The committee promoted education law certification to those who practice education law, including attorneys for school districts, state colleges, state universities, and private schools and colleges, as well as attorneys who advocate for students and their families. The committee also reviewed the qualifications for recertification as the first attorneys to be recertified in the area of education law will be applying soon.
The members of the 2015-2016 Education Law Certification Committee are Barbara Wingo, chair; Ned Julian, vice chair; Usher Brown; Dayton Michael Cramer; Franklin Harrison; Mark Kamleiter; Ed Marko; James A. Robinson III; and Julie Sheppard. The chair thanks the members of the committee for their hard work this year, and also recognizes that seven of them have served since the inauguration of the committee itself. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to serve in this area. Also, in this regard, the committee spent considerable effort identifying and recommending potential new members.
The committee acknowledges the efforts of the Education Law Committee, which has promoted the certification area and once again provided an outstanding certification examination review course.
Finally, the committee thanks The Florida Bar for its assistance throughout the year, with special thanks to our new certification specialist, Charlotte Bell.
Barbara C. Wingo, Chair
Elder Law Certification
The Elder Law Certification Committee is responsible for administering the process of certifying attorneys as elder law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar. The certification committee had four meetings throughout the past year to process new applications for eligibility to sit for the certification exam, review recertifications, and prepare the 2016 board certification exam. Currently, there are 98 board certified elder law attorneys in Florida. The committee reviewed 19 recertification applications. This past year, 19 attorneys applied to sit for the exam on March 11. It has been a successful year for the certification committee.
We welcomed three new committee members: Sara Caldwell, Amy Fanzlaw, and John Clardy. Thank you to all committee members for their dedication and hard work to make this past year a success. And a special thank you to our certification specialist, Laurinda Babers, whose hard work and organization kept us on task and made our committee meetings run smoothly this past year.
Alex Cuello, Chair
The Florida Bar states that the scope and function of the Eminent Domain Committee is to study and keep informed of recent developments in the field of condemnation of private property for public use by governmental agencies or private companies who have the power of eminent domain. The Bar states that the committee should keep the members of the Bar informed of developments of great significance in this field, maintain liaison with private companies and governmental agencies who have and use the power of eminent domain, and study and consider legislation, law or problems in the area of eminent domain law as developed by the committee or assigned by the president or the Board of Governors.
As in the past, this year’s 87 members of the committee approach eminent domain from varying perspectives. The committee is made up of both government employee attorneys and private practice attorneys. The private practice attorneys represent both government entities (and utilities) and land/business owners in eminent domain matters; exclusively government agencies in these matters; or exclusively land/business owners in eminent domain matters. Some of the attorneys practice exclusively in the area of eminent domain but many do not.
The continued upturn in property development and construction of capital improvements has again resulted in an active year for the Eminent Domain Committee. The committee’s meetings have been educational and collegial in nature, focused on identifying trends related to real property valuation, litigation practice, advancements in technology, recent eminent domain court decisions, and ethics presentations associated with law firm management, client relations as well as advertising and social media issues. The meetings, as always, provide a forum that encourages and fosters open discourse regarding differing perspectives of eminent domain jurisprudence.
The committee chair, Dean R. DiRose, acknowledges with gratitude the hard work of the committee vice chairs, Joel Settembrini, Lorena Hart Ludovici, D. Tobyn DeYoung, and Heather A. Patchen. Several of the vice chairs have served the committee for many years. The vice chairs helped plan the meetings, obtain speakers and sponsors, and introduced the presenters. The chair also thanks the co-editors of our newsletter, Carlos Kelly, Stan Chapman, and Heather A. Patchen for their great work in preparing and producing the committee newsletter and to everyone who made and will make presentations (listed below) at our meetings. Further, the chair gives great thanks to our committee’s liaison with The Florida Bar, Chase Early, who helped organize the resources for the meetings, including projectors, podiums, etc., and obtained CLE credit and was instrumental in professionally resolving any and all issues or problems, no matter how big or small, as they cropped up throughout the year. On behalf of the committee, the chair also notes the support and encouragement of Florida Bar President Ramón A. Abadin and President-Elect William J. Schifino, as to the committee’s work. The chair also expresses the committee’s appreciation of meeting sponsors: appraisers Calhoun, Collister & Parham, Inc.; engineers Mesimer and Associates, Inc.; engineering and environmental consultants Chastain-Skillman, Inc.; and appraisers Durrance & Associates, who generously underwrote, or will be underwriting continental breakfasts and sodas for the meetings. Last, but certainly not least, the chair thanks those committee members who regularly attended the meetings and members, too numerous to mention, who provided input via the committee’s email exchange or at the meetings regarding various issues, including the proposed amendments to Rule 4-4.2 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.
The committee’s September 18, 2015, meeting featured a presentation on e-filing and e-discovery for eminent domain lawyers by attorney Blake H. Gaylord and Judge Richard A. Nielsen of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa. The meeting also included Jerrod S. Mills from Trial Exhibits, Inc., discussing and demonstrating the use of technology in eminent domain trials, and committee Vice Chair Joel Settembrini provided an update regarding the proposed amendments to Rule 4-4.2 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and took comments from the committee members. The meeting concluded with a presentation discussing the GO Hillsborough community-driven transportation plan, given by Mike Merrill, the county administrator of Hillsborough County.
After the September meeting, Vice Chair Joel Settembrini solicited further comments from committee members regarding the proposed amendments to Rule 4-4.2 via the committee email exchange. In January, an updated summary of the committee members’ meeting comments and email responses was provided by Joel to The Florida Bar, which indicated that the majority of the committee members who responded opposed the amendments out of concern that such change would potentially impede the free flow of information between representatives of government and representatives of property owners. This update to the Bar also indicated that a minority of the committee members who responded supported the amendments primarily based on the belief that direct pre-litigation communications between property owners’ attorneys and governmental representatives may, in some instances, undermine the interests of the government in litigation.
Our January 22 meeting began with an eminent domain caselaw update year in review presented by attorney Charles S. Stratton. Professor Joshua Harris from the University of Central Florida then presented a real estate market update discussing and analyzing trends in development, growth forces, and valuation. Then one of the committee’s most well-respected and senior tenured members, Andrew H. Schuster, provided commentary titled “How Eminent Domain May Impact the 2016 Presidential Election.” The meeting concluded with an ethics-related presentation by Florida Bar attorney Sheila M. Tuma on advertising, social media, and client relations.
Planning is underway for the June 17 meeting. It is expected that the meeting will include a presentation regarding a recent Florida Supreme Court decision of great significance in the area of eminent domain. Other speakers and topics will be announced. This meeting should be the conclusion of a productive year for the committee.
The leadership of the committee is in good hands going forward with Joel Settembrini taking over as chair, Lorena Hart Ludovici, D. Tobyn DeYoung, and Heather A. Patchen being reappointed as vice chairs, and Kenneth C. Pope being appointed as incoming
vice chair for the upcoming year.
Dean R. DiRose, Chair
Family Law Rules
The Family Law Rules Committee began the past year continuing its primary multiyear project of revising the family law rules and forms to make them separate and independent from references to civil rules. The “stand alone” rules were published in the August Florida Bar News for comment prior to submitting them to the Board of Governors for their approval. The few comments received were considered and some changes were made by the full committee at its September meeting. The stand alone rules were then republished in the November Florida Bar News and subsequently approved unanimously by the Board of Governors at its meeting in early December. Since that time, the petition to the Florida Supreme Court has been prepared and, at the time of the preparation of this report, was expected to be filed with the court in April or May for consideration. The volunteers who have worked on this enormous and complex project over the last six years have invested hundreds of non-billable hours. The “Stand Alone” Rules Subcommittee focused on the need for consistency of procedure across multiple practice areas. Consequently, this has entailed a careful review of all existing civil and family law rules and forms to determine appropriate changes to recommend to the court. The approval and promulgation of these stand alone family law rules will avoid the problems that have regularly occurred due to the discrepancies of procedure between civil and family law court practice and procedure.
Revised forms were submitted to the Advisory Workgroup on Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms suggesting amendments to Forms 12.902(d) and 12.961.
Also, during the past year, the committee has been preparing for its upcoming regular-cycle report that will include proposed amendments to:
• Rule 12.130, Documents Supporting Action or Defense;
• Rule 12.200, Case Management and Pretrial Conferences;
• Rule 12.285, Mandatory Disclosure;
• Rule 12.400, Confidentiality of Records and Proceedings;
• Rule 12.407, Testimony and Attendance of Minor Child;
• Rule 12.490, General Magistrates;
• Form 12.902(f)(3), Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage;
Other committee work has included 1) a subcommittee continuing its study of the costs and logistical impact of recording all hearings in family law matters and providing transcripts of all those proceedings; 2) a subcommittee working on possible amendments to the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (Form 12.902(e)) to bring it into compliance with federal law; and 3) a subcommittee preparing possible amendments to the Unified Family Court rules.
With the increase in collaborative divorce practice across the state, the promulgation of different collaborative procedure administrative orders by several different judicial circuits, and the anticipated passage of the Collaborative Law Process Act by the legislature creating a new Part III of Ch. 61, the subcommittee on Collaborative Law Rules prepared rules that have been approved by the committee and are expected to be submitted to the Board of Governors for approval prior to being submitted by petition to the Florida Supreme Court this year. These collaborative rules have been a project that has been ongoing for the last three years by the subcommittee and committee. When promulgated by the Florida Supreme Court, they should standardize the practice of collaborative divorce statewide.
A new effort to coordinate the efforts of The Florida Bar’s various standing rules committees was initiated by the chair of the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. Quarterly telephone conferences of the chairs of each of the various TFB rules committees were held to discuss ongoing projects or issues pending in each of the committees. These proved to be extraordinarily useful in improving the communication and coordination of work between the standing rules committees.
The Family Law Rules Committee had a very busy and productive year on the foregoing mentioned projects and issues, as well as other issues referred to the committee by the court and by individuals in correspondence around the state. The successes and continuing forward momentum of the committee would not have been possible without the incredible intelligence, professional talents, and daily dedication to the committee’s work by our new Florida Bar attorney liaison, Greg Zhelesnik. I have rarely had the opportunity to work with such an excellent colleague. Without his continuing oversight, assistance, recommendations, and work-product, none of our accomplishments would have been completed in a timely and professional manner. As I conclude my year as chair of this committee, I thank The Florida Bar leadership for having the faith and confidence in me to appoint me to this very important position. I also thank the members of the committee, regularly appointed and our ad hoc members, for their incredible contributions of time, intellectual ingenuity, and professionalism at the full committee and subcommittee levels throughout the year. The dedication and commitment to the family law practice and our legal profession by Greg and our committee members has been incredible and has made it a privilege and honor to serve as chair.
C. Cole Jeffries, Chair
Federal Court Practice
The Federal Court Practice Committee serves as The Florida Bar’s liaison to federal courts, federal bar organizations, the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, and federal practitioners throughout Florida.
The committee’s signature event, the Federal Judicial Roundtable, will take place at The Florida Bar’s Annual Convention on June 16 in Orlando. The objectives for the Roundtable are to strengthen the relationship between the federal bench and bar and to improve practice before federal courts in Florida. The roundtable is a popular program providing an opportunity for the federal bench and bar to work together during an interesting and practical seminar. For years, federal judges, lawyers, law professors, and law students have enjoyed the interactive and informal encounters that occur during the event. Very special thanks to Nikki Simon for her leadership and service in coordinating this great event.
As a gateway to the committee, its projects, and federal news, the committee maintains The Federal Corner on The Florida Bar’s website. Under the leadership of Andrew Doyle and Brian Harris, the committee has continued to update The Federal Corner, which has served as an easy and cost-effective way to communicate with our members, and even more, with all members of The Florida Bar. Posted to The Federal Corner are rule amendments, proposed changes affecting federal courts, announcements, and other news. In addition, The Federal Corner maintains links to proposed amendments to local rules, as well as federal rules of procedure, and lists sponsors who help support the committee’s activities.
To further promote the dissemination of useful and timely information to those interested in federal practice in Florida, the committee recently received approval from The Florida Bar to use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The committee plans to launch its social media presence in time for The Florida Bar convention in June. Another very special thanks to Andrew Doyle and Brian Harris for leading this effort.
The committee maintains the Guide to Judicial Practices in Florida’s Federal Courts on the Bar’s website. Many of Florida’s federal circuit, district, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges participate in the guide by responding to surveys about various subjects and practice areas. The guide serves as an invaluable resource to practitioners in and out of Florida appearing before the judges. Thanks to Brett Barfield and Lawrence Goodman who continue to work with The Florida Bar’s staff to update the guide.
The committee seeks to educate members of The Florida Bar about emerging topics in federal practice. Given the significant amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2015, Sherril Colombo and Melissa Visconti, led a continuing education program on the amendments at the committee’s winter meeting. The program featured a thought-provoking and insightful discussion with Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell and Judge Anthony Porcelli.
Finally, to ensure that this committee continues to fulfill its mission and best serve those interested in federal practice in a rapidly evolving legal landscape, a Long Range Planning Subcommittee has been established to evaluate our committee’s current work and set long-range goals. Thanks to Nikki Simon for also taking a lead on the committee’s long-range planning.
This year, the committee would not have completed any of its work without Lani Fraser, the committee’s liaison to The Florida Bar. Lani has shown enormous patience, diligence, dedication, and devotion to the Federal Court Practice Committee. As a long-standing member of this committee, I can personally attest that Lani’s leadership, support, and overall kindness have attributed to the great success of our committee. We are very grateful to have her as our Bar liaison.
Stephanie M. Marchman, Chair
Florida Bar Journal and News Editorial Board
The Florida Bar Journal and News is dedicated to offering relevant, high-quality articles about Florida law, the legal community, and practical issues for the more than 100,000 lawyers admitted to practice in Florida.
It is the responsibility of the editorial board to review articles submitted to the Journal for publication and evaluate the articles on the basis of relevance, style, and substance. Manuscripts submitted for publication are typically assigned to board members based on the subject matter of the article. Board members are often content experts within a given topic area, so every effort is made to ensure that members with specialized knowledge have an opportunity to review manuscripts. This can only happen because the board’s dedicated members take time to participate in the peer-review process and evaluate submissions with care and sensitivity. Board members are committed to utilization of a stringent, yet fair review process in order to assist those who submit manuscripts for publication. Membership on the editorial board is a rewarding experience for those willing to offer a little time and expertise to ensure the quality of feature articles published in the Journal maintain their standard of excellence.
Recognizing its duty to educate readers on issues of substantive law and practical concern to lawyers, the Journal published three special issues.
The January issue focused on technology and featured articles on a wide variety of topics concerning the practice of law and new technologies, ranging from risk management to new software to future trends. In addition to 15 feature articles, 10 section column editors provided on-topic articles related to technology and the practice of law in Florida. Board of Governors member John Stewart served as guest editor of this comprehensive and important issue.
The April issue of the Journal featured the topic of mindfulness in law. Spearheaded by Bar President Ramón A. Abadin and guest edited by Scott Rogers, this special issue featured three articles by recognized experts in the field and Judge Alan S. Gold, a senior U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Florida. This issue offered worthwhile, yet seldom discussed, practical advice and insight into the meaningful role that mindfulness can play across society.
Finally, the May issue of the Journal was dedicated to law-related and civic education in Florida. Annette Boyd Pitts, executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., served as guest editor. This issue featured articles on the importance of civic education for both children and adults, a fair and impartial judiciary, and the many activities and initiatives working to improve civic education in Florida, including Justice Teaching, the Informed Voters Project, and the Florida Law Related Education Association.
The board recognized the work of Ervin A. Gonzalez and Kyle B. Teal, authors of “No Ideas But in Things: A Practitioner’s Look at Demonstrative Evidence” (December 2015), as recipients of the 2015 Florida Bar Journal Excellence in Writing Award. For each article submitted for publication and reviewed by board members, reviewers are asked if the article should be considered for the Journal’s writing award. Each year, a committee of volunteers from the editorial board rank the articles selected as finalists based on the quality, difficulty, and style of the articles. If you have not had a chance to read this past year’s award winner, you should. It exemplifies the type of penmanship that makes a reviewer’s job easy. Thank you to those editorial board members who served on the selection committee.
The Journal and News are invaluable to Bar members. I encourage our members to lend their specialized knowledge to the Bar Journal by authoring an article and submitting it for publication consideration. As always, the editorial board and staff remain dedicated to its oversight of the Bar’s official publications.
Both the Journal and News are available online at www.floridabar.org and have searchable databases for back issues, so our members always have the ability to stay connected on the go.
R. Jason Richards, Chair
Florida Registered Paralegal
The Florida Registered Paralegal Standing Committee reports another successful year since its inception in 2008. The committee’s primary purpose is to assist in the implementation of the Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) program. The program determines whether a paralegal has met the education, training, certification, and work experience required for registration as set forth in Ch. 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The duties of the committee include proposing rule amendments to Ch. 20 and setting policy for the program.
The committee has had an exciting and productive year. There are currently 5,028 FRPs. This year, the committee has focused its efforts to increase communication to FRPs. The committee implemented a newsletter that contained articles and information relevant to the paralegal profession and membership benefits that are currently being offered by The Florida Bar. The newsletter will be produced twice a year.
The committee is always looking for ways to improve the existing program. The committee addressed some sections of Rule 20 regarding the working requirement and continuing education compliance.
I have served on this committee for four years and as chair for three years. As a member of the Bar, I am committed to the outreach and growth of this program. This year would not have been a success without the time, dedication, and hard work of committee members, Vice Chair Margaret Averill, Jami Coleman, Patricia De Ramus, Lori Spangler, Wendy Toscano, Cary High, and Bar staff, Shannon Fleming, Jackie Reshard, and Melanie Woodall, who have worked very hard this year. I look forward to next year being even more productive.
Thomas Jerla, Chair
Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration
The focus of the Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration Committee is to recruit attorney and nonattorney public members to serve on various hearings when the grievance mediation and fee arbitration process is used to review fee disputes. Some complaints come via the ACAP program and some directly from attorneys and their former clients who wish to use our arbitration and mediation process to resolve attorney fee disputes. We also review rules and procedural rules that impact this hearing process. We did recruit new members to serve as mediators and arbitrators into our program during the past year. This task is an ongoing one and we are constantly looking for the best qualified and talented pool of arbitrators and mediators. We reviewed some of the procedural rules governing our arbitration hearing process since some needed to be updated to meet current technological standards.
Our committee voted overwhelmingly to allow arbitrators on the program to communicate not just via U.S. mail and fax, but also via electronic mail with participants during the hearing process. Amendments were also proposed for Rule IV (d) to prevent inadvertent ex parte communications. Rule III was amended to clarify when a transcript of a hearing is to be given to the parties and arbitrators. Rule 14-7.1 on immunity and confidentiality on the selection of arbitrators was amended to grant qualified immunity to attorney arbitrators. Rule II was amended to clarify what happens when all parties consent to the arbitration, but one party wishes to withdraw from the arbitration. This rule amendment was actually requested by ACAP staff because it is an issue that comes up fairly frequently.
The proposed rule amendments are now in line to be reviewed by the Disciplinary Procedure Committee (DPC) prior to moving on to the Rules Committee for approval. If approved by the DPC and Rules Committee, all rules except the amendment to Rule 14-7.1 will become final. Amendment to Rule 14-7.1 will be sent to the Board of Governors for approval. If it is approved, the proposed amendment will go to the Florida Supreme Court for final approval in the biannual rule amendment petition.
Our committee worked very diligently this year, and we plan to continue to support the ACAP staff and program administrators for years to come. I thank all members of our committee and staff members for their professionalism and contribution of time and input. Their dedication and commitment to our profession is admirable. It has been an honor and privilege for me to serve this past year as chair, and I will do all I can to see that our committee engages in productive and successful activity in the coming year.
Roshani M. Gunewardene, Chair
Immigration and Nationality Law Certification
As chair of Immigration and Nationality Law Certification Committee, I thank our exceptional committee leadership and members for all of their hard work and dedication. The hours committed to the vetting of applicants, as well as applicants for recertification, have been greatly appreciated, and demonstrate the care that committee members and Bar staff take with their responsibilities to the legal community. The 2015-2016 committee includes Vice Chair Alex Solomiany, David Stoller, Carmen Arce, Elizabeth Blandon, Kari Fonte, Jennifer Roeper, Alan Seagrave, and Tulio Suarez. Each year, the committee works closely with the help of Bar staff liaison, and we cannot thank Rebecca Arcia enough for her assistance and dedication to ensuring the timely preparation of a new examination and processing of recertification candidates. This was Rebecca’s first year working with our committee and she has been truly outstanding. Her responsiveness has made it possible for our committee to function at a very efficient level.
We also recognize the board certified attorneys who acted as “pre-testers” by giving their time to review the questions that the committee prepared for use in the 2016 examination. The “pre-testing” that is done with the multiple choice and essay questions assists the committee greatly by providing objective review of proposed questions. The feedback that is received is invaluable and I would encourage each board certified attorney to participate as a “pre-tester” if requested to do so.
In an effort to keep pace with trends in test preparation and examination review, the 2016 test was also reviewed by Karen Barbieri, consultant to The Florida Bar, who made useful suggestions to the committee regarding the drafted examination. Ms. Barbieri’s comments and recommendations were carefully reviewed by the full committee, and changes were made where needed, in order to make the examination as clear as possible.
This year, as in years past, the committee dedicated itself to preparing a fair and comprehensive examination of the complex and nuanced area of immigration and nationality law. Board certification in immigration and nationality law requires in depth knowledge of several distinct areas of the practice, including visa classifications, representation before immigration and federal courts, family based immigration matters, and advising clients regarding the interaction between criminal and immigration law. In an effort to assist in preparing for the examination, the committee recommended that interested attorneys utilize the resources provided by American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), including webinars, practice advisories, online resources, and conferences.
During 2014-2015, 21 attorneys applied for board certification and 13 were selected to sit for the examination. Three new attorneys achieved board certification as a result of the 2015 examination.
During 2015-2016, 18 attorneys applied for board certification and 15 were selected to sit for the examination. Grading is scheduled for April 22, and the results will be announced by the Bar no later than June 1.
As of the publication of this report, 70 attorneys throughout Florida (and D.C.) are board certified in immigration and nationality law. The committee welcomes new applicants for board certification and is pleased to have received 18 applications this year. All of these attorneys demonstrated substantial involvement in the area of immigration and nationality law, and, if they pass the examination, will have a highly esteemed level of expertise if our very specialized area of law. Board certification is a coveted recognition of an attorney’s knowledge and skill set, and allows for the attorney to distinguish him or herself among his or her peers as an expert in this area.
It has been my distinct honor and pleasure to work as a member of the committee for the past three years, and as chair this past year. My year as chair has been extremely satisfying and rewarding, both personally and professionally. The group of exceptional attorneys that make up our committee are a testament to the dedication, knowledge, and professionalism that abounds in The Florida Bar. The legal and ethical discussions that took place this past year have provided a wonderful opportunity for the committee members to interact with each other, and discuss the nuances of our very specialized area of practice. Each committee member is a very accomplished attorney in his or her own right, and dedicated time and effort to the preparation of the examination that tests knowledge and competency at a level worthy of certification by The Florida Bar.
Gina M. Polo, Chair
Intellectual Property Law Certification
The Intellectual Property Law Certification Committee is pleased to report that three attorneys became board certified in intellectual property in the 2015-2016 certification year. The pass rate for 2015-2016 was 50 percent.
Intellectual property law comprises the areas of patent prosecution, patent infringement litigation, trademark law, and copyright law. Board certified attorneys may practice in only one or a combination of these areas. A total of 136 attorneys now are board certified in intellectual property.
The committee worked diligently to prepare for the 2016 exam, which was administered on May 19 in Tampa. Ten applications were received for this year’s exam. Applicants who are registered patent agents and/or attorneys with the USPTO, or are currently certified in either business litigation or civil trial, may waive a portion of the examination.
This year, lawyers who became board certified in intellectual property law in 2011 need to apply for recertification. The recertification application currently is available online for download at www.floridabar.org/certification. Recertification requirements can be found in Rule 6-26.4, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and must be met by July 31. Questions regarding certification or recertification should be directed to certification specialist Julie Coiro at (850) 561-3143 or by email at [email protected]
This year’s Intellectual Property Law Certification Committee was chaired by Ury Fischer, with Jerold Schneider serving as vice chair, and consisted of members John Fulton, Brian Gilchrist, Jeanne Seewald, Heather Vargas, Francisco Ferreiro, Julee Milham, and Stefan Stein.
Ury Fischer, Chair
International Law Certification
The International Law Certification Committee’s focus this year was directed to two areas: review and improvement of the international law certification examination and promotional efforts to make potentially qualified attorneys aware of the professional benefits of board certification in international law.
International law, a highly specialized practice area on its own, increasingly affects all areas of law. The Florida Bar’s Vision 2016 Bar Admissions Sub-Group, in the executive summary of its “Preliminary Report of the Multijurisdictional Practice — International Focus Committee” describes the “big picture” of international law in Florida and its effect on the public and the profession.
The committee spent a year studying the effects of globalization and technology on the practice of law in Florida, and learned that geographical borders are becoming increasingly meaningless as technology and the needs of clients “go global.” The committee learned that globalization is not confined solely to large firms and institutional clients. Rather, it became readily apparent that globalization affects business clients and individual clients and every practice area and every size firm. Florida, in particular, is faced with demands for cross-border legal practice as the state’s foreign-born population is approximately 20 percent. In the current business climate, legal matters with international implications — whether personal or business — are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Of those states that offer specialty certification for lawyers, Florida is the only state that offers board certification in international law. Currently, 46 Florida lawyers are board certified in international law. That means that there are only 46 lawyers in the nation who have certified their expertise in international law.
• Modifications and Improvements to the Certification Examination — The committee has continued to review and revise examination questions that for any reason were determined to be less than optimal for their intended purpose. Questions were assigned to individual committee members for initial review and, when appropriate, revision, and then assigned to a second committee member for further review. At the same time, the examination specifications were reviewed to ensure that the areas of knowledge deemed necessary for a specialist in international law were appropriately covered by both the multiple choice and essay examinations. As a result, the committee is confident that its examination is well-designed, up-to-date, and appropriate for testing expertise in international law.
• Promotional Efforts — One of the committee’s continuing concerns has been the number of qualified practitioners who, for whatever reason, have not pursued board certification. Beginning with the 2013-14 year, the committee has identified potentially qualified practitioners (for example, through the International Law Section and similar professional organizations) and has discussed the benefits of certification as well as the certification process with them. In addition to clarification of the examination specifications and the posting of sample questions on its website begun by the preceding committee, this year’s committee has decided to publish a study guide for applicants that should be made available to candidates taking the March 2017 exam.
The committee’s promotional efforts are starting to show success. Six applicants (of eight initial applicants) sat for the certification examination in 2014, six applicants (of nine initial applicants) sat for it in 2015, and five (of seven initial applicants) sat for the exam in 2016. Additionally, all currently certified attorneys eligible for recertification in 2015 were recertified.
• Subspecialty in International Litigation and Arbitration — As explained in our committee’s 2015 annual report, development of a subspecialty in international litigation and arbitration has been a goal for some time, not only of the International Law Certification Committee, but also of the International Law Section and a number of practicing litigators and international arbitrators. In spring 2015, the BLSE, considering alternative applications for rule amendments establishing a new certification area in international litigation and arbitration either as a subspecialty or subset of international law, or, alternatively, as a separate certification area, indicated its support for a separate area of certification in international litigation and arbitration. This step effectively separated our committee from the process of establishing the new certification area. Nevertheless, our committee wholly supports efforts to establish board certification in international litigation and arbitration and stands ready to assist as needed.
I strongly appreciate all committee members’ efforts and contributions. This year’s members are Felicia Leborgne Nowels who is vice chair and practices in Tallahassee, Penelope B. Perez-Kelly of Orlando, Thomas L. Raleigh III of Orlando, Pamella A. Seay of Port Charlotte, Jennifer R. Diaz of North Miami, Margarita P. Muina of Miami, and Stephen Henry Wagner of Miami. The committee valued the support and assistance of Scott Allen Burr of Miami Beach who, despite battling a severe illness, remained a part of our committee until his untimely death earlier this year. On behalf of the entire committee, my thanks go as well to Lisa Kustel, our committee liaison to The Florida Bar, for her steadfast support and guidance.
In closing, the International Law Certification Committee encourages all members of The Florida Bar for whom international law forms a substantial portion of their practice to seek board certification.
Melissa Rico Ferrari, Chair
Judicial Administration and Evaluation
The Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee, referred to as the JAEC, worked diligently in the 2015-2016 Bar year to promote the online Judicial Feedback program for which the committee is responsible. Across the state, committee members:
• Met with local bar associations and groups of lawyers.
• Placed full-page advertisements in The Florida Bar News.
• Had judges hand out evaluation forms to attorneys as cases resolved.
• Asked judges and judicial assistants to add instructions on how to use the Judicial Feedback program as a tag on every outgoing email.
Despite the multipronged approach to generate more feedback, the response rate was appallingly low. In less than 1 percent of the cases across the state did attorneys submit an anonymous evaluation of the judge. Thus, Florida judges are not provided any meaningful feedback on their performance, other than when they run for re-election.
The committee consulted with other states, and heard from a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court. After its research, the committee concluded that the only systems in which judges get any meaningful feedback are those where there is mandatory feedback.
Some states have panels that regularly review judges’ performance. Other states require attorneys to submit a review when they close a case. The committee considered all of these other methods. Some would require funding, which could be difficult to obtain. The ones that were mandatory did not strike the committee as an attractive solution in Florida.
Thus, the committee is back where it started. Anyone reading this report who has an idea on how Florida judges can get honest evaluations so they can improve their performance, please email your suggestion to [email protected]
• Requesting Program Evaluation Committee Review — On another note, the JAEC reviewed its charter and submitted a request to the Board of Governors Program Evaluation Committee to review our charter, and to give guidance on where the Board of Governors would like the JAEC to direct its resources and talents.
The JAEC looks forward to direction from the Board of Governors, and the exploration of new areas, as well as continuing to pursue a workable, acceptable method for providing feedback to our judges.
• Merit Retention Poll; Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statements — While the Judicial Feedback program is struggling, other programs that the committee oversees are doing well. The expectation going into the 2016 general election in November is that both The Florida Bar merit retention poll of appellate judges and Supreme Court justices and the committee’s judicial candidate voluntary self-disclosure statement programs will once again prove valuable to both members and the public.
The confidential merit retention poll seeks to find out whether the attorneys who best know the judges on the ballot believe they should continue in their jobs. Poll results are watched closely by the media, receiving not only news coverage but editorial support as well. In 2014, for example, 10 newspapers ran editorials in support of retaining judges on the ballot and mentioning The Florida Bar poll.
In that election year, with 22 appellate judges on the ballot, the Bar mailed 70,467 ballots to in-state members in good standing. The results:
• 5,206 lawyers participated (average ranking of 88 percent).
• 73.4 percent of ballots returned were by mail; with 26.6 percent via Internet voting. (The poll is handled by Elections Services Corp., of Ronkonkoma, New York, the same company that handles Bar elections for the Board of Governors.)
This year, the Bar will send out ballots in August and announce the results of the poll in early September.
• Letting Judges Make a Statement — The Florida Bar supports maintaining a high-quality judiciary and is committed to educating the public on the legal system. Therefore, the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee developed The Florida Bar judicial candidate voluntary self-disclosure statement.
This program provides judicial candidates, both sitting judges and others, the opportunity to share information about themselves with members and the voting public.
The statements, which are posted on the Bar’s website during the election season, allow judicial candidates to answer a variety of questions voters may wish to know about their backgrounds. The form asks trial court judicial candidates about their personal, professional, and educational history; areas in which they are certified; and experience in trials, mediations, arbitrations or administrative proceedings. Other questions cover their pro bono and public service work and their disciplinary history, if any, as a lawyer or judge.
The form includes a short essay question proposed by the Citizens Advisory Committee. It asks candidates, “In 100 words or less, without discussing any particular issue that may come before you if you become a judge, explain why you believe you would be a good judge.” Many of the questions on the form are similar to those asked of lawyers when they apply to a judicial nominating commission for a judicial vacancy.
This will be the fourth year the committee has offered this opportunity to judicial candidates. In the past three election cycles:
• 2014: In 67 judicial races with 156 candidates, 107 candidates posted statements online.
• 2012: In 78 judicial races with 189 candidates, 91 candidates posted statements online.
• 2010: In 59 judicial races with 158 candidates, 72 candidates posted statements online.
Letters go out to judicial candidates in May informing them of the chance to participate. Statements are posted to The Florida Bar website — www.floridabar.org/judicialcandidates — in July.
The committee hopes to find a method to give judges meaningful feedback about how they are doing their jobs from the attorneys who practice before. While the committee’s efforts so far have not proved successful in establishing a widely used feedback program, perhaps with PEC guidance, a new approach will be found.
The JAEC has a very active membership. I want to thank members for working hard to carry out the committee’s work — and for the forthright discussions on the issues before the committee. Special thanks also go to vice chairs, Harry Lee Coe IV and Judge Lisa Davidson, and Board of Governors liaison, Lansing Scriven.
I also want to say farewell and thank you to former staff liaison, Doris Maffei, who worked with the committee for 20 years. Doris retired from The Florida Bar in February after 25 years of service. Her dedication, humor, and professionalism helped the committee
fulfill its work. We are in her debt.
Judge Ross M. Goodman, Chair
Judicial Nominating Procedures
Historically, the purpose and mission of this committee has been to assist the governor and the judicial nominating commissions (JNCs) in performing their duties under Fla. Const. art. V, §11 and under F.S. §43.291. The committee offers assistance with the training of commissioners and in the organization of and support of the JNC Uniform Rules Conventions. The committee has and will continue its efforts to keep commissioners apprised of any new legislation, rules, or court decisions that may affect their duties and will continue to offer support to the governor’s office.
• JNC Training — Pursuant to JNC Uniform Rules, new commissioners are required to undertake a training program within the first 12 months of appointment, which shall include segments regarding interviewing techniques and diversity sensitivity. The last training was held on November 13, 2015, in the cabinet room of the Capitol and was sponsored by the governor’s office. Featured speakers included Allen Winsor (Second Circuit JNC), Christa Calamas (First DCA JNC), Paul Huck (11th Circuit JNC), Laura Tibbals (former member Second DCA JNC), Pete Antonacci (former general counsel to Gov. Scott), and Darrick McGhee (Second Circuit JNC). Virlindia Doss spoke on the ethics rules, and Pat Gleason addressed the sunshine laws and public records. A video of the half-day program was posted to the governor’s website.
• Lack of Diversity on the JNCs and in the Judiciary — This committee has been focused on more ways to increase the applicant pool for the JNCs, which should result in more diverse appointments to the commissions and ultimately reflect a more diverse bench. In this continuing effort, we have posted on our committee page a document titled, “Understanding the JNC Process and Application Process”, to give applicants a better understanding of the process. Our voluntary bars have indicated that this would be very helpful to their members. Further, this year’s applicant pool reflected more applicants and a more diverse applicant registration than ever before.
Highlights of this year have been the presentations from featured speakers to the committee. They were:
• Miriam Velez-Valkenburg, president, Tampa Hispanic Bar Association.
• Fentrice D. Driskell, president, George Edgecomb Bar Association.
• Lisa Gong Guerrero, president, Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association.
• Anthony Suarez, president, Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.
• Subcommittees — The Task Force Subcommittee was created to ensure that members of the Bar and the public are aware of the JNC process. The focus is to ensure transparency; how to get a more diverse applicant pool; and how to dispel any misconceptions of the JNC process. Three natural breakout groups were identified: education, perceptions of the JNC process and outreach efforts of the JNCs.
One result of the work this year has been the posting of an education document titled, “Understanding the JNC Process and Application Process” to our committee page on the Bar’s website. It could be used by anyone, including voluntary bars, to assist applicants in applying to the bench and to sit on the JNC.
Our outreach efforts for JNCs is an on-going project. Part of the long-term goal is to create strategic planning to outreach liaisons to each JNC.
The Constitutional Revision Subcommittee considered relevant provisions in the Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes relating to the merit selection process and judicial nominating process such as:
• Art. V. §§8, 10, and 11 (appellate courts) — dealing with judicial vacancies, eligibility, and retention elections.
• Art. V. §§8, 10, and 11 (trial courts) — dealing with judicial vacancies, eligibility, and elections.
• Art. V. §20 and F.S. Ch. 43.291 — dealing with the composition and membership of JNCs.
At last year’s June meeting, the committee voted to approve the adoption of the minimum qualification for trial judges be increased from five to 10 years admittance in the Bar and also voted to approve increasing the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 years of age. These recommendations were sent to a Board of Governor Special Task Force, which is monitoring what other committees are doing regarding CRC issues.
We are also gathering additional data, including checking with other states to see how they are dealing with the composition and membership of JNCs.
The Constitutional Revision Commission meets every 20 years and is composed of 37 members: 15 appointed by the governor; nine appointed by the speaker of the House; nine appointed by the president of the Senate; three appointed by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court and the attorney general. Florida is the only state that has this provision in its state constitution. It will convene in 2017.
The committee has also undertaken the issue of the selection of JNC commissioners. Legislation over the past years has granted the selection of commissioners solely in the hands of the governor. A change from Governor Askew’s initial plan, which allowed for the governor, the Bar, and the individual commissions to select the membership. The committee is looking at this issue with an eye toward making a recommendation as to its viability.
• Code of Conduct for JNC Members — The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System out of the University of Denver has assembled a small working group to develop a model code of conduct for judicial nominating commissioners.
Some of the provisions being studied include impartiality and potential conflicts of interest, confidentiality of information (and proceedings, as appropriate), and communications with applicants, the appointing authority, and the public, as well as the oath of office.
A draft model code of conduct will be circulated to all stakeholders to solicit additional feedback.
I have served as chair of the committee for the last three years and, in that time, I have been privileged to have the support of an engaged and active membership. The committee members were diligent, energetic, and supportive. They shared their time and thoughts generously. The discussions were always robust and respectful. We had the attention and support of the governor’s counsel as well as that of the Bar’s leadership. The Bar’s staff was always available and provided the resources to ensure that we could produce a quality product. I cannot express my appreciation enough to all who have assisted me during my term(s). Finally, I must recognize Vicki Brand who served as our dedicated staff person. Vicki not only made sure that the trains ran on time but provided wise counsel to all. Any success that the committee could be credited with was a result of Vicki’s untiring devotion to the membership. We shall always remain in her debt.
Michael R. Band, Chair
Juvenile Court Rules
The Juvenile Court Rules Committee is divided into two subcommittees, one specializing in juvenile delinquency issues (primarily F.S . Ch. 985) and one specializing in juvenile dependency issues (primarily F.S. Ch. 39). This year, as every year it seems, the committee has been quite busy.
The Supreme Court adopted the committee’s three-year cycle report (SC 15-98) September 17, 2015. The court amended two delinquency rules concerning pleas and waiver of counsel, approved a new set of rules governing truancy, and amended two dependency rules governing evidentiary proceedings.
On January 21 the Supreme Court also adopted the committee’s “legislative fast-track” report (SC 15-150) amending several dependency rules, including a new rule governing appointment of counsel for certain categories of children in dependency proceedings. The court also approved amendments to existing rules governing permissive or limited appointment of counsel and to rules and forms for shelter proceedings, dependency petitions, and judicial review hearings.
After tireless work by the delinquency subcommittee, the committee filed an out-of-cycle report to the Supreme Court (SC15-711) adding long overdue procedural protections to Rule 8.150. The rule governs direct and indirect contempt of court. The Supreme Court adopted the amendments as submitted February 11.
This fall, the Supreme Court created the Select Committee on Claims of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings pursuant to the case of J.B. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 170 So. 3d 780 (Fla. 2015). The committee devoted extensive time and energy and filed a joint report with the Appellate Court Rules Committee and the select committee that included a new rule, new forms, and amendments to several other rules and forms.
None of the work could be accomplished without the dedication and hard work of all committee members and Vice Chairs Ward Metzger and Jeff Deen. I thank all members for the many hours they devote to this work, their good humor, and their ability to work together. I have enjoyed working with each of them, and I am grateful for their support throughout this year. I also thank our Florida Bar liaison, Greg Zhelesnik, for his hard work and for his superb support, help, and guidance.
I am honored to have once again led the Juvenile Court Rules Committee during this most productive year, and I look forward to continuing to serve in the upcoming year under the leadership of incoming Chair Ward Metzger.
Robert W. Mason, Chair
Juvenile Law Certification
As the newest addition to the certification family, the Juvenile Law Certification Committee has taken to its work with enthusiasm. The effort to obtain a certification for lawyers who specialize in representing children and other parties in the court systems that primarily serve children, began nearly a decade ago. Our thanks go to Tony Musto and to two staunch advocates who are now deceased, John Copelan and Tracey McPharlin, without whose efforts we would not have this area of certification.
This certification includes those who primarily practice in dependency court, those who practice in delinquency court and attorneys who specialize in representing children in other arenas. Because children often cross between systems we feel it is important for board certified lawyers to have knowledge in all arenas. The members of the Juvenile Law Certification Committee are working hard to ensure that attorneys with expertise in all three arenas can prepare themselves to meet the certification requirements. Because we are asking attorneys to master the breadth of juvenile law, we chose to allow CLE credits at all levels to count toward the required number.
Members of the Juvenile Law Certification Committee consists of Robin Rosenberg, chair; Rob Mason, vice chair; and Gerry Glynn, Tamara Gray, Meshon Rawls, Maria Schneider, Deborah Schroth, Whitney Untiedt, and Laura Vaughan-Bosco. Thanks to all for their expertise, passion, and for putting our children first.
On behalf of the entire committee, I want to thank our Bar liaison, Julie Coiro, for her wisdom, insight, expertise, and patience in guiding the committee through the process.
Applications for certification are currently available online, and the filing period will be open from September 1 to October 31. Our first examination will take place in May 2017 and we will welcome the first board certified lawyers in August 2017. I invite all eligible attorneys to apply for certification; it’s a great way for a juvenile practitioner to advance one’s skills, professionalism, and ability to network.
Robin Rosenberg, Chair
Labor and Employment Law Certification
The Labor and Employment Law Certification Committee oversees the certification of attorneys as labor and employment law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar. The Florida Bar certified the first class of labor and employment certified specialists in 2001, and there are currently 200 labor and employment certified lawyers in The Florida Bar. Board certified specialists in labor and employment practice under a myriad of public and private sector labor and employment laws, providing advice and counsel for both employee and employer side representation in transactional, litigation, and appellate practices.
The Labor and Employment Certification Committee reviews the applications for those lawyers seeking initial certification, and the renewal applications for certified attorneys seeking recertification every five years. To initially qualify for labor and employment certification, lawyers must be a member of The Florida Bar for five years; be substantially involved (at least 50 percent of their practice) in labor and employment law; complete 60 hours of advanced CLE of approved labor and employment law credits; pass a rigorous peer review process; and pass a certification exam. The certification exam currently consists of 100 multiple-choice and 40 short-answer questions, along with two essays, one mandatory and a second one in which the test taker can choose among one of three essays.
For the 2015-2016 certification year, the Labor and Employment Certification Committee reviewed 21 initial applications. Of those, 14 sat for the certification exam administered in March in Tampa. As of the publication of this report, exam results are still pending. The committee also reviewed and renewed 17 recertification applications this year.
The committee met numerous times since June 2015 to review applications and draft and grade the certification examination. In addition to the committee’s traditional application review and exam drafting duties, the Labor and Employment Certification Committee, in conjunction with a request from the Labor and Employment Executive Council, separately met to evaluate potential recommended changes to the current Labor and employment certification standards. That review is still underway as of this writing.
The hard-working and dedicated members of the Labor and Employment Certification Committee include Vice Chair Sean Moyles, James Craig, Erick Drlicka, Eric Gabrielle, David Harvey, Damon Kitchen, Michelle Nadeau, and past Chair Kathryn Piscitelli. Thank you all for your efforts, diligence, professionalism, and commitment to upholding the high standards of this certification section. The committee also wishes to extend our thanks to our Florida Bar staff liaison Rebecca Arcia. Our work on the committee could not have proceeded as smoothly without her dedication and attention to detail.
Cathleen Bell Bremmer, Chair
Law Related Education
The Law Related Education Committee (LREC) has had a fantastic year promoting effective law-related education programs in grades K-12 of Florida’s schools, with an emphasis on teaching young citizens respect for the legal system, for people, and their property. The LREC continues to be involved in a wide variety of educational and civic-minded activities in an effort to further the knowledge and experience of not only Florida students, but the public at large. Here are a few of the projects the LREC has worked on this year:
• Legal Guide for New Adults — The Legal Guide for New Adults Platform Subcommittee, led by Annette Pitts, spearheaded the creation of an exciting new phone app called “Just Adulting” to help students become more knowledgeable about the laws affecting those 18 and older. Traditionally the LREC has produced only a paper version of the Legal Guide which was then distributed by mail to schools throughout the state. Through The Florida Bar’s dynamic digital Just Adulting mobile app, Florida’s high school seniors can now better access information and be better prepared to “adult” in this exciting world of rights, responsibilities, and obligations. The app, which can be downloaded at www.justadulting.com, covers a variety of legal topics such as signing contracts, how to attain credit, the court system, alcohol laws, employment, texting while driving, and many more. Young adults can access information about their legal rights on the new mobile web application and on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Check it out and give us your feedback on the new app.
• Moot Court and Mock Trial — The Moot Court and Mock Trial Subcommittee, chaired by Richard Levenstein, teamed again with the Florida Law Related Education Association (FLREA) and its executive director, Annette Pitts. This subcommittee’s primary role is to prepare materials for the Florida High School Mock Trial Competition, which concluded in March. The subcommittee also assists with the moot court competition where oral arguments are held throughout the state in April, with final arguments held on May 1 and 2 in Tallahassee at the Florida Supreme Court.
• Outreach and Development — The Outreach & Development Subcommittee, led by Richard Levenstein, focuses on coordinating with other committees, bar associations, and lawyers to enhance the Bar’s efforts and continue to grow and improve the Bar’s programs. Justice Teaching is one of these programs, and was founded by Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis in 2006. The ultimate goal is to pair a legal professional with every elementary, middle, and high school in Florida. Today, the organization has more than 4,000 volunteer lawyers and judges delivering interactive civics lessons in Florida schools. To find out more about this fantastic program and how you can volunteer, go to www.justiceteaching.org.
This subcommittee also assists in procuring nominations for the annual Justice Teaching awards, with the effort led this year by Jason Rice. Every year, nominations are sought to obtain volunteer (attorney) of the year, judge of the year, and teacher of the year awards, with the winners selected by Justice Lewis. The awards are then presented by Justice Lewis at the annual Florida Bar Convention in June at the judicial luncheon.
• Special Issue of The Florida Bar Journal on Civics Education — A special subcommittee was organized this past year to publish a special issue of the Bar Journal on law related education and civics, led by Annette Pitts and Richard Levenstein. This exciting issue was published in conjunction with Law Week in May. Thank you, Annette, Richard, and to all of the many contributing authors who worked so hard to make the special issue a success.
• So You Want To Be a Lawyer — This subcommittee, led by Ashley Pouncey, updated the digital consumer pamphlet found on The Florida Bar’s website for persons considering law as their career. The subcommittee has been working with the ABA this past year to update statistics found in the pamphlet.
• New LREC Facebook Page — The LREC prides itself on staying on top of social media and launched its new Facebook page in December 2015. The new page, administered by The Florida Bar and Chair Sheri Hazeltine, allows the LREC to share information to its members and the public about the LREC, The Florida Bar, FLREA, and other law related education programs and information.
It has been an exciting year for the LREC. Thank you to our committee members for their attendance at our meetings and hard work on our committee projects. Thank you also to Jeffrey Doran, our liaison with The Florida Bar, for all of his help. I encourage you to visit our committee website, our Facebook page, the new Just Adulting app, the Justice Teaching website, and the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., website for more information on how to get more involved in law related education.
Sheri L. Hazeltine, Chair
The Florida Bar William Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy successfully completed its third year and will graduate the Class III Fellows at the Annual Convention in June. This year, in response to the prior fellows’ input, the Academy moved from a two-region, north, and south Florida academy model, to a single Florida class, which required shifts in the processes as well. The committee and Bar staff made a joint effort to memorialize and document processes to make this program sustainable. There were several additional program enhancements, including creation of subcommittees and changes to the curriculum, which will benefit both The Florida Bar and the Academy.
Class III included 52 fellows, who were competitively selected from a pool of over 100 applicants, and included a diverse and inclusive group of Florida lawyers. The class demographics were 66 percent female, 34 percent male, with the spectrum of race and ethnicity well represented, as well as diversity in practice and levels of experience. Most of the lawyers were five- to 10-year practitioners; however, the second largest group was one- to five-year lawyers, and the remaining were 10-year-plus practitioners. The class completed six two-day sessions of leadership training and in-depth education about The Florida Bar, its sections, and committees. The caliber of academy fellows was excellent, and the future of our Bar is in great hands.
The Academy’s curriculum included Session I — “Lawyers as Leaders,” at the 2015 Annual Convention; Session II — “Your Leadership Journey Begins,” at the Voluntary Bar Leaders’ Conference; Session III — “Leading for Now and Tomorrow” at the Bar’s Fall Meeting in Tampa; Session IV — “Effective Interaction and Communication as Leaders,” in Orlando; Session V — “Law for Leaders,” in conjunction with the Board of Governor’s meeting in Tallahassee; and Session VI — “Guardians of the Legal Profession” in Ft. Lauderdale. Session V was one of the most popular sessions, and was generally the most exciting. They had the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court, had a private audience with Chief Justice Labarga and Justice Pariente, observed the Supreme Court Pro Bono Award Ceremony, networked with the entire court at the award reception, and then closed the evening at the Supreme Court Historical Society dinner.
The Leadership Academy Committee, consisting of 28 lawyers from all around the state, has been tremendous in getting quality speakers and presenters. I acknowledge several program chairs, Liz McCausland, Barbara Leach, Larry Smith, Sean Desmond, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, and Sia Baker-Barnes, for their hard work to plan and organize the program. Several members of the Board of Governors, including past and present Bar presidents, also participated in these sessions, including Lorna Brown-Burton, Renée Thompson, Michelle Suskauer, John Stewart, Lanse Scriven, Carl Schwait, Eugene Pettis, and Scott Hawkins.
Each year, the fellows are challenged with a group project, usually pertinent to the current issues and challenges facing the Bar, which is selected and developed by the president-elect. This year’s Class III Project, “Lawyers Maintaining Relevancy,” was selected by William Schifino and led by the Academy Committee’s vice chair, Melanie Griffin. The class was divided into eight teams covering the four foci of Vision 2016, and each topic, access to legal services, legal education, technology, and Bar admissions, was assigned to two teams. The teams submitted their project outlines for initial review, made project presentations at the January meeting in Tallahassee, and made final submissions in June. These project reports and recommendations will be reviewed for implementation. I acknowledge and thank Vice Chair Melanie Griffin who led the Class III Project for her contributions in making this a meaningful experience.
Now in its third year, the Academy has graduated two classes of alumni. This year, we created an Alumni Program Committee, which is led by Vice Chair Kevin McNeil. The alumni relations subcommittee, which has been named LAARRS — Leadership Academy Alumni Relations & Recruitment Subcommittee, has engaged Leadership Academy alumni who are not committee members, to form a network for the alumni. They have invited local alumni to the Academy receptions and encouraged them to bring prospective applicants. This effort creates no additional cost to the Bar. They solicit sponsorships, and many of the alumni sponsor or offer to underwrite their own expenses. I thank Kevin, as he has certainly moved the needle with his subcommittee’s efforts in creating alumni programs and recruiting new applicants.
Although we had been organically capturing feedback that was provided by the fellows, this year we were deliberate in requesting the class to complete session feedback surveys. The fellows responded in record numbers and provided candid feedback, most of which was very positive. We analyzed the feedback and have already made enhancements by addressing the few opportunities for improvement in the curriculum and speakers. I thank Mike Garcia, the Bar’s director of research, planning, and evaluation, who enthusiastically provided his expertise and created the surveys for the Academy.
We have worked with the Bar’s communication guru, Francine Walker, to devise a comprehensive marketing plan — articles in the Bar News, strategic email notifications to voluntary bars, committees, and sections, and improving and increasing content on the Academy website. The Leadership Academy Committee, as well as the LAARRS Subcommittee, also created an internal marketing plan. One of the most meaningful exercises was to solicit testimonials for use with the marketing campaign, and we received heartfelt testimonials from Classes I, II, and III.
The Academy’s success is due to the collaborative efforts of the committee, and the Bar. However, there are four Florida Bar staff leaders who were critical to its success — program coordinator, Arnell Bryant-Willis, the diversity initiatives manager for The Florida Bar, and her assistant, Rebecca Blackburn, for their tremendous coordination and implementation of this program; and Jacina Haston and Sarah Bolinder, director and assistant director of the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, for their management and continuous improvement of the curriculum.
As significant as all these participants are, none of this would ever be possible without the continued support of our premier sponsor, Florida Lawyers’ Mutual Insurance Company, who invested in this program since its inception, as well as Florida Power & Light Company, and many of the fellows’ law firms who supported the Academy.
I share one of several testimonials received from our fellows to close out my report and to assure you that the Bar’s investment has yielded great returns.
Karline Lee, a Class III fellow from Ft. Lauderdale, wrote:
The Florida Bar Leadership Academy , by far , has been one of the best experiences in my professional and personal development. The experience overall substantially increased my self-awareness as a practicing professional and my role as a leader in my legal community. Through this program I have learned about all the intricacies of The Florida Bar and its functions. The carefully created curriculum developed and enhanced my skills as an attorney. It has also provided me with the privilege of meeting different bar leaders throughout Florida. Participating in the Leadership Academy program has been a tremendously enriching and rewarding experience.
It has been personally rewarding and a privilege to work with such exemplary Leadership Academy Committee members, Academy alumni, as well as Florida Bar Board of Governors members, Bar staff, and Academy partners to serve as stewards of the Bar’s certain extraordinary future leadership.
Juliet Murphy Roulhac, Chair
Legal Needs of Children
The Legal Needs of Children Committee was created to develop innovative and practical ways to carry out the recommendations of The Florida Bar Commission on the Legal Needs of Children. In June 2002, the commission released a final report that made recommendations in the priority areas of practice in delinquency and dependency courts. The five areas included representation, treatment and services, confidentiality, technology and the courts, and education and the role of The Florida Bar. The 2015-2016 Legal Needs of Children Committee, comprised of 37 members who have dedicated their years of experience to help Florida youth, assisted with the fruition of some of the recommendations.
The certification of the practice area of juvenile law is now a reality. This year, the Legal Needs of Children Committee was tasked with recommending qualified attorneys for consideration for appointment to the inaugural nine-member Juvenile Law Certification Committee. As a result, several current and past members of the Legal Needs of Children Committee became members of the inaugural certification committee. Attorneys interested in becoming certified in juvenile law can apply for juvenile law certification beginning September 1. The application process closes October 31. The first attorneys will be certified August 1, 2017. Attorneys with 20 years or more of experience may qualify for exam exemption for the first two application periods (fall 2016 and fall 2017). Attorneys with less than 20 years of experience must have a minimum of five years in practice with at least three of the five years prior to applying being substantially in juvenile law. There is also a practical experience component that requires the applicant to have experience as lead counsel on 20 fully adjudicated trials or appeals, or other experience (see the application for the list of eligible activities that substitute for trials).
Additionally, the Legal Needs of Children Committee served as members of the Florida Supreme Court’s select committee to study claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in termination of parental rights proceedings. Balancing the constitutional right of a parent to nurture and make decisions regarding the well-being of her child and ensure the well-being of the child requires effective assistance of counsel. I am pleased that the Legal Needs of Children Committee was able to have input in this important legal issue for the children of Florida.
In 2002, the Legal Needs of Children Committee approved supporting legislation to restore judicial authority to determine the appropriateness of whether a child should be prosecuted in adult court. Among other things, this effort has resulted this year in the Florida Legislature revising the circumstances when the state attorney may file information when a child of certain age range commits or attempts to commit specified crimes. This legislation will become effective July 1.
In addition to the important work that the Legal Needs of Children Committee has been a part of for the children of Florida in 2015-2016, there are great losses. John Copelan, a champion for the children of this great state and a hard worker for the Legal Needs of Children Committee passed. His death is a great loss and he will be missed.
Also, this year, Paul Hill, Bar liaison and staff contact for the Legal Needs of Children Committee, will retire. Paul’s amazing work has been invaluable. Behind the scenes, Paul has advised, guided, and assisted this committee with its important tasks. It is hard to imagine Paul not being here to answer the frantic phone calls and allay the concerns of the committee. I am fortunate to be one of the committee chairs who has the privilege of calling him a friend. Paul, we wish you the very best in your new role as retiree.
Finally, and certainly not least, I thank Joan Wussler, administrative assistant for The Florida Bar and the Legal Needs of Children; as well as all the members of the committee for the important work you do for the children of Florida. “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” — Kofi Annan.
Bonita Jones-Peabody, Chair
Marital and Family Law Certification
The Marital and Family Law Certification Committee is responsible for overseeing the process of certifying attorneys as marital and family law specialists and for reviewing the applications of currently certified attorneys seeking recertification. The certification process includes the following requirements: extensive peer and judicial review references, substantial involvement in complex marital and family law cases, trial of many family law cases, and passing a comprehensive all day exam. The committee encourages those attorneys who meet the criteria for certification to join their colleagues in the select group who have been “evaluated for professionalism, tested for experience.”
As chair of the Marital and Family Law Certification Committee, I am happy to report another successful year. The committee is comprised of nine board certified attorneys who work throughout the state. The committee first met in August 2015 to begin drafting the 2016 examination and to review initial and recertification applications. Over the next several months, the committee worked to continue the prior committees’ improvement of the quality of the certification exam to meet the high standards expected by committee members and The Florida Bar.
Of the more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar, 274 are currently board certified in marital and family law. Sixty-six attorneys applied to take the 2016 marital and family law certification exam. Thirteen of these applicants submitted “abbreviated applications” after either failure or nonattendance at the 2015 exam. Ultimately, 46 applicants sat for the exam. The committee also reviewed 55 recertification applications this year.
The marital and family law certification exam contains five essay questions, 30 multiple-choice questions, and 25 short-answer questions. The exam is written to assess a marital and family lawyer’s fundamental knowledge of the law, analytical reasoning, and skill in applying knowledge to practical situations. On March 11, in Tampa, examinees answered these questions in two three-hour blocks. Grading is scheduled for late April and the results will be announced by the Bar no later than June 1, 2015.
The committee is grateful to the lawyers who participate in the confidential peer review process. Without candid commentary from applicants’ peers, the committee’s ability to properly review applicants’ qualifications would be severely curtailed. The committee emphasizes to Bar members and judicial officers that commentary is confidential and will not be divulged to any applicant.
It has been an honor to serve as chair of the committee this year, along with Elisha Roy (vice chair), Lawrence Datz, Caryn Green, Benjamin Hodas, Doreen Inkeles, Luis Insignares, Shannon Novey, and Douglas Reynolds. Also, I recognize and thank our certification specialist/staff liaison, Lindsey Blomberg, for all her hard work and assistance to the committee this past year.
Alexander Caballero, Chair
Media and Communication Law
The Media and Communication Law Committee (MCLC) shares information about the law of free speech and communication, exploring legal issues on a range of communications methods, including print, broadcast, cable, and emerging technologies. MCLC seeks to enhance the communication between The Florida Bar and the news media, focusing attention upon mutual problems and developing amicable solutions to those problems. The committee plans the annual Media Law Conference, Reporters’ Workshop, Media Awards, and produces and updates the Reporter’s Handbook.
• Reporters’ Workshop — Craig Waters, chief spokesperson for the Florida Supreme Court, chaired the 2015 Reporters’ Workshop, which was attended by a diverse group of 24 print and broadcast journalists reporting from media outlets throughout Florida. Mamie Joeveer (Hogan Lovells LLP) served as co-chair of the 2015 Reporters’ Workshop. Among the participants, Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston provided an introduction to the Supreme Court and led a courthouse tour. Reporters learned more strategies for legal reporting and covering the state courts from lawyers, judges, and experienced journalists on topics such as gay marriage, high-profile bar grievances, public records access, and journalism and social media. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente spoke to the reporters about judicial merit retention in Florida.
• Media Awards — In October 2015, Samuel Morley of the Florida Press Association chaired the Media Law Awards, which was held during a dinner reception at the Capitol. Welcoming remarks were delivered by Bar President Ramón Abadin who presented plaques to recipients. Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga emphasized the importance of the free press and the media’s role in strengthening democracy in the keynote address. Neil Skene and Nadia Ahmad presented the media awards. The 60th annual contest, sponsored by the MCLC, recognizes outstanding journalism highlighting the system of law and justice as it affects Floridians. This year, thanks to generous donations of event sponsors, awardees received distinction for their contributions and prize awards. In addition to existing categories for print, television, and radio, a new category for online-only media coverage of the legal system and justice affecting Floridians will be offered to recognize the changing nature of news delivery. The cash awards follow other state bars’ and press associations’ media recognition programs. Reporters winning first-place awards received $500, and those winning second place received $250.
The new Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Legal Journalism recognized a Florida journalist or media outlet for extensive coverage and/or commentary on the law, the delivery of legal services and the justice system. Martin Dyckman, a retired associate editor with The St. Petersburg Times was the first recipient of the Susan Spencer-Wendell Award for Lifetime Achievement. Dyckman wrote a series of groundbreaking articles in the 1970s that triggered the resignations of two Florida Supreme Court justices and lead the way to a cleansing of the state’s highest court.
• Media Law Conference — A major undertaking this year for the Media & Communications Law Committee was the revitalizing of the Media Law Conference in conjunction with The Florida Bar’s 2016 Annual Convention in Orlando. Conference co-chairs Dwayne Robinson (Hogan Lovells LLP) and David Karp (Akerman LLP) have led this effort. The conference includes a series of panel discussions and a feature presentation with an esteemed group representing the judiciary, local and national media law attorneys, journalists, and law professors.
• First Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court — As is the tradition, the committee’s long-standing annual convention CLE program on First Amendment issues before the U.S. Supreme Court was organized by Thomas Julin (Hunton & Williams LLP). In 2015, the panelists for First Amendment Law Supreme Court Update included 11th Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke,
retired Chief Judge Alan R. Schwartz, University of Miami Law Professor Lili Levi, Florida International Law Professor Howard Wasserman, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt partner Richard J. Ovelmen, and Hunton & Williams partner Jamie Z. Isani.
• Sunshine Seminars — MCLC members also participated in the Florida First Amendment Foundation’s Sunshine Seminars — eight one-day workshops in which committee volunteers traveled to various Florida cities (from Panama City to West Palm Beach) to educate the public about open government and media law issues.
• Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, Subcommittee D — A note of gratitude to Ana-Klara Anderson (NBC Universal Golf Channel), Susan Aprill (Fowler White Burnett, P.A.), Ed Birk (Marks Gray, P.A.), Jorge R. Delgado (Kluger Kaplan, P.L.), and Jennifer Mansfield (Holland & Knight, L.L.P.) for their efforts as ad hoc committee members of Rules of Judicial Administration Committee’s Subcommittee D to update and revise Rule 2.450(b), technological coverage of proceedings.
I recognize and thank Vice Chairs Errol Hamilton Powell and David Konuch for their outstanding service. Kudos to the members for a fantastic year.
Nadia B. Ahmad, Chair
The mission of The Florida Bar Member Benefits Committee is to review and evaluate existing benefit programs for Bar members, evaluate programs and services offered to the Bar for members, and make recommendations to the Board of Governors on changes or additions to the benefits program. During the past couple of years, the Member Benefits Committee, under the leadership of Pete Sweeney, has taken this mission seriously and worked diligently evaluating existing programs and reviewing potential member benefit programs. The committee reviewed more than 20 proposals from potential Bar member benefit providers during the 2015-16 fiscal year and approved several new member benefits for recommendation to the Board of Governors that were approved and added to the program. Among the new member benefits added were the Citrix suite of products (GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, Podio, RightSignature, and ShareFile); Expedia; Logikcull; Ravel Law; Lawcountability; NetDocuments; and MemberDeals. I encourage all Bar members to visit www.floridabar.org/MemberBenefits to take advantage of the wide array of discounted professional and personal services offered to Bar members through The Florida Bar member benefits program.
Peter J. Sweeney, Jr., Chair
The Florida Probate Rules Committee had a productive year. Following approval by the Board of Governors, the committee submitted an out-of-cycle, fast-track report proposing amendments to the probate rules. See In re Amendments to Florida Probate Rules, Case No. SC15-1513 (Aug. 20, 2015). The fast-track report proposed changes to both guardianship and probate rules based on the enactment of recent legislation. The Florida Supreme Court adopted the proposed amendments on December 17, 2015, including an alternative proposal to Rule 5.695 (annual guardianship reports). The fast-track amendments also included revisions to the contents of a notice of administration, the procedure related to the disqualification of a personal representative, and the notice requirements related to a petition for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian.
On January 28, the committee filed its three-year cycle report, which proposed additional revisions to the Florida Probate Rules. The Board of Governors reviewed and approved the report, and it was submitted to the Florida Supreme Court. As the report reveals, the committee proposed substantive and editorial revisions to a host of probate and guardianship rules. For a full recitation of all the amendments proposed, see In re Amendments to Florida Probate Rules, Case No. SC16-168.
Beyond the fast-track amendments and the proposed three-year cycle amendments, the committee is currently considering whether changes to Rule 5.030 (attorneys) are appropriate in light of anticipated changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration with respect to representation by attorneys (Rule 2.505). If the proposed changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration are adopted, the committee should be positioned to determine the extent to which changes to Rule 5.030 are necessary. Further, the committee is examining whether the probate rules should be revised in order to require a prospective personal representative to make a representation when seeking appointment as to whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony. The committee is also studying whether to recommend adoption of a rule that would allow for service of formal notice via first class mail in certain limited circumstances.
As new legislation is passed, the Florida Probate Rules Committee will continue to review and analyze such legislation to determine whether corresponding or related amendments to the probate rules are necessary and, if so, whether such amendments should be proposed on a fast-track basis or as part of the committee’s next three-year cycle report.
Meeting schedules and agenda for the committee are posted on the Florida Probate Rules Committee website, /cmdocs/cm230.nsf/WDOCS. The Florida Bar’s liaison to the Probate Rules Committee, Heather Telfer, works to keep this information easily available to the committee members and others who have an interest in the committee’s activities.
I urge practitioners to monitor The Florida Bar News for the publication of proposed rule changes, as well as the Florida Supreme Court’s webpage, which lists the pending rules cases. The Probate Rules Committee welcomes comments to the published proposals, comments on pending projects, and suggestions for rule changes based on procedural problems encountered by courts and practitioners.
It has been a privilege and honor for me to serve as chair of the Florida Probate Rules Committee this year. Thank you to all committee members, The Florida Bar staff, and the members of the other rules committees for your contributions during the year.
Matt Triggs, Chair
The scope and function of The Florida Bar Military Affairs Committee includes gathering and disseminating information, sharing expertise, and advising members of The Florida Bar and other attorneys on all matters relating to the practice of military law in Florida. The committee also provides review of new policies and procedures affecting Florida’s military and veterans when needed. The committee is a liaison between The Florida Bar and the active duty, reserve, National Guard, and retired military attorneys within Florida and outside the state.
The committee’s members are volunteers from the general Bar and include active-duty judge advocates (JAGs), reserve and National Guard JAGs, members of large and small law firms, sole practitioners, and state agency attorneys. Prior military service is not a requirement for committee membership. The committee is composed of Bar members with an interest in furthering the ability of our profession to provide assistance to active or reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces, retired members, and all veterans.
The highlight of the committee is the annual Military Law Symposium, a full day of continuing legal education held last year during the annual convention in Orlando. A subcommittee chaired by Alex Jagiella and Miriam Victorian did a superb job in producing this high-quality and well-received program. The symposium focused on military-specific aspects of estate planning, defending soldiers under the SCRA, and provided updates on veterans’ advocacy. The keynote speaker was Major Terrence A. Gorman, special operations staff judge advocate, special operations detachment — central (airborne).
The 2016 Military Law Symposium is June 18 during the Bar’s 2016 Annual Convention. The keynote speaker is Commander Scott Johnson, who currently serves as the assistant general counsel for operations, transactions, and compliance at U.S. Central Command. We encourage Bar members to attend this day of outstanding CLE and join us in support of America’s heroes and their families.
The Military Affairs Committee has worked diligently to develop a Florida Bar webpage specifically devoted to the legal needs of Florida’s military community. The goal of this webpage is to identify relevant legal resources and attorneys who can assist Florida’s military community in the areas of wills and trusts, probate, and family law. Additional resources will be added as the webpage develops. The creation of this webpage is moving forward. Significant credit is given to Andrea Macatangay who drafted the strategic plan necessary for implementation of this webpage.
The Military Affairs Committee has worked toward the creation of a Florida Bar rule to permit spouses of members of the U.S. Armed Forces to practice law in Florida without taking the bar exam while the spouse is stationed in Florida, requiring supervision by a Florida Bar member under specified circumstances. Adoption of this rule would help relieve significant hardships currently being placed upon military families who fall within this narrow category. This proposed rule was drafted through the diligent effort of William C. Henry, with the assistance from Tina Fischer, Cynthia Kearley, and additional consultation with the entire Military Affairs Committee.
The committee sponsors the Clayton Burton Award of Excellence. Named for the founder of the Military Affairs Committee, the award is presented to the person who demonstrates outstanding character and leadership in dedicated service to Florida military members and their families. The award will be presented to its newest recipient at the symposium on June 18.
The committee started outreach with other states to review and potentially implement programs to serve the many returning veterans and their families as the operational tempo of our Armed Forces slows.
Special thanks to Arlee Colman as the liaison to the Military Affairs Committee for her positive attitude, diligence, and exemplary support to this committee.
Martin D. Stern, Chair
Prepaid Legal Services
The Prepaid Legal Services Committee was established over 40 years ago by the Board of Governors to further The Florida Bar’s longstanding policy promoting access to justice and the legal system. The ongoing efforts of the committee are directly tied to The Florida Bar’s recognition that members of the general public do not seek legal assistance for various reasons, including the inability to locate an attorney and concerns related to the excessive expense and costs tied to legal representation. As such, since 1974, the committee members have continued this important tradition of valued service to both The Florida Bar and the citizens of Florida.
The committee is specifically charged with administering Ch. 9 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. This chapter expressly sets out the requirements for, and regulation of, arrangements whereby a sponsor contracts directly with a managing attorney for the provision of legal services to the sponsor’s group of individual members. These individual members must be consumers (not business entities), and key to these plans is the requirement that the group’s individual members are identifiable in terms of some common interest or affinity: There must be some connection between the individual members other than the need for legal services. Commonly, the individual members are parishioners in a particular local church, members of a specific credit union, or employees of a particular employer. In this regard, Ch. 9 complements F.S. Ch. 642, which sets out the Legal Expense Insurance Act. During this past year, the committee responded to new inquiries related to the creation of new Ch. 9 legal services plans. The committee also reviewed and considered renewed plans as well as new plans during its meetings held in June 2015, September 2015, and most recently in January.
Although the primary duty of the committee is to review proposed legal services plans submitted by fellow members of The Florida Bar in order to ensure plans are in compliance with Ch. 9 and the “Legal Services Plans Rules and Regulations,” the committee also furthers Florida Bar policy by creating a greater awareness among consumers to the existence and availability of legal services plans, and by promoting the concept of the legal services plan as an avenue to improve individual access to the legal system in order to gain access to justice. Additionally, the committee serves to educate its fellow members of The Florida Bar as to the entrepreneurial benefits presented in creating and administering legal services plans, and in working with already established legal services plans. In this regard, the committee once again looks forward to co-sponsoring a seminar with the Florida Lawyers’ Legal Insurance Corporation (FLLIC) at the Florida Bar Annual Convention this year at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek & Waldorf Astoria. I thank co-program Chair Rinky Parwani (FLLIC), and our committee’s own vice char, Gerald Walter Pierre, for their efforts in coordinating this year’s joint presentation: How to Market and Make Money Using Alternate Legal Services Plans.
The committee anticipates this year’s event to be a great experience for all participants, presenters, and attendees. The committee is honored to again have past-chair John Schaefer open the committee’s segment of the seminar and speak on the art of crafting successful Ch. 9 legal services plans. We also look forward to another lively panel discussion on practical operational aspects of legal services plans. This year’s panelists will include Jon C. Adcock (managing attorney for the University of Florida Student Union Legal Services Plan) and Michael A. Braverman (managing attorney for the Broward County PBA Prepaid Legal Services Plan). Both will share a view from the field on legal services plans.
As I complete my sixth year of service on the committee, and my second and final year serving as chair of the Prepaid Legal Services Committee, I genuinely thank all members of our committee for their service and involvement. It has been a true privilege to serve and follow in the honorable footsteps of past chairs, including John Schaefer, Daniel F. Mantzaris, and John Josephs, and I expressly thank each of them for their wisdom and insight during my time as chair. I wish incoming Chair Gerald Walter Pierre and incoming Vice Chair Benjamin Andrew Carpenter great success as they continue the committee’s longstanding tradition of service to The Florida Bar and the citizens of Florida. Finally, I give my sincere personal thanks to Ricky Libbert, program administrator for our committee. Ms. Libbert’s ongoing efforts, service, and experience have been vital in ensuring continuity and the ongoing success of the committee.
Kent A. Showalter III, Chair
Pro Bono Legal Services
In 2015, The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services continued to encourage pro bono participation and coordination among all of the state’s 20 judicial circuits and its federal courts. The committee supported the following efforts, among others, seeking to improve and encourage pro bono involvement:
The committee supported the activities of the Florida Access to Civil Justice Commission to address the unmet needs of Floridians in civil matters (the justice gap). Several members of the committee serve on the commission or on subcommittees and work groups assisting the commission.
Under the leadership of a committee member Judge Ashley Moody, the committee and The Florida Bar Foundation organized a first-ever all-circuits meeting of circuit pro bono chairs throughout the state. That meeting immediately preceded the standing committee’s fall 2015 meeting in Tampa, allowing the circuit pro bono chairs and the standing committee members to meet and discuss statewide goals. These meetings were so productive that the participants agreed to schedule all-circuit committee chair meetings just before or after the standing committee’s fall meetings in 2016 and thereafter.
Several committee members participated with The Florida Bar Foundation in interviewing and selecting a statewide pro bono coordinator. The successful applicant, Ericka Garcia, has a wealth of legal and pro bono experience. She began work in September, is based in Orlando, and has already met with pro bono groups, voluntary bar associations, and non-profit legal services/legal aid providers throughout Florida.
Under the leadership of committee member Donny McKenzie, the committee finalized revisions to Ch. 12 of the Bar rules, the “emeritus attorney” guidelines for pro bono participation. Investigation discloses that over 3,300 inactive or retired lawyers, former judges, in-house counsel, and law professors in Florida could be called upon to work as volunteers with existing pro bono counsel and nonprofit legal aid/legal services providers. The revised emeritus attorney rule was approved by the committee in June. The Access to Justice Commission has adopted the revised rule as a priority, the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee has approved it, and the Rules Committee of the Board of Governors has recommended its approval.
The Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar selected Tampa-based U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen to receive the first Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award for support of pro bono legal services. The committee proposed this new category of award last year to emphasize collaborative efforts between the state and federal courts regarding pro bono efforts throughout Florida.
A subcommittee of the standing committee revised the template to be used for the annual circuit pro bono reports to be submitted by each circuit pro bono committee in December for The Florida Bar’s reporting year ending the preceding June 30. As required by Bar Rule 4-6.5(c), annual reports were ultimately submitted by all twenty circuit committees.
The committee continues its work to support initiatives and pro bono programs sponsored by other committees and sections of The Florida Bar. Coordination with the Business Law Section’s pro bono committee (which sponsors nonprofit clinics throughout Florida and a Best Practices Guide for law firm pro bono policies) and the Appellate Practice Section’s pro bono committee continue to be high priorities.
The committee has begun discussions with the Florida Justice Technology Center (FJTC) to assist in streamlining and improving website access for pro bono volunteers and unrepresented persons throughout the state. FJTC’s efforts, led by Joyce Raby, support the goal of the Commission on Access to Civil Justice to establish a “statewide triage gateway” for pro bono clients and volunteers. Website consolidation and improvement also furthers the committee’s objective of bolstering community information regarding available legal services through the public-access computers in library branches, with navigation assistance provided by the branch librarians.
Finally, the committee again expresses its appreciation to Florida Legal Services attorney, Kathy N. Grunewald, and to Bar liaison, Francisco J. Digon-Greer, for their enthusiastic and capable support throughout the year.
Kathleen S. McLeroy & Judge Vance E. Salter, Co-Chairs
The Professional Ethics Committee is responsible for providing guidance to Bar members on the Rules of Professional Conduct. Formal committee opinions are available on the Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org. The committee also provides informational packets and topical information online. A link to “ethics” is included in a bar near the top of every page of the website. This link leads to the main page for Ethics information, including links for formal ethics opinions, the Rules of Professional Conduct, informational packets, and other topical information relating to lawyer ethics.
The committee is staffed by the Bar’s ethics department. The Bar’s ethics attorneys research and draft informal staff opinions and maintain the toll-free Ethics Hotline for Bar members. The committee reviews informal written opinions issued by the Bar’s ethics attorneys and reconsiders them sua sponte if the committee deems appropriate or if the inquiring attorney seeks review of the informal staff opinion. In addition, the committee sponsors an annual professional ethics seminar. The committee was busy during the past year, meeting twice and considering many ethical issues.
• Formal Advisory Opinion Procedures — The Florida Bar Procedures for Ruling on Questions of Ethics govern the process by which staff issue informal oral and written opinions and by which the committee issues formal opinions. The committee may issue formal opinions on review of staff opinions and existing formal opinions. Additionally, the Board of Governors may request that the committee issue a formal opinion concerning the application of the ethics rules to a particular set of facts. When issuing proposed formal opinions, the committee publishes official notice in The Florida Bar News, allowing bar members to comment. The committee values the input provided by such comments and encourages Bar members to comment on proposed ethics opinions. The procedures are available on The Florida Bar’s website by choosing the “ethics” link.
• Final Advisory Opinions — Advisory Opinion 14-1. Opinion 14-1 involves a lawyer’s request regarding the ethical obligations involved in advising clients to “clean up” their social media pages before litigation is filed to remove embarrassing information that the lawyer believes is not material to the litigation. Opinion 14-1 discusses Rule 4-3.4(a). Under this rule, the committee notes that the relevant inquiry is whether the information is relevant to pending or reasonably foreseeable proceeding. The advisory opinion concludes 1) a lawyer may advise a client to change the privacy settings on the client’s social media pages so that they are not publicly accessible; and 2) a lawyer may advise a client to remove information relevant to a pending or reasonably foreseeable proceeding from a client’s social media pages, but only if doing so does not violation the rules or substantive law concerning preservation and/or spoliation of evidence and an appropriate record of the social medial information is preserved.
• Issue Currently Under Consideration — The Professional Ethics Committee is currently considering issuing a proposed advisory opinion on the issue of whether a lawyer, who waived attorneys’ fees in a personal injury case, may also reduce the costs the lawyer advanced to the client in the matter after there is a recovery. No draft opinion is available at this time.
• Appeals of Written Staff Opinions — At each of its meetings, the committee considers appeals by attorneys of written staff opinions issued by staff in response to inquiries submitted by the attorneys and/or appeals where staff declined to issue an opinion. Among such appeals considered by the committee were the following: the ethical propriety of members of a law firm representing private clients before a city commission, its boards, and city staff if a member of the firm becomes a zoning hearing officer under the city’s land development code; an inquiry requesting reinstatement of Florida Ethics Opinion 67-5 regarding conflicts involved for a lawyer lobbying the legislature when the lawyer’s partner is a legislator; and an inquiry concerning another lawyer’s request that the inquirer’s client execute a particular settlement agreement that includes clauses which may prevent the inquirer’s client from bringing a bar complaint against opposing counsel and which contains a confidentiality clause.
The committee also reviews staff opinions at the request of members the subcommittee to review staff opinions. Among the staff opinions considered by the committee were the following: a staff opinion that concludes that a lawyer who holds funds on behalf of a client must follow Florida law and treat the funds as abandoned property when the client does not respond to repeated requests by the lawyer to accept the funds.
• Masters Seminar on Ethics — The Professional Ethics Committee’s popular yearly CLE program addresses areas of ethics of great significance to Bar members at the annual convention. The seminar subcommittee is chaired by Loula Giannet. The seminar will be presented at the annual convention and provide 4.0 hours of ethics CLE credit. The seminar will feature speakers Professor Roberta K. Flowers, Dr. Randy K. Otto, Edwin M. Boyer, and Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren.
The seminar will feature a unique format to facilitate an in-depth discussion of the practical and ethical dilemmas faced by lawyers when representing a client who appears to have diminished capacity. Each member of the audience will be provided with an interactive electronic device to respond in real time to various questions and scenarios through a multi-media display. A re-enactment of a real-life attorney-client encounter will be presented via video, followed by a discussion between the distinguished panel members and audience. The panelists will also provide insight and best practice tips to assist lawyers in recognizing the signs of diminished capacity and engage in an in-depth analysis of strategies aimed towards protecting the client while maintaining the attorney-client relationship under the Rules of Professional Conduct.
• Informal Ethics Opinions Service — The ethics opinion process continues to rate as among the most desirable services on membership surveys. The committee is committed to providing ethics guidance to Bar members. The committee thanks the staff of the Ethics Department for their dedication, assistance and support in providing such guidance throughout the year. Staff had another busy year on the Ethics Hotline handling over 26,000 hotline calls during fiscal year 2015, in addition to providing hundreds of written staff opinions and other ethics correspondence.
Finally, the committee thanks our Board liaison, Gary Shepard Lesser, former DEUP Division Director Mary Ellen Bateman, current Ethics and Consumer Protection Division Director Lori Holcomb, and our hardworking staff: Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, Assistant Ethics Counsels Cynthia E. Booth, Joy A. Bruner, Huy-Yen T. Cam, Gail E. Ferguson, Jonathan Grabb, Jeffrey M. Hazen, and LiliJean Quintiliani, and Paralegal Donna Hostutler. Without the participation, guidance, experience, and hard work of these individuals, the business of this committee could not be accomplished.
Grey Squires-Binford, Chair
The mission of the Standing Committee on Professionalism is to assist the Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, The Florida Bar, and The Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism in implementing programs, events, and activities to promote professionalism throughout the state. This year, the committee was divided into several working groups who took on specific tasks.
• Winter CLE Working Group — This year’s Winter CLE Working Group focused on offering a professionalism program dedicated to the importance of mindfulness in our profession. Chaired by Timothy Chinaris, the Working Group offered a three-member panel discussion totaling two hours which educated the audience on the importance of practicing mindfulness to sharpen conflict resolution skills and to navigate life’s difficulties. Timothy Chinaris spent time in the opening of the discussion to highlight examples of attorneys who ran afoul of the disciplinary system and could have benefited from mindfulness practice. In addition, Fairlie Brinkley, the director and treasurer for Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., spoke on the neuroscience of the brain and the benefits of mindfulness. Finally, Professor Scott Rogers from the University of Miami School of Law and a pioneer in exposing attorneys to mindfulness, educated the audience on the science behind mindfulness, its benefits, and how to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. This program was taped and is now available for purchase on The Florida Bar’s CLE page.
• Education and Resources Working Group — This working group, with Renée Brant as chair, has been supplying the center with numerous articles and personal submissions for use in The Professional, the center’s tri-annual newsletter and on the newly published Henry Latimer Professionalism Library Guide. This year, The Professional added a “tips from the pros” section and members of this working group provided short professionalism tips for practicing attorneys.
• Awards Working Group — Under the leadership of Working Group Chair Henry Paul, this group oversaw the entire process leading up to the selection of all three major professionalism award recipients, including the William M. Hoeveler Judicial Award, the Law Faculty/Administrator Award, and the Group Professionalism Award. In addition, the working group developed a strategy to promote and educate members of the Bar about the awards and deadlines, considered nominations, and made a recommendation to the full standing committee regarding selected awardees.
• Circuit Professionalism Working Group — Chaired by Judge Frances Perrone, this working group was responsible for the important work of collecting and compiling the circuit professionalism reports from each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, which are provided to Justice R. Fred Lewis, chair of the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. The group reviewed the reports from last year and considered changes and additions to the forms. Group members were assigned to circuits and ensured that these reports were collected and then summarized for use by the center. The information from these reports is invaluable to the bench and the Bar in measuring the effectiveness of professionalism programs and efforts around the state.
• Young Lawyers Working Group — Chaired by Alvin Benton and co-chaired by Michael Colgan, this working group promoted Balancing Law and Life and The Winning Edge seminars at all the law schools in the state. This working group actively engaged in several conference calls, focused on planning the programs, and many group members personally volunteered their time to be a part of the panel presentations. In addition, the working group aided in the promotion of the Law Student Professionalism YouTube Contest. This contest promotes the professionalism expectations through role-playing videos to be used in training by the center. In addition to promoting the contest, the working group considered the 2015-16 YouTube contest submissions and recommended a winner to the full committee for approval.
I personally express my gratitude to all of the Standing Committee on Professionalism members and the center for their hard work this year. Professionalism is and continues to be a major concern in Florida and it is due to these hard-working committee members who we are able to make great strides in advancing and protecting the legal profession.
Caroline Johnson Levine, Chair
Real Estate Certification
The Real Estate Certification Committee has the responsibility of evaluating and approving applicants who desire to become certified in real estate law, to prepare and administer the annual certification examination as part of that process and to evaluate and approve those who have applied for recertification. As dictated by the Florida Supreme Court, the evaluation of the applicant necessarily involves the determination of whether the applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. The committee appreciates and thanks all of the attorneys who responded to the committee’s requests for the submission of the confidential peer review form, and those who submitted the form can be assured that the information provided is always utilized by the committee in the evaluation of the applicant.
The real estate certification program was first established in 1986 with the first class becoming board certified in 1987. There are currently 455 board certified real estate attorneys. In 2015, 17 became certified. During the 2015-16 committee year, approximately 72 lawyers have applied for initial certification. Real estate is, and routinely has been, the second largest area of certification in terms of numbers of individuals who are certified in the program.
This year, the committee implemented a revised examination format that replaced the one optional long -essay question with five short-answer essay questions. This change was made to test a broader range of real estate topics and to permit the examinee to show their knowledge and experience in answering the practical real estate questions presented.
I thank the former committee members who have served as exam pre-testers: Deborah Boyd, Howard Cohen, Josh Escoto, Lloyd Granet, Richard Grant, Michael Mirrington, Russell Robbins, John Soileau, and David Weisman. They provide expert assistance along with the guidance of Karen Barbieri, the BLSE examination consultant. I thank this year’s committee members, William S. Kramer (vice chair), Diana Basta, Michael Chesser, Denis Cohrs, Robert Fleitas III, Jane Hunston, Charles Klug, Jr., Lynn Lovejoy, Richard A. Miller, and Mary A. Robison, for their time and full participation to the committee’s work.
The committee’s long-time and dedicated Bar staff member, Carol Vaught, provides continuity and invaluable experience. Ms. Vaught always has been instrumental and indispensable in keeping the committee on track and advising it of the policies and procedures of the Bar with respect to the committee’s designated duties.
I encourage all eligible real estate attorneys to apply for board certification. This designation identifies an individual to other attorneys and to the public that they have specialized knowledge and, as importantly, have been positively evaluated by their peers. I also encourage certified attorneys to volunteer to serve on the committee as you will work with knowledgeable and professional attorneys who share a willingness and commitment to advance of the ideals of our profession.
Meredith E. Level, Chair
Rules of Judicial Administration
The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee (RJAC) has the unique role of working with rules that affect all areas of practice. With rules that govern the appearance of attorneys, e-filing/e-service, and motions for judicial disqualification, the Rules of Judicial Administration impact every area of law and affect judges, lawyers, and self-represented litigants. Many practitioners do not realize that the Rules of Judicial Administration are arranged in five series:
1) General Provisions
2) State Court Administration
3) Judicial Officers
4) Judicial Proceedings and Records
5) Practice of Law — Attorneys and Practice and Litigation Procedures
Attorneys should remember to review the Rules of Judicial Administration, especially series 5, in conjunction with the rules governing their area of practice.
This year, the RJAC which consists of 45 committee members — including liaisons from the Board of Governors, the Clerks Association, and all the various rules committees — was divided into six standing committees and six ad hoc committees. It was a collaborative effort as the RJAC worked closely with the Court Interpreter Certification Board, Media Law Committee, the Appellate Rules Committee, the Criminal Rules Committee, the Juvenile Rules Committee, the Supreme Court Local Rules Advisory Committee, the Florida Courts Technology Commission, and the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee. It was an extremely active year with each subcommittee taking on multiple assignments. Highlights of some of the subcommittees’ work are set forth below:
• Standing Subcommittee A — Rules that impact attorneys and the litigation practice (Chair Mark Romance). Amendments to Rule 2.505 (appearance of attorney) were filed with the Supreme Court in the spring. Working with The Florida Bar’s Vision 2016 committee, the new rule allows for both a general and limited appearance and permits the court to waive the filing of a notice of appearance under certain circumstances. A proposed amendment to Rule 2.510 (foreign attorneys) was passed as part of the 2017 three-year cycle report, which, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 517, would except the solicitor general, or any officer of the Department of Justice sent by the attorney general to attend to the interests of the United States in a Florida court, from filing a verified motion to appear pro hac vice.
• Standing Subcommittee B — Rules intersecting with the Florida Court Technology Commission (Chair Judge Steven Stephens). A joint workgroup of FCTC and RJAC members was tasked to 1) remove technical standards from the RJA and 2) remove procedural rules from the FCTC’s technical standards. Subcommittee B is reviewing the recommendations and will propose amendments to remove standards as well as remove obsolete technologically related rules. For instance, an emergency petition was filed requesting the removal of the size limitation of e-filed documents from Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.525 in order to coincide with a pending Florida Court E-Filing Portal update. This policy and rule review is an ongoing collaborative process. Amendments to Rules 2.514 and 2.516 were passed that would remove the five extra days for service by email. This is expected to be filed as a joint report with the Civil Rules and Appellate Rules of Procedure committees as they created rule amendments in response to the RJAC amendments.
• Standing Subcommittee C — Rules that impact service and filing (Chair Rob Eschenfelder). Subcommittee C worked with the Court Interpreter Certification Board on rules affecting court interpreters. Amendments were made to the 14-series rules and to Rule 2.560 that affect appointments of interpreters for non-English-speaking persons.
• Standing Subcommittee D — Rules that affect the clerks’ offices and judiciary (Chair Marynelle Hardee). Working with the Media Law Committee, Subcommittee D is reviewing Rule 2.450 — technological coverage of judicial proceedings — to account for the changes in technology and media in the trial courts.
• Standing Subcommittee on Drafting and Internal Operating Procedures — (Chair Craig Leen). This subcommittee has taken on the review and updating of Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.140 regarding the procedure all court rule filings must follow.
• Standing Liaison Subcommittee —
(Chair Paul Regensdorf). This blended subcommittee of all other committee liaisons, joined with RJAC members, reviews the possible impact of one committee’s proposed amendments on all other rule sections to ensure there is not redundancy or conflict. This subcommittee has been uncharacteristically busy due to the volume of work done by all rules of procedure committees.
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.120 — Local Rules and Administrative Orders (Chair Sandy Solomon). Working with members of the Supreme Court’s Local Rules Advisory Committee, this ad hoc subcommittee is reviewing the definition of local rules and administrative orders as well as the procedures to file a local rule and contest an administrative order.
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.130 — Priority of Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure (Chair Tom Hall). Working with the Appellate Rules Committee, this ad hoc committee has been tasked with reviewing Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.130 to determine whether there is still a need for a rule that grants priority to the appellate rules.
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.330 — Disqualification of trial judges (Chair Judge Rodolfo Ruiz). Working with the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee, this ad hoc committee is reviewing the process for filing and serving motions for disqualification of trial judges pursuant to Fla. R. Jud.Admin. 2.330.
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.420/2.425 — Confidentiality/Minimization of Sensitive Information (Chair Don Christopher). Now that e-service and e-filing have been in existence a few years, the ad hoc committee is reviewing Rules 2.420 and 2.425 to determine if the rules should be restructured in such a way that litigants, attorneys, judges and clerks are clear as to their obligations to redact sensitive and confidential information and as to the procedures to properly file confidential documents.
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.520 — Documents (Chair Murray Silverstein). This ad hoc subcommittee is reviewing whether there should be a standard font size and type for filings in the trial courts so that there is statewide uniformity and to ensure readability for visually impaired individuals. The committee will also be reviewing how exhibits should be e-filed and whether the title of the rule should be broadened to better reflect the substance of the rule,
• Ad Hoc Subcommittee 2.430/2.525 — Record Retention (Chair Amy Borman). This ad hoc subcommittee was created in response to a possible conflict between the legislative and rule of procedure record retention schedules.
I thank the chairs, vice-chairs, and the members of the RJAC for all the hard work this past year as well as for their participation in the countless subcommittee meetings. I would also like to express my appreciation to the chairs of the other rules committees who made the rulemaking process a collaborative effort.
Amy Singer Borman, Chair
During 2015-2016, the Senior Lawyers Committee continued to expand its outreach to lawyers of all ages. While called the “Senior Lawyers Committee” it is by no means limited to lawyers in any particular age group. This year, the committee worked on refocusing the efforts of its subcommittees and embarked on a plan to provide an hour of CLE at each meeting. This year was the first time the committee met in September, which proved to be a successful move as the meeting was well attended in person and via telephone. It also attracted “walk ins” who were attending other meetings and wanted to see what the Senior Lawyers Committee was all about.
As in 2015, the committee’s signature event was a complimentary CLE program during The Florida Bar’s Winter Meeting, titled “ Taking the High Road: Professionalism Through the Eyes of the Judiciary: A Roadmap for Improved Interactions Between Bench and Bar.” A panel of judges from around the state and at all levels of the judiciary (except the Supreme Court as the justice who was scheduled had a last-minute conflict) provided insight and valuable practice points in several different practice areas for those fortunate enough to have been attended. The panel discussion was followed by a valuable question-and-answer session. Linda McCullough, chair of the CLE Subcommittee, did a yeoman’s job of organizing the session and handled a myriad of last-minute changes with a smile and a professional attitude. The program was recorded and may be viewed on the Senior Lawyers Committee page on The Florida Bar’s website.
A new Membership Category Subcommittee, chaired by Bill Curphey, was created. Its focus will be to further earlier efforts to explore and develop a new category of Bar membership for lawyers who no longer work full-time, have slowed down their practice, or have retired, but who would engage in a limited legal practice or do pro bono work or other volunteer legal work if the Bar dues weren’t so high and there was a less stringent CLE requirement. The subcommittee is in the process of canvasing all other states to determine what if any, categories of membership, how they are defined, and what monetary requirements are imposed. A proposal will then be developed and sent to the Board of Governors.
Very active this year was the Transitions Subcommittee, chaired by Guy Haines. Guy and his subcommittee members are developing a pamphlet that will explore the many opportunities for lawyers who are looking to transition from a full-time practice as well as provide resources to help manage that transition.
If you wish to participate in the Senior Lawyers Committee, please feel free to attend any committee meeting or contact our very able and efficient staff liaison, Lani Fraser, at The Florida Bar, to whom the committee owes its heartfelt gratitude for her hard work and dedication.
Marianne A. Trussell, Chair
Small Claims Rules
The Small Claims Rules Committee has had another successful year and is building upon the foundation laid by our past chairs, Nicole D. Young and Taras S. Rudnitsky. The reason for our success is due to the hard work of our committee members and subcommittee chairs, which in turn maintains an active committee that has substantial involvement from its members. It has been an extreme pleasure to chair this committee as we adapt the Small Claims Court Rules to the changing technology in the legal system and procedures of the small claims court in Florida. The court is commonly referred to as the “people’s court” and, during this year, there have been significant advances in continuing and furthering access to the court for pro se parties.
The major project this year was the request from the Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) to provide feedback relating to the online questionnaires in the DIY Florida Project that pro se litigants would be using to create compliant documents that could then be e-filed on the e-filing portal. The DIY Florida Project Subcommittee did extensive work in reviewing the “Before You Start” informational packet and the form for the statement of claim (for money lent) located in Form 7.332 of the rules. The subcommittee has continued to review proposed forms that will be forthcoming in the DIY Florida Project, and its involvement will help ensure public access to the creation of the correct forms and content therein for e-filing in small claims court.
The Florida DIY Project tends to deal with e-filing from the pro se plaintiff’s perspective, and in order to ensure balance for pro se defendants, the Forms for Defendants Subcommittee was created at the January 21 meeting. This subcommittee has begun analyzing and determining forms for use in the small claims court by defendants, most of which tend to be pro se individuals.
In order to continue communications with the judiciary of the small claims court throughout Florida, the Judicial Outreach Subcommittee was created to provide points of the contact and easier communication for Florida’s judiciary and our committee for any new issues that noticed with our committee’s rules.
The Rules Review Subcommittee has started the task of re-analyzing our rules in order to determine accuracy to references, whether any conflicts exist amongst the rules, and whether any current rules need to be removed for no longer being applicable to the present day and age of small claims court procedures. In order to stay in step with the application of technology and its use in the small claims court, the Implementation of Technology Subcommittee was created to consider the applicability of rules necessary in order to be on the forefront of technology use in the small claims courts.
Lastly, as a normal course of business, the committee filed its three-year cycle report with the Supreme Court seeking approval of all rule and form amendments approved by the committee since 2013. Included within the three-year cycle report were amendments to Rule 7.050; Rule 7.080; Rule 7.090; and Rule 7.160. Rule 7.050(e) was amended in order to correct the appropriate citation to a cross referenced rule for pretrial conferences, namely Rule 7.090(b). Rule 7.080 was amended to reflect the committee’s review of Florida’s e-filing and e-service rules and procedures as it relates to the participation of pro se parties. Rule 7.080(b) was amended to create two new subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2) to address parties represented by an attorney and parties not represented by an attorney. Amendments were also made to (b)(2) and (d) adding specific reference to Rules 2.516(b) and 2.525 of the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. Rule 7.080(e) was amended to be consistent with the amended language in Rule 7.080(b). Rule 7.090(b) was amended to address situations in which a court dismisses a case due to the failure of the plaintiff to appear at a pretrial conference, even when a return of service was filed with the court showing non-service of the defendant. The amendment to Rule 7.090(b) creates an exception when a return of service is filed at least five days prior to a pretrial conference, in order to require cancellation of the pretrial conference as to any non-served party only. In that instance, the plaintiff is provided with the opportunity to request a new summons/notice to appear, along with a new appearance date for the pretrial conference. Rule 7.160(a) and (b) were amended to conform to the amendment of Rule 7.090(b).
I thank each and every member of the committee for their hard work and dedication over the last year, especially Steven Canter, vice char, and Alison Walters for her service for two terms as secretary. Also, I recognize and thank each member who served as a chair of a subcommittee during this past year, namely: Michael Debski (RJA Liaison and Rules Liaison Subcommittee); Alison Walters (Drafting Subcommittee); Taras Rudnitsky (DIY Florida Project Subcommittee); Judge Nancy Perez (Rules Review Subcommittee); Lloyd Comiter (Implementation of Technology Subcommittee); Jesse Butler (Judicial Outreach Subcommittee); and Amanda Duffy (Forms for Defendants Subcommittee). I especially thank our Florida Bar liaison, Heather Telfer, for her work in keeping our committee on track and organized. While the entire committee appreciates Heather for all of her work behind the scenes, the officers had the pleasure to work with her and know how awesome she made our committee this year. We were extremely fortunate to have her return as our liaison this year and thank her for her service.
I encourage every member of The Florida Bar to apply for appointment to a committee and especially to the Small Claims Rules Committee. Your involvement, dedication, and service will help shape the procedures and our rules, and is the silent advocate for continued justice in our courts.
Andrew J. Daire, Chair
State and Federal Government and Administrative Practice Certification
There are currently 92 lawyers certified in state and federal government and administrative practice. Rule 6-25.2 describes the practice area to include “the practice of law on behalf of public or private clients on matters including but not limited to rulemaking or adjudication associated with state or federal government entity actions, such as contracts, licenses, orders, permits, policies, or rules.” Certification is only available for those qualified applicants who pass an examination, meet the minimum practice requirements, peer review and CLE requirements pursuant to Rule 6-28.3. The examination covers both state and federal administrative procedure acts, as well as civil actions involving state and federal government. The committee administered the 10th certification examination on May 14, 2015, in Tampa. Ten attorneys applied to sit for the examination. Nine attorneys have applied to take the examination in 2016, four of which are reapplications. Six attorneys applied for recertification and all have been approved.
The committee focused on developing new exam questions — both multiple-choice and essay — and reviewing the existing bank of questions in order to ensure that revisions can be made to annual exams while still testing for the areas relevant to all areas covered by SFGAP certification, as well as ensuring that the information being tested is current. An effort has begun to better classify questions in the exam bank, so that future revisions to the exam can be made more easily.
The 2015-16 committee consisted of Martha Harrell Chumbler, chair; Colin Roopnarine, co-chair; Chip Fletcher, Thomas Albert Delegal III; Francine Ffolkes; Kenneth Hayman; Judge James Peterson; Timothy Atkinson; and James Richmond. Our excellent staff liaison was Maritza McGill. The committee extends its gratitude to its members and staff liaison for the many hours of hard work devoted to performance of the committee’s duties.
If you have any questions about certification in the area of state and federal government and administrative practice, please visit The Florida Bar’s website, or call Maritza McGill at 850-561-3141.
Martha Harrell Chumbler, Chair
Student Education and Admissions to the Bar
The scope and function of the Student Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee is to determine whether law schools are adequately preparing their students for the practice of law and, if they are not, to make specific recommendations to The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors and law school deans.
With that in mind, the SEABC held a CLE seminar for its members at the 2015 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton. “Setting the Course for Success in the Legal Environment” was an interactive discussion with presentations by John Berry, director of The Florida Bar Legal Division, and Debra Moss Curtis, chair of the Legal Education Committee. They introduced the Vision 2016 Commission’s findings on the state of legal education. From there, panelists developed those findings, discussing how well law schools are preparing future Bar members for the practice of law, and how to improve the legal education model.
• Panel 1: Are Law Schools Adequately Preparing Students for the Practice of Law? — Moderator: Richard S. Dellinger, Lowndes Drosdick Doster Kantor and Reed, P.A. Panelists:
Nancy Benavides, associate dean, Florida State University College of Law; Laurie J. Briggs, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A.; Michele Gavagni, executive director, Florida Board of Bar Examiners; and Jason Silver, Greenspoon Marder Law.
• Panel 2: What Can Law Schools Do to Better Prepare Students for the Practice of Law? — Moderator: Camille Evans, Greenberg Traurig; Panelists: Melanie Leitman, private practitioner; Judge Robert F. Diaz, Broward County Court; Kelli Murray, associate dean, Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law; Douglas A. Bates, Clark Partington Hart.
Several committee members worked on a project based on the SEABC 2014 CLE theme, “Outlook Ethics.” They put together presentations for visits to Florida law schools, focusing on a wide range of up-to-date substantive, ethical, and professional issues lawyers and law students face today, including the following:
1) How to meet professional and civil expectations in e-mail exchange in litigation or transactional law in today’s fast-paced practice.
2) The possible problems facing young attorneys involving their actions on the most popular social media outlets including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and the ethical and professional ramifications of those actions.
3) The substantive, ethical, and professional ramifications involving texting or other informal communication when it comes to involvement in active attorney communication either in court or the time leading up to a hearing or trial, merger, or real estate deal closing.
SEABC 2014-15 Chair Maja Holman took the lead on updating an online Florida Bar pamphlet, “So You Want To Be a Lawyer.” The pamphlet provides basic information for those interested in going to law school and pursuing a law career. Holman was assisted by the following committee members: Nancy Benavides, Michele Gavagni, Diego Madrigal, and Judge Errol Powell.
The Student Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee wraps up another great year. A heartfelt thank you to all of our seminar participants and committee members for their hard work and dedication.
Richard S. Dellinger, Chair
Tax Law Certification
As the 2015-16 chair of the Tax Law Certification Committee, I am pleased to provide this report. Members of the committee are responsible for overseeing the process of certifying attorneys as tax law specialists, for reviewing applications of current certified attorneys seeking recertification at the expiration of their terms, and for reviewing and approving certain continuing legal education courses as qualified for tax law certification credit. The certification process consists of four requirements: an active practice in tax law; excellent peer review references; having sufficient continuing legal education in tax law; and passing the certification examination.
The committee is comprised of nine board certified tax law attorneys who work throughout the state. The committee first met telephonically in July 2015 to begin drafting the 2016 examination and to review initial and recertification applications. Over the next several months, the committee worked to continue the prior committees’ improvement of the quality of the certification exam to meet the high standards expected by the committee and The Florida Bar.
The 2016 exam is comprised of two long-answer essay questions and 10 short-answer essay questions that address procedural and substantive law. For the various subjects, the committee updated questions from previous examinations, as well as created new current questions to adapt to changing law. The committee seeks to ensure that the exam is a fair but rigorous test of an applicant’s expertise. On March 11 in Tampa, applicants took the exam in two three-hour blocks and will be advised of their results by June 1.
At its final meeting, the committee will grade the 2016 examination on an anonymous basis, with each examinee identified to the committee only by a number assigned by Florida Bar staff. Those attorneys who meet all requirements for a board certified tax law attorney and achieve a passing score on the examination will earn the designation as a tax law board certified specialist.
Of the more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar, 222 are currently board certified in tax law. Five attorneys sat for the 2016 tax law certification exam. The committee also reviewed 37 recertification applications.
The committee is grateful to the lawyers who participate in the confidential peer review process. Without candid commentary from applicants’ peers, the committee’s ability to properly review applicants’ qualifications would be severely curtailed. The committee emphasizes to Bar members and judicial officers that commentary is confidential and will not be divulged to any applicant.
It has been an honor for me to serve as chair of the committee this year. This year’s committee included me as chair, Sarasota; Glen Stankee, vice chair, Ft. Lauderdale; Benjamin Jablow, Tampa; Harris Bonnette, Jacksonville; Donna Litman, Miami; Lee
Osiason, Miami; Richard Shapack, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; William Swindle, Tampa; and Robert Trudeau, Jacksonville. We also appreciate the hard work of Maritza McGill.
Michael J. Wilson, Chair
Unlicensed Practice of Law
The standing committee and The Florida Bar UPL staff continued their efforts to protect the public from UPL. We obtained injunctions from the Florida Supreme Court against individuals and businesses for engaging in the unlicensed practice of law by holding themselves out as attorneys and providing legal services in immigration, family law, and foreclosure assistance and loan modification matters.
We continue to receive complaints against out-of-state licensed lawyers for assisting individuals with Florida legal issues. However, under the multijurisdictional practice of law (MJP) rules, out-of-state lawyers may provide limited legal services in Florida on a temporary basis under certain circumstances. The rules also subject out-of-state lawyers to the disciplinary authority of the Florida Supreme Court while providing those legal services. The MJP rules also require out-of-state lawyers who appear in a Florida court or arbitration to file a copy of their pro hac vice motion and verified statement, respectively, with The Florida Bar. Anyone wishing to check whether opposing counsel has complied with these filing requirements may do so by contacting the UPL Department at 850-561-5840.
Two formal advisory opinions issued by the standing committee received final action by the Florida Supreme Court this year.
The court approved the standing committee’s advisory opinion regarding Medicaid planning activities by nonlawyers. The opinion found that it constitutes the unlicensed practice of law for a nonlawyer to engage in the following Medicaid planning activities leading up to the Medicaid application: 1) drafting of a personal service contract; 2) determining the need for, preparing, and executing a qualified income trust, including gathering the information necessary to complete the trust; and 3) rendering legal advice regarding the implementation of Florida law to obtain Medicaid benefits, including advising an individual on the appropriate legal strategies available for spending down and restructuring assets and the need for a personal service contract or qualified income trust. A nonlawyer’s preparation of the Medicaid application itself would not constitute the unlicensed practice of law as it is authorized by federal law ( The Florida Bar re: Advisory Opinion – Medicaid Planning Activities by Nonlawyers, SC14-211).
The committee also submitted its first request for formal advisory opinion under Goldberg v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., 35 So. 2d 905 (Fla. 2010). See The Florida Bar re: Advisory Opinion – Scharrer v. Fundamental Administrative Services (SC14-1730). In a pending federal lawsuit in Florida involving a claim for damages based on unlicensed practice of law, the judge dismissed the case and directed the plaintiff to request a formal advisory opinion from the standing committee because no case law or advisory opinion finds the activity at issue to be the unlicensed practice of law. The court, in Goldberg, held that the standing committee must issue a formal advisory opinion in such circumstances. The court disapproved the standing committee’s opinion on procedural grounds. The court’s disapproval of the standing committee’s opinion was without prejudice to the petitioners submitting a revised request. However, because the parties settled the underlying lawsuit, the petitioner did not submit a revised request for formal advisory opinion.
This year saw a major staffing change in the UPL department. Lori Holcomb, longtime director, client protection, left the department to become division director for the division of ethics and consumer protection, which includes the UPL department. We wish Lori well in her new position. Will Spillias joined the Bar as UPL director in December and has quickly become a vital leader in the department. Welcome, Will!
As we conclude this year, I thank all of the public members and lawyers on the standing committee for their dedicated service. It has been a pleasure working with you. The standing committee gives a special thanks to the circuit committees: We know you are the unrecognized heart and soul of UPL enforcement for the court. All committee members, who contribute their valuable time and energy in protecting the public, are especially appreciated.
I also thank and recognize Jeffrey Picker, assistant UPL director, and UPL branch counsels Jacquelyn Needelman (Miami), Ali Vazquez (Ft. Lauderdale), Ghunise Coaxum (Orlando), Maria Torres (Tampa), and Monica Armster Rainge (Tallahassee) and their excellent support staff. These dedicated and hard-working public servants do an incredible job year after year. It has been an honor and pleasure to work with you all.
Jeffrey M. Kolokoff, Chair
Voluntary Bar Liaison
The Florida Bar Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee (VBLC) serves as a liaison between The Florida Bar and the voluntary bar associations throughout the state. The mission of the VBLC is to improve communication between The Florida Bar and voluntary bar associations, coordinate programs of The Florida Bar, such as the annual Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference, provide a resource and information bank of activities and the concerns of voluntary bar associations and advise the Board of Governors regarding interpretation of The Florida Bar programs to voluntary bar associations and individual members.
Attorneys and association executive directors of more than 20 local bar associations serve as 2015-2016 VBLC members. The Florida Bar leadership is continually supportive of voluntary bar associations and their activities. President Ramón A. Abadin and President-Elect William J. Schifino, Jr., have taken an active interest in the VBLC. Both Abadin and Schifino, along with their predecessors, addressed the participants of the annual conference and have spoken at numerous local voluntary bar associations throughout the year, emphasizing the important role voluntary bar associations have within the Florida legal community. The committee continues to work with Board of Governors Liaison Lorna Brown-Burton, as well as Florida Bar Staff Liaison Jeff Doran. Both continue the tradition of active support for the committee and voluntary bar organizations throughout the state.
• Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference — Committee members work year round to plan the Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference in July every year. The 2015 conference was held July 10-11 at the Eau Palm Beach in Manalapan and was hosted by the Palm Beach County Bar Association. The theme of the conference was Dealing Your Association a Winning Hand. The committee was also privileged to host the fellows of the Bar’s Leadership Academy class, who participated in several of the conference events with attendees. The conference conveyed the VBLC’s goal to provide practical and useful advice to the voluntary bar leaders across the state by offering break-out sessions on tax issues, CLE programs, membership recruitment and retention, revenue generation, and many other pressing issues affecting both staffed and nonstaffed bar associations. Along with opening remarks from Florida Bar President Ramón Abadin, attendees were treated to a speech by Nora Riva Bergman: 55 Ways to Increase Your Productivity, Decrease Your Stress, and Get More Done in Less Time. The conference was chaired by Sarah Cortvriend. The committee is very appreciative of all who donated their time and resources in organizing another successful conference.
Conference attendees provided the committee with positive feedback at the close of the conference and left energized and excited to implement the myriad of ideas and suggestions offered by the panelists and fellow attendees. Following the success of the 2015 conference, plans were made to hold the 2016 Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference at Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, July 14-16. The 2016 conference host association is the Collier County Bar Association and the theme is Tee it Up for a Winning Year in Your Bar Association. Registration for the conference has recently opened and may be found on the Voluntary Bar Center website, www.floridabar.org/voluntarybars.
• Lawyer Referral Services — The committee convened at the winter meeting in Orlando with several members of the Board of Governors to address the issues surrounding a possible statewide lawyer referral service portal under The Florida Bar brand. The issue of a statewide lawyer referral service has been raised in response to the Access to Justice Commission’s concerns for legal services for Floridians, ever-changing technology and the increasing availability of online legal services, and the YLD’s concerns over employment for young lawyers. The committee expressed the importance of its continued support of all voluntary bars and their existing local lawyer referral services. Should a statewide lawyer referral service portal be implemented, the committee will work with The Florida Bar toward a successful, efficient, timely and cost-effective portal that would benefit members of The Florida Bar, voluntary bars and anyone seeking legal assistance in Florida.
• Diversity and Inclusion — In 2015, the committee, along with the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, continued its support of a measure to encourage associations to create a general email address for the various voluntary bar associations across the state. This email address is used for all electronic communication regardless of the current president and/or executive director. The measure has been met with universal support with over 80 associations taking advantage of electronic communications.
The VBLC strives to fulfill its mission each year by providing topical and quality programs for attendees of the Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference, improving communication between voluntary bar associations and The Florida Bar, and serving as a resource of practical, helpful information to voluntary bar associations. The committee also strives to strengthen relationships with The Florida Bar Foundation and the Young Lawyers Division. With full staff and the financial support of The Florida Bar, the VBLC will continue to serve as a viable link between The Florida Bar and the voluntary bar associations while providing support for the valuable efforts of attorneys.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to the members and The Florida Bar staff who worked so hard to ensure that the VBLC had a productive year and met its goals.
Sarah Cortvriend, Chair
Wills, Trusts and Estates Law Certification
The Wills, Trusts and Estates Law Certification Committee is responsible for overseeing the process of certifying attorneys as wills, trusts, and estates law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar. It is also responsible for reviewing the applications of currently certified attorneys seeking recertification. The initial certification process consists of three requirements: 1) an active practice in wills, trusts, and estates law; 2) excellent peer review references; and 3) passing the certification examination. The recertification process consists of two of those initial three requirements: an active practice in wills, trusts, and estates law and excellent peer review references.
As chair of the Wills, Trusts and Estates Law Certification Committee, I am pleased to report another successful year of overseeing the certification of Florida wills, trusts, and estates lawyers. The committee is comprised of nine wills, trusts, and estates law Florida board certified attorneys who practice throughout the state. The committee had its first meeting of the 2015-2016 year in August 2015 to begin drafting the 2016 examination and reviewing the initial and recertification applications. Over the next several months, the committee worked to continue the prior committees’ improvement of the quality of the certification examination and to meet the high standards expected by committee members and The Florida Bar.
The 2016 examination is comprised of six essay questions and 58 multiple-choice questions that address procedural and substantive law. For the various subjects, the committee updated questions from previous examinations, as well as created new questions that are current. The examination questions were reviewed and revised to reflect changes in federal tax law and Florida estate and trust law. The committee seeks to ensure that the examination is a fair but rigorous test of an applicant’s expertise. The 2016 examination was held in Tampa on May 20, and the examinees will be advised of their results by August 1. The examination is an all-day examination and is given in two three-hour blocks starting in the morning. The 2017 examination is scheduled and will be held in Tampa on May 12, 2017. The examinees will be advised of their results by August 1, 2017.
At its final meeting, the committee will grade the 2016 examination. The committee grades the examinations on an anonymous basis, with each examinee identified to committee members only by a number assigned by Florida Bar staff. Those attorneys who meet all requirements for a certified attorney and achieve a passing score on the examination will earn the designation as a wills, trusts, and estates law board certified specialist.
Of the more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar, 331 are currently board certified in wills, trusts, and estates law. There were 34 applicants to take the 2016 wills, trusts, and estates law certification examination. Of those applicants, 10 submitted “abbreviated applications” after either failure to pass the 2015 examination or nonattendance at the 2015 examination. The committee also reviewed 48 recertification applications this year.
It has been an honor to serve as chair of the committee this year together with Duane L. Pinnock (vice chair), Tasha K. Dickinson (immediate past chair), Shawn C. Snyder, Curtis B. Cassner, Gary B. Leuchtman, Daniel Medina, L. Howard Payne, and Beverly H. Furtick.
Norma Stanley, Chair