Annual Reports of Committees of The Florida Bar
The Admiralty Law Committee continued to advance its four core functions in the 2020-21 fiscal year: 1) to advance the practice of admiralty and maritime law by providing complimentary live seminars about recent trends and developments in this practice area; 2) provide a forum for networking among our admiralty colleagues; 3) foster the advancement of younger attorneys in this area of the law; and 4) assist our Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee colleagues in promoting board certification in admiralty and maritime law.
These four goals have been met despite the difficult year we have had due to COVID-19. In meeting the first function, the committee held two seminars: the first on September 19, 2020, was our fourth annual Florida Maritime Law and Practice Update and Review, and the second occurred on January 14 during the winter meeting. The first CLE included, “Maritime Arbitrations,” “Latest Cases in the 11th Circuit,” “Updates on 1782 Proceedings,” and ever-elusive ethics credits on “Ethics in Maritime Law.” The second CLE focused on two current topics: “Navigating Through the IMO 2021 Cybersecurity Regulations” and “Port-Counter Point on the Arbitration of Crew Claims.” We thank all our speakers at these two events, including Matthew Valcourt, Kassandra Doyle Taylor, Briton Sparkman, Joanne N. Pino, Frank Sioli, Christina Dimitriou, Tom Graham, and Stephanie Wylie. The first seminar was a joint event with the Federal Bar Association’s Admiralty Law Section and as a result, it received national attention and was attended by attorneys from all over the country.
The second goal of the committee, networking, was hard-hit by the pandemic. We have become accustomed to having our twice-a-year events in person, but networking in the Zoom era was much more difficult. We learned from our first seminar that we could not limit access to discussions to only the presenters and moderators. This did not allow for much networking and made handling questions much more cumbersome. Our second event had all attendees on “open mic” and was much more conducive to networking and discussing issues of the day. All members did their part to not talk over speakers or moderators, and the open format for questions and answers made it much more like a traditional meeting. I thank all attendees of this second seminar in assisting us in advancing this second goal.
The third goal of the committee was also met, as where we had a more senior lawyer speaking at an event, we made sure that the counterpoint was a younger lawyer. This allowed for more differing views on a given issue and allowed younger lawyers to be showcased to our membership. Our fourth goal appears to also have been met as we note that two lawyers earned board certification in 2020, Gino Buttó and Robert Alan Amicone. Congratulations to both colleagues, and we hope to see you at our next committee event.
Current Vice Chairs Ryon Little and Adria Notari helped tremendously in the work of the committee. As I leave as chair, I wish the new chair continued success in meeting the challenges of the committee and to emulate the work we have accomplished this year. It has been my distinct privilege to chair the committee this year. I cannot think of a finer collection of attorneys with whom to serve, and I thank all of you for your selfless contributions to our goals.
On behalf of the entire committee, I express our collective appreciation for our Bar staff liaison, Emily Young. She was indispensable to the committee, providing guidance, insight, expertise, and support for each of its meetings, while also providing key advice as to Bar policies and procedures. The committee appreciates her work ethic and thanks her for all her support.
In closing, I extend an invitation to all eligible admiralty and maritime law attorneys to attend the committee’s meetings — they are free as part of your Bar membership, they are attended by a diverse group of lawyers, and they give us the opportunity in this day and age of social distancing to still get together and communicate on the hot topics of the day. Appointment to a committee can be a stimulating and rewarding experience. These groups, including this committee, do much of the work of The Florida Bar. The committee preference forms are posted online by the Bar from December 1 to mid-January to begin work on the committee the following July 1 of each year. Just remember to designate this committee as your first choice when you sign up for service. There is no better way for maritime practitioners to advance their skills, professionalism, and ability to network in this practice area. If you are not already a member, join the Admiralty Law Committee next year!
Michelle Otero Valdés, Chair
This year, the Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee continued its work of preparing, updating, and revising its comprehensive exam to test the knowledge, experience, and abilities of Florida lawyers for certification in the area of admiralty and maritime law. This unique area of the law provides a challenge to test preparers and test takers.
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 a variety of fact patterns touching the primary substantive subjects in the discipline. The questions reflect the various specialties and test the applicant’s broad knowledge of admiralty procedure and maritime law.
During 2020-2021, the committee met numerous times virtually to prepare and finalize the test; to review an application that was recommended for denial; to review the applicable rules; to discuss proposed changes to the applicable rules as well as the certification application; and to discuss the applicability of the administrative order issued regarding COVID-19 Emergency Measures Related to The Florida Bar Certification Program to the previously denied applicant. The committee submitted a proposal to the BLSE for amendments to Rule 6-17. The proposed rule change to the “substantial involvement” section came in response to the committee having to deny an applicant that we felt should have been allowed to sit for the examination this year. The applicant had extensive involvement in admiralty and maritime with the exception of last year due, in part, to COVID. The current rules required the applicant be denied. Hence, we began the process to try to make the rule better. Our committee formed a subcommittee to review the rule, recent changes by the Bar, and other sections rules. Based on that review, the committee is proposing other changes to improve the rule and to increase access to admiralty board certification.
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 and assisted the aviation section in reviewing some of their re-certification applications. Admiralty and maritime lawyers who were certified in 2001, 2006, 2011, or 2016, will be due to file a recertification application by May 31. The filing period for initial applications is July 1-August 31.
An important goal of the committee and the Bar is to increase the number of certified lawyers in the admiralty and maritime specialty. This helps to strengthen the field and to meet and overcome the effects of generational turnover. To this end, committee members advocate for admiralty board certification with their colleagues and at seminars/conferences/professional gatherings. Some other ideas are to track attendees of the Florida Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee seminars for possible attorneys that may be good candidates to apply for board certification. The committee would like to explore the possibility of promotional videos to advocate for board certification. The committee always 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.
Thank you to the members of the 2020-2021 committee for their hard work and commitment to ensuring the highest standards for certification are maintained. Committee members for 2020-2021 are Vice Chair Barbara A. Kreitz Cook, Ryan M. Eslinger, Howard T. Sutter, Michael McCloud, Kassandra C.D. Taylor, Mark J. Buhler, and Robert L. Gardana. A special thank you to our Bar staff liaison, Chyra Reynolds, whose hard work and support was indispensable to our work throughout this past year.
We 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.
Tonya J. Meister, Chair
The Adoption Law Committee had an enormously productive year. This year marks adoption law’s 10-year anniversary as a board certification section (initiated in 2011) and continues to be a more exclusive area of practice. Despite our exclusivity in practice area, we are excited and proud to have qualified three new applicants approved to sit for the examination in March. Currently, we have 27 attorneys board certified in adoption law, 18 of those attorneys are eligible for recertification in May (15 of which are from our inaugural year).
One would be remiss in not mentioning the effects COVID-19 has had on the personal lives of attorneys and their practice of law throughout this past year. Notwithstanding, the committee remained hard at work through telephonic and Zoom videoconferencing to review the post-certification examination survey from the prior year, new applications for certification and past examination questions. As part of our function, a new procedure was implemented involving initial file review, as will be for the upcoming recertification file review. Exam specifications and exam drafting guidelines were reviewed for compliance as approved by the BLSE and the examination formatted in four 90-minute sections. Extensive effort of the committee was directed in examination drafting, elimination of negative questions, updating the model sample examination questions posted on The Florida Bar website for the benefit of new applicants and preparation of additional exam questions to be compiled in an exam bank for use on future exams. As further support for candidates for certification, the committee continues to post information on adoption-related CLE courses for the benefit of applicants preparing to sit for the exam.
At the request of the Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization and Education, the committee continues to edit the section of the Standards for Board Certification and Recertification in Adoption Law to bring uniformity with other sections where possible and to increase readability and comprehension where necessary. Consistent with years past, the committee continues its efforts to implement amendments to the rule in its standardized allocation of points, taking into account a broadened approach to the definition of adoption practice, expanding what is considered to be a litigated or contested case, and otherwise qualifying what activities incorporate substantial involvement, as well as the potential incorporation of a third category of points attributable to interventions, non-placing entity birth parent representation, and contested matters settled without hearing, and enhancement points for more extensive litigation and appeals with the intent to broaden the qualifying applicant pool.
As with all Florida board certification programs, the Florida Supreme Court through its COVID-19 emergency measures has extended the time period to demonstrate quantitative compliance requirements for certification in adoption law to the seven-year period immediately preceding application. This extension will remain in place until October 31, 2022.
Although adoption law is a relatively small group, we consider board certification to be extremely important in this area of practice. In an ongoing outreach effort to encourage our colleagues to apply to become board certified, in addition to presenting before the Florida Adoption Council, additional outreach will be made this year to the juvenile dependency summits with the expectation of reaching additional potential applicants.
The committee extends its heartfelt thanks to all the judges and attorneys who have responded this year and in past years to requests for peer reviews and evidence of substantial involvement. This feedback is heavily regarded in the vetting process. The extra effort to provide this information is very much appreciated.
Thanks also to my fellow committee members for their contributions this year: Vice Chair Richard “Jake” Jackson, Leenetta “Lee” Carden, Amy Hickman, Brian Kelly, Susan Levin, Susan Stockham, and Rob Webster III. We are especially grateful to have Paige Dooley-Levy as our staff liaison. Her support has been invaluable to the committee. We appreciate all her assistance, and we look forward to working with her this coming year.
Ellen Michele Kaplan, Chair
The Standing Committee on Advertising is responsible for advising members of The Florida Bar on permissible advertising and marketing practices. The committee, which meets periodically as needed, 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 Florida 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. The Handbook is regularly updated by the committee to reflect important changes that have occurred and is currently available on the website for easy access by Bar members. The Handbook and other information addressed in this report are available on the Bar’s website.
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 reviewed numerous articles and opinions regarding significant national trends and developments in legal advertising and marketing.
Proposed Amendments to Rule on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation: The Standing Committee on Advertising is considering recommending amendments to Rule 4-7.13 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, requiring “dramatization” and “actor” disclaimers only where reasonable consumers would not know from the context of the advertisement that it included a dramatization or actors and giving discretion on the wording of those required disclaimers.
The committee also is considering recommending amendments to Rule 4-7.16 to add social media names and icons to the list of “safe harbor” information that may be included in an advertisement. Finally, the committee is reviewing amendments to Rule 4-7.19 regarding the method by which advertisements are required to be filed for review with the Bar.
Other Accomplishments: By 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 committee review of staff’s interpretation of a particular rule or advertisement is requested by an advertising attorney. Advertisers may request review of committee decisions by the Board of Governors if they wish. The committee also provides guidance to its staff and advertisers, pursuant to requests for guidance, 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.
Composition of the Committee and Florida Bar Staff: The Standing Committee on Advertising is made up of lawyers and nonlawyers. 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: Manohar Athavale, Zachary L. Catanzaro, Lisa Karray Crawford, Tyler B. Everett, Winston W. Gardner, Jr., Leland E. Garvin, Ryan L. Gilbert, Neidy E. Hornsby, Anthony J. Jackson, Rosalind B. Johnson, Alexis Rosenberg, Paul A. Shapiro, Joseph B. Towne, and Viviana Pedroso Varela.
Finally, the committee thanks our board liaison, Jeremy C. Branning, Division of Ethics and Consumer Protection Division Director Gypsy Bailey, and our hardworking staff: Assistant Ethics Counsels Huy-Yen C. Bailey, Joy A. Bruner, Jonathan D. Grabb, Jeffrey M. Hazen, LiliJean Quintiliani, Kelly N. Smith, and Heather S. Telfer, Paralegal Donna Hostutler, Administrative Support 4 Pamela Brown, Administrative Support 2 Susan Permenter, and Administrative Support 2 Kelley Hamilton, 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.
Jackson Wolfe Adams, Chair
Here Comes the Sun…Better Days Ahead is the theme of the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention as we head into a hopefully post pandemic reality. Annual Convention, just like everything else since the beginning of the pandemic, will be different this year. We are pleased to be able to offer a hybrid convention with a few select events taking place in person at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek & Waldorf Astoria in Orlando.
The in-person events include the General Assembly with an address by Chief Justice Canady, the Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors meeting, the 50-Year Member Luncheon, and the President’s Showcase seminar presented by The Florida Bar CLE Committee, Appellate Practice Section, Criminal Law Section, and Trial Lawyers Section titled, “Blunders, Landmines, and the Consequences of Poor Attorney Performance in the Preservation of the Record Error featuring Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga.” While we are unable to accommodate in-person section meetings, chairs of the rules committees were all given the option to meet in Orlando and many rules committees will be in physical attendance. Much of annual convention will be virtual, and if last year was an indicator, we expect record attendance!
We will have a very scaled back and small President’s Reception for those that wish to attend the outside event. We are also pleased to present a hybrid of virtual and physical recognition for our convention sponsors.
It has been an honor and privilege to chair the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention with Vice Chairs Leora Freire and Jorge Piedra, as well as the fabulous Annual Convention Committee! The Florida Bar Meetings Department, including Beth Anne Trombetta, Rodney McCammon, Jamie Moore, and Brooke Smith have all worked extremely hard for this first ever hybrid event, and we thank them so very much! Whether you attend virtually or physically, I hope you enjoy the experience. Wishing everyone good health and happiness.
Robin Bresky, Chair
The committee year started with a review of the 2020 examination results. Sixteen applicants took the examination; 10 of them earned appellate board certification. We have 16 applicants who will sit for the 2021 examination. We have received 35 recertification applications. There are currently 203 appellate practice board certified attorneys.
The committee also reviewed the surveys that the 2020 applicants completed. The constructive criticism was used to further improve the exam. The committee utilizes multiple levels of review of each question to maintain the quality of the exam.
For the first time in recent years, we were compelled to author a proposed change to our recertification rules. As a result of 1) the pandemic; 2) what many have detected is a reduction in the number of oral arguments being held by the district courts of appeal in recent times; and 3) the grandfathering of lawyers who failed to meet technical requirements for recertification after 14 years, coupled with a recent proposal from The Florida Bar Board of Governors to eliminate all committee discretion in waiving objective criteria, the committee was concerned that qualified practitioners would lose their board certification if they were short of the five oral argument requirement for the relevant period. Historically, we have been generous in waiving that requirement for qualified practitioners seeking recertification. Because of the impending rule changes that would strip the committee of all discretion to waive objective criteria, we authored a proposal that would alter the number of oral arguments required for recertification. The Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education modified our proposal and approved a change that reduced the required number of appellate arguments for the first recertification to three and the second to two. After that, such requirements are not needed for recertification due to the 14-year rule. We await Board of Governors approval.
The foregoing recommended change notwithstanding, individual members of the committee, including myself, will still oppose the rule change that eliminates all discretion when the proposal is presented to the Florida Supreme Court. If that rule change is defeated, the need to modify the number of appellate arguments for recertification will cease to exist.
One issue that continues to hinder both the initial application and the recertification process is judicial and peer review. The committee must receive judicial and peer reviews before certifying a candidate, but many review forms are never returned, particularly by members of the judiciary. This requires our certification specialist to send additional requests for judicial and peer review, which slows down the process. If the committee does not ultimately receive enough reviews about an applicant, the application may be rejected for that year. It is important to understand that judicial and peer review is a crucial part of the certification and recertification processes and that reviews remain confidential. It is the best way for the committee to gauge the applicant’s standing in the community and his or her abilities. I urge everyone to promptly complete and return these forms upon receipt.
As chair of the committee, I am grateful to the committee members who take time from their busy practices to tackle the committee’s work. Our Zoom meetings presented no challenges due to the small size of the committee, but grading exams remotely presented new challenges that fortunately were overcome. I recognize and thank the committee members for their service: Vice Chair Jack Pelzer, David Caldevilla, Duane Daiker, Carrie Ann Wozniak, Tom Hunker, Forrest Andrews, Manny Farach, and Mark Tinker. It has been a pleasure working with each of you during my tenure on this committee.
Likewise, we have been well-served by our Bar certification specialist, Paige Dooley-Levy and now Ashleigh Bolstridge, whose hard work and dedication to our committee have been invaluable. This was an especially busy year for them due to the pandemic and the amendment change we were able to usher through quickly and seamlessly.
Andrew S. Berman, Chair
This year was another busy and productive year for the Appellate Court Rules Committee, thanks to an incredible group of dedicated volunteers who continued the committee’s ongoing efforts to improve both the appellate rules and the operation of the appellate process.
The committee hit the ground running last summer in response to legislation that transferred most of the circuit courts’ appellate and related extraordinary writ jurisdiction to the district courts of appeal. The Civil Practice Subcommittee, led by Chair Elaine Walter and Vice Chair Josh Levine, rose to the challenge by proposing fast-track amendments that were unanimously approved by the committee and ultimately adopted by the Florida Supreme Court.
The Civil Practice Subcommittee also thoughtfully and diligently addressed other referrals throughout the year, including a request from the Supreme Court to propose an amendment to Rule 9.130 to authorize appeals of nonfinal orders on motions for leave to amend a complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages. In a joint project with the Workers’ Compensation Subcommittee, the Civil Practice Subcommittee also proposed an amendment to Rule 9.130 relating to review of nonfinal orders that deny a party entitlement to workers’ compensation immunity. The Workers’ Compensation Subcommittee, led by its chair, Sarah Weitz, and vice chair, Kristina Samuels, deserves special recognition for its comprehensive work on this joint project. The committee approved the subcommittee’s recommended amendments to Rule 9.130, and both proposals are pending review in the Supreme Court.
Under the steady leadership of Chair Keith Upson and Vice Chair Judge Susan Rothstein-Youakim, the Criminal Practice Subcommittee worked on several projects, including two referrals carried over from last year. The first of those referrals involved petitions seeking belated appeal or belated discretionary review. The committee approved the subcommittee’s proposed amendments to Rule 9.141 and anticipates filing its report with the Supreme Court after the comment period expires. The second referral involved a victims’ rights amendment to the Florida Constitution known as Marsy’s Law. In response to this constitutional amendment, the subcommittee recommended a new rule to provide a procedure for victim participation in appellate proceedings. Although the committee approved the subcommittee’s recommendation, the proposal generated insightful comments that the committee is currently evaluating as of this report.
The General Practice Subcommittee, in the capable hands of Chair Christine Davis and Vice Chair Ariadne FitzGerald, was also very busy. Among other projects, the subcommittee evaluated and recommended an amendment to Rule 9.130 to authorize appeals from nonfinal orders denying motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment under F.S. §768.295, which prohibits “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” or “SLAPP” suits. The committee approved the subcommittee’s recommendation and anticipates filing its report with the Supreme Court after the comment period expires. Looking ahead, the subcommittee is also evaluating several other referrals, including a suggestion that time limitations should be imposed on nonfinal appeals under Rule 9.130 to ensure timely resolution.
The committee also undertook an exhaustive review of its internal operating procedures and adopted several significant changes. In large part, the procedures were updated to reflect the recent amendments to Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.140, which streamlined the rulemaking process and eliminated the cycle reporting of proposed rule amendments. The heavy lifting for this important project was done by the internal operating procedures subcommittee led by Chair Judge Rachel Nordby and Vice Chair Judge Edward Artau.
The committee saw its work on the 2020 cycle report and prior out-of-cycle reports come to fruition this year when the Supreme Court adopted several of the committee’s proposed amendments. Of note, the court:
1) amended Rule 9.040 (General Provisions) to include new subdivision (j) (Public Availability of Written Opinions), which requires every court to publish on its website written opinions that are not confidential under Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.420 (Public Access to and Protection of Judicial Branch Records);
2) created new Rule 9.045 (Form of Documents) that sets out the formatting requirements for documents filed with an appellate court; changed the authorized fonts to either Arial or Bookman Old Style and replaced page limits for computer-generated documents with word counts for all appellate court filings;
3) amended Rule 9.110(d) (Notice of Appeal) to require that a notice of appeal indicate that a motion tolling rendition is pending in the lower tribunal;
4) amended Rule 9.130(a)(4) (Applicability) to clarify that orders disposing of motions for rehearing are not reviewable separate and apart from review of a final order;
5) amended Rule 9.210 (Briefs) to add new subdivision (f), “Contents of Briefs on Jurisdiction,” identifying the required contents of a jurisdictional brief;
6) added new Rule 9.425 (Constitutional Challenge to State Statute or State Constitutional Provision) to require a party to provide notice to the attorney general (criminal and collateral criminal proceedings are excluded from the rule’s notice requirement) in cases where the constitutionality of a state statute or constitutional provision is challenged; and
7) amended Rule 9.440 (Attorneys) to include new subdivision (b) (Limiting Appearance) and new subdivision (c) (Scope of Representation).
These highlights provide just a glimpse of the extraordinary efforts of the committee and the dedicated lawyers and judges who have served this year.
While not specifically recognized above, the committee’s other subcommittee chairs and vice chairs deserve special thanks for their dedication and commitment to ensuring that every referral was conscientiously evaluated: Donna Eng and Meredith Hall, Administrative Law Practice; Charles Auslander and Judge Meredith Sasso, Family Law Practice; Henry Gyden and Miguel Chamorro, Original Proceedings; and Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez and Melissa Madsen, Record on Appeal. The committee also owes an immeasurable debt to Vice Chairs Judge Andrew D. Manko, W. Aaron Daniel, and Laura Roe; Sarah Lahlou-Amine, secretary; Judge Rachel Nordby, parliamentarian; Judge Bronwyn Miller, Criminal Procedure Rules Committee liaison; Laura Roe, Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration liaison; clerk liaison and immediate Past Chair Thomas Hall; Board of Governors liaison Amy Farrior; and last, but not least, our incredibly hard-working Bar liaison, Krys Godwin. The committee could not have accomplished all that it did this year without the extensive work and invaluable guidance provided by these individuals.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as chair of the committee, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented and dedicated lawyers and judges in the state. Thank you for a great year!
Stephanie W. Ray, Chair
Florida is a hub for the aviation industry, both commercial and private. It is home to numerous businesses and governmental agencies serving aviation and aerospace industries. The Aviation Law Committee supports its members, whose practices include aviation and space law, through continued education and networking with other experienced aviation lawyers.
The committee holds semi-annual educational sessions in conjunction with The Florida Bar’s winter and summer meetings, covering topics within the broad area of expertise required of aviation lawyers, including criminal, tort, litigation, employment, products liability, transactional, and insurance defense, as well as administrative and regulatory practice before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board, and Transportation Security Administration. Brexit, Part 91/135 Leasing Issues and Taxation Considerations have been of special interest to the committee over the past year. Attendance at the sessions satisfy, in part, CLE credit requirements of those who are Florida Bar board certified in aviation law. Additionally, committee members often present sessions during the aviation law board certification exam’s review, held in January of each year immediately following the Embry-Riddle Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium. This seminar includes presentations on topics covered in the certification exam, including litigation, aeronautics and space law, aircraft registration and recording law, international treaties and conventions, airport land use, drones regulation, air taxi operations, airline labor law, and FAA enforcement and administrative actions.
The committee publishes an online newsletter, Vectors.
The committee and its members work closely with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association, National Business Aviation Association and Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association. The committee endowed the Eilon Krugman-Kadi scholarship with Embry Riddle, in honor of a former committee member.
We welcome participation of Florida Bar attorneys with an interest in, or who practice, aviation law but are not yet members. I thank Stefanie Svisco of The Florida Bar, and Vice Chair Christopher Jahr, for coordinating our February meeting and ensuring its success. In addition, I thank all members who presented at the January Aviation Law Certification Course. Finally, I thank those who attend our meetings and contribute to the transfer of knowledge, and committee members who assist The Florida Bar and its membership in this highly technical area of law.
L. Forrest Owens, Chair
The Aviation Law Certification Committee has completed its routine missions of drafting the 2021 exam for board certification in aviation law and vetting applicants for board certification in aviation law. The committee soon will be grading the 2021 exam and expects to welcome new members thereafter.
In addition, as part of its outreach efforts, the committee started a Twitter account and hopes anyone interested in aviation or aviation law will give that account a follow. The Twitter handle is @FLAvLawCert. The Aviation Law Certification Committee also welcomes follows from other committees and will follow back in an effort to promote board certification in general. Aviation law is a large and complex area of law. The committee continues to ensure that only those who truly possess specialized knowledge of aviation law and the highest ethical standards can hold themselves out as board certified aviation law attorneys.
Galen Bauer, Chair
The Business Litigation Certification Committee met the challenges brought during 2020-2021 and remains committed to supporting board certification. I am very proud of and grateful for all of the committee members’ participation and contributions this year. I am also very appreciative of Bar staff Certification Specialist Chyra Reynolds who did an excellent job for our committee.
The Business Litigation Board Certification Committee consist of nine members: Chair Sheila Biehl, Vice Chair Andrew Lannon, Joanne O’Connor, David Ferrentino, Stephen Padula, Steele Williams, Rachael Loukonen, Judge Janet Croom, and immediate Past Chair Michael Freed.
The committee met five times through March 1. Due to the pandemic circumstances, our meetings have been by Zoom. It is expected that our committee will meet three more times before the year end. The pandemic upset normal scheduling of our exams, which resulted in our committee having two different exam sessions: September 2020 and the upcoming May exam. In addition to having two grading sessions, our exam questions were reviewed and edited for 2021 to ensure compliance with the updated examination guidelines. There was also one grade review petition filed in 2020, which was considered by the committee as a whole and sent to the BSLE for final review.
In September 2020, there were 11 exam takers. There were 26 applications for the 2020 recertification, with seven approvals thus far. Currently we have nine applicants who are seeking initial certification that we anticipate will take the 2021 exam.
Our committee believes that we are having positive results from the rule change that now allows for advanced trial advocacy course to substitute for the jury trial requirement. We also believe that the Florida Supreme Court’s administrative order, which temporarily addresses until October 31, 2022, quantitative requirements for certification and recertification during the seven years immediately preceding the applications for certification and recertification, will be very helpful in growing and retaining the Business Litigation Board Certification members. Currently, there are 240 board certified business litigation attorneys.
Thank you to Bar staff and all of the committee members for their hard work and dedication. Board certification is one of the highest honors that a lawyer can achieve, and I have been very honored to serve as chair of the Business Litigation Certification Committee. We encourage all lawyers who want to excel in their field to work toward board certification. The time and investment you make in yourself is well worth the effort. To all of the members who are currently board certified, thank you for your continued support of the certification process and for serving as honorable and professional role models.
Sheila Biehl, Chair
The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) has the responsibility to administer programs for regulation of 27 areas of certification. The BLSE also oversees the legal education offered to all members of The Florida Bar. Established by the Florida Supreme Court, board certification is the highest recognition for ethics, character, professionalism, and credibility in the practice of law as recognized by The Florida Bar. The Bar is the largest certification program in the nation with more than 5,000 board-certified attorneys.
The BLSE is comprised of 16 members: Chair Steven B. Lesser; Vice Chair Philip R. Augustine; Patricia Dawson, John F. Eversole, Joseph F. “Skooter” Kinman, Jr., Michele L. Lieberman, Robert A. Norgard, Norma Stanley, R. Kansas Gooden, Mark Osherow, Colin M. Roopnarine, Elisha D. Roy, Joseph J. Weissman, David C. Willis, Barbara C. Wingo, and Sean Moyles.
Each member of the BLSE is assigned as a liaison to designated areas of certification, monitors issues and events for the individual certification areas, as needed. The BLSE has engaged in an outreach program to emphasize the value of becoming board certified to accomplish the following: 1) recruit new candidates; 2) educate the public as to why it is important to retain a board-certified attorney; and 3) encourage existing certified members to retain their board-certified status. This past year, the BLSE, with the assistance of digital media consultant Sachs Media Group, has implemented an advertising campaign through social media and other outlets to enhance awareness of the importance of board certification. Samples of the media tools and materials to enable lawyers to promote board certification have been posted on The Florida Bar Board Certification website. Our goal is to publicize the value of board certification and elevate this distinction to a new level.
Board certification matters! A recent study found that of 1,400 visitors to the Bar’s website to locate an attorney revealed that 64% consider board certification to be the most important factor when retaining an attorney. This statistic supports our message to local bar associations, law schools, and area committee functions that specialization provides an opportunity to become a better attorney and distinguish your credentials from others. To emphasize this point, the BLSE has encouraged board certified attorneys to post this video on their law firm website to educate potential clients about the advantages of hiring a board-certified attorney. The video is posted on Facebook directly from The Florida Bar Board Certification page and available for download and dissemination by our members to clients and to consumers of legal services. The video can also be found on our YouTube channel.
The BLSE has examined ways to encourage board-certified attorneys to retain their certification status. As our legal population ages, some board-certified attorneys find it difficult to satisfy the criteria to remain board certified particularly, for those area committees that require a specified number of trials, hearings, appellate arguments, or other quantitative requirements. To address this reality, the BLSE has proposed certain changes to Ch. 6 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar to relax those requirements for attorneys that have been certified for three cycles and continue to be substantially involved in their specialty area of practice. These board-certified attorneys must also satisfy peer review and CLE requirements. In addition, board-certified attorneys that transition to full-time mediation, arbitration, or those that serve as a neutral can remain certified if all other certification requirements are satisfied. This is an important change because our current rules do not recognize mediators, arbitrators, or neutrals as engaged in the “practice of law.” This past year, the BLSE, in conjunction with The Florida Bar, proposed a variety of revisions to Ch. 6, which have been submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for consideration to amend our current rules. The BLSE has submitted these revisions to provide uniformity among all 27 area committees and to improve our board certification program.
As a result of COVID-19, the BLSE extended the dates for the administration of its board certification examinations and elected to conduct the 2020 exams remotely. When it appeared that COVID-19 would prevent an in-person examination, the BLSE consulted with a recognized provider of remote bar and certification examinations known as “Examsoft” to arrange to have the examination administered remotely. At the same time, we offered those electing to handwrite the examination an opportunity to appear in person in a less congested environment subject to social distancing and CDC guidelines. The virtual examinations were successfully administered to approximately 148 applicants. Considering the success of the 2020 examination, virtual examinations will be offered in 2021. The virtual examination model is appealing as it eliminates travel, the expense of a hotel room, and overcomes any health risks.
In its continuing effort to assure that members applying for board certification are treated fairly and uniformly across the various certification areas, the BLSE is again sponsoring a roundtable session at the June 2021 annual meeting. The roundtable will either be held in person in Orlando or remotely utilizing Zoom. The roundtable presentation will focus on topics facing all area committees, including focusing on practical tips relative to the peer review process, handling grievances/malpractice issues during initial and recertification of applicants preparing and writing and grading the board certification exam. In addition, a large portion of the discussion will focus on innovative ways to market board certification as presented by Sachs Media Group. We plan to videotape this roundtable session to become part of the BLSE educational library to assist our area committees in carrying out the board certification process.
The BLSE continues to support the program, which coordinates, and makes available, board-certified lawyers to answer questions on a pro bono, “on-call” basis, known as the CLOC program. The program has experienced an enthusiastic response to its services. CLOC may be contacted at https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/pro-bono-partnerships/certified-lawyers-on-call/.
At The Florida Bar Annual Convention in Orlando on Thursday June 10, Chief Justice Charles Canady will present the Justice Harry Lee Anstead Award in recognition of The Florida Bar Board Certified Lawyer of the Year. This award goes to the board certified member who demonstrates outstanding excellence, professionalism, and commitment to the certification program, and to the practice of law in Florida. BLSE will also conduct its annual “pinning ceremony” to recognize all newly board-certified attorneys.
Steven B. Lesser, Chair
The Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is composed of 12 nonlawyer Floridians with varied interests and backgrounds who serve to provide two-way communication between the state’s citizens and The Florida Bar Board of Governors.
The objectives of the committee 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 committee annually to serve as resources. Before the pandemic, the committee generally met three times a year, twice in conjunction with Board of Governors meetings and once at annual convention, and as needed by teleconference or Zoom on certain matters.
During the 2020-21 Bar year, the CAC will have six meetings, one including a town hall, and a social event hosted by President Dori Foster-Morales. Paige Greenlee, a member of the Board of Governors, is the chair, and Vincent Cuomo of Palm Beach Gardens, who is in his third and final year serving on the committee as a nonlawyer, is vice chair. FAWL President Kimberly Hosley and BOG Communications Committee member Jordan Dresnick are the lawyer members for this year. BOG public members Jody Hudgins and Linda Goldstein have been invited to attend the meetings as well.
The committee members were extremely helpful in assisting The Florida Bar this year in educating thousands of voters on judicial elections and merit retention elections beginning in the summer. Using communications tool kits and printed copies of the Voters Guide, they distributed voter guides to homes and businesses; sent emails to their contacts; submitted letters to the editor of their local newspapers; posted on their personal social media accounts; spoke briefly during Zoom meetings of community organizations about the resources; contacted the local Office of New Americans (Miami-Dade); and encouraged Bar members to educate clients, friends, and family.
President Foster-Morales hosted a town hall with the committee members in October to learn more about their views on how the pandemic has affected access to justice, forced changes in the court system, and impacted communities across the state and shared the findings from the TFB member town halls held in August and September. Polls for the committee members were also administered and results were:
1) What has been your greatest challenge during the pandemic? (single choice): Isolation — 53%; Technology — 7%; Financial/job stability — 0%; child care — 3%; Elder care — 0%; Home life/work life balance 27%; and Other — 0%;
2) What are some ways lawyers can serve your community now and after the pandemic ends? (single choice): Email clients and friends about consumer resources available from TFB — 0%; Increase community volunteerism (non-legal) or charitable giving — 46%; Provide free Zoom seminars on legal topics through local organizations — 31%; Increase pro bono legal services — 23%.
The advantages and disadvantages of remote court proceedings for clients were also discussed. Committee members encouraged the need for lawyers to connect with families in need in any way possible and for the Bar to recognize lawyers who are giving back to their communities in these difficult times — through donations, volunteerism, public education, and pro bono legal service.
In January, committee members began work on a new project: aggregating resources and providing information for consumers about how to hire a lawyer and how to prepare for the first appointment. This project will also be web-based and include links to Florida Bar consumer information, Florida Bar and local bar lawyer referral services, and other sources. Committee member Karen Cespedes, of Miami, is leading this effort.
In February, the committee launched its project to involve more nonlawyer Floridians in the state’s legal and justice systems. Members compiled information, links, and contacts of more than a dozen ways nonlawyer volunteers may apply for appointments and posted the resources at floridabar.org/volunteer. The webpage features descriptions of the types of volunteer service, estimates of time commitments, meeting and travel requirements, and application information. Opportunities range from applying to be certified mediators, governing board members, and guardians ad litem, to appointed positions on Florida Bar committees and commissions. Members used a communications tool kit to spread the word in their communities about this new resource, sending emails, letters to the editor, and posting to social media about these resources.
Also in February, the committee received an overview on The Florida Bar Foundation and an update on grantees by Foundation Executive Director Donnie MacKenzie, as well as a briefing on the upcoming legislative session and anticipated issues affecting the administration of justice, including court funding. Materials were provided to the committee on the Judicial Branch Legislative Budget Request for fiscal year 2021-22 and members were offered the opportunity to volunteer as key contacts with legislators known to them to assist when urgent information needs to be disseminated. This presentation was by Julie Frey and Sandy Diamond, the BOG Legislation Committee chair and chair-elect, and legislative consultant Jim Daughton.
Four members will complete their terms in June 2021: Vincent Cuomo of Palm Beach Gardens; Maggie Davis of Pensacola Beach; Patience Burns of West Palm Beach; and Holly Tyrell of Neptune Beach. Their service has been greatly appreciated. Gratitude is also extended to longtime committee staff liaison Francine Walker for her guidance and devotion to the work of the committee.
Nominations for the four appointments for 2021-24 were received and from those 19 nominees, President-elect Mike Tanner will make those appointments. Those nominees who are not appointed this year will be forwarded to BOG members and staff for consideration for grievance and UPL nonlawyer appointments.
It is anticipated that the final committee meetings of the year will be held in May and June. More information on the Citizens Advisory Committee, including its charter and members’ photos and biographies, can be found at www.floridabar.org/citizensadvisory.
Paige Greenlee, Chair
It was a privilege to serve as the chair of the City, County and Local Government Law Certification Committee over the past year. The committee is comprised of an outstanding group of board certified peers who stand dedicated and ready to accomplish the committee’s goals. In recognition of their service to the committee, I extend my sincere thanks to Vice Chair Sarah Taitt, and to members Kate Latorre, Henry Hunnefeld, Derek Rooney, Robert Shillinger, Jr., Miriam Ramos, Nikki Day, and Judge Suzanne Van Wyk.
During the year, the committee worked diligently to prepare and refine the 2021 certification examination, while adapting to the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This required rethinking and modification of previous practices and schedules to remotely conduct committee business, create a new exam, and grade both last year’s and eventually this year’s exams. Additionally, the committee closely reviewed and analyzed applications for candidates seeking certification and recertification in city, county, and local government law. This year, the committee received 38 initial applications for certification and 41 applications for recertification. The committee’s efforts were aimed at ensuring that qualified and reputable attorneys were approved to sit for the examination.
The success enjoyed by the committee could not have been accomplished without the hard work and outstanding support of our Bar certification specialist, Paige Dooley-Levy. In her second year serving as our committee liaison, Paige displayed tremendous knowledge, professionalism, and organizational skills. Paige kept the committee focused on the particular task at hand and kindly and steadily guided us to complete our work in time to meet the applicable deadlines. I speak for the committee in thanking Paige for her diligent efforts to keep the committee on track.
My participation in the City, County and Local Government Law Certification Committee has proven to be both a challenging and rewarding experience, but the time and effort pledged to the committee over the last several years has been well worth it. Membership on the committee has provided me with the opportunity to establish professional relationships with local government practitioners from around the state of Florida who face situations and challenges in their day-to-day practice similar to my own and, thus, they have become invaluable resources. I encourage any attorney seeking to become more involved in the Bar to pursue committee membership.
Dean R. DiRose, Chair
Over the past year, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee has continued its efforts to improve the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. The committee, including its various subcommittees, worked hard to respond thoroughly, thoughtfully, and efficiently to individual and judicial referrals, to offer comments responsive to Florida Supreme Court inquiry, and to address the work of other committees where appropriate. The committee is pleased to report on its ongoing progress and many accomplishments.
One of the committee’s more large-scale projects has been the review and overhaul of the Civil Procedure Rules Forms (Rule 1.900, et seq.), by way of a subcommittee chaired by 11th Judicial Circuit Judge Darryl Trawick. Over the years, revisions ancillary to rule amendments have been made, but this effort has been an independent and wholesale review to produce forms that not only better conform to the rules, but more uniformly and efficiently facilitate litigation and trial practices.
Also of significance is the work responsive to the Florida Supreme Court’s invitation to the committee for submission of comments on issues related to the court’s amendment of Rule 1.510, done to implement the court’s adoption of the federal summary judgment standard. This was a fast-tracked effort, and a subcommittee chaired by Thomas Bishop worked diligently and comprehensively to propose additional rule amendment alternatives, backed up with a fulsome report, which the committee has submitted to the Supreme Court.
The court also asked the committee to address standing at inception in mortgage foreclosure actions (Rule 1.115) “to provide for the resolution of standing at inception challenges at the beginning of foreclosure actions and authorizing the corrections of pleading deficiencies.” The subcommittee, under the leadership of committee Vice Chair Lance Curry, worked deliberately and meticulously to respond to the court with a conscientious report, while recommending no action, but also putting forward the requested proposal for amendment.
Efforts by a subcommittee chaired by Vice Chair Jason Stearns continues to examine the adoption of elements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The committee has been in rigorous debate regarding this effort, which will have far-reaching implications for initial disclosures and summary judgment, as well as the overall schedule for the progress of civil litigation. Several ideas and proposals are on the table.
A subcommittee chaired by Colleen Maranges has been working on a referral regarding the adoption of a rule in accord with Civil Jury Instructions 801.2 and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.410 regarding jury requests for transcripts and “read-back” testimony. A rule (proposed Rule 1.445) has been approved in concept.
Remote testimony remains a work in progress. Given the statutory changes allowing remote notarization, as well as the Florida Supreme Court’s adoption of rules accommodating COVID-19 restrictions, a lot of work has been done trying to put together common-sense ways of looking at remote testimony going forward. The subcommittee, under the leadership of its chair, Judson Cohen, continues to press forward while also awaiting the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee’s input on certain elements first, again mindful of cohesion and uniformity.
There has been an ongoing effort to draft a rule on the limited appearance of counsel, which regained momentum after the Florida Supreme Court amended Rule 2.505 related to attorney appearances. The subcommittee, chaired by Jeffrey Hearne, has completed its work on a rule proposal that is now ready for consideration by the full committee.
In addition to the foregoing, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee continues to work diligently on a multitude of referrals on a wide range of topics. A subcommittee chaired by Paul Regensdorf has toiled on an amendment to Rule 1.525 that will add clarity and conformity to the procedure and timing of attorneys’ fees motions. Another subcommittee, also chaired by Mr. Regensdorf, has worked on amendments to Rules 1.500 and 1.440(c), to harmonize provisions addressing defaults, focusing especially on the service and notice to which parties are entitled. Still another subcommittee, chaired by Sandy Solomon, continues to work to bring further precision to Rule 1.442’s proposal for settlement provisions.
This committee performs extensive and difficult work to ensure coherence and uniformity in the Rules of Civil Procedure, and it is comprised of experienced practitioners and judges from all reaches of the state, each bringing experience and perspective from a wide variety of backgrounds. The quality of the work performed is the result of the outstanding teamwork among the committee members. Moreover, the committee always — this year even more so — acts to maintain open communication and collaboration with other rules committees. The concerted and deliberate use of liaisons and active participation in joint working groups makes for a better rulemaking process.
The extreme circumstances and challenges we have all confronted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot go unmentioned. Yet, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee members have accomplished so much this year without missing a beat. The referrals and requests for comments requiring the committee’s attention never slowed; to the contrary, they sped up. With the aid of technology, the committee members managed to maintain a fast and furious pace to keep up with those referrals and requests and to debate complex, and often nuanced, amendment proposals.
My mention of a fast and furious pace is a good segue into my expressions of thanks. I have said it many times in committee meetings, but once more, thank you to all my wonderful colleagues on this committee. We have worked at an unbelievable pace this year, and the committee members, including so many outstanding subcommittee chairs, truly stepped up. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these folks.
Finally, thank you to the committee Vice Chairs Jason Stearns, Lance Curry, and Elliot Kula for all of the assistance they have given me. I could not have managed the year without them. Many thanks, also, to Siobhan Grant, for serving as the committee’s secretary, which is no easy task; to Sandy Solomon, for serving as the committee’s parliamentarian; and to Ardith Bronson, for leaving the committee in great shape and making it easy to take the reins. Most importantly, on behalf of the entire committee, thank you to our Florida Bar attorney liaison, Mikalla Davis, who always keeps us informed and on track.
It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as chair of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. I am proud of the tremendous accomplishments this year, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
Ceci Culpepper Berman, Chair
Civil trial law is the practice of law dealing with the litigation of civil controversies in all areas of substantive law before Florida circuit courts or other equivalent courts of the states and federal district courts. 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, less than 1% of Florida lawyers are board certified civil trial lawyers sitting at 1,002 certified 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.
The Civil Trial Certification Committee overcame significant challenges this year in the face of COVID-19. In the 2020-21 year, we were able to conduct all our meetings remotely on Zoom with excellent attendance and were able to move to a completely online review process for applications and peer review for new applicants and applicants seeking recertification. We revised the grading scale for the certification exam with a goal of improving visibility into the process. We continued to increase our emphasis on peer review and continued to develop ways to recognize alternatives to trial participation for qualification purposes.
This year, we successfully reviewed over 170 applicants for recertifications and 43 applicants for initial certification with 31 qualifying to sit for the exam. Vice Chair James Gassenheimer served as our liaison to the Trial Lawyers Section executive council and used that platform to promote civil trial certification to the entire Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar (TLS), with over 5,600 members. We also continued to work with the TLS on promoting the Advanced Trial Advocacy seminar that provides one trial certification credit.
We owe a special thanks to our board member, Sue Cole, who drafted our committee’s portion of the petition to the Florida Supreme Court seeking to temporarily modify the quantitative elements of the certification process during COVID-19. On February 1, Administrative Order AOSC21-2 was signed by Chief Justice Canady, that will remain in effect until October 31, 2022, extending the time periods for certification and recertification, to allow the quantitative elements of the requirements for certification and recertification to include a seven-year look back rather than five years.
The committee gives special thanks to its members for their attendance at our meetings and to outgoing Vice Chair James Gassenheimer for his support and input on policy; and of course, Jaclyn O’Hara, our civil trial certification specialist from The Florida Bar, without whom we’d be lost. I step down as chair knowing the program is in the best hands.
John W. “Jack” McLuskey, Chair
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 when acting as the claimant’s lawyer. The Clients’ Security Fund is currently financed by $25 of every active and inactive Florida Bar member’s annual dues, as well as each application to appear pro hac vice in Florida, and has over $2.6 million budgeted for fiscal year 2020-21 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 209 new claims and paid out over $2.6 million to clients for claims filed against 106 Florida lawyers. As of the date of this report, for the fiscal year ending June 30, the fund has received 105 new claims against 65 lawyers and has currently approved 31 claims with approved losses of over $344,000. Claims are paid only after a lawyer has been suspended, deceased, placed on the inactive list for incapacity not related to misconduct, or has had the member’s status as a member of The Florida Bar revoked or terminated. Fee claims and misappropriation claims less than $1,000, are paid promptly after approval. All other claims, i.e., those over $1,000, are paid on a pro rata basis after the end of the fiscal year, if there are not enough funds available to pay 100% of the approved losses. Since its inception, the Clients’ Security Fund has processed over 13,000 claims and paid out over $46 million 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 2020-21 Clients’ Security Fund Committee is composed of 19 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 involves extensive time and energy in the investigation of claims and preparation of reports. Guided and assisted by dedicated Bar staff, claims are thoroughly investigated, and members make recommendations for approval or denial 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 as well as being good stewards of the fund. 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 may devastate clients financially and emotionally. Bar staff and the Clients’ Security Fund Committee are devoted to repairing the public’s trust in members of the Bar and the legal system.
There are more than 109,000 lawyers in the state of Florida and, as of the last fiscal year, claims under the Clients’ Security Fund were made against 0.1% 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 and to restore confidence in the profession.
I have served on this committee for six years and currently serve as chair. Each call to a client allows me and every investigating member of the committee the chance to right a wrong and attempt to reestablish lost trust in Florida lawyers. On the committee, I have met and served with some of the finest and most hard-working lawyers in the Bar. Without their dedication, the Clients’ Security Fund could not serve its valuable purpose. I am term limited, and it will be difficult to end my tenure on the committee. Each member of the committee is to be commended for their diligence and hard work in investigating and processing claims.
All who serve on a Florida Bar committee 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. Thank you to Stacey Thrash, administrative support; Celia Connell, CSF administrator; Rick Courtemanche, deputy general counsel; and Gypsy Bailey, general counsel/division director of Ethics and Client Protection, for the tremendous effort, work, and discipline they have given to this committee.
Russell M. Robbins, Chair
The CREC deals with some of the weightiest issues that face The Florida Bar and its membership, and often evidence is the forefront of emerging issues for Bar membership. Due to the COVID pandemic, remote testimony has become an increasingly germane and significant topic; and the ad hoc committee on this issue continues its work. During my time as chair, the CREC utilized other ad hoc committees to study and address issues raised by members. Our meetings have borne the fruit of the work of these ad hoc committees, including analysis and review of the coordinating Federal Rules of Evidence regarding witness impeachment and drafting proposed legislation regarding judicial notice of internet mapping and imaging. This proposed legislation was forwarded to the executive director and to the Trial Lawyers Section for potential lobbying efforts. The Education Subcommittee also coordinated and hosted The Florida Bar’s annual Hot Topics in Evidence CLE. Due to the pandemic, this CLE was presented virtually in October 2020 and supported The Florida Bar’s inclusion and diversity goals. This CLE remains one of the Bar’s most popular and profitable CLEs. The CREC continues its work for this CLE. The CREC also held virtual orientation for new members.
Although the highest profiled issues were addressed by the ad hoc committees, much of the work done by CREC was done in its subcommittees and by Bar standing committee liaisons. The decision on selecting liaisons and subcommittee chairs was made thoughtfully based on racial, gender, and geographic diversity, as well as practice areas and other expertise. The depth and excellence of the work product produced demonstrates that those aforementioned factors should continue to be on the forefront of the next chair’s mind while making these pertinent decisions. Please see the CREC homepage for a list of the officers, liaisons, subcommittee and ad hoc chairs, as well as committee member breakdown. The CREC is staffed by Mikalla Davis, and she is and continues to be an incredible resource and a pleasure to work with. On behalf of the CREC members, we extend our sincerest gratitude and thanks to attorney Davis for her skilled support and guidance. We also had a liaison from The Florida Bar Board of Governors, Paige Adonna Greenlee, who was constantly present, active, and informative. She was a great resource to the CREC.
Working on a standing rules committee for The Florida Bar is a challenging, yet rewarding, effort and the members of this committee have worked diligently in their service. All meetings this term have been via Zoom, and there was marked improvement in attendance and participation.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve and look forward to continuing to serve The Florida Bar.
Melisa L. Bodnar, Chair
The Constitutional Judiciary Committee (CJC) worked diligently this year to prepare for a Board of Governors review of the Benchmarks program, which consists of a series of activities that volunteer lawyers may present to adult civic and community organizations to provide education on the principles of democracy and the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary.
Our goals were as follows and the work accomplished by the three subcommittees described below.
Goals: Prepare for and participate in the Board of Governors review of Benchmarks, working to establish plans to sustain the program with measurable objectives to include an annual review of the individual activities, determining how virtual presentations may be given, establishing and updating procedures for presentations and feedback and measurement tools, and creating a statewide promotional plan that will increase participation by Bar members and requests for presentations by community organizations.
The Activity Review Subcommittee, chaired by committee Vice Chair Judge Gary Flower, discussed the seven existing Benchmarks activities and decided that The Florida Bar should continue to offer this adult civic education program to the public; recognized that some of the activities needed to be updated and refreshed, as well as modified for virtual presentations, and assessed each activity deciding that some of the Benchmarks should not be used again, more relevant Benchmarks were needed, and others need to be updated; and studied the possibility of working with the Lou Frey Institute at University of Central Florida to provide the professional adult education expertise needed while the committee would be utilized for their subject-matter expertise.
The Procedures and Measurement Tools Subcommittee, chaired by committee Vice Chair Jason Silver, determined the Benchmarks program could be administered and tracked through The Florida Bar Speakers Bureau and that forms for volunteering could be adapted to list Benchmarks topics and to query volunteers about training; developed feedback forms for presenters, organizers, and attendees; identified key findings of the 2019 trained presenters survey; and considered setting annual, measurable objectives for the program.
The Promotion Plan Subcommittee, chaired by committee member Katherine Van de Bogart, worked to determine how the program can be promoted to speakers and to groups; identified and collected names of community groups for the presentations; identified how Spanish translations of the presentations can be created and presented; examined the Speakers Bureau sign-up process to better integrate the presentations and identify potential presenters; and discussed how to train speakers once the new presentations are available.
The committee agreed to recommend a new educational partner to provide professional services to update the activities and provide lawyer volunteer training, to include making virtual presentations, and is asking the Board of Governors to forge an agreement with the Lou Frey Institute. Initially, the committee chair and vice chairs attended a conference call with LFI staff to discuss how the institute might work with the Bar, considering two of the current activities as examples and suggested a new activity on cybersecurity as the first priority prior to completing a draft agreement to begin in July in one-year increments. The entire committee received a presentation by the LFI and voted unanimously to recommend the partnership.
In addition, the committee oversaw an extensive 2020 Florida voter education program regarding judicial elections and merit retention elections, including a poll of in-state Bar members about the appellate judges on the merit retention ballot; a redesigned Voter Guide in English and Spanish answering questions about courts and what judges do; collecting and distributing the Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure statements by trial court candidates; and creating The Vote’s in YOUR COURT online resource center on The Florida Bar website with links to the poll, Voter Guide, bios of judges facing merit retention, and additional voter resources.
The confidential poll regarding one state Supreme Court justice and 24 appellate court judges received excellent participation by 3,626 Florida Bar members who had knowledge of the judges, and results indicated recommendations or retention ranging from 90% to 71% approval. All the judges were retained in the November general election.
More than 50,000 Guide for Florida Voters brochures were distributed through supervisors of elections and public libraries throughout the state in English and in Spanish.
Sixty-four candidates for county or circuit judicial seats participated in the self-disclosure statements.
The resources webpage and its component pages were among the most-viewed pages on the Bar’s website in October, only surpassed by Find a Lawyer. Between September 1 and November 3, the election pages saw 166,525 users viewing various pages 300,181 times.
The committee appreciated the assistance of the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee in promoting and distributing these resources in their communities and among their personal contacts.
Appreciation is extended to committee staff liaison Francine Walker and to subcommittee staff liaisons Jennifer Krell Davis, Sue Ray, and Leslie Smith for their guidance and assistance.
Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Chair
The committee has continued to pursue additional initiatives to improve the quality of the construction law certification exam for 2021. As of this date, there are 407 board certified construction lawyers, including 11 who passed the 2020 exam (out of 22 examinees). We have 67 applications to take the 2021 exam in May.
The challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have touched our lives both personally and professionally, and the work of the committee is no different. There were several unique logistical and operational challenges presented by the pandemic. Two certification exams were administered during this committee year, the 2020 exam originally scheduled in May of last year that was postponed to September and held remotely, as well as the 2021 exam in May, which will also be held remotely. Zoom meetings by committee members became the norm this year but allowed for the work of the committee to move forward without interruption.
Our committee continues to create new multiple-choice questions and update our test bank questions, consistent with the BLSE’s recent exam drafting guidelines. We have also tailored the 2021 exam to test more evenly those subjects described in the exam specifications with the goal of testing examinees on whether they have “walking around” knowledge of construction law that would justify board certification. We continue to develop new essays and an essay bank.
This year, our exam will again consist of 100 multiple-choice questions and four essay questions, divided into four 90-minute segments. It will be further edited and evaluated prior to the May exam to ensure the finished product is one we all feel confident releasing to the examinees as they take the exam, some for the second or third time.
This year, the chair welcomed (virtually) the potential test takers with an introduction to the exam at the Construction Law Certification Review course. Our committee recertified over 90 lawyers who applied this year after reviewing applications, including careful consideration of peer review statements, grievance history, and CLE compliance.
It is noteworthy that the committee members have devoted countless hours writing exam questions and grading exams, and thoroughly reviewing certification and recertification applications. We continue to have outstanding staff support from our Florida Bar liaison, Allison Armour, and owe her the highest gratitude for her diligent efforts in assisting our committee during this challenging and busy year.
Finally, thanks to all our committee members for their steadfastness and devotion to ensuring that Florida maintains the highest ethical standards for construction law attorneys.
Joe Dill, Chair
Going strong for more than 40 years, the Consumer Protection Law Committee educates consumers and Bar members about consumer protection laws and issues, as well as provides expert resources to attorneys, judges, and lawmakers. The committee, which accomplishes its work through seven subcommittees, has been active this year. Among its accomplishments, the committee:
1) Formed the new Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, which held an inaugural “cyberside chat” featuring a conversation with staff from the Florida Attorney General’s Office to discuss recent data privacy and security enforcement actions.
2) Organized a CLE seminar to be held virtually as part of the upcoming annual convention. The seminar is, “Assisting Consumers in the Aftermath of COVID-19.”
3) Monitored legislation to assess how proposed bills would affect Florida consumers.
4) Created new online submission form to increase awareness and nominations for deserving attorneys to be selected for The Florida Bar Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year Award for 2020.
5) Updated its Bench Manual on consumer issues published by the Florida Court Education Council for use by Florida state court judges.
6) Reviewed and updated Florida Bar consumer pamphlets to educate the public.
7) Reinvigorated our Facebook and Twitter pages and created a LinkedIn page to engage Florida consumers and attorneys as part of the committee’s outreach and education efforts.
Data Privacy and Cybersecurity: The Consumer Protection Law Committee formed this newly established subcommittee to educate and inform fellow Floridians and attorneys about the growing and evolving impact that data privacy and cyber issues have upon Florida consumers, lawyers, and business. Through “cyberside chats” hosting various subject-matter experts, this subcommittee will share knowledge, insight, and awareness regarding emerging trends and recent developments. These presentations will include topics ranging from providing a general overview on data breaches and ransomware and offering guidance to lawyers at small and large law firms about best security practices to sharing in-house, corporate perspectives on establishing protocols and policies to protect customer information, as well as reporting on developments with recent privacy bills introduced in the Florida Legislature.
The subcommittee held the inaugural Florida Bar Cyberside Privacy Chat on February 24 featuring a conversation with the Florida Attorney General’s Office regarding recent enforcement actions. The speakers included Edward Moffitt, a senior investigative specialist in the Attorney General’s Office; Greg Sadowski, a senior assistant attorney general; Ron Honick, an assistant attorney general; and Diane Oates, an assistant attorney general. The subcommittee has two more planned events on the horizon and established a long-term goal of hosting an event on a monthly basis. We are fortunate to have two co-chairs with expertise in the area who have worked tirelessly to successfully launch this subcommittee: Patrice Malloy is the multistate and privacy bureau chief with the AG’s office, and Richard Lawson is a partner with Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort who previously served as the director of Consumer Protection Division at the AG’s office.
Virtual CLE on Recovery: COVID-19 dramatically changed the world around us and left many facing economic hardship. While the program will cover a number of facets of COVID-19-related issues, there will be an emphasis on protections related to housing, both in the landlord-tenant and mortgage context. Panelists include leaders in legal aid organizations, the Florida AG’s office, private practice attorneys representing business and consumers, and in-house counsel. The seminar will be held on Wednesday, June 9. Many thanks go to Co-Chairs Lynn Drysdale of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., Margery Golant of Margery E. Golant, P.A., Ruth Jackson Lee of Jackson Lee P.A., and Aaron S. Weiss of Carlton Fields.
Legislative: The Legislative Subcommittee has continued to diligently track and monitor legislation to assess how various bills would affect Florida consumers, as well as prepare summaries of specific bills that may impact consumer law in Florida. The areas of coverage range from bills covering subjects such as vulnerable investor protection, medical billing disclosure, and consumer data privacy. The subcommittee remains available for consultation by Florida legislators if they seek further insight and analysis on particular issues as in prior legislative sessions, where we have responded to requests for information from the legislature on consumer issues, such as PACE loans and high-cost consumer loans. This active subcommittee is headed by dedicated Co-Chairs Rachel Bentley, an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, and Barry Balmuth of Barry S. Balmuth, P.A.
Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year: For the 11th year, the committee will honor an attorney for excellence, character, community involvement, and commitment to the practice of consumer protection law. The Awards Subcommittee was led by Genevieve Bonan, senior assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, with Judge Sarah L. Shullman of the 15th Judicial Circuit, Ian Leavengood of LeavenLaw, and Beth Norrow of Greenberg Traurig LLP. For the first time ever, to enhance accessibility, the nomination form is available online and in PDF format. The committee reached out to legal aid organizations, voluntary bar associations, leaders in the community, and private firms to widen the pool of nominees.
Bench manual for Florida judges: The committee has prepared a Florida Bar Consumer Protection Law Committee bench book covering six areas of law affecting consumers: the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act; auto sales and finance; the state’s Lemon Law; credit card actions; residential evictions; and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. The Publications Committee of the Florida Court Education Council approved use of The Florida Bar Consumer Protection Law Committee bench book two years ago. The manual is posted on the intranet of the Office of the State Courts Administrator. The committee is working on legal and formatting updates to the manual and plans to have the updated manual printed and distributed to the bench in 2021-22. Vice Chair Victoria Butler, who is the director of the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, and subcommittee Chair Anthony Bradlow, assistant state attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, are overseeing the edits, assisted by subcommittee members David Abrams, Robert Neary, Nicholas Merriweather, Taras Rudnitsky, Jacqueline Simms-Petredis, Adam Thoresen, and Andrea White.
Florida Bar Consumer Pamphlets updated: When consumers need basic legal information on a variety of topics from landlord-tenant issues to writing a will, they can turn to The Florida Bar’s 47 consumer pamphlets. The committee reviews and updates these pamphlets. Alex McClure of the Law Office of Alex McClure chaired the committee this year, which updated over 10 of the pamphlets. We are grateful for Vanessa Clark, Guillermo Levy, and Marena Ramirez preparing Spanish translations of pamphlets in order to reach even more Floridians and for the assistance of Dennis Wall and Brett Foster for updating popular pamphlets that consumers frequently consult to learn information about their rights under Florida law.
Social Media and Outreach: Eight years ago, before social media became more prominent in communicating, the Consumer Protection Law Committee became The Florida Bar pioneer for social media, beginning to tweet messages to consumers and lawyers via Twitter. The Social Media and Outreach Subcommittee reinvigorated the Facebook and Twitter pages for the Consumer Protection Law Committee, generally satisfying the goal of at least weekly posts to increase reach and engagement to consumers and attorneys. The 2020-21 subcommittee also created the committee’s first LinkedIn page, which expanded the committee’s reach to attorneys and other professionals regarding CLEs and webinars on consumer law issues.
The subcommittee focused on highlighting the accomplishments and events organized by the Consumer Protection Law Committee’s other subcommittees. The subcommittee also focused on updating consumers regarding COVID resources and financial assistance updates from the CFPB and FTC during this unprecedented time. Finally, the subcommittee worked to increase exposure of local legal aid Zoom webinars and CLEs that became more accessible to all Floridians than previous in-person events had ever been. Kaelyn Diamond of Ziegler Diamond Law chaired the subcommittee, with Dennis J. Wall acting as lead Twitter manager. The subcommittee was assisted by Lisa DiFranzia, Janelle Webber, David George, and Charles Geitner.
I thank Vice Chairs Victoria Butler, Charles Geitner and Beth Norrow. Their efforts, along with the efforts of our active members, contributed to another successful year for the Consumer Protection Law Committee.
Anthony J. Palermo, Chair
The mission of the Continuing Legal Education Committee is to assist the members of The Florida Bar in their continuing legal education. The committee includes representatives from other committees and all Florida Bar sections. This allows various sections and committees to share ideas regarding successful programming techniques, as well as marketing models to reach wide audiences.
This year, the following five working subcommittees were established to further the CLE committee’s mission:
1) Seminar Subcommittee: Responsible for the design, implementation, speaker recruitment, presentation, and coordination of The Florida Bar CLE Committee’s free, three-hour seminar, presented through diverse speakers, at the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention. The seminar is a follow-up to the committee’s well received, “Speaker Fever: Secrets to an Amazing CLE Presentation!” presented during the 2019 convention.
2) Marketing/Advertising Subcommittee: Responsible for recommendations to generate interest in seminars produced by The Florida Bar and encourage purchases of the Bar’s CLE products (CD and DVD, 24/7 on demand CLE, publications, etc.).
3) Technology/Webinar Subcommittee: Charged with developing and delivering the highest quality a) Quick How-to Video Guide to a Successful Webinar, and b) Quick How-to Video Guide to Effective Use of Technology in a Live Seminar and/or Webinar.
4) Increasing and Diversifying the Speaker Pool Subcommittee: Responsible for recommendations to promote diversity of speakers with the understanding that diversity presents different perspectives, life experiences, and creates a more dynamic seminar.
5) CLE Webpage Revamp Subcommittee: Charged with identifying problems with The Florida Bar’s current webpages and maximizing their potential, including promoting The Florida Bar’s seminars and CLEs, generating revenue, driving more traffic.
On October 1, 2020, the CLE Committee held its virtual retreat. Two seminars were presented that included 3.5 hours of CLEs, 1.5 hours in ethics, and 1.5 hours in professionalism. Christy Crump presented, “Generation Z: Your Soon to be Colleagues and Clients,” and Rebecca Bandy presented, “The Overcoming.” These CLEs were recorded and are available for free credit online.
As a result of COVID-19 and the resulting influx of courses that were held in a virtual-only format, the committee developed and implemented new course evaluations for online webcast, CD/DVD and 24/7 aftermarket product formats. Previously, only live in-person course attendees were given the opportunity to evaluate a course, and this improvement should dramatically expand the number of survey responses each course receives, as well as offer additional insight into how to improve our collective virtual CLE programming.
The CLE Committee, in order to continue its goal of assisting Florida Bar committees to maximize the quality of their CLE presentation, plans to present a virtual three-hour CLE with the proposed title, “How to Prepare, Promote, and Present Great Florida Bar CLE,” at the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention. Attendees will learn the best practices in creating, preparing, and presenting great Florida Bar CLE; the best practices in employing technology to maximize the impact of Florida Bar CLE; and lastly the best practices in marketing great Florida Bar CLE. In order to diversify the pool of speakers and encourage members of The Florida Bar who seek to become a presenter to offer their services to our profession at the Bar’s various programs, the course will be free. Additionally, the course will be recorded to make it available online for those who are unable to attend. The CLE Committee hopes our sections and committees will continue to enact practices and policies that develop the confidence and skills of newer members of The Florida Bar to allow those persons to assume leadership roles. You can say that this year our committee was focused on activities designed to make all members of this profession feel inclusive and knowledgeable in presenting and promoting CLEs.
Patricia Dawson, Chair
The Condominium and Planned Development Law Certification Committee, through the oversight of the Board of Legal Specialization and Education, consists of 196 certified attorneys.
This committee certifies attorneys whose practice of law involves 1) serving as counsel to community associations, developers, lenders, property owners, community association members, sellers, purchasers, governmental agencies, and investors in matters related to condominiums and planned developments; 2) drafting governing documents or their amendments and preparing filings with governmental agencies that regulate community associations or planned developments; 3) serving in or for governmental agencies that regulate community associations or planned developments; 4) representing parties in construction lien and defect claims, collection of assessment actions, covenant and rule enforcement and dispute resolution, such as litigation, arbitration, and mediations in matters relating to community associations or planned developments; and 5) planning, developing, constructing, and financing of condominium or planned development communities.
The 2020-2021 committee received 23 applications; 23 were approved to sit for the examination; and 19 applicants sat for the examination on March 11.
During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, numerous committee meetings were held to 1) review and respond to two grade petitions from the previous year that were delayed due to COVID-19; 2) evaluate the credentials of new applicants; 3) prepare and publish an updated study guide with relevant cases, statutes, and other authority through December 31, 2020; 4) review results and data from the 2020 examination; and 5) prepare the 2021 examination, including numerous modified and new questions to meet revised BLSE requirements in addition to normal exam revisions to cull older questions and address new issues and developments in our practice area. The committee will be meeting in the next few months to grade the 2021 examination.
Members of the Condominium and Planned Development Law Certification Committee are Chad M. McClenathen, chair, Sarasota; Russell M. Robbins, vice chair, Coral Springs; Barry B. Ansbacher, Jacksonville; Viviana E. Aspuru, Miami; Shawn G. Brown, Tampa; Charles B. Capps, Ft. Myers; Christopher N. Davies, Naples; Kenneth S. Direktor, Ft. Lauderdale; and Peter M. Dunbar, Tallahassee. I thank each committee member for their contributions to the committee this year.
I encourage all eligible attorneys to apply for certification. This designation identifies an individual to other attorneys and to the public as an expert in our area of the law and having been evaluated for professionalism by their peers.
Chad M. McClenathen, Chair
The Criminal Law Certification Committee is responsible for overseeing the process of certifying attorneys as either criminal trial specialists or criminal appellate 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 criminal appellate actions or trials. For initial criminal appellate applicants: representation of at least 25 criminal appellate actions. For recertification criminal appellate applicants: representation of at least 10 criminal appellate actions. For initial criminal trial applicants: at least 25 contested criminal cases, with 20 jury trials tried to a verdict, 15 which 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 committee, I am happy to report another successful year of overseeing the certification of Florida criminal lawyers. This year, the committee was comprised of 12 geographically diverse board-certified attorneys who practice in a variety of areas, including criminal trial, criminal appellate, criminal prosecution, and criminal defense. The committee consists of government attorneys, public defenders, and private practitioners. The committee began drafting the 2021 examination in August 2020 and met in February (via Zoom) to review initial and recertification applications. Over the next several months, the committee will be working 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 certification 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 a criminal lawyer’s fundamental knowledge of the law, analytical reasoning, and skill in applying knowledge to practical situations. On May 14, applicants will answer these questions in two three-hour blocks either in person (in Tampa) or remotely and will be advised of their results by July 30.
At its final meeting, the committee will grade the 2021 examinations. 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 criminal appellate law board certified specialist or criminal trial law board certified specialist.
Of the more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar, 442 are currently board certified in criminal trial law, and 43 are board certified in criminal appellate law. Twenty-two attorneys applied to take the 2021 criminal trial law certification exam. Seven of these applicants submitted “abbreviated applications” after either failure or nonattendance at the 2020 exam. Six attorneys applied to take the 2021 criminal appellate law certification exam, four of which were abbreviated applications. Because of the impact of the pandemic, deadlines for recertification applications were extended, and the committee continues its review of both criminal trial recertification applications and criminal appellate 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, along with Melynda Melear (vice chair), Lawrence Avallone, Andrew Carrabis, Judge William Burgess, Judge Donna Goerner, Michael Salnick, Katheryn Speicher, Mitchell Stone, Cyrus Toufanian, Michael Ufferman, and Nancy Wear. None of our work could have been accomplished without our wonderful staff liaison, Laurinda Jackson! I thank everyone for all their hard work and great effort.
Pamela Koller, Chair
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee is comprised of members from all areas of the practice of criminal law, including judges, prosecuting attorneys, public and private defense attorneys, and members of academia. Thoughtful selection of committee members by The Florida Bar leadership ensures a committee that is professionally and geographically diverse. This balanced membership means that referrals presented to the committee receive consideration from all perspectives. Over the past year or two, the committee has lost some balance and is currently comprised of approximately 50% criminal defense attorneys. To restore the balance, the committee should be compromised of approximately one-third each from the judiciary, prosecutors, and criminal defense.
Rules committee members are assigned to subcommittees and referrals to the committee are assigned to the appropriate subcommittee for consideration. Referrals come to the committee from the Florida Supreme Court, interested parties, legislative enactments, and the committee’s own review of relevant law. Upon receipt of a referral, the subcommittee is careful to consider whether the issue is appropriately within the scope of the Rules of Procedure and whether the issue under review is one that occurs with enough frequency or significance to warrant a change.
The activities of the subcommittees and full committee are available for review on the rules committee’s page. The committee meeting minutes provide interested parties with the committee’s reasoning behind the actions it takes, including the positions advanced by proponents and opponents of proposed rule changes, as well as the voting results on each matter.
A few of the matters considered by the rules committee over the past year include referrals relating to speedy trial, post-judgment modification in sentences, and remote testimony. The rules committee worked extensively on the speedy trial rule developed by the Criminal Court Steering Committee last year. That rule was ultimately rejected by the Florida Supreme Court who made their own referral this year. While some committee members are territorial about where these referrals originate, I believe this sentiment is not appropriate. A referral to require judges to explain the reasoning for their sentence when the sentence is not based on a negotiated plea failed for a second time. Rules committee members narrowly approved a new Rule 3.800(d), which would allow the court to modify a sentence at any time if both the state and defendant are in agreement. Although it originally passed by a large majority, after a motion to rescind, the committee was split due to concerns about finality, consistency, cost, and separation of powers.
The committee also worked on the expungement rule, form 3.996, concerning juvenile offenders, Rule 3.212 on competency and Rule 3.116 on remote testimony. The committee was not able to come to an agreement on changes to Rule 3.116 and, therefore, will need to evaluate the Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration’s proposed changes to Rule 2.530.
I extend my sincere thanks to all committee members for their hard work throughout the past year. I give a special thanks to the vice chairs, Jude Faccidomo, Duke Fagan, and Robert Scavone, who were always willing and ready to assist me. Also, the following people went above and beyond with extra work to keep the committee moving forward: Judge Alan Apte, Judge Stephen Everett, Judge Richard Hersch, and Judge Michelle Sisco. I also thank Bar leadership for appointing me and for providing the committee with assistance particularly through the help of our Bar liaison, Mikalla Davis. Ms. Davis’ assistance was invaluable. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as chair of the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to assist in the improvement of criminal practice in Florida courts.
Judge Angela C. Dempsey, Chair
We, the largest of the Bar’s committees, are deeply committed to our mission. Our structure enables us to perform efficiently and effectively. Our subcommittees and co-chairs are: Pipeline (Valeria Obi & Anika Hardmon), Get Involved (Katherine Scott & Nicholas Johnson), Multicultural (Julian Jackson-Fannin & Michael Andriano), Grants (John Schifino & Rashaundra Suggs), Gender Equality (Paul San Giovani & Lakisha Kinsey-Sallis), Communications (Sui Chung & Yumeko Motley), Ad Hoc — Path to Unity (Charlie Ann Syprett, Harriet Williams & Larry Smith), and Ad Hoc — Bar Rules (Jared Krukar). All co-chairs serve on our executive council, which meets monthly. Subcommittees also meet monthly. This year’s meetings were all virtual, including three general committee meetings. Plans for regional meetings were postponed due to the pandemic.
Our work is done within our subcommittees. Below is a summary of this year’s abundant efforts.
Path to Unity (Ad Hoc): Led by Charlie Ann Syprett, Larry Smith, and Harriet Williams, we created a school curriculum that tells the story of five legendary Florida minority lawyers against the backdrop of our nation’s journey from its segregated past to the multicultural nation we are today. Each of them made lasting contributions and paved the “path to unity” for those who came afterwards. They are James Weldon Johnson, Anna Brenner Meyers, Judge Mario Goderich, Larry D. Smith, and James Kracht. We also commissioned portraits of these lawyers. The portraits will travel across the state to hang in the local courthouses of participating VBAs until they return to Tallahassee to be displayed permanently in the halls of The Florida Bar offices. While the paintings are on display in a local courthouse, local volunteer lawyers will visit schools to present the curriculum and will arrange to bring the students to the courthouse to view the paintings and tour the courthouse. Every one of our subcommittees plays a role in the planning of this program. The program will launch on September 20 in Jacksonville.
1) Video: Co-Chairs Katherine Scott and Nicholas Johnson completed an enlightening and entertaining video that profiled the mission and work of our committee. It was premiered during our winter meeting and included interviews with longtime equity advocates Gene Pettis, Nikki Simon, Brittany Maxey-Fisher, Justice Peggy Quince, Gwynne Young, and Arnell Bryant-Willis. The video will be used to encourage active participation within our committee, and, throughout the Bar.
2) Webinars: Committed to grooming minority lawyers for the judiciary, subcommittee members Marisol Ruiz, Circuit Court Judge Tanya Brinkley, Matthew Posgay, and BJ Okcular organized the webinar, “The JNC Path to the Bench.” The highly acclaimed panel demystified the process for the audience of aspiring judges.
Believing that involvement in the Bar is critical to personal career growth and to achieving a more diverse and inclusive Bar, a second webinar showcasing opportunities within the Bar and the value of service to the Bar is planned for April.
3) Section Engagement: Per the PEC’s directives, we attempted to identify designated section liaisons to our committee, to ascertain what, if any, diversity initiatives had been adopted by the section, and to offer help if needed. We then looked at minority Bar membership in sections. We reached out to Sections Council President Whitney Untiedt and Board of Governors member Scott Westheimer to offer a more collaborative effort to help sections achieve diversity and inclusion in membership, participation, and leadership. Co-Chair Nick Johnson will be presenting at the council’s March meeting and will share plans to work with the sections to create a section resource diversity and inclusion guide. The initial draft that will serve as a starting point was authored by members Starlett Massey and Sara Davis.
We also discovered that there are several areas of law with minimal minority practitioners. The racial composition of lawyers practicing probate, tax, elder, and maritime law, to name a few, is overwhelmingly White. We learned that minority law students were not exposed to or encouraged to pursue these career paths. Accordingly, our Pipeline Subcommittee created a vibrant three-part webinar series targeting minority students to introduce them to all areas of the law.
Pipeline: When the Path to Unity project was officially postponed until the 2021-2022 school year, we looked to other compelling needs. Co-Chairs Anika Hardmon and Valeria Obi created a three-part webinar series, “You Mean I Can Do That Too,” to introduce minority students to nontraditional areas of the law. The first webinar highlighted the careers of four successful government lawyers. Part two will highlight elder, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate law. The third program is in the planning stages. We hope to continue this program each year and to strengthen our collaboration with Florida’s law schools.
Multicultural: When the pandemic forced the delay of our Path to Unity program, Co-Chairs Julian Jackson-Fannin and Michael Adriano along with members David Brunell, Sharon Langer, and Jade Davis, did not miss a beat. They organized a virtual presentation for our winter meeting. “Structural Barriers for Lawyers with Past Substance Abuse Disorders or Mental Illness,” presented by Matt Dietz, revealed the challenges faced by lawyers with disabilities. A second virtual conversation, “Bridging Bias and Inclusion with Cultural Competency,” is scheduled and will include Nikki Lewis Simon, Jade Davis, Robert Grimaldi, Alisia Adamson Profit, and Judge Gisela Laurent.
Grants: The pandemic also posed a challenge for Co-Chairs John Schifino and ReShaundra Suggs and their dedicated team, Chanel Rowe, Katherine Yanes, Jenay Lurato, Jared Krukar, and Tashia Small. VBA grant applicants faced drastically reduced operations due to prohibitions of in-person events or by social distancing requirements. To ensure that the VBAs had an opportunity to accomplish their program goals, we allowed modification of their grant requests and extended the deadline. Our flexibility enabled us to fund 18 deserving programs. All programs were or will be featured on our website’s calendar. A new grant application will be published in April.
1) Webinars: Inspired by the findings and recommendations of the 2017 Report of The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Gender Bias, Co-Chair LaKisha Kinsey-Sallis and her team produced a four-part webinar series that addresses issues unique to women lawyers. Topics included, “Leveling the Playing Field: Effective Pathways to Bar Leadership for Women Lawyers.” This webinar was created by Kinsey-Sallis and members Michele Leo Hintson, Caryn Carvo, Krista Rush, Elba Martin-Shoemaker, and addressed recommendation eight of the 2017 report. Informal, yet substantive, the discussion with some of the Bar’s leaders provided practical advice to women lawyers regarding helping to increase female participation at all levels of the Bar.
Another webinar, “Leveling the Playing Field: Leave and Flexible Work Policies Examined,” was created to address the issues identified in recommendations 10 and 12 of the 2017 report. This moderated discussion among women lawyers in a variety of positions addresses the benefits of flexible work options and leave benefits to help keep women lawyers in the game. It is our hope that through this presentation, other leaders in various legal settings learned more about the advantages of offering flexible work options and leave benefits. The final webinar on May 20 will highlight business and professional development opportunities, solutions, and resources for women lawyers.
The subcommittee is also planning to host a book discussion intended to promote advancement of women lawyers in various legal settings (e.g., firms, government offices, corporations, etc.).
2) Resource Guide: The Gender Equality Subcommittee has been reviewing resources that can be used by The Florida Bar and VBAs throughout the state as a guide in addressing gender equality. We are working on recommendations regarding content; plans for ongoing updates; and messaging to the Bar’s greater audience about the resource guide.
3) Women’s History Month: The subcommittee will celebrate the accomplishments of women lawyers during the Women’s History Month by producing the content to include on the Bar’s D&I committee’s social media page.
Communications: Led by Sui Chung and Yumeko Motely, the Communications Subcommittee is working to keep relevant issues related to diversity and inclusion on the front burner. They have created an annual calendar for themed social media posts and have been active in helping to market both Florida Bar and VBA diversity related programs. They have made over 23 postings and have planned for the print and online publication of several relevant articles.
Rules (Ad Hoc): The creation of this Ad Hoc Committee was inspired by the work of two committee members and two Bar sections. David Brunell was assisting the Business Law Section in creating of a policy requiring diversity on CLE panels. Jared Krukar was addressing concerns about the Appellate Law Section’s certification rules. Our committee approved the creation of one Ad Hoc Committee that will work with our BOG liaison to address any rules concerns with Jared Krukar serving as chair.
As you can see, it has been a busy year for us despite the pandemic. These divisive times have reignited our passion for our work.
Charlie Ann Syprett, Chair
“Bridge-building” was the theme again this year for the Education Law Committee. Our goal has been to facilitate understanding and professionalism in the practice of education law by parties on all sides. This has been all the more important in 2020-21, as education lawyers have had to navigate unfamiliar shoals in light of the pandemic. Innovation requires cooperation and professionalism as we attempt to resolve new disputes with the common goal of providing the best education possible for students.
Due to the pandemic, the committee went virtual this year. During the Bar’s annual convention in June, the committee had its regular meeting online and sponsored CLE on 1) the 2020 legislative session and its impact on K-12 by Joy Frank, general counsel, Florida Association of District School Superintendents; and 2) the State University System by Janet Owen, vice president, government relations, University of Central Florida.
On October 9, 2020, the committee met again and voted in favor of two proposals as the committee’s project for the year to include raising funds for the Bar Foundation Legal Needs of Children Fund and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Florida, Inc., to provide laptops and remote learning tools for students with lesser means.
In addition, the committee shifted programming and sponsored CLE on Virtual Trial by Virtual Jury by Judge Bruce R. Anderson, Jr.; COVID-19 Issues Affecting K-12 Public Schools by Walter James Harvey, school board attorney, Miami-Dade County Public Schools; and Restorative Justice and Title IX Informal Resolutions by Prof. David Karp and Madison Orcutt.
On November 19, 2020, the committee sponsored a luncheon CLE on federal education policy in the wake of the 2020 election by Lauren Maddox. Another luncheon CLE is scheduled for April.
The committee has also endeavored to keep its social media presence active and informative about legal developments. The committee publishes online, Florida Education Law, focusing on Florida education legal developments. The fall issue examined the Bostock decision and its implications for Florida schools by Stetson University 3L Blaze Bowers; DACA and higher education by Dayne Wade and Lacey Hofmeyer; and sovereign immunity in mass torts by Chase Hattaway and Kayla Platt Rady. The next issue will focus on COVID-19 and education law.
The Education Law Committee continued efforts to increase membership to ensure the full diversity of the education bar is represented and able to dialogue. In addition, on January 29, the committee hosted a workshop on education law to help lawyers brush up on the practice of education law and to expand the numbers of board certified education lawyers. The CLE will remain available online for review.
Heartfelt thanks goes to the committee leadership, including Vice Chairs David D’Agata, responsible for CLE; Lacey Hofmeyer, responsible for publications; and Jane Windsor, responsible for membership. Gregg Morton deserves credit for maintaining our social media presence. Thanks also goes to Thomas Miller, our Bar liaison, for his invaluable support. Each one has helped to build an education law practice where lawyers on both sides of pleadings come to share a common commitment to professionalism in the practice of education law and subject-matter mastery. Last, the committee specially thanks Stetson Law School’s Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and its many fine law students for continuing to partner with us in publications.
My personal thanks also goes to the leadership of The Florida Bar for the opportunity to lead the committee this year. Bar committee leadership is a professionally rewarding and important undertaking that I recommend to my colleagues.
Nathan A. Adams IV, Chair
The Education Law Certification Committee serves to promote certification among attorneys who practice education law. “Education law” means the practice of law involving the legal rights, responsibilities, procedures, and practices of educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities, whether public, charter, or private), students, personnel employed by or on behalf of educational institutions, and the guardians and parents of students participating in education. The practice area covers a broad range of legal matters, with the common element being that these legal matters are on behalf of, or related to, an educational institution. This year marks the tenth year of education law certification. As this writing, there are 52 board certified attorneys in education law and three applicants who have been approved to sit for the March 12 examination.
The committee met regularly through the year, virtually and by telephone. The committee continued its ongoing work to add, update, and improve the examination based on the ever-changing legal landscape of education law. The committee reviewed initial and recertification applicants for this area. Also, for the first time, a member of the certification committee spoke at the education law certification exam review course to talk about the exam specifications and test taking resources.
The members of the 2020-2021 Education Law Certification Committee are Chair J. Paul Carland II, Vice Chair Sarah Koren, Marylin Batista, Youndy Cook, David Delaney, Heather J. Wallace, Dana Macdonald, Karen Meta Chastain, and Laura Pincus. I am grateful for the committee members’ dedicated service to our Bar. On behalf of the entire committee, I thank and commend Charlotte Bell for her assistance in completing the committee’s work.
The committee acknowledges the efforts of the Education Law Committee, which has promoted this certification area and provided the certification examination review course for the benefit of applicants and members of the Education Law Committee alike. J. Paul Carland II, Chair
The Elder Law Certification Committee is comprised of nine board-certified elder law attorneys appointed by The Florida Bar president-elect. The committee members serve staggered three-year terms.
There were four attorneys who were newly certified for the 2020- 2021 fiscal year: Dana C. Kemper, Brandon; Danielle R. Faller, Brandon; Kole J. Long, Clearwater; and Matthew D. Barry, Sarasota. The total number of board-certified elder law attorneys now stands at 114.
During the year, the committee reviewed 20 recertification applications, 11 initial applications, and nine attorneys are confirmed to sit for the exam on March 12. Good luck to all the examinees!
The committee has worked hard this year to implement the feedback we received from the 2020 examinees so that we can ensure that the exam accurately tests the applicant’s knowledge and skill. We met through telephone conferences and Zoom calls to draft, edit, and refine the examination questions. Additionally, the questions were vetted by an exam consultant and pre-testers who are board-certified attorneys. Many thanks to Dana Kemper, Steven Hitchcock, Sherri Brenner, and Nicola Melby who volunteered to serve as pre-testers.
This year’s Elder Law Certification Committee was chaired by Laurie Ohall (Brandon), and Jana McConnaughhay (Tallahassee) as vice chair. Other members include Amy Fanzlaw (Boca Raton), John Clardy (Crystal River), Christopher Likens (Sarasota), Jill Ginsburg (Ft. Lauderdale), Beth Prather (Ft. Myers), Matthew Linde (Ft. Myers), and Marjorie Wolasky (Miami). We are especially grateful to our certification specialist, Laurinda Jackson, whose organization kept us on task and efficient. Thank you, also, to our committee members who worked hard during this especially difficult year where we could not meet in person.
Laurie E. Ohall, Chair
In a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, related challenges, and rapid developments within the profession, the Family Law Rules Committee worked overtime, albeit remotely, to nevertheless carry out its mandate concerning the proposal of new rules of procedure and changes to existing rules. The committee’s accomplishments are set forth in summary fashion below, tracking its progress from referral through the formal adoption of rules and forms.
Through the hard work and dedication of its members, the committee registered noteworthy achievements at various procedural levels, including, most notably, the Florida Supreme Court 1) expansion of Rule 12.285 (Mandatory Disclosure); and 2) adoption of Forms 12.985(a) — (g), relating to the collaborative law process.
The Florida Bar Board of Governors also approved the following committee proposals during the 2020-2021 Bar year, which will be submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for consideration: 1) overhaul and streamlining of the procedure for cases involving general magistrates (Rule 12.490) and hearing officers (Rule 12.491); 2) adoption of gender-neutral captions in family law cases (Rule 12.100); 3) excusal of a party’s appearance from a simplified dissolution of marriage proceeding under certain enumerated circumstances and allowance of remote appearance generally (Rule 12.105); and 4) forms aligning with the revised rule further limiting the appearance and testimony of minor children in family law cases (Forms 12.911(a)(b)(c)(d) and (e)).
At the committee level, the following proposed rule and form changes were approved and will continue progressing through the rulemaking process: 1) optional non-filing of financial affidavits under certain enumerated circumstances and creation of corresponding forms to help promote the privacy interests of Florida’s families while still ensuring financial transparency and accountability between parties (Rule 12.285); 2) revisions to form instructions to provide greater clarity for domestic violence victims seeking to preserve their addresses as confidential (Forms 12.902(b) and (c)); 3) creation of a new form concerning a petition to establish parental responsibility; 4) removal of five additional days for email service of a notice of production from nonparty, in accordance with prior corresponding revisions to the Rules of Judicial Administration (Rule 12.351); 5) clarification that expert interrogatories are not subject to the ten additional interrogatories to a party limitation set forth elsewhere in our rules (Rule 12.340); 6) expansion of standard family law interrogatories forms for enforcement and modification proceedings to require disclosure of persons known or believed to have knowledge concerning the issues involved in the family law case (Forms 12.930(b) and (c)); and 7) prohibition and/or vacation of an order of referral to mediation where there has been an injunction or conviction for domestic violence between the parties and a required finding of good cause for referral to mediation of post-judgment contempt and enforcement actions (Rule 12.740).
The committee also received an array of referrals throughout the year, and it welcomed the opportunity to convene and advance subcommittees to address with the committee the following issues, concerns, and proposals: 1) COVID-19-related challenges, including possible modification of the parenting plan and creation of a model and/or uniform administrative order per circuit to preemptively address future emergency situations; 2) appropriateness and use of ex parte filings in family law cases; 3) review and update of instructions across all family law forms; 4) requirement of uniformity of pre-trial orders within territorial jurisdiction of the court and creation of a statewide form pre-trial order; 5) heightened prevalence of requests for emergency relief during COVID-19 and creation of a form motion; 6) creation of a model schedule of equitable distribution; 7) LGBTQ concerns and developments in the law; and 8) the Florida Supreme Court clarification of the summary judgment standard in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and the anticipated impact of same in family law cases.
Although covering a diverse cross-section of procedural areas, the foregoing merely represents a sample of the committee’s achievements and progress during the 2020-2021 Bar year.
The committee’s robust accomplishments in this historic year can be most succinctly described as addressing the following broad goals: 1) enhancing meaningful access to justice for pro se parties; 2) promoting and protecting privacy of Florida’s families while preserving and expanding transparency between parties; 3) creating model forms to allow for greater efficiency from the Bar and the bench; 4) ensuring inclusivity; and 5) anticipating and preparing for future disruptions to the legal profession.
In concluding, I would be remiss if I did not thank the entire committee and its leadership team, Ashley Taylor, Michael Andriano, Nadja Prias, Hellen Torres, Mark Sawicki, and Bob Merlin, for their commitment to the betterment of family law in Florida. The committee will be in excellent hands while these leaders remain involved to help guide it. Mikalla Davis, The Florida Bar attorney liaison, is superlative, and she can only fairly be described as the heartbeat of the committee.
Lastly, thank you very much to Bar President Dori Foster-Morales, for believing in me and affording me this special opportunity. Serving as chair of the committee, a humble servant of Florida’s families during this most challenging year, has been one of the greatest honors of my career.
Cory A. Brandfon, Chair
The Federal Court Practice Committee (FCPC) serves as The Florida Bar’s liaison to our federal courts, local Federal Bar Association chapters, the 11th Circuit Judicial conference, and federal practitioners throughout our state and beyond.
Like all Florida Bar committees, the FCPC shifted its focus this year to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee held its committee and subcommittee meetings virtually, and the committee has presented and continues to present virtual educational panels focused on addressing federal practice during the pandemic to continue its mission of presenting informative and timely updates on federal court practice.
The FCPC hosts its signature event, the Federal Judicial Roundtable, annually during The Florida Bar Annual Convention. The CLE event provides an opportunity for federal judges to engage in a small setting with practitioners, including especially young practitioners, on issues of ethics, professionalism, court procedure, and technology. The roundtable historically draws dozens of federal appellate, district, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges, and over 100 practitioners and concludes with a reception honoring the judiciary. This year’s roundtable will likely be virtual and, with that, we expect a very high turnout of members of our federal bench. This year, the roundtable will address the changes in federal court practice and procedure as courts emerge from the pandemic, as well as legal implications of continuing virtual appearances. The Roundtable Subcommittee is chaired by Lilly Ann Sanchez and Brian Koch.
In addition to the roundtable, the FCPC presents CLEs through our members and in cooperation with Florida Federal Bar Association (FBA) chapters. We have already presented panels addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the federal courts and plans going forward as well as addressing changes to the local rules in the Middle District of Florida. We have also co-presented a series of webinars on Section 1983 civil rights litigation, and we have several other panels in the works for the coming months. We are also planning for a series of podcast episodes discussing issues in federal practice. Anitra Raiford and Pater Sartes are spearheading the podcast series. Another key component of the FCPC’s work is the Guide to Judicial Practices in Florida’s Federal Courts, or as it is more affectionately known, “the Guide.” As part of an ongoing effort, the FCPC polls members of the federal judiciary in Florida to learn their preferences on a wide array of topics and maintains the Guide as a resource for practitioners. This subcommittee is co-chaired by Anitra Raiford and Barbara Junge.
Another component of our FCPC is website and social media outreach. Our social media efforts create an active voice on various platforms through which the FCPC provides updates on relevant issues involving federal practice — everything from job openings in the courts, to relevant decisions, to court closures. Our social media team has also allowed the FCPC to deepen its ties with the local FBA chapters by marketing CLE presentations and other relevant events. In addition to social media, our group maintains the Federal Corner. Under the direction of subcommittee Co-Chairs Erik Johanson and Paige Comparato, every member of the FCPC serves as a “roving reporter” helping us distribute relevant content to the Bar.
Another significant initiative of the FCPC is its Pro Bono Subcommittee. Led by Ana Maria Martinez, this subcommittee looks for opportunities to connect federal practitioners with pro bono opportunities in our courts, often in collaboration with local FBA chapters, pro bono service organization, projects, and clinics. The committee is also proud of our Long-Range Planning Subcommittee, which helps steer the FCPC forward and serves as a key component to our growth over recent years. Daniel Newman and Robert Griscti led this subcommittee. We also give proper recognition to Brandon Breslow and Jennifer Corinis for their leadership of our Federal Rules Subcommittee, keeping members updated about new and proposed rules in each of the districts. We applaud the efforts of all committee members for making this year successful and productive.
Finally, the FCPC also gives a special thanks and recognition to our Florida Bar staff liaison, Lani Fraser. She is one of the hardest working people in Tallahassee. Her devotion to and relentless effort in all aspects of the FCPC’s work has allowed the committee to continue to grow and better achieve its mission. Thank you, Lani!
Melissa Damian Visconti, Chair
The Florida Bar Journal & News Editorial Board serves as an advisory board and as peer reviewers for feature submissions to the Journal. The Journal publishes six issues per year in print and online and is focused on scholarly, substantive Florida law topics. The Florida Bar News publishes 12 issues per year in print, and online content is updated daily. The News covers timely stories and events in the legal community and other news stories of interest to the Bar’s more than 109,000 members.
This year, the Editorial Board is 40 members strong. Its members are scattered throughout the state and draw from a diverse range of practice areas. While the pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of daily life, our members did a wonderful job of seamlessly continuing the work of the board — even while many members experienced upheaval and personal stress. I thank each of you for your dedication.
Members work independently to provide advice and feedback for authors seeking publication in the Journal through a blind review process. They advise whether an article is appropriate for publication and provide valuable feedback to ensure the Journal publishes work of the highest quality. Reviewers apply stringent standards; the Editorial Board publishes only 20% of submissions.
In 2020-2021, the Journal published articles on a wide range of topics, including referral fees, the attorney disciplinary system, fraud and cybercrimes, construction defects, and the constitutional separation of powers. The Editorial Board also recognized Iman Zekri’s article, “Respectfully Dissenting: How Dissenting Opinions Shape the Law and Impact Collegiality Among Judges,” originally published in the September/October 2020 issue, as the winner of the Excellence in Writing Award. The Editorial Board thanks each of the Journal’s authors for their scholarship and dedication to bettering the practice of law. The Editorial Board also recognizes the contributions of the section column editors who serve as peer reviewers and submit content on behalf of the sections. In total, it takes the efforts of more than 200 Bar members each year to produce the Journal’s content. We thank each of you for your extraordinary efforts.
The Florida Bar Journal & News is available in print and online. The website features excellent resources, including a searchable database of all Journal and News articles since 1997, an article request system to access articles prior to 1997, a digital flipbook of the Journal with every issue for the last five years, and daily content from The Florida Bar News. I encourage each member to keep an eye out for the Journal & News monthly email digest and to follow the Florida Bar on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
While this year has proven challenging and stressful in so many respects, I am proud of the efforts of the Editorial Board, column editors, authors, and Bar staff who were able to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of our excellent Bar publications.
Patricia McConnell, Chair
The Florida Probate Rules Committee had an extremely productive 2020-2021 Bar year. Due to the pandemic, it was challenging, but the committee finalized and approved a number of changes to its rules in order to accommodate statutory changes and to better improve our code.
Ultimately, this hard work resulted in the Florida Supreme Court adopting our proposed rule changes. Included in these changes are an amendment to Rule 5.040, which clarifies that formal notice only provides in rem jurisdiction, not personal jurisdiction; adding a new section to 5.240 that failing to contest a will may preclude a challenge to a trust instrument or other writing incorporated by reference into a will; drafting the new 5.425 to deal with the new rules of small estates; amending Rule 5.560 to specifically require lesser restrictive alternatives in guardianships be addressed and listed in petitions; revising Rule 5.630; and correcting other small references in multiple rules.
This committee also works with other Bar committees, including the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. As a result of the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee’s efforts, the Probate Rules Committee filed an extensive comment with suggested edits last year. This year, the Probate Rules Committee worked with the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee to address these concerns. Ultimately, this matter was presented to the Florida Supreme Court, where the Probate Rules Committee’s comments (along with other stakeholders) were heard.
The Florida Probate Rules Committee will continue to review and analyze legislation and determine whether corresponding probate rules are necessary. The committee continues to work closely with the RPPTL section to revise and update the rules according to legislation promulgated by the RPPTL section and other stakeholders.
Meetings, schedules, and agendas for the committee are posted on the Florida Probate Rules Committee website. The Florida Bar’s liaison to the Florida Probate Rules Committee, Krys Godwin, works to keep this information easily available and accessible to the committee members and others who have an interest in the committee’s work.
I urge practitioners to monitor The Florida Bar News for the publication of proposed legal changes as well as the Florida Supreme Court’s webpage that lists any new cases. The Florida Probate Rules Committee also welcomes comments to the public proposals and pending projects as well as suggestions for rule changes based on procedural problems encountered by courts and practitioners.
It has been a privilege and honor to serve as chair of the committee this year, especially since I was able to present our case to the Florida Supreme Court. I thank all Probate Rules Committee members, The Florida Bar staff, and the members of other rules committees for their contributions during the Bar year. A special thanks goes to Vice Chair Cady Huss, without whom I could not have accomplished half of what we set out to do this year.
R. Lee Mcelroy IV, Chair
The Florida Registered Paralegal Eligibility and Compliance Committee, formerly known as 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, which 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, setting policy for the program, and providing guidance to bar counsel and the district paralegal committees.
Although it could go without saying, it won’t: As with many best-laid plans, the drama underpinning 2020 temporarily scuttled many of the Florida Registered Paralegal Eligibility and Compliance Committee’s initiatives. With the cancellation of an outreach program originally scheduled during the 2020 Florida Bar Annual Convention, the committee’s ambitious goals of a grand event linking paralegal educators in-person, with active FRPs, Bar committee leadership, and national paralegal education associations, followed by the rollout of a formalized FRP student-affiliate program streamlining of the transition from paralegal studies-student-to-FRP, were unceremoniously stopped in their tracks.
However, as all great committees do, we adapted and overcame. Our work continued and despite challenges, the committee worked with Bar leadership exploring ways the FRP designation could be modified to increase access to justice. Although the AFRP program as proposed did not ultimately receive the committee’s support, the committee looks forward to continued discussion regarding opportunities to expand the role of FRPs in the legal community as a means of providing much needed legal support and services to Florida’s many needful citizens. Additionally, the committee is committed to exploring the feasibility of re-establishing the “grandfathering” provision under Rul. Reg. Fla. Bar Ch. 20-3.1(c) to allow qualified applicants to earn the FRP designation based on significant, continuous work experience. Through increased compliance standards and continued applicant vetting, the committee’s underlying and constant objective remains to increase the number of FRPs while simultaneously, with the assistance of the FRP Enrichment Committee, to build an even greater network of engaged, highly capable, and successful Florida registered paralegals to support the Bar’s equally engaged, capable, and successful lawyers.
Serving as committee chair for the past three years has been an immense privilege. Despite the slight pangs of sadness related to my departure, it heartens me knowing that under the skilled and talented leadership of the current vice chair and now incoming Chair Steven Sanchez, this committee will continue to do great things for the paralegal community and profession. As always, tremendous thanks to committee members Kendra Ann Hollern, Faith Litvack, Nicole Noel, Olga Patterson, and Rich Haberle. I extend a grand and final thank you to our FRP eligibility and compliance committee counsel, Shannon Fleming, who has over the years kept this committee moving forward and achieving success, even when the best laid plans went awry. To everyone on the committee and at the Bar that I’ve had the joy of working with: Thank you for the opportunity. Serving on this committee has been a delightful experience. I look forward to your continued success.
Cary A. High, Chair
The Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee was formed in 1999 by The Florida Bar with the primary purpose of creating awareness of the FRP program, enhancing communication with regard to the benefits of FRP membership, develop educational programming, and creating a network of paralegals throughout the state to foster camaraderie and cohesiveness. While this year has been a tremendous challenge for all of us due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FRP Enrichment Committee has continued to thrive effectively and even saw remarkable success in meeting our objectives for 2020-2021.
The foundation of the FRP Enrichment Committee rests on four unique subcommittees, each with a specific purpose: CLE Subcommittee, Chair Karen R. George; Special Events Subcommittee, Chair Asha Maharaj-Lucas; Communications Subcommittee, Chair Shelly Zambo; and FRP Awareness Subcommittee, Chair Patricia DeRamus. Over the past year, the work accomplished by these subcommittees was exciting and very rewarding. While the amount of work that is done behind the scenes by these subcommittees can never adequately be conveyed, the steady success speaks volumes.
While all the world took to Zoom, the CLE Subcommittee used this powerful platform to initiate a highly acclaimed free monthly CLE program for paralegals and attorneys. From its initial presentation back in August 2020, the average monthly attendance was over 1,000, with a total of 8,410 benefiting from this program statewide. The topics are current, relevant, and dynamic and are offered both live and in recorded formats. A complete list of the past presentations can be found online. The work of Karen R. George as the subcommittee’s chair has been inspiring. Along with the guidance and production skills of Assistant Program Director Frank Digon-Greer, they have created an enduring and beneficial program for FRPs.
The FRP Enrichment Committee felt it was important that the legal establishment have an opportunity to show their appreciation for the work performed by FRPs. The Special Events Subcommittee, under the direction of Asha Mahraj-Lucas, was tasked with creating and initiating an annual award to honor an outstanding FRP from statewide nominations. The subcommittee was tasked with developing the submission process, evaluating the applications, and determining the criteria for the finalist. The application process opened in December 2020, and a total of 125 nominee applications were received. The number of respondents and the inspirational stories expressed gave incredible insight into how instrumental FRPs are within the legal community. The award recipient will be honored at a special ceremony to be held during The Florida Bar Annual Convention in June.
Our FRP Awareness Subcommittee had a demanding year due to the restrictions on in-person activity. Under the direction of Patricia DeRamus, the committee is getting ready for the upcoming Florida Bar Annual Convention. The committee will be sponsoring a table at the convention to increase the awareness of FRPs to the broad audience that attends the function annually. Members of the subcommittee will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on the requirements and standards of the FRP program and on the benefits of working with a paralegal.
The past year has also brought a spotlight on the effectiveness of communication. The Communication Subcommittee took the opportunity to focus on building awareness through their available communication channels. Shelly Zambo, chair, and the committee provide relevant information for the FRP community through a wide range of social media outlets. The subcommittee’s objective is to encourage growth and promote a following while connecting to other relevant organizations. The committee was responsible for promoting the upcoming FRP of the Year to be awarded in June at the annual convention. The subcommittee was also responsible for the layout and design changes to the FRP Corner. The Corner, which has undergone stylistic and content changes, has increased traffic flow to the site. The FRP Times is slated for an upcoming epublication and will include stories, information, and content directed toward and for the benefit of FRPs.
The committee is quite proud of the role that we played in bringing the mental health and wellbeing of FRPs to the forefront. Inclusion in the mental health resources being provided by The Florida Bar was something that this committee felt strongly about, and we were instrumental in bringing the issue to light. The proposal was championed by committee board liaison, Wayne Smith, and the Board of Governors for The Florida Bar voted unanimously, without discussion, to approve. FRPs across the state now have 24/7 access to the Florida Lawyers Helpline, which is a gateway to a wide range of support services.
We are all incredibly aware that the past year has profoundly affected us both personally and professionally. The extraordinary members of the FRP Enrichment Committee have continued to work hard under trying times to find creative and unique ways to build on our prior accomplishments. When a great deal of the world came to a standstill, this committee continued to maintain vision and work diligently to accomplish our objectives. To all FRP Enrichment Committee members, a heartfelt thank you for staying the course and breaking new ground.
Accomplishments of this magnitude require the dedication, commitment, and support of some extraordinary individuals. We are truly honored to have our board liaison, Wayne Smith, whose commitment to the paralegals here in the state of Florida is indisputable; Assistant Program Director Frank Digon-Greer, to whom this committee will always be grateful since he is an integral part in its success; Co-Vice Chair Wendy Toscano, for her unwavering guidance and vision for FRPs over the years and being instrumental in the evolution of the profession; and Co-Vice Shelly Zambo for bringing energy, excitement, and service to the FRP Enrichment Committee and its future.
This year has passed by so quickly that as we take a moment to review our accomplishments and future, I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as this committee’s chair for another year. I am looking forward to sharing with you this time next year the many ways in which the FRP Enrichment Committee embraced its goals and continued to flourish.
Margo T. Valenti, Chair
The Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy (GPPA) Committee was approved in May 2016 by the Board of Governors to address the concerns of Florida lawyers who lobby or work within local, state, and federal governments. Since its inception, the GPPA committee has remained focused on advocating for those issues that specially impact its membership. The mission of the committee is to 1) promote professionalism among lawyer-lobbyists; 2) provide appropriate and applicable legal education on matters of interest to (and tailored especially for) lawyer-lobbyists; 3) provide mentoring and networking opportunities that are not available elsewhere; and 4) provide an opportunity for lawyer-lobbyists to stay abreast of and collectively be heard by Florida Bar leadership on various Bar proposals (including proposed rules and ethics opinions) that may affect them.
In 2020, the committee leadership launched a new online CLE series, called, “Connect at the Capitol.” This virtual interview CLE series allowed committee members and other attorneys to hear from state leaders, such as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new and innovative program was also featured in The Florida Bar News and had events promoted several times via the Bar’s social media accounts. The committee also developed a social media presence this year, including its own YouTube channel with the saved CLE content available for all lawyers.
The GPPA committee is steadily moving the ball forward as a relatively new committee of The Florida Bar. As we look to the future, the incoming leadership of this group is excited about the opportunity to make significant advancements in solidifying the structure of its working subcommittees and developing formal governing bylaws.
The current committee is comprised of 149 members and continues to grow in membership annually. If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact Joni Hooks at [email protected].
Kenneth D. Pratt, Chair
The Standing Committee on Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration continued its focus in three substantive areas: rules, forms, and recruitment. Subcommittees in all three areas are actively engaged and report to the general committee on a quarterly basis. This year, the Rules Subcommittee promulgated revisions to Ch. 14 and the underlying rules to allow the recovery of costs as well as fees that revisions were approved by the Board of Governors and now await approval of the Florida Supreme Court. This subcommittee also proposed a new Fee Arbitration Procedural Rule (Rule IX. Intervention) to allow law firms to be joined as participants in fee arbitration proceedings, which also secured the approval of the Board of Governors. Additionally, the Forms Subcommittee completed its revitalization and update of the “Mediation and Arbitration Manual” for use by our volunteer arbitrators and mediators in the program. The Recruitment Subcommittee is now actively implementing several new and unique methods to publicize, advertise, and recruit new volunteer mediators and arbitrators for the program throughout the state. The Bar continues to utilize the video training sessions developed by the Training Subcommittee for use by both current and potential arbitrators and mediators. As of January 14, 118 arbitrators and 77 mediators have viewed the videos. We hope the training sessions and updated manual will continue to be useful to the volunteer mediators and arbitrators and that the rule revisions will be beneficial to all those participating in the grievance mediation and fee arbitration process.
Grey Squires-Binford, Chair
The Health Law Certification Committee oversees the certification of attorneys as health law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar. The Bar certified the first class of health certified specialists in 1995, and there are currently 130 health certified lawyers in The Florida Bar. Board certified specialists in health practice under a myriad of public and private sector health laws, providing advice and counsel in transactional, litigation and appellate practices.
The Health Certification Committee reviews the applications for those lawyers seeking initial certification, as well as the renewal applications for certified attorneys seeking recertification every five years. To initially qualify for health certification, lawyers must be a member of The Florida Bar for five years, be substantially involved (at least 40% of their practice) in health law, complete 60 hours of advanced CLE of approved health law credits, pass a rigorous peer-review process, and pass a certification exam. The certification exam currently consists of 56 multiple-choice questions along with four essays. Obviously, this year was especially challenging for our applicants given the delays and other changes made to the process in light of COVID-19. The test, which was originally scheduled for May 2020, finally took place virtually, in September. Congratulations to those who passed the 2020 Health Law Certification Exam — Rian Balfour, Steven Brownlee, Ronald Evans, Jamie Gelfman, Marc Goldsand, and Maja Lacevic.
For the 2021-2022 certification year, the Health Law Certification Committee reviewed 20 initial applications. The committee also reviewed and renewed approximately 41 recertification applications this year. These numbers represent a marked increase from previous years, and we are excited that more of our peers are seeking certification. The committee has convened several times, both in person and via conference call, since June 2019, to review applications, discuss changes to the Bar rules involving health law certification, and draft and grade the certification examination.
The hard working and dedicated members of the Health Law Certification Committee include Vice Chair Ryan Zika, Andre Susla, William Eck, Ramona Thomas, Lisa Taylor, Bill Dillon, Jacqueline Bain, and Josh Boxer. Two of our members, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Taylor, are practicing out of state but maintain their Florida licenses and certification.
Thank you all for your efforts, diligence, professionalism, and commitment to upholding the high standards of this certification section. The committee also extends our thanks to our amazing staff liaison, Paige Dooley-Levy. Our work on the committee could not have proceeded as smoothly without her dedication, patience, and attention to detail.
Adam J. Rogers, Chair
The 2020-2021 Florida Bar Immigration and Nationality Law Board Certification Committee consisted of Chair Jacob Ratzan, Vice Chair John Gihon, and members Francisco “Frank” Symphorien-Saavedra, Michael Harris, Maud Poudat, Art Rios, Robert Bell, Kristin Figueroa-Contreras, and Jacqueline Villalba. Special thanks to our Florida Bar staff liaison, Chyra Reynolds, for keeping us on track, promptly answering our questions, and working with us to achieve our objectives throughout the year.
We also recognize the board certified attorneys who served as pre-testers by devoting their time to review the essay and multiple-choice questions prepared for the 2021 exam. Specifically, we give special thanks to Solimar Santos, Karla Lammers, Andrea Montavon-McKillip, and Sasha Westerman-Keuning for acting as pre-testers and making valuable contributions to the accuracy and integrity of the exam.
There are currently 78 Florida Bar board certified attorneys in immigration and nationality law. During the 2020-2021 term, our committee received and approved 26 recertification applications and 21 initial applications to sit for the exam.
At the beginning of our term, we held a highly successful Zoom Q&A on the requirements and advantages of board certification as well as general exam topics, exam format, and applicable sources to reference as exam study materials. Each of the committee members participated in the Zoom Q&A, which was attended by approximately 40 interested attorneys.
I encourage attorneys who meet the requirements to apply for board certification. The ability for an attorney to set himself or herself apart as a subject-matter expert and to be recognized as meeting The Florida Bar’s highest standards for professionalism and ethics is invaluable.
It has been my honor to lead the committee this year. The work of the committee in reviewing and processing applications for board certification and creating an appropriately challenging exam is not easy, but it is rewarding. Working on the committee provides each of the members an opportunity to interface with and learn from some of the most knowledgeable and highly qualified immigration lawyers in Florida. I thank this year’s committee for their dedication and commitment to achieving our objectives.
Jacob Lawrence Ratzan, Chair
The purpose and mission of this committee is 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 commends Gov. Ron DeSantis, his general counsel, and all those in the General Counsel’s Office for appointing qualified jurists to the bench, while also promoting diversity to strengthen the civil and criminal justice systems in our state.
The committee has continued to offer solutions and recommendations to 1) assist the governor with presenting an annual training program for all JNC commissioners; 2) offer suggestions for improvements to the judicial nominating process, especially the changes that have occurred during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 3) promoting dialogue between all JNCs and members of the committee through their work as liaisons with all JNCs; 4) promote best practices for those serving on the JNCs and best practices for the interview process; 5) obtain and report on demographic data regarding the composition of all JNCs and judicial offices in each circuit; 6) analyze specific rule changes the committee will recommend be implemented with all JNCs.
The insight and hard work of Vice Chairs Sheila Oretsky and Will Spicola have been greatly appreciated this year. Florida Bar Deputy General Counsel Richard Courtemanche has done a great job working with our committee this year and must also be thanked for his service to our profession.
Finally, I thank the members of the committee for being dedicated volunteers to the members of our profession through their service on the committee this year.
Loreal Arscott, Chair
As with all other facets of the legal system, the Juvenile Court Rules Committee has faced new and varied challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic from how our meetings would be conducted to which projects the committee would prioritize to what procedures needed to be assessed to respond to the world post-COVID-19. To that end, multiple members of the committee have participated in joint ad hoc committees and subcommittees to tackle issues such as remote testimony, Marsy’s Law, and electronic filing. Beyond that work, a complete review and revision of the committee’s internal operating procedures was completed by an ad hoc subcommittee led by Kelley Schaeffer, which resulted in several meaningful updates to how the committee conducts its business to be in a more efficient fashion in step with other committees and stakeholders with whom the committee works.
In addition, the regular work of the committee has continued in earnest with monthly meetings of the two standing subcommittees — the Delinquency Subcommittee, led by Candice Brower, and the Dependency Subcommittee, led by Stephanie Zimmerman. The Delinquency Subcommittee has reviewed and/or worked on proposals regarding amending Rule 8.010 to permit remote detention proceedings, amending the rules related to competency to more closely align with the adult criminal rules on competency, along with beginning a comprehensive review of the delinquency rules themselves. The Dependency Subcommittee has continued its own comprehensive rules review and is closing in on finishing the review of the general provisions applicable to dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings. Additionally, the Dependency Subcommittee worked on amendments to Rules 8.255 (Process, Diligent Searches, and Service of Pleadings and Papers), 8.345 (Post-Disposition Relief), 8.415 (Judicial Review of Dependency Cases), and 8.400 (Case Plan Development) in response to 2020 legislative changes affecting dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings.
Finally, the Dependency Subcommittee completed a thorough review of the rules of juvenile procedure applicable to judicial waiver proceedings in response to legislative changes (C.S. for C.S. for S.B. 404) to F.S. §390.01114, to require parental consent, in addition to the existing notice requirement, to the termination of pregnancy procedure performed on a minor, which generated several rule amendments. The committee received multiple thoughtful comments on the amendments, which prompted the committee to respond with further changes to further the goals of clarity and streamlining the rules and forms for use by those in need of them, which the Supreme Court recently adopted with modifications in SC20-873.
None of the vital work of this committee could have been completed without the heartfelt and fervent dedication of all our members with whom I have had the pleasure of serving with this past year. Our committee is one of many tasked with serving some of the most vulnerable in our communities, and the importance of this work has only been magnified by the pandemic. A special measure of gratitude is owed to Vice Chairs Stephanie Zimmerman and Candice Brower as they have ensured the bulk of our committee’s work was not slowed by unprecedented challenges this year; to DeAnne Jackson, for her service as the committee’s liaison to the Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration Committee; to David Silverstein, for his service in preserving the work of the committee across meetings and in his guidance to me as a former chair; to Rob Mason, who though he has passed, his dedication to juvenile law continues to bear fruit in the committee’s ongoing work especially in the Delinquency Subcommittee; to Kenneth Turkel, the committee’s liaison to the The Florida Bar Board of Governors, for his wisdom and assistance to the committee; and finally, to our Bar liaison, Mikalla Davis, who has not missed a beat in coordinating meetings, drafting documents for filing with the court, and keeping us all moving forward with our committee’s work despite the challenges presented.
Matthew Charles Wilson, Chair
The Juvenile Law Certification Committee is happy to report that the numbers of Florida lawyers certified in juvenile law continue to grow. This is not a specialty that leads to more clients or revenue for those certified. Juvenile law specialist work in the complex world of abuse and neglect, delinquency, education, and other fields where children are the subject to legal proceedings. Specialists need to know issues of childhood development, complex client dynamics, and several substantive areas of law.
The committee continues this year to balance the exam in a way to comply with the Bar requirement that certification committees are no longer permitted to give subspecialty examinations. Previously, examinees would “declare” their area of specialty in the field of either dependency or delinquency. The examinees would take the same exam in the morning. The chosen field of subspecialty would dictate the afternoon exam. The unitary exam concept requires that the same examination should be given to persons regardless of the area of specialty. We are in the second year of implementing this requirement.
Like all sections and committees of the Bar and society, the committee needed to adjust to the reality of COVID. We adjusted our meeting and exam formats to meet the new remote and online environments. The committee appreciates the support of Bar staff in helping us adjust.
As a newer area of certification, the committee started with many new applicants in the first few years. Now the committee has a normal flow of new applicants and the committee can focus on strengthening internal processes while marketing to keep numbers of certified members high.
It has been a pleasure to serve as one of the founding members of this certification committee and to serve as the chair this year. I appreciate all the members of the Juvenile Law Certification Committee for the countless conference calls, meetings, and hours of test review dedicated to finalizing the 2021 certification exam: Vice Chair Laura Vaughn-Bosco, Immediate Past Chair Tamara Gray, Deborah Schroth, Robin Rosenberg, Laura Klossner, Whitney Untiedt, Laurence Scher, and Shannon Schott. Special thanks to our Bar liaison, Blair Bisbee, who keeps us on task and makes the impossible become possible.
Gerry Glynn, Chair
The Labor and Employment Law Certification Committee oversees the certification of attorneys as labor and employment law specialists recognized by The Florida Bar. The Bar certified the first class of labor and employment law certified specialists in 2001, and there are currently 193 labor and employment law certified lawyers in The Florida Bar. Board certified specialists in labor and employment law 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 Law Certification Committee reviews the applications for those lawyers seeking initial certification, as well as the renewal applications for certified attorneys seeking recertification every five years. To initially qualify for labor and employment law certification, lawyers must be a member of The Florida Bar for five years, be substantially involved (at least 50% 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 50 multiple-choice and 20 short-answer questions, along with four essays.
For the 2020-2021 certification year, the Labor and Employment Law Certification Committee reviewed 10 initial applications. Of those, nine are scheduled to sit for the certification exam that will be administered on March 12 in Tampa. There were 17 recertification applications submitted this year, the committee reviewed and renewed 10 recertification applications and are continuing to review six outstanding recertification applications and another committee will review the recertification application of one member of the committee.
The committee has met numerous times since July 2020 to review applications and draft the certification examination. The hard working and dedicated members of the Labor and Employment Law Certification Committee include Chair Janet E. Wise, Vice Chair Frank E. Brown, Sacha Dyson, Ellen M. Leibovitch, Kendra D. Presswood, Bradley P. Rothman, Patricia R. Sigman, and Shaina Thorpe. Thank you all for your efforts diligence, professionalism, and commitment to upholding the high standards of this certification section. The committee also extends our thanks to our Florida Bar staff liaison, Paige Dooley-Levy. Our work on the committee could not have proceeded as smoothly without her dedication and attention to detail.
Janet E. Wise, Chair
The purpose of the Law Related Education Committee (LREC) is to promote 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 and for people and their property.
The 2020-2021 year was particularly busy for LREC, as the committee oversaw a major rebranding and website redesign project for The Florida Bar’s Legal Guide for Young Adults, now branded as the Legal Survival Guide: Florida Laws You Should Know and formerly branded as the #JustAdulting Legal Survival Guide. The online guide — which is updated by LREC members each year — is packed with FAQs on Florida laws that young people (ages 14-24) need to know, especially after they turn 18 years old. Guide topics include the court system, criminal charges, jury duty, landlord/tenant matters, and texting and driving.
The committee voted to move forward with the rebranding and website redesign after reviewing feedback from young people on the legal guide website and app, which was collected during spring 2020 using two methods: 1) reviews from college students collected by LREC member and University of Tampa Assistant Professor Arlene Nykaza, and 2) an in-app survey developed by The Florida Bar. Feedback repeatedly highlighted that the legal guide content is helpful and informative; however, branding and navigation elements of the website and app needed to be improved and refreshed to stay relevant among the target audiences. The committee also analyzed usage data for the legal guide app and printed pamphlets, concluding it would be most cost-effective to reallocate funds for those materials and put them toward the rebranding and website redesign project.
The Legal Survival Guide logo includes a winding path leading to a sun, with the sun symbolizing a guiding light for those who may be seeking information about Florida laws. The logo color scheme (blue, green, and yellow) is also evocative of Florida. The logo design process included a logo feedback survey of young people, which received more than 330 responses. To gather feedback from the intended age demographic, Bar staff and LREC members sent the survey to middle-school, high-school, and college educators in geographic areas across Florida and asked that they share the survey with their students.
In April, the new website (legalsurvivalguide.org) was launched. The website reflects the updated branding and was designed to maximize search engine optimization and mobile friendliness. To promote the new brand and website, the committee implemented a one-month social media advertising campaign targeting teenagers, young adults, educators, and parents of young adults. LREC will continue to promote the new brand and website through organic and paid social media strategies during the 2021-2022 year and beyond.
In addition to these projects, LREC — under the leadership of committee member Patrick Zalman — reviewed and updated the Legal Survival Guide content according to the 2020 version of the Florida statutes. Led by committee member Tricia Carbone, LREC also relaunched regular social media posting on Instagram and Facebook to expand its digital presence.
In closing, I thank the entire committee and Bar staff for their hard work and commitment to completing a series of ambitious projects this past year. None of these projects could have been completed without the incredible assistance and efforts of LREC staff liaison Holly Brooks. I also recognize Vice Chairs Judge Melissa Distler and Lori Ward for their outstanding leadership and dedication to the committee’s mission. It has been an honor to lead the Law Related Education Committee.
Allison Wiggins, Chair
During 2020-21, the committee engaged in a variety of projects designed to improve outcomes and the representation of children in Florida.
The Legal Needs of Children Committee has previously produced practice guidelines for attorneys who represent children in the fields of dependency. However, this year, we have now finalized practice guidelines for attorneys who represent parents in Ch. 39 proceedings. Although all these guidelines are not approved by the Bar’s governing board, and are, thus, nonbinding, they have been most helpful to children’s attorneys throughout the state. With respect to improving the representation to children in Ch. 39 proceedings, Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability (OPPAGA) issued its independent report, “OPPAGA Review of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program.” The OPPAGA report is on the committee’s webpage.
We formed a COVID-19 Subcommittee that surveyed judges and attorneys who represent children, parents, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, and the Florida Department of Children & Families on the legal needs of children and their barriers in dependency proceedings. The survey was shared with DCF, and we have posted the survey and other COVID-19 resources on our webpage.
Additionally, we continued our work on protecting children from trauma in court proceedings. We have continued the discussion from trauma victims in criminal cases to concerns in civil cases, Baker Act proceedings, and other proceedings involving children. In June, we anticipate putting on a statewide seminar addressing the critical importance of lessening trauma to children in all types of legal proceedings impacting them.
We also formed a subcommittee that is examining the overrepresentation of minorities and racial disparities in foster care. Similarly, we anticipate holding a statewide presentation in June focused on examining such disparities in individual communities and promoting community action and solutions.
Finally, members of the committee were saddened by the death of former committee member, Rob Mason, who was the juvenile director of the Fourth Judicial Circuit’s public defender office. Through the years, he was a champion for children, supporting the rehabilitation of children within the juvenile justice system, and a leader in fighting for the appointment of attorneys for dependent children. He also led the juvenile rules committee and was instrumental in advocating for and initiating The Florida Bar’s juvenile law certification program.
Once again, it has been a great honor serving as the committee’s chair.
Howard M. Talenfeld, Chair
There are more than 109,000 members of The Florida Bar, and 269 of them are board certified in marital and family law. The Marital and Board Certification Committee is comprised of nine board certified attorneys practicing throughout Florida. The committee’s primary responsibilities include drafting and grading the annual exam (currently, five essays, 30 multiple-choice questions, and 25 short-answer questions), vetting applicants for initial and continuing certification (including meeting professionalism criteria, successful peer and judicial review, and thorough experience and education qualifications at an expert level), and otherwise addressing changes in law, rules, and applicable policies relevant to attainment and retention of board certification in marital and family law. This year, the committee focused on our desire to increase the number of lawyers board certified in marital and family law through transparent and expeditious application requirements and processes, thorough consideration of confidential peer review and professionalism standards, and accurate, complete, and fair testing.
Despite the struggles, anxieties, and tragedies brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura Davis Smith (technically, vice chair, but more accurately co-chair), Benjamin Hodas, Doreen Turner Inkeles, Sam Jubran, Belinda Lazzara, Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Karen Weintraub, and Christopher Bruce stepped up and moved this committee forward in uncertain and often inconvenient and over-extended times, and certainly beyond expectations. The committee stayed focused on its goal and is confident we will soon be welcoming an increased number of marital and family law experts, as well as celebrating more than 45 recertified experts.
Perhaps more necessary than ever before, the Marital and Family Law Certification Committee members personally exhibited a different kind of excellence and dedication. Due to COVID-19, the entire year’s committee actions occurred through electronic communication. This resulted in an increased need for earlier deadlines, pre-meeting planning, break out groups and teams, and nearly 100% committee member attendance and attention at Zoom meetings, conference calls, email discussions, and committee votes.
Through the diligence of the hundreds of professionals providing confidential peer review despite COVID-19, more than 40 attorneys are cleared to take the exam for initial board certification. The committee is grateful to all those who provided candid and confidential peer review and information for both initial applicants and those already certified. Without that feedback, the process of board certification is, quite literally, impossible.
Additionally, because of the commitment of each committee member and Blaire Bisbee, staff liaison (and certification specialist), all components of the draft exam were pre-tested in full and at length prior to being submitted for national testing review and feedback. This extensive pretesting and consultant review maximized the committee’s goal of fair, accurate, and thorough testing.
The committee cohesiveness also allowed for timely and thorough review of applications to meet the committee’s goal of increasing the number of applicants satisfying the professionalism and experience standards required to qualify to take the exam.
With the exam on the horizon and being administered remotely, our committee is confident those applicants cleared for and electing to take the exam will find it tailored to truly and fairly test for the marital and family law knowledge and experience expected of a board certified expert.
For those of you reading this report and thinking of becoming board certified — do it! It absolutely increased my knowledge, confidence, and referral base. For those of you reading this report, already board certified, and thinking of applying to be on the committee — do it! I learned from and worked with the best of the best, learned to be a better colleague and professional, and, most importantly, I met some of my closest friends.
Jennifer A. Ficarrotta, Chair
The Media and Communications Law Committee’s (MCLC) mission is to facilitate the exchange of factual and legal information about the roles of America’s lawyers, judges, and elected officials in our society, and the importance of protections for free speech and communication, including that conducted by means of print, broadcast, cable, internet, and emerging technologies in furthering public understanding of our institutions of government.
The MCLC seeks to enhance the collegiality among members of the Bar and journalists and to serve as an active bridge for communication on topics of mutual interest and concern. The committee plans the annual Reporters’ Workshop at the Florida Supreme Court; coordinates the annual Parker Thomson Award for Outstanding Legal Journalism and the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award for contribution to the state of Florida through journalism; and produces the online Reporter’s Handbook.
Authored principally by MCLC, The Florida Bar Reporter’s Handbook is a resource guide for members of the media and attorneys about topics relevant to both, such as the public’s rights of access to federal and state government records and court proceedings and the operations of Florida’s attorney discipline system. An updated 2021 revision of the handbook, with enhanced content and search features, will be available online this summer.
The annual two-day reporters’ workshop for journalists presented by The Florida Bar at the Florida Supreme Court did not take place in 2020, but will resume in an online format this summer. Including sessions on access to court information and proceedings in the COVID-19 environment, the new workshop format will allow for a greater number of attendees while preserving as much of the interactivity among panelists and journalists as possible. The MCLC remains, as always, grateful to the Bar and the Florida Supreme Court for their personal participation and support for this presentation. In-person sessions with attendees in Tallahassee are forecast to resume when possible.
Tom Julin, MCLC member and partner with Gunster, P.A., will moderate the MCLC’s annual presentation on First Amendment issues before the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.
The process of accepting entries is currently underway for the Annual Parker Thomson Award for Outstanding Legal Journalism, chaired by Sam Morley, general counsel of The Florida Press Association. Qualified entries consist of stories that highlight the system of law and justice as it affects Floridians. The Parker Thomson Award and the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented this year at the Florida Media Law Conference.
In closing, I recognize and thank the entire committee for its outstanding service during this unusual year and extend my personal gratitude and sincere appreciation to Leslie Smith, our stellar Bar liaison who has worked tirelessly to help us all.
Alison M. Steele, Chair
The mission of the Member Benefits Committee is to review and evaluate existing member benefit programs for Bar members, evaluate programs and services offered to The Florida Bar for members, and to make recommendations to the Board of Governors on changes or additions to the benefits program. During the past several months, the committee has taken this mission seriously and worked diligently evaluating existing programs and reviewing potential member benefit proposals. The committee reviewed a number of proposals from potential Bar member benefit providers during the 2020-2021 fiscal year and approved several new member benefits for recommendation to the Board of Governors. Among the new benefits approved by the committee this year are the Faster Suite of Apps for Clio; Waking Up Meditation App; Fresh Meal Plan fresh meal delivery; Axel Go Secure File Sharing; LawMatics Client Intake and Marketing Automation; Ally Bank Digital Home Loan Mortgage Origination; and Bankers Healthcare Group Suite of Financial products, including consumer loans, branded credit cards, and SBA loan products. The committee will review four to five additional potential member benefit proposals during the June meeting of the Member Benefits Committee during the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention. Chair Michelle Suarez encourages 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.
Michelle Suarez, Chair
The Florida Bar established the Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee to implement its Strategic Planning Priority to focus on the mental health and wellness of Bar members, which includes an educational component to 1) destigmatize mental illness in the legal community (lawyers and judges); 2) educate employers, judges, and lawyers how to identify and address mental-health illness of Florida lawyers and create “best practices” on how to address mental-health issues; 3) educate lawyers about the benefits of balancing personal life and career obligations; 4) provide health and wellness programs to provide Florida lawyers with healthy strategies to deal with the pressures of their practices to enhance the mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers; 5) educate voluntary bar associations on mental health and wellness programs so they may better assist their members at the local level; 6) expand the accreditation definition so as to broaden the scope of what constitutes a health and wellness continuing legal education (CLE) program; 7) develop new and innovative CLE on mental health and wellness issues; 8) interface with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., to broaden their reach to all members not limited to those members facing Bar grievance issues; and 9) create a special, interdisciplinary committee to study and improve The Florida Bar’s rules and programming related to mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers and to ensure that Florida Bar members (including judges) are aware of mental-health issues and are able to access those services needed.
This year, the committee held three meetings via Zoom as well as numerous subcommittee meetings. Four subcommittees were formed to focus the work of the committee: Resources & Education, Member Benefits, Judicial, and Website and Social Media.
The new Florida Lawyers Helpline, run by CorpCare, has been fully implemented for use by Bar members. To assist with the stress caused by exam delays and technology issues, Florida bar exam applicants were temporarily added to the coverage at no cost through December 31, 2020. Florida Registered Paralegals are now approved to use the helpline benefits as of January 1.
The Resources & Education Subcommittee, Chair Karl Klein:
1) Responded to a request for presenters for a large conference and created a list of speakers. Currently creating a referral list with videos and CVs;
2) Created a new CLE with the goal to do two more. Priority will be on the topic of vicarious trauma for PDs and ASAs;
3) Worked on a project to redefine the practice of law for better mental health;
4) Developed a flyer for the new lawyer welcome packet with MH&W resources; and
5) Explored options for mini support groups for Bar members.
The Member Benefits Subcommittee, Chair Rich Rivera, focused on identifying member benefits in four areas:
1) Mental Health/Counseling: Current benefits include the Florida Lawyers Helpline through CorpCare, Florida Lawyers Assistance, and eVideo Counseling.
2) Mindfulness: The Calm app is live with a 40% discount for annual membership. The Waking Up app is approved and in the contract approval phase.
3) Meals: Fresh Meal Plan has been approved and will soon be available to Bar members.
4) Physical Fitness: Still working on signing up gyms, apps, or equipment discounts. A proposal is expected from a statewide fitness center network and mobile app that would waive the registration fee and offer a monthly membership discount.
The Judicial Subcommittee, Chairs Judge Samantha Feuer and Judge Nushin Sayfie, has set three goals to educate judges about the helpline and other resources: develop continuing judicial education courses; create a one-page primer of resources; and promote resources through an article in several publications to reach judges.
A committee member has been approved to speak at the Florida Judicial College Part 2 and the Circuit Judges Conference in July. Waiting on approval for the County Judges Conference. The subcommittee will publish an article in The Florida Bar News, Bar Journal, and the Florida Supreme Court newsletter that goes out to judges and all will include the one-page of resources for judges.
The Webpage Subcommittee, Chair Nora Bergman:
1) Webpage: A complete redesign of the Health and Wellness Center page and a refresh of content has been completed;
2) Social media: Goal is to expand the social media presence to drive members to the webpage. Facebook page now has over 1,200 followers, up from 800 in October; 3) Continued weekly postings compiled for the Wellness Wednesdays tips for the Daily News Summary.
Thank you to our BOG liaisons, Ronald Ponzoli and Wayne LaRue Smith, to Vice Chair Karl Klein, to my fellow committee members, Judge Susan Bedinghaus, Nora Bergman, Bruce Blitman, Peggy Bush, Hillary Cassel, Mandi Clay, Dr. Kristie Deblasio, Alexandra Echsner-Rasmussen, Ashlea Edwards, Karla Ellis, Judge Samantha Feuer, Christian George, Benjamin Gibson, Judge Alicia Latimore, Marc Marra, Miriam Ramos, Richard Rivera, Judge Nushin Sayfie, Jane Springer, Alexis Sykes, Lisa Varon, Judge Joseph Williams, and to our Bar staff liaison, Christine Bilbrey.
Carl Schwait, Chair
The scope and function of the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee (MVAC) is twofold: first, to gather and disseminate information, share expertise, and advise the members of the Bar on all matters relating to the practice of military law in Florida; and second, to have general jurisdiction regarding any problem that may arise relative to the provision of legal services to, for, or by members of the military establishment. Its function shall be to address issues unique to representation of military members and their families in both civil and criminal matters arising within Florida. Further, the committee will consider all possible means of enhancing or increasing the cooperation and communication between the local bar, the legal offices, and the judge advocates of the various military installations within the state.
Military Spouse Rule: The MVAC continues to support the Military Spouse Attorney Mentor Network by means of a subcommittee consisting of Patrick Murphy and Jessica Linney. The subcommittee identifies volunteer mentors with at least five years of expertise in the area of law in which the applicant plans to practice, who will maintain quarterly contact with the military spouse attorney to ensure compliance with his or her CLE obligation, trust accounting rules, and other requirements. The subcommittee also acts as liaison between the MVAC and Florida Board of Bar Examiners when a military spouse attorney submits a certification application. Since the program’s inception, the subcommittee has assisted more than ten military spouse attorneys.
Transitioning JAGs: Following up on an initiative first proposed by committee members Scott Johnson and Edward O’Sheehan, the MVAC sent Freedom of Information Act requests to the Department of the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard requesting information on the number and status of military attorneys who are members of The Florida Bar and the number of military attorneys currently stationed in Florida. The purpose behind the initiative is to assist these military attorneys who are in the process of transitioning from active duty to civilian life. The ultimate goal is the creation of a Bar rule, similar to the military spouse rule, that would permit military attorneys in Florida, who are not members of the Bar, the opportunity to practice law temporarily under the supervision of a mentor. With such a rule in place, these military attorneys would not be forced to prepare for the Florida bar exam while still on active duty.
Additionally, MVAC is exploring ways to assist military attorneys who are members of The Florida Bar and are leaving active duty, but need assistance reconnecting to the Florida legal community due to their years of military service outside the state. MVAC needs to locate these military attorneys, determine whether they intend to return to Florida upon leaving active duty, and whether they wish for committee members to assist them in their search for post-military job opportunities in Florida.
2020 Military Law Symposium: The 2020 Military Law Symposium Subcommittee, chaired by Judge Tina Caraballo and Scott Johnson, planned an excellent symposium, which was held virtually in June 2020. The symposium had been selected as a Presidential Showcase for the 2020 Florida Bar Annual Convention. Topics included “Cyber Threats: Applying the Law to Malicious Cyber Activity by State Actors,” “Military Related Naturalization and Immigration,” “Drone Warfare,” and a “Panel Discussion: 245 Years of Applied Lessons Learned.”
2021 Military Law Symposium: The 2021 Military Law Symposium Subcommittee, chaired by Christopher Vallandingham, is planning an interesting symposium for the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention. Due to continued concerns regarding COVID-19, the symposium will be held virtually for a second consecutive year. For this year’s symposium, topic include the use of federal military forces within the U.S., the process by which the characterization of service discharge for former service members can be upgraded, permissible political activities of service members, the medical evaluation board and physical evaluation board process for service members, and the legal ramifications for active duty service members and reservists who use marijuana for recreational and medical purposes in states that permit such use.
Veteran and Service Members Legal Assistance/Pro Bono Initiative: The committee continues to work to identify ways to serve service members and veterans who might not qualify for existing programs due to rank or income level. The MVAC has collaborated with the general counsel of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the president of the Florida Veterans Foundation to determine if the MVAC can assist these organizations in their outreach to veterans. Although the MVAC had planned to create new programs to fill in the gaps of service to service members and veterans, the plan going forward is to augment existing programs such as GI LAW, which is sponsored by the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The MVAC is also developing a list of attorneys who have expertise in specific areas of military and veterans’ law such as security clearance adjudication and assistance to service members who want to remove unfavorable information from their official military records. This list will be sent to organizations serving service members and veterans to assist them in their efforts.
Opportunities to Publish and Speak on Military and Veterans’ Topics: A subcommittee was formed in January to identify opportunities for committee members and other members of The Florida Bar to publish and speak on topics relevant to service members and veterans. Of particular interest are practice-oriented publications for attorneys who regularly work with service members and veterans and speaking engagements to local organizations where service members and veterans congregate, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and the American Legion.
Veterans Courts: The MVAC continues to stay current on developments in veterans courts, which have been established in more than 30 judicial circuits. The purpose of these courts is to provide an alternative to the criminal justice system for veterans who have been traumatized by their wartime experiences. When the opportunity arises, committee members offer assistance to veterans that have been placed in one of these courts.
The MVAC recognizes and thanks the outstanding service of Leslie Reithmiller, who had been the MVAC program administrator and liaison until her departure in spring 2021.
Christopher Vallandingham, Chair
The Prepaid Legal Services Committee of The Florida Bar is expressly entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that a legal services plan submitted by members of The Florida Bar is in full and complete compliance with the rules and regulations of what is now known as Chapter 9, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.
In addition to fulfilling its stated mission, the committee has, throughout the years, expanded its scope and focus to include 1) educating the membership of The Florida Bar on the specifics of the Florida regulatory system of legal services plans, including a) the entrepreneurial aspects of the creation and establishment of plans by and under Ch. 9 (Ch. 9 plans), and b) the availability of those certain other legal and business opportunities provided in the “Legal Expense Insurance Act,” by and under the provisions of F.S. Ch. 642; and 2) creating a greater awareness in the public of the benefits afforded upon membership in plans.
During this 2020-2021 Bar year, the committee, like all Florida attorneys, faced many difficulties due to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, there were no new proposed Ch. 9 legal plans submitted for the committee to review. This was very unusual. However, as this pandemic runs its course and vaccines are distributed, I expect the usual course of business of the committee to continue.
During the pandemic, our committee was busy with Bar matters. First and foremost, the committee did leverage this available time to draft a Long-Term Strategic Plan for the committee. I thank Vice Chairs John Schaeffer and Kelli Lueckert who chaired this subcommittee and the drafting of this comprehensive document. Items covered included both short- and long-term goals for the committee. This living document will bring continued focus to committee members for years to come.
During this term, we are also working on updating the committee materials on The Florida Bar website. Over the years, we have provided solid practical information on the Bar website for those interested in Ch. 9 plans. This also includes the application for a lawyer to complete in order to submit a plan. Updating this information electronically is critical so members of the public and Florida Bar members can find it. I thank committee member Janelle Elysee who volunteered to serve as chair/point person for this important subcommittee and Board of Governors volunteer Hilary Creary to assist.
Additionally, Vice Chair John Schaefer wrote an article for The Florida Bar Journal March/April 2021 issue, “Chapter 9 Legal Services Plans: An Opportunity for Florida Attorneys to Deliver Legal Services to Floridians in the Post-COVID-19 World.” It was comprehensive work educating members of the Bar and the public about Ch. 9 plans. Terrific work, John, thank you!
At this time, the undersigned would be remiss not to acknowledge the performance of two individuals whose hard work have contributed significantly to permitting the committee to accomplish its agenda and, in turn, further its mission, during this Bar year. As such, I thank and acknowledge the efforts of the committee’s vice chairs, John Schaefer and Kelli Lueckert, who have served with distinction for their dedication and commitment to expanding the role of the committee and promoting the concept of legal services plans among attorneys throughout the state of Florida.
In conclusion, it has been an honor to serve The Florida Bar as chair of the Prepaid Legal Services Committee during this past year.
John Paul Joseph, Chair
During Bar year 2020-2021, the Pro Bono Legal Services Committee has continued to work on a number of initiatives and projects. The committee:
1) Voted to support codification of the cy pres doctrine to encourage the donation of residual/undistributable funds resulting from civil litigation to non-profit legal services providers and urged The Florida Bar Foundation to pursue same. Bills have been filed in both houses of the Florida Legislature, see C.S./H.B. 409 and S.B. 1270; the language is based the committee’s Rules Subcommittee draft language.
2) Resurrected the old (2009) One campaign (to promote pro bono service) as the new One Promise campaign, which is nearly fully funded for the anticipated production costs. Donations are still being sought. See The Florida Bar News article here.
3) With approval of the Bar Board of Governors, filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in opposition to the rule amendment proposed by the Task Force on Distribution of IOTA Funds. The committee’s brief highlights the proposed rule’s negative impact on existing access and pipeline programs, fostering equal justice for the poor, as well as the resultant stifling of future innovations for serving the legal needs of the poor in ways other than direct legal representation in litigation. The committee is represented on a pro bono basis by Dineen Wasylik, a board-certified appellate lawyer, member of the executive council of The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section, and co-chair of the Amicus Committee of The Florida Bar Business Law Section. The committee’s brief can be viewed here: https://efactssc-public.flcourts.org/casedocuments/2020/1543/2020-1543_response_55731_comments.pdf.
4) By letter dated December 8, 2020, to Chief Justice Charles T. Canady and Justice Jorge Labarga, requested Supreme Court approval of mandatory on-demand, online, blended-learning-format pro bono training for judges in “baby judge” school. The committee awaits a response to its request
6) With the assistance of committee staff liaison Francisco Digon-Greer and The Florida Bar Foundation, provided 32 legal aid organizations with a list of retired and inactive attorneys in their respective circuit who qualify to serve as an emeritus pro bono attorney pursuant to the Emeritus Rule in Ch. 12 of The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The Foundation sent the list along with sample letters to use in implementing the procedures of Ch. 12. See The Florida Bar News article.
7) Facilitated the implementation of an optional form for use by firms who choose to provide pro bono service under “Option 2”: Collective Discharge of the Professional Responsibility to Provide Pro Bono Legal Service to the Poor under Rule 4-6.1(C), which provides for the collective satisfaction of pro bono responsibility by law firms under a collective satisfaction plan that has been filed previously with the applicable Circuit Pro Bono Committee and only when providing pro bono legal service to the poor.
8) Continued to monitor the hugely successful Florida Free Legal Answers, Florida’s version of the American Bar Association program. The following shows the statistics from inception, May 1, 2017, through February 28, 2021:
• Total Volunteer Attorneys, 931;
• Total Client Accounts, 16,171;
• Total Questions Asked, 14,925;
• Total Questions Answered, 12,817;
• Overall Answer Rate, 86%;
• Clients Served, 11,620.
9) Formulated a plan to encourage the circuit courts, through the Circuit Pro Bono Committees, to utilize F.S. §40.24, which allows jurors to donate their jury service fee to a guardian ad litem program or domestic violence shelter as specified on a rotating annual basis by the clerk of court in the circuit for the juror’s county of residence (so far, participating circuit courts are, as best the committee can tell, are Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, 12th, 18th).
10) Continued to monitor Florida’s pro bono reporting compliance and note trends in hours performed and monetary contributions compared with past years’ data.
11) Facilitated the connection between the Appellate Committee and the clerk’s offices to provide pro bono counsel to unrepresented domestic violence victims in appeals relating to domestic violence protection orders.
12) Began the process of updating and digitizing the Circuit Pro Bono Committee Chair Handbook for dissemination to the current Circuit Pro Bono Committee chairs (February deliverable due date pushed to annual meeting given that no Circuit Pro Bono Committee chairs’ meeting was held in February). Deferred initiatives that the committee is looking forward to picking up on as circumstances permit:
13) The committee desires to host a summit among the many pro bono stakeholders, including the committee’s members from throughout the state, leadership of The Florida Bar Foundation, Circuit Pro Bono Committee representatives, the Supreme Court and its Commission on Access to Civil Justice, non-profit legal services providers, the Board of Governors, and Young Lawyers Division board; representatives of the Office of State Court Administrator, representatives of the federal and state judiciary, representatives of the clerks of court and clerks’ associations, representatives of the public library systems, representatives of the various lawyer referral service systems, and other constituencies around the state. The purpose of the summit is to discuss coordination of efforts and improvements in the delivery of pro bono legal services to low-income Floridians. The committee contemplates that the summit will be held during a meeting in conjunction with an in-person Circuit Pro Bono Committees’ chairs’ meeting, which has not been possible due to the pandemic.
14) The committee desires to coordinate communication to Bar members who have not reported any pro bono work during the prior reporting year to remind them of the opportunities in their community to perform pro bono work (this was deferred to identify a proper signatory for a form letter the committee approved).
15) The committee started to push out a challenge campaign to urge Bar sections to offer a match (up to a cap) for section members who become fellows of the Foundation (this was deferred due to the need to raise funds for the One Promise campaign through a match challenged initiated by the Business Law Section). The committee thanks its subcommittee chairs for their work the past year: Dominic MacKenzie, Rules Subcommittee; Circuit Judge Virginia Norton, All Circuits Subcommittee; and Donald Workman, Law Firm Subcommittee.
The committee also gratefully acknowledges the support provided by Bar President Dori Foster-Morales and the Board of Governors, who have met promptly at the committee’s request to consider the committee’s participation in the IOTA rule amendment challenge. We all thank Frank Digon-Greer, who provides superb administrative support and wise counsel.
Judge Catherine Peek McEwen and Kathleen S. McLeroy, Co-Chairs
The Professional Ethics Committee is responsible for providing guidance to Bar members regarding the Rules of Professional Conduct. Bar members are encouraged to access committee resources on ethical issues before taking action, including availing themselves of two of the most frequented resources that are readily accessible: the Ethics Hotline (800-235-8619) and the Bar’s website.
Practical information and guidance materials for Bar members and the public are found on the committee’s webpage. For ease of access, a quick link to Rules, Ethics & Professionalism is included at the top of every page of the Bar’s website. Clicking “Ethics” leads to the main ethics page
Information packets addressing an expanding list of reoccurring ethical topics are posted, including formal advisory opinions from the committee, frequently supplemented by additional materials, including rules and articles. The website also includes an index to the formal advisory opinions, the procedure for seeking a ruling on a question of ethics, and other information relating to lawyer ethics.
The committee is staffed by the Bar’s Ethics Department. The department attorneys research and draft formal and informal opinions, and maintain the Ethics Hotline. The committee reviews informal written opinions if an inquiring attorney seeks review, or on request of committee members, and sponsors an annual professional ethics seminar. Lawyer advertising issues are not within the purview of the Professional Ethics Committee, but instead are generally addressed by the Standing Committee on Advertising.
The committee met four times this year to consider a variety of ethics issues, generally summarized below after the review of procedures.
Formal Advisory Opinion Procedures: The Florida Bar Procedures for Ruling on Questions of Ethics govern the process by which staff issues informal oral and written advisory opinions and by which the committee issues formal advisory opinions. The procedures are available on the Bar’s website by choosing the Rules & Ethics link and then the Ethics link on the resulting landing page. A form is provided to facilitate requests for the issuance of an opinion.
The committee may issue formal advisory opinions after review of staff opinions and existing formal opinions. Additionally, The Florida Bar Board of Governors may request that the committee issue a formal advisory opinion concerning the application of the ethics rules to certain facts.
Before issuing a proposed formal advisory opinion, the committee publishes a notice in The Florida Bar News inviting Bar members to comment. The committee values the input provided by these comments and encourages Bar members to comment. Proposed advisory opinions are also available from the committee’s webpage.
Florida Advisory Opinion 20-1: Florida Ethics Opinion 20-1 addresses how lawyers may respond ethically to negative online reviews in light of the duty of confidentiality owed to clients and former clients under Rule 4-1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The opinion reports that the majority of states that have issued opinions on the subject conclude that a lawyer may not reveal confidential information when responding to a negative review. The opinion further observed that Rule 4-1.6 makes all information relating to the representation of a client confidential, whatever the source of the information and that the duty of confidentiality is owed to both current and former clients. The opinion states that none of the exceptions in Rule 4-1.6(c) apply to the situation. Therefore, the opinion counsels that if the lawyer responds to the negative online review the lawyer cannot reveal confidential information absent the client’s informed consent. The opinion concludes that a suggested proportional and restrained response would be permissible and that the lawyer also could state that the lawyer disagrees with the facts stated in the review.
The committee requested authority to issue a formal advisory opinion as addressed below.
Current Matters Under Consideration: In response to the committee’s request, The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors authorized the committee to issue a proposed formal advisory opinion addressing how lawyers may respond to negative online reviews by nonclients. In light of the complexity of this and related issues, the committee referred drafting to a subcommittee considering a related matter, amendments to Rule 4-1.6, co-chaired by Tim Chinaris and Lanse Scriven. The subcommittee’s other members are Carlos Llorente (co-vice chair), Kurian Sanjay (co-vice chair), and LaShawn Riggans
In light of Bar member inquiries, a subcommittee was formed to examine ethical issues regarding payment via online applications, such as Venmo. The subcommittee has met several times to consider the complicated issue, including permutations created by the varying web applications with varying methods of operation. The subcommittee is anticipated to recommend the issuance of a formal advisory opinion concluding that lawyers may accept payments through web payment applications under specified circumstances. The subcommittee has not, but is expected to, address the corresponding issue of whether rule amendments are recommended. The subcommittee is chaired by Skip Smith. The subcommittee’s other members are Vice Chair Hope Newsome, Greg d’Incelli, Stephanie Lisiecki, and Michael J. Skiscim.
The committee is also considering whether to recommend a modification to Florida Ethics Opinion 88-11 to address what attorney’s file information must be provided at the client’s request and what reasonable charges may be passed on to a client for retrieving and providing that information. The issue has been referred to a subcommittee formed to review considerations arising since 1988 and to make recommendations to the committee. The subcommittee is chaired by Gary Betensky; its other members are Vice Chair Alyssa Katz, Jeff Blostein, Virginia Buchanan, Kevin Franz, Phillip Hutchinson, April Kirsheman, Sanjay Kurian, and Arya Li.
Withdrawn Formal Advisory Opinions: The committee also reviews from time to time existing Florida ethics opinions to determine if any need to be withdrawn. The committee withdrew Florida Ethics Opinion 66-5, which involved a lawyer employed by a tortfeasor’s insurance carrier to act for an injured minor in concluding a settlement agreed on by the carrier and the minor’s parents. The opinion was withdrawn because it ultimately declines to answer the inquiry.
The committee also withdrew Florida Ethics Opinions 66-13 and 77-23, which involved conflicts of interest and governmental child support actions. The opinions were withdrawn in light of the more recently adopted Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 11-1 addressing similar issues.
Rules Amendments: The committee from time to time proposes amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. As reported above, the committee directed a subcommittee to draft proposed amendments to Rule 4-1.6 with comments concerning lawyers’ ethical obligations in responding to negative online reviews.
Review of Written Staff Advisory Opinions: The committee considered a denial of a staff advisory opinion concerning the inquirer’s ethical obligations as the court-appointed lawyer representing alleged incapacitated persons in guardianship proceedings when Florida statutes require proceedings without notice to the respondent, who is the inquirer’s client. Responding to a referral to the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, the section recommended that a lawyer should attempt to communicate with the client, should attempt to ascertain the client’s interests either directly or via investigation, obtain any relevant documentary or testimonial evidence, seek a continuance if possible, argue against the guardianship where it is clear that is the client’s wish, and otherwise to defend the case and ensure the other side proves its case. Staff was directed to draft a formal advisory opinion consistent with the RPPTL section’s recommendation.
Masters Seminar on Ethics: The committee’s yearly CLE program addresses ethical issues of great significance to Bar members at the 2021 annual convention. The seminar is coordinated by a subcommittee chaired by Steven Teppler. The other members of the subcommittee are Co-Vice Chair Kalinthia Dillard, Co-Vice Chair Caroline Johnson, Robert Borr, Virginia Buchanan, and Scott Fingerhut. The seminar, offering 4.0 hours of general CLE credit, which are also designated as ethics credits, will present an array of ethical topics including a judicial panel discussing ethical issues they are confronting and how the judges address the issues in their courtrooms; the Bar’s grievance system, exploring the types of actions that result in lawyer discipline proceedings, and how to avoid proceedings; and, the psychology of persuasion and truth decay, and how this jeopardizes the legal system. Speakers scheduled to participate are Judge Amy Jo Carter, H. Scott Fingerhut, Caroline Johnson, Judge Gisela T. Laurent, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Donald A. Smith, and Judge Kevin Brett Weiss
Informal Advisory Ethics Opinions Service: The committee is committed to providing ethics guidance to Bar members. The advisory ethics opinion process continues to rate as among the most desirable services on Bar membership surveys. Staff had another busy year on the Ethics Hotline handling over 21,500 hotline calls, in addition to providing hundreds of written staff opinions and other ethics correspondence.
Staff Support: Finally, the committee thanks our board liaison, Clifford C. Higby, Ethics and Consumer Protection Division Director and Bar Counsel Gypsy Bailey, and our hardworking staff led by Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, including Assistant Ethics Counsels Huy-Yen T. Bailey, Joy A. Bruner, Jonathan Grabb, Jeffrey M. Hazen, Kelly Smith, Heather Telfer, 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.
Michael J. Gelfand, Chair
The challenges that we have all faced and overcome this year during the COVID-19 pandemic are no less than miraculous. The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Professionalism (SCOP), through its working groups, helps The Florida Bar and the Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism “to promote the fundamental ideals and values of professionalism within the legal systems and instill those ideals of character, competence, commitment, and civility in all those persons serving and seeking to serve therein.” The ideals are practiced by committee members who are attorneys and judges around the state by the promotion of professionalism events and activities. This year’s emphasis has been on civility, diversity, and inclusion through initiatives for the local professionalism panels, supporting lawyer health and wellness, addressing gender bias, promoting mentoring, and recognizing outstanding professionalism through SCOP’s professionalism awards.
Ita M. Neymotin, regional counsel of the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Second District Court of Appeal and chair of The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Professionalism, has promoted professionalism and been involved with creating CLEs for professionalism for many years. She was appointed to the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Civility by Justice R. Fred Lewis in 2016 and assigned to the Professionalism Commission Rule Subcommittee. The initiative at the time was confidentiality for the LLPs. Ms. Neymotin, in her work over the years in professionalism, has created the Champion of Professionalism Award, which recognizes exemplary professionalism exhibited by an individual during the course of interacting with their peers and clients. This award was presented to Rebecca Bandy, director of the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, on January 12 by Zoom. Previously, this award has been awarded to Henry Lee Paul, past Florida Bar counsel in 2019, and Julianne Holt, public defender of the 13th Judicial Circuit in 2020.
The Professionalism and Civility Task Force Group: This task force is led by Ms. Bandy and Ms. Neymotin. The task force is currently working on creating a civility video message to be placed on the Bar’s website for all law school students and Bar members to refer to when necessary. The focus this year was on diversity, inclusion, and civility.
Local Professionalism Panels: When the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Civility dissolved in 2019, SCOP was entrusted with the duty to keep track of the activities and facilitate the work of the Circuit Local Professionalism Panels (LPPs). The panels were created by the Florida Supreme Court as a means to address unprofessional lawyer behavior that does not rise to an ethical breach. After the commission disbanded, SCOP was formally charged with taking over the commission’s programs. In late 2019, the Education and Resource Working Group and the center gathered contact information for the LPPs in each of the 20 judicial circuits. The center has now sent a survey to the chairs of the LPPs to gather information that can help the center and SCOP better understand the processes and activities of the LPPs. This year, a panel Zoom meeting was held to update the LPPs and discuss any processes or procedures used across the state. SCOP will be looking to that data as a way to assess what the LPPs are doing and any needs necessary for their work. The center is also collecting court opinions that refer to the LPPs and will be posting those on the center’s website as a resource. As an additional step, SCOP is exploring hosting a summit with LPP Committee chairs at the annual convention in June.
The Professionalism Handbook: Every other year, the center publishes a handbook for law students that includes select Florida ethics and professionalism materials designed to help students learn critical ethics and professionalism information. Last year, the SCOP chair authored a new component of the handbook, “Introduction to Professionalism in Florida, An Overview,” which is meant to help students understand the professionalism expectations in Florida. There is no update this year.
Awards Working Group: Led by Matthew Feeley, chair, this group solicited nominees for and will recommend this year’s professionalism award recipients, including the recipients of the William M. Hoeveler Judicial Award, the Law Faculty/Administrator Award, and the Group Professionalism Award. This group was charged with investigating and creating a Mentoring Award, and if approved, proceed with its full development and promotion. Review of the nominations and award recommendations will go to the full committee by March 19.
Education and Resource Working Group: Chaired by Starling Hendrix, this group’s charge includes locating potential professionalism reports, writing and collecting articles for the center’s newsletter, and collecting videos for the #ProTipsTuesday professionalism campaign. Further, this group is reviewing the current professionalism expectations and creating a professionalism speaker’s bureau list that can be added to the center’s website to ensure diversity and inclusion are properly emphasized.
Ms. Neymotin, 10th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian Haas, 10th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Rex Dimmig, Second DCA Homicide Chief of the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel Byron Hileman, and Second DCA Managing Attorney of Homicide Division of the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel Christopher Boldt, are currently working together to complete an article for The Professional, “Professionalism is Crucial in Death Penalty Litigation.” This article should be complete the first week of April.
Gender Bias Working Group: The Gender Bias working group is led by Chair Magdalena Ozarowski. The group’s charge for the year is to assist with development of materials and programming related to gender bias to create a toolkit to be placed on the center’s website. A CLE titled, “Know Your Worth: A CLE for Women Lawyers,” was produced and is now available for free on the center’s website for two credit hours. The program explores how to bridge the gender pay gap in the legal profession.
Health and Wellness Working Group: This group is chaired by Judge Suzanne Van Wyk and is charged with investigating and reporting on how mentoring can be integrated into the Bar’s health and wellness initiative. This is being completed with input from the Mentoring Initiatives Working Group, however, independently completing CLEs on this topic. This working group produced three one-hour CLEs on mental health and wellness that are available for free on the center’s website. The videos featured Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, attorney Wayne LaRue Smith, and popular FSU Law professor Larry Krieger.
Mentoring Initiatives Working Group: This group is chaired by Jason Berger, and this year, the working group is charged with using available data regarding mentoring initiatives from other state bars to review, revise, and modernize the center’s mentoring toolbox. The Mentoring Committee will be holding a two-hour CLE on the statewide mentoring program using Zoom. It will be called, “Mentoring Makes a Difference,” and will take place on Friday, April 23, from 9-11 a.m. Further, the mentoring group has also been working on the concept of additional mandatory CLE requirements on mentoring for new attorneys and additional mandatory CLE requirements on mentoring for those sanctioned (including diversion) by The Florida Bar.
It has been an honor to be the chair and lead SCOP this year. My thanks to Vice Chair Elizabeth Hunter, Board of Governors liaison Steven Davis, Rebecca Bandy, director of The Florida Bar Henry Latimer Center, center staff, and all the members. All meetings this year were held by Zoom, and it has been a challenging year, however, we have all prevailed.
Ita M. Neymotin, Chair
The Real Estate Certification Committee had another busy year. The 2020-2021 members of the committee are Chair Michelle Gomez Hinden of Orlando; Vice Chair Wiley Smith Boston II of Orlando; Diana Davis Basta of Palm Harbor, D. Michael Chesser of Shalimar, Charles Edward Klug, Jr., of Tampa, Kenneth Lee Bohannon of New Smyrna Beach, Liliana Valderrama Avellan of Miami, Sebastian Jaramillo of Miami, Robert M. Schwartz of Boca Raton, Roberto Francisco Fleitas III of Miami, and Deborah Boyd of Port Saint Lucie. By having committee members from all reaches of our diverse state, we are able to construct an examination that is representative of the practice of real estate law throughout our state.
The committee is charged with evaluating and approving lawyers who apply to become board certified in real estate law, evaluating and approving existing board certified real estate lawyers for recertification (every five years), and preparing and grading the annual certification exam. The latter process takes up the bulk of the committee’s time and effort. As dictated by the Florida Supreme Court, the evaluation of applicants involves the determination of whether an applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. This process is often difficult and is taken very seriously by the committee members. The committee strives to prepare the exam from year to year in a manner that best tests those high standards as well as the knowledge, proficiency, and skill expected of members of The Florida Bar holding themselves out as experts in real estate law.
The real estate certification program was established in 1986 with the first class becoming board certified in 1987. Real estate has historically been the second-largest area of certification in terms of numbers of individuals who are board certified by the Bar. There are currently 444 board certified lawyers in real estate law, and approximately 36 potential applicants for the 2021 exam.
The present format of the exam includes 45 multiple-choice questions, six mandatory short-answer essay questions, a long-answer homestead essay question, and a long-answer transactional analysis law question. The exam is divided into four 60-minute modules. While not everyone will pass the exam, we regularly receive feedback that the process of preparing for the exam causes every examinee to be a better real estate lawyer. Of those who do not pass the exam on the first try, many find success in the year that follows.
We encourage all experienced and eligible lawyers to apply for board certification. Certification identifies a lawyer to the public and to other lawyers as having specialized knowledge, skills, and capabilities. We also encourage board certified lawyers to apply to serve on the committee; it provides invaluable exposure to other real estate law experts in a collegial and intellectually stimulating setting.
As committee chair, I thank the members for their hard work and dedication to the exam preparation and applicant review process. Additionally, the committee extends its thanks and gratitude to several former committee members who have graciously volunteered their time to serve as exam pre-testers: William Kramer, Richard A. Miller, Michael Mirrington, and Denis Cohrs. The committee members also thank David Willis, our BLSE liaison to the committee, as well as Steve Rubin who is our past BLSE liaison. Finally, the Real Estate Certification Committee acknowledges the hard work and service of Jasmine Rodriguez, our Bar staff certification specialist. Our jobs would be impossible without her assistance and dedication to the committee.
Michelle Gomez Hinden, Chair
As with all Bar committees, the work of the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee during the 2020-2021 Bar year has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the incalculable personal toll the pandemic has caused, we have been forced to work in a totally virtual environment. While the loss of in-person meetings was obviously necessary, the committee eagerly looks forward to the day when we can all safely gather together in the same room, debate, and decide issues affecting Florida’s procedural rules of common application.
The past Bar year has also seen numerous substantive rule changes adopted by the Florida Supreme Court, as well as other court action taken on pending rule proposals. Practitioners should be aware of these important recent developments.
On January 21, the court considered amendments submitted by the committee as part of its 2020 regular-cycle report — filed before the cycle schedule for rules committee reports was eliminated by the court. In addition to making some technical amendments, the court adopted the committee’s recommended changes to Rule 2.330 dealing with disqualification of trial judges. Notably, a disqualification motion must now identify the precise date when the underlying supporting facts were discovered and must state all specific and material facts upon which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The time for filing a motion was expanded from 10 to 20 days after the party or counsel discovered the facts giving rise to the motion, and the rule clarified how bringing a new lawyer into a case who may have a conflict with the sitting judge will not constitute grounds for disqualification. The court declined to adopt certain proposed changes to streamline Rule 2.420, addressing public access to judicial records, but asked the committee to continue its work on this important subject.
The court also recognized our committee’s role in considering and recommending procedural rules covering all Florida practice areas. Many practitioners may have assumed that because this body of rules described “judicial administration,” the rules are not applicable to them. Effective March 1, this chapter of rules will be known as the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration, which more accurately describes the broader application of the rules.
In a separate opinion on January 21, the court addressed public access to, and protection of, judicial branch records under Rule 2.420(d). On its own motion, and effective July 1, the court eliminated any requirement that the court clerk independently designate unredacted information contained in certain civil filings, emphasizing that any such redaction is the sole responsibility of the filer. Since this amendment came directly from the court, a schedule for public comment was established, and the committee’s comments were sought. Work on this rule amendment continues as of the date of publication.
On January 28, the court adopted comments submitted by the committee and further amended Rule 2.140 by implementing schedules for committee reports and action, based on the elimination of the prior three-year reporting cycle. The court’s goal is to allow the adoption of procedural rule changes in a more efficient, timely means. This change has already had a significant impact on the committee’s work schedule, because proposed rule amendments can be submitted as soon as they are ready, instead of working hard and then waiting for the three-year cycle report.
The court also adopted additional amendments to Rule 2.270, addressing how standard jury instructions should be amended by their applicable committees and provided guidance about how instructions can be amended without the necessity of court filings or court opinions.
The court’s March 4 opinion addressed proposed “fast-track” amendments to the Rules of Juvenile Procedure, Rules of Judicial Administration, and the Rules of Appellate Procedure. After considering several comments and the responses filed by the pertinent committees, the court further amended the Rules of Juvenile Procedure and Rules of Appellate Procedure, notably dealing with procedures for handling petitions for judicial waiver of parental consent to, or notification of, termination of pregnancy.
For several years, the committee has been working to advance Florida’s ongoing transition to electronic filing, while preserving access to courts by pro se litigants or people unable to use electronic filing and recognizing the concurrent duties and responsibilities of filers, clerks, and courts. On December 31, 2019, the committee submitted a comprehensive package of new and proposed amendments to numerous rules involving electronic filing, service, and documents. This filing generated extensive interest from members of the public and Florida lawyers. After numerous comments were filed, the committee adopted some, but not all, of the suggested changes from the comments. The court held oral argument on the rules package on February 11, and proponents for the proposed rule changes and opposing commenters presented their views and positions. The court issued an order on March 5 closing that case without adopting any proposed amendments and advising that the committee should continue to work with some of the commenters to resolve their concerns about the proposed rules package. The committee is committed to continuing its work with all interested parties to advance the uniform adoption of electronic filing throughout Florida’s court system, while preserving the option of paper filing for those litigants who cannot avail themselves of electronic filing.
In addition to these major court actions, the committee has been working on other subjects that are expected to be presented in the near future. The committee will be filing with the court proposed amendments to Rule 2.540, describing how therapy animals can be used in Florida courthouses, thanks to the work of Susan Warner and her team. With the subcommittee leadership of Mike Schmid, the committee continues to work with interested parties in establishing rules to implement the action taken by Florida voters in adopting into the Florida Constitution the provisions of “Marsy’s Law,” which deals with victim’s rights. The committee, through the subcommittee leadership of Sandy Solomon, also expects to present proposed changes to Rule 2.422, refining and clarifying how ex parte filings should be made. Also, under Mr. Solomon’s subcommittee leadership, of particular importance in the post-COVID environment, the committee is working on proposed changes to the manner in which remote testimony will be received in Florida courts.
Many committee members have devoted extensive time and effort during the last Bar year. At the risk of leaving someone out, I would like to give special thanks to committee Vice Chair Justin Horan, who provided invaluable assistance in chairing the Joint Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Electronic Documents, and Vice Chair Judge Samantha Ward, who provided support to the chair in numerous ways. Many thanks to Secretary Kristin Norse, who prepared timely and in-depth minutes of our meetings, as well as Parliamentarian and Drafting Subcommittee Chair Judge John Newton, who provided invaluable technical assistance to keep our numerous Zoom meetings moving smoothly. I also give special recognition to our subcommittee chairs, Michael Schmid, Judge Elizabeth Blackburn, John Roman, and Debra Jenks, and Sandy Solomon, who chaired the Liaison Subcommittee, Steve Williams, who chaired our Internal Operating Procedures Subcommittee, and Judge Jeffrey Kuntz, who served on our Fast Track Committee and provided valuable assistance throughout the year. I also greatly appreciate the ongoing help and support of Tom Hall on electronic filing issues and keeping the committee informed about issues being worked on by the Florida Courts Technology Commission. Many other committee members have served in leadership roles, who are too numerous to name here, but their contributions are greatly appreciated.
I expect the commitment and energy shown during the past year will continue as the committee enters a new era, with a new name and renewed focus on its work in improving Florida’s judicial rules.
Michael J. Korn, Chair
The Senior Lawyers Committee membership is composed of primarily experienced lawyers over the age of 55 but is open to any member of The Florida Bar. Our membership includes lawyers who are in different stages of their legal careers: some are semi-retired, while others are contemplating a change of career, early retirement or retirement, or practicing law forever. The Senior Lawyers Committee, which currently has no limit on the number of one-year terms to which members can be reappointed, provides a way for members to continue their service to the Bar and the profession. We invited the almost 1,000 lawyers who attended the CLE at our annual meeting in 2020 to join our mailing list to receive our newsletter, to participate in our upcoming meetings and CLEs, and to join our committee (for free) during the committee preference season.
Due to the anticipated increase in the aging of the members of The Florida Bar, we are or will be larger than any other Bar section or committee. It is our intention to explore becoming a division so that all lawyers over the age of 55 will be able to automatically belong and be aware of the benefits that we offer.
Our structure includes a leadership team (Chair Leslie Reicin Stein, Vice Chairs Andromeda Monroe and J. Richard Caldwell, and immediate Past Chair Susan Healy), and our Bar staff liaison, Cheri Wright. The leadership team reviews the work of the committee’s focus groups, who are the teams of member volunteers that do the heavy lifting on the committee’s projects. The focus group structure grew out of our recognition that at this stage in our careers, we senior lawyers prefer to work on those discrete tasks that are of particular interest to us, as opposed to joining standing subcommittees that look impressive on our resumes. Due to COVID, the focus groups have not been as active this Bar year.
The 2020-2021 focus groups are:
• 50-Year Member Luncheon Focus Group: This group is responsible for planning and hosting the 50-Year Members Luncheon being held at the 2021 Annual Convention. Once we receive the names of the 50-year lawyers, it is our intention to notify the Florida law schools so they can publicize their graduates in their publications or otherwise honor them.
• Website Focus Group: We have an excellent committee webpage that was created and is maintained by Andromeda Monroe. It contains links to various items of interest to senior lawyers. The committee’s past CLE presentations can be reached from this webpage as well as from its newsletter, Experience Matters. We are investigating adding links from other legal organizations.
• CLE Presentations: This group plans the free CLE programming offered in conjunction with the Senior Lawyers Committee’s winter and annual convention meetings. This year, we added an additional free CLE that was presented at the fall meeting. At the 2020 annual meeting, the free CLE presentation featured, “Retirement or a Third Act, What Will You Chose?” for 2.5 general CLE credits. It was attended by almost 1,000 attorneys. At the 2020 fall meeting, the free CLE presentation featured, “Bridging the Gap to Retirement — Medical Decisions & Issues, What Comes Next?” for 2.5 general CLE Credits and 2.5 elder law board certification credits. At the winter 2021 meeting, the free CLE featured, “Never Too Late, Wills, Trusts & the Art of Wealth Transfer for the Young at Heart,” for 2.5 general CLE credits and 2.5 elder law or wills, trusts, and estates board certification credits. The presentations were recorded and are available on the committee’s webpage free of charge for those Bar members who missed the live presentations.
• Member Benefits Focus Group: This group is working with the Bar’s Member Benefits Committee to identify benefits programs of particular interest to senior lawyers.
• Newsletter Focus Group: This group is responsible for an email newsletter, Experience Matters. This newsletter was created and is edited by Susan Healy.
• Pro Bono Opportunities Focus Group: This group identifies volunteering opportunities involving opportunities outside the legal field, and law related and pro bono opportunities for members who are looking for new ways to continue to serve in the community as they leave their practices or reduce their hours.
• Reduced Fees for Retired Lawyers Focus Group: This group is studying whether it should recommend a new fee category for retired lawyers that would like to continue their membership in The Florida Bar.
We have planned for the 2021 annual meeting a free CLE program, “Detecting and Avoiding Investment Fraud: A New Perspective to the Investment World from an Investor’s Rights Attorney.”
Senior Lawyers Committee meetings have been held remotely by Zoom. Even after the pandemic, we believe that we will need to accommodate our members’ preference for remote rather than in-person attendance by providing video or phone conferencing and recording our meetings and CLEs so they can more fully participate.
As of March, we have either completed or made significant progress on our strategic planning goals, including the PEC recommendations. We are looking forward to continuing our work during 2021-22.
Leslie Reicin Stein, Chair
Currently, there are 81 board certified lawyers in state and federal government and administrative practice. The certification covers a broad practice area that includes state and federal rulemaking, administrative adjudication and agency interaction, along with state and federal government practice areas. In 2019-2020, seven attorneys applied for initial certification. A total of eight certified attorneys submitted applications for recertification in 2019-2020.
The committee’s primary goal is to encourage administrative practitioners to apply for certification. In 2018-2019, in an effort to increase interest in certification, the committee revised the scope and specifications of the exam to focus more on state law rather than federal law. Prior to COVID, the revised exam significantly increased applications. However, the pandemic has affected the number of applications this year. Plainly, when the impact of the pandemic recedes, the committee will have more work to do to increase membership in this certification area. The committee will continue its efforts to modify the certification rules and requirements, and work with the BLSE and other persons within the Bar leadership to implement those revisions.
The committee has also determined that it needs to work harder on promoting certification in this area. Again, as the pandemic recedes, the committee will reestablish a group that was created within the committee in 2019-2020, which will work with the BLSE to implement strategies to increase participation in the certification area.
While limited by the pandemic, the committee has been very active and dedicated. All of the members have been very helpful to the committee in pursuing the committee’s long-term goals. The committee is very fortunate to have an excellent, dedicated, and very friendly liaison, Allison Armour. The committee greatly appreciates her hard work and assistance.
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 Allison Armour at 850-561-3143.
John Rimes, Chair
The 2020-2021 Bar year has continued to challenge all of us in more ways than we could have ever imagined. Despite the challenges we have all faced since the start of the pandemic last year, the Student Education and Admission to the Bar Committee has continued to be productive and resourceful.
The success of the committee would not be possible without the tremendous work of all those at The Florida Bar, the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, and most importantly, our committee members.
After moving to a virtual format for committee meetings since the pandemic, our committee has seen a significant increase in member engagement, which has directly contributed to the productivity of our working groups. One change that our committee made this year was to have fewer working groups with more members within each group. This change has allowed more diverse contributions by members in order to accomplish the significant working charges. Thus, our committee has three working groups, as follows: Law School Handbook, Law School Professionalism Panels, and Social Media.
Our Law School Handbook group is hard at work drafting and updating a digital handbook for prospective students desiring to enter the legal field. The handbook will include all things one would need to consider and evaluate before considering law school. Our Law School Professionalism Panels group plans to set panels with law school students across Florida on various professionalism-related topics. Lastly, our Social Media group has encouraged Bar members to contribute to a relatively new campaign launched by the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, “#ProTipTuesday,” where legal practitioners across Florida submit short video clips on a professionalism topic of their choosing. This video is then edited and promoted across The Florida Bar and the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism’s social media pages to promote professionalism across the legal profession.
Our committee members continue to stay engaged and are willing to contribute to ensure our profession maintains and, in some cases, exceeds the level of professionalism required for a Florida Bar-licensed attorney. The committee will continue to educate prospective law students and Bar-licensed attorneys and will continue to inspire the spirit of professionalism in everything we do.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the chair this year, and I look forward to finishing this year stronger than ever. As the saying goes, “the best is yet to come.”
Brijesh Patel, Chair
As the 2020-2021 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 recognized by The Florida Bar, for reviewing applications of current certified attorneys seeking recertification at the expiration of their terms, for improving the tax certification examination, 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. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all meetings this year were conducted telephonically or via Zoom. The committee first met via Zoom in August 2020 to begin drafting the 2021 examination and to review initial and recertification applications. This year, the committee made revisions to the 2021 examination to adapt it to the possibility of remote administration divided in four parts, and to improve the exam’s ability to distinguish attorneys with high levels of competence to meet the standards expected by the committee and The Florida Bar.
The 2021 exam reflects a change in format and is comprised of two sections that together comprise the long-answer essay question and two sections each with five multi-part, shorter answer essay questions that address procedural and substantive law. For the various subjects, the committee updated questions from previous examinations to reflect the change in format and any changes in law, 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.
The examination is scheduled for March 12. The committee will grade the 2021 examinations on an anonymous basis with each examinee identified to the committee only by a number assigned by Florida Bar staff. The committee will discuss the results at its final meeting on May 7. 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, 196 are currently board certified in tax law. Five attorneys are expected to sit for the 2021 tax law certification exam. The committee also reviewed 34 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 to serve as chair of the committee this year. This year’s committee included Michael A. Lampert as vice chair; Erin E. Houck-Toll, Gerrard Lyndon Grant; Thomas F. Hudgins III; Mark C. Kloeppel; Karen Lapekas; Lee Osiason; and Robert “Bo” Trudeau. We also appreciate the indispensable hard work of our staff liaison, Chyra Reynolds.
Daniel Martinez, Chair
The Committee on Technology consists of 34 members with a stated interest and competence in technology, data security, and privacy. The scope and function of the committee is to interact regularly with LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center to assure that technology tools for lawyers and educational assistance concerning technology and the law is readily available to Florida lawyers. The Committee on Technology was chaired by Christine Senne (Lake Placid) with Joshua Marks (Sunrise) and Robert “Beau” Blumberg (Miami) serving as co-vice chairs. During the 2020-2021 Bar year, the committee held five virtual meetings.
For the 2020 Florida Bar Annual Convention, the committee collaborated with LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center and Clio to put on two technology seminars. These seminars highlighted current trends and best practices in technology as well as cybersecurity and data privacy. The seminars were recorded and are available on LegalFuel.com for free CLE credit.
The committee produced a video conference toolkit. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid transition to virtual proceedings, the committee developed this toolkit, which provides materials covering introductory to advanced topics on video conferencing. The virtual platforms that are included in this guide include, but are not limited to, Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams. The toolkit is an evolving and dynamic guide that will be continuously updated with materials. The toolkit has been published on LegalFuel.com for Bar members to reference.
The committee collaborated with The Florida Bar Board of Governors Technology Committee on several projects:
1) Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings — The guide includes recommended practices for everything from proper attire and lighting, to screen sharing and evidence submission;
2) IT Help Line — to offer routine remote services, including basic troubleshooting, operating system support, and technical setup for home and remote offices;
3) The Unintended Consequences of Free Cloud Services — the committee determined that while Bar members are permitted to utilize these services, there are associated risks that Bar members should be educated on. The committee will work with LegalFuel to produce educational materials to advise Bar members on these risks and how to best mitigate them.
At the request of the Board of Governors Technology Committee, the committee created a Blockchain Workgroup. The purpose of this workgroup is to provide guidance on the three primary matters: 1) blockchain’s potential use in remote proceedings; in particular, how to use it as evidence and how to authenticate evidence with blockchain; 2) client data regarding privacy and security relating to the use of blockchain, including any considerations involved with using blockchain in remote proceedings; 3) cryptocurrency’s potential use in the legal profession, such as for payment of legal fees, and the potential risks involved. The workgroup is led by Anessa Santos (Winter Garden) and Joshua Marks (Sunrise). The materials produced by this workgroup will be published on LegalFuel.com for Bar members to reference.
The Practice Management Subcommittee completed a review of the LegalFuel website to ensure the content was current and organized in a manner that is easy to navigate. The committee provided feedback on areas where additional content would benefit Bar members. The subcommittee is working with LegalFuel to develop and publish additional and updated content. The committee will also be working with the Programming Subcommittee on a marketing plan for the LegalFuel website and upcoming Technology Symposium.
The Current Technology Issues Subcommittee is developing new content for LegalFuel, including a podcast, on current technology relevant to practice management. The content produced by the subcommittee will be published on LegalFuel for Bar members to access.
The Programming Subcommittee is working to develop the programming for the 2021 Technology Seminars, which will be held in conjunction with the 2021 Florida Bar Annual Convention, which is chaired by Halley J. Peters (Miami). The subcommittee is also developing and producing monthly technology-focused webinars for Bar members. The webinars will be recorded and made available on LegalFuel.com for free for CLE credit.
We thank the committee members for their hard work and dedication.
Christine Senne, Chair
The standing committee had another busy year addressing formal advisory opinion requests. Under Rule 10-9 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, an individual or organization seeking guidance as to the applicability of the state’s prohibitions against the unlicensed practice of law may request a formal advisory opinion from the standing committee. After holding a public hearing to receive input from interested parties, the standing committee, at its discretion, may file a proposed formal advisory opinion with the Florida Supreme Court containing its interpretation of the law. The court then reviews the proposed opinion and can approve, modify, or disapprove the advisory opinion with the ensuing opinion having the force and effect of an order of the court. The standing committee declined to hold public hearings in two formal advisory opinion requests it received and held a public hearing on a third request, but in the end voted to not issue a proposed advisory opinion. In each case the standing committee felt that current Florida Supreme Court caselaw or rules provided appropriate guidance.
Last August, the standing committee filed a proposed advisory opinion with the Florida Supreme Court, which addressed a request from an out-of-state licensed attorney. The proposed opinion found that an out-of-state licensed attorney working remotely from his Florida home for his out-of-state law firm on federal intellectual property rights matters (and not Florida law) and without having or creating a public presence or profile in Florida as an attorney would not be engaged in the unlicensed practice of law. The briefing period has ended, and the proposed opinion is pending final court action (Case No. SC20-1220). As noted earlier, the court can approve, modify, or disapprove the advisory opinion with the ensuing opinion having the force and effect of an order of the court.
The standing committee and The Florida Bar UPL staff continued their efforts to protect the public from UPL. We approved litigation for injunctive relief against individuals and businesses for holding themselves out as attorneys and providing legal services in immigration matters.
We continue to receive complaints against out-of-state licensed lawyers for assisting individuals with Florida legal issues. Under the MJP (multijurisdictional practice of law) 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. Thus, while out-of-state lawyers may not be engaged in the unlicensed practice of law if their activity falls within the rule, they can be disciplined for unethical conduct. 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. To check whether opposing counsel has complied with these filing requirements, you can contact the UPL Department at 850-561-5840.
As we conclude this year, I thank all the public members and lawyers on the standing committee for their dedicated service. It has been my sincere 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 Will Spillias, UPL director; Jeffrey Picker, assistant UPL director; and UPL Branch Counsels Jacquelyn Needelman (Miami), Ali Vazquez (Ft. Lauderdale), Ghunise Coaxum (Orlando), Maria Torres (Tampa), Karen Dexter (Tallahassee), and their excellent support staffs. These dedicated and hard-working public servants do an incredible job year after year.
It has been my honor and pleasure to work with you all.
Susanne McCabe, Chair
In 2020-2021, the state of Florida boasted 292 voluntary bar associations consisting of diverse subgroups of thousands of community-involved lawyers across the state. The Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee (VBLC) serves as the connection between The Florida Bar and these organizations. The committee is composed of both attorney and executive director representatives. The mission of the VBLC is multi-faceted and includes: 1) improving communication between The Florida Bar and voluntary bar associations; 2) coordinating programs of The Florida Bar involving voluntary bar associations; 3) advising the Communications Department on the public relations needs of the voluntary bars; 4) providing a resource and information bank with activities and tools to address the problems of voluntary bar associations; and 5) advising the Board of Governors regarding interpretation of The Florida Bar programs to voluntary bar associations and individual members.
Every July, the VBLC hosts the Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference, which is the culmination of the committee’s year-long planning efforts. In 2020, the conference was postponed due to the worldwide coronavirus public health crisis. When the decision was made to postpone the annual event in early April, the committee immediately put efforts behind a virtual campaign to help voluntary bar associations, “Restart, Rebound & Recover.” In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s voluntary bar organizations were tasked with running traditionally social, in-person organizations in a new virtual environment. The VBLC expanded its focus to provide practical support and year-around relevant resources to all voluntary bars during these tough times.
RESTART: Conducted Town Halls for voluntary bar presidents and executive directors to determine needs and where The Florida Bar could help. Developed a Facebook group for discussion and chat on relevant posts and conversation with other voluntary bar leaders.
REBOUND: Developed and led three webinars and four town halls on timely membership, financing, and meeting topics and leadership strategies to assist in navigating the challenges of the pandemic.
RECOVER: Developed and maintained a COVID-19 Resources for Voluntary Bars, for information on webinars, OnDemand programs, and publications assisting voluntary bars and the legal profession in the recovery effort.
At first, COVID-19 posed an existential threat to voluntary bar associations, hobbling the economy and forcing them to cancel some of their biggest draws — networking opportunities through luncheons, awards dinners, barbecues, and happy hours.
But as the world adjusted to the changes that the health crisis presented us, some of the most active and recognizable VBAs reached out and helped other bars weather the storm, largely through remote technology and teamwork. Many of the shared resources are posted on the COVID Resources webpage.
Voluntary Bar Leaders Mentorship Initiative: Since the conference for 2020 was postponed, a mentoring program was developed to provide peer-to-peer and hands-on guidance and skills in leading a voluntary bar. The program is founded on the premise that experienced and accomplished current and past leaders can contribute to other likeminded up and coming leaders’ success and advancement. It is the hope that others are encouraged and inspired as a result to provide further service with The Florida Bar. In other words, we don’t need to wait on a conference each summer to exchange ideas and to learn from each other. The concept also recognizes that the committee has a host of fantastic mentors who are willing to share their experiences and provide advice. Fifteen bar leaders have stepped up as coaches.
2020-2021 Committee Appointments Initiative: The committee continued its efforts to ensure circuit representation/diversity and for recruitment of future Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee members. With committee vacancies created by term limits, the committee identified attorney representatives from the Third, Sixth, 14th, 16th, 18th, 19th,, and 20th judicial circuits, with an interest in serving. Florida Bar members were encouraged to submit a committee preference form for service on the committee and a list was submitted to the Bar president-elect for consideration to add them to the committee roster. We have 15 new committee members on our 51-person committee. All circuits are now represented.
Voluntary Bar Center: In addition to these initiatives, we continued to maintain and expand the Voluntary Bar Center webpages. The Voluntary Bar Center houses a collection of resources and information to assist Florida’s local and specialty bar associations with leadership, operations, and membership. The pages include bar listings, The SideBar News, Bar Leaders Conference, voluntary bar calendar, and resources.
2021 Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference: The Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee looks forward to hosting an amazing Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference July 16-17 at Margaritaville Resort Orlando. The event will be one of the first in-person events and safety/health protocols have been developed to ensure participant care. Kimberly Lopez and Amelia Hallenberg Beard are co-chairs of the leadership event. The committee has been working hard to make it a productive and enjoyable conference for everyone. Several of the sessions will focus on bouncing back from the pandemic and all sessions will feature panelists from small and large bars.
Thank you to everyone who participates in the VBLC, but most of all, a deep and sincere thank you to The Florida Bar staff. Without them, the VBLC’s many accomplishments would not be possible.
Vivian Cortes Hodz, Chair
The Workers’ Compensation Certification Committee is pleased to provide its 2020-2021 annual report.
This was a year like none before. Fortunately, many of the practices that were implemented to meet the challenges of the pandemic will serve to benefit the committee for years to come. At the top of the list is technology. Zoom became an indispensable tool for allowing the committee to more effectively collaborate on the preparation and grading of the exam and review of applicants for certification and recertification. We were able to securely access the necessary documents through The Florida Bar portal and allow all committee members to attend the Zoom meetings after having already reviewed the materials. The committee meetings were focused on the specific tasks and the committee members were diligent about preparation. None of this would have been possible without the assistance of Charlotte Bell, our liaison.
Due to the delay caused by the pandemic, the May 2020 exam was rescheduled to fall. This meant the committee needed to finalize the postponed exam, review the applicants for the exam, grade the exam, and then turn around and do it all again for the exam scheduled for May 2021. In addition, the committee worked diligently to bring the exam questions current and within the framework of the best practices that were updated in spring 2020.
We have noticed an increased delay in the return of peer review forms this year. Acknowledging this delay presents an opportunity for improvement in the future. It is the suggestion of the committee that peer reviews be conducted by email or other electronic means to reduce the time involved with mailing, receipt, and returning the information. Many of the requests for peer review have not been returned timely, which may be the result of people conducting more business from places other than their offices. However, even in the best of times, a faster response on peer review forms would allow the committee to allocate more time to other business, rather than following up numerous times to determine whether the peer review forms will be completed and returned.
I am honored to report that the committee, through the dedication of its members and Charlotte’s efforts, has reviewed all applicants for the upcoming 2021 exam, and while some peer reviews remain outstanding, we will have the process completed on time.
Mark A. Touby, Chair
The Workers’ Compensation Rules Advisory Committee is a somewhat unique committee in that the committee does not perform the same role as other standing rules committees of The Florida Bar. The Florida Supreme Court has determined that it lacks jurisdiction to promulgate rules of workers’ compensation procedure. As such, the committee does not follow the procedure for amending rules as set forth in the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. The committee’s primary focus is the workers’ compensation procedural rules adopted and proposed by DOAH and the OJCC. Our mission is to provide assistance to DOAH and the OJCC in drafting workers’ compensation procedural rules.
The 2020-2021 committee has been divided into three subcommittees that have considered potential rule changes regarding the pleading of affirmative defenses, procedures relating to motions to withdraw, cut-off time limits for filing, the 21-day safe harbor rule regarding sanctions, procedures relating to summary final orders and other matters including, but not limited to appellate attorney’s fee rule changes.
Unfortunately, due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee has thus far limited meetings to individual telephonic/Zoom meetings of the three subcommittees. We have a meeting of the full committee scheduled for April 21. We are very pleased that Chief Judge David Langham will be joining us for the meeting. Our rule proposals go through DOAH and the OJCC, so we look forward to being updated by Judge Langham as to any plans DOAH and the OJCC may have in advancing any of the pending proposed rule changes.
I take this opportunity to extend my sincere appreciation to each member of the committee for dedicating their service. The committee includes Vice Chair Wendy Loquasto, Board Liaison Lorna Brown-Burton, Catherine Francis Agacinski, Roger Dale Albright, Neil Ambekar, Paul Michael Anderson, Michele Tabitha Bachoon, Teri Ann Bussey, Barbi L. Feldman, Hayley Lewis Folmar, Rebecca G. Gardiner-Bess, Elaura Hodgetts, Judge of Compensation Claims Jeffrey Jacobs, Jody Kay Middleton, Irene Maria Rodriguez, Lawrence Gray Sanders, Anne Manners Santomaggio, Kellye A. Shoemaker, Barry A. Stein, Kimberly J. Syfrett, Frank Joseph Taddeo, Michael David Tempkins, and Judge of Compensation Claims Jack A. Weiss.
I acknowledge the outstanding and dedicated service of our board liaison, Mikalla Davis, who has provided invaluable support to our committee. We look forward to our meeting in April and continuing to provide service to The Florida Bar and the Workers’ Compensation Section.
James F. Fee, Jr., Chair
The Wills, Trusts, and Estates Certification Committee consists of nine board certified attorneys. Charles “Chad” Callahan III currently serves as chair of the committee with Beverly Furtick serving as vice chair. Other committee members include Laurence Blair, Forrest Bass, Kristopher Robinson, Anthony Guettler, Jennifer Okcular, John Farina, and David Shulman. Norma Stanley is currently the appointed Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) liaison to our committee.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-2021 has been a productive year. The committee had several Zoom meetings and conference calls and has worked diligently to review applications, draft, review, and edit exam questions, discuss ways to enhance the standards for certification/recertification and to discuss various topics pertaining to board certification in the area. In the last year, the committee received and reviewed 45 recertification applications and 32 initial applications. The 2021 exam will be held on Friday, May 14, in Tampa. There are currently 309 board certified wills, trusts, and estates attorneys.
It has been my pleasure to serve as chair of the certification committee. I thank each of the committee members and The Florida Bar certification specialists for their hard work and dedication to the committee. To those that are currently certified in the area, thank you for your continued support, and to those aspiring to become certified in the area, thank you for your interest and best wishes in your endeavors.
Charles W. Callahan III, Chair