Annual Reports of Sections and Divisions of The Florida Bar
Note: Section reports are submitted by voluntary bar sections, supported by the separate resources of these voluntary organizations and not with the mandatory membership fees paid by Bar members to The Florida Bar. The views expressed do not represent the opinions or positions of The Florida Bar.
The section has conducted several meetings since June 2020. On August 17, 2020, the Long-Range Planning Committee met and set several goals, including to take full advantage of the section’s social media platforms, to sponsor/report remote CLEs, and to sponsor free lunchtime speaker events. Goals were also set to increase membership and increase the opportunity for board certification in state and federal government and administrative practice. Meetings of the executive council were conducted on December 1, 2020, February 5, and April 23. The future meetings scheduled include a Long-Term Planning Committee meeting and executive council meeting to be conducted on April 23, and an executive council meeting at the June annual convention.
Due to the COVID crisis, continuing legal education was focused on webinar presentations. The biennial Pat Dore Administrative Law Conference, typically held over two days as a live event, was changed to a three-day webinar series conducted on October 22, 27, and 29, 2020. In March, the section presented a webinar series tailored to certification exam preparation. Six separate presentations were made, including declaratory statements, variances and waivers, and exhaustion of administrative remedies; professionalism and proposed orders; certification law updates; administrative appeals; and an overview of the Administrative Procedures Act and rulemaking. In addition, a two-day webinar was presented on the topic of remote formats for hearings at the Division of Administrative Hearings.
An ad hoc committee was created to review proposed changes to the Uniform Rules of Administrative Process. In addition, there was an ad hoc committee that worked in coordination with the Board Certification Committee in the areas of state and federal government and administrative practice. The section and that committee worked together to revise the content of the certification examination. Two attorneys became board certified during this year. Our membership level has remained fairly steady, with a current membership level of 1,058 attorneys. Last year at this time, there were 1,077 members.
Bruce Lamb, Chair
The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section serves members of The Florida Bar who practice mediation and arbitration either full-time, part-time, or occasionally, as well as lawyers who practice before mediators and arbitrators, and members of The Florida Bar who are interested in the ADR process.
In addition, many ADR section members are also Florida Supreme Court certified mediators, who are, therefore, subject to regulation by the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), which derives its authority directly from the Florida Supreme Court. Therefore, these members of the ADR section are uniquely subject to regulation by the court through The Florida Bar and through the DRC. The ADR section tries to assist these members to fulfill these dual obligations whenever possible.
Mentoring Academies: The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar require all lawyers, and, thus, all ADR section members, to mentor newer practitioners. In order to meet this obligation, on November 13, 2020, the ADR section, through the efforts of committee Chairs Meah Tell, Deborah Mastin, and Shari Elessar, and a distinguished faculty consisting of a long list of respected and experienced arbitrators, presented the Inaugural Arbitration Advocacy Academy. This academy was intended for experienced lawyer/advocates to hone their skills representing their clients in arbitration. It was very popular and well-received. In 2021, the section plans to present its Second Mediation Mentoring Academy, which is intended for experienced mediation practitioners to increase their mediation skills. This is a follow-up to the very well-received Inaugural Mediation Academy held in 2019.
Continuing Legal Education: Through the efforts of immediate Past Chair Kim Torres and the ADR CLE Committee, the ADR section maintains a robust CLE program, with nearly monthly webinars. Many of these webinars have a dual purpose, providing CLE credits to members of The Florida Bar, as well as providing continuing mediator education (CME) credits to section members who are also certified mediators (as required by the DRC). This effort was ramped up during the pandemic to also include technology training for lawyers and ADR practitioners working remotely and training for remote mediations. These webinars have been very popular, and they will continue to be in demand throughout the pandemic, as well as afterward, as remote mediations have become the new reality.
In addition, after two years in the making, through the efforts of Chair-Elect Patrick Russell, the Health & Wellness Committee held a six-part CLE webinar series, “Be Well. Stay Well,” in October 2020. Putting on six separate webinars at the same time was a first for the section. The series came at an opportune time in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. During each week of the month, a separate webinar was led by a panel of recognized and dedicated experts that tackled health and wellness issues from different perspectives. These webinars addressed mental health and mindfulness; the impact of technology on wellness; racial and economic justice; psychology and the right-left brain dynamic; career change and satisfaction; and happiness. The series has been well-received and is still available for viewing on The Florida Bar’s InReach CLE website. Since these materials and their lessons are still applicable today, they will be promoted once again in May in honor of Lawyer Wellness Month.
Communications: The ADR section communicates with its members and with the public through three methods: 1) Common Ground — semi-annual formal newsletter with more scholarly and thorough articles on ADR-related topics; 2) News and Tips — a monthly email newsletter for announcements, updates, and time-sensitive information; 3) social media — regular and frequent communications on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Membership Recruitment and Retention: ADR section Secretary and Membership Chair Christy Foley has spearheaded the ADR section’s efforts to expand its membership. The section has doubled down on efforts to retain existing members and used targeted efforts to contact attorney-mediators who are not members of the section. As a result, membership in the section increased over the past year. As an example of the activities used to stimulate membership, the ADR section participated as an exhibitor in conferences of the DRC, and will be doing the same during the Construction Law Institute this spring. The ADR section has also implemented free dues for new members of The Florida Bar to encourage interest in the ADR section from the beginning of the lawyer’s career. The ADR section is also co-hosting webinars with the Business Law and RPPTL sections. By cross-promoting the section’s projects and CLE offerings with other sections, the section’s targeted audience has multiplied significantly. Members of the ADR executive council will also continue to present seminars at the annual conference of the DRC, and the section has reached out to certified mediators who are also members of The Florida Bar. The section intends to refocus its efforts to reach out to underserved lawyers, to invite them to join the section, and to include programming addressed to lawyers who wish to improve their skills advocating before mediators and arbitrators.
Connecting with Law Schools: Through the efforts of Law School Liaison Committee Chair Ana Cristina Maldonado, the section presented a program, “Connecting the Dots.” The program was intended as a gathering of Florida’s ADR lawyers, professors, and law students. It was a remotely held program designed to stimulate conversations between ADR professionals and Florida law schools. The first World Café-style gathering took place on February 24 via Zoom. It brought together ADR lawyers, professors, and law students, and proved to be very well received. More than 60 people signed in during the evening, including professors and students from 10 of Florida’s 12 law schools and many ADR section executive council and committee members. Plans are in the works to convene future conversations between the section, experienced practitioners, and law schools.
Budget and Sponsorships: The section has an ambitious agenda, and as a result, the section’s budget allows for a narrow margin for expenses. However, through the efforts of Treasurer Kathleen McLeroy, and the executive council’s intense focus on the budget, the section has achieved a budget surplus, and has been recognized by the Board of Governors for its efforts.
Recommendations as to Legislation and the Revision of Rules: When the Florida Supreme Court is considering revisions to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure or to the Rules for Certified and Court Appointed Mediators, they sometimes request input on changes that could impact ADR. The section is prepared to respond quickly, and did so in 2020 by filing a brief before the Florida Supreme Court in response to the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules and Policy’s Petition for the court to adopt, inter alia, Proposed Amendments to the Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.741 and the Florida Supreme Court Rules for Certified and Court Appointed Mediators.
Oscar A. Sanchez, Chair
The Animal Law Section (ALS) experienced another successful year, remaining on the forefront of advancing animal law issues while building upon the prior year’s momentum and adapting to the “new normal” by implementing innovative ways to promote the profession through the use of technology. Membership remained strong, enthusiastic, and active as ALS performed extensive outreach to the legal profession and the public, enhanced its social media presence, and developed a lifestyle brand of incorporating animals as a part of overall attorney health and wellness.
As one of the core missions, ALS kept members apprised of the latest updates in federal and state laws and rules that had a potential impact on animals. Members of ALS remained active in evaluating and advocating for the implementation of such laws, as well as educating the public regarding their need. Among many efforts, ALS reviewed the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380-S.2561), which prohibits the ownership of big cats as pets as well as roadside zoos from offering cub petting and exploitative photo opportunities, and closely monitored the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules related to the breeding and sale of nonnative reptiles.
In furtherance of the effort to educate members on substantive areas of animal law, ALS published articles in The Florida Bar Journal and offered continuing legal education (CLE) courses. These activities helped bring awareness to the many opportunities within the field of animal law, which include virtually every substantive area of law, such as estate planning, family law, environmental law, disability law and service animals, criminal law, entertainment law, and real property law. Animal law is everywhere and continues to grow in popularity and need.
More specifically, during this past year, ALS submitted articles to The Florida Bar Journal on “The Fading Color of Coral: Anthropogenic Threats to Our Native Reefs” by Catherine Awasthi and Ralph DeMeo, and “Courtroom Canines Are Leading Courtroom Accommodations for Children” by Ashley Joan Englund and Kelsey Beirne. ALS’ main publication, The Paw Review newsletter and blog, also featured timely and relevant topics on animal law. ALS expects to publish its next Paw Review newsletter in the spring, which will be distributed both at upcoming in-person meetings and circulated electronically on social media.
In addition, ALS offered several webinars throughout the year. For example, on October 27, 2020, a companion webinar to the Bar Journal article, “The Fading Color of Coral: Anthropogenic Threats to Our Native Reefs,” was offered. Speakers Ralph DeMeo and Catherine Awasthi covered the legal and scientific issues associated with the decline of coral reefs and the measures that have been and need further to be taken to rescue them. In addition to our many standard courses, new ones are continuously being developed such as a program titled, “Animal Rights Jurisprudence — An International and National Perspective.” Part one of this new course, led by Steve Wise, launched in February. Part two, to be led by Jim Gesauldi and Natalie Barefoot, is scheduled for May 19. ALS is also developing a Florida animal law treatise, the first of its kind, to be released next year.
Each year at the Bar’s annual meeting, ALS holds a continuing education program highlighting many important areas of Florida law and how it may affect our state’s animals. ALS was disappointed that due to COVID-19 we were unable to hold our annual seminar at the June 2020 Bar convention along with the very popular “Puppy Pit.” However, we were able to offer our annual seminar virtually and at no cost to attendees, resulting in a record number of participants. The seminar was recorded and is available online.
The Puppy Pit and Goat Yoga have been a very popular events, widely shared across the country on social media. In addition to fostering the adoption of abandoned animals, ALS has used these unique platforms to promote the Bar’s health and wellness initiatives by demonstrating the mental and physical benefits associated with having a companion animal. In the same vein, ALS will be sponsoring “Justice’s Best Friend Day,” which celebrates the contributions of animals in the justice system in Florida.
ALS is in the process of redesigning its website to provide an overall more user-friendly experience and to make CLE offerings more prominent and accessible. In addition, our unique marketing campaigns contribute to the image of The Florida Bar and the Animal Law Section to promote a lifestyle brand of animals and animal law to enhance wellness. To benefit our members and the general membership of The Florida Bar, the section has developed a line of products, including t-shirts, socks, hot sauce, and more, and updated our offerings on Café Press to include additional designs and choices, including ones for the various committees, generating revenue and furthering promoting the ALS. Our membership is now over 500, and our social media outreach is many more. Recent analytics include Facebook: 2,971 likes/3,129 follows; Twitter: 1,509 followers; Instagram: 609 followers, 276 posts; LinkedIn: 137 group members.
ALS members also participated in a variety of “trips” this year to rescue organizations around the state, including a virtual trip to an Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee on September 9, 2020, and with more than 70 in attendance. This tour and CLE were offered free to our members and featured a discussion about elephants and the various international, federal, state, and local laws that applied to them. Attendees were also introduced to the sanctuary’s residents via an elephant cam. Additional virtual visits are in development for 2021, including, but not limited to, the Center for Great Apes, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, and the Wild Horse Rescue Center among others.
A current focus of ALS outreach is to law students who demonstrate an interest in animal law, offering free membership. ALS supports each of the Florida law schools SALDF chapters and expects that one day these students from FAMU, Stetson, FSU, and other colleges will become leaders of ALS and The Florida Bar. ALS again sponsored an annual writing competition, with the 2020 Animal Law Student Legal Writing Award presented to Ashley Englund of FSU Law. Englund was also awarded the 2020 Outstanding Animal Law Student Achievement Award. As the winner, she will be featured in the ALS newsletter and receive an honorarium. ALS also offered a free CLE event on October 3, 2020, for members and students studying for the bar exam. The first half centered around mental health and wellness, particularly while studying for the bar exam. The second half included a virtual trip through the Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Citra.
The Animal Law Section and its partner, Pets Ad Litem, continued to provide stuffed Rikki Dog Dolls to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare for distribution to children as part of its Animal Therapy program. The Rikki Dolls resemble Rikki, a Golden Retriever therapy dog, who was the unofficial mascot for the Animal Law Section and was previously featured on the cover of The Florida Bar News. This is one of ALS’ most successful and gratifying programs, bringing joy and emotional healing to over 1,500 children since the program’s inception just three years ago.
ALS greatly appreciates the dedication of all its members. None of what we do would be possible without them, as well as the generous support of time and resources by our executive council, committee chairs, Board of Governors liaison Ronald P. Ponzoli, Jr., and our Florida Bar program administrator, Ricky Libbert.
It has been my honor to serve as the 2020-21 chair of ALS. As an environmental lawyer, engineer, outdoor enthusiast, and son of a veterinarian, my personal and professional life has been enriched by the presence of animals, both wild and domestic. I have lived in nearly every section of this great state, from the beaches of South Florida, to the emerald green waters of the Panhandle, and experienced the broad range of habitats supporting unique and interdependent animal species not found anywhere else in the world. There is no doubt that animals improve our lives. Whether providing assistance to those in need, offering therapeutic benefits, enhancing biodiversity, supporting economic prosperity through ecotourism, or as loyal and steadfast companions, their contribution to society cannot be overstated.
John K. Powell, Chair
This may not have been the year anyone expected or wanted, but the Appellate Practice Section has continued flourishing despite COVID. The section has always been on the forefront of technology, having long embraced virtual CLEs and other means of keeping the members engaged. So, virtual Bar meetings felt almost, well, routine.
It certainly opened the door to more member participation because rather than have all committee meetings at once during a two-hour block at a live event — which forces members to choose between committees — we spread out our committee meetings over a few days. As a result, our committee meetings averaged 15 attendees during the year, rather than the half a dozen usual attendees. And our executive council meetings continued its usual good attendance level, averaging 60 attendees.
The Zoom format also allowed the section to host its first New and Returning Member Orientation at the fall Bar meeting, which discussed the section, its committees, and the plethora of opportunities for member participation. This first orientation had 68 attendees!
But the real heart and soul of our section that kept us moving forward despite these trying times are the committees and their tireless work. One example of this is the team up between the Programs Committee led by Diane DeWolf and the Outreach Committee led by Mary Walter and Alexis Fields to adopt a new, creative way to keep members engaged throughout the year using Zoom. Calling them “Zoom-tastic” events, they ranged from simple Zoom Happy Hours to a digital scavenger hunt. In a few weeks, they are hosting a Zoom St. Patrick’s Day Extravaganza, and in May, the section’s first trivia night. While our Programs Committee has made the section’s annual dessert reception at the Bar convention famous — nay, legendary — these new Zoom-tastic events will surely continue in future and become fabled in their own right.
COVID had very little effect on the section’s well-oiled, CLE production. The CLE Committee simply ramped up production and expanded its content. In fact, under the industrious leadership of its new committee Chair Elaine Walter and its Vice Chair Courtney Brewer, the Appellate Practice Section’s CLEs are on track to again become one of the highest grossing in the Bar. Not too shabby for a section with only 1,500 members.
The committee’s success is largely due to the diverse CLE subjects offered that appeal (see what I did there) to not only appellate nerds within the section, but the Bar in general. For example, the section’s monthly audio webcast series offered timely presentations on appeals arising in land use, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, and criminal law. Five appellate judges also compared the intricacies of the district courts of appeal, and the section offered tips for successful Zoom oral arguments, both from the judges’ experiences and from the practitioners’ experiences. The section presented its biennial “boot camp” CLE for those experienced appellate attorneys planning to take the certification exam, and the section offered its “Hidden Essentials of Appellate Law” for those less experienced practitioners. Finally, the committee created a new Practice Management Series to offer timeless, practical advice specially curated for the busy appellate practitioner.
If you are disappointed that you missed these CLEs, don’t be. Each was recorded and still available for purchase on the Bar’s website. But one upcoming CLE that I’m thrilled about — and that you will not want to miss — is “Look Out Below! Flaws and Fumbles and Blunders and Landmines.” This is a joint CLE sponsored by the Appellate Practice Section, the Criminal Law Section, and the Trial Lawyers Section, which has been selected to become The Florida Bar Presidential Showcase at The Florida Bar Annual Convention on June 11. This presentation is jam-packed with dynamite speakers, including the headliner: Justice Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court. I look forward to seeing you there!
Not to be outshined, the section’s Pro Bono Committee has continued to expand the opportunities for our members to serve — and members are stepping up in spades. Led by seasoned Chair Joe Eagleton and Co-Chair Eric Netcher, the committee expanded our existing referral relationships to include immigration appellate referrals from the Catholic Legal Services. This new relationship builds on our other relationships, which include appeals for the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL), assisting veterans in the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and appeals concerning family law, foreclosure, and small claims cases referred to the section by legal aid organizations around the state and the Florida Supreme Court and district courts.
I would be remiss if I did not also brag about Pro Bono’s two other important achievements. First, the committee partnered again with GAL to offer another free, five-hour CLE program, “Winning Your Appeal at Trial,” which is available on GAL’s YouTube channel for free credit. A big thanks to GAL Program Coordinator and active section member Thomasina Moore for inviting our section to co-host and participate in this annual tradition.
Second, the committee has teamed up with the section’s online publication, The Record, to do a series of articles showcasing our section’s pro bono attorneys. A special thanks to Kimberly Berman for her work in organizing this initiative and drafting these articles.
Speaking of publications, our Publication Committee led by new Chair Tom Seider, continued its tradition of publishing informative, high-quality content through a variety of mediums. The first I’ve already mentioned, The Record, which is edited and chaired by Courtney Fernald and which published articles profiling our new judges and justices and published a new series by member Wendy S. Loquasto on the Patron Saint of Lawyers. Under the editorial leadership of Heather Kolinsky, the section has also continued to provide thought-provoking substantive articles in every issue of The Florida Bar Journal. And our Self-Represented Litigant Committee, under the leadership of Co-Chairs Chance Lyman and Raemy Charest-Turken finished the process of translating the section’s online edition of The Pro Se Appellate Handbook: Representing Yourself on Appeal into Spanish and French Creole and have now started the arduous process of updating the handbook with all the new appellate rules, especially the extensive ones issued at the end of last year.
Another outstanding program that must be emphasized is the Diversity & Inclusion Committee’s Student Education Initiative, which is a multi-module pipeline project aimed at high school, college, and law school students of diverse backgrounds throughout the state. The program will be created from a collaboration of students, teachers, appellate attorneys, and state appellate judges of diverse backgrounds, providing some students direct communication with judges and practitioners. The end goal is an eight-part appellate educational program available for Florida teachers to use with the section’s support, both enlightening students on Florida jurisprudence and appellate practice and highlighting and encouraging diversity in the practice of law and appellate practice. The program will also be available for independent college and law school students as a certificate-based program for resume purposes. The first two modules — a CLE-style civics and appellate program and an interview with appellate judges from each state appellate court — are in process. Thank you to our Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chairs Jared Krukar and Chief Judge Stephanie Ray of the First District Court of Appeal for your hard work.
I’m also proud to say that the inaugural year of the section’s Fellows Program has been wildly successful. Developed and chaired by Jamie Moses and Courtney Brewer, this committee selected Chelsea Kirkpatrick at the beginning of the Bar year to be the section’s first fellow. The section is delighted to have Ms. Kirkpatrick, who has become very active in the section, which we are thankful for. The committee has also started the selection process for our second fellow. Applications are available on the section’s website.
This segues perfectly into bragging about our Communications Committee, which is chaired by Dineen Wasylik and Morgan Weinstein. This committee has been working hard to update our rather dated website, which we hope to launch this summer. The committee is also hiring a part-time professional social media assistant to further promote the section and its events.
Finally, none of this would be possible without the tip of the spear: the section’s officers. I personally thank Chair-Elect Kimberly Jones, Treasurer Carrie Ann Wozniak, Secretary Kansas Gooden, and immediate Past Chair Nicholas Shannin for their efforts to help the section not only mitigate COVID’s impact, but to thrive. It has truly been an honor to serve with you and to serve the Appellate Practice Section.
Christopher D. Donovan, Chair
I am pleased to offer this report that provides a summary of some of the Business Law Section’s (BLS) ongoing projects and upcoming events:
One Promise Campaign: The Florida Bar Foundation has revived its One Campaign, known in this iteration as the One Promise Campaign. In support of this important initiative to increase pro bono participation, the Business Law Section donated $2,500 to the $35,000 goal. Additionally, Chair Leyza Blanco challenged other sections to also participate. As of late February, the Trial Lawyers, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Workers’ Compensation, and the Labor and Employment Law sections had met the challenge.
COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force: The section’s COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, led by Co-Chairs Detra Shaw-Wilder and Bart Valdes, hosted a very well-attended CLE on January 28, “‘How to Guide’ & Practical Considerations for Handling Eviction and Foreclosure Cases In and After the Pandemic.”
BLS Fellows Program: The section’s Fellows Program, which is intended to recruit, involve, and retain young and diverse members, is accepting applications for the 2021-22 Bar year.
Task Force on the Distribution of IOTA Funds: The section approved the comments recommended by the section’s Task Force on the Distribution of IOTA Funds, chaired by John McDonald. These comments, submitted to the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of the section, relate to the amendments to Bar Rule 5-1.1(g) proposed by The Florida Bar’s IOTA Task Force. The Florida Supreme Court has set oral arguments for June 2 on the proposed amendments.
Comments on Proposed Amendments to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510: Recently, the section submitted comments to the Florida Supreme Court related to proposed amendments to Florida’s rule of civil procedure related to summary judgment, Rule 1.510. The section is in favor of the proposed amendments, but also recommends additional provisions including that the rule 1) explicitly state the applicable standard to be the same as in determining a motion for directed verdict; 2) that additional language be added to address the effect of the party’s burden of proof at trial; and 3) that the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 be incorporated in the Florida rule to more specifically advise litigants and jurists how the new standard should be applied.
BLS Legislation Committee: The BLS is promoting two legislative positions this legislative session: Corporations, SB 602 by Sen. Burgess (R-Zephyrhills); HB 339 by Rep. Robinson (R- Bradenton), Notice to Homeowners in Foreclosure Cases, HB 591 by Rep. Koster (R-Safety Harbor); SB 1576 by Sen. Rouson (D-St. Petersburg). Additionally, the BLS is working with the RPPTL section on legislation to rectify issues raised in the Kearney case — SB 688 by Sen. Berman (D-Boynton Beach); HB 715 by Rep. Robinson (R-Bradenton). Our legislation team is also working to review various proposed legislation relating to data privacy and trade secrets.
Intellectual Property Committee: The committee hosted its IP Symposium virtually April 22-23.
Membership Committee: The committee sponsored law school Zoom socials at Cooley Law School (March 8), FAMU (March 8), FSU (March 10), and Florida Coastal (March 25).
A BLS Fellow from 2015-17, Iris A. Elijah, was elected President-Elect of The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.
The section sponsored the Kozyak Mentoring Out & About Event held on January 28. On February 24, the section held a virtual seminar, “Racism in the Workplace,” discussing how businesses can take measures to help fight racism and discrimination.
On February 25, the section held a Zoom CLE regarding leadership in The Florida Bar. Speakers included Chair Leyza Blanco and former chairs Judge Mindy Mora and Greg Yadley.
The section unveiled its new website in January. The new site has greater functionality and a cleaner look.
Winter Meeting 2021: The section held its midyear meetings virtually with section leadership meeting in person at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa. All committees and task forces meet via Zoom, and the meeting culminated with the executive council meeting on January 15.
Executive Council Retreat 2021: Chair Leyza Blanco has planned a great trip for our executive council and other interested section members to Savannah April 7-11. Those able to attend are excited to spend time together and enjoy all that Savannah has to offer.
Annual Meeting 2021: BLS is hopeful that the annual meeting will be held in person but are considering virtual options if necessary.
Labor Day Retreat: The retreat was cancelled in 2019 due to Hurricane Dorian and then again in 2020 due to COVID-19. With vaccinations rolling out, we are busily planning an in-person retreat at the Ritz Carlton in Naples for Labor Day weekend.
The foregoing is just an overview of the various projects and events that comprise the ongoing work of the BLS. We are looking forward to the continued success of these efforts and the ongoing participation of the BLS members in these endeavors during these challenging times.
Leyza Florin Blanco, Chair
COVID-19 has disrupted the world as we know it and the status quo for the delivery of Bar services. As the CCLG section’s year draws to a close, we look with hope toward the time when we can safely resume in-person seminars and meetings. Over the last year, all section meetings and seminars have been canceled or reworked to virtual meetings and webinars. Notwithstanding all of that, the City, County and Local Government Law Section of The Florida Bar has had a busy, successful, and, productive year.
The CCLG section, with approximately 1,700 members, serves lawyers who represent local governments or otherwise practice in the area of local government law. The section sponsors several annual programs, some of which are multi-day events, and ad hoc seminars on topics of emergency interest. The section hosts a very active Listserv, where practitioners can get immediate feedback from colleagues on whatever pertinent topic they may be facing or where members can engage in often very lively discussions of real-life local government law issues. The section offers scores of hours of continuing legal education credits every year. Certification in city, county and local government law is available through the Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization. Currently, almost 300 Bar members hold this certification, including many who practice in city and county attorney offices and in the offices of the general counsels of other local government entities, as well as private attorneys serving local government entities. The section continues to collaborate with Stetson Law Review to produce its annual Local Government Law Symposium issue. The section has in the past offered grants to local government attorney offices for hiring student interns and annually gives scholarship awards to students at Florida law schools. This has been suspended due to the pandemic, but as soon as the pandemic allows, the section will again provide grants for hiring student interns — perhaps as soon as this year.
While we have, like most of the rest of the world, made our best of the bad situation that is the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to look to the future and into improving the section over the long haul. COVID-19 has certainly been disruptive, but it has also showed us that there are other avenues through which we can reach our membership and provide value to our members. Improvements made last year to our social media accounts have proven valuable as an alternative communication tool. Changes to webinars from live seminars was born of necessity. The positive response from our membership to this change was unexpectedly robust. Our seminars’ (held as webinars) attendance numbers, rather than falling, increased. In an effort to continue to make more content available, we have added both free and paid seminars.
Additionally, we have started a strategic planning effort. Building on the work of revamping the bylaws completed last year, the section is visioning to set practical aspirational goals to achieve high level but concrete objectives that meet that vision during set timeframes. Next, the section is taking on revamping its outdated website. The new website at cclgl.org will soon be a whole new experience and level of service to our membership.
As we have looked to the future, we have not lost sight of the here and now. The section’s focus on diversity and inclusion has been kept in focus. Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, national events showed that remembering and acknowledging the social injustice and terrorism of racism is as necessary and present as ever. Without acknowledging racism for what it is, it can never be remedied. The section was able to provide for free (thanks to sponsors) Gilbert King presenting on his book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America. The presentation and response were both exceptional and thought provoking.
Continuing the section’s ongoing work, our newsletter, The Agenda, has been revitalized and expanded and, with more and larger issues, provides practical and in-depth legal analysis in our field. The section continues a vigorous program of submission of columns to The Florida Bar Journal.
Each year, in addition to the core substantive law update seminars offered, the section provides a comprehensive review course for those who wish to obtain certification in CCLG law. Many practitioners use this course as a good refresher along with our annual Local Government Law in Florida Seminar; other managing lawyers send junior lawyers to the course as an introduction to local government law. By expanding this review course by a half-day last year, and having made the decision this year to make this seminar virtual from here on, we have accomplished two important goals; making the in-depth substantive training available and accessible throughout the state, and allowing those taking the certification exam to focus on that substance rather than travel to and from the seminar — sometimes in years past within days of the certification exam.
While the section has faced a number of challenges this year from the strain of disease, our members have continued to serve the important roles in government to help protect and provide for the citizens of each of their jurisdictions throughout the state. I have been fortunate to have been preceded by a visionary leader in David Miller (immediate past chair), and have been graced with a team of hardworking, diligent leaders (Amanda Coffey, chair-elect, and Janette Smith, secretary/treasurer), and committee members that somehow make all of the work of the section happen. While there are too many of you doing great work to name here, I thank you all! I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank our Bar liaison, Ricky Libbert, for her great work this year —Thanks, Ricky! As our new leadership and committee leaders prepare to take on their roles, I have no doubt they will bring their own flavor and ideas to make the section stronger than ever — that is what diversity and inclusion breeds!
Donald S. Crowell, Chair
The Criminal Law Section enjoyed a very productive and active year thanks to the dedicated work of the chairs and members of the various committees of the section, our officers: Chair-Elect Jason Blank; Judge Samantha Ward, secretary; and Joseph Spataro, treasurer, and our program administrator, Jenny Dorminy.
The CLE Committee, under the leadership of Chair Scott Fingerhut, presented numerous outstanding seminars with several to be presented in the future. Those seminars included, Modern Trends in Healthcare Prosecutions; Criminal Law Update seminar; Experts on Advocacy seminars, including the ABCs of Expert Depositions and How to Build Your Deposition Notebook. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Anstead, as part of the Criminal Law Update Seminar, presented an inspiring call to action to address issues of racial bias in our criminal justice system speaking on the topic of, “Do Black Lives Matter: To You? To Your Community? To the Judicial System?”
Additional seminars already presented include Hot Topics in Evidence 2021 (co-sponsored by the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee and the Trial Lawyers Section); several attorney wellness seminars; the ABCs of Juvenile Delinquency (Introduction to Delinquency for General Practitioners). Additionally, a creative Safer at Home with the Judges interactive seminar series hosted by Circuit Judge Jenifer Harris and her husband, Patrick Harris, included segments on practicing in a pandemic; getting your questions answered; knowing the law; jury selection in criminal cases; and dealing with difficult people. More recently, the Federal Practice Committee hosted a U.S. Supreme Court Update seminar organized by Kenneth Schwartz and Michael Sinacore. Scheduled in May is the annual Masters of DUI 2021 seminar. That seminar will be reconfigured into a three-part series and hosted virtually. The CLE Committee produced an updated Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.113 Brady/Giglio compliance seminar that was shared with the State Public Defender’s Association. For the first time, the section became a co-sponsor with the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of the criminal law board certification examination preparation seminar.
The Criminal Law Section is proud to present, in partnership with the Appellate Practice and Trial Lawyers sections, a Presidential Showcase seminar featuring Justice George LaBarga and other outstanding speakers on the topic of “Preserving the Record for Appeal,” at The Florida Bar Annual Convention this year.
The very successful Bennett Public Defender/Prosecutor Trial Training Program (PPD), featuring live mock trial situations for assistant state attorneys and public defenders around the state and conducted at the University of Florida law school was unfortunately canceled this past summer because of COVID-19. However, the committee organizing this program and chaired by Jennifer Zedalis is planning to present the program hopefully “live” in Gainesville this summer (if not, virtually).
The Florida Supreme Court is considering significant amendments to the Florida speedy trial rule. Under the leadership of David Barksdale, the section filed a response with the Florida Supreme Court in opposition to the changes, in large part due to the disparate adverse effect the proposed amendments would have on indigent and minority defendants in the criminal justice system. Our section formed an Implicit Bias Committee Co-Chaired by Monique Worrell and Neal Sonnett this year to address implied bias concerns that exist in the criminal justice system. The section also formed a Sponsorship Committee, chaired by David Rothman, to attempt to raise funds from other sources with the hope to use those funds to sponsor free or reduced membership by government lawyers in the section. The section has also made a request to the Board of Governors to allow the section to charge reduced fees for government lawyers, especially in light of the financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus. The Membership Committee, chaired by Antonya Johnson, has successfully increased our membership to a record number this year. Richard Polin compiled weekly federal and caselaw updates for section members published on our webpage.
The prestigious Selig Goldin Award for outstanding contribution to the Criminal Justice System will be presented to Ben Kuehne at the annual convention.
The Criminal Law Section again thanks the hard work expended by the members of the various committees making this a very productive and successful year.
Warren Lindsey, Chair
This year, the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section was able to provide great programming on a variety of topics despite the limitations that the pandemic placed on our ability to convene in person.
We were unable to host our annual retreat this year, which was originally planned for Jacksonville in June 2020. We did have our annual meeting via Zoom with a tribute to Juneteenth as the meeting was being held on the holiday.
The 2020-2021 Audio Webcast Series offered a variety of relevant topics. Programs included: 1) Data Breach Litigation — An Update, presented by Adam Losey, Losey PLLC (October 6, 2020); 2) Continuing COVID Concerns: The New Normal in the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law World, presented by Joseph Z. Fleming, Joseph Z. Fleming, P.A. (February 9); 3) Entertainment Caselaw Update: Current Trends in Artist/Manager Disputes, presented by Richard Wolfe, Wolfe Law Miami, P.A. (March 9); and 4) Data Security in the Entertainment Industry, presented by Rian Kinney, The Kinney Firm (May 4).
Our section also conducted a half-day conference in April 2021 for attorneys and industry professionals, “Entertainment in the Digital Age: The Legal World in the Virtual Space,” that explored the current effects of technology on gaming, music, film, sports, and social media. Presenters included Luca Hickman of Henderson Franklin Attorneys at Law, Kimra Major-Morris of Major-Morris Law, LLC, Davey Jay of Meehle & Jay P.A., Ahmand Johnson of Diaz, Reus & Targ, LLP, and Patrick Millsaps, CEO of Kane Studios.
Our chair-elect, Tom Player, is planning his chair retreat in Orlando during the time of the annual convention. This program will focus on legal updates and recent developments in entertainment, arts, and sports law. Visit EASL.info for more details on this program.
EASL has weathered the storm that was the COVID-19 pandemic due to the hard work and dedication of its officers and executive council. I am grateful to have served with an amazing board: Tom Player (chair-elect), Serona Elton (immediate past chair), Brittney Trigg (secretary), and Christy Foley (treasurer). It has been a pleasure to work with each of you throughout this term to bring great programming and support to our section.
In addition, I am thankful to the entire executive council for all their work and contributions this year: Porpoise Evans, Alan Fertel, Juan Delgado, Kim Kolback, Marc Stollman, Spensyr Krebsbach, J. Mark Ingram, Zachary Margules, Elliot Zimmerman, and Joey Coleman.
This year, we had the unique opportunity to further expand our commitment and interactions with our law student members. After being approached by Adrienne Brown, a law student member from the University of Florida, EASL created a committee position for the newly formed Student Council on Entertainment and Sports. All Florida law schools are members of the student council. This committee position will allow EASL to bridge the gap between practicing members and the next generation of attorneys. This partnership would not have been possible without the work of the students and the executive council.
I extend a very special thank you on behalf of the section to Kim Kolback, our CLE Committee chair, who has, yet again, provided outstanding programming for the section this year. The section’s website and Listserv have been supported by Serona Elton and Steven Eisenberg, respectively, and I recognize them both for their dedication to those roles. I also thank Zachary Lombardo for his continued work on our Sponsorship Committee. Finally, I absolutely could not have made it through this year without Angie Froelich, our section administrator. I am grateful for her support and guidance and, most of all, her friendship.
This year was challenging, but it has been my honor to serve as the section’s leader. I look forward to the future of EASL and the progress that I know will continue.
Tania Williams, Chair
In coordination with our theme, “ELULS 2020: Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards,” the Environmental and Land Use Law Section (ELULS) has had a tremendous year so far, full of both reflection and progress. ELULS continues to serve the interests of over 1,300 members and affiliates in the fields of environmental and land use law and appreciates the opportunity to share this year’s accomplishments as well as future goals as we continue to both reflect and look forward.
Reconnecting with Former ELULS Leaders: As we continue to endeavor to be the best version of ELULS, we first began by reengaging with former section leaders, many of whom are founding attorneys and key players in the environmental and land use law arena. During our August 2020 executive council meeting, we were joined by more than 20 past section chairs, who shared both successes and war stories. We were so honored and appreciative to have been joined by these distinguished professionals and look forward to further interactions with them as we continue to call on our “Council of Wisdom.”
Revised Committee Structure: One of the major undertakings of the section this year was to completely revise, revamp, and reorganize our standing section committees. While our previous committee structure worked for the section at one time, as we began to look forward, we determined the need for a new and revised committee structure to reorganize the longstanding committees that are still active, disband committees that are no longer relevant, and make room for new committees and task forces so that current issues and new projects are addressed.
Advanced Pre-Planning Initiatives and Development of Section Internal Operating Procedures: So far this year, we have taken a close look at what keeps ELULS running efficiently and have spent a considerable amount of time devising timelines and goals for both our longstanding and new projects. Additionally, each committee was tasked with developing a preliminary set of internal operating procedures (IOPs), which will be compiled into a larger section IOP document that contains section policies, protocols, timelines, and important information that section leadership will be able to utilize for years to come.
Leadership Discussions on Accountability, Empowerment, and Group Norms: As part of our IOP document work and our endeavor to build the best ELULS possible, the executive council gathered virtually to brainstorm and compile what they felt were characteristics of strong associations and/or high-functioning groups. These ideas were put together in a “group norms” document for each executive council member to review and sign to help empower members as well as create a sense of accountability for each member of the council.
Extensively Updated Treatise: The ELULS Treatise, a collection of scholarly articles existing as the section’s premier publication and predominant and affordable general reference authority on environmental and land use law in Florida, was intended to be periodically reviewed and updated. This year’s newly restructured and reassigned ELULS Treatise Committee, under the leadership of Jacki Lopez and Pamela Jo Hatley, made significant strides in the overall updating of the ELULS Treatise, from working with treatise authors for article updates to facilitating the hiring of a treatise editor for the first time in many years. The committee’s next major endeavor is getting the treatise published on one or more legal platforms to reach an even broader audience.
Larger Volume of Relevant, Timely, and Affordable CLE Programming: This year’s revised and restructured CLE Committee, under the leadership of Lauren Brooks and Robert Volpe, has worked extensively with various CLE subcommittees and external new ELULS committees, like the ELULS Resiliency Committee, organized by Susan Roeder Martin and led by Erin Deady, to produce a large volume of timely, relevant, and affordable CLE programs for our members. This year’s CLE Committee has doubled the amount of CLE programming produced from last year and is continuing to provide revenue for both the section and The Florida Bar while maintaining affordable and meaningful CLE for Bar and section members. One highlight in this year’s programming has been our Resiliency and Sea Level Rise Series, a three-part series focusing on the legal and policy challenges local governments face when addressing climate change, sea-level rise, heat, and weather extremes.
Continued Law School Grant Program: The ELULS Law School Block Grant Program, led by Joan Matthews with the help of Stacy Bjordahl of the ELULS Law Schools Subcommittee, has continued to provide funding to Florida’s 11 law school environmental programs this year. Law schools may request funding for one or more specific activities, events, or programs, such as conferences, moot court programs, publications, speakers, or other activity relevant to environmental and land use law that is not related to political advocacy. ELULS was pleased to grant funding to all 11 law schools that applied this year.
Completely Revamped Website: While the ELULS has not officially launched their new website yet, Josh Coldiron, with the help of Peter Morris of the ELULS Website, Social Media, and Technology Committee, alongside our website administrator, Ken Tinkler, and Program Administrator Cheri Wright, have been hard at work to revise our current website to a completely updated version with both a fresh look and new content. The new website is set to launch mid-spring.
Other Significant Projects: The section has also accomplished several other projects of significance, including continuing to publish a quarterly newsletter, The Reporter, under the leadership of Jake Cremer and Nikki Williams with help from Felicia Kitzmiller and Derek Howard as assistant editors; publishing Bar Journal articles under the leadership of Susan Roeder Martin; planning virtual and in-person networking events by Malcolm Means and Neysa Borkert of the ELULS Events Subcommittee; completely revising the section’s sponsorship program for the 2022-2023 fiscal year by the ELULS Sponsorship Subcommittee led by Fred Aschauer and David Sacks; and developing two new task forces, which may eventually develop into committees — the Public Interest Task Force, led by J.P. Brooker and Byron Flagg, and the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, led by Angela Morrison.
Looking Forward: I would be remiss not to mention all the great things our section has done without mentioning what we are looking forward to continuing to do as a section. First, we are very excited about our 50th anniversary as a section of The Florida Bar, upcoming in 2022-2023. We intend to focus heavily on long-range planning toward a section anniversary retreat to include past section leaders, as well as other events planned in conjunction with our anniversary as a section. Next, we intend to survey our section membership, to gauge their interest and ideas, as well as any concerns or improvements they would like to see. We also plan to strategize on various outreach initiatives and will be seeking input from ELULS members to help coordinate. Finally, we intend to schedule diversity and inclusion leadership training exercises for our executive council members to ensure that diversity and inclusion is always at the forefront of our projects and goals.
As section chair, I appreciate the efforts and dedication of our executive council and all our section members. Succeeding at our goals, implementing our ideas, and fulfilling our mission would be impossible without the continued interest, activity, and engagement of our membership. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as chair of the Environmental and Land Use Law Section this year, and I welcome any input of how the section can better serve its members. Rachael Bruce Santana, Chair
Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Law Section became more innovative on the delivery of CLEs, how to conduct committee meetings, and even the section’s annual luncheon, all of which have been very successful. The theme for this year is integrity, which is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
In June 2020, Amy Hamlin, immediate past chair of the section, led our annual awards ceremony, which included virtually swearing in the executive committee officers and new executive council members. Ms. Hamlin and Chris Rumbold modified the program from what traditionally is an in-person celebration to a virtual format. There were more than 100 attendees adjusting to the new format and celebrating the accomplishments and new leaders of the section. Chair of the Technology Committee and executive council member William Norville ensured the annual committee meetings proceeded in a virtual format seamlessly. The Family Law Section has 11 operational committees, nine substantive committees, and 12 ad hoc committees whose meetings needed to be coordinated.
Though we had to cancel our biennial Leadership Retreat due to safety concerns about public gatherings, our efforts to encourage new members to rise in leadership roles continued throughout the year. Membership Committee Co-Chairs Amanda Tackenberg and Joel Weiner, along with Secretary Jason Alman, came up with innovative ways to increase membership in the section and met their goal.
The section has a long commitment to health and wellness. In keeping with Bar President Dori Foster-Morales’ mission, and under the leadership of Chair John Foster, the Health and Wellness Committee successfully published practical tips for attorney wellbeing in our monthly electronic newsletter, FamSEG. The section also sponsors Friends of Bill meetings before our section meetings whether we meet in person or virtually.
The section formally commented on proposed rule changes under the leadership of General Magistrate Beth Luna and Kristin Kirkner. Much like a memorandum of law, the comments are important to weigh in on proposed rules and how they would affect the practice of family law in Florida. Our work to amend and improve the section’s by-laws is being led by co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee Michelle Klinger-Smith and Amy Hamlin.
Our publications committee, chaired by Sarah Sullivan and Anya Cintron Stern, have exceeded expected outcomes by publishing excellent content in FamSEG, the Family Law Commentator quarterly publication, and record submissions to The Florida Bar Journal. The committee is also working on an indexing project, led by Anya Cintron Stern, to make past Commentator issues searchable by topic and key words on the Family Law Section’s website.
Our CLE Committee has continued to provide educational seminars to our members and have migrated to also providing great free quick tips through Facebook Live. Topics in this new platform included Rules of Evidence, PPP loans for law firms, and we even had a physician, Dr. Ryan Day of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, participate in a COVID-19 Q&A — thanks to Dr. Deborah Day, one of our longtime affiliate members and section sponsors. The committee continues to sponsor live and podcast format seminars useful to beginners, intermediate, and experienced attorneys alike. Trish Armstrong, our CLE co-chair, along with committee officers Reuben Doupe, Ron Kauffman, Chelsea Miller, and Jamie Epstein delivered eight section CLE seminars this year.
Our legislation committee, chaired by Jack Moring, Sheena Benjamin-Wise, and all of the committee officers and members are keeping busy working with legislators to ensure that the laws in Florida continue to protect and enhance lives for Florida’s families consistent with the section’s standing positions.
In January, the section held the Marital and Family Law Review Course in partnership with the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers by virtual format. The section awarded 21 scholarships, and over 1,650 people attended this multi-day event. During the seminar, Sarah Sullivan received the Visionary Award for extraordinary service to the Family Law Section.
Our planned out-of-state retreat at Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City scheduled for November 2020 was postponed and ultimately canceled. However, the retreat chairs, Tenesia Hall and Sheena Benjamin-Wise, secured a donation from an anonymous donor — making the section the first out-of-country organization to sponsor a tree displayed at Le Chateau Frontenac’s holiday charity event to benefit families in need. Pictures of the tree, donning Family Law Section-themed ornaments, were published in FAMSEG.
In May, the section’s first in-person event takes place at Hutchinson Shores. The chairs for our in-state retreat are Kim Rommel-Enright and Aimee Gross. The event promises to be a socially distanced but fun event with a health and wellness CLE.
The section donated $75,000 to The Florida Bar Foundation. This brings our total donations over many years to $500,000. The section’s donation contributes directly to fund children’s legal services.
In closing, this year would not have been as successful without the participation of the entire executive council, committee chairs, committee members, and former chairs Laura Davis Smith, Carin Porras, Diane Kirigin, Abigail Beebe, Maria Gonzalez, Elisha Roy, and Nicole Goetz. The Executive Committee, including Heather Apicella, Phil Wartenberg, Sarah Kay, and Amy Hamlin made the honor of leading the Family Law Section one of the most special moments of my legal career.
Douglas Greenbaum, Chair
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Government Lawyer Section (GLS) has had an active year in the virtual space. As of the date of the drafting of this report, the GLS, on its own and in cooperation with other sections and bar associations, has presented and is actively planning virtual CLEs on matters relating to administrative practice, civil rights litigation, topics in international practice, diversity and inclusion, professionalism, public records, restorative justice, and other matters of interest to government lawyers. The GLS has also made a concerted effort to reach out to young and rising government lawyers throughout this year — we co-sponsored a symposium on government practice for young lawyers and have held discussions at law schools across the state to discuss the many professional benefits and challenges of practicing law in the public service.
Looking forward, we are excited about the development of our mentorship initiative, which we hope will help young government lawyers thrive in public service. We are also looking to launch a modest scholarship award for aspiring government lawyers and will continue presenting great training opportunities and reaching out to law students about government practice. We will continue to advocate better representation of the voices of government lawyers — traditionally an underrepresented group — in matters of importance to The Florida Bar.
Everything we have accomplished in the past year would have been impossible without the tremendous efforts of our program administrator and our many dedicated members — federal, state, and local government practitioners, judges, and lawyers in private practice who all recognize the critical importance of an effective public service bar and who are committed to the GLS’ mission of improving the delivery of legal services to all government entities. You are all very much appreciated.
We invite all members of The Florida Bar who are interested in getting involved in issues that are relevant to lawyers in public service to reach out to the GLS leadership about such opportunities — you can also check out our website and follow us on social media for the latest updates on GLS matters.
We hope to hear from you.
Jacek Stramski, Chair
The mission of The Florida Bar International Law Section (ILS) is to promote and facilitate the practice of international law in Florida. This includes the administration and application of the statutes, rules, and regulations pertaining to the practice of international law, including transnational business transactions, taxation, customs and trade, litigation, and arbitration. Our section is also tasked by the Bar with vetting applications of those seeking certification by the Bar as certified foreign legal consultants, which allow foreign practitioners in Florida, otherwise not Florida Bar members, to practice the law of their respective countries in Florida. Our section, despite the challenges and impediments of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to present both interesting and entertaining programming for its members. For example:
1) The Richard DeWitt Memorial Vis Pre-Moot Competition: Named after its deceased founder, the ILS continues to be one of the few Bar sections across the country that offers law students worldwide a pre-moot competition prior to participating in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Moot Arbitration, normally held in Vienna. Our competition was held on February 27. For the first time this year, due to the pandemic and the fact that the Vienna competition would be virtual, our Vis Pre-Moot competition was held via Zoom thanks to JAMS, a sponsor of our section. Law schools as far away as China, Russia, Ukraine, Mozambique, and Brazil participated, along with five Florida law schools. Stetson University School of Law was the overall winner. All Florida law schools who participate receive a stipend from our section.
2) ILS Annual Leadership Retreat: From November 6-8, 2020, the ILS held its annual leadership retreat at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in Bonita Springs. The section was able to put together a program that involved both live and virtual participation thanks to the use of innovative live/virtual presentation technologies, which worked seamlessly. Representatives of EisnerAmper gave an interesting luncheon presentation that involved both live and virtual panelists. The section also revived its “ILS Talks” program, patterned after “TED Talks,” which gave ILS members the opportunity to give attendees, either live or virtually, short talks on a variety of interesting topics. The section will seek to leverage its experience with these hybrid live/virtual presentation technologies in future meetings, if needed. All in all, the leadership retreat was a success and gave attendees needed face-to-face time, whether live or virtually. Of course, required masking and social distancing were practiced among live attendees at the hotel conference facilities.
3) ILS Annual Holiday Reception: On December 16, 2020, the ILS held a live holiday reception at an outdoor venue at the THesis Hotel in Coral Gables. Held at the hotel’s “Paseo,” an outdoor atrium-like area, the reception featured a beautiful holiday lighting display and festive music. As usual at hotel locations, masking and social distancing were required, and the section also distributed its own branded masks to attendees, as was done at the November retreat. Some 50 ILS members attended this live reception.
4) ILS Lunch and Learn Series: The ILS continued its engaging Lunch and Learn Series, hosted by Fiduciary Trust International on their virtual Zoom platform. The series has a talk show-type format, with a prominent international practitioner being interviewed regarding his or her personal journey to a thriving international law career. The series will continue to be held virtually until such time as it can return to its original live pre-pandemic luncheon format.
5) ILS webinars: The ILS continues to provide webinars to its members covering topics such as immigration, international contracts, and best practices for remote law firm management, among others. Future webinars will include a joint participation with the Rome Bar Association, PPE fraud and compliance, sports arbitration under FIFA rules and others. The ILS encourages its members to participate in these webinars as panelists and to regularly suggest CLE ideas.
6) Wellness programs: The ILS is once again sponsoring a wellness and mental health program at Surfer’s Paradise in Costa Rica.
7) The ILS Gazette: The ILS states to its members that Friday is “Gazette Day.” The Gazette is our section’s weekly email newsletter informing our membership of the activities of our section. It also includes short articles from ILS members, member news, and a spotlight on a board certified international lawyer. It is a one stop read for all our section’s information and news.
8) The International Law Quarterly is ILS’ flagship quarterly magazine publication on international law issues. It is a glossy, bound magazine, available in print and digitally. The most recent Winter 2021 issue focuses on digital law. The next issue for spring will focus on “Shifts in International Law and Principles Under the Biden Administration.” Prior issues over the past year include those focusing on customs and trade, pandemic-related issues, and global challenges to democracy. The magazine can be accessed easily on the ILS website at internationallawsection.org.
9) ILS International Law Deskbook 2020: With the assistance of 27 volunteer authors and editors, the ILS published its International Law DeskBook 2020, which serves as a practice resource for international law practitioners and makes a great study aid for board certification examinations. It contains over 300 pages and sells for $99 on the Bar’s website.
10) The iLaw — The ILS Global Forum on International Law: It was with heavy heart and profound disappointment that the ILS canceled its annual flagship conference, the “iLaw” usually held in February at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Miami due to concerns with holding a well-attended live annual conference during times of pandemic. ILS leadership decided that the conference would translate poorly to a virtual format and not provide attendees and participants with that needed networking benefit that annual conferences so vitally provide. The iLaw draws programming and panelists from around the country and world, and with travel hampered by the pandemic, promoting attendance and putting on a first-rate program was not deemed likely. As such, the iLaw 2021 was canceled in favor of having an iLaw 2022, held live, that will be the best one yet.
11) The ILS Foreign Legal Consultant Committee: Lastly, our report would not be complete without a shout out to our Foreign Legal Consultant Committee. The ILS is single-handedly responsible for working directly with the NCBE in the evaluation, vetting, and approval of foreign attorneys to the Florida Supreme Court for certification. The ILS Foreign Legal Consultant Committee is comprised of a handful of ILS member volunteers to review applications and work with candidates on the application process. Each year, the ILS receives 20-40 applications for review, and the process takes several months. The committee’s work is exemplary.
The ILS looks forward to a better future where the pandemic is history and international practitioners can congregate freely in a live venue to share ideas on international legal practice and the rule of law. That time is coming soon.
Robert J. Becerra, Chair
The year of COVID presented myriad challenges but provided a plethora of opportunities as well. By remaining flexible, we were able to meet and exceed our goals of delivering premier CLE and educational programs and publishing informative legal articles. Several years ago, recognizing the needs of our increasingly busy practitioners, we held a substantial number of webinars. Using this platform, we were able to pivot when confronted with travel restrictions and hotel cancellations, transforming our in-person CLE offerings to web-based offerings.
Our section is made up of small and large firms, public and private attorneys, and those representing both the employer and employees. Our CLEs have something for every practitioner in large part due to the efforts of Gregg Morton, our legal education director, and Sacha Dyson, our secretary/treasurer, both of whom are dedicated to putting together our section CLE events. Without missing a beat, we published resources for members to help deal with COVID-related issues, as well as multiple timely updates on the various L&E topics that have evolved over the past 12 months, including executive orders relating to sex-stereotyping, recent Supreme Court decisions on the ministerial exception, and on LGBTQ+ rights. Our CLE offerings have ranged from the single topic lunch break webcasts to multi-day events covering in-depth labor and employment topics, including our January annual update and certification review and upcoming advanced labor topics in May. We have also started adding free CLE opportunities for our membership, including several free CLEs that are currently available on The Florida Bar’s COVID resources page.
The section also continues to provide timely information and updates on the law through its website and publications. The section’s newsletter, The Checkoff, is published and provided to members several times during the year. It features articles on breaking cases and new state and federal legislation that is of interest to practitioners. Thank you to Viktoriya Johnson for her efforts in editing The Checkoff and her team of designers and authors that make the publication possible. In between issues of the newsletter, the section provides E-Updates with new law and other new section news. Thank you to former section Chair Frank Brown for spearheading those efforts. The section also has an active website and social media presence, thanks to the efforts of executive council members Yvette Everhart and Brian Lerner for their work on keeping the section’s online offerings current. Finally, our section is one of the most active in providing articles to The Florida Bar Journal on a wide variety of labor and employment law issues that are of interest both to members of our section and attorneys that do not practice in the area. Thank you to Rob Eschenfelder for his efforts as section editor for our Bar Journal columns.
Even in a year in which the pandemic has made keeping in contact difficult, the section continued its outreach efforts to maintain links with the Bar, the National Labor Relations Board, national and voluntary bar organizations, regulatory agencies, the judiciary, and law schools through its various committees and subcommittees. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to several of our section’s great members, including Bill Powers and Don Ryce, who have both been nominated for induction into our section’s Hall of Fame. As the section year winds toward the annual June meeting, we are also finalizing our scholarships awards for the state’s law schools.
On behalf of our officers and its executive council, I urge Bar members to consider the benefits and camaraderie of joining the Labor and Employment Law Section.
Robyn S. Hankins, Chair
The Public Interest Law Section is pleased to present its annual report highlighting the amazing work of its members. This year, PILS launched a new website, increased communications, provided free CLEs to its members, continued its advocacy efforts, and increased engagement among its members. PILS also saw an increase in membership and revenue.
Thanks to The Florida Bar’s team, Jennifer Krell Davis and Susan Ray, PILS has a new website. The newly designed website offers members and the general public information about PILS’ activities. PILS is also increasing its social media presence with increased posts and recently joined LinkedIn to expand its communication efforts with members and the public. Additionally, PILS is redesigning its newsletter. To help with the newsletter’s relaunch, PILS, through its engagement committee, successfully developed a collaboration with the Fort Lauderdale Pre-Law and Public Affairs Magnet Program high school students and the NSU Law public interest students. Students worked with members to draft articles and interviewed PILS members for the newsletter. The newsletter is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
PILS’ executive council participated in anti-racism training in January. The group learned new tools to effectively combat racism. To build on that training, PILS is working on CLE training that focuses on racial justice and diversity and inclusion to involve not only section members but all Florida Bar members.
PILS’ work would not be possible without its dedicated committees and workgroups. The following are just some of the highlights of the work done throughout the year:
Advocacy Committee: PILS added a new legislative position thanks to the advocacy committee’s efforts. The new position supports legislation that limits or restricts the Baker Acting of minor children. The advocacy committee plans on tracking legislation in relation to the new position and will discuss ways to support, if applicable. The advocacy committee submitted comments before the UPL committee regarding nonlawyer parent/relative representation of children in Medicaid fair hearings. Also, PILS filed comments regarding amendments to the IOTA rule. The advocacy committee’s plans include advancing new legislative positions, sunsetting old positions that are not needed, and actively supporting or opposing legislation in line with PILS’ interest.
Engagement Committee: In addition to the development of the student collaboration for PILS’ newsletter, the engagement committee remains dedicated to facilitating leadership amongst PILS members as part of its goals. Short blurbs of all the leadership positions for 2021 were disseminated to the entire PILS community.
Networking Committee: The networking committee began meeting in the fall and generated ideas for professional and social networking for PILS members. Due to COVID restrictions, the group has been connecting via Zoom. The networking committee held a trivia night for its executive council members in October and another for its general membership in February. The committee is reviewing a book discussion and planning a speaker. Additionally, the committee is working on PILS’ awards, which are planned for its annual meeting in June.
Professional Development Committee: PILS has partnered with Florida Legal Services’ Statewide Training Initiative to present free CLEs to its members. The webinars include a wide range of topics, including disaster relief, cultural/racial competency training for attorneys working with the LGBTQ community, immigrant rights, a tech training series, estate planning for legal aid lawyers, and children’s rights. Through this collaboration, PILS has provided diverse legal content to hundreds of attendees and plans on continuing this successful partnership to keep providing CLEs to its members. All of PILS’ webinars can be found on its website. The professional development committee is also creating a webinar series for the juvenile certification training.
Civil Rights Workgroup: In 2021, the workgroup plans to have a series of six to eight CLEs or webinars on the most salient civil rights issues confronting Florida. The speakers/panelists will be invited from various civil rights organizations and the private bar who are engaged in litigation or advocacy on these issues. This series is designed to educate Bar members about these issues and serve as a platform to teach members of the private bar how to identify and/or litigate these matters within their own jurisdictions. Topics include solitary confinement and access to education, First Amendment and protest, public records and transparency of private contractors, COVID-19 litigation inside prisons, jails, and immigrant detention centers.
Consumer and Tenant Protection Workgroup: The workgroup has been closely watching legislation that may impact its priorities in the upcoming legislative session. It has also been monitoring and sharing as much information as possible about eviction relief programs and money available to renters that are behind on their rent. It is currently working on a webinar series relating to timely issues for 2021, including webinars directed to COVID-19 issues directly impacting consumers and tenants.
Disability Workgroup: The workgroup revitalized in 2020 and is planning CLEs covering different topics. Some of the topics considered are discussing the differences between agency disability criteria, ratings, and benefits, and another regarding supported decision-making in lieu of guardianship for disabled individuals.
Immigration Workgroup: The workgroup also revitalized in 2020. The Immigration Workgroup and Civil Rights Workgroup are incorporating a CLE session regarding immigrant detention in the detention and prisoners’ rights series. The goal of the March training will be to inform attorneys of the issues facing detained immigrants and offer pro bono opportunities for attorneys who are willing to volunteer.
PILS is grateful for its members and all the work they have done, especially throughout this difficult year. We are excited about continuing the work and creating new initiatives to engage our members. We encourage all Bar members to visit our website and follow us on social media to stay updated on all events and work.
Martha A. Pardo, Chair
At over 11,000 members, the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law (RPPTL) Section is one of the largest and most active sections of The Florida Bar. Our executive council consists of over 280 members, and meets in conjunction with our section committees five times per year. The section committees are generally divided into three divisions: the Probate and Trust Division (Sarah Butters, Tallahassee, as division director), the Real Estate Division (S. Katherine Frazier, Tampa, division director), and the General Standing Division (Robert Swaine, Sebring, division director and chair-elect).
The Probate and Trust Division has 19 different substantive committees touching on virtually every conceivable area of the estates, trusts, and guardianship planning, administration, and litigation practice. The Real Property Division has 18 of its own addressing issues such as title insurance and standards, construction law, residential real estate, commercial real estate, leasing, development and land use, and real estate litigation. The general standing committees of the RPPTL section generally assist with internal section business and matters of interest to both sides of the aisle.
Our section committees are open to all section members and consist of an education component as well as discussion of legislative initiatives of interest to our practice. The committee meeting format is vitally important because most RPPTL initiatives originate in committee and are refined, debated, and vetted at length in our meetings. The committees also provide opportunities to share ideas and fellowship with top lawyers throughout the state.
This year all in-state section meetings have been available via Zoom. Our first meeting of the year in July was held in virtual-only format. The remaining meetings have been or will be held in a hybrid format with in-person attendees and virtual attendees able to interact. At Disney’s Yacht Club, we had over 125 lawyers attend in person and an additional 300 members participate via Zoom.
Below are the highlights of the activities of our General Standing Division over the past year:
The section currently has eight young lawyers who are part of our Fellows Program. The mission of the RPPTL Fellows Program is to actively recruit attorneys from diverse backgrounds, including geographic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, that are traditionally underrepresented in the law and the section. The Fellowship Program provides a unique and exciting opportunity to receive one-on-one mentorship and experiences in section-related activities.
Through the section’s Amicus Coordination Committee, the section has filed an amicus brief in Hayslip v. U.S. Home Corp., which involves the Second DCA’s certified question as to whether a mandatory arbitration provision contained within a residential warranty deed can bind subsequent purchasers. As of the date of submittal of this report, no decision had been rendered by the Florida Supreme Court.
The section’s CLE Seminar Coordination Committee continues to produce top notch CLEs on topics of interest to section members such as the section’s Annual Legislative Update and webcasts on guardianship, ethics, fair housing, uniform title standards, asset protection trusts, FR/Bar contract contingencies, COVID-19 considerations for litigation, probate law, and reverse mortgages. In addition to its webcasts, the section will continue to provide virtual certification review courses for its three practice areas of certification: real property law; wills, trusts, and estates law; and condominium and planned development law. These courses were all held virtually and are currently available for download from the Bar’s website, tfb.inreachce.com.
Although the section was able to meet the CLE needs of its members virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have received an increasing number of requests to hold live, in-person events for practitioners to attend to both learn and network. Thus, in May, the popular annual Construction Law Institute will be held in a hybrid format, allowing for both in-person and virtual attendance. This is the section’s first attempt at a fully hybrid format that allows for the remote participants to be engaged with the speakers as if they were in-person participants and allows speakers to participate remotely as well.
Immediately after Hurricane Sally hit the Panhandle in September 2020, the section’s fairly new Disaster & Emergency Preparedness & Response Committee reached out to Legal Services of North Florida, Inc., and helped develop and announce section member volunteer opportunities to assist victims with legal needs identified by that legal services organization. Specific assistance opportunities were for tenants who had been displaced from a large apartment complex due to flooding in addressing landlord-tenant issues. This experience helped the section develop procedures to coordinate and offer up assistance after future disasters.
The section’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee, together with the section’s at-large members (ALMs), continues to provide support to No Place Like Home (NPLH) as a clearing title project for homestead properties, including mobile homes, for low-income Floridians. NPLH provides legal resources to perfect legal title to homestead real property at limited or no cost to Florida residents whose imperfect title undermines their continued occupancy and ownership of, and rights and benefits to, their homes. Section members train and are trained to provide title-related legal services in both the real estate and probate settings aimed at perfecting title and resolving title issues. Quiet title, probate, and title-oriented proceedings and legal counsel are provided by section members and coordinated through legal aid offices throughout the state.
The section has multiple legislative initiatives before the 2021 Florida Legislature relating to real property, probate, and guardianship. The section continues to provide technical assistance on multiple other bills to help reduce the likelihood of unintended bad consequences. These bills address a wide scope of topics, including electronic legal documents, lis pendens, open permits, leasehold cooperatives, marketable record title act, notices of commencement, condominium and homeowners’ associations, and other topics concerning guardianship, probate, and the transfer of property.
The Probate and Trust Law Division highlights from this past year include:
1) The Ad Hoc Guardianship Law Revision finished a comprehensive rewrite of the Florida Guardianship Code, which will replace existing Ch. 744.
2) The Ad Hoc Committee on Electronic Wills has been addressing the 2019 legislation, which permits e-notarization and electronic wills. The section has provided significant education on the use of this legislation for section members and practitioners generally. Given the timeliness of the subject due to COVID, the committee members have held over a two dozen educational presentations on the practical use of e-notarization and e-wills. The section has also published a number of vlogs and education articles on the subject that can be found at the COVID page of www.RPPTL.org.
3) The Ad Hoc Fiduciary Licensing Committee is working on legislation that would require that any fiduciary who is paid for their services maintain minimum licensing standards in Florida. This legislation would exempt trust companies and their agents, but apply to guardians, POA and health-care surrogates.
4) The Estate and Trust Tax Planning Committee, which studies issues and topics impacting planning lawyers, has been working on educational materials to assist practitioners in navigating the likely tax and policy changes that may result from the change in political party control over the congressional and executive branches.
5) The Trust Law Committee, Probate Law Committee, and Asset Protection Committee drafted numerous legislative initiatives that are now combined into an omnibus legislative bill addressing a variety of trust and estate matters.
6) Our Probate and Trust Division committees have also provided technical advice and comment on numerous pieces of proposed legislation, including emergency responses necessary for the courts to function smoothly and vulnerable adult abuse and exploitation issues.
7) Each of the substantive committees participated in CLEs and many submitted articles to ActionLine (our section publication) and The Florida Bar Journal.
The Real Property Division highlights from this past year include:
The Real Estate Leasing Committee has been working on revisions to the Supreme Court residential lease forms, including the residential lease for apartment or unit in multi-family rental housing form and residential lease for single-family home or duplex form. This committee has worked closely with The Florida Legal Services Housing Umbrella Group, which is a group of legal services attorneys and law professors from across the state of Florida, and Florida realtors in vetting the changes.
The Title Issues and Standards Committee promulgated a new Chapter 22 — Easements, which is now approved by the section as part of the Uniform Title Standards that are posted on the section website.
The Insurance and Surety Committee continues to publish its quarterly newsletter, Insurance Matters!, which contains articles and other information pertaining to recent cases and hot topics of interest in the insurance industry.
The Real Property Division committees also provide input and technical advice on both proposed and pending legislative initiatives.
No annual report would be complete without giving very special thanks to our dedicated section administrator, Mary Ann Obos, and our assistant administrator, Hilary Stephens. The RPPTL section benefits greatly from their knowledge, skills, and wonderful positive attitude. This year had been incredibly challenging, and they’ve handled it with nothing but class.
William T. Hennessey, Chair
This has been an exciting and challenging year for the section, and with challenge comes opportunity and innovation. The Solo & Small Firm Section has expanded its executive council and outreach by adding Michelle Garcia Gilbert, Ghenete “G” Wright Muir, and Camara A. Williams to the executive council; adding Stephanie Cagnet Myron as our liaison to The Florida Bar YLD; and Tim Chinaris as our liaison to The Florida Bar Out-of-State Division. Their insights and ideas have and will continue to help the section as we move forward. While all of our meetings have been via Zoom, the personal connections and efforts of each of the members have allowed our section to continue to progress.
CLE: Linda Calvert-Hanson and her CLE Committee members have kept the section on the forefront of CLE innovation and offerings for our members and The Florida Bar at large. The Solo & Small Firm Section has produced a robust series of successful CLEs this year, which were offered virtually given the uncertainty presented by COVID-19. We host several signature seminars each year beginning with our full-day Florida Law Update at Annual Convention on June 18, 2020. This program provided topics that included business and litigation law, employment law, animal law, elder law, estate planning, criminal law, family law, and real property. Our fall half-day Annual Ethics Update, “Ethics in a Changed World,” was offered on October 16, 2020, and both the Florida Law Update and Annual Ethics Update again were well organized by Program Chair Peggy Hoyt. Our thriving Solo and Small Firm Conference, “Virtually Irresistible: Tech Tools and Strategies for Solo and Small Firms,” chaired by Cristina Alonso and Jacina Parson, was held on February 12. After a postponement, our ever-popular annual spring out-of-country trip and CLE, a seven-day Rhine River Cruise now have been rescheduled for August 25-September 1.
In addition to our signature seminars, this is our third year offering monthly, noontime, one-credit InReach webinars as well as free, Wednesday Wisdom webinars for section members only. The Wednesday Wisdom webinars, moderated by magistrate Jennifer Kuyrkendall Griffin, utilize the Zoom platform and are available on-demand on the section’s closed Facebook group. By the end of this spring, the section will have presented 10 one-credit InReach webinars and 13 Wednesday Wisdom webinars that, along with our seminars, continue to supplement our catalog of available CLEs for strong after-market sales.
Section Services: Through the efforts of Chris Johnson, the Solo & Small Firm Section recently launched a partnership with LAWCLERK, an online legal freelance marketplace. LAWCLERK connects hiring attorneys with an extensive, nationwide network of over 3,400 freelance lawyers. Solo & Small Firm Section members now can earn rebates when they hire freelance attorneys through LAWCLERK, and the section will receive a share of the revenue for each member who signs up and uses an account.
• Solo & Small Firm Section members who register for a hiring attorney account with LAWCLERK will receive a 10% rebate on the first three projects they post on LAWCLERK using a special rebate code. Section members who register for a hiring attorney account also will be assigned a complimentary “dedicated LAWCLERK advisor” to assist with posting projects and getting work completed.
• LAWCLERK will offer free ethics CLE credit for section members on the ethics of outsourcing to freelance lawyers.
• Section members will be able to easily identify other section members on the platform, and LAWCLERK will produce a custom daily email digest only for section members to ensure that they are aware of freelance opportunities posted by section members during the day.
• The Solo & Small Firm Section will receive a revenue share for each new section member who creates a hiring attorney account with LAWCLERK using the section’s code if the attorney completes at least one project on LAWCLERK in the calendar year.
The section made the following efforts in communications this year:
• Social Media: The section continues to expand its reach through active social media profiles, which include Facebook (1,745 followers), a members-only Facebook group (418 members), a LinkedIn group (678 members), Twitter (2,382), and Instagram (new in February, 61 followers).
• Publications: Under the leadership of Publications Committee Co-Chairs Liz McCausland and Jennifer Dietz, the section disseminates QuickLINK, a bi-monthly electronic newsletter containing information important to a solo or small-firm practitioner. QuickLINK content also appears on the section’s website blog. Section members also receive the triannual LINK, a more expansive publication covering topics dedicated to solo and small-firm practitioners, including feature articles and section news.
• Website: The section has created a CLE page that offers four ways to access section CLE offerings. In addition, the calendar page provides course descriptions and registration links so that members and others who are interested may easily find CLE opportunities.
• Publicity: The section regularly sends content to The Florida Bar News for publication: Announcements, calls for nominations, section news, awards, etc.
Sponsorship: Cristina Alonso and her Sponsorship Committee have greatly expanded our sponsors this year. We sincerely appreciate the Solo & Small Firm Section’s 2020-21 sponsors. Section annual sponsors are LexHelper and Sandler Training of Greater Tampa Bay — RC Howard & Associates. Thomson Reuters joined us at the section advocate level; our section supporters are Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, Aligned CPA, and National Deed Network; and Tabs3 is a section friend. We thank each of them for their continued support, assistance, and service to our members.
As a result of the hard work of everyone mentioned here and all of the members and liaisons of the executive council, as well as the hard work of Ricky Libbert, our section administrator, and Lisa Tipton, our publicity, marketing, and public relations consultant, our membership has continued to grow, and we look forward to meeting the continuing needs of our membership. As we have grown and the practice of law has changed, the needs of our members have changed. The executive council and its committees are here to serve all our members. We welcome any concerns, thoughts, ideas, or suggestions for how the section may serve you better.
Timothy S. Shaw, Chair
The Tax Section has been busy this fiscal year, but due to the pandemic, it has not quite been business as usual. The section held its organizational meeting virtually from July 1-3, 2020. This annual event starts the new year for the Tax Section and has traditionally been a family-oriented event at which many spouses, significant others, and children of section members have attended. The advantage of holding the meeting virtually is that more members were able to attend the division and section meetings.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s fall meeting was held virtually from September 22-24, 2020. In addition to the usual division and committee meetings, there was virtual Bingo organized by Leslie Reithmiller and virtual trivia organized by Joel Maser and Joe Schimmel, as well as a virtual happy hour. There was also a virtual CLE program on September 25, which was organized by Cristin Keane and Mark Brown. The CLE program, “Practical Estate Planning in Uncertain Times,” was very well attended.
The Tax Section once again collaborated with the FICPA to present the popular International Tax Conference (ITC), which was held virtually beginning on January 13 with the ITC Boot Camp and continuing on January 14 and 15. IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig was a keynote speaker at the 2021 ITC, sharing insights into upcoming IRS initiatives. Steve Hadjilogiou is the Tax Section’s chair of the ITC.
The section was scheduled to have a directors’ meeting in New Orleans in January, but instead it was held virtually. As part of its annual meeting, the section held a long-range planning mini retreat. The section held a long-range planning retreat in January 2018. Every year since 2018, in conjunction with the directors’ meeting, the section has held a mini retreat to be sure the new long-range plan is being implemented and to consider new long-range planning issues.
Our annual meeting had originally been scheduled in Miami, but the location was changed to Tampa. However, the in-person annual meeting was eventually canceled, and it will now be held virtually by Zoom from April 27-29. There will also be a CLE program focused on real estate taxation scheduled for April 30, which is being organized by Chris Callahan and Abrahm Smith. The Tax Section will honor the 2020-2021 Gerald T. Hart Outstanding Tax Attorney of the Year, Michael Lampert, in October at the Breakers in Palm Beach.
The Tax Section will have approximately 12 free one-hour phone CLE programs on various tax topics this fiscal year. The section will partner with the Stetson University College of Law to host a Tax Moot Court program. The competition brings 16 teams to Florida from law schools around the country to compete on a tax-related topic. The event was held virtually April 1-3.
Each year, the section publishes a monthly e-newsletter, three issues of the Tax Section Bulletin newsletter, and one article for each issue of The Florida Bar Journal. The section continues to submit comments to proposed federal tax regulations and also monitors state tax issues. The section is totally revamping its website, so that will soon be an even better resource for information about the Tax Section and its publications.
Harris L. Bonnette is the current chair-elect and Mark R. Brown is the chair-elect designee.
D. Michael O’Leary, Chair
The 2020-2021 year has been a challenge in many respects. Despite those challenges, the TLS has successfully conducted three of its annual meetings of the executive council both in person and virtually. Additionally, adapting to the times, the Chester Bedell Memorial Mock Trial Competition was conducted virtually for the first time ever and was a great success, with seven Florida law schools competing over a three-day period. Likewise, our other flagship program, the Teachers’ Law Symposium, was modified and presented to Florida’s middle- and high-school civics and social studies teachers in a recorded format with our five most compelling speakers making presentations on our system of government and the importance of an independent judiciary.
Most of our CLE efforts have been virtual, although the Advanced Trial Advocacy program will be conducted in Orlando in May and will be a live, multi-day event. Many of our executive council members, along with other active members of the section, have provided and continue to provide compelling and timely content for our CLE offerings. We are also proud to have prepared and presented an important CLE presentation on understanding implicit bias. The program and its two CLE credits can be accessed for free on both our website and The Florida Bar’s website.
For the first time ever, TLS began seeking sponsorships to help support and fund our various initiatives. While it is a fledgling project, we have been very fortunate to have had a great response from both law firms and litigation support companies. We especially want to thank our signature sponsor (Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhardt & Shipley, P.A.), along with our gold, silver, and bronze sponsors. A full list of our sponsors is available on our website and is contained in our quarterly newsletter, The Edge.
Lastly, we undertook to amend our bylaws this year to express the purposes of the TLS explicitly, rather than having those purposes expressed anecdotally. The revisions were approved by the Board of Governors and can be found in art. I, §2, of the TLS bylaws on our website at floridatls.org.
J. Wiley Hicks, Chair
The Workers’ Compensation Section currently has 1,247 members. We continue with our successful series of Lunch and Learn Seminars coordinated by our CLE chair, Dawn Traverso.
We have also continued our efforts in keeping an open relationship between the bench and Bar and have worked with the judiciary. As part of our continued relationship with the judiciary, this year, we have started judicial town halls. These town halls are a web-based format that allow practitioners throughout the state to participate in a town hall format with judges in each of the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims districts.
We also offer a comprehensive board certification review seminar, The Forum, which we present in cooperation with Workers’ Compensation Claims Professionals. We have annual attendance at this in-depth seminar of over 500 attendees and are excited that this seminar will again be in-person April 15-16.
We continue with our new and improved News and 440 Report, published about four times per year. Sean McCormack and Courtney Bahe have done an excellent job organizing this publication.
Due to various meetings and conferences that our section attends throughout the year, it has been several years since we have attended a Florida Bar annual or winter meeting. This year, we plan on meeting at The Florida Bar Annual Convention in June and hope to make this an annual occurrence.
Philip Augustine, Chair
The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (YLD) continues to be the work horse of The Florida Bar. While this year presented never-before-seen challenges and obstacles, the YLD maintained its relentless mission to make our profession better for young lawyers.
One of the first obstacles confronted by the YLD was the re-scheduling of the bar exam. When the Florida Supreme Court announced the Supervised Practice Program for 2020 Bar applicants, the YLD launched into action creating a webpage dedicated to participation in the program. This webpage was a one-stop-shop where applicants and qualified supervising attorneys could learn about the program, find necessary forms related to the program, and utilize a tool allowing 2020 Bar applicants to find practitioners in their area willing to act as qualified supervising attorneys.
The YLD also launched its #YLDisME campaign. Inclusion and Equality Committee Chair Iris Elijah and Vice Chair Anisha Patel spearheaded this initiative highlighting successful attorneys from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, physical appearances, and physical abilities. The goal of this campaign is to reshape the image of what an attorney “should” look like in the eyes of YLD members, the Bar, and the public. In addition, the Inclusion and Equality Committee recently announced the launch of the YLD’s Practical Guide to Parental Leave for Employers: What to Expect When Your Employee is Expecting. The YLD hopes this guide will be an important resource encouraging inclusiveness for attorneys who are also parents and/or guardians.
In addition, the Online Resources Committee, led by Chair Stephanie Cagnet Myron, continued to improve existing resources and develop new resources and programming to address our ever-evolving virtual practices. For instance, the YLD Technology Subcommittee, through Vice Chair Jesse Butler, worked along with the Bar’s Ethics and Advertising Department to create the YLD’s Social Media Pocket Guide. This guide was created to assist Florida lawyers in complying with the rules governing lawyer advertising when using social media. Additionally, Webinars Subcommittee Vice Chair Schuyler Smith ensured the YLD continued to produce timely and free CLE materials for its members. For instance, through this subcommittee, the YLD partnered with the Bar’s Labor and Employment Law Section to produce a webinar discussing how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting working conditions.
Next, the YLD took its annual Affiliate Outreach Conference (AOC) completely virtual. AOC is a yearly event where the YLD invites young lawyer affiliates from all around the state to meet and share their programs and initiatives. During AOC, these affiliates also seek grant funding to continue their programs and initiatives. This year, the YLD awarded approximately $50,000 in grant funding. In light of the pandemic, Chair Leslie Arsenault Metz and Vice Chair Giselle Gutierrez moved this event to a virtual platform, hosting more than 160 attendees over the course of two days and providing added efficiency and programming not possible during an in-person event.
The YLD also continued its #StigmaFreeYLD campaign, transitioning from raising awareness of stigmas surrounding physical and mental health to taking action to create a healthier lawyer. Health and Wellness Committee Chair Kayla Richmond and Vice Chair Marianne Curtis have developed a statewide Health and Wellness Olympics. This program will see participants engage in physical activity, meditation, counseling, reading, and other activities over the course of two months. Lawyers will keep track of points they earn when engaging in these activities, ultimately earning individual and local affiliate awards based on their point totals.
This year has been incredibly difficult. But leading the YLD through this incredible time has been the highest honor of my career. My position was made incredibly easy because I serve on a board comprised of incredibly intelligent, driven, and gifted young lawyers from all around the state. President-Elect Todd Baker was instrumental to the success of the YLD this year, and he will be an incredible leader next year. I am confident he will continue to build on the YLD’s tremendous innovation and success. He will be joined by President-Elect Designate Iris Elijah, an extremely talented and dedicated young lawyer. The YLD thanks its amazing program administrator, Tom Miller. We would be lost without him.
Finally, the YLD thanks President Dori Foster-Morales, President-Elect Mike Tanner, and Bar Executive Director Josh Doyle. You all have been hugely supportive of the YLD and its goals, and the YLD’s success is a direct reflection of your continued support and encouragement. I look forward to seeing the YLD reach new heights next year and in the years to come.
Adam White, President