Board of Governors Candidates’ Platform Statements
Below are the platform statements for candidates running in this year’s Florida Bar Board of Governors races. Ballots will be emailed or mailed to eligible voters on February 28, and must be returned to the Bar’s election company no later than midnight, March 23. As in the past, voters will have a choice of using the mailed paper ballot or voting online, following instructions included in the mailing.
11th Circuit, Seat 7
I have had the privilege of being a lawyer for 25 years in our great state, and have enjoyed many successes as a trial lawyer. For much of my career, I successfully defended lawyers from professional malpractice claims, and as such became proficient in many areas of the law. I am AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and have earned other honors from my peers. I have been a partner in large statewide firms and in small boutique practices, and I have owned and managed my own firm for the past five years. I can relate to the professional experiences of most of the members in our circuit, and consequently believe I am qualified to serve on your behalf on the Board of Governors.
We often forget that it is a privilege to serve others in this profession. There is always competition for clients, and while we all strive for professionalism, there are unfortunately times where we find it sorely lacking. Ours is a stressful profession; clients’ fortunes are on the line, and for those of us in criminal practice, lives are on the line also. I want the Bar to be an ally rather than an adversary, and my candidacy is premised primarily on three goals:
1. Free online CLEs.
Why? CLEs should not just be a dreaded, perfunctory requirement every three years. We should be enthusiastic to learn new areas of the law or become more proficient in our areas of expertise. The cost, and the timing, are often hindrances. Our continuing education should be better facilitated by the Bar.
2. Minimum malpractice insurance.
Why? The Bar strives to protect the public, but in those instances where some of our peers have committed gross acts of misconduct, the aggrieved clients are usually not fully compensated by the Bar’s Client Security Fund. A mandatory requirement for malpractice coverage will help ensure that the client is always protected. The Bar should establish group coverage, or provide subsidies, so this requirement does not bear an added cost to our members.
3. Transparency and consistency in discipline cases.
Nothing tarnishes our hard work more than those who violate the rules. Local media seizes on reports of disciplined attorneys and the cumulative effect of such coverage stains our profession. The Bar does an adequate job in rooting out those who should be disciplined, but often this process is arbitrary and mired in mystery. Lately, the Bar seems to be focused on constitutionally protected free speech rather than actual misconduct that harms the client and the public at large. The disciplinary process should be transparent, and the rules should be clarified so certain offenses correspond to certain punishments, much like mandatory minimums in criminal law. The public deserves this clarity and so do the members of the Bar.
I promise to serve on your behalf in the manner in which I have always practiced: with humility and honor. Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions about my candidacy, feel free to email me at [email protected].
Serving on the Board of Governors requires a committed level of volunteerism to our profession, one that is demonstrated by my continuous service for two decades. If elected, I pledge to continue to work just as hard to put the full resources of The Florida Bar to work for you, your practice, and your clients.
I seek your support for this position because my goal is to make the practice of law easier and better for the everyday attorney. The Florida Bar is in a unique position to help attorneys grow their practice, serve as the primary referral source to connect clients with attorneys, aid in an ever-changing state of technology, equip our colleagues with the necessary tools to address mental health and wellness in the profession, promote diversity and inclusion, provide affordable and meaningful CLE opportunities, and be the steady line of support for the judiciary.
I have devoted thousands of hours of service to our community, working to unite lawyers, judges, and voluntary bar associations to meet the challenges of the practice of law with the constant aim of benefitting the everyday working lawyer. I am uniquely qualified for this position because of my extensive service to The Florida Bar and our legal community, which includes:
• The Florida Bar
• Vice-chair, Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee
• Grievance Committee “I,” 17th Judicial Circuit
• Annual Convention Committee
• Fellow, Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy — Class II
• Member, Judicial Nominating Commission for the 17th Circuit (nominated by The Florida Bar and appointed by the Governor)
• Board of Directors, Dade County Bar Association
• Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers
• Co-chair, Leadership Committee
• Co-chair, State and Federal Court Judicial Liaison
• Co-chair, Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee
• Founding member and past president, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida
• Chair, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Southeastern Regional Conference
• Co-chair, Spellman-Hoeveler Chapter of the American Inn of Court Bench and Bar Conference
I am a partner at Fowler White Burnett, PA, and have spent the last 20 years successfully representing clients in a wide range of domestic and international business disputes. Born and raised in South Florida, I earned my B.A. and J.D. from the University of Florida. I have been recognized by and listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Florida Super Lawyers, Florida Trend magazine’s Florida Legal Elite, and South Florida Legal Guide for Top Lawyers.
From my experience and having practiced in a range of law firm settings, I understand what it takes for you to succeed and the complex nature of the practice of law. Our profession has evolved tremendously in recent years and become more challenging for all types of lawyers, whether in private practice, in-house, government, public interest, or the judiciary.
I am ready to help you meet these challenges and represent your interests on the Board of Governors. I humbly ask for your support and respectfully ask for your vote beginning March 2.
17th Circuit, Seat 1
My name is Bill Gelin, and I am running against Jay Kim for BOG in Broward. I graduated UC Berkeley, and Stanford Law School.
I am known as an aggressive criminal defense attorney after daily courtroom appearances over 18-plus years, and for my role as principal author of the courthouse blog, JAABLOG.
My work on “the blog” has led to a large body of local, national, and international news stories over 14 years, and helped to root out corruption. However, I am most proud of starting the public dialogue in Broward for criminal justice reform and diversity on the bench more than a decade before they became fashionable topics. For my service, I was named Broward-Palm Beach “Best Lawyer” and “Best Gadfly,” and JAABLOG “Best Blog” by local media. Despite helping to usher in needed reforms, TFB has never been a fan, and has pursued numerous unfounded, anti-free speech/reform-chilling complaints, for which probable cause has never been found.
Because I believe in offering and working towards solutions, instead of simply pointing out flaws.
This is a critical time for TFB. Former President Michelle Suskauer is under investigation for serious ethics allegations discovered by a federal judge, and a Miami judge recently wrote a report that reads like an indictment of TFB’s disciplinary arm. Taken together with ongoing repressive Bar actions against critical free speech, I believe an independent audit of Bar practices is necessary to ensure the public is properly protected and reassured.
Enhancement of a disciplinary process viewed as inefficient, anti-due process, and sometimes politically manipulated both offensively and defensively, is not the only area of concern. Professionalism and civility must be addressed, namely combatting institutional racism via TFB’s educational and legislative advocacy functions. There is nothing more unprofessional and uncivilized than disparate systemic impacts upon minorities, and TFB should be exercising more leadership. If elected, lip service to ideals of behavior will not be espoused, but rather inconvenient truths stated and countered.
Why run against Jay Kim?
I don’t think he’s accomplished much on the BOG, and besides not adequately addressing the issues above, he voted to terminate a judicial professionalism feedback program, instead of working to fix it.
I also disagree with his mentoring position, stating for YLD consumption “your client is generally not worth a bad personal relationship with your opposing counsel.” The public distrusts the legal profession because it’s perceived as self-serving; I will work to educate everyone that clients are always paramount.
Lastly, I emailed Jay before and after announcing, with no response. Professionalism requires more, and I will faithfully communicate with all.
As a busy sole practitioner, I am sensitive to the needs of running a business. I will be there for lawyers interested in solving personal issues, as well as addressing “macro” problems. Transparency is key, and in the changing technological legal landscape of which we all are part, I will seek your input to help shape the future practice of law to both benefit hard-working attorneys and protect the public.
I have been serving on the Board of Governors for more than three years since my election in 2016. During my tenure, I have had the opportunity to learn what it means to be a governor for The Florida Bar. Here are a few observations:
1. BOG members have a common goal of service — service to the legal profession, to consumers of legal services in Florida, and to the rule of law. You will find no other group who takes its responsibilities to Florida Bar members and their clients more seriously.
2. The scope of the BOG’s work is vast. From the implementation of programs designed to help Florida lawyers practice law to the selection of qualified applicants for appointment to important positions such as on judicial nominating commissions as well as cooperation with the Legislature to protect the Bar’s mission, the BOG’s plate is always full.
3. All this work is done at the personal expense of the BOG members, who serve without compensation or reimbursement, and while balancing their other responsibilities to their clients, their families, and their employers.
4. To protect the independence of our judiciary, we must preserve and maintain a mandatory Bar that is an arm of the Florida Supreme Court. In addition to regulating Florida lawyers to ensure that they practice law competently and ethically, the Bar helps shield the judicial branch from the constant onslaught against its status as a third and equal branch of government.
I have devoted hundreds of hours to the BOG and The Florida Bar and currently serve on several important committees:
• Disciplinary Review Committee
• Program Evaluation Committee
• Communications Committee
• Technology Committee, vice chair
• Florida Bar Foundation’s Technology Committee
Even before the BOG, I had an extensive history of serving The Florida Bar, local voluntary bars, and the community. As my record shows, I have a deep commitment to service:
• Chair, Florida Bar Judicial Administration & Evaluation Committee
• Chair, Florida Bar Grievance Committee
• Florida Bar Annual Convention Committee
• Florida Bar Federal Court Practice Committee
• Florida Bar Leadership Academy, Class I
• Executive Council, Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section
• Board of Directors, Broward County Bar Association
• Founding member and first president, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida
• Chair, Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida
• Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award
• Broward Lawyers Care, Attorney of the Year
In addition to serving my community, I am a strong advocate for helping lawyers be their best. I understand that lawyers need to have support to practice law, not only from a legal standpoint but also from a business one. I was a partner at a large law firm before I started my firm 15 years ago. My broad experience gives me a thorough understanding of the issues faced by lawyers, no matter where they work. I have been privileged to serve as a governor for the 17th Judicial Circuit and would be honored to continue as your representative.
17th Circuit, Seat 4
It is with gratitude and humility that I thank you for your vote of confidence in 2018. I have had the privilege of representing the 17th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors for the past two years.
Prior to being elected, I held several leadership roles at the local and regional levels, however, service on the Board of Governors has both enhanced and enriched my life. The board is challenged with significant issues facing our membership, and it has been rewarding to play a role in governance, policymaking, and ensuring that every member of The Florida Bar has access to the resources they need to be successful.
During my two years on the board I have been appointed to and served on the Disciplinary Review Committee, the Program Evaluation Committee, the Rules Committee, a JNC selection committee, and a JQC selection committee. On those committees, I had the opportunity to oversee and assure the fairness of attorney discipline, review existing committees and programs for effectiveness, as well as review and recommend candidates for JNC and JQC gubernatorial appointments. I have been the appointed liaison to the Public Interest Law Section, the Clients’ Security Fund Committee, and the Florida Registered Paralegal Committee, which work on legal and court access, and protecting the public. It has been a whirlwind term, but I have been committed to full participation and did my absolute best to represent the entire 17th Circuit.
In addition to my work on committees, I have also had the opportunity to represent the Bar’s leadership at many events including investitures, judicial receptions, voluntary bar events, CLE programs, luncheons, Broward County Bar events to name a few, all while maintaining a very busy solo family law practice. Most recently, I have also been appointed chair of the 17th Circuit Professionalism Panel.
I have a passion for service and manage my full schedule with strong and enduring support of family, co-workers, and colleagues and mentors on the board.
Thank you to all of the amazing attorneys in the 17th Circuit, and around the state who have contacted me with their thoughts, ideas, and concerns over the past two years. I have zealously represented your interests and would appreciate your continued support for another two-year term. I pledge that I will continue to listen to your concerns and suggestions and will do my very best to be your voice on the board. Thank you.
I’m grateful to be a Board of Governors’ candidate representing the 17th Judicial Circuit. I have been a South Florida lawyer for nearly 17 years focusing primarily on marital and family law and personal injury matters. I am amazingly privileged to be a practicing lawyer. I respectfully ask for your vote.
I am a straight-forward, “tell-it-like-it is” lawyer dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to the court system. I have served on the 17th Circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission, including as chair for the 2018-2019 term. Over my legal career, I have worked to improve the Bar by serving on The Florida Bar YLD Board of Governors from 2006-2010, while serving on The Florida Bar Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee (2009-2011). I was elected to the Board of Directors for the Dade County Bar Association from 2009-2013, where I was the Family Court Committee chair for most of my tenure. Since 2017, I’ve served as an NSU Ambassador, was the director of the National Association of Divorce Professionals (West Broward) from 2016-2018, served as the ABA Litigation Section, Solo/Small Firms’ Diversity Subcommittee chair from 2012-2014, and was president of the Wilkie Ferguson Bar from 2007-2008.
I support The Florida Bar’s ideals in regulating attorneys and ensuring the principals of professionalism and ethics and will focus my attention to assist the Board of Governors in the following areas:
• An Independent Judiciary: Ensuring judges are able to render decisions in conformity with the law without being influenced by the other branches of government, while also ensuring the judiciary can serve the citizenry of their circuits without deficiencies in budgets, staffing, or other resources.
• Mindfulness and Wellness: There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t take time for myself for some quiet time, family time, or ensuring I’m centered and okay. I understand many lawyers do not prioritize this over the practice of law, and it saddens me. I intend to get more resources for lawyers troubled by stress, anxiety, and psychological health issues. It is often a challenge to juggle the business affairs, family interactions, and other disputes of our clients in the professional arena and take care of ourselves without extraordinary levels of strain and anxiety, but that’s exactly what we are called to do as lawyers. We improve the judicial system when we improve ourselves mentally and psychologically.
• Diversity, Equality of Access, and Inclusion: I am a strong proponent for equal pay, promotion of women, people of color, and immigrants to the highest ranks of the law firm corporate structure, the stimulation of more women, people of color, and immigrants as managing partners, while giving more women a meaningful voice at executive levels in law firms. More work must be done to ensure that all the above-named groups have a fair prospect for success.
I would be forever indebted to you for your vote. I invite you to peruse my bio by visiting http://www.mckinnon-legal.com. I appreciate your support and I look forward to serving the lawyers of the 17th Circuit.