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Board of Governors has a full plate for its May 20 meeting

Senior Editor Top Stories

Board of Governors SealAt a May 20 meeting in Tampa, the Board of Governors expects to weigh various proposed rule amendments, special appointments, and much-anticipated recommendations for implementing President Michael Tanner’s major priorities.

After toiling for nearly a year, the 20-member Special Committee for the Review of Professionalism in Florida expects to present its final recommendations, many of which would require Supreme Court approval.

Co-Chairs Gary Lesser and Elizabeth Hunter said recently that the 20-member panel’s “deliverables” will include a proposed Supreme Court Administrative Order that would establish a revised and updated “Code for Resolving Professionalism Referrals.”

“This revised code establishes [more uniform] local professionalism panels (LLPs) in each judicial circuit that will receive, screen, and act on complaints of unprofessional conduct; and address those complaints informally, if possible,” said Lesser, who is president-elect and will succeed Tanner in June.

Lesser stressed that the panels are for professionalism issues and the process would not replace the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct or the formal disciplinary process for more serious lawyer misconduct.

The special committee also expects to propose increasing to 3 hours the number of professionalism CLE credits lawyers must earn every three-year reporting cycle.

If approved, a Florida Bar member’s overall continuing legal education credit requirement for a three-year cycle would increase from 33 to 35 hours, still less than the annual CLE requirement of many other state bars, Lesser said.

At least one of the three hours would be a Florida Bar-produced CLE centering on the mechanics of professionalism, and the local professionalism panels.

“Education is an important component, so that attorneys are aware of what the professionalism standards are and how they are enforced,” Hunter said.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force expects to present its recommendations for implementing another Tanner priority — a statewide, automated platform for resolving civil disputes.

Co-Chaired by Sia Baker-Barnes and Jay Kim, the task force has reviewed systems from around the world and across the nation, as well as platforms that are operational or have been piloted in Florida judicial circuits.

Matterhorn and rival Tyler Technologies demonstrated their respective systems to the Board of Governors at a virtual board meeting in March.

The task force’s recommendations aren’t final, but at a recent meeting, panel members discussed the advantages of Matterhorn’s “Turbo Court.”

A Matterhorn system in the 11th Judicial Circuit is integrated with the E-Filing Portal, and received good reviews from court administrators, the task force learned.

“If we’re going to have a statewide system, it’s going to have to be integrated” with the E-Filing Portal, Baker-Barnes said.

If the Board of Governors approves the task force’s recommendations, they will be forwarded to the Florida Courts Technology Commission, a Supreme Court entity, for further review.

In other business, the board is scheduled to receive a report from the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section’s “Condominium Law and Policy on Life Safety Issues Advisory Task Force.”

Chaired by Miami attorney William Sklar, the panel was formed in the wake of the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South Condominium that claimed the lives of 98 Surfside residents.

An outgrowth of the Condominium and Planned Development Committee, the panel proposed a series of reforms, some of which were incorporated in various bills that were filed in the January regular legislative session. While the committee did not advocate for specific legislation, it was formed as a resource for policymakers.

Lawmakers were poised to approve a measure that would have required regular safety inspections of high-rise residential structures, but the measure failed when lawmakers were forced into overtime to complete negotiations on a $112.1 billion proposed budget.

In other business, the board of governors is expected to:

  • Elect members to the Executive Committee.
  • Consider the permissibility of two proposed TV ads by personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan that feature testimonials by a former client who is also a former NBA player.
  • Review a proposed amendment to Rule 20-5.1 (Generally) that would add a character and fitness evaluation to the application and reapplication process in the Florida Registered Paralegal Program.
  • Make a series of appointments and nominations, including lawyer nominees, to fill vacancies on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
  • Begin a review of all Florida Bar legislative positions for the 2020-2022 biennium, including those of committees, sections, and divisions, which under Standing Board Policy 9.20 (e), will sunset in July.

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