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Board to receive COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force update at October meeting

Senior Editor Top Stories

Board of Governors SealWhen it convenes October 23, the Board of Governors is scheduled to address a host of issues, most of them advancing the Bar’s ongoing and comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Dori Foster-Morales is poised to report her findings from a pandemic listening tour of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, a 58-day stretch of virtual town halls that concluded September 15.

Panel discussions with chief judges, regional board representatives, voluntary bar and community leaders left Foster-Morales confident that most Bar members have mastered the fundamentals of remote technology.

But the panel discussions, and data from anonymous surveys, suggests that adjusting to the “new normal” has been stressful and exhausting.

“The real problem is how do you balance your home and work life when they’re in the same place, and how do you have a life when you’re isolated in a pandemic,” Foster-Morales said.

The board will also review the latest status report from its COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force.

Chaired by President-elect Michael Tanner, the 13-member panel will use the town hall survey results to add to a series of projects and proposals designed to help members navigate the health crisis.

After completing a rapid redesign of the Bar’s COVID-19 Resource and Information webpage, the task force is studying, among other things, a Trial Lawyers Section white paper that recommends to the courts various methods for dealing with a backlog of cases when the pandemic subsides.

The paper suggests advocating for the increased use of senior judges, temporarily assigned county court judges, and the potential assignment of experienced lawyers to serve as “private trial resolution judges.”

The task force also is studying proposed rule amendments resulting from remote jury trial pilot programs in the 11th and Fourth judicial circuits.

In a related matter, board members will be asked to sign off on a series of bylaw amendments for the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section and the Tax Section.

Many of the changes would expand eligibility for affiliate membership, streamline governance, and eliminate in-person attendance requirements to accommodate greater use of remote technology.

In other business, board members will be asked to weigh:

• Final approval of proposed bylaw amendments for the Government Lawyers Section that would create standing committees on diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellness.

• On first reading, a Bar staff proposal to add a new subdivision to Bylaw 2-8.1 Establishment and Appointment of Committees (Court Appointment) that would add the Professional Ethics Committee and Standing Committee on Advertising as committees not subject to appointments under the rule. Requiring appointment by the Supreme Court would provide additional oversight by the Supreme Court to the ethics advice and advertising review programs, according to a staff analysis.

• On first reading, a Bar staff proposal adds a new subdivision to Bylaw 2-9.4 Ethics (Court Appointments) that the Supreme Court would appoint members of the Professional Ethics Committee. The proposal would also give the Supreme Court additional oversight of the ethics advice program, according to a staff analysis.

• On first reading, a Bar staff proposal to amend Rule 15-2.1 Membership and Terms (Court Appointments) stating that appointments are made by the Supreme Court with the advice of the Bar’s president or president-elect. According to the staff analysis, the change is also designed to bolster Supreme Court oversight of the ethics review program.

• On first reading, proposed changes to Standing Board Policy 1.40 Policy for Appointments and Procedure for Elections and Nominations by the Board of Governors. The proposed changes would add a new subdivision (e) addressing determination of residency in board appointments, and replacement of appointees who become ineligible if they relocate to a residence outside of the required area.

• On first reading, proposed amendments to Florida Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 3.2 Aggravation (Adding Failure to Complete Diversion per 3-5.3(k)).

• On first reading, a proposed lengthy rewrite of Chapter 6 Legal Specialization and Education Programs. Most of the proposed changes represent a consolidation to “assist in consistency across certification areas and [to] ensure that major changes affecting all certification areas are reviewed by the Supreme Court” rather than becoming final on action of the Board of Governors.

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