May 15, 2009 Letters
Felons Need Not Apply
I was truly surprised to learn that felons were forever barred from being teachers, masseurs, and on the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission on a wholesale basis for two reasons: I do believe in a second chance and the concept of rehabilitation; and, the broad ban does not necessarily relate to any aspect of the qualifications for those particular vocations.
I understood when I was admitted to practice law in Florida that The Florida Board of Bar Examiners was particularly interested in past conduct which evidenced a lack of moral turpitude. It has always seemed to me to be a sensible approach and I would be against changing it. I would also oppose any action to prevent the Bar from using its sound discretion to reinstate a disbarred lawyer if the circumstances warranted. I haven’t heard that The Florida Bar has abused this discretion.
Whatever the other professions have adopted to police their own is of no relevance or concern to me.
Michael J. Ryan
North Palm Beach
I do not disagree that someone who has been disbarred should not have another bite of the apple. But I can’t help wondering whether members of the Board of Bar Examiners Character and Fitness Commission have any personal knowledge of the felons they seek to disqualify or the societal impact for marginalizing them for the label alone.
Florida incarcerates its citizens at a rate much higher than most other states (as in other states, most for drug-related offenses). And you can be a convicted felon by theft of a fire extinguisher or a stop sign, and giving a friend one of your Tylenol with codeine pills. We cannot assume that our law school instruction — that crimes required a criminal mens rae and, therefore, felons by definition are bad people — is true in real life.
Furthermore, we have a huge number of Floridians, disproportionately black and Hispanic, who cannot pay bail and are warned by their defense counsel (and others familiar with the system) that they will probably be convicted even if they didn’t commit the crime of which they are charged, and that they may get a harsher penalty if they insist on a trial, which makes accepting a plea the fastest way to get back to their families. In addition, defense counsel is often insufficiently compensated to prepare an adequate defense. We have a system in which the “felon” label may not mean that the person is of poor character, and even if they once were, may no longer be.
The commission apparently thought that the fact that felons couldn’t hold a number of other licenses justified saying they couldn’t be lawyers either. But since when does the Bar discard its forward-thinking policies to endorse the less-than-farsighted views of those who think that felons ought to be barred from other licensed occupations? (Florida is among the most restrictive states on licensing, and you can make a good argument that most of the exclusions are arbitrary and capricious, if only ex-felons had the resources to get training and then challenge it.) If excluding people simply because they acquire the felon label weren’t unsupportable because it leaves taxpayers to support felons’ children and deprives the state of their productive work, it is certainly unsupportable because it has disparate impact on people of color, and people whose substance abuse problems may well be related to disabilities.
The Bar does not have to worry about being overrun by felon applicants. And we need attorneys who know the system and can relate to the poorest and most disenfranchised among us. Being a felon by itself should not preclude those who redeem their lives and are, therefore, no more likely to inappropriately advise their clients than someone without the label.
I don’t know whether anyone on the commission made the above arguments. But I urge the commission and Board of Bar Examiners to rethink this position.
Rosemary N. Palmer
When I took the Florida bar exam 50 years ago, it consisted of 36 essay questions and was an effective way to determine whether an applicant had an appropriate knowledge of the law to warrant admission to the Bar.
Now the watered-down testing of multiple choice questioning and one or two essays has permitted a watering down of the quality of lawyering in our state. Nothing in the practice is multiple choice.
I was once criticized for the size of the lettering on my office window. Now attorneys advertise on television and in the newspapers. Highway signs abound hawking the availability of legal services, some litigate for more latitude in self-laudation. Newly admitted attorneys, now instant experts in what the Bar needs, argue for more lawyers, let the market sort it out, standards be damned.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s past time for the Board of Governors and the Board of Bar Examiners to rethink the direction in which our profession is heading. I’m sure it’s much easier to examine the answers to 100 multiple choice questions than evaluate 36 essays, but are the interests of the community really served?
Sadly, I note that despite the lowering of our testing standards a large percentage of graduates of Florida law schools cannot pass the test. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s time for the bar and our law schools to get back to basics, stop wasting time on trendy new approaches to the study of law, and start requiring legal scholarship as the standard for graduating and admission to the practice.
Gay Adoption Amicus
I oppose laws or regulations that limit the ability of homosexuals to adopt children merely because of their sexual orientation. In my view, the sooner such laws and regulations are repealed or overturned, the more quickly our society will achieve a more perfect union.
Nevertheless, I also oppose the use of mandatory Bar dues to support lobbying or amicus briefs on either side of this or other issues. Attorneys who wish to promote this issue should form private bar associations having no affiliation with The Florida Bar and use such private associations as their vehicles for promoting their views.
Over the past 15 or more years, I have written to The Florida Bar each year or so insisting that no portion of my mandatory Bar dues be used for legislative lobbying or amicus brief filings. I have also insisted that when my mandatory dues are used against my will for amicus briefs, the Bar notify the courts that I oppose that use of my mandatory dues. The Bar has consistently rejected my entreaties.
David P. Frankel
Foster children are Florida’s weakest and most vulnerable children and are least capable of shouldering the burdens of justifying adult homosexual choices.
Foster children face challenges in establishing trust and stability and do not understand being bounced to successive temporary homes in bureaucratic systems where state governments petition courts to sever parent-child relationships. Aged-out foster children continue fighting intergenerational crises that brought them to foster care. Some feel lied to and tricked by the Department of Children and Families and courts when told that family ties are dangerous and neglectful. Some accept abusive parenting and disappointment this system offers. Tragically, young and confused minds are shown distortions or half-truths about true love and sexuality. Some lack healthy baselines of sexual identity because of such lies. Hurt children are least able to develop healthy sexual identities in this abyss of confusion.
Trusting children migrate toward adults promising attention, money, and privileges. To initiate sexual conquests, child victims are tricked to believe that they need a false mentor. Predators find most children easy marks. Ultimately, nothing is as repulsive and emasculating to adolescent boys as being recruited for gay sex. Male rape is the least reported violent crime. It is most troubling that some of these events occur in so-called straight communities, but this never supports homosexual adoption.
Holding vulnerable foster children like human shields to support homosexual adult social-engineering agendas is reprehensible. The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section and its amicus curiae appellate filings seek to endanger fatherless children for its own political ends and nothing more.
George L. Metcalfe