November 1, 2019 Letters
I read Mr. Greene’s letter, published in the September issue of the News, with great disappointment. The letter critiques the emphasis placed on diversity in Gov. DeSantis’ judicial appointments as “political correctness,” implicitly calling into question the appointees’ qualifications to serve on the bench. This thinking is, hopefully, an increasing rarity in our profession. Unfortunately, his letter reminds us that it still exists.
I applaud Gov. DeSantis for his efforts to focus on diversity. The second page of the Florida Supreme Court Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity’s Best Practice Guide contains the relevant insight of retired Justice James E.C. Perry: “Justice without diversity can never be perceived as just.” These words of wisdom apply specifically to judges as the arbiters of justice. The bench should reflect the communities over which they preside. Gov. DeSantis’ focus on diversity is a step in the right direction and commendable.
Diversity within the legal profession is increasing. Women now outnumber men enrolled at Florida law schools. Increased diversity in the legal profession is good news. It means the JNCs and the governor will have increased opportunities to consider well-qualified, diverse candidates for the bench. Focusing on diversity is not about choosing candidates solely because they are diverse. Instead, a focus on diversity means proactively ensuring we consider qualified diverse candidates for the bench, and we encourage those candidates to apply.
Gov. DeSantis and his legal staff actively reached out to minority bar associations in making his appointments. He has sent a clear message to the Florida legal community; qualified diverse lawyers should apply, regardless of political affiliation. Mr. Greene attacks the consideration of diversity in judicial appointments and thereby implies that diversity is the reason these judges were appointed. Mr. Greene is wrong to assume that these judges were appointed to the bench solely because they are “diverse.” He diminishes these judges’ accomplishments and ignores that they are well qualified.
Instead of lobbing baseless criticism, I would encourage people to dive into the qualifications of the recent appointees. They will find the appointees, in addition to being diverse, are all extremely qualified. For instance, earlier this year, Gov. DeSantis appointed Justice Barbara Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. Justice Lagoa’s qualifications are impeccable. She has served on the appellate bench since 2006 and is an Ivy League graduate. Gov. DeSantis also appointed Justice Robert Luck, the first Jewish appointee in two decades. Mere months later, the president of the United States nominated both Justice Lagoa and Justice Luck to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. These appointments received praise, not just because they were diverse, but because lawyers appreciate well-qualified, intelligent, humble judges who apply the law without agenda.
Should others believe any candidate for the bench is not qualified, they should research the candidate’s qualifications and provide their concerns to the applicable JNC or the Governor’s Office. However, casting doubt on candidates because they are lauded for their diverse backgrounds is injudicious.
There must be a focus on diversity, because justice demands that we do not select the most qualified candidates on paper, but the candidates most qualified for the communities they serve.
Look, folks, it’s really simple. All we have to do is look at the masthead of the News. Please note the scales of justice. Thus, if that scale falls in each instance in favor of all (or none) of the governor’s appointees being left-handed Methodists, as is widely and often said by us lawyers, then “so be it” and “let the chips fall where they may.”
Meanwhile, I do, however, sense that the governor is plying the overall electorate for possible future and greater political campaigns, with his braggadocio about his appointees’ personal (but possibly not jurisprudential) characteristics, and I would “seriously” remind him and the rest of us that the aforementioned scales of justice (which in other depictions bears a complete blindfold) does not have a place for any of that.
Young Harris, GA
I wanted to briefly comment on attorney advertisements.
Over the years our members have gotten very aggressive and I believe to the detriment of ourselves and the public:
• Advertising that attorney X got me $500,000 is misleading. What attorney X did was to settle your case for $500,000, but most likely you only got 50 – 60% of that;
• Saying in ads that you should sign with us because the other attorney may need the money more than you is, in my opinion, very unprofessional;
• Saying we settle for millions every week — while perhaps true, these statements make other lawyers look bad by comparison — and suggests they aren’t as good;
• Having constant and unlimited billboards and radio ads makes us look like unprofessional sales people and puts unfair pressure on other attorneys with fewer resources;
• Constant advertisements may psychologically limit client choice;
• Constantly advertising large settlement amounts tends to pre-condition potential jurors;
• If we think this is somehow remedied by the jury instructions, then you’ve never been on a jury.
Hopefully, I’m not the only one who is embarrassed by the Bar’s current standards.