October 1, 2022 Letters
Many thanks to the News for including the story, “Mystery Solved: Justice George W. Macrae Receives Florida Historical Society’s 2022 Golden Quill Award,” online and in the September issue.
The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society is very proud of this statewide recognition and our magazine, Historical Review.
The award-winning article was also published thanks to the editorial skills of Tallahassee lawyer Patsy Palmer who serves on our board of trustees and publications committee. Patsy interviewed author and Broward lawyer Ken Cutler and she assisted our editor and Jacksonville lawyer Melanie Kalmanson in finalizing the article for publication.
The society is also grateful for the work of Tallahassee photographers Alex Workman and Chelsea Workman, known as The Workmans, whose photos of the portrait accompanied the article and appeared on the cover of the Fall/Winter 2021 magazine.
I hope more Florida Bar members, Florida Registered Paralegals, and law students will join the important work of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society to preserve records of the people and events in the narrative of Florida’s court system. Please visit FlCourtHistory.org to learn more.
Scott. R. Rost
President, Florida Supreme Court
According to my good old-fashioned “hard copy” of The Florida Bar News (vol.49, no. 8 for August ’22), in just under one month, the third deadline extension for the Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases to respond to comments concerning its 450-page final report made to “speed the resolution of civil cases” will be upon us.
Given that current rules occupy only 175 pages of my present Rules book (Civ. P. 88; Gen. Prac. & Jud. Adm. 60; Small Clms. 8; and Mediators 19) and are already backed by decades of printed legal precedent (as opposed to “68 comments”), I cannot help but wonder if I am alone in seeing the irony?
More important, does anyone else believe that if we all just do our jobs under the current rules there is no need to “speed” or “improve resolution” of civil cases? What other two methods of “resolution” beyond SETTLEMENT or court-issued final JUDGEMENT/ORDER are even possible?
Don’t we all have to concede that the vagaries of human life pose more potential circumstances that will conspire to dictate when a case settles or can be tried to a jury than can be set out in a thousand pages of rules, or accommodated by an arbitrarily imposed timeline or calendar, and still serve the interest of justice for all? Anyway, that’s my comment.
Rule of Law
All Florida Bar members should be concerned about recent attacks on judges who are just doing their jobs. We are seeing not just verbal attacks, but threats to personal safety. The New York City Bar Association recently published a report that addresses these attacks on an independent judiciary.
Here is a condensed version of the executive summary:
Words matter and have consequences, particularly when spoken by lawyers and public leaders about contentious legal processes. In these circumstances, lawyers, in particular, have an important role to play in upholding, not undermining, the rule of law and the independence of the judicial system. And, in a highly charged environment, like the one we find ourselves in today, violence cannot be an unanticipated outcome when the words used are inflammatory, misleading, or reckless.
The execution of a search warrant by the FBI on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago complex unleashed an uproar with little precedent that quickly escalated to threats and acts of violence against federal law enforcement personnel and a federal judge. In the course of this controversy, lawyers and high public office holders have provided misleading and confusing statements and have expressed contempt for — and leveled thinly veiled threats against — law enforcement officers, a judge, and the entirety of the criminal justice system and those who administer it. Remarks have demonstrated an alarming acceptance of violence as a means of redress of perceived wrongs committed by law enforcement officers against the former president, and were quickly echoed and amplified, in both words and deeds, by those who would advocate violence as an acceptable response.
The New York City Bar Association (City Bar) calls on all members of the bar and political leaders to refrain from making knowingly false or misleading statements about the legal process or government institutions or officers executing the search warrant, to recognize the gravity and significance of the issues raised by this case, and to allow any legitimate legal issues to be heard and resolved in court. The City Bar also calls on Congress to urgently take up and debate in earnest The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act so that additional measures can be taken to protect the safety of our judges.
Attorneys are generally free to turn to public media to explain the legal position of their clients. They are free to note any substantive or procedural grievance their client has concerning the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges. They should not, however, make claims of wrongdoing against officers of the court for which they have no factual basis, or which they know to be incorrect.
Particularly when making public statements in a highly charged environment of public interest, attorneys should not characterize the judicial processes or judicial officers with comments they know to be demonstrably misleading or palpably false. If they do make statements that are later shown (or known) to be false or misleading, they should correct them at the earliest possible moment, taking care to ensure that the correction reaches the same audience as the original false or misleading statement.
The physical safety and integrity of judicial officers must be held sacrosanct. Attorneys confronted with advocacy of violence against judicial officers should not remain silent in the face of such arguments. They are bound by their oath to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, and that bears directly on threats of violence against judicial officers.
Scott N. Richardson
Chair, Florida State Committee of the
American College of Trial Lawyers