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Professionalism enforcement program in place for S. Florida

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Professionalism enforcement program in place for S. Florida

A recent administrative order entered by 11th Circuit Chief Judge Bertila Soto adds the final puzzle piece to the South Florida bar community’s goal of creating an enforcement mechanism to promote improved lawyer professionalism and civility.

In compliance with a June 2013 order of the Supreme Court, the four major South Florida judicial circuits, the 11th, 17th, 15th, and 19th, all have now implemented circuit-specific “Professionalism Panels” to hear grievances against lawyers whose actions violate accepted standards of professionalism and civility. The four circuits cover Broward, Indian River, Palm Beach, Okeechobee, Martin, Miami-Dade, and St. Lucie counties.

“The professionalism panels are designed to educate attorneys whose behavior, although perhaps not subject to formal discipline under The Florida Bar’s grievance system, does not comply with the standards of professionalism and civility expected among members of the Bar,” said Adam Rabin, immediate past president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and co-chair of the South Florida “Got Civility?” project.

Michael Mopsick, the co-chair of the Professionalism Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar, added, “As a result of the Supreme Court’s mandate, holding lawyers accountable to accepted standards of professionalism and civility can now be enforced uniformly throughout South Florida.”

Represented by leaders of 43 voluntary bar associations and eight chief judges in South Florida’s federal and state trial and appellate courts, the project has been promoting lawyer civility and a more consistent following of the standards of professional courtesy.

Anna Marie Hernandez, treasurer of the Cuban American Bar Association and co-chair of the project, noted: “The four circuits’ administrative orders collectively create a huge boost to our South Florida campaign for real and effective enforcement of lawyer civility.”

Mary Leslie Smith, president of the Dade County Bar Association, commented: “The 11th Judicial Circuit’s administrative order is the result of careful study and thoughtful collaboration of bar leaders and the judiciary. We expect it to be groundbreaking in raising the bar of what is expected in the way that lawyers treat others, members of the court, and courthouse staff.”

Andrea Gundersen, a past chair Broward County Bar Association’s Professionalism Committee, was equally optimistic about the 17th Judicial Circuit’s administrative order. She commented: “This has been a long time coming in Broward County, and I am grateful that the Florida Supreme Court gave us the final spark to create an enforcement mechanism to deal with lawyers’ unprofessional conduct at the circuit level.”

Martin County Bar Association President George W. Bush, Jr., said: “The 19th Judicial Circuit typically sees fewer professionalism complaints than its sister counties to the south, presumably because it has fewer lawyers who often know and treat each other better. Even so, it is important for the 19th Circuit to have an enforcement procedure in place that aligns itself with the other circuits so that lawyers throughout South Florida are all held to the same standards.”

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