THE FLORIDA BAR
Daily News Summary
An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department and distributed to the Board of Governors, section and committee chairs, voluntary bar presidents, members of the judiciary and others.
JANUARY 11, 2017
Fort Myers News-Press | Article | January 10, 2017
Lee Clerk of Court and Comptroller Linda Doggett has been working with the Lee County Bar Association to find a way to provide basic legal advice to unrepresented people facing life-changing legal issues without the expense of retaining a lawyer for the whole match. Doggett, who is a state clerks association representative to the state Access to Civil Justice Commission, says her office is looking into helping create a "dollar-a-minute" advisory service for litigants without lawyers. Doggett says lawyers would participate as "low-cost consultants" rather than lawyers who take a fee up front for handling all aspects of a case. There are regulatory hurdles to cross first. The state Supreme Court basically limits services lawyers can offer on an "unbundled" basis. A Florida Bar proposal to "unbundle" advice in civil cases so lawyers could provide help with an aspect of a case was endorsed by a working group of the Commission on Access to Civil Justice. The proposal is pending before the state high court.
Civil Justice Issues
The Ledger | Editorial | January 10, 2017
"The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported on Tuesday [Jan. 10] that Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of residential foreclosure cases. The state recorded just shy of 48,500 completed foreclosure cases for the 12 months that ended in November. That was 12 percent of all foreclosures across the country. While Florida was tops among all states, the good news is that the volume of homeowners losing their properties is down dramatically. . . . . Tenth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Donald Jacobsen told The Ledger that caseload has dropped sufficiently to where it can be managed within the regular civil court docket. That's certainly a relief, but lawmakers, while correct to stop funding as the crisis has passed, may want to keep some money stashed away. . . . Judge Jacobsen said that the foreclosure caseload may rise as those homeowners 'redefault' on their loans. Because of efforts during the last meltdown, however, the court system is better prepared to deal with another wave, if it comes."
Civil Justice Issues
Tallahassee Democrat | Article | January 10, 2017
A panel of the First District Court of Appeal will have to decide whether local governments can side-step state gun laws by simply not voting to repeal long-standing ordinances declared invalid by the Legislature. The panel heard arguments stemming from a 2014 lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and Florida Open Carry against former Mayor John Marks, then city commissioner Andrew Gillum and current Commissioners Nancy Miller and Gil Ziffer. The issue arises from a February 2014 meeting when city commissioners tabled a vote on whether to repeal local gun laws barring the discharge of firearms in public parks and urban spaces of less than five acres. Gillum, who was elected Tallahassee mayor in 2014, said the Legislature overreached in its assertion that local governments don't have the right to serve their citizens uniquely.
Daily Business Review | Article | January 6, 2017
Joe Dewey, a partner with Holland & Knight, has found several ways to intertwine his deep knowledge of technology with a booming Miami real estate practice. Dewey is a coder, a skill that goes beyond representing commercial banks and closing real estate loans. He recently developed a program to help Holland & Knight's real estate lawyers keep track of post-closing items attached to a financing deal. The web-based program overhauls what is normally a time-consuming, manual process that can lead to legal troubles if done incorrectly. Dewey believes there is tremendous growth potential in the legal technology realm, and he's made sure his firm remains on the cutting edge.
Civil Justice Issues
The Ledger | Article | January 10, 2017
Two years after gay marriages became legal in Florida, the state has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over birth certificates issued to children born into same-sex marriages. Two married lesbian couples and the advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued the state in 2015 after health officials refused to include both parents' names on the documents. State Department of Health officials had contended they lacked the authority to change birth-certificate forms without lawmakers taking action, but the Legislature during its last session did not approve changes to the law to recognize that same-sex marriage is legal in Florida. Under the settlement, the state agreed to issue corrected birth certificates free of charge to the plaintiffs and to all same-sex couples who received incorrect documents. The state also pledged to apply the statute regarding birth certificates to all same-sex spouses.
Florida Politics | Article | January 10, 2017
Henry Brown, a man once sentenced to Death Row, on Tuesday [Jan. 10] spoke before the House committee considering the future of Florida's death penalty statute. Brown said he was sentenced to death in 1973 but released after he pleaded to second-degree murder in 1993, although he denied killing anyone. He urged committee members to consider making any changes to the sentencing guidelines retroactive beyond 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that juries must decide whether murderers deserve the death penalty. The issue is before the Legislature because in October, in a long-litigated case, the Florida Supreme Court voted to strike down Florida's death penalty law because it doesn't require a unanimous jury verdict to put someone to death.
Criminal Justice Issues
Florida Times-Union | Article | January 10, 2017
A Tuesday [Jan. 10] court filing for Kelly Mathis, the Jacksonville attorney previously convicted in the Allied Veterans of the World scandal, calls for the Florida Supreme Court to stand by an appellate ruling that throws out his racketeering conviction. The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach ruled in October that Kelly Mathis should receive a new trial after being convicted on 103 charges stemming from his work for Allied Veterans, which was shut down in 2013 for illegal gambling. Attorneys in the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are asking the state Supreme Court to reinstate Mathis' conviction and six-year prison sentence. Mathis' lawyers disagreed in Tuesday's filing and said the ruling should be upheld.
WFTS ABC Action News | Article | January 9, 2017
Tampa attorney James Lee Clark is under suspension after bank records show he spent nearly a million dollars of clients' money at casinos, gun stores and restaurants. Although Clark had been placed on probation by the Bar, he continued handling foreclosure cases but failed to diligently represent clients. The Florida Bar subpoenaed hundreds of pages of bank records, which appear to show Clark transferred money from his clients' trust accounts into his own bank account. The Florida Supreme Court issued an emergency suspension of Clark's law license, which went into effect last month.
Tampa Bay Times | Obituary | January 11, 2017
Cody Fowler Davis, an accomplished Tampa attorney, died of a heart attack Saturday [Jan. 7]. He was 57. Davis, whose family has deep roots in Tampa, built his reputation on his work practicing civil trial law for more than 30 years, family said. He was the namesake of his grandfather, Cody Fowler, a president of the American Bar Association who shocked colleagues by working alongside black activists during the civil rights movement. Davis perpetuated his grandfather's legacy with his own legal work, his family said.