Annual reports of committees of The Florida Bar.
The Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee had a busy 2009-10 year. The committee worked extensively to revamp the board certification test. Additionally, the committee modified and reworked the description of the test and the exam specifications handbook. Additional tasks were taken on by Vice Chair Michael McLeod for the exam and handbook.
Several members of the committee attended The Florida Bar Leadership Conference last November. Committee member Ford Fegert spoke at one leadership conference on various issues. The smaller board certification committees held a spirited debate about their vital importance to The Florida Bar and the public at large.
The committee also commenced a grass roots campaign to solicit highly qualified admiralty attorneys in the state to obtain board certification. Currently, there are 54 attorneys certified in admiralty and maritime law. The committee laid out a long-term program to increase membership to 100 members and board certification from 10 percent to 20 percent per year for the next five years. One of the ways in which the committee hopes to accomplish this task is by setting up an information kiosk at the annual Southeast Admiralty Law Institute Seminar to promote board certification in Florida and to solicit more applicants.
In step with The Florida Bar, the committee decided to save time and money by meeting both electronically and via telephone conference, thus further reducing the committee's administrative and financial costs to The Florida Bar and resulting in a more efficient committee participation and activity. As committee chair, I wish to extend my gratitude to all the committee members and The Florida Bar staff, including Jennifer Wilson, who worked extremely hard this year to bolster the quality assurance of the board certification exam and application process.
MATTHEW J. VALCOURT, Chair
The Florida Bar's Admiralty Law Committee continued its valued presentation of CLE offerings during Florida Bar meetings. The committee had been developing an update to the Admiralty Law Practice Manual. As a result of the changes in the Bar's publication department, we have repurposed our practice manual to become a digital document. The committee is presently investigating all avenues of electronic distribution. Joanne Mary Foster is chairing this committee.
The Admiralty Law Committee successfully provided teleconferencing to persons interested in attending our CLE courses during its January meeting. Given the positive feedback, the committee intends to continue providing teleconferencing services to allow more Bar members the opportunity to attend meetings and exchange practice information.
Work is underway and continues for the biennial Admiralty Law Committee Practice and Procedure CLE. The course is scheduled for fall of 2010. Steven Moon is chair of this CLE committee.
Presently, the committee is working with the Federal Court Practice Committee toward an admiralty presentation during the federal judicial conference in 2011. This is part of the committee's effort to educate the Bar at large as to the nuances of admiralty practice.
DEMETRIOS C. KIRKILES, Chair
Adoption Law Certification
The Adoption Law Certification Committee has the responsibility for certifying attorneys whose practice of law deals with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoption placements, including civil controversies arising from the termination of the biological parent's parental rights and interstate placements. Adoption law certification was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009. Shortly thereafter, a nine-member committee was appointed. Its first charge was to establish, publish, and implement the policies and mechanisms which will enable the first group of adoption attorneys to become certified in June 2011.
For lawyers who have practiced adoption law for many years, certification serves as the ultimate goal to fulfill a need to identify adoption experts. It particularly benefits adoptive parents and birth mothers because it will assist them in finding these qualified lawyers. In the last decade, Florida adoption laws have been modified almost every year. What was a simple form-based process now requires an experienced adoption attorney's intuitive approach in applying the complicated statutory framework. Certifying adoption attorneys allows the consumer to identify such an attorney quickly and easily.
Since its formation in late 2009, the committee has already met five times in person and via conference call. To effectuate immediate progress, shortly after formation, the committee divided into three subcommittees as follows:
* Application Subcommittee--This subcommittee, chaired by Madonna Finney, was charged with the primary responsibility for drafting, revising, and finalizing the Adoption Law Certification Committee application. This task was completed and published on schedule.
* Policies Subcommittee--This subcommittee, chaired by Susan Stockham, was charged with the responsibility of drafting, revising, and finalizing the Adoption Law Certification Committee policies. This task was completed and published on schedule.
* Exam Specifications Subcommittee--Chaired by Amy Hickman, this subcommittee drafted, revised, and finalized the adoption law certification examination specifications. This task was completed and published on schedule.
The entire committee will now work together in preparation of the first examination in March 2011. During the committee's most recent conference call, the chair of a fellow certification committee provided great insight concerning many aspects of the certification examination. He emphasized that board certification was a mark of excellence. Further, he noted that adoption certification should require a comprehensive knowledge of all of the various, differing facets of the practice, as they are often inextricably intertwined.
Working as part of the inaugural certification committee requires a level of unparalleled commitment by all committee members. Each committee member devotes countless hours to ensure that all aspects of the process are completed in an expert fashion. Nevertheless, the key to the success of our campaign has been the wisdom, insight, and expertise provided by our excellent Bar staff liaison, Stacey Piland. We appreciate Stacey and thank her for all of her support!
MICHAEL A. SHORSTEIN, Chair
The Standing Committee on Advertising is responsible for advising members of The Florida Bar on permissible advertising and marketing practices. The committee, which generally meets monthly, reviews appeals of opinions issued by staff counsel, offers guidance to staff in evaluating lawyer advertisements, makes recommendations regarding rule changes, and provides guidance to Florida Bar members concerning both the substantive and procedural requirements of the advertising rules.
The committee advises Bar members on the substance of the advertising rules through a variety of different methods. An in-depth analysis of the filing requirements, substantive regulations, and committee interpretations is provided by the committee's Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, which is regularly updated by Bar staff and is posted on the Bar's website for easy access by Bar members. The handbook is currently available on the website and reflects important changes that have occurred. The Handbook and other information addressed in this report are available at www.floridabar.org under "Lawyer Regulation" then "Advertising Rules."
The Standing Committee on Advertising had an extremely busy year in 2009. Significantly, the standing committee developed guidelines to address lawyer advertising using social media and the Internet. Additionally, the standing committee approved an advisory opinion concerning when lawyers can use the title "judge" when advertising their services.
* Social Media Guidelines--This year, the committee adopted guidelines for social networking and video sharing sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. The guidelines treat social networking and video sharing sites similarly to websites in that they are subject to Rule 4-7.2 but are not required to be filed for review. Also, lawyers would not be responsible for other parties' postings to lawyers' profiles on social networking sites unless the lawyer prompts the posting or uses the other party to circumvent the lawyer advertising rules. Invitations to a third party to view or link to a lawyer's page would be considered in-person solicitation unless the third party is the lawyer's current client, former client, relative, or another lawyer. Finally, banner ads that may be seen on the social networking and video sharing sites must be filed for review.
* Website Guidelines--On November 19, 2009, the Supreme Court of Florida amended rules on websites. In response to the court's action, the committee formulated and adopted guidelines for lawyer websites.
According to the guidelines, lawyers can have past results and testimonials on their websites if the information appears on a page that is accessible solely through a disclaimer page that clearly indicates what information will be viewed, whether all results or client testimonials are provided, that the results or testimonials are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the lawyer or all clients' experience with the lawyer, and that a prospective client's individual facts, that the circumstances may differ from the matter(s) in which the results or testimonial are provided, and that the information is not regulated by The Florida Bar.
On the disclaimer page, the viewer would have to accept or acknowledge receipt of the information before being given access to pages with information including past results and testimonials. Contact form pages should not be required for the viewer to access the information. Lawyers can set up the section of the website dealing with information on request as a disclaimer page, a pop-up, or any other technological mechanism, and the option chosen would be up to each individual law firm, as long as the guidelines were followed. The information would be considered upon request only if the lawyer sets the website up to block the website area from containing past results and testimonials from viewers who have not submitted acknowledgement of viewing the disclaimer page, and the testimonials and/or past results would only be shown upon submission of the acknowledgment after viewing the disclaimer page. Effective July 1, 2010, websites will be subject to all the substantive lawyer advertising regulations found in Rule 4-7.2, although they will remain exempt from the filing requirement.
* Using "Judge"--The committee's time was not solely devoted to developing guidelines for social media and lawyer websites. The committee also addressed the use of the title "judge" by former and retired judges in Proposed Advertising Advisory Opinion A-09-1. The proposed advertising advisory opinion concludes that a former or retired judge may not use the term "judge" preceding his or her name whether or not the modifiers "retired" or "former" are used but may provide accurate and truthful information about their prior judicial experience. Proposed Advertising Advisory Opinion A-09-1 has been published for comment.
* Other Accomplishments--By far the most time consuming task of the committee this year, as in past years, has been reviewing advertisements filed by members of The Florida Bar to determine whether they comply with the advertising rules. The committee reviews decisions of its staff regarding lawyer advertisements if the staff's interpretation of a particular rule or advertisement is appealed by an advertising attorney. Advertisers can appeal decisions of the committee to the Board of Governors if they wish to do so. The committee also provides guidance to its staff and advertisers, pursuant to requests for guidance, in order to foster compliance with the rules and to permit advertisers to accomplish their legitimate advertising goals. The committee works hard to apply the advertising rules fairly to all types of advertisements and to balance the rights of advertisers with the needs and concerns of the public.
The committee, through its staff, continues to publish a column in The Florida Bar News from time to time entitled Advertising Updates. Articles have been published explaining the most recent revisions to the advertising rules and providing information regarding recent opinions of the Board of Governors and the committee regarding advertising. The committee further updates the Bar's website with new material and information when needed in order to provide Bar members with as much information as possible to assist them in compliance with the attorney advertising rules.
* Effective Date of Rule Amendments--On February 1, 2010, amendments to Rules 4-7.2, 4-7.4, 4-7.5, 4-7.7, and 4-7.10 previously proposed by the committee became effective. Amendments to Rule 4-7.6 will become effective July 1. 2010. All other amendments became effective February 1, 2010. The most significant amendments were adopting prohibitions against the use of celebrities and the use of misleading or manipulative sounds that are applicable to all advertising media, as well as extending the prefiling requirement for television and radio advertisements from 15 days to 20 days before the first planned airing of the advertisements.
* Composition of the Committee and Florida Bar Staff--The Standing Committee on Advertising is made up of nonlawyers as well as lawyers. We believe that this has contributed substantially to our work and our broad perspective on advertising and marketing. I would like to thank each of our committee members: Gary Shepard Lesser, Ray Casas, Michael John Faehner, Rene Gorman, Halley B. Lewis III, and Michael E. Seminario.
Finally, the committee thanks our board liaison, Charles Chobee Ebbets, DEUP Division Director Mary Ellen Bateman, and our hardworking staff: Assistant Ethics Counsels Kathleen M. Bishop, Cynthia E. Booth, Joy A. Bruner, Huy-Yen T. Cam, Gail E. Ferguson, Jeffrey M. Hazen, LiliJean Quintiliani, and Joe Thompson, Legal Assistant Donna Hostutler, Administrative Secretary II Pamela Brown, Administrative Secretaries Monica Cuyler and Caleb Ramos, and Program Assistant R. Bryan Arnette, headed by Ethics Counsel, Elizabeth Clark Tarbert. Without the participation, guidance, experience, and hard work of these individuals, the business of this committee could not be accomplished.
ADAM P. SCHWARTZ, Chair
Antitrust and Trade Regulation Certification
"Antitrust law" covers the practice of law dealing with anticompetitive conduct or structure that may reduce consumer welfare in the United States. "Trade regulation law" covers the substantive area of law dealing with deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair methods of competition under the Federal Trade Commission Act and Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Throughout the year, the Antitrust and Trade Regulation Certification Committee met by conference call and electronically to revise proposed rule amendments and discuss ways in which to promote certification in order to increase the number of antitrust and trade regulation lawyers. In addition, the committee prepared a certification examination, reviewed the candidate's answers to the examination, and considered an application for recertification.
I thank my hardworking committee members Vice Chair Jerome Hoffman, William Blechman, David Knight, Lizabeth Leeds, Robert Palmer, Donald Schmidt, and Sylvia Walbolt. On behalf the committee, I also thank Suzanne Dunn for her excellent and invaluable support.
ROBERT CIOTTI, Chair
Appellate Court Rules Committee
In 2009, under the leadership of then-Chair John Mills, the Appellate Court Rules Committee (ACRC) began to modernize its approach to pending matters by instituting a web-based repository for all referrals to the committee. Continually updated, the repository's purpose is to keep all members informed of pending matters while eliminating wasteful paper copies and postal fees. In addition, the ACRC recently changed the format of its agenda from a paper-intensive compilation of all materials relied on by its subcommittees, to an index of final reports from those committees with links to complete documentation online. The changes have resulted in greater efficiency and reduced the committee's paper use by more than 50 percent. Many thanks to our Florida Bar liaison, Krys Godwin, for her invaluable assistance in these efforts.
The ACRC continues its efforts to improve coordination and cooperation with other rules committees. In 2009-10, the joint committee of representatives from each procedural area coordinated efforts to produce uniform rules for sealed records and for electronic service of court documents. Continuing its modernization theme, and in coordination with the joint committee, the ACRC, thus, addressed the transition to electronic service of court documents. Included in the extensive discussion were concerns regarding generational differences in the use of technology, document size and format, server limitations, and delivery failures due to crashes or other technological issues. The ACRC ultimately approved the essence of proposed Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516, which would impose and standardize e-service requirements. The ACRC also voted to amend Fla. R. App. P. 9.420 in order to synchronize the Appellate Court Rules with the anticipated Rule 2.516. Special thanks to Joint Committee Chair Sandy Solomon and Joint Committee Liaison Paul Regensdorf --two ACRC members whose tireless efforts on this and other issues are greatly appreciated.
In response to a report that the Miami-Dade clerk's office had instituted a policy requiring parties to appellate proceedings to pay $1 per page before copies of orders or opinions would be mailed, the ACRC considered the matter on an urgent basis and concluded that the intersection of the Rules of Judicial Administration, the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Appellate Court Rules had left a gap that inadvertently allowed such a policy. In response, the ACRC is proposing a rule mandating transmittal of such orders without any prepayment requirement.
In a related matter, the ACRC reviewed its internal operating procedures for addressing emergency proposals and clarified when those procedures would be triggered and how they would apply to expedite consideration of changes to the rules. The committee voted to eliminate obstacles that might prevent a rapid response and grant the chair broad discretion to address those situations.
Finally, special recognition goes to ACRC all-purpose player Jamie Moses --who not only serves as vice chair of the ACRC, but also chairs both the General Subcommittee and the Orientation Subcommittee.
JOHN GRANCILLE CRABTREE, Chair
Appellate Practice Certification
This year was a busy one for the committee because 2009-10 was the first year in which three classes of certified attorneys were due to be recertified. These "classes" were: 1994 (the first--and largest--certification class), 1999, and 2004. Of the 55 certified attorneys eligible for recertification, 46 submitted recertification applications. In addition, 15 applicants were approved for the certification examination on March 12, 2010. Thus, all told, the committee reviewed approximately 60 applications.
In addition to carefully reviewing applications to ensure that each applicant met the substantial involvement criteria, the committee obtained from attorneys and judges peer reviews for each applicant. These reviews were then used to evaluate the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. Concurrently with the application review process, the committee drafted, reviewed, and revised the 2010 certification examination. Through the examination, applicants are given the opportunity to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge, proficiency, and experience to represent to the public, and other attorneys, that they have special competence in the area of appellate practice and procedure. As of the date this report was submitted, the 2010 examinations had not yet been graded. Excluding the additional number who will be certified by the time this report is published, there are currently 161 Florida attorneys certified in appellate practice.
It has been a pleasure to serve as chair of this hard-working and enthusiastic committee. Special thanks go to Vice Chair Roy Wasson and Betty Wheeler, immediate past chair. No report would be complete without a heartfelt thanks to our certification specialist and staff liaison, Carol Vaught. On behalf of all of our dedicated and knowledgeable committee members, I thank her for her invaluable guidance throughout this especially busy year.
LUCINDA A. HOFMANN, Chair
Members of the Aviation Law Committee have dealt with a number of continuing issues, as well as new challenges related to providing legal representation for their aviation clients. During the past year the membership has continued to face challenges related to protecting airmen's rights against enforcement actions brought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The range and diversity of these continuing challenges have dealt with the lack of consistent FAA administrative procedures, inconsistent rule interpretation, and what on its face appears to be overreaching legal authority related to actions against airmen. New challenges, as a result of fear against terrorist activity, have seen the membership protecting airmen's rights when charged with violating Transportation Security Administration regulations. This has manifested itself in defending an airmen's basic right to access to their own aircraft or their attempt to leave an airport associated with landing at the airport late at night.
On a national level, as technology continues to advance, the aviation legal community will have new opportunities to affect aviation law and policy. Changing technology related to unmanned aerial systems, commercial space tourism, and free flight in conjunction with global positioning satellite navigation are the major areas of opportunity. Corollary areas include the use of bio fuels for aircraft and making airports environmentally friendly in relation to "green" planet initiatives. It will be the foresight and expertise of our members who will provide the legal expertise necessary to address the challenges brought on by such advanced technologies.
Our new year began in conjunction with the Bar's annual convention in June. At this meeting the committee presented the first Eilon KrugmanKadi Embry-Riddle Memorial Scholarship. Committee Chair Harry Lee Coe IV, Jerry Trachtman, and I hosted a lunch with Eilon's long-time companion, Lynda McMullen-Boyce and their five-year-old daughter Hana McMullen-Kadi, along with scholarship recipient Jeffry Alvarado. At the meeting, the committee made the official $500 scholarship award. As reported in the June 2009 edition of The Florida Bar Journal, the scholarship presentation was the culmination of the financial contributions made by the committee members to endow the scholarship in Eilon's honor.
The June meeting also featured presentations by Charles Morgenstein and Ed Booth. Charles' topic, "FAA Use/Abuse of Determining Emergency Revocation Power," was a historical and chronological overview of the applicable legislation associated with aviation including the inception of the FAA. He then expounded on how the FAA has systematically expanded its influence and regulatory authority. Ed Booth discussed "Defending Cases Against Contract Control Towers," a comprehensive look at the procedural requirements from the inception of a lawsuit to conclusion. He also included the history of the contract tower program and included current statistics pertaining to the number of existing tower facilities.
In September we had a "change of venue" as, instead of having our meeting in Tampa, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) was our host. ERAU is located on the east end of the Daytona Beach International Airport. As an ERAU professor, I arranged for those committee members who are also pilots to fly in and park their airplanes on the Riddle ramp. Prior to the meeting the university hosted a walking tour of the College of Aviation Building, the Simulator Building, and the Flight Line--the perks of being an aviator and aviation attorney!
The first item on the agenda was Vice Chair Dan Anderson's preview of the homepage for the committee's new website. In December Dan's hard work came to fruition and can be viewed at www.fbalc.org. The site includes information specific to the committee, links to applicable aviation regulations, and valuable aviation related resources. The members were then treated to presentations by Daytona Beach Tower operations supervisor Jim Zeiler as he gave us a "View from the Tower," highlighting air traffic control in the Daytona Beach TRACON and the
FAA's Next-Gen initiative. Greg Popp, business development manager for the Bristow Academy, discussed "Training Rotor Wing Pilots for the Future," and Jerry Trachtman took us to strange new galaxies as he told us, "What Every Space Tourist Should Know" pertaining to applicable regulations for commercial space travel and tourism.
As the committee has done in the past and in an effort to facilitate assisting our membership becoming board certified in aviation law, we hosted an examination review course in conjunction with Embry-Riddle's Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium January 2010 meeting. Board certified Vice Chair Tim Ravich spearheaded this effort, and enlisted the expertise of board certified presenters Don Maciejewski, Bruce Green, Pat Phillips, Stuart Goldstein, and Jeff Ludwig. Tim presented as well. The committee offers the review not only at our own expense, but also at no charge to our membership and those from other states who have attended the symposium. There are added benefits as the committee provides a CD of the material, and those in attendance received 7.5 continuing education hours. As in the past, this event was well attended.
The Aviation Law Committee is dedicated to the protection and promotion of aviation. We are a unique group as we share aviation not only with our clients on a professional level, but also experience it on a personal level. It has been an honor and a privilege to have chaired what I believe to be the most collegial and professional committee of attorneys in the state. My sincerest thanks to my vice chairs, the membership, and staff liaison Paige Graham, who made me look better than I really am. As I move from the left seat to first class, I am confident the attorneys-incommand will professionally, responsibility, and ethically navigate us to new aviation law destinations. Fly safe and fly far.
S.V. (STEVE) DEDMON, Chair
Aviation Law Certification
The Florida Bar has recognized aviation law as an area for board certification since 1996. The Aviation Law Certification Committee has the duty of drafting and grading the aviation law certification exam as well as reviewing the qualifications and peer reviews of applicants for certification. In addition, the committee reviews the qualifications and peer reviews of attorneys who are already board certified, but who have applied for the five-year certification.
An important aspect of aviation law is its involvement with so many diverse subject areas from the issues surrounding the registration of aircraft and recording of security interests on aircraft transactions to airline labor law, international treaties, and enforcement by the FAA of pilot certificates, to space law which will become an integral part of aviation law in the future.
This year, the committee completely redrafted the exam. As in years past, the committee worked with the Aviation Law Committee to develop and present courses in aviation law for both aviation law practitioners and those who wanted to sit for the exam.
The committee continues to try to determine a balance between the desire to increase the ranks of board certified aviation attorneys by encouraging those who are practicing aviation law to the extent required by The Florida Bar and have the expertise to pass the exam while being vigilant that the standards are maintained so that only those who are really qualified can hold themselves out as board certified.
In the 2009-10 Aviation Law Certification cycle, four individuals met the criteria to sit for the exam. Two board certified aviation attorneys applied and were recertified.
If any attorney is interested in becoming a board certified aviation attorney, please speak with any of the past or present committee members, and he or she will be extremely helpful and happy to encourage and assist in any manner with explaining the requirements and to provide whatever information can be provided as to the substance of the exam.
The areas being tested are available as well as a certification review course, which will, again, be held next year.
I want to thank the committee members for their work and time spent in drafting, critiquing, editing, and redrafting the exam, which is always a challenge. I want to thank the staff liaison, Suzanne Dunn, who unfortunately for us, has decided to spend more time with her family in the next few years.
The committee members this year were William G. Burd, Evergreen, Colorado; Michael Siboni, Ocala; Robert Feldman, Miami; Mary P. Burnett, Jacksonville; Brad Hassell, Daytona Beach; David McDonald, Miami; Barry E. Newman, Jacksonville; and Chad Roberts, Jacksonville.
Thank you again to these ladies and gentlemen.
JOHN F. EVERSOLE III, Chair
Board of Legal Specialization and Education
The BLSE is charged with oversight of four comprehensive Bar programs essential to preserving and enhancing the quality of legal services provided by Florida Bar members. The BLSE administers 1) the continuing legal education requirement (CLER), for all active members; 2) the basic skills course requirement (BSCR), for new members entering the practice of law; 3) the evaluation of requests for CLE credit for courses and activities undertaken by Bar sections, other legal education organizations and individual members; and, very importantly, 4) the board certification plan, for members demonstrating the special competence, professionalism, and experience necessary to merit recognition as experts in their practice areas.
Sixteen lawyer members, appointed by the president of The Florida Bar for three-year terms, make up the BLSE. The chair and vice chair are designated by the president. Each BLSE member takes on committee responsibilities, liaison duties with certification committees and section councils, and a demanding schedule of board meetings, conferences, and correspondence. Just a few snapshots of last year's accomplishments depict the BLSE's commitment to maintaining and enhancing legal skills and professionalism.
* Continuing Legal Education and Basic Skills Course Requirements and Course Accreditation--Continuing legal education is fundamental to maintaining professional competence, and by rule the Supreme Court of Florida has mandated that every lawyer admitted to practice law in this state must obtain at least 30 hours of CLE credit every three years. Compliance with Bar-wide mandatory CLER reporting occurs at the astounding rate of 2,2002,500 reporting members each month. While posting credit hours can now be accomplished online on the Bar's website, many members still rely upon the professional assistance of Bar staff to answer members' questions about CLER and seek assistance with CLE credit inquiries. In 2009-10, the BLSE also oversaw compliance with rules requiring approximately 2,500 new lawyers in Florida to satisfy the basic skills course requirements, designed to assist in the transition from law school to the practice of law.
To encourage members to obtain continuing legal education useful to their practices, the CLER rules allow application for credit for a wide variety of courses and activities, ranging from standard Bar-sponsored CLE programs to university teaching to writing scholarly articles. The BLSE oversees the evaluation of every program and activity for which CLE credit is sought. Last year, approximately 8,500 courses and 13,000 individual activities and courses were evaluated for content adequacy and speaker credentials.
* Board Certification--Board certification is the single most important validation of a lawyer's credentials by The Florida Bar and, in the words of former Justice Harry Lee Anstead, the 27-year-old program is one of the "jewels in the crown of the Florida justice system." Board certification is a mark of professional leadership. Many past presidents of The Florida Bar are board certified, as are many members of the courts, the Board of Governors, and section leadership. By demonstrating the competence, experience, expertise, and professionalism necessary for certification as experts, these Bar leaders call other lawyers to a higher standard of practice and service.
Further, certification has become increasingly important to members of the public seeking a reliable tool for choosing the right lawyer. Recent years have seen explosive growth in Bar membership, the proliferation of standardless lawyer rating services, increasing complexity in different practice areas, and expanding reliance on the Web to the exclusion of other information resources. Against that backdrop, certification shines as the gold standard of competency and experience in those practice areas approved for certification by the Supreme Court. It is the only court-approved rating system based on concrete and ascertainable criteria, set forth in rules and implemented through a transparent evaluation system circumscribed by checks and balances.
Through administration of the certification plan, the BLSE is charged with identifying attorneys who have substantial experience and have demonstrated special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in their areas of practice, as well as professionalism and ethics in the practice of law. To meet that goal, the BLSE oversees the work of 23 different certification committees that are responsible for proposing certification criteria, reviewing applications, developing and grading examinations, and recommending to the BLSE certificates for those individuals found to have met both the threshold standards of the certification plan and the particular standards in the practice area for which certification is sought. Recertification is required every five years.
In the 2009-10 year, 481 applications received initial certification and 630 received recertification, each of which was evaluated by the relevant certification committee. Every certification committee consists of nine lawyers who are board certified in the area of the committee's responsibility. For the over 260 initial applicant lawyers who met the experience and peer review standards, the certification committees developed, administered, and graded day-long exams designed to measure knowledge and expertise. Under the experienced direction of BLSE Standards Committee Chair Tim Sullivan, the BLSE considered all appeals of the committees' recommendations to deny certification and recertification.
One way the BLSE seeks to serve the hard-working certification committees, as well as the section leadership with whom they share interests, is to provide resources for their difficult work. Once a year, the BLSE hosts a leadership conference where these leaders can hear from one another and from persons with new perspectives on improving the program. As part of last November's conference, the committee members benefited from the judicial perspectives on certification from former Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell; Judge John M. Kest, Ninth Judicial Circuit; Chief Judge William L. Roby, 19th Judicial Circuit; and Judge Robert Lee Pegg, 19th Judicial Circuit. Feedback about the program was overwhelmingly positive.
The BLSE also has continued its communications campaign and cooperative arrangement with the Bar's Public Information Department to raise public and lawyer awareness of and appreciation for board certification to benefit consumers and the approximately 4,300 board certified Florida Bar members.
Communications Chair Craig Crawford and public relations consultant Lisa Tipton have worked this year to update and streamline the certification program's Web page at FloridaBar. org/certification to promote the merits of board certification directly to Florida Bar section members, to work cooperatively with The Florida Bar's Speakers' Bureau, Voluntary Bar liaison and program administrators, and to expand and promote certified lawyers by judicial circuit as legal expert interview sources. We have established a Florida Bar board certified lawyers group on LinkedIn, and have continued our educational efforts through speaking engagements at Florida chapters of American Inns of Court and Florida Bar CLE and certification review courses. We have continued to disseminate news releases statewide and by judicial circuit about key program developments such as the June 2009 Florida Supreme Court approval of two, first-in-the-nation legal specialties in adoption law and education law and the fact that applications for 2010 certification are up 10 percent. We also have continued to facilitate certified lawyer online listings in Florida Trend magazine's Legal Elite and Florida Super Lawyers, and have worked directly with communications and marketing directors for board certified lawyers to provide talking points and two-way information exchanges for program news and lawyer news for Capstone, the electronic newsletter for certified lawyers.
The number of nominations has increased each year for the program's two certification awards: Justice Harry Lee Anstead Award for Florida Bar Board Certified Lawyer of the Year, presented annually to a board certified lawyer or judge for exemplary professionalism, excellence, character, and commitment to The Florida Bar's certification program and the Excellence in the Promotion of Board Certification Award, which recognizes lawyers or firms that go above and beyond to educate both lawyers and the public about the certification program. The BLSE has continued its presence at The Florida Bar annual convention, including a reception open to all Bar members interested in learning more about certification. This event each year is hosted by BLSE and was again graciously sponsored by Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Corporation.
Our promotional efforts have been fun. Intellectual Property Certification Committee member Mark Terry started a new tradition when he carried a specially designed board certification flag on a climb up the North Ridge route of Wyoming's Grand Teton and posed for a photo that made the front page of The Florida Bar News. Other certified lawyers now have "carried the certification flag around the world" to Chile, Cyprus, Death Valley, New York, Paris, and a wind farm construction project in South Dakota.
Several of our certified lawyers have said that they believe consumers are becoming more aware of board certification. Board certified elder lawyer and BLSE member April D. Hill of Hill Law Group in St. Petersburg said, "As the legal profession moves towards specialization and potential clients become more informed, they look for proof of the attorney's skills and professionalism. Board certification provides that proof. Each year, more potential clients tell me they've researched my background and sought me because of my board certification."
Although an established program, certification is not static. Changes in different practice areas call for changes in certification standards, found in Ch. 6 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and the BLSE's policies. Even more exciting, new practice areas regularly seek Supreme Court approval of new rules for board certification. Under the capable leadership of Howard Cohen in 2009-10, the BLSE Rules and Policies Committee evaluated and painstakingly edited many complex rule amendments submitted to accommodate changes in the certification program, then made recommendations to the full BLSE.
Two new board certification areas for adoption law and education law were approved by the Supreme Court in 2009, and the inaugural members were appointed last fall. Applications are now available, and the first class for each area will be tested in March 2011. Their addition to the program now brings the total number of certified areas to 24, a commendable achievement. Although the numbers are a helpful measure of certification's success, concerns have been raised about the relative merits and costs of retaining very small certification areas. Under the truly exceptional leadership of Vice Chair Richard McCrea, a special task force established in 2007-08 continued its efforts this past year, evaluating the area of antitrust and trade regulation and working to merge it with business litigation for administration by a single committee for business law certification.
The BLSE is proud that the Florida certification program is the nation's leader in providing opportunities for specialist recognition for so many members of the Bar. In its constant quest to improve all the programs it oversees, BLSE is driven by the dedication of those who serve. Departing the board this year will be member Rick Nail, recently elected to the Board of Governors for the 10th Judicial Circuit, and former BLSE Chair Joni Armstrong Coffey. Both deserve special commendation for their years of service and for the integrity, fairness, and care they have brought to the deliberations of the BLSE.
I, too, will be departing BLSE this year, but intend to continue my association with BLSE as its legal counsel following in the footsteps of our longtime counsel extraordinaire, Thomas M. Ervin, Jr., who passed away unexpectedly on January 5, 2010. Tom's work for the past 17 years contributed immeasurably to the distinction board certification enjoys as the hallmark of excellence. He was indeed the embodiment of all our efforts and deserves significant recognition for having built our solid legal foundation that contributed to the decision in Carolyn S. Zisser v. The Florida Bar, Case No. 3:09-CV-503-J-34JRK (M.D.Fla. March 29, 2010).
A special note of appreciation is extended to Michael G. Tanner, former BLSE chair, who stepped in to serve as interim counsel for BLSE during the last six months during an especially busy and unusual time for certification appeals. His work and contribution to the program have been exceptional.
It has been a privilege to chair BLSE this past year, and I am grateful for the commitment and hard work of all who have served with me. While it is impossible to measure, I am confident that the competence and professionalism of Florida lawyers are better for the efforts of the BLSE, its certification committees, and the professional staff who daily maintain the machinery that moves us forward.
LOUIS B. "BUCK" VOCELLE, JR., Chair
Business Litigation Certification
Applications for board certification in business litigation increased dramatically this year. Nineteen attorneys are expected to sit for the 2010 exam compared to the five initial applicants who sat for and passed the exam in 2009. In addition to the initial applications, the committee received six applications for recertification. Currently, 209 attorneys are board certified business litigators.
The increase in the number of applications resulted in the committee meeting several times throughout the year to review and process applications, consider various issues concerning certification standards, and policies and rules. The members of the committee are currently finalizing the 2010 business litigation certification examination given in May. The examination tests for competency in the areas of procedure and substantive law relevant to the litigation of business disputes.
The Business Litigation Certification Committee members devoted significantly more time this year than in some of the recent past years. I would like to say thank you to all the members of this dedicated, hard working committee, including Vice Chair David Willis, Paul Berg, Al LaSorte, Mark Miller, Mark Osherow, Amy Rubin, William Hamilton, and Howard Ross. On behalf of all of the members, I especially thank our hard working Florida Bar certification specialist, Jennifer Wilson. The committee deeply appreciates all her efforts.
JOSEPH A. DEMARIA, Chair
City, County, and Local Government Law Certification
City, county, and local government law is the practice of law managing legal issues of county, municipal, and other local governments. The practitioner must be well versed in a variety of legal topics from sovereign immunity to public finance and must be prepared to face a variety of legal issues confronting local governments.
To be certified in city, county, and local government law, a lawyer must be a member in good standing of The Florida Bar, must have practiced law for at least five years, four years if he or she received an LL.M. degree in urban affairs or a related field. Each certified lawyer must have substantial involvement--40 percent or more--in the practice of city, county, and local government law during the three years preceding application. Each certified lawyer must have passed peer review, a comprehensive written examination, and completed 60 hours of continuing legal education within the three years immediately preceding their application.
The committee reviewed 19 applications to sit for the exam, held on May 14, 2010, in Tampa. The committee reviewed 19 applications for recertification. The committee will have met three times and two times via conference call to review applications, construct the exam, review requests, and grade examinations. The members worked diligently to ensure broad topic coverage according to the exam specifications and to ensure the exam remains fair, challenging, and relevant.
This year, in addition to revising the exam and reviewing applications, the committee devoted much of its time to constructing a handbook which will include all past and future exam questions. The committee reviewed and revised each multiple choice and essay question for accuracy and applicability and updated each question to ensure that it would accurately reflect the current statutes and case law prior to including it in the handbook. Additionally, each question was placed into specific categories to allow the committee members to easily locate specific legal topics to include in the exam and to allow for the handbook to be easily updated by new incoming committees with future questions and answers. This work will guarantee that a variety of legal topics that affect local government law will be represented on the exam. The hard work of our committee will ensure that future committees have accurate questions and answers that reflect the diverse legal topics that confront the practitioner in city, county, and local government law.
As chair, I express my gratitude to all members of the committee, who devoted countless hours individually and during meetings and were always prepared to conduct committee business. I acknowledge each member for their work and dedication throughout the year: Mary Helen Farris, vice chair; Carole Barice, Frank Bartolone, Cynthia Johnson-Stacks, Michele Lieberman, Isabelle Lopez, Paul Nicoletti, and Alan Prather. Finally, and on behalf of the committee, I thank our committee liaison, Michele LamarAcuff. Michele's diligent efforts ensured that our committee members' time and effort were well spent, and she was tireless in keeping us on deadline.
DALE ALAN BRUSCHI, Chair
Civil Procedure Rules
The 65 volunteer members of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee evaluate proposed changes to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. The committee spends countless hours analyzing and debating proposed changes to the civil rules to ensure that Florida's courts handling civil cases have well thought out practical rules to guide cases through our legal system. The proposals come from a variety of sources including the Florida Supreme Court, attorneys, nonattorneys, judges, and other rules committees. The committee is a cross-section of the Bar, representing every area of litigation practice, race, gender, and ethnic group of attorneys in Florida, which gives the committee a full range of views on every issue.
Although the committee meets formally three times per year, most of the committee's work is done between meetings through subcommittees. Subcommittee members and chairs spend countless hours researching, debating, and drafting proposed changes to the rules, then report to the full committee. Because of term limits, the subcommittee chairs spend substantial additional time preparing subcommittee reports to preserve the institutional memory of the work done by the subcommittee.
The committee had a busy year once again. The committee actively participated in the Supreme Court task force's analysis of the residential mortgage foreclosure crisis. Committee members Judge Claudia Isom, a member of the task force, and Dan Bean co-chaired a subcommittee that examined its recommended changes to civil procedure rules and forms. The committee as a whole analyzed the subcommittee's recommendations, and the committee's comments were presented to the Supreme Court as part of the task force's report and during oral argument in November 2009. The Supreme Court issued its opinion adopting the recommended rule and form changes on February 11, 2010.
The committee is currently participating in a proposal to fundamentally change the rules concerning service of pleadings and documents by attorneys in all state courts. A joint workgroup of representatives from each of the Bar's various rules committees has proposed a change to the method of service in all Florida courts from the traditional mail and facsimile service method to service exclusively by email. The joint committee further proposes that the service rule be located in the Rules of Judicial Administration, not in the individual rules. Committee members Judge Richard Nielsen and Don Christopher represent the Civil Procedure Rules Committee on the joint workgroup. The committee created a subcommittee to evaluate the proposed rules, led by Judge Claudia Isom and Robert Mansbach. In January 2010 the full committee approved the new proposed rule in concept. If finally approved by the Florida Supreme Court, the rule will have the effect of eliminating service by mail in all courts and requiring all service by attorneys in litigation matters to be made exclusively by email. This issue will be addressed again at the June meeting of the committee and is expected to be presented to the Florida Supreme Court in the fall.
The committee also finalized and filed its three-year cycle report to the Florida Supreme Court, which includes proposed changes to 20 rules and forms. The report includes extensive responses to the numerous comments received by members of the Bar after the proposed changes were published. The committee expects that the Supreme Court will consider the proposed changes later this year.
It has been my honor to work with such a distinguished group of judges and attorneys to facilitate the improvement of the Rules of Civil Procedure. While every member of the committee dedicates substantial time and effort, a few individual recognitions are warranted. Special thanks to vice chairs Judge Claudia Isom and Don Christopher, who have each chaired numerous subcommittees and actively participated in others to shape the future of our rules. Robbie Landon and Greg Borgognoni co-chair the drafting subcommittee and ensure that our proposed rule changes are consistent and well-written. In addition to chairing the Rule 1.442 subcommittee, Dan Bean represented the committee at The Florida Bar Board of Governor's meeting to facilitate the board's approval of the three-year cycle report. Lawrence Kolin's work as chair of the electronic discovery subcommittee will lead to carefully crafted rules to facilitate the handling of electronic discovery. Janet Lucente serves as the committee's liaison to the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, which requires her to participate in meetings of both committees. Al Saikali has served as the committee's secretary, preserving the institutional memory of the committee through preparation of accurate and detailed minutes of each meeting.
Finally, the committee could not have accomplished its goals without the excellent work of Bar staff members. Madelon Horwich dedicated over two decades of her career to The Florida Bar and the Civil Procedure Rules Committee, and the Bar will sorely miss her now that she moved to the Collins Center. However, the committee is fortunate that another excellent longtime Bar staff member, Ellen Sloyer, has taken over as the committee's liaison. The committee is fortunate to have had such quality individuals at the Bar to assist us in shaping the rules.
MARK A. ROMANCE, Chair
Civil Trial Certification
Civil trial law is the practice of law dealing with litigation of all substantive legal areas before state and federal courts, administrative agencies, and arbitration tribunals. Civil trial lawyers participate in the actual trial and pretrial process and handle, evaluate, and resolve civil controversies before an action is commenced.
Civil trial law was one of the initial areas established for certification in 1983 when the Florida Supreme Court approved the certification plan. Currently, 1,062 Florida lawyers are certified as having special knowledge and proficiency in civil trial law as well as the requisite ethics and reputation for professionalism.
The Civil Trial Certification Committee is charged with proposing criteria for certification in civil trial, reviewing applications for certification and recertification, creating and grading the area examination, and recommending the issuance of certificates to applicants who meet the standards established for certification. This year the committee included Jeffrey Michael Cohen, chair; Susan Cole, vice chair; Ellsworth (Bill) Hopp, Robert Palmer, Jessica Recksiedler, Fred Tromberg, David Deehl, Anthony Gonzalez, and Mark Leibowitz.
The committee met six times during the year, including an intensive two-day session for grading the examination. Committee members participated in conference call meetings and also devoted countless hours developing the exam questions, including an innovative video component. The committee reviewed 65 applications for new certification, 211 applications for recertification, and eight applications for emeritus status. Fifty applicants sat for the examination in March 2010. Examination statistics are not available on the date of this report.
The committee acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Mary Ann Obos, our certification specialist, who made our job much easier. Mary Ann qualified for the certification hall of fame in her rookie year on the job.
JEFFREY MICHAEL COHEN, Chair
Clients' Security Fund
With great pride and privilege, I submit this report on behalf of the Clients' Security Fund. The Florida Bar Clients' Security Fund (CSF) was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss of their money as a result of misappropriation, embezzlement, or other wrongful taking or conversion by a member of The Florida Bar in the course of an attorney-client relationship. CSF is currently financed new ocable for cause. The Clients' Security Fund Committee and all the other committees and sections are truly the backbone of our Bar and profession and service to the Bar is but one more privilege that a member can have.
I not only extend my thanks to our diligent committee members but especially to the Bar's staff who support the committee with tireless commitment. They are Lori S. Holcomb, CSF director; Patricia J. Osborne, CSF coordinator; and Stacey Thrash, CSF clerk. You all are the best!
WARREN JAY STAMM, Chair
Code and Rules of Evidence
The mission of the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee (CREC) is to proactively assist The Florida Bar and the legislature in evaluating matters pertinent to the Florida Evidence Code and Florida Rules of Evidence. In the year leading up to this report, the CREC both initiated and continued work on several projects directed at serving its mission. The current undertakings of the CREC are expected to persist through the coming years and are anticipated to significantly contribute to the evaluation and enactment of new changes to the code and rules of evidence. Notably, the CREC submitted its 2010 Regular-Cycle Report to the Supreme Court of Florida, with proposed amendments, including [section] 90.404, [section] 90.502, and [section] 90.507.
This past year, the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Code Revision, co-chaired by past CREC chair Donny McKenzie and Michael Sharrit, began an in-depth review of the Florida Evidence Code. The continuing, comprehensive review (inspired by a similar refreshing of the Federal Rules of Evidence) focuses on both stylistic and substantive aspects of the Florida Evidence Code. The purpose of the review is to evaluate the code to ensure that it is grammatically correct, temporally appropriate, and logically consistent.
Members of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on code revision divided the code into sections for the purpose of review and are diligently combing through the text to identify areas that reveal the need for special attention. The committee will then bring these identified areas back to the CREC as a whole to assess and recommend proposed changes. After proposed changes have been approved by the CREC, they will be presented to the bench and Bar for review and consideration before submission to the legislature and/or Florida Supreme Court. The CREC is focused on finalizing its review and presenting recommendations to the Board of Governors, and ultimately the legislature, in time for the next cycle in 2013.
In addition, the CREC is engaged in a similar analysis of its own functioning. Vice Chair Robert Eschenfelder valiantly spearheaded a complete revision of the CREC handbook to ensure that future generations of the CREC are empowered with specific missions, goals and the organizational tools necessary to maximize its effectiveness. The revised handbook is now being reviewed by the Ad Hoc Handbook Review Subcommittee, led by Robert Tacher.
CREC views one of its primary functions as providing members of the Bar and the public with education about the evidence code. To that end, Vice Chair Alicia Menendez did a fantastic job leading the Education Subcommittee as it organized and produced the Annual Advanced Evidence Seminar, which was held on March 3, 2010, in Tampa. Seminar attendees confirmed that this year's production was one of the best evidence seminars presented by our committee. Compact discs of the seminar are available for sale. Readers who were unable to attend the seminar live are encouraged to purchase the discs, not only for the valuable CLE credits, but for the invaluable bounty of knowledge shared by our esteemed panel of experts. Alicia is to be commended for her hard work in organizing this seminar and sincere appreciation is extended to the presenters: Professor Michael Seigel (Developments in Evidence Law and Attorney-Client Privilege in the Corporate Context), Patricia Thompson (The Work Product Doctrine), Christopher Knopick (Expert Witnesses for the State), Professor Lee Schinasi (Evidentiary Foundations), Humberto Ocariz (Invoking the Rule), and David Markus (Evidence and Cross Examination) who volunteered their time and shared their expertise in this regard.
The Code Improvement Subcommittee, chaired by Richard Lawson, is proactively focusing its attention on staying abreast of case law as it is published to determine whether the code of evidence is consistent with the rules of evidence. The committee will address any areas of conflict that manifest by recommending changes as warranted. CREC also continued to monitor proposed legislation affecting Florida's Evidence Code through its fast track subcommittee in an effort to provide the Bar assistance on proposed legislation affecting Florida's Evidence Code.
A special note of thanks is extended to all the committee members who have given tirelessly to the undertakings of the CREC. Vice Chair Robert Eschenfelder continues to represent the committee in The Florida Bar Joint Committee on E-Service, and we thank him for his significant contributions. Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola volunteered her time enthusiastically to both representing the CREC in joint committee workshops and actively participated in various projects, for which we are eternally grateful. Year after year, Ann Chittenden as the Bar's liaison, graces us with the benefit of her invaluable knowledge and experience. Special thanks are also extended to Ervin Gonzalez as the committee's liaison to the Board of Governors.
It has been an honor to have served as chair of this committee and to work with so many talented people. Thank you for the opportunity to be of service.
CAROLINE M. IOVINO, Chair
Construction Law Certification
Since its inception in 2004, the members of the Construction Law Certification Committee have worked hard to ensure and enhance the competency of those certified in construction law pursuant to the rules of The Florida Bar. This year was no exception. The committee's principal function is to review applications and develop a yearly examination to test qualified applicants' knowledge of the construction law practice area including transactional and litigation matters. For this year's exam, the committee followed its historical format for the exam utilizing both multiple choice and essay questions to test the competency of the applicants.
This year, 45 applicants have qualified to sit for the exam. In addition, this year marks the first time that lawyers certified in the initial cycle are to submit applications for recertification.
Thanks are necessary to all members of the committee for their focused and timely work. A special thanks go to Vice Chair Michael Sasso and Alexzina Jackson of The Florida Bar staff.
C. WARREN TRIPP, JR., Chair
Consumer Protection Law
The Consumer Protection Law Committee focuses on studying Florida consumer protection laws and helping the consumer public and the Bar become better informed about the laws that protect them.
During the 2009-10 Bar year, the committee:
* Planned a seminar on residential foreclosure for the annual convention that was selected as a Presidential Showcase.
* Planned a housing outreach and foreclosure prevention community project to take place in Boca Raton in conjunction with the convention.
* Provided consumer mortgage-related housing information in a form easily accessible to the public via The Florida Bar website.
* Submitted an amicus brief on a con sumer law issue to the Fourth District Court of Appeal at the request of the court.
* Planned a public relations campaign to inform homeowners and consumers about scams that charge upfront fees for services that are rarely delivered.
The committee's biggest project is sponsoring a four-hour CLE at the annual convention titled Residential Foreclosure Cases: Litigation Issues, Strategies and Skills--Practical Lessons for both Lenders and Homeowners Counsel. The course helps attorneys hone their litigation skills, from drafting pleadings through pretrial motions, in the context of a residential foreclosure case.
The CLE subcommittee, co-chaired by Laura Boeckman and Doug Kilby, designed the program to appeal to both plaintiffs' and defendants' counsel by lining up two practitioners who represent homeowners, two practitioners who represent lenders, and Judge Jennifer Bailey, circuit judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit, as the moderator. Judge Bailey chaired the Supreme Court Task Force on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases. Plaintiffs' counsel panelists will be well-known foreclosure practitioners Roy Diaz and Scott Simowitz. Additionally, two of the panelists are from the committee--Lynn Drysdale, a senior staff attorney at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, and Margery Golant, a real estate attorney and litigator from Boca Raton. Attendance is expected to be high for the seminar, and the committee is taping the CLE for later sale.
At the annual convention in June and in tandem with the committee's CLE on residential foreclosure, the committee is co-hosting with Legal Aid of Palm Beach County a foreclosure prevention and assistance workshop to acquaint distressed homeowners with the legal issues of foreclosure and alternatives and to offer both legal and housing counseling. Much of the planning for the event was done by committee member Tequisha Myles, who works with Legal Aid of Palm Beach County. Committee members Hugo Alvarez, Laura Boeckman, Victoria Butler, and Margery Golant are panelists, and other committee members will answer homeowners' questions in private one-on-one sessions.
Throughout the year and with Florida remaining one of the top states in the nation in foreclosures, the committee kept its Weathering Florida's Housing Crisis Web page updated with information about free clinics and workshops for homeowners as well as information about consumer scams to avoid. The page also has information helpful to attorneys working with homeowners to avoid foreclosure.
Early in the Bar year, the Fourth District Court of Appeal asked the committee to submit a brief in a case involving F.S. [section] 501.1375. The Bar authorized the filing of the brief, which presented the opposite point of view as a brief provided by the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section.
The question before the court was whether consumers are entitled to have their deposits for construction placed in escrow regardless of whether they are purchasing the land they are building on or are building on land they already own. In the case on appeal, the contractor did not put funds in escrow and challenged the application of the statute and sought a narrow reading to exclude transactions involving consumers who own their land. Committee members Janet Varnell, Jan Smith, and Lynn Drysdale did much of the committee's work on the brief, and although the court went the other way in its ruling, it cited the committee's brief and incorporated certain cited authorities in its opinion.
The Consumer Protection Law Committee is charged with updating the Bar's consumer pamphlet series and continued that work in 2009-10. Nineteen pamphlets are available both in print and online, and another 10 are available only online. Additionally, committee members helped to update the Consumer Tips series, which includes 14 titles.
JULIA HARRIS, Chair
Continuing Legal Education
The mission of the Continuing Legal Education Committee is to assist the members of The Florida Bar in their continuing legal education and to facilitate the production and delivery of quality CLE programs and publications for the benefit of Bar members in coordination with the sections, committees, and staff of The Florida Bar and others who participate in the CLE process. Each section of The Florida Bar, the Young Lawyers Division, the Out-Of-State Practitioners Division, and all ABA-accredited Florida law schools are represented by a member.
Overall during the past year, live seminar attendance was off about 15 percent compared to the prior year. However, "after-market" sales (DVDs, CDs, etc.) were extremely strong. Furthermore, attendance at webinars and tele-seminars are up, as those programs are proving to be very popular.
Due to concern over budgetary constraints, this year's committee retreat was held as an additional half-day session to the September Florida Bar General Meeting. The topic of discussion was utilization of electronic course material in lieu of printed materials. A lengthy discussion by the committee was held on the pros and cons of electronic course material. There was a thorough airing of all concerns and possible directions this new technology can take. A primary concern was a uniform delivery method for consistent delivery for all CLE programs.
At its January meeting the committee, by motion, recommended to the Board of Governors that the Bar provide electronic course materials as the standard method of distribution, to take effect as of the 2010-11 fiscal year. The recommendation also included that the standard fee for courses should include an electronic download, with additional cost for printed materials. This proposal, if adopted by the Board of Governors, will provide that seminar prices, which would otherwise have to rise, would remain at or near current levels due to the savings in printing and postage fees. Savings could be as much as $200,000 to $250,000 per year. Printed materials would still be available on request, but for an extra fee, and that option will be noted in program brochures.
The committee also undertook a review of CLE credit for pro bono work based on a letter requesting "that a program be developed to allow CLE credit for lawyers who take on a pro bono case." It was the belief of the committee that all attorneys have a duty to do pro bono work and that credit should not be offered as an incentive. The committee discussed that in preparation of doing work on specific pro bono program, that a free seminar which would be eligible for CLE credits, could be supplied. The free seminar idea has been used by the F.A.S.H. program involving foreclosure cases. Additional comments were received that pro bono work was aspirational and should not be tied to CLE credit. No formal vote was taken on the proposal, but the minutes reflect that the committee fully debated the proposal and approved unanimously that no further action be taken on the request for CLE credits for pro bono work.
A special thank you is extended to the Bar staff for their excellent support and help on all of these tasks and to Vice Chair Candace Preston. As chair, I thank Florida Bar President Jesse Diner for his support and appreciation for the committee's work.
PAUL H. CHIPOK, Chair
Criminal Law Certification
The economic downturn of the last 18 months has surprisingly not curbed the enthusiasm from members of The Florida Bar desiring to become board certified in criminal trial and criminal appellate law. The committee, comprised of nine members from around the state, split between prosecutors and defense attorneys and in state and federal court, is charged with overseeing the application and testing process in accord with the rules and policies of the BLSE. The committee met initially in October 2009 to begin reviewing new applications as well as re-certification applications from members previously certified. The draft essays and multiple choice questions for the May 2010 exam were developed over the next several months with a thorough review for correctness, adherence to testing concepts in both procedural and substantive law, and a fair balance between state and federal law.
* Statistics--There are currently 416 board certified criminal lawyers. Of those, 361 are certified as criminal trial specialists and 55 are certified as criminal appellate specialists. The 2009-10 initial applicant pool contained 50 criminal trial and 10 criminal appellate submissions. In addition, the committee reviewed 75 recertification applications from 79 previously certified criminal specialists and recommended 71 for recertification this year. The committee recommended approval of 53 initial applicants to sit for the exam after a thorough review their qualifications and certification requirements, including extensive peer review.
* Policies and Standards--As always, the committee was tasked with striking the delicate balance of encouraging well-qualified lawyers to apply for certification and recertification while maintaining the high standards expected of criminal trial and criminal appellate specialists. As the general public has come to expect a high caliber lawyer being deemed an "expert" or "specialist," the work of the committee is aimed to certify or recertify the very best practitioners who apply.
In reviewing the results and post-test comments of prior applicants, the committee voted to implement two changes to this year's exam: 1) again reject the six short-essay format utilized in 2008 in favor of the standard law school essay format; and 2) abandon the offer of answering five of six essays in favor of offering only a static five essays.
In past years, the morning session had three essays to answer. The testtaker was given four essays to choose from. This year's exam, administered on May 14, 2010, had three essays only in the morning session, with two essays in the afternoon session, plus 50 multiple choice questions tailored to the specific specialties. It was determined in grading previous exams that a high percentage of test-takers declined to answer the federal essay question. Predominantly state court practitioners apply for certification in criminal law. The committee's discussion turned to the efficacy of recommending to the BLSE a separate certification for both state and federal practitioners. However, it was again determined that there were not enough exclusively federal practitioners to support its own certification. Thus, the joint Criminal Trial and Criminal Appellate Certification Committee continues its work to strive for the highest qualified attorneys to become and remain board certified.
To all Bar members and judicial officers who actively participate in the peer review process, our sincere gratitude and appreciation for their time and attention. In addition to the requisite trials or appeals, substantial involvement in the practice of criminal trial or appellate law, the peer review process is critical to the certification program. Without candid comments on the abilities, knowledge, and reputation for professional and ethical conduct of the applicants, the committee could not effectively recommend applicants to sit for the exam.
* Committee Members--This year's committee included Vice Chair Ethan Way, Kepler Funk, Rosemary Cakmis, Roseanne Eckert, Rusty Franklin, Manny Garcia, Michael Salnick, and Angelica Zayas. The committee extends its sincere thanks and gratitude to its Bar liaison, Linda Cook, for her 23-year commitment to the Criminal Law Certification Committee and her 30th year with The Florida Bar. Her knowledge, dedication, and invaluable experience contribute significantly to work that the committee must accomplish each year. We simply could not function as a committee without her. Finally, a special note of recognition and thanks goes to Kepler Funk, who has served on the committee for the last six years. Kep's vast experience in state and federal court contributed greatly to the work of the committee and his presence and insight will be missed.
LORI DOGANIERO PALMIERI, Chair
Criminal Procedure Rules
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee is comprised of a broad cross-section of criminal law practitioners throughout Florida, including nine prosecutors, 16 defense attorneys (some of whom are former prosecutors), 11 judges, and two law professors.
As a result of our recent three-year cycle report, new Rule 3.192 became effective on January 1, 2010, authorizing the state to file a motion for rehearing within 10 days from the entry of any order that is appealable by the state by an interlocutory appeal, thus tolling the time for filing the appeal during pendency of the motion for rehearing. This significant addition may obviate the need for an appeal in some cases. Other notable cycle amendments include Rule 3.131, which now provides that upon pretrial release the defendant shall have no contact with the victim, unless a motion for modification is made by the defendant and a hearing with notice to the victim is held; Rule 3.191(i)(4), permitting extension of the speedy trial period for DNA testing ordered on the defendant's behalf; and Rule 3.190(h)(2), which now requires that motions to suppress a confession or admission are pleaded with particularity, as has long been a requirement for motions to suppress physical evidence. See In re Amendments to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, 26 So. 3d 534 (Fla. 2009).
During the 2009-10 year, the committee considered referrals concerning motions for return of property, conflicts within the speedy trial rule, and the method of review of an order denying bail on appeal. The committee also coordinated with the Rules of Judicial Administration and Access to Court Records Committees concerning revisions to the rule on confidentiality of court records and dockets in criminal cases, as well as the proposed rule on e-service. Additionally, the committee formed a belated criminal appeals joint committee together with the Supreme Court Criminal Court Steering Committee and the Appellate Court Rules Committee to propose revisions to post-conviction rules. In September 2009, this joint committee recommended numerous revisions to Rule 3.850 now pending before the court in SC09-1733, including clarification of time limitations for claims regarding newly discovered evidence, formatting requirements, authorization for rehearing by any party, and codification of case law concerning frivolous or malicious collateral proceedings by prisoners. A comprehensive review of Rule 3.800 governing correction and modification of sentences is ongoing.
Currently, the committee is monitoring legislative proposals concerning speedy trial and pretrial detention and release, which may impact the rules of procedure and require emergency drafting of amendments prior to statutory effective dates. I deeply thank our Florida Bar staff liaison, Jodi B. Jennings, for her labor and guidance, and commend each of the committee members, subcommittee chairs, and vice chairs for their service.
FLEUR J. LOBREE, Chair
The Education Law Committee (ELC) is a substantive law committee of The Florida Bar. To date, the ELC has met three times per year during the meetings of The Florida Bar. Its members consist of lawyers who practice in diverse areas of education law including college and university counsel, school district attorneys, parent and student advocates, and labor and employment attorneys who regularly represent college, university, or school district employees.
The purposes of the ELC include the enhancement of professionalism in the practice of education law, continuing education, the study of developments in education law, and the creation of a forum where the knowledge and views of its members can be shared.
As in the past, there have been CLE offerings by two presenters at each of our meetings this year. The presentations have been and continue to be interesting and informative.
The ELC's listserv has been an important communication and networking source for members. We have recently been informed that subject to the resolution of a few minor issues concerning section and committee listservs in general, the cost of the ELC's listserv will be covered within the ELC's budget.
The ELC's Education Law Journal, the first online journal of The Florida Bar, continues its tradition of excellence. A wide range of topics are addressed by attorneys from across the education law spectrum.
The ELC is in the process of developing a webinar format for its meetings to take the place of physically getting together during Florida Bar meetings. It is presently anticipated that the webinar will be held once a year on a date prior to the Bar meeting. There will be one traditional meeting of the ELC each year at The Florida Bar site. The aim in adopting this format is to allow as many members of the ELC as possible to participate in the meetings.
A planning committee of the ELC is being created whose charge will be to periodically review existing ELC activities and to suggest new activities. The planning committee will report its findings and recommendations to the ELC as a whole via the listserv or at meetings.
It has been an honor to serve as the ELC's chair. I thank the ELC's three vice chairs: Patrick Whitehead/Publications, Daniel Woodring/CLE, and Ed Marko/Membership for their tireless efforts on behalf of and their devotion to the ELC. I thank Nathan Adams, an ELC member, for his work in developing the webinar format and arranging for it to be initially offered through the technology infrastructure at Holland & Knight. A special thanks to Larry Brown, my predecessor as chair, for his guidance and work in the area of education law certification. Finally, I would like to thank Thomas Miller, the ELC's Florida Bar liaison, for his assistance. I look forward to the continued success of the ELC
JOEL BERMAN, Chair
Elder Law Certification
Eleven attorneys sat for the 2010 exam compared to the 12 who sat for the exam in 2009. In addition, the committee received 12 applications for recertification. Currently, there are 81 board certified elder law attorneys in the state of Florida.
The committee met several times throughout the year to review and process applications and draft exam questions and model answers. Elder law attorneys deal with legal issues involving health and personal care planning, which encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness, and incapacity. The purpose of the elder law examination is to determine whether the examinee possesses the substantive and procedural knowledge expected of an experienced elder law practitioner whose clients are elderly or have special needs, as well as the skill to practically apply the knowledge to situations that are encountered by elder law attorneys in practice. Although some elder law attorneys specialize in a certain area of law within the practice of elder law, there are certain core areas of an elder law practice in which an elder law attorney is expected to possess proficiency in order to be deemed certified, since certification of an attorney in elder law represents to the public and the profession that the attorney possess a certain level of competence in the field of elder law.
Thank you to all the members of this dedicated, hard working committee, including Vice Chair Ailish O'Connor, Vicki Bowers, Randy Bryan, John Clardy, Colleen Duris, Carolyn Landon, Steve Quinnell, and Carolyn Sawyer. On behalf of all of the members, I thank our hard working Florida Bar certification specialist Jennifer Wilson, whose diligent efforts continue to make our job so much more manageable. Jennifer's efforts are deeply appreciated by everyone on the committee.
BETH A. PRATHER, Chair
The Florida Bar Eminent Domain Committee has had a very productive year involving a substantial portion of the committee's membership. Three seminars held during the committee's meeting dates were planned; two have occurred, and the third is to be held in Boca Raton.
On September 11, 2009, three current topics were well vetted by experts in the areas of the valuation and legality of requiring right of way as part of the development process, a new Florida Supreme Court case on business damages, and how to deal with the abnormal market conditions we are experiencing in eminent domain.
Global settlements including fees and costs in mediation and fees and costs in abandoned projects were a primary topic at the Eminent Domain Committee meeting in January. Also, damage to remainder properties caused by public projects was studied. The committee also benefited from an open discussion on State of Florida Department of Transportation ROW acquisition efforts in inverse cases in light of recent SR.19 rulings, and the purchase and sale of development rights in Sunny Isles, Florida.
In June the Eminent Domain Committee will have a joint meeting with the Association of Eminent Domain Professionals in Boca Raton. Topics will include changes in the quantity and quality of government taking that occurs after an initial offer by the government. The committee will also have a panel discussion with judges from around the state relating to eminent domain. Finally, we will have expert analyses of the Home Town Democracy referendum and its potential impact on eminent domain cases and development.
A. KURT ARDAMAN, Chair
Federal Court Practice
As the Bar's liaison to the federal courts, the Federal Court Practice Committee serves Florida's federal practitioners statewide. Florida's federal courts consistently are among the busiest in the country, and the committee's major focus is on improving the practice of law in those courts by promoting collegiality among practitioners and sharing information about judicial practices.
In early 2010, the committee proudly birthed a brand new resource on the Bar's website: The Federal Corner, developed by Patricia Barksdale and Robert Norway. The Federal Corner provides a unique source for all federal practice information in Florida and includes links to all federal court websites. The Federal Corner also features the committee's Guide to Judicial Practices in Florida's Federal Courts. Michael Spellman is leading the project to revise and improve the guide to reflect new procedures and judicial preferences relating to electronic filing and other topics, and the committee plans to announce the availability of the newly improved guide later this year. The current guide is one of the most popular destinations on the Bar's website, in part because it provides individualized information about the unique practices of most federal judges in Florida. The Florida Bar is a national leader in terms of the information available on its website, and the guide is one of the only such guides available to federal practitioners in the United States.
The committee also hosts a popular annual event, the Federal Judicial Roundtable, for practitioners to meet with judges and discuss issues of federal practice. The roundtable at the Bar's Annual Convention in 2009 was a great success due to Patricia Barksdale's skillful planning, and more than 30 federal judges already have confirmed for the 2010 roundtable. The 2010 roundtable will feature a conversation with the chief judges of Florida's federal courts, including Chief Judge Dubina of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The chiefs will be joined by a select few veteran practitioners in a panel discussion moderated by former Florida Bar President Hank Coxe. Melanie Damian chairs the Roundtable Subcommittee and has planned a great event--be sure to register early as space is limited. (Registration is free to Florida Bar members and is available on the Bar's website.)
Next year, Florida again will host the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference (the most recent conference in Florida was in 2005) in Orlando, April 27-30, 2011. Jessica Lyublanovits is leading our committee's efforts to support the Conference Planning Committee, and Judge John Antoon (MDFL), chair of the Conference Planning Committee, met with us in January to discuss ideas for involving more practitioners in the conference.
Although our committee stays very busy with the projects described above, we also emphasize continuing education for our members. At each committee meeting, we offer a free CLE seminar, organized by Ellen Collins and Scott Srebnick (and Scott generously sponsored a dessert reception after each seminar this year). The September 2009 seminar featured U. S. District Judge Mary Scriven, and the January 2010 seminar featured Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, ethics counsel for The Florida Bar. Throughout the year, Trinetta Lyons kept the committee advised as to the several amendments to federal rules as they were published for comment, and she produced a convenient chart for practitioners to gather information on updates to the rules.
Our committee's success has inspired colleagues in Alabama to form a statewide federal practice section, and Miles McGrane IV has nurtured the Alabama efforts so well that we anticipate that the Alabama State Bar will soon host a federal judicial roundtable and will begin publishing a guide similar to our own. Rene Harrod, a national leader of the Federal Bar Association and editor for The Federal Lawyer, has assisted our committee in promoting the creation of appointed statewide federal practice organizations in other states. Committee Historian Sheila Norman is preparing a package of information on activities and members to share with other states interested in developing similar committees.
In addition to the committee members featured above, we are fortunate to have the active participation of member Judges William Stafford (NDFL), Catherine McEwen (MDFL-Bankruptcy), Paul Huck (SDFL), Laurel Isicoff (SDFL-Bankruptcy), Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres (SDFL), Clerks of Court William McCool (NDFL), Sheryl Loesch (MDFL), Steven Larimore (SDFL), William Blevins (NDFL-Bankruptcy), LeeAnn Bennett (MDFL-Bankruptcy), Katherine Gould (SDFL-Bankruptcy), and Acting Clerk John Ley of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Also, the committee leadership is particularly grateful for the guidance and support of Judge Timothy Corrigan (MDFL) and Judge Patricia Seitz (SDFL). Despite the demands of presiding over complex high profile cases and managing heavy caseloads, our judges and clerks regularly offer their support and friendship to committee members, and we are grateful for their service.
As chair, I've been honored to serve with Vice Chairs Barbara Arco, Patricia Barksdale, and Robert Griscti. It has also been the committee's joy to work with Bar liaison Dawn Saucier. We are indebted to her great service to the federal courts in Florida. We welcome you to participate in our events and to visit the new Federal Corner on the Bar's website, and encourage you to seek appointment to this active committee.
BARBARA JUNGE, Chair
Florida Bar Journal and News Editorial Board
Since 1927, The Florida Bar Journal has chronicled the evolution of law in this state and remains the premier source of practice articles on Florida law. Dedicated to "advancing the competence and public responsibility of lawyers," some of the articles covered the following topics this year: homesteading for title, takeover laws, construction warranties, lost profit damages, growth management, attorney disqualification, arbitration, juror misconduct, premises liability, and class certification.
Many of the Bar's sections provided regular columns in their area of practice on subjects such as land use, discretionary review, international commercial arbitration, whistleblowers, home rule, Roth IRAs, zoning, grantor trusts, certiorari, and frozen embryos.
While columns are published under the auspices of the section and its appointed editor, the Journal editorial board reviews and approves for publication all feature articles and is responsible for submission policy for all Journal articles. Although the submissions are examined for substantive and stylistic content, the board also must check the citations and evaluate an article's thoroughness and originality. Guidelines are frequently published in the Journal and can be found at floridabar.org.
The editorial board and I encourage members of the Bar to submit articles for publication consideration in the Journal. In addition to the recognition of your peers, publication can result in an award of CLE credit and posting of the article on the Bar's website and in the WESTLAW and Lexis databases.
In recognition of superior writing, the annual Excellence in Writing Award is presented to J.B. Harris for his March 2009 article "Riding the Red Rocket: Amendment 7 and the End to Discovery Immunity of Adverse Medical Incidents in the State of Florida." The editorial board makes its decision based on an article's quality, difficulty, and style.
Now in its 34th year, the News is produced by a staff of professional journalists and provides its readers with information regarding all levels of the Bar including Board of Governors' action, legislation, and official notices of court rules and the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar as well as regular announcements of CLE offerings. Additionally, the News has featured articles on e-filing of court documents, lawyer-to-lawyer communication, advertising rules, court funding, effects of the staggering number of foreclosure cases on the state's court system, the death penalty, pro bono, and legal representation of children in dependency court. Always popular are the regular columns: "News and Notes" and "On the Move."
The twice-monthly tabloid has been lauded by Bar members for its editorial independence and has been acknowledged nationally as a model vehicle for information about association activities.
The News classified ads pages serve as a helpful placement service for the Florida legal market.
The Journal and News generate revenue through advertising, royalties, and subscriptions, thereby offsetting some of the costs of printing and postage.
Both the Journal and News are available on the Bar's website and have searchable databases for back issues. Readers may access articles and news well in advance of the print versions via floridabar.org.
In March, the Bar's Board of Governors unanimously passed the 2010-11 budget, which for the 10th year in a row does not raise Bar members' annual membership fees. The budget also calls for an end to the annual September Bar Journal directory. In its decision, the board considered a sizable net loss over previous years for the directory's production and an expected loss of $291,242 in the current budget. Primarily used for its listing of members of The Florida Bar, up-to date information regarding members is now available on the Bar's website. The site's Find a Lawyer service is recording about 80,000 daily hits.
The editorial board bids a fond farewell to long-time board members Chris McAdams, Kristi Bergemann, and Carrol Cherry, who have served the maximum number of terms and are "retiring." Staff and I thank them for their years of devoted service.
The Florida Bar Journal and The Florida Bar News reach approximately 80,000 readers with articles about Florida law, the legal profession, and Bar activities. The editorial board and the staff are committed to maintaining a standard of excellence for the Bar's official publications.
JENNIFER WINEGARDNER, Chair
Florida Registered Paralegal
With great pleasure I provide the annual report of the Florida Registered Paralegal Committee. The Florida Registered Paralegal Committee was created after the Supreme Court of Florida adopted Ch. 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Ch. 20 establishes the Florida Registered Paralegal Program, a voluntary registration for paralegals. The rule defines a paralegal as "a person with education, training, or work experience, who works under the direction and supervision of a member of The Florida Bar and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a member of The Florida Bar is responsible." The Florida Registered Paralegal Program took effect March 1, 2008.
To become a Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP), a paralegal must meet one of three eligibility requirements: education and training, certification by NALA or NAFP, or grandfathering through work experience alone. The grandfathering provision was designed to sunset in three years from its adoption, or March 2011. Once registered, the FRP must abide by a code of ethics and meet a continuing education requirement. FRPs are subject to discipline.
As of the date this report was written, there are 3,608 FRPs in Florida. An overwhelming majority of FRPs renewed their status this year and new applications continue to be submitted and processed. I am happy to report that we have received very few complaints, none of which have resulted in discipline.
This year saw the kickoff of the recording of continuing education credits. As with members of The Florida Bar, FRPs record their credits online. Although the first reporting cycle will not be up for another year, many Florida registered paralegals have started taking and recording their courses.
The committee continues to refine the program and the rules. The committee often seeks input from FRPs. This year the committee held its second public forum on two issues, the most important of which was whether the grandfathering provision, which allows registration on experience alone, should be allowed to sunset in 2011 as scheduled. I do not recall one individual who spoke in favor of extending the grandfathering provision. Therefore, it will sunset on March 1, 2011, as stated in the rule. The committee thanks all of the interested individuals who provided input to this important decision.
This past year also saw enhancements to the FRP page on the Bar's website. There is a link to guidelines for the use of the FRP logo, information about posting continuing education credits, and additions to the common questions and answers. As issues arise, we have been printing an FRP Corner in the Bar News. Suggestions for articles can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lori Holcomb, FRP counsel, and her dedicated staff, Jeff Picker, Melanie Woodall, and Jacquelyn Reshard, deserve a great deal of gratitude and credit for all they have done in administering the program. I would also like to thank the active members of the FRP Committee for their hard work, especially the paralegal members and our paralegal educator. My appreciation also goes to the many paralegals around the state who volunteered to serve on our district paralegal committees. Finally, I want to recognize all of the paralegals who have registered. Without you, this program would not exist.
SCOTT RUBIN, Chair
Health Law Certification
The area of health law certification was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 1994 and currently numbers 116 certified health law attorneys.
Health law is the practice of law involving federal, state, or local law and rules or regulations regarding the delivery of health care services. In addition to health care provider issues and regulations of providers, health law includes legal issues regarding relationships between and among providers and payors.
To qualify for the health law exam, attorneys must be a member of The Florida Bar for five years, be engaged in the full-time practice of law, and be substantially involved (at least 40 percent) in health law for the last three years of their practice. Attorneys seeking health law certification must also complete at least 60 hours of advanced continuing legal education of approved health law credits and pass a stringent peer review process. All currently certified attorneys must apply for recertification every five years.
During the 2009-10 certification cycle, 12 applications to sit for the exam were received and reviewed by the committee. The committee also received and reviewed 14 applications for recertification. The exam was held on May 14, 2010 in Tampa.
By the end of this certification cycle, the committee will have held three in-person meetings and three conference calls to review initial and recertification applications, construct the exam, review and respond to requests, and grade examinations.
The 2009-10 Health Law Certification Committee included Stephanie Russo,
chair; Gregory Scott Baity, vice chair; Jonathan David Fleece, Michael Paul Gennett, Bernabe Antonio Icaza, Carol Ann Kalish, Lester J. Perling, Paula Ann Willis, and David John Winker.
Committee members devoted numerous hours to the review and approval of initial applicants to sit for the exam, and review of recertification applications. Multiple peer references were obtained and evaluated for each applicant.
Additionally, committee members devoted a substantial amount of time reviewing, updating, and revising the exam which consists of multiple choice and essay questions. Careful attention was paid to updates and changes in health law and to the fairness of the exam. Scott Baity, Paula Willis, Jonathan Fleece, Michele Lamar-Acuff, and I attended the Certification Leadership Conference and Exam Workshop.
The committee extends special thanks to Michele Lamar-Acuff, our staff liaison, for making our working possible. I sincerely thank Michele and all the members of this year's committee for their hard work and dedication.
STEPHANIE A. RUSSO, Chair
Immigration and Nationality Law Certification
Certification in our field was approved in 1994, and this year started with 51 certified attorneys. Over the past two years, the committee undertook several steps to encourage more immigration attorneys to seek certification. Those efforts are beginning to show some results. This year, we evaluated 17 applications and 13 applicants sat for the examination on March 12, 2010. The exams have not been graded at the time of writing.
Nearly all attorneys who practice immigration law are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). This national organization with more than 11,000 members has two chapters in Florida: The South Florida Chapter and the Central Florida Chapter. The committee acknowledges the assistance of the officers of the two Florida chapters of AILA in publicizing the advantage of board certification for Florida attorneys. We hope to continue working with AILA to promote board certification as we aim to get to at least 70 board certified attorneys in the next two to three years.
As dictated by the Florida Supreme Court, the evaluation of the applicant necessarily involves the determination of whether the applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. The committee appreciates all of the attorneys who responded to the committee's requests for the submission of peer reviews and evidence of substantial involvement in this area of law. Every applicant can be assured that the information provided was carefully considered by the committee in the evaluation of the applicant.
The committee took many hours to draft, review, and revise the examination. One committee member had to resign due to other commitments, but the other members stepped up and shared the workload. One very welcome addition to the committee this year was Linda Osberg-Braun. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the committee and was a tremendous help during deadlines.
When I joined the committee in 2007, I had no idea how rewarding it would be personally and professionally. I am sure every committee member will agree that there is no better educational and professional experience than to serve on a certification committee. I encourage all certified attorneys to volunteer to serve on the committee. It will be difficult to find a more congenial, knowledgeable, and professional group of attorneys with whom to associate in the advancement of the ideals of the profession.
It has been a real pleasure to serve as chair of this hard-working committee. Special thanks go to Vice Chair Roger Bernstein and Catherine Henin, past chair, who were always available for assistance and counsel. Committee members who devoted their time individually and during meetings included Ramon Carrion, Kari Ann Fonte, Catherine Henin, Wayne Levine, Linda Osberg-Braun, and Philip Zyne.
Finally, on behalf of the entire committee, I thank Alexzina "Zina" Jackson, our certification specialist and staff liaison with the Bar. Zina ensured that our time and effort were well spent and productive. Her assistance was invaluable.
DILIP PATEL, Chair
Intellectual Property Certification
The Intellectual Property (IP) Certification Committee approves members of the Bar who practice IP law and have special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism to be properly identified as board certified in intellectual property law by the Bar. When certified, the member may advertise as a specialist in the field of practice. Currently in this third year of IP certification, 108 members of the Bar have been board certified, and the committee is currently considering 21 applicants who have applied. The committee set an aspiration goal of 30 applicants this fiscal year and is pleased with the current 21 count roster.
The most significant event in this fiscal year was the change in certification standards by the corresponding substantive law committee, the IP Subcommittee of the Business Law Section. The change in the substantial practice involvement requirement was initiated by the IP Certification Committee. Currently, all applicants must be substantially involved in the practice of intellectual property law at least 30 percent for the past five years. The certification committee had requested, and the substantive IP Law Committee approved after a lengthy debate, increasing the substantial involvement percentage to 50 percent. Currently, this amendment to The Florida Bar rules is pending with the Florida Supreme Court.
This fiscal year, the nine-member committee (Robert Kain, chair; Michael Chesal, vice chair; Ava Doppelt, Alex Fernandez, Janet Moreira-Gamble, Jeff Lloyd, Steve Stein, Mark Terry, and Richard Fee) drafted the six hour IP certification exam for 12 examinees (nine applicants applied for the expiring 20-year practice waiver). The exams will be graded in July. The committee wrote and approved for publication the IP certification pamphlet. Also, to assist examinees, the committee published on its website sample exam questions and answers. The chair greatly appreciates all the work of its members. The committee meets nine to 10 times per year, and each of its members devotes in excess of 40 hours to draft exam questions, review applicant files, and otherwise conduct committee business. This level of attention and dedication to professionalism is hard to find, and the chair is honored to work with these members.
ROBERT KAIN, Chair
International Law Certification
The International Law Certification Committee has focused on bringing awareness of this significant certification discipline to members of The Florida Bar for the purpose of encouraging attorneys to seek certification and to promote interest in this important area of the law. International law is a unique certification area and is increasingly more important to the public and attorneys throughout our diverse state.
The international law certification exam was recently held, and five attorneys sat for the examination. This is a significant increase over recent years. We continue to aim to increase that figure and expand our certification area membership. The committee has taken steps to review the examination, our procedures for drafting examination questions, scoring, and qualifying applicants for the examination process. We have made substantive efforts to make the process more streamlined so as to encourage Florida attorneys to become certified in international law.
We are working with the BLSE to bring further improvements to the certification process and encourage communication with our committee for suggestions for improvement.
I thank the members of the International Law Certification Committee for their hard work, determination, and enthusiasm this past year. I also wish to recognize and thank our Florida Bar liaison, Alexzina Jackson, for her tireless efforts and assistance throughout the year.
THEODORE R. WALTERS, Chair
Judicial Administration and Evaluation
The Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee has had a productive year finishing a major project aimed at helping to inform voters about judicial candidates and beginning study of a major area of interest--judicial recusals.
In July 2009, the Board of Governors approved The Florida Bar Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement, which the committee developed over the past couple of years. These statements, which will be posted on the Bar's website, will allow judicial candidates to answer a variety of questions voters may wish to know about their backgrounds. The program also will give candidates a way to avoid becoming fodder for special interest groups more eager to label them than introduce them to the public.
This program, which will be available for the 2010 elections, reflects the committee's belief that the high quality of Florida's judiciary must be maintained. Although voluntary, the program will give voters a window into the background of the judicial candidates, thus helping them to make informed decisions when going to the polls.
Special thanks go to members of the subcommittee who worked on the project: Judge John M. Kest, Judge John K. Stargel, Stacey K. Sutton and Andrew V. Tramont, Jr., of the JAEC, and Judge Jacqueline K. Scola of the 11th Circuit Court, a volunteer representative. They diligently worked on getting a statement that met all the criteria suggested by the JAEC and The Florida Bar's Citizens Forum, a group of public citizens that makes suggestions to The Florida Bar on all types of issues. The Citizens Forum was concerned that the public does not have enough information when voting for members of the judiciary and voiced this concern to representatives of the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee.
Additionally, the committee's thanks go to President-Elect Mayanne Downs, the committee's board liaison at the time, for her help in getting the project approved unanimously by the entire Board of Governors.
Additionally this year, the committee has been working on the use of recusals, not only how they are used against judges who cannot defend themselves against them, but also how attorneys use them against each other. This subject has become an issue of great concern to all involved in the legal profession. To learn more about the topic, the committee held a video conference with Professor Charles Geyh of Indiana University, one of the American Bar Association's leading authorities on the subject of recusals. Judge John M. Kest, Thomas E. Warner, and Gerald F. Richman deserve special recognition for their hard work on this subject.
Besides the JAEC, the Rules of Judicial Administration and the Supreme Court's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee took part in the video conference. The JAEC has a subcommittee now working to review the use of recusals with the goal of making a full committee recommendation to the Board of Governors on how this issue should be handled by the courts.
Finally, I thank all members of the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee for their valuable service. The members of this committee work hard and are dedicated to keeping Florida's judiciary one of the best in the country. Also, I would like to thank our liaison, Doris Maffei, for her tireless efforts on behalf of the committee.
IVAN JAC REICH, Chair
The Judicial Independence Committee is charged with considering various methods of strengthening Florida's judiciary and maintaining its fair, impartial, and independent characteristics, including but not limited to possible changes in state constitutional or statutory law.
During the 2009-10 year, the committee focused on taking its mission to the broader public by developing a program of civic education for adults. To be unveiled at the 2010 Annual Convention, the program is called Benchmarks: Courts, Rights and the Rule of Law--Teaching Attorneys How to Teach Adults about Their Government.
The program is designed not just to talk about public service, but to put lawyers in action to provide public service by educating the public on concepts central to understanding the United States' democratic government and structure. In return, the committee's hope is that the image of the legal profession will be strengthened, too.
The seminar at annual convention will feature Florida Bar President Jesse Diner, a staunch advocate of judicial independence and strategies to promote it among the public; Eugene Pettis, chair of the Bar's Judicial Independence Committee; attorney Richard Levenstein, a champion of civic education for adults; and nationally known legal educator Annette Boyd Pitts, founding executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association.
Attendees of the two-hour seminar will learn why the mission to educate the public about the judiciary and the rule of law is crucial to protecting citizens' rights and the American way of self governance. Activities specifically teach concepts of judicial review; the Bill of Rights and reviewing laws to see if they are constitutional; facts and knowledge about U.S. government and the courts, and court funding.
Working with the Judicial Independence Committee, Pitts developed the trainings, which will be taped so that others can see the lesson plans in action. The committee's hope is that voluntary bar groups will embrace the program and encourage their members to become benchmark ambassadors when they are invited to speak to civic, cultural, religious, and other community groups. The committee is making all materials available to attorneys from The Florida Bar website at www.floridabar/judicialindependence.
Going forward, the hope is that when attorneys teach these basic concepts, they will be able to earn CLE credit for their activities promoting civic awareness about the role of the judiciary and its vital place in our democracy.
Additionally, during the past year the Judicial Independence Committee remained committed to a legislative funding formula that allows Florida's court system to retain monies brought in through trust accounts and to regain jobs eliminated over three years of budget cuts. The committee believes that independent funding is at the heart of a fair, impartial, and independent judiciary.
EUGENE PETTIS, Chair
Judicial Nominating Procedures
The purpose and mission of this committee is to assist the governor and the JNCs in performing their duties under Art. V, [section] 11 of the Florida Constitution and under F.S. [section] 43.291. Our primary tasks are to plan and organize the JNC training seminar for all commissioners, to plan and organize JNC rules conventions when needed, and to keep commissioners apprised of any new legislation or rules that may affect their duties. The committee continually works with the governor's office in making the nominating process efficient and effective.
As chair of the Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee for 2009-10, I am pleased to report that not only were there no new restrictions imposed on the JNC process by the legislature, but also that our committee made significant progress in accomplishing its mission of assisting the governor's office in administering the judicial selection process in Florida. In that effort we continue to enjoy extensive and valuable participation by the governor's staff in all aspects of our committee's work.
Among our accomplishments this year were:
* JNC Training--The JNC Uniform Rules of Procedures require new commissioners to complete an educational course within the first 12 months of their initial appointment. The committee works in conjunction with the governor's office in developing the program and curriculum for training new commissioners. This year's JNC training took place on May 15, 2009, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse at the invitation of Chief Judge Manuel Menendez and former chair of the committee Judge Mark Wolfe. The program consisted of a panel discussion on various aspects of the nominating process; a review of the chair's responsibilities; a "mock" judicial interview to improve interviewing techniques; a discussion of sunshine laws and public records requirements; and a discussion of the relevant ethics rules and reporting requirements. The program was taped and put on a DVD and distributed to each commission.
* JNC Rules Convention--A rules convention was held in Tampa on September 11, 2009, attended by representatives from the circuit and DCA JNCs so they could consider and vote on revisions to the current judicial application. After three years of gathering suggestions from the governor's office, the JNC commissioners, and our committee members, the committee decided on a final version of its proposed changes. The final revised application was presented for approval to the rules convention, and the new application was unanimously approved. It became effective on November 10, 2009.
* JNC Newsletter--The committee developed the newsletter to increase knowledge and communication among JNC commissioners throughout the state. It can be used to transmit new information, as an educational tool to review procedures, and to share information among commissioners. The first issue was electronically disseminated to all sitting commissioners electronically by the governor's office. Another issue is expected to be released soon. The frequency of the publication will depend on the information being disseminated.
* JNC Handbook--Additional items were considered and approved for inclusion in the JNC handbook, a valuable resource provided to all new commissioners. They include a summary of the rules governing public records requests; a sample letter to the applicant; a sample press release advertising the judicial vacancy; the Florida Supreme Court's 2009 decision in Pleus v. Crist, 14 So. 3d 941 (July 2, 2009), conveying the governor's obligation to appoint a nominee from the JNC's certified list; a June 15, 2009, memo from the Commission on Ethics regarding gift and disclosure standards; and Form 8A from the Ethics laws--dealing with voting conflicts for state officers.
* Review of JNC Process--A new subcommittee was formed to review procedures for "post-nomination" issues, meetings, or conference calls. The subcommittee gathered information from some JNCs and developed a list of post-nomination requests and how they were handled. The committee had several lively discussions about the issues raised by this subcommittee's report. Many of these issues were addressed by existing uniform rules, and suggestions for possible new rules in the future.
* Review of Uniform Rules for Technology--This new subcommittee will review the Uniform Rules of Procedure to determine whether any updates are needed to reflect advances in technology since the rules were drafted.
This committee is comprised of an enthusiastic mix of current and past JNC members, judges, and lawyers from throughout the state with invaluable assistance and guidance from Bar liaison Vicki Brand (no one knows more than she) and the Bar's General Counsel Paul Hill. President Jesse Diner and President-elect Mayanne Downs appeared at each meeting to reinforce the importance of the committee's work.
AVA DOPPELT, Chair
Labor and Employment Law Certification
The area of labor and employment law certification was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2000 and currently numbers 192 certified labor and employment law attorneys.
The practice of labor and employment law encompasses advice and representation concerning the application and interpretation of public and private sector labor and employment law principles, as well as employment discrimination and employment-related civil rights law.
To qualify for the labor and employment law certification exam, attorneys must be a member of the Bar for five years, be engaged in the full-time practice of law, and be substantially involved (at least 50 percent) in labor and employment law. Attorneys seeking labor and employment law certification must also complete at least 60 hours of advanced continuing legal education of approved labor and employment law credits and pass a stringent peer review process. All currently certified attorneys must apply for recertification every five years. Attorneys interested in applying for board certification in labor and employment law may find the application, standards, and committee policies on The Florida Bar's website.
For 2009-10, there were 16 applicants. Of those, 13 sat for the exam on March 12, 2010. As of this writing, the final exam grades had not been approved by the Board of Legal Specialization and Education. In addition to the many hours each member spent outside the formal sessions drafting examination questions, the committee held numerous conference calls and met twice in person this year. During these meetings, the committee reviewed 16 initial applications and 10 recertification applications. This year, there are nine lawyers who will undergo the recertification process.
The committee extends special thanks and best wishes to our Florida Bar staff liaisons, Suzanne Dunn and Michele Acuff. Members of the Labor and Employment Law Certification Committee include Thomas Delegal, vice chair; William H. Andrews, Ryan Barack, Don R. Boswell, Luis "Tony" Cabassa, Sherril Colombo, Robyn Hankins, and Marlene Quintana.
WILLIAM MITCHELL, Chair
Law Related Education
The Law Related Education Committee enjoyed an exceptional year developing new law-related education programs and promoting law-related education in Florida's schools this year. The committee was pleased to take on a special project recently in partnership with The Florida Bar's Committee on Judicial Independence. Through the initiative of committee Vice Chair Renelda Mack and Judicial Independence Committee members Richard Levenstein and Professor Debra Moss Curtis, a legal forum was held on Saturday, March 13, 2010, at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. Committee member Annette Boyd Pitts, executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., was invited to assist a panel of judges to delve into the Fourth Amendment as related to a real case involving a speeding car. Audience members ranged from teens to law students to adults who had been recruited to participate by the Committee's Outreach and Development Subcommittee team leader, Peter DiPace. Over 95 percent of all participants attending the program evaluated the legal forum at the highest possible level, noting they were very satisfied with the program especially the content and engaging style of presentation. Seventy five percent of participants asked for future programs to be longer and to allow more participants to attend.
The Legal Guides Subcommittee led by team member Dion Hancock also tackled a new project this year--the development of a Legal Guide for New Adults YouTube video contest for high school students. The Legal Guide educates Florida's high school seniors on the legal rights and responsibilities they assume when they become adults. Rules for submission of videos and judging criteria have been developed for the contest as well as suggested prizes for winners. The committee hopes that the video contest will provide an additional level of student interest in the Legal Guide. In addition, Vice Chair Scott Slater and other members of the committee researched and updated the Legal Guide to reflect recent changes in the law. Legal Guides Subcommittee members also began revisions to the So You Want to be a Lawyer pamphlet, which should be completed and ready for publication by July.
Former committee chair Janeia Daniels continued to make an exceptional contribution to the education of Florida's students with her efforts as team leader for the Mock Trial/Moot Court Subcommittee. This year, Daniels developed the case materials for both the high school mock trial and moot court competitions. In addition, committee members continue their support of the annual high school mock trial and moot court competitions by serving as served as coaches, judges, and program developers. Each year, these competitions have allowed dozens of students to experience hands-on the operations of Florida's judicial system and to see how a case progresses from the trial stage to appellate arguments before the state's highest court. This year, 20 teams representing 19 of 20 judicial circuits participated in the high school mock trial. Over 1,000 high school students competed at circuit, and over 200 participated at state this year. The students were amazing; judges stated that many were as good as many lawyers that come before them. The moot court competition began in April with brief evaluations and DCA competitions in late April. Competition finals will be held in mid-May.
Outreach and Development Subcommittee team leader Peter DiPace worked to involve voluntary bar associations in the promotion of FLREA and LREC. DiPace met with Damian Thomas, a board member and chair of the Schools Committee for the Dade County Bar Association (DCBA). Damian agreed to assist with raising awareness for the Florida Law Related Education Association and the committee by placing articles and advertisements for our projects in the DCBA news bulletin. He also agreed to speak to the president of the DCBA's Young Lawyers Section (YLS) in order to add advertisements for our activities to the YLS monthly mailings. Finally, Thomas has agreed to include us in the 11th DCA centennial celebration, which is scheduled to last for eight months during 2011. As part of the celebration, the 11th DCA centennial committee is interested in organizing a mock trial competition for 7th graders and developing a 7th grade civics curriculum.
The committee continues to enthusiastically support the efforts of the Justice Teaching project as part of its goal to maintain and enhance the cooperative efforts of attorneys and educators in the field of law-related education in Florida. Also, in furtherance of its efforts to provide law-related education materials to Florida Bar members in one easily accessible place, the committee has established a Web page that can be accessed at http://www.floridabar.org/cmdocs/cm470.nsf/WDOCS. And last, but certainly not least, two congratulatory notes: The committee congratulates its assigned Florida Bar staff Mirieth Valenciano Marin on becoming a naturalized United States citizen and also wishes the Florida Law Related Education Association a happy 25th birthday with many more to come!
DANA BIVINS BROWN, Chair
Lawyer Referral Service
The Lawyer Referral Service Committee had a very active and productive year. The committee and staff worked with the Bar's information technology (IT) department in developing a computer system that would e-mail the lawyers on the service as soon as the referral was made. The committee and staff also worked with the IT department in developing a computer program that would automatically e-mail the monthly reports directly to the lawyers. These new features will decrease the cost of postage and printing.
In 2009, the Lawyer Referral Staff made over 106,000 referrals and 18,577 referrals were made online. In 2009, the service received $144,607 in renewal dues and $446,006 in remittance fees.
The top five counties in which referrals were made were Dade County, Polk County, Marion County, Volusia County, and Sarasota County. The top five areas of law referred were family law, personal injury law, real estate law, employment law, and consumer law.
The committee continues to strive to create public awareness of the service through Yellow Pages advertising and press releases, and membership awareness via the Bar News, Journal,and the Bar's website.
The committee will meet at The Florida Bar Midyear Meeting in Orlando to discuss its goals and objectives for the 2010-11 Bar year.
MICHAEL A. WASSERMAN, Chair
Media & Communications Law
The Media & Communications Law Committee kicked off the year with its 20th annual intensive two-day workshop for selected journalists from around the state who concentrate on reporting about the judicial system and lawyers. Committee members Craig Waters, public information officer of the Supreme Court, and David M. Snyder spearheaded this program.
The attendees were privileged to conduct all of their sessions in the Florida Supreme Court building itself and to meet and dine with many members of the court. The committee presented its 55th Annual Media Awards at the seminar dinner featuring Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince.
The committee partnered with the First Amendment Foundation to present citizen seminars throughout Florida in February 2010 on open government laws. The seminars attracted hundreds of ordinary citizens anxious to learn how they can get access to public records and meetings.
Committee chair emeritus Sam Morley, general counsel for the Florida Press Association, organized the Sunshine seminars, Morley also published an important article in the February 2010 Florida Bar Journal entitled "How Broad is Web Immunity Under the Communications Decency Act of 1996?" The article explains when website operators can be sued for content posted on their sites by others.
The committee teamed up with the Florida International University College of Law in Miami to present its Annual Media Law Conference on March 26, 2010.
Patricia Acosta of Hunton & Williams, LLP, chaired the conference and called it a "smashing success." It featured Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal's keynote address and a behind the scenes tell-all by The State newspaper star reporter Gina Smith. Smith caught South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford at the Atlanta airport returning from a secret rendezvous with his Argentinean mistress. The plenary session at the conference entitled Journalism & Other Financial Disasters predicted how the law will govern reporters and editors 10 years in the future.
Broward bulldog Dan Christensen, FIU journalism Dean Lillian Kopenhaver, and Tribune Company Assistant General Counsel David Bralow were also featured speakers at the Media Law Conference. Christensen and Sam Terilli speculated about whether not-for-profit Web-based news may displace print newspapers entirely. Richard J. Ovelmen eulogized Daniel P.S. Paul in a moving tribute to this legendary Florida media lawyer. Matthew Leish, Ovelman, and Morley analyzed the complex body of law that has developed from attempts by outraged citizens to unmask anonymous online posters.
Committee members Carol J. Lo Cicero and Jon Kaney have played key roles in the ongoing Florida Supreme Court effort to decide which court records may be posted on the Internet. They presented an important breakout session at the Media Law Conference explaining a lengthy new decision that amends the court record access rules and takes us one-step closer to the much-desired online access of all court records.
Michael J. Glazer and Steven E. Wallace explained at the Media Law Conference how the Associated Press and other media companies managed to defeat the National Collegiate Athletic Association's attempt to invalidate the Florida Public Records Law. David M. Snyder, Florence Snyder, Edward M. Mullins, and Karen W. Kammer debated whether the tort of libel by implication is likely to become popular in light of a Florida Supreme Court decision outlawing false light claims. Tim Conner, Dana McElroy, Hannibal Travis, and Bralow sorted out the rules now evolving to govern Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.
The committee will finish its year at the Bar's annual convention on June 26, 2010, when it presents its annual seminar on the U. S. Supreme Court's First Amendment decisions of the prior 12 months. This is one of the longest running seminars in the nation that tackles the job of trying to make sense of current First Amendment doctrine.
The featured case this year will be Citizens United v. FEC, which The New York Times condemned as "A Blow to Democracy" and The Wall Street Journal praised as "A Free Speech Landmark."
Other cases on the Supreme Court docket that will be discussed at the seminar examine a law that bans animal crush videos; a law that bans advice to deadbeats faced with crushing debt; an injunction against the broadcast a federal gay rights trial; an order reversing a cocaine conviction because the judge booted the defendant's uncle out of the court during jury selection; a law banning nonviolent advice to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; Congress's conveyance of a cross in the Mojave Desert; and a Hastings College of Law decision to ban a group devoted to Jesus Christ and opposed to a sexually morally lifestyle.
Senior Third District Court of Appeal Judge Alan Schwartz is always the star attraction at this seminar, and he is scheduled to star again this year along with other judges, academics, and media lawyers.
THOMAS R. JULIN, Chair
With great pleasure I submit this report. I have enjoyed serving as the Florida Bar Member Benefit Committee chair during the past year and am very excited to touch on some of the most recent developments and share an overview of all of the wonderful things that we have accomplished.
The committee reviewed over 14 proposals from potential Bar member benefit providers during the 2009-10 fiscal year and launched several new programs including Affiniscape Merchant Solutions and Brooks Brothers Clothiers. We are very pleased to announce the addition of our two newest benefits that were recently approved by the Board of Governors: 1) the Ann Taylor members discount program and 2) BPC (Business Planning Concepts, Inc.) Financials Office Property Liability Program. The Ann Taylor program specifically provides a 20 percent discount to members of The Florida Bar for any full-priced purchase of $100 or more both in stores and online. The Florida Bar is the first bar (state or otherwise) to offer the Ann Taylor member benefits, which will be promoted much the same as the other apparel member benefits on the Bar member benefits website www.floridabar.org/memberbenefits.
The Office Property Liability Program is being offered through Lloyd's of London Syndicate. It provides property coverage solutions for attorney firms in Florida that cover firms of various sizes and locations, particularly small- to medium-sized firms in coastal areas. It provides general liability coverage of $2,000,000 aggregate/$1,000,000 occurrence with no deductible, and defense costs are included in addition the limits. Additional property coverage includes various items like accounts receivable, computer equipment, sign coverage, spoilage, valuable papers, fine arts, money, employee dishonesty, property of others, water backup and sump overflow, outdoor property along with employment practices liability insurance. The terms of pricing and deductible levels for property coverage will be based on a present rating chart. The chart will categorize a prospective risk based on property characteristics including location, year built, and construction type. Credits will be available for insured's who wish to increase their AOP deductible to $2,500 or $5,000. Credits will also be applied to insured's located in protection class areas one to five (protection class areas refer to the availability of fire department services among other things). Additionally, there will be some concessions available when rates will be preset and will tend to be more competitive on the less desirable construction risks and locations. This competitive advantage will partially exist just as a result of availability. Capacity will exist in all areas of the state including the very difficult coastal areas and capacity will increase as the program grows. Each policy will include all additional coverage offered which is not typical to a standard ISO property policy.
The Members Benefits Committee is also pleased to have just recently announced the launch of the new Fastcase app for the iPhone/iTouch. This is a great benefit that is being offered to our members who can now access legal briefs, case law, statutes, etc., on the go.
The committee encourages all members of The Florida Bar to visit the website to take advantage of the wide array of discounted personal and professional services offered through The Florida Bar member benefits program.
LAVERNE LARGIE, Chair
The Member Outreach Committee's mission is to promote the participation of all Florida Bar members in sections, committees, voluntary bars, and other Bar activities, while enhancing ways to increase diverse and inclusive participation in these areas. Over the last several years, the committee has focused primarily on The Florida Bar's overall goal of increasing diversity and participation among diverse members.
The Member Outreach Committee concluded this year that diversity is extremely important on a local level, and The Florida Bar should facilitate diversity programs involving the voluntary bars. Committee members agreed that voluntary bars are the main means of outreach for membership involvement and participation.
While the committee will redirect the diversity conversation to the local bars and provide assistance in holding local and regional programs, it will also refocus on its original mission of outreach to all members, with diversity as a part of it. Toward that end, the MOC is now working to develop policies and promote joint initiatives for the enhancement of diversity and inclusiveness of all Florida Bar members in the legal profession and will look at new ways to reach uninvolved Bar members.
MAYANNE DOWNS, Chair
The Military Affairs Committee enjoyed a noteworthy year in support of active duty service members, reservist, National Guard soldiers/airmen, veterans, and their family members.
The most significant highlights of committee's productive year were the Annual Military Law and Legal Assistance Symposium held last year at the Bar's annual convention in Orlando and the Veterans Law Accreditation Training Seminar held in September in Tampa.
Both seminars were well attended by Bar members and military attorneys from all branches of our armed services. The participants overwhelmingly expressed that the events were informative and entertaining via their evaluation questionnaires. The positive feedback was a testament to the quality of the efforts given by the committee members.
The Military Law and Legal Symposium included a wide range of topics i.e., estate planning, family law, and military justice. Daniel J. D'Alesio, our outgoing committee chair, orchestrated the implementation of the informative event. Moreover, D'Alesio, a retired Navy colonel judge advocate, was awarded by the committee our annual Clayton Burton Award for his numerous years of outstanding service to the Bar, the military, and the committee.
Likewise, Harold W. Youmans, a two-time former Clayton Burton awardee, was the driving force behind the Veterans Law Accreditation Training Seminar. The seminar covered areas such as disability compensations, claims, dependency, and pensions. We were truly fortunate that John Tuthill, T. Edmond Spinks, and other high caliber subject matter experts volunteered their services as lecturers and preparers of voluminous course outlines.
The committee is planning another Military Law and Legal Assistance Symposium for this year's annual convention. Additionally, we anticipate holding another Veteran Law Accreditation Training Seminar in September 2010. We will encourage Bar members to add a very worthwhile day of CLE to their meeting plans in June and September.
The committee's substantive efforts this year focused on reenergizing our efforts in support of its core mission. The committee members formed several subcommittees to study various outreach efforts. While those efforts are ongoing, the committee has embarked on a direct effort to attempt to measure how well the Bar statewide is responding to the needs of service members, veterans, and their families. To that end, a brief survey instrument has been sent to local bar leadership, as well as local and regional legal aid organizations, in an attempt to gather data on local efforts. Since most legal aid is focused on the local area, the committee believes that it is those local organizations that are best positioned to facilitate a statewide sustained effort to meet the needs of the military, veterans, and their families. In addition, the committee hopes to gather "best practices" information to share with the Bar. The committee will report on the results of the survey and spread the news of best practices as this effort continues.
Please join us as we move forward in providing assistance to America's heroes and their families.
JAMES A. RUTH, Chair
Prepaid Legal Services
The Prepaid Legal Services Committee of The Florida Bar is--as it has been for all times since the Board of Governors first created this public service standing committee in 1974--expressly entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that legal services plans submitted by members of The Florida Bar are in full and complete compliance with the rules and regulations of, what is now known as Ch. 9, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.
In addition to fulfilling its stated mission, the committee has, throughout the years, expanded its scope and focus to include 1) educating the membership of The Florida Bar on the specifics of the Florida regulatory system of legal services plans, including (a) the entrepreneurial aspects of the creation and establishment of Plans by and under Ch. 9, and (b) the availability of those certain other legal and business opportunities provided in the Legal Expense Insurance Act, by and under the provisions of F.S. Ch. 642; and 2) creating a greater awareness in the consuming public of the benefits afforded upon membership in plans.
During this 2009-10 Bar year, the committee successfully carried out its responsibilities upon undertaking and completing various tasks and projects throughout the year.
First and foremost, the committee had the opportunity to review and discuss at length the submission of five amended Ch. 9 plans, each of which was ultimately approved by the committee. Further, the committee oversaw the renewal process involving some 36 Ch. 9 plans for calendar year 2010.
In addition, the committee, during its January meeting, approved for publication two new committee pamphlets: 1) "What Every Florida Attorney Should Know About Chapter 9 Legal Services Plans," designed to provide every attorney in private practice in Florida with an overview of Ch. 9 and, in particular, describing how a Ch. 9 plan may benefit a practicing Florida attorney in creating a built-in client base; and 2) "What Every Florida Consumer Should Know About Legal Services Plans," designed to provide every consumer in Florida with general information about legal services plans, and, in particular, emphasizing, as so codified in Rule 91.2., Statement of Policy and Purposes, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, that plans are, indeed, "one means of increasing a person's ability to obtain legal services at an affordable cost in order to have the opportunity to better gain access to the legal system." The committee reasonably believes that these two pamphlets shall serve to educate and enlighten both attorneys and consumers for years to come.
Finally, during the June 2010 annual convention, the committee was once again privileged to join forces with the Florida Lawyers Legal Insurance Company to co-sponsor an informative CLE seminar held before a sold-out audience. This year, the committee furnished speakers who made presentations on topics of interest relevant to legal services plans in Florida: 1) Chapter 9 Legal Services Plans in Florida: Practical Considerations in Creation and Establishment, and 2) Perspectives from a Managing Attorney: Operating a Successful Legal Services Plan.
At this time, the undersigned would be remiss not to acknowledge the performance of several individuals whose great work have contributed significantly to the committee's accomplishing its agenda and further its mission.
I thank and acknowledge the efforts of the committee's new program administrator, Ricky Libbert, who came on board after the committee's meeting on September 11, 2009, for her willingness and desire to learn, both the technical requirements inherent in Ch. 9 and the inner workings of the committee; Vice Chair John P. Joseph, who served as co-chair of the 2010 annual convention CLE, for his dedication and commitment to expanding the role of the committee and promoting the concept of legal services plans among attorneys throughout the Florida; and Nancy R. Berger, chair of the Committee's Pamphlet Subcommittee, for her hard work and diligent efforts in overseeing, to its successful conclusion, the creation and design of the two new committee pamphlets.
It has been an honor to serve as chair of the Prepaid Legal Services Committee during these past two Bar years, and it is now my great privilege to pass the torch of leadership to John and Nancy and wish them both well as they continue to fulfill the committee's mission, moving forward during the upcoming 2010-11 Bar year and beyond.
JOHN SCHAEFER, Chair
Probate and Guardianship Rules
The Probate and Guardianship Rules Committee has completed another busy year. The committee's triennial report was made with the recommendation of numerous changes to both the rules and the committee notes. The rules which were modified were 5.030, 5.040, 5.110, 5.200, 5.210, 5.260, 5.340, 5.406, 5.440, 5.496, 5.696, 5.710, and 5.725. A detailed review of the changes is beyond the scope of this report; however, triennial report has been posted and published at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/clerk/comments/2010/ 10-171_012910_Report.pdf.
The committee, during the past year, endeavored to further its working relationship with other committees and sections, particularly the Probate Law Committee and the Guardianship Law Committee of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section. A special joint meeting was held in conjunction with a meeting of the Probate Law Committee. By continuing to work closely with substantive law committees, the rules committee is better able to implement necessary rule changes as a result of proposed legislation that later becomes law.
The committee continues to work on improving the manner in which it conducts business. Meetings are often conducted electronically and via phone conference. While face-to-face meetings are important, they are being held less frequently. When held, they are sometimes held in conjunction with other organizations' meetings in order to minimize costs and to increase attendance. This past year the committee held one of its face-to-face meetings in conjunction with the Heckerling Institute on estate planning sponsored by the University of Miami. A special thank you goes to Laura Adams at the University of Miami for facilitating this meeting.
This past year also saw the retirement of the committee's longtime Bar liaison, Craig Shaw. On behalf of all past committee chairs and members, both past and present, I thank him for his many dedicated years of service and wish him well in his future endeavors.
The committee has several significant new projects which are well under way. It has undertaken a complete review of service and notice issues, with particular emphasis on those related to formal notice and service in the manner of formal notice. Rules implementing electronic service and filing requirements are being prepared in conjunction with the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee and other rules committees. The rules relating to guardian advocates are being reviewed and updated.
The committee welcomes its new Bar liaison, Krys Godwin, and looks forward to working with her. All of the committee members have devoted innumerable hours toward committee business during the past year. I thank all of the members, subcommittee chairs, and vice chairs for their hard work. It has been a pleasure to work with all of you.
FRANK T. PILOTTE, Chair
Pro Bono Legal Services
In 2009, the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services launched a campaign for a renewed commitment to pro bono services by Florida attorneys.
The foundation of the committee's work in the past year began several years ago when the committee noticed that pro bono legal services in Florida--both number of lawyers providing pro bono and number of hours--was in decline. In 2007 and 2008, the committee studied the development and its causes. With the completion of the Carmody report in 2008, Pro Bono:Looking Back, Moving Forward, the committee had a detailed look at the state of pro bono in Florida. The study revealed that pro bono legal services have been on the decline--both the number of lawyers providing pro bono and the hours of pro bono service--despite the growing number of members of the Bar and the increase in legal needs of low income people. In addition, it revealed that the primary reason attorneys do not perform pro bono is perceived lack of time.
Armed with this information, the committee launched a strategic marketing campaign called the One Campaign: One Client. One Attorney. One Promise. The One Campaign addresses attorneys' concerns about not having enough time by simplifying the message: Help one client. "Make one commitment to help one person with one problem. It won't take a lot of time, but it will make a world of difference."
It is this creed that shaped the work of the committee throughout 2009 and initiated a statewide strategy to engage the entire legal community in prioritizing pro bono work. The vision of our committee was far-reaching. We wanted to develop a campaign that would fundamentally challenge the way pro bono is perceived among attorneys, judges, bar associations, and local legal aid programs. To do that, the committee is focusing its efforts with all of those groups working circuit by circuit to engage the leadership of the entire legal community in prioritizing pro bono.
The committee worked for two months almost exclusively on coordination of and creation of a brochure, poster, and video that would aid our efforts in promoting the campaign across the state. We also worked with the Florida Supreme Court staff to coordinate the kickoff of "One" for pro bono week at the end of October 2009. During the Supreme Court kickoff, we unveiled our new One materials, and the charge was led by Chief Justice Peggy Quince, Florida Bar President Jesse Diner, and Florida Bar Foundation President Adele Stone to challenge all Florida attorneys to answer the call of the campaign by helping one pro bono client.
Additionally, the committee worked with Florida Legal Services' (FLS) website staff to design and create a new website, http://www.onepromiseflorida. org to provide information about the One campaign, pro bono opportunities, and training materials.
After the launch, the message of the campaign spread like wildfire and made an impact on legal communities across Florida. Working in coordination with the local bar associations, judiciaries, and legal aid programs the committee developed strategies for One kickoffs in Brevard County, Hills-borough County, Broward County, Alachua County, Duval County, and Collier County. The committee's goal is to work its way to every county in Florida, engaging the local legal leadership to develop its own unique approach to deliver the One message to its community. So far this approach is resonating. In Brevard County, the One kickoff engaged the chief circuit court judge, the Bar president, and over 75 members of the local bar association. At the conclusion of the event, over 40 new attorneys signed up to take pro bono cases in family law, foreclosure, and unemployment issues.
In Hillsborough County, Circuit Court Judge James Barton, a committee member, is leading the charge. Working in coordination with the local Young Lawyers Division, he engaged 40 local judges to participate in a pro bono luncheon with over 50 young attorneys aimed at encouraging both young attorneys and judges to become more involved in pro bono work.
Committee Chair Judge William Van Nortwick has been presenting the message of the campaign at local bar association luncheons. In Jacksonville, he spoke before their largest crowd ever of 450 attorneys and challenged them to take seriously their professional responsibility to ensure there is equal access to the justice system for all Florida residents by doing pro bono.
Our committee continues to work to ensure that our comprehensive approach to re-defining pro bono is successful. At this year's annual Bar convention, the One campaign will be included in the theme of the conference. In addition, committee members are working in conjunction with the YLD leadership to discuss the importance of pro bono at every Practicing with Professionalism (PWP) workshop conducted in the state. Our committee is also organizing a pro bono workshop this summer for legal aid programs which will focus on recruiting volunteer attorneys, developing creative pro bono opportunities for attorneys, and ongoing utilization of volunteers.
The One campaign will be the primary focus of the committee for the next two years. We look forward to reporting on an increase in pro bono throughout the state.
JUDGE WILLIAM A VANNORTWICK, JR., Chair
The Professional Ethics Committee is responsible for providing guidance to Bar members on the Rules of Professional Conduct. Formal committee opinions can be accessed through the Bar's website at www.flabar.org. A link to "Ethics Opinions" is included in a blue bar near the top of every page of the website. The committee also provides informational packets and topical information online. The committee is staffed by the Bar's Ethics Department. The bar's ethics attorneys research and draft informal staff opinions and maintain the toll-free Ethics Hotline for Bar members. The committee reviews informal written opinions issued by the Bar's ethics attorneys and reconsiders them sua sponte, if the committee deems appropriate or if the inquiring attorney seeks review of the informal staff opinion. In addition, the committee sponsors an annual professional ethics seminar. The committee was busy during the past year, meeting several times and considering many ethical issues.
* Formal Advisory Opinion Procedures--The Florida Bar Procedures for Ruling on Questions of Ethics govern the process by which staff issue informal oral and written opinions and by which the committee issues formal opinions. The committee may issue formal opinions upon review of staff opinions and existing formal opinions. Additionally, the Board of Governors may request that the committee issue a formal opinion concerning the application of the ethics rules to a particular set of facts. When issuing proposed formal opinions, the committee publishes official notice in The Florida Bar News, allowing Bar members to comment. The committee values the input provided by such comments and encourages comment on proposed ethics opinions. The procedures are available on The Florida Bar's website.
* Final Advisory Opinions--Client Using False Name. Opinion 90-6 (reconsideration) discusses an attorney's obligations when the attorney learns that the client is using a false name in a criminal case. The opinion provides ethical guidance in three situations: 1) an attorney who learns about the false name during the initial consultation; 2) an attorney who learns about the false name after accepting representation but before making a court appearance; and 3) an attorney who learns about the false name after making a formal appearance in the matter. The opinion discusses the attorney's obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct, including the duty of confidentiality to the client and the attorney's duty of candor toward the tribunal.
* Communications with Other Lawyers--In Opinion 74-10, an inquirer asked several questions regarding whether it is proper to use the lawyer's letterhead to send correspondence to other lawyers under a variety of different circumstances. The revised version, Opinion 74-10 (reconsideration), narrows the opinion's scope to address only communications soliciting political support and charitable contributions and concludes that they are permissible as long as they are not used to advertise the lawyer's services.
* Opinions Withdrawn--Throughout the year, the committee considers its existing advisory opinions to determine their continued viability under the current rules. The committee withdrew Florida Ethics Opinions 78-3, 73-9, and 73-14. Opinion 78-3 addressed Rule 4-3.6, the trial publicity rule. The opinion was written before substantial changes were made to Rule 4-3.6 after the case of Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, 501 U.S. 1047 (1991). Opinion 73-9 stated that a full-time assistant state attorney may perform legal research and prepare legal memoranda for private law firms solely in civil matters, even if those firms may on occasion represent clients in criminal matters that involve the state attorney's office in his or her spare time and with the consent of superiors. Opinion 73-14 stated that a lawyer may ethically sue his or her client for recovery of a fee only when necessary to prevent "fraud or gross imposition by the client." The committee withdrew the opinion because the rules do not limit a lawyer's ability to sue a client to recover a fee to only those situations in which there is "fraud or gross imposition."
* Appeals of Written Staff Opinions--At each meeting, the committee considers appeals by attorneys of written staff opinions issued by staff in response to inquires submitted by the attorneys. Among the issues considered by the committee in such appeals this year were conflicts of interest, payment of witnesses, the professional independence of a lawyer, and acquiring an interest in the subject matter of litigation.
* Communications with Government Officials--The committee has adopted Proposed Advisory Opinion 09-1, which concludes that a lawyer's communications with state agency employees are not barred solely because the agency has a general counsel. PAO 09-1 concludes that Rule 4-4.2 prohibits communications with protected employees about the subject matter of a specific controversy or matter on which an attorney knows or has reason to know that a governmental attorney is providing representation unless the agency's attorney first consents to the communication. The PAO also concludes that Rule 4-4.2 does not prohibit an attorney from communicating with other agency employees who are not protected employees, nor does the rule prohibit an attorney from communicating with protected employees on subjects unrelated to those controversies in which the agency attorney is actually known to be providing representation. The PAO cautions that the right to communicate directly with agency personnel about matters unrelated to those on which the agency attorneys are providing specific legal representation must not be used as a vehicle for engaging in communications that are barred by the rule, and defines which employees are considered represented or "protected employees" under Rule 4-4.2. The PAO is under review by The Florida Bar Board of Governors and, therefore, is not final.
* Communications with Represented Government Entities--The committee is in the process of adopting a second proposed advisory opinion, 10- 1, addressing communication with a represented government entity when the inquiring lawyer is a party to the controversy with the represented government entity, including issues re garding to public records requests that relate to the pending controversy. The committee also is reviewing Florida Bar Staff Opinion TEO 91001, which deals with whether it is permissible for a lawyer representing a client in litigation against a city to direct a request for public records to the records custodian of a city that is represented by counsel in the pending litigation.
* Rules Amendments--Proposed Changes to Rule 4-8.3. Rule 4-8.3 requires that lawyers report professional misconduct under specific circumstances and provides for specific exceptions from the reporting requirement. A Bar member proposed amending Rule 4-8.3(c) to exempt from the reporting requirement any information obtained by a lawyer while serving as a third party neutral (such as mediator or arbitrator) where the information is privileged or confidential under applicable law, which was referred by the Board of Governors to the committee for a recommendation. The committee requested input from the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center and, after reviewing that information, voted to recommend amendments to the rule to exempt mediators only from the requirement to report misconduct. The amendments were approved by the Board of Governors and will be filed with the Supreme Court of Florida in the next master rules petition.
* Masters Seminar on Ethics--The Professional Ethics Committee's popular yearly CLE program addresses areas of ethics of great significance to Bar members. The committee again will sponsor a Master's Seminar on Ethics at the 2010 Annual Convention. The speakers will discuss ethics issues that Florida lawyers face daily in their practice with a focus this year on topics and challenges facing attorneys in a tough economy. The committee anticipates the seminar will provide 3.5 hours of ethics CLE credit and will include the following: conflicts of interest and client fraud, handling questionable ethics requests from partners and co-counsel, practicing in a global economy, and ethical issues as viewed from the bench. The committee expects that speakers will include Judge Darryl Casaneuva, Judge Paul Glenn, Judge Marcia G. Cooke, Judge Adalberto Jor dan, Judge Karla R. Spaulding, Carolyn Bell, Franklin Zemel, Susan Tarbe, Joe Corsmeier, Deborah A'Hearn, Bobbi Flowers, Pamella Seay, Sam Mandelbaum, Tom Skola, Theodore Walters, Steven Teppler, and Loretta O'Keeffe.
* Informal Ethics Opinions Service--The ethics opinion process continues to rate as the most desirable service on membership surveys. The committee is committed to providing ethics guidance to Bar members. The committee would like to thank the staff of the Ethics Department for their dedication, assistance, and support in providing such guidance throughout the year. Staff had another busy year on the Ethics Hotline handling over 29,600 hotline calls during fiscal year 2008-09 in addition to providing hundreds of written staff opinions and other ethics correspondence.
Finally, the chair thanks the committee members for their hard work over the last year.
DAVID ROY HEFFERMAN, Chair
The Standing Committee on Professionalism works with the Supreme Court's Commission on Professionalism and the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism to implement programs, education, and awards that promote professionalism in the law schools of Florida, the judiciary, and The Florida Bar. Like the commission's subcommittees, the committee is divided into three working groups: transition, training and education, and accountability. In the past year, the committee has continued working on existing projects, but has launched a number of new projects to help study, implement, and promote professionalism. Many of the projects are focused on recommendations and suggestions found in the report "New Directions in Professionalism" by Timothy Chinaris and Marin Dell and the "Law School Professionalism Initiative Report" prepared by the National Organization of Bar Counsel.
* Transition Working Group--The mission of this group is to strive to implement within legal education and during the early years of practice an integrated effort to ensure that students and young lawyers develop and retain the legal skills, the personal character, and interpersonal skills needed to be fully productive members of the legal community in which they practice. This group is chaired by Sean Desmond. Under his leadership, the group has worked on proposed language for ABA accreditation standards for law schools concerning professionalism training and education in law schools. In addition, it has worked toward creating a centralized resource for mentoring opportunities throughout Florida. The group continues to look at other innovative ways to emphasize and teach professionalism during the transition between law school and the early years of legal practice.
* Training and Education Working Group--The mission of the Training and Education Working Group is to instill the core values of professionalism in law students. In addition, the group aims to develop a collaborative relationship between the courts, law school faculty, and practicing lawyers to identify new, creative means and effective methods to ensure that professionalism permeates the law school environment and experience. The Training and Education Working Group is chaired by Stephanie Williams Ray. Under her leadership, the group has focused on better ways to alert law school applicants and students to the character and fitness issues that may be considered by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. To that end, the working group has developed proposed language to alert law school applicants to the importance of character and fitness issues, studied the timing of when the Florida Board of Bar Examiners makes its annual presentation to first year law students regarding Bar admission process, and looked at whether there are additional questions that law schools can use on their applications to help identify potential character and fitness issues at an early stage.
* Accountability Working Group--The mission of the Accountability Working Group is to produce guidelines and proposals for communication between law schools and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners relating to the character and fitness of students. The working group focuses on law schools and how they identify and track behaviors or violations of standards of professionalism and develop mediation programs. The Accountability Working Group is chaired by Michael Cohen. Under his leadership, the working group has studied the different honor and conduct codes in place at the Florida law schools with a goal of developing a uniform set of proposed core components to address and respond to the violations of such codes. The group is also looking at ways to improve student awareness of such codes.
* The Hoeveler Judicial Award Project--Deborah Goodall serves as the chair of this project, which annually presents the Hoeveler Judicial Award to the judge who best exemplifies strength of character, service, and competence as a jurist lawyer and public servant. The nominees should be judges who have communicated their dedication to the ideals of justice and demonstrated diligence in inspiring others to the mission of professionalism.
ROBERTO M. VARGAS, Chair
Real Estate Certification
The Real Estate Certification Committee each year evaluates new applicants for board certification in real estate law and annually prepares and scores the real estate board certification examination as part of the evaluation process. In addition, the committee reviews currently certified attorneys who are eligible for recertification. As directed by the Florida Supreme Court, the evaluation process, both for new applicants and for attorneys eligible for recertification, requires a determination whether the applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in practice. The certification process could not be accomplished without the responses of attorneys to the committee's request for peer review evaluations, and the entire committee thanks all attorneys who took the time to respond and submit the peer review forms.
At the last administration (in 2009), 41 approved applicants sat for the exam. Of those, 17 passed, yielding a 42 percent passing ratio. The passing ratio has fluctuated from year to year, and in response the committee has, for the last several years, included a group of core questions which are unchanging from year to year. Review of performance on core questions will help the committee determine whether fluctuations in performance on the examination from year to year are related to differences in the applicant pool, or differences in the relative difficulty of the exam.
The number of board certified real estate attorneys in the state continues to grow steadily. There are now 435 lawyers who are certified in real estate law, and an additional 51 applicants have applied for initial certification this year.
The committee continues to fine tune and improve the examination. Efforts include further standardizing the format of questions, shortening fact patterns in multiple choice and essay questions whenever possible, and subjecting the examination to multiple reviews to improve the clarity and conciseness of each and every question. In addition, this year there were significant changes to the contract analysis and settlement statement question. The question has been adjusted to reflect recent regulatory changes and requirements affecting the good faith estimate and the HUD-1 settlement statement. While the examinee does not have to prepare a settlement statement, he or she must review a contract for sale and purchase, good faith estimate, estoppel certificates and other documents, and must then identify 10 errors in the HUD-1 presented.
Although completion of the committee's tasks requires numerous hours of intensive work, without question there is no better educational and professional experience than that provided by service on a certification committee. The contributions from each member have been outstanding, and I thank Martin Awerbach, Deborah Boyd, Joshua Escoto, Lloyd Granet, Richard Grant, Michael Mirrington, Russell Robbins, and David Weisman for their diligence and invaluable contributions throughout the year. I would especially like to thank Deborah Boyd, vice chair, for her extraordinary efforts with the contract analysis and settlement statement question, and for her enthusiastic assistance with other functions. Finally, I know that I speak for the committee when I express our collective appreciation for knowledge, skill, and experience of Carol Vaught, the Bar staff liaison. Ms. Vaught is, and for years has been, indispensable to the committee, providing support for each of its functions, and advising the committee of Bar policies and procedures.
I would like to close with an invitation to all eligible real estate attorneys to apply for certification. There is no better way for an attorney to advance his or her skills and professionalism in the practice of real estate law. I also encourage certified attorneys to volunteer to serve on the committee; those who do will not find a more congenial, knowledgeable, and professional group of attorneys with whom to associate in the advancement of the ideals of the profession.
JOHN L. SOILEAU, Chair
Rules of Judicial Administration
The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee (RJA), as a body and through its hardworking subcommittees, addressed a constant stream of issues this year. Since RJA is the coordinating committee for The Florida Bar's 10 other rules committees, it is RJA's responsibility to receive and review proposals from those rules committees and to forward the proposed rules to other affected rules committees so that any conflicts can be resolved. The Supreme Court of Florida as well as individual judges and lawyers also send requests to the RJA for its consideration and input on issues that have common application throughout the court system. Consequently, as in years past, it has been a very active and productive year for RJA. Most prominent this year, RJA addressed issues that will take the court system into the 21st century technologically. The following represent the primary substantive work of the RJA this year:
* Amendment to Rule 2.420 (sealed records)--RJA has been extensively involved in the Supreme Court of Florida's efforts to amend Rule 2.420 that governs public access to judicial branch records. Several members of RJA worked over the course of two years submitting comments and recommendations to the court on this issue and a member of RJA participated in oral argument before the Supreme Court of Florida in September 2009. A special thanks to Scott Dimond and his subcommittee for all their work on this issue. On March 18, 2010, the court released its opinion amending 2.240. In Re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420 and the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S180a (Fla. Mar. 18, 2010). The amended rule balances the privacy rights of litigants with the rights of the public to have access to an open and transparent court system.
* Amendments to Rule 2.525 (electronic filing)--In the summer of 2009, the Florida Supreme Court entered an administrative order to establishing standards and guidelines for a statewide e-filing portal. Darrell Payne and his subcommittee worked on amending Rule 2.525, which started as a facsimile rule, to address the procedural issues inherent in an e-filing system. The amendments to 2.525 are not intended to address technical issues and standards. The proposed rule makes it clear that it will not apply in any court until such time as that court is able to accept e-filings, and it has approval from the Supreme Court of Florida. The proposed amendments to Rule 2.525 including accessibility by the disabled have been approved by the RJA in concept and they will be on the agenda in June 2010 for final approval by RJA.
* Proposed Rule on E-Service 2.516--Paul Regensdorf and his subcommittee undertook the herculean task of drafting a proposed new rule of judicial administration which relates to the service of documents within a court case by email. A joint committee was created in the summer of 2009 by the chairs of all of the rules committees to approach the issue from a cross-disciplinary perspective.
The joint committee unanimously agreed that the change should be contained in the Rules of Judicial Administration; the change should be mandatory as opposed to optional; and the time for change is now. The joint committee drafted a proposed rule "Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516." The key "concepts" contained within the proposed rule are e-mail will become the standard for service of pleadings; service by mail or hand delivery will be obsolete except in the case of original process; and e-service will be mandatory for all attorneys. An opt-out provision is included for attorneys under certain limited circumstances and for pro se parties. Ultimately, both service and filing will happen simultaneously in the state courts through a "portal system" as is already the case in the federal district courts. The standard method of e-service will be via e-mail that includes as an attachment the document to be served.
Final approval of Rule 2.516 will be voted on during RJA's June 24, 2010, meeting. If it is approved, it will be sent to the Supreme Court of Florida for its approval. The joint committee and RJA are striving for this rule to go into effect by late 2010 or the early part of 2011.
* Amendment to Rule 2.530 (use of electronic communications equipment to take testimony)--A conflict has existed for years among some of the Florida rules regarding the use of electronic equipment to take testimony. Rule 2.530, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, permitted testimony through electronic equipment only if all parties agreed. However, Florida's Rules of Civil Procedure and Small Claims Rules of Procedure gave judges some discretion in this regard. The question that has arisen over the years is whether Rule 2.530 overrode these rules. In attempting to rectify this conflict, RJA had to give due consideration to the concerns of both the civil and criminal law practitioners. Civil law practitioners desiring a liberal use of electronic equipment for testimony wanted judges to have discretion when this issue arose in a case. However, criminal law practitioners concerned about the right of confrontation opposed giving judges this discretion. The RJA, through the leadership of Kathi Giddings and her committee, proposed a compromise amendment to Rule 2.530 which provides that testimony may be taken through the use of electronic communications equipment if all parties consent or if permitted by any applicable rule of procedure. This proposed amendment to 2.530 allows the practice of taking testimony via electronic equipment to vary within different practice areas. The proposed rule passed, and it will be sent to the Supreme Court of Florida for its consideration.
* Rule 2.450 (technological coverage of judicial proceedings)--Rule 2.450 was initially designed to apply to the traditional media's ability to transmit sound recordings, photographs, and moving pictures from the courtroom. Today private citizens, parties, witnesses, and jurors now have equipment (e.g., cell phones) to transmit court proceedings. An ad hoc subcommittee was appointed in January 2010 to consider whether Rule 2.450 should be expanded to address transmission of court proceedings by persons other than the traditional media. This ad hoc subcommittee will report back to RJA at its June 2010 meeting.
It has been an honor to serve as the 2009-2010 chair of RJA. I have been very fortunate to work with its outstanding and committed members. Robert Pritchard, vice chair of RJA, has always been available to help whenever and however needed. I am especially indebted to Craig Shaw, RJA's staff liaison since 1996. Craig's contributions and dedication to RJA are well known to every RJA member that he served during his tenure as staff liaison. Craig retired in February 2010, and he will be greatly missed. Fortunately, The Florida Bar has once again provided RJA with an outstanding staff liaison, Jodi Jennings, who has already demonstrated her competence and skill. Much of RJA's work is done through its subcommittees. I am grateful to the following subcommittee chairs: Darrell Payne, Katherine Giddings, Jerry Gewirtz, Scott Dimond, Judge Kathryn Pecko, and Richard Levenstein.
JUDGE LISA DAVIDSON, Chair
Small Claims Rules
The Small Claims Rules Committee had an active year with several initiatives.
The committee continued to address the issue of judgment collections. This issue arose from Senator J.D. Alexander's January 30, 2008, letter to Bar President Angones on behalf of a constituent suggesting the rule be changed to make the requirement for completion of the fact information sheet automatic, rather than only by request of the judgment creditor. The committee decided against such requirement, but approved as a form a standardized help pamphlet for judgment creditors explaining the process of collecting judgments. The approved form will be included in the committee's next cycle report to the Florida Supreme Court.
The current cycle report was finalized and the committee recommended five changes to the small claims rules, including amendments to rules 7.050, 7.090, 7.335, 7.342, and 7.343. The proposed changes have been posted on the Bar website. The committee approved changes relating to due process issues. Committee members were concerned that serving documents with initial process other than the complaint, such as proposed stipulations, can give an "air of authority" to those other documents, which a pro se litigant might not understand. A change was approved that requires the filing of any document served with initial process.
Another rule change included in the cycle report requires that only judges be allowed to conduct small claims pretrial conferences. After much discussion and consultation with judges and practitioners, the committee rejected an amendment to allow hearing officers to also conduct pretrial hearings.
The committee further approved a standardized replevin form for return of weapons from a governmental entity, which will be included in the next cycle report. The committee is also considering a proposal to expand pro se representation to any business entity, not just corporations as the rules currently state.
Judson Cohen continued to serve as the representative member of the Small Claims Rules Committee on the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. The committee supports the Judicial Administration Rules Committee's proposed changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration relating to email service.
In closing, I thank all the committee members who helped me this past year, especially subcommittee chairs and liaisons Judson Cohen, Tom Thompson, Judge Kathleen Hessinger, and Jeffrey Lampert, as well as The Florida Bar's outgoing liaison, Madelon Horwich, whose help was invaluable. It was an honor to have been selected by The Florida Bar to serve as the 2009-10 chair of the Small Claims Rules Committee.
JUDGE ROBERT W. LEE, Chair
State and Federal Government and Administrative Practice Certification
There are presently 97 attorneys, both in the state and elsewhere, certified in state and federal government and administrative practice. Rule 6-25.2 describes the practice area to include "the practice of law on behalf of public or private clients on matters including but not limited to rulemaking or adjudication associated with state or federal government entity actions such as contracts, licenses, orders, permits, policies, or rules." The examination covers both the state and federal administrative procedure acts. It is six hours in length and is equally divided between an essay section and a multiple choice section.
Certification is only available for those qualified applicants who pass an examination. The committee administered the fourth certification examination on May 14, 2010, in Tampa. Eleven applicants applied to take this examination.
A live preparation seminar was held on April 8-9, 2010, in Tallahassee.
Committee members for 200910 are Judge Charles A. Stampelos, chair; F. Scott Boyd, vice chair; Mary F. Smallwood, Judge Eleanor M. Hunter, George L. Waas, Keith W. Rizzardi, Cathy M. Sellers, Allen R. Grossman, and William E. Williams. The staff liaison is Zina Jackson.
If you have any questions about certification in the area of state and federal government and administrative practice, please visit The Florida Bar's website or call Ms. Jackson at (850) 561-5768.
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS, Chair
Student Education and Admission to the Bar
The scope and function of the Student Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee is to ensure that law schools are adequately preparing their students for the practice of law and to guide law schools by making specific recommendations to the Bar's Board of Governors and law school deans. The committee also monitors and reviews proposed legislation affecting legal education and establishes a means to track the success of minority scholarship programs in an effort to help institutions in the disbursement of minority scholarships, thus allowing these institutions to maximize the benefits of these minority programs.
The 2009-10 committee members established specific goals that touch a variety of areas including: the law student by enhancing law school education, the law schools by ensuring that students are prepared for their careers as attorneys, and the legal community by promoting professionalism. The committee continued the work from last term toward enhancing diversity in law schools. An informed and multicultural panel brought together and moderated by Immediate Past Chair Jennifer Strouf, commenced the 2009-10 committee year at our September meeting. This panel educated the committee members, law school administrators, and practitioners on the importance of enhancing diversity within our law schools and the legal profession.
In the committee's continuing effort to assist law schools in meeting their learning objectives and ensuring that students receive the optimal legal education, a request was renewed to receive results from the Florida Bar Examination Survey. The committee served an integral part in the drafting of the question and the receipt of the anonymous results would benefit the committee's mission and in turn, benefit the curriculum of the law schools. Receipt of survey results is yet to be received, but requests continue to be made. Once survey results are received, it is the intent of the committee to present a report to the law schools on the following areas: 1) address curricular issues that are successful; 2) recommend changes to the curriculum that will benefit their students and the legal profession; and 3) determine if the diverse student population is being properly addressed.
The committee continues to work toward ensuring that professionalism is taught in our law schools. Committee members are working together to provide brown bag lunch meetings at law schools that will instruct students on the importance of professionalism in the legal practice. In addition, the committee acknowledges the difficulty in the job market and will be providing students with information on alternative job opportunities.
Along with the importance of acting professionally, finding the perfect job, and ensuring that they keep the job, the committee has created a continuing legal education that will be offered to law students, law school administrators, and lawyers at the annual convention. The CLE will discuss the importance of professionalism and propriety on social Internet sites.
The last year has been successful in providing ideas and information to committee members who are practitioners and law school administrators. The committee is proud that administrators of all Florida law schools are represented in the committee, thereby ensuring that the discussions at our meetings and the suggestions made are being considered and shared with colleagues. This creates a stronger network of educators and practitioners. We continue to welcome the feedback of law school deans, professors, and students to improve our mission.
Special thanks to the committee members for their time and priceless contributions. Particular thanks to the co-vice chairs, Neil Archibald and Nicole Sieb, as well as to Karen Kirksey.
JESSICA GARCIA-BROWN, Chair
Tax Law Certification
Tax law certification began in 1983 as one of the two original certification areas approved by the Florida Supreme Court. There are currently 246 Florida Bar board certified tax lawyers.
The committee is charged with administering the tax certification program to ensure that attorneys who are board certified in tax law have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency to be identified as specialists in tax law. The committee both certifies and recertifies tax lawyers. Recertification requires substantial involvement in the practice of tax law, satisfactory peer review, and completion of required continuing legal education. Initial certification also requires applicants to pass the written certification exam.
An attorney who has been a Florida Bar member and engaged in the fulltime practice of law may apply for certification in tax law if he or she has been substantially involved in the practice of tax law (at least 500 hours per year) for the three years immediately preceding the application. For initial certification, the continuing legal education requirement is 90 hours during those three years. Currently, applicants must obtain satisfactory peer review attesting to the attorney's character, ability, professionalism, and ethics. Once approved by the committee, the applicant must pass the written certification exam. This year's exam was administered on March 12, 2010. After initial certification, a board certified tax lawyer must be recertified every five years. This involves satisfaction of peer review, 125 hours of continuing legal education, and continued substantial involvement in tax law.
This year's committee consisted of nine board certified tax attorneys practicing in Florida with extensive expertise in many areas of tax law. The members were Vice Chair Margarita Muina, Miami; Robert S. Bernstein, Jacksonville; David Burke, Tampa; Linda Griffin, Clearwater; Cristin Keane, Tampa; Louis Nostro, Miami; Dennis O'Leary, Tampa; and Vivian Rodriguez, Miami. Professor Michael Friel of the University of Florida LL.M. program actively participated as faculty liaison. A special thanks to all of the committee members for their hard work, professionalism, and time.
In addition to numerous telephone conferences, the committee met twice in person in Tampa. During these meetings, the committee reviewed 12 certification and 41 recertification applications, prepared and graded the exam, and made policy decisions. The 2009 pilot program, which permitted applicants to sit for the certification exam prior to the peer review process, was continued for the 2010 exam. Of the 12 applicants for initial certification, 10 sat for the exam on March 12, 2010. At the writing of this report, final exam results had not been approved by the Board of Legal Specialization and Education.
The committee spent many hours drafting the exam questions, preparing model answers, and grading the exams. The exam consisted of three parts: The first part consisted of 10 short answer questions, of which the examinee answered seven; the second part consisted of a choice of entity question with ethical and professional responsibility considerations; and the third part consisted of an essay question addressing the attorney's choice of topics, including corporate tax, international tax, tax penalties and practice and procedures before the IRS, and tax litigation, federal transfer tax, partnership taxation, and income tax of estates and trusts. Each question in the third part also included a circular 230 component.
The committee is grateful to certification specialist Suzanne Dunn for her exemplary and dedicated service, and to David Silberstein, who as a BLSE committee member acted as the liaison to the committee.
LEE J. OSIASON, Chair
Unlicensed Practice of Law
The standing committee and The Florida Bar UPL staff continued their efforts to protect the public from UPL. The types of cases the standing committee saw this past year are similar to those in past years--immigration, foreclosure assistance and loan modification companies, and "legal technicians" to name a few. We obtained injunctions from the Supreme Court of Florida against five individuals for engaging in the unlicensed practice of law, including an individual who provided immigration services, a nonlawyer who prepared pleadings for others in federal courts, and an out-of-state attorney who operated from a Florida law office. The court also found three individuals guilty of indirect criminal contempt for violating previous orders of the court. One of those individuals was sentenced to five months in jail and another was sentenced to a suspended five-month jail sentence pending successful completion of probation.
Not surprisingly, given the large number of foreclosures in Florida, UPL staff continued to receive numerous inquiries regarding nonlawyers assisting distressed homeowners with loan modifications, short sales, and other foreclosure-related rescue services. Several years ago, the standing committee, finding that it could not create a bright line test, declined to issue a formal advisory opinion on foreclosure assistance companies and decided to investigate companies and individuals on a case-by-case basis. Recent state law changes mean that the attorney general and Office of Financial Regulation also have regulatory authority over individuals and businesses that provide foreclosure assistance and loan modification services.
We continue to receive complaints against out-of-state licensed attorneys for assisting individuals with Florida legal issues. However, under the MJP (multijurisdictional practice of law) rules, out-of-state attorneys may provide limited legal services in Florida on a temporary basis under certain circumstances. The rules also subject out-of-state attorneys to the disciplinary authority of the Supreme Court of Florida while providing those legal services. So, while out-of-state lawyers may not be engaged in the unlicensed practice of law if their activity falls within the rule, they can be disciplined for unethical conduct. The MJP rules also require out-of-state attorneys appearing in Florida courts and arbitrations to file a copy of their pro hac vice motion and a verified statement, respectively, with The Florida Bar. Anyone wishing to check whether opposing counsel has filed their pro hac vice motion or verified statement with The Florida Bar may do so by contacting the UPL Department at (850) 561-5840.
The standing committee considered numerous requests for formal advisory opinions. In each instance, the standing committee voted not to issue an opinion as current case law addressed these areas. The committee also approved several rule changes. Some changes conform the UPL rules with rules of procedure and another codifies the services that can be provided by nonlawyer document preparers. The proposed changes will be filed with the Supreme Court of Florida as part of the Bar's next rules package.
One of the more interesting issues the standing committee addressed was a request for direction from a local circuit committee which involved whether an out-of-state attorney may open a bankruptcy law office in Florida based on their admission to the Northern District Court. The rules of the Northern District of Florida, effectively, eliminate pro hac vice admission so that anyone who appears in a case is a member of the district. The standing committee found that the conduct would constitute the unlicensed practice of law in Florida in part because of Florida's rules which prevent an out-of-state attorney from having a law office in Florida under these circumstances. There is also the issue of the difficulty in separating state and federal law.
This year saw some staffing changes in the UPL department. Jennifer Broomfield, branch counsel in Tampa, left the Bar, and Maria Torres from the lawyer regulation department moved over to join us. Ms. Torres has quickly become a vital member of our department. We welcome her. We also welcome Carolyn Thompson, who is the new secretary for UPL counsel in Orlando, and Jacquelyn Reshard, the new UPL secretary in Tallahassee.
As I conclude my final year as chair of the standing committee, I want to thank all of the public members and lawyers on the standing committee for their fine service. It has been a pleasure working with you. The standing committee gives a special thanks to the circuit committees: We know you are the unrecognized heart and soul of UPL enforcement for the court. All committee members, who contribute their valuable time and energy in protecting the public, are especially appreciated.
I also want to thank and recognize our staff counsel: Lori Holcomb, UPL director; Jeffrey Picker, assistant UPL director; UPL branch counsel, Jacquelyn Needelman (Miami), Janet Morgan (Ft. Lauderdale), Ghunise Coaxum (Orlando), Maria Torres (Tampa), and Monica Armster Rainge (Tallahassee), and their excellent support staffs. This dedicated and hard-working staff does an incredible job year after year.
It has been an honor and pleasure to work with you all.
BRUCE LAMB, Chair
Voluntary Bar Liaison
The Florida Bar Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee (VBLC) continues to serve as a liaison between The Florida Bar and the voluntary bar associations throughout the state. The mission of the VBLC is to improve communication between The Florida Bar and voluntary bar associations, coordinate programs of The Florida Bar such as the annual Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference, provide a resource and information bank of activities and the concerns of voluntary bar associations, and advise the Board of Governors regarding interpretation of The Florida Bar programs to voluntary bar associations and individual members.
Attorneys and association executive directors of more than 20 local bar associations serve as 2009-10 VBLC members. The Florida Bar leadership is continually supportive of bar associations and their activities. President Jesse H. Diner has taken an active interest in the VBLC, attended and spoken at numerous local voluntary bar association functions throughout the year, and emphasized the important services that voluntary bar associations provide within the Florida legal community. John Jacob "Jake" Schickel, who serves as the Board of Governors Liaison to the VBLC, has been an active and supportive member of the VBLC for a number of years.
Members have been working on VBLC activities year-round. The 2009 conference held July 24-25 at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa was a tremendous success. The theme, "Cruising to Success: How to Excel as a Leader and Keep your Bar Afloat," was fun but also conveyed the VBLC's goal to provide practical and useful advice to voluntary bar leaders around the state. The 107 conference attendees were impressed with the entire conference and rated it a 3.63 out of a possible 4.0 overall. The success of this conference was due in large part to the excellent event planning of dedicated VBLC members. The workshop participants discussed topics like "How to Cultivate a Great Board," "What You and Others are Doing to Be Proactive in Tough Economic Times," and "How to Negotiate Contracts with Hotels, Convention Centers, and Other Meeting Venues." Voluntary bar lead ers discussed issues currently affecting their organizations and members, networked with other leaders from around the state, and came away from the conference energized and excited to implement the myriad of ideas and suggestions offered by the qualified and experienced speakers and other conference attendees. Thank you to the attendees for providing great ideas, energy, and insight to help fellow voluntary bar leaders!
During its teleconference in September, VBLC members reviewed the overwhelmingly positive evaluation results from the 2009 conference, decided upon the location of and ideas for the 2010 conference, and volunteered to serve on the Conference and Handbook Revision subcommittees. The 2010 conference planning got underway in earnest at the Midyear Meeting in January. The venue was announced, promotional opportunities and timeframes were outlined, and the program was discussed in detail.
The 2010 conference, to be held July 16-17, will take place at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale. Area bar associations have stepped up to host the event and, with many of the local voluntary bar associations located in the southeast portion of the state, it is anticipated that many interested voluntary bar leaders will have the opportunity to attend. The conference will still provide voluntary bar leaders with a wealth of information like how to achieve the mission of their bar association. As is expected, it will provide sessions designed to provide practical and insightful tips, ideas and suggestions for leaders of staffed, large, small, nonstaffed and specialty bar associations, and networking opportunities in a relaxed and beautiful setting. The program, including speakers, was finalized by May thanks to the hard work, active involvement, and participation of key VBLC members.
This year the VBLC has also undertaken its biennial revision of the Voluntary Bar Leaders Handbook. Thanks to the diligent efforts of several VBLC members and The Florida Bar staff, the handbook has been updated so that it can continue to serve as a valuable resource for voluntary bar groups and attorneys in our state.
The VBLC continues to strive to provide topical and quality programs for attendees of the conference, improve communication between voluntary bar associations and The Florida Bar, serve as a resource of practical helpful information to voluntary bar associations around the state, and strengthen relationships specifically with The Florida Bar Foundation and the Young Lawyers Division. With full staff and financial support of The Florida Bar, the VBLC will continue to serve as a viable link between the state bar and the voluntary bar associations while providing support for the valuable efforts of attorneys throughout the state.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to the members and The Florida Bar staff who worked so hard to ensure that the VBLC had a productive year and fulfilled its mission!
CHASITY H. O'STEEN, Chair
Wills, Trusts and Estates Certification
The Wills, Trusts and Estates Certification Committee creates and grades the examinations that are used to certify attorneys in the area of wills, trusts, and estates law. The examination is continually upgraded to reflect changes in federal tax law and Florida law. The committee will be diligently completing the grading of the 2010 certification examination at the time of receipt of this issue of the Bar Journal, and those attorneys passing the examination will be certified as wills, trusts, and estates specialists shortly thereafter. This will culminate a busy and productive year. The committee has met on six occasions during 200910 and will meet on one last occasion to grade the examination and set the pass/fail line. In the previous meetings, the committee prepared the examination, reviewed and recertified numerous previously certified wills, trusts, and estates lawyers and approved 29 applicants to take the 2010 certification examination, which was given last month.
As you might expect, the great bulk of the committee's time, both at meetings and on their own, is taken up with the preparation and grading of each year's examination. The preparation includes the annual writing and/or revising of numerous essay questions, along with well researched and reasoned model answers and the annual preparation and revision of between 67 and 100 multiple choice questions.
The committee this year consists of Jean Elizabeth Carr Coker, vice chair; Paul Byron McCawley, William Michael Pearson, Joseph J. Farina, Gregory George Keane, Abraham M. Mora, Robert Charles Wilkins, Jr., and Elaine M. Bucher. I would like to thank each of the foregoing individuals for their significant contribution of time, energy, and thought which was given freely and voluntarily and resulted in the successful and enjoyable year. The foregoing members are just nine of the 339 attorneys in the state of Florida that are certified as specialists in the area of wills, trusts, and estates law. Stacy M. Piland serves as our staff liaison with the Bar and on behalf of all of the committee members, I thank her for her assistance and contribution which significantly reduces the work load for the committee.
On behalf of the committee, I commend to all wills, trusts, and estates lawyers licensed to practice in Florida the desirability of becoming board certified. Certification clearly establishes a level of attainment in the profession which is most gratifying both personally and professionally and allows you to hold yourself out to the public as a "specialist" in this area.
GARY B. LEUOHTMAN, Chair
Workers' Compensation Certification
This committee's purpose is to review applications from Florida Bar members seeking either initial certification or recertification, to examine the applicant's legal knowledge and peer recommendations, to recommend appropriate evaluative criteria for certification and recertification standards, and to create as well as grade the examination of those applicants seeking to demonstrate their superior knowledge of workers' compensation law and related matters.
This year the committee finalized changes in the proposed requirements for trials, substantial equivalents, and protracted litigation--each of which are components of the experience necessary to achieve and maintain Board certification. Although the committee's recommendations must ultimately be approved by the Supreme Court of Florida before they become effective, the committee has recommended the following changes: permitting recertification applicants to substitute up to eight protracted litigation matters for a trial (the previous limit had been five); and to combine this with five substantial equivalents.
This recommended change was the committee's attempt to increase opportunities for specialists in workers' compensation to maintain and achieve board certification during a time of reduced workers' compensation litigation. While the Supreme Court's decision in Murray ultimately may increase litigation, the general consensus of the committee was that significantly fewer cases had proceeded to trial in the years since the October 2003 law change, prompting the committee to revisit the "trial" requirements and to expand the opportunities for experienced practitioners to maintain their certification status.
The Florida Bar currently has designated 209 attorneys as board certified in workers' compensation. This year we had 12 applicants for initial certification and 31 for recertification. As of this writing, 23 applicants were approved for recertification, and 11 applicants were determined eligible to sit for this year's certification examination on May 14, 2010, in Tampa. Next year, 30 attorneys are eligible for recertification.
The chair would like to extend a sincere thanks not only to these following committee members: Judge Thomas Sculco, vice chair, Orlando; Mark Eckels, Jacksonville; Tracey Hyde, Panama City; Robert Keeter, Gainesville; Eric Lakind, West Palm Beach; Gray Sanders, Tampa; Thomas Vecchio, Lakeland; and Jane-Robin Wender, Delray Beach; Rick Nail, as BLSE liaison; and Jake Schickel, as board liaison; but also to those members of the Executive Council and workers' compensation attorneys throughout the state who continually lend their time and expertise to enhancing the professionalism of workers' compensation lawyers and promoting the accurate delivery of workers' compensation benefits. Barry A. Stein, Chair
Workers' Compensation Rules
The Workers' Compensation Rules Advisory Committee was established to recommend changes to the workers' compensation rules of procedure, which can be found at Rule 60Q-6.101, et seq., Florida Administrative Code. Because the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) has the exclusive authority to promulgate rules governing workers' compensation procedure, the role of the committee is advisory only.
DOAH promulgated the present procedural rules in November 2006. Since 2006, there have been many changes within workers' compensation practice, and the use of technology keeps increasing. Last year, the committee received word that DOAH was contemplating further changes to the rules. Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims David Langham was kind enough to make available to the public and the committee some suggestions that had already been made to DOAH for changes to the rules. After that, the committee set out to make its own recommendations. The rule change proposals unanimously approved by the committee were then forwarded to The Florida Bar Board of Governors, who approved them on January 29, 2010. The committee's Bar-approved proposals were then forwarded to Judge Langham and DOAH Chief Judge Robert Cohen for consideration.
The chair thanks Vice Chair Barbara Case and members Mark Eckels, William Holley, Michael Poche, Neal Falk, Albert C. Garcia, Allison Hauser, Clay Meek, Ricardo Morales, Jeff Rubin, Dawn Traverso, and Jeffrey I. Jacobs, and Board Liaison Jake Schickel. In addition, the committee appreciated the input of workers' compensation attorneys throughout the state who took the time to give suggestions to the individual committee members.
JAMES O. PRICE, Chair
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|Publication:||Florida Bar Journal|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2010|
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