An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department. Electronic links are only active in today’s edition. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.
Aug. 26, 2011
COURT ASKS FOR AN IMPLEMENTATION SCHEDULE FOR MANDATORY E-FILING – The Florida Bar News, http://www.floridabar.org, Sept. 1, 2011.
A schedule for implementing mandatory electronic filing of court documents in Florida — including for criminal cases — has been requested by the Florida Supreme Court. The court, in an Aug. 8 administrative order, directed the Florida Courts Technology Commission, in consultation with the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board of Directors, to file an implementation schedule for e-filing within 30 days of the order. The FCTC was ordered to submit “a supplemental comment which proposes a plan for phased-in implementation of mandatory e-filing by attorneys.” Judge Judith Kreeger, chair of the FCTC, said the group may have to ask for a short extension but said the court’s request is logical. She noted that the pending rules case, set for oral argument on Oct. 4, already has a provision to make e-filing mandatory.
–Civil Justice Issues–
CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST POLK ATHEIST– The Winter Haven News Chief, http://www.newschief.com, Aug. 26, 2011.
Ellenbeth Wachs, the Atheists of Florida’s legal coordinator, ended her criminal cases Thursday [Aug. 25]. Prosecutors offered a deal to Wachs to resolve her legal matters without a conviction on her record and her felony charges are to be dropped. Wachs has been charged in three separate criminal cases. In one case, a complaint affidavit accused Wachs of giving the impression that she represented the Atheists of Florida as a lawyer, including signing letters using the title “Esq.,” which is typically used by lawyers. Wachs is a retired lawyer from Pennsylvania and is not a member of The Florida Bar. The agreement states the felony charges against her will be dismissed, but prosecutors can reinitiate the charges if she is charged with a new offense in the next two years or breaks other conditions of the agreement. One condition: she cannot use the term esquire or claim to be qualified to practice law unless she obtains such qualification through The Florida Bar.
BOARD DEMANDS $22 MILLION FROM LAW FIRM OVER FAILED NEW SMYRNA HOSPITAL MERGER– Daytona Beach News Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com, Aug. 26, 2011.
Seeking to repair financial damage a failed merger caused tax-supported Bert Fish Medical Center, the hospital district’s board voted Thursday [Aug. 25] to demand $22.5 million from the firm of the lawyer who gave it faulty advice. The board unanimously approved starting with that amount in a demand letter that will be delivered to a lawyer representing the Orlando firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor Reed. One of that firm’s partners, Jim Heekin, advised the hospital board it could meet outside public view in 21 meetings over 16 months that resulted in Adventist Health System merging with the New Smyrna Beach hospital in 2010. That merger, however, became the focus of what some have called the largest violation of the state’s Sunshine Law to be challenged in court. After a five-day hearing, Circuit Judge Richard Graham on Feb. 24 ordered the merger undone. Heekin could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
COSTCO CAN’T MOVE SLURPEE LAWSUIT TO FLORIDA– Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, Aug. 26, 2011.
The article is by Reuters. A 74-year-old woman who said she was injured after falling in a Costco store in Florida beat back the retailer’s effort to move the case to Florida because it was too much trouble to defend itself in New York. Theresa Danza sued Costco in her hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., claiming she was hospitalized for spinal and shoulder trauma and needed months of treatment after slipping on a slurpee in a North Miami Costco in 2009. Costco sought to move her case to Florida saying it would be prejudiced if the case stayed in New York, and cited the cost of locating and interviewing witnesses. New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack disagreed in his decision Wednesday [Aug. 24]. Schack said it would be more inconvenient for Danza to fly her witnesses to Florida than for Costco to fly its employee witnesses to New York. Schack noted the company is hardly cash-starved, with profit of $1.3 billion on revenue of $77.95 billion in its last fiscal year.
–Criminal Justice Issues–
JUSTICES NIX ARBITRARY ROUNDING OF SENTENCES– DeSoto Sun Herald, http://www.yoursun.com, Aug. 26, 2011.
The article is by The Associated Press and appears in several media outlets. A divided Florida Supreme Court says judges cannot arbitrarily round off fractional sentences to the next highest year. The 5-2 opinion on Thursday [Aug. 25] reduced a sentence Carlos Cromartie had received for cocaine trafficking and sale or possession within 1,000 feet of a church. Now-retired Second Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker sentenced Cromartie to seven years although his sentencing score came to only 6.16 years. Dekker said during sentencing it was her philosophy to round all fractional sentences upward. The majority wrote in the unsigned opinion that arbitrarily rounding off sentences denied Cromartie his of due process rights. Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston dissented, with Canady writing that Dekker’s policy had a minor impact and thus was not a fundamental error.
LAWYER FOR WAYNE TREACY WANTS TO QUESTION BEATING VICTIM JOSIE LOU RATLEY– Sun-Sentinel, http://www.sun-sentinel.com, Aug. 26, 2011.
The lawyer for a Pompano Beach teenager accused of trying to kill a Deerfield Beach Middle School student in a fit of text rage wants the victim to recount what she remembers about the messages and threats that led up to the attack. Josie Lou Ratley, now 16, suffered irreversible brain damage as a result of the March 2010 assault at a school bus stop, according to the doctors who treated her. Her attacker, Wayne Treacy, also 16, has been in jail in Broward County ever since, charged as an adult with first-degree attempted murder and facing a prison term as high as 50 years. Treacy’s lawyer, Russell Williams, has not denied his client’s actions that day, but has indicated that mental health will play a key role in his defense. He said he plans to argue at the trial that prosecutors should not have charged Treacy with such a serious crime.
HARRY BLAIR– The News-Press, http://www.news-press.com, Aug. 24, 2011.
The obituary is for attorney Harry Armon Blair, who died Sunday [Aug. 21] at his home in Gainesville, following a courageous battle with cancer. He was 74. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, then graduated from the University of Florida law school in 1961. He maintained a successful law business in Fort Myers, until his retirement. After retiring, he moved West, but recently returned to Gainesville to spend the remainder of his retirement close to family. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1961.