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.
Dec. 30, 2011
ATTORNEY PROMOTES REPARATIONS FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS– WSVN Miami (FOX), http://web1.wsvn.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A law firm is working hard to obtain benefits for dozens of Holocaust survivors in South Florida. Attorney Steven Marcus of Fort Lauderdale was able to get a monthly pension for one of his clients, who was liberated from Auschwitz more than 60 years ago. The German government is offering the payments to survivors who fulfill certain criteria, including residing in a ghetto for 60 months. Marcus, who is an attorney for Fowler White Boggs, is now working pro bono to get similar benefits for many other survivors, because South Florida has a large population of Holocaust survivors. “The work that we’re doing is based on a program, a pension-based program, that the German government is offering for Holocaust survivors who had spent time in the ghettos before they were taken to forced labor camps,” Marcus said.
STUART ATTORNEY’S WEBSITE EXPLAINS BUSINESS LAW, CIVIL LAWSUITS– Jupiter Courier, http://www.tcpalm.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
Stuart attorney David Steinfeld has created a free online resource for 2012 so local residents can better understand business law and the process of civil lawsuits. Videos and articles can be accessed at www.davidsteinfeld.com. Steinfeld is a board certified business litigation lawyer with Kramer, Sopko Levenstein P.A.
–Lawyer Ethics/Legal Discipline–
DISCIPLINED ATTORNEY IS PERMANENTLY DISBARRED– Sarasota Herald Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A former Sarasota attorney has been permanently disbarred for failing to notify his clients and other attorneys that he was first disbarred in May. Stanley Marable, 62, who formerly worked on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union around Sarasota, has been disciplined four times in 2010 and 2011. The Florida Bar disbarred Marable in May because two clients complained they had paid him $1,500 and $1,600 but he was no longer responsive to their calls. Marable then did not respond to The Florida Bar when its investigators looked into the complaints.
FDIC FILES MALPRACTICE SUIT AGAINST SARASOTA LAW FIRM– Sarasota Herald Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com, Dec. 30, 2011. [Also: FDIC FILES $4.6M SUIT AGAINST SARASOTA ATTORNEY, LAW FIRM-- Bradenton Herald, http://www.bradenton.com, Dec. 30, 2011.]
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has filed a malpractice suit against one of Sarasota’s most prominent law firms and one of its senior partners in connection with a $5.3 million loan made by the now-defunct First Priority Bank. The FDIC’s lawsuit claims Icard Merrill attorney Robert Messick breached his fiduciary duty by failing to inform First Priority’s board of directors that he represented nearly all the parties in a deal to develop the River Meadows property, along the Upper Manatee River. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, also claims that Messick failed to tell First Priority’s board that an option to buy a 25-acre parcel of land, which comprised part of the bank’s collateral for the loan, did not exist. Icard Merrill Cullis Timm Furen Ginsburg P.A. Managing Partner Michael Furen denied the accusations.
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT DISBARS CONVICTED TAMPA LAWYER– St. Petersburg Times, http://www.tampabay.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A Tampa lawyer sent to prison for her role in an investment fraud has been banned from practicing law, The Florida Bar said Thursday. The disbarred lawyer, Katherine Crase, of 2804 W. Aquilla St., had been practicing since 1991. A federal grand jury accused her and two co-defendants in 2007 of trying to fraudulently raise $30 million through the sale of notes in a company called Precision Explorations.
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SUSPENDS ATTORNEY JEREMY ALTERS– Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A divided Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday [Dec. 28] suspended Miami attorney Jeremy Alters for allegedly misappropriating trust accounts to cover personal overdrafts, paying clients with money from other clients’ trust accounts and taking out loans of $14 million to cover client obligations. The court, in a 4-3 opinion, approved a petition for emergency suspension filed by The Florida Bar Dec. 22. The suspension means that Alters cannot accept new clients, must cease representing his current clients after 30 days and must freeze his trust accounts. The Supreme Court also appointed Joel Brown, chief judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, to referee Alters’ disciplinary case and trial. [The Daily Business Review does not provide free links to its articles.]
FORMER BELLE GLADE COUNCILWOMAN AND COMMUNITY ACTIVIST BANNED FROM PRACTICING LAW IN FLORIDA– Palm Beach Post, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A former Belle Glade councilwoman and prominent community activist has been banned from practicing law in Florida, the upshot of her work on a failed housing project. In a sharply worded petition, The Florida Bar argued that Dorothy Mae Walker should be disbarred permanently. The Florida Supreme Court agreed. In 1988, Walker was disbarred. The Bar charged that she lied when she told a judge she had hired a lawyer for her brother, who was arrested on cocaine trafficking charges. The disbarment would not have completely closed the door to practicing again – Walker could have reapplied for admission to the Bar after five years, when she would have faced rigorous readmission criteria. She never did. In a recent letter to lender attorneys and in a legal motion, though, Walker signed off as “attorney in fact” for We Help Community Development Corp., the developer of Abidjan Estates. It’s a third-degree felony to practice law while disbarred.
A JUDICIAL POWER GRAB– Pensacola News Journal, editorial, http://www.pnj.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
Gov. Rick Scott is definitely getting a handle on this politician thing. Last week it was reported that he wants the Legislature to give him far more power to appoint judges. It should not. “When you’re elected governor, people expect you to not have a limit on who you can appoint,” Scott said in a radio interview. Uh, not so much governor. That kind of authority might be found in the hands of some CEOs of large corporations, but even most powerful executives find, in practice, that they are limited, usually by a board of directors. In government, power is wisely diluted to prevent anyone from grabbing too much of it. Even the president of the United States is limited in his appointment powers. And should be. As should governors.
MIAMI-DADE COURT CLERK EMPLOYEE NABBED FOR SCAM– NBC6.NET South Florida, http://www.nbc6.net, Dec. 6, 2011.
A Miami-Dade court clerk employee was arrested Thursday for trying to scam someone into paying him $250 to get a traffic ticket case onto the criminal court calendar, authorities said. Godfrey Mead, 35, an 11-year employee of the Miami-Dade County clerk of the courts, offered to get a woman’s traffic ticket situation clarified by putting it on the calendar for $250 in a hallway in front of courtroom 6-5 at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in downtown Miami, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced. There is no charge for that type of scheduling action under the law. When Mead was asked the reason for giving him money, he said, “It’s for my friends,” according to Rundle. Mead is charged with unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, a second-degree felony, she said.
–Civil Justice Issues–
BOTH LESBIAN MOMS HAVE PARENTAL RIGHTS, DAYTONA COURT RULES IN CUSTODY DISPUTE– Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
They fell in love, moved in together in a house in south Brevard County and had a baby girl. Now they are fighting over who should raise the child. But unlike most couples, they are two women. One donated the egg. The other had it implanted into her womb and carried the child to term. So which one is the mother? The woman who bore the child says it is she and she alone. A circuit judge in Brevard County, writing that it broke his heart to say so, ruled that she’s right. Under Florida law, a woman who gives birth is the mother. Last week, however, a state appeals court in Daytona Beach overturned his decision, saying the other mother has parental rights, too.
FEDERAL HOTLINE SET UP FOR IMMIGRATION DETAINEES– WPBF Palm Beach Gardens, http://www.wpbf.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
In the latest volley between the federal government and states pushing anti-illegal-immigration laws, the Obama administration announced Thursday it was establishing a new hotline for immigration detainees who feel they “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime.” The 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week hotline is part of a “broader effort to improve our immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, (on) repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives while continuing to strengthen oversight of the nation’s immigration detention system and facilitate legal immigration,” a news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. The hotline number is (855) 448-6903.
–Criminal Justice Issues–
CASEY ANTHONY CAN STAY SILENT IN CIVIL CASE, JUDGE SAYS– Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Dec. 30, 2011. [Also: CASEY ANTHONY WILL NOT HAVE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN CIVIL CASE-- Central Florida News 13, http://www.cfnews13.com, Dec. 30, 2011.]
A judge ruled Thursday that Casey Anthony doesn’t have to answer questions in a civil defamation suit brought by Zenaida Gonzalez because her criminal appeal is still pending. Attorneys for Anthony argued she should be able to assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, because she’s appealing her convictions for lying to law enforcement. Circuit Judge Lisa Munyon agreed in a two-page order, writing that courts “have long recognized that the fifth amendment privilege may be properly asserted” during a pending appeal.
PROSECUTORS PONDER RETRIAL FOR EX-COCOA DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF– Florida Today, http://www.floridatoday.com, Dec. 30 , 2011.
Prosecutors will weigh whether to retry former Cocoa Deputy Police Chief Bobby Jones for battery after a guilty verdict read in court Thursday was thrown out when a lone juror changed her mind. “No,” the woman said twice when asked by County Judge A.B. Majeed if she agreed with the guilty verdict that only minutes before she signed off on with five other jurors. It was an unexpected and dramatic twist that prompted Assistant State Attorney Pat Whitaker to stand, raise his arms in bewilderment and say he had “never had this happen.” Jones was charged with misdemeanor battery after his then-girlfriend, Cara Allain, 22, reported being punched and dragged by the off-duty deputy chief outside of a Melbourne pub on Dec. 18, 2010. Majeed declared a mistrial after jurors were polled individually in open court following the verdict’s reading.
WRONGLY CONVICTED ORLANDO WOMAN SUES POLICE– WFTV Orlando (ABC), http://www.wftv.com, Dec. 30, 2011.
A woman who was convicted of a crime she did not commit filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Orlando Police department, an Orlando police officer and the Public Defender’s office. Malenne Joseph was arrested and jailed for vandalizing an Orlando home in 2007. Joseph spent three months behind bars at the Orange County jail. After her jury trial, it was revealed that Joseph was not the vandal and her conviction was dismissed. Two attorneys discovered several mistakes in Joseph’s case including incorrect statements from eyewitnesses. Joseph was working at an Orange County Burger King at the time of the vandalism, but investigators did not check with her employer or co-workers to verify if she was there.