Five-Year Anniversary

As a Florida attorney, you get to put “JD” after your name and you pray facing Tallahassee and the Florida Supreme Court.  Today is my five-year anniversary practicing law.  Law school did not make me so much a lawyer as it has helped me see things I could not see before.   Read More

Illegal Sniff & Seizure?

The Supreme Court has yet to decide if drug-sniffing dogs can go door to door sniffing for more than Halloween treats.  But the justices have said yes to dogs at traffic stops that turn into drug stops, over-ruling a Florida Supreme Court decision. A dog named Aldo was at a traffic stop.  The police officer used Aldo’s signal as probable cause to search the vehicle, which revealed meth lab paraphernalia.  The Florida Supreme Court had ruled that this was an illegal sniff and seizure, based on the spotty qualifications of Aldo—was Aldo properly trained to sit, stay, and sniff for methamphetamines, and what was his margin of error?  The Supreme Court justices, however sided with the dog. Read More

Lonely on the Bench – Social Media & the Judicial System

A ‘Friend’ online could be a foe in the courtroom.  Social media relationships may go for debate before the Florida Supreme Court with a case brought by a defendant whose judge was ‘Friends’ with the prosecutor online.  If the State Supreme Court accepts the case, they may determine who can and cannot be online ‘Friends’ with Florida’s judges. Judges are people too, but according to one judge in the 4th District Court of Appeal, judges do not enjoy the same personal freedom everybody else does, as they strive for the appearance of impartiality and away from impropriety. Attorneys and judges are not the only ones subject to the foul effects of FaceBook.  Say, for instance a personal injury defendant claims he cannot move due to injuries sustained, then posts photos on FaceBook of himself doing handsprings down the sidewalk.  Well…it could be the pain medication. It may be lonely at the top sitting on the bench, but social media posts could be peril to anyone in a court of law.  Professional guidelines for legal ethics online are still e-volving. Read More

Merit Retention for Judges

Do you want the devil you do know, or the one you do not?  A good judge displays impartiality and an understanding of the law.  A person may still be a good judge even if you do not agree with their ruling. As the Florida Bar points out, “All Floridians are affected by the laws of the state and county in which they live.  Judges make decisions on a wide range of issues large and small including traffic, small claims, landlord-tenant, personal injury, criminal, death penalty, probate, guardianship and others.”  Thus judicial elections and merit retentions are a significant part of the election process. Most circuit court judges and county court judges are elected to serve six year terms.  Then to keep their seats on the bench, they have to be re-elected.   Appellate court judges and Florida Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor; however, they have to go through periodic merit retention with the voters to remain on the bench.  Thus the voters have oversight on judicial appointments. Again, congratulations to Judge Berger on her appointment to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Read More

The Vote Is In Your Court – Judicial Elections

Your voter’s registration is good for more than just jury duty.  It enables you to help determine who sits on the bench.  There are fifteen Appeals Court Judges and three Florida Supreme Court Justices coming up for merit retention…where the vote is in your court. Appeals Court Judges get into office via gubernatorial appointment; however, they have to go through periodic merit retention with the voters to remain on the bench.  Four Appeals Court Judges are on the 2012 ballot in the First District Court of Appeals, which covers Duval, Nassau, and Clay Counties. There are no Appeals Court Judges from the Fifth District Court of Appeals (DCA) due for merit retention.  That means St. Johns, Flagler, and Putnam Counties (among others) only have to be concerned with the three Florida Supreme Court Justices due for statewide majority appeal or rejection. So who are these judicial merit people on the ballot?  It is illegal for a political party or partisan political organization to endorse, support or assist any candidate in a campaign for election to judicial office; however, the Florida Bar has a campaign to educate Florida voters.  Go to www.FloridaBar.org/TheVotesInYourCourt for candidate profiles and to find out more about […] Read More

Foreclosure Wave Theory

Is El Nino causing unusually warm temperatures on the Foreclosure rate heat map? Since January 2007, the US has experienced more than 8.5 million foreclosure starts (and over 4 million completions).  Florida remains only second to California in foreclosure activity, with one out of 364 housing units in foreclosure statewide.  Closer to home, the breakdown is more poignant in Clay County, where one out of every 301 homes is in foreclosure, but Duval still remains in the top ten metro areas of the state in foreclosures. There is an ebb and flow as the foreclosure procedure evolves in the justice system.  For instance, we saw an ebb in the Fall of 2010 when Bank of America and others halted foreclosures to sure up subject matter jurisdiction.  They paused, got their paperwork straight, then proceeded.  And now the Florida Supreme Court is examining voluntary dismissal of foreclosure cases.  If the lender realizes he is committing fraud or otherwise cannot win, he can voluntarily dismiss his case and then re-file without waiting for a judge’s dismissal and hoping for “without prejudice.”  This is the judicial system evolving, working through procedures. You may not be able to turn the tide, but Foreclosure Defense […] Read More

Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court As a Florida attorney, you get to pray facing Tallahassee and the Florida Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Florida has been around for over 150 years and the seal used predates the statehood.  They used to pick Chief Justices using a Bible or law book and whichever Justice opened to a page whose first word began with a letter closest to “Z” would be the Chief Justice.  Much has changed since 1845 when Florida became a state and was the least populous of the southern states to now when we are the fourth most populous state nationwide. “The mission of the Florida Judicial Branch is to protect rights and liberties, uphold and interpret the law, and provide for the peaceful resolution of disputes.”  Its vision is to be accessible, fair, effective, responsive, and accountable. To learn more about the Florida Supreme Court, visit http://www.floridasupremecourt.org. Read More

Sense of Justice

Sense of Justice According to comedienne, Tina Fey, “Nothing is scarier, by the way, than a bunch of adults being very quiet.”  That is a panel of justices for you, or a jury, or just a judge with a seething silence.  The courtroom tends to be a quiet place:  the serene halls of justice upheld by an armed guy who will shoot you if you get rowdy. You can always represent yourself in court; however, there are many nuances and complexities of law, as well as updates which help keep our justice system an evolutionary part of American government.  These are good reasons to have good representation whether you enter a court of law as a plaintiff or a defendant.  An attorney can help guide you through the legal process, review the possible outcomes, and prepare your case for the best benefit to you. Plus a panel of justices can be a tough audience to play to.   Read More

Foreclosure Mediation: Check, Please!

So you go out to a restaurant and the service is lousy and there is only one thing on the menu.  Sounds like Foreclosure Mediation—check, please! Foreclosure Mediation is supposed to be a negotiation, but in reality, it is a monologue.  You cannot negotiate only one option.  And you cannot negotiate with someone who only has the authority to offer one option. The Florida Supreme Court mandated Foreclosure Mediation in 2009 to help relieve the backlog of cases, but the program stagnated over the singular result of all Foreclosure Mediations.  A high court panel recently recognized the problem. Loan Modification (despite its mythic proportions) can be a viable resolution to foreclosure…so can a handful of other choices.  Of the 350,000 foreclosure cases in Florida, they are not all alike.  Homeowners benefit when they have more than one option. Foreclosure Defense offers a variety of choices, allowing the Homeowner to customize a strategy to his individual situation.  Meanwhile, a legal defense questions the Lender’s authority to take action, keeping default from overtaking the Homeowner before a strategy has the chance to work. In the mayhem of Mortgage Backed Securities, does the plaintiff really own the loan and have the authority to […] Read More