Briefs

first_imgBriefs The Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service recently received meritorious recognition from the ABA’s 2003 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access.LOMAS provides consulting services on a wide variety of practice management issues designed to improve the effective delivery of legal services and to enhance lawyer-client relationships. The program steps in where law school leaves off and targets newly admitted lawyers and those who become “suddenly solo.” The Florida Bar program has also been a source of technical assistance to bar-provided practice management programs among the states, where there are now 17 similar programs.The Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access is sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services, which is dedicated to improving delivery of lawyers’ services to people who do not qualify for subsidized legal assistance yet lack the discretionary income to pay for traditional legal services.“The cost-effective delivery of legal services to those of moderate income depends on the use of efficient practice management tools and techniques,” said Mary K. Ryan, chair of the ABA panel. “LOMAS is a vital resource to the practitioner and one of the most important services a bar association can provide to its members.”Section legislative agendas It may not survive the budget wrangling of a tight fiscal year, but a bill to help assistant state attorneys and public defenders pay back law school loans has cleared its first legislative committee.SB 96, sponsored by Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 4. It authorizes the state to spend up to $3.65 million to help pay back the student loans of defenders and prosecutors.Campbell told the committee it would allow for $3,000 a year after the third year of employment, increasing to $5,000 after six years, with a maximum payout of $44,000 over nine years.The state could save more than the $3.65 million on training costs if it slows down the high turnover in state attorney and public defender offices, Campbell said, although he had no exact figures.Committee Chair Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, a former prosecutor, agreed. “A lot of people go into those state attorney and public defenders’ offices and are paid very, very poorly,” he said. “There is a lot of money spent on training and two years down the road. . . the student loans come due and you have a young family. You can’t afford to stay. Someone comes along and makes you an offer and you’re gone.”Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, said he was concerned that minority law students wind up with higher law school debts than nonminorities, and that makes it harder for them to take public service jobs.“I’m a believer that the state attorneys’ offices and the public defenders’ offices ought to look like the population they serve, but minorities have disproportionally high student loans,” he said. “People come out of law school with $80,000 to $120,000 of loans; they can’t afford these jobs.”But while praising the bill, Smith, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the judicial system, expressed doubts the money could be found.“There’s not a great likelihood this is going to be funded this year because of constraints,” he said.Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-West Palm Beach, and a former assistant attorney general, said he would like to see the program expanded for attorneys in that office as well. Smith said it could serve as a model in other areas where the state needs to encourage employment, such as nursing or teaching.The bill next goes to the Government Oversight and Productivity Committee and then to Smith’s appropriations panel.Broward Legal Aid holiday project helps 35 familiesLegal Aid Service of Broward County’s Holiday Adopt-A-Family project was a record-setting success this year thanks to the generosity and effort of 21 adopters who were matched with 35 families.One hundred and twenty children and three senior citizens and their parents or caretakers received gifts and donations of food certificates or food baskets. Many adopters bought Christmas trees and decorations. One compassionate attorney learned that his adopted family did not have a stove to prepare the food arriving in the food basket he was donating and he rallied to purchase an oven that was delivered to the client’s home in time for holiday cooking.For the third year in a row, the children and faculty at Sawgrass Elementary School adopted several families. The children made crafts which they sold at a school bazaar to raise the funds for their Christmas shopping. Their principal, Alonzetta Gibson’s office was filled with over $2,000 in gifts which included bicycles, electronics, clothes, games and other toys and gift certificates for food and other items. The children adopted 36 other children. This year teenage girls living in a group foster home were adopted by the children.This year’s adopters included Emerson Allsworth, the Ft. Lauderdale office of The Florida Bar, Dominique Levy, Robert Lochrie, Kim Marjenhoff, Valerie Judd, Oppenheim Pilelsky, Keiser College, Bonnie Meskel, Ellen Gilbert-Rose, Greg Starr, Unlimited Healthcare Services, Florida Renegades Youth Soccer Team, Sawgrass Elementary School, Deborah Carpenter-Toye, Diane Centorino, Alysia Keating, and the law firm of Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli which adopted four families.“Each year we are overwhelmed by the generosity of our adopters,” said Tony Karrat, Legal Aid’s executive director, “and that was the case again this year as we heard one story after another about the extra effort and incredible generosity that each person and group demonstrated. We feel a partnership with each of the adopters and are inspired by their compassion and beneficence.”Stetson captures tax moot court crown New workers’ comp. rules approved March 1, 2003 Regular Newscenter_img A legislative package proposed by the Family Law Section aimed at fixing glitches in Florida’s new adoption law has been reviewed and allowed by the Bar Board of Governors.The board also reviewed and okayed proposed legislative positions from several other sections at its January 31 meeting. The 2003 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature starts March 4.Under Bar rules, the sections are granted broad authority to take legislative positions. They can advocate those positions unless the board, with 45 days of section action, specifically rejects their legislative positions.Legislation Committee Chair Jesse Diner said the adoption positions taken by the section revolved around the most controversial aspects of the law. Those provisions require single mothers who don’t know where the fathers are and who are seeking to put their children up for adoption to take out a newspaper ad revealing their sexual history. Intended to give fathers a say in adoption proceedings and to avoid legal complications when fathers contest the adoptions, the provision provoked a storm of controversy, including charges it violated mothers’ privacy rights.“This is an effort to fix some of the glitches and solve some of the problems,” Diner said.Former Sen. Fred Dudley, who now lobbies for the Family Law Section, said the positions also are significant because they heal a rift between family law and adoption lawyers, who had split over provisions of last year’s legislation.“This is not only an effort to clarify the law and adopt what will become good public policy, but it is an attempt to get our practitioners in this area back together again,” Dudley said.The positions do away with the public notice requirements by mothers and instead set out a series of steps that unmarried fathers must follow to have a say in any adoption, including signing up with a confidential registry.The father would have to file a notarized “claim of paternity” form with the Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics and to block an adoption the father would have to affirm a willingness to support the child.The proposed legislation would create a new F.S. § 63.056 which would establish the registry, and amend several other sections of Ch. 63 as necessary.Aside from the adoption issue, the Family Law Section was allowed to lobby on three other issues:• Adding this sentence to the state law on rotating custody: “There shall be no presumption for or against an award of rotating custody.”• Deleting the words “or mediation agreement” from the law on custodial arrangements, F.S. 61.30(1)(a), since those will always be contained in or ratified by a court order, and the language could cause confusion.• Opposing any legislation that would move determination of paternity to an administrative court or agency outside of the judicial branch.The Public Interest Law Section was allowed to lobby on two positions:• Opposing, in principle, “zero tolerance” policies that have a discriminatory effect, or mandate either expulsion or referral of students to juvenile or criminal court, without regard to the circumstances or nature of the offense or the student’s history. The section favors policies that are strongly against weapon possession but leave school administrators with discretion that includes due process and allows alternatives to prosecution if that will not compromise school safety.• Supporting modification of the statutory provisions of the Road to Independence Act to enhance and expand the transition program to provide an option for continuation of foster care to youth ages 18 through 23, and to provide reasonable accommodations for youth with disabilities.The Criminal Law Section was allowed to lobby in opposition to SB 90 on the evidentiary privilege for parent-child communications because the privilege is so limited in the bill that it would not be effective.The Health Law Section will lobby for allowing the Board of Medicine to exercise discretion when imposing costs on any party, to provide methods of determining costs, and excluding attorneys’ fees from allowable costs.The Business Law Section in conjunction with the Department of State will provide technical assistance and lobby the legislature for various reforms within Ch. 607, regarding Florida business corporations.All section positions, as well as Florida Bar positions, are on the Bar’s Web site, www.flabar.org, under the “Legislative Information” section.Loan assistance bill offered New procedural rules for workers’ compensation cases have been approved by the Division of Administration Hearings after they went unchallenged during a recent public comment period.The rules became effective February 23, according to Judge Scott Stephens, deputy chief judge of compensation claims for the Division of Administrative Hearings. Judges of compensation claims have discretion on using them during the transition period, which ends April 1.The new rules, as well as the DOAH rulemaking process, have been endorsed by the Florida Conference of Judges of Compensation Claims, Stephens noted.Stephens said the rules are intended to speed the resolution of disputes without affecting the rights of any party, and to have compensation judges interfere less with attorney-client matters.The complete rules are posted on DOAH’s Web site, at www.jcc.state.fl.us/jcc/rules.cfm.The Florida Bar’s Workers’ Compensation Section last year filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court challenging DOAH’s authority to promulgate procedural rules, but the court has dismissed that action.Rafael Gonzalez, who monitors legislative activities for the section, noted the court added a footnote to its November opinion revising workers’ comp rules saying the rules were only provisional until DOAH enacted its rules. He said the section will likely ask the legislature to amend state law to make the court again responsible for those rules.LOMAS wins ABA access award Stetson University College of Law won the recent National Tax Moot Court Competition in St. Petersburg Beach, taking the championship for the overall competition and the award for top brief.Stetson’s team consisted of students Beth Linea Carlson, Brittan Mitchell and Paige Ward, and was coached by Professor Janice Lawrence and Adjunct Professor Joe Rugg. Stetson defeated Ohio Northern University in the final round and University of Alabama in the semifinals. Sixteen law schools across the U.S. participated in the contest. U.S. Tax Court Judges Renato Beghe and Peter J. Panuthos presided over the final round.last_img

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