Letters to the Editor, September 1, 2002

first_imgLetters to the Editor, September 1, 2002 September 1, 2002 Regular News Judicial Elections The widely published statement of the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee that the recent United States Supreme Court decision announced in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White “has no impact on the statutory or code provisions which regulate judicial elections in Florida” (The Florida Bar News /August 1) appears misplaced. Fundamental to our established principles of evolving jurisprudence, decisions of the United States Supreme Court and other courts of appeal have broad, guiding effect. The State of Minnesota arguably could not sidestep the Supreme Court by replacing its code with that of the fundamentally identical code of the State of Florida; neither can the State of Florida reasonably believe the decision of the Supreme Court has no impact on it because its code has an identical meaning to that of the Minnesota code but utilizes insignificantly different wording.The evident deferential regard the Supreme Court has for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution should be followed and shared by the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. The guiding legal requirements that follow the Supreme Court decision announced in White arguably apply to all the states, of which no one state is self-exempt. Brad Peterson Ft. Lauderdale Dignity in Law President Tod Aronovitz’ “Dignity in Law” campaign is grossly misguided. Rather than trying to change the public’s perception of lawyers, the Bar should concern itself with correcting lawyer conduct.Since I was admitted in 1993, I have observed a steady increase in discovery abuse, obstructive litigation tactics, abuse of process, baseless claims and defenses, and an unbridled willingness to misstate the law and mislead the court. This behavior is pervasive in every circuit and county in which I have litigated. It is not a “South Florida lawyer” problem. There is a general decline in civility and collegiality among litigators. Countless lawyers disregard their Oath of Admission, the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Evidence Code.Instead of spending money on marketing lawyers, the Bar should devote its resources to investigate complaints against lawyers and rid the Bar of lawyers who have no respect for the law and the rules they swore to uphold and protect.Florida’s appellate and trial courts have failed to enforce the rules and punish lawyers’ wrongful conduct and tactics. The courts have failed to apply sanctions with regularity. The legislature addressed the problem by putting more “bite” in F.S. §57.105. The legislature will continue its attempts to wrest oversight of the profession from The Florida Bar until the Bar and the courts enforce the rules.If the Bar acted vigorously to restore professionalism to the practice of law, it would not need to resort to an advertising campaign. Dignity in the Law will exist only when the courts enforce the rules. Dignity in the Law will exist only when The Florida Bar focuses upon its duty to regulate lawyers. Dignity cannot be restored through an advertising campaign or a slogan designed to convince the public that all lawyers are professionals and that the profession is not in trouble. Any profession needing spin control to change public perception is very much in trouble.If President Aronovitz asks for voluntary contributions for serious housecleaning, I’ll send my check. So will thousands of other lawyers. As to President Aronovitz’ request for my voluntary contribution to Dignity in Law, I decline. Earl K. Mallory JupiterNot long ago I sent out a request for admissions in a multi-million dollar case asking the defendants to admit a certain contract between them contemplated actions that would tend to prove they intended to misappropriate my client’s trade secrets.The written response went something like this: “Objection. Defendant cannot answer, because the contract is an inanimate object and therefore cannot contemplate.”When judges begin to show greater respect for law by issuing contempt citations for such antics, there’ll not be such a pressing need for the present costly efforts to raise our shrinking esteem in the eyes of the public.If we truly want the public to respect the Bar, we should urge the bench to bear down on lawyers who toy with our courts for personal gain. Urge our judges to enforce discovery rules so evidence gets on the record before trial and before our clients’ pockets are completely drained by the hijinks we are hated for. Frederick D. Graves Stuart Contingency Fees This is a comment regarding the July 1 letter harshly criticizing “[t]he widespread use of contingent percentage fees which invest lawyers with a direct and crucial personal financial stake in civil damage claims” that are tried before juries composed of “lay citizens deliberately selected without any regard whatever for any expertise or academic or other competence.”I am a retired board certified Florida civil trial lawyer whose practice during the latter years was devoted substantially to the prosecution of legal malpractice claims. Most of my clients in these cases were people of very modest means who could not possibly afford the legal fees and costs for complex litigation usually defended by highly skilled and well-paid defense lawyers. Many years ago a highly respected Florida Supreme Court justice remarked, “The contingent fee is the poor man’s key to the courthouse.” The writer neglected to tell us how my clients could have achieved redress but for the contingent fee.My concept of professionalism was that competent representation of a client must always be a more important motivation for a lawyer than possible financial reward, but even so I don’t see how having a personal financial stake in a damage claim can do anything but enhance that motivation.The first time I filed a legal malpractice case I decided that it was too complicated for a lay jury. I learned the hard way that trial judges, recalling their own mistakes as lawyers, tend to protect lawyer defendants, unconsciously I will assume. I then discovered that if I did my job as a trial lawyer with an accurate, detailed opening statement, an orderly presentation of evidence, and a thorough closing argument, juries randomly composed of a broad spectrum of occupations and educational levels would understand the case and try very hard to do the right thing.It is easy to understand why the insurance industry mindlessly detests the contingent fee, but it seems to me that lawyers should be able to comprehend what an important part of the judicial system it is. Charles J. Cheves Blairsville, Ga. (Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the August 1 News . A typographical error, however, garbled the opening paragraph.)last_img

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