Reform Rochester Now!

Making city and citizens self-sustaining

Eyes Wide Shut

W* writes: “I sat in Florida ‘Access To Civil Justice’ meeting, and it was surreal. The audience was 80-85% lawyers that must come up with solutions to help ‘low to middle income litigants’ access civil justice they can’t afford.

“Lawyers could consider NOT charging $300+ dollars an hour (in my non-attorney perspective). I don’t financially benefit from the decisions made in the meeting, but every lawyer in the meeting and anyone with decision making authority stands to reap considerable financial rewards. The Florida Bar Association has a non profit organization called the ‘Bar Foundation,’ which basically controls the Florida Access To Civil Justice Commission. On paper, it may read another way, but when you actually see who does everything, it is the ‘Bar Foundation’ which appears to be the Florida Bar Association thinly-guised.

“Chief Justice Labarga did not design this Commission not to be an extension of the Florida Bar Association, but anyone with half a brain can see past the pretty presentation and if they choose to ask questions, they would come to the same conclusion.

“Everyone needs to be engaged and active to ensure that this Commission acts in its intended role because what I heard was a bunch of BS. Every solution presented was poorly thought out, and decision makers did not ask basic questions to clarify whether proposed actions were applicable or practical to implement.

“Fewer than half of the 27 Commission members were present and two had fill-ins, as Chief Justice Labarga was recently diagnosed and is receiving treatment for an illness. I advocated for member positions to be added to the Commission that reflect the ‘low to middle income litigants’ the Commission was created to help, along with a subcommittee.

“The first topic was related to Florida Bar lawyer referral service. Topics of $45 billion in unmet legal needs and the words “untapped” were used. This has nothing to do with the purpose for which the Commission was created, and everyone should be concerned at the tremendous power that attorneys have and the way the Florida Bar covers for bad attorneys. The Florida Bar publishes attorney disciplines, but we are prevented from discussing the numerous complaints the Florida Bar does NOT make findings on.

“Everyone needs to be concerned about misuse of funds the Florida Bar is supposedly giving, which they call an ‘INVESTMENT,’ promising a return on the donations of monies and time to this Commission. As Greogory Coleman, a temporary fill-in for Chief Justice Labagra, reminded the room (probably because of the concerns I voiced during the meeting) that Florida has been able to complete so much more in such a short time than other states because of Florida’s ability to secure financing such as having the meeting in the Marriott Hotel. (Incidentally, the Florida Bar was having one of their gatherings at the Marriott hotel, so the venue was not secured for the Commission meeting only. I could care less where the meeting was held: A fancy convention room poorly conceals the truth.)

“Here is an example of something that made NO sense: One of the Ad Hoc committees said there would be trained persons to assist people in filling out court forms in Law libraries, libraries and court clerk’s office. This is not realistic because there are TOO many libraries. Palm beach county has 17 branches, Miami Dade 48 branches, Broward has 40 branches and Orange County has 16 branches, totalling 121 branches alone for 4 counties. In addition, court clerks’ offices are having staffing cuts and layoffs, so piling volunteer work onto fewer workers assuming more mandatory duties is not realistic. When I asked questions, I was informed this was not a public meeting and only Commission members could ask questions, but the Commission members did not follow up to seek clarification.

“During the break, I spoke with The Honorable Linda Doggett Clerk of Court, Lee County, a Commission member. Voicing my concern, I referenced the HUGE family court issues facing the California court system, but she and another person shared the opinion that they don’t go before a judge in a divorce until the final hearing there. I said really; I believe she meant Norway. I believe this Commission under its present structure has numerous objectives that aren’t realistic, and I want everyone to engage and make sure this Commission serves its intended purpose and is not just another way for the Florida Bar to exert more control over our civil court system than it already has.

“The next Commission meeting will be February 12, 2016 in Tallahassee, Florida. I am hoping this time more people will attend and that the ‘low to middle income litigants’ the Commission was created to help outnumber the attorneys in the room to send a message that we are engaged, intelligent and will not continue to have our ‘eyes wide shut’ and remain unaware and inactive in our civil justice system.”

L* comments: “This is a perfect example of misappropriation of funds by our government to cheat taxpayers and feed local bureaucracies.”

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