FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT PHASE 2 – JURY TRIALS

 

The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, one of twenty circuits in Florida, follows the directives of the Florida Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the Circuit. On September 9, 2020, the Circuit met the Florida Supreme Court requirements needed to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 ( of four phases). The Circuit shall remain in Phase 2 until the Chief Judge determines that the Circuit meets the Florida Supreme Court’s requirements needed to transition to Phase 3. It is important to know that the Florida Supreme Court phases are distinct and independent of the phases associated with the Governor’s plan for Florida’s recovery. The Governor’s recent Executive Order moving Florida counties into Phase 3 does not usurp the Chief Judge’s decision with regard to the courts. While in Phase 2, masks remain mandatory for all persons entering any of the five courthouses.

Chief Judge Krista Marx has announced that on October 14, October 27, November 4, and November 17, the Circuit will summons jurors for service. The Circuit, working with the County, the Clerk, and the Sheriff, have taken extraordinary measures to protect the health of persons summonsed for jury service. Potential jurors will enter a security door, separate from the public, and will be provided with personal protective equipment throughout their service. The seating in the jury selection room is properly spaced, according to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The trial courtrooms are outfitted with plexiglass and the jury deliberation rooms contain both plexiglass and air “scrubbers,” which are devices that eliminate airborne microorganisms. Additionally, all areas utilized by jurors will be frequently sanitized. With these safety procedures in place, jurors should feel confident that the Circuit is taking every precaution to ensure they can fulfill their important constitutional duty, safely.

NOMINATION DEADLINE FOR THE ANNUAL PRO BONO SERVICE AWARDS IS OCTOBER 22

Nominations are still being accepted for the annual pro bono service awards, which honor lawyers, judges, law firms, and associations that have contributed extraordinary pro bono service. The nomination deadline for all categories is Thursday, October 22, 2020, no later than 5 p.m.

Every year, in a ceremonial session of the Florida Supreme Court, more than two dozen lawyers and judges are honored by the court and The Florida Bar for the free legal assistance they have provided. For each of these members of The Florida Bar, as well as a law firm and a voluntary bar association, this honor underscores a professional commitment to service and acknowledges the many hours of pro bono work performed to help children, victims of human trafficking, the elderly, refugees, the poor and countless others who wouldn’t be able to afford the legal assistance they so badly need.

The 2021 pro bono service awards ceremony will be held at the Florida Supreme Court at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, January 28, 2021.

The road to this annual ceremony begins now, with the call for nominations.

The Florida Bar and the chief justice of the Supreme Court invite nominations from legal aid groups, civic organizations, fellow lawyers, and regular citizens who know of a special lawyer, judge, law firm or voluntary bar that has freely given of time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor.

Nominations must be received by Thursday, October 22. The online nomination forms are available on The Florida Bar’s website at for the following award categories:

 

THE TOBIAS SIMON PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD

Presented annually by the chief justice to a lawyer to recognize extraordinary contributions in ensuring the availability of legal services to the poor. Named for the late Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon, the award represents the Supreme Court’s highest recognition of a private lawyer for pro bono service. All current recipients of The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Awards are considered for this prestigious award, as are direct nominees who have demonstrated exemplary pro bono service over the course of their careers.

THE FLORIDA BAR PRESIDENT’S PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD

This award is given to an outstanding attorney for each of the state’s 20 judicial circuits and to an outstanding attorney among the out-of-state Florida Bar members.

THE LAW FIRM COMMENDATION

This statewide award, presented by the chief justice, recognizes a law firm that has demonstrated a significant contribution in the provision of pro bono legal services to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford the services. This award recognizes extraordinary commitment on the part of a law firm to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.

THE VOLUNTARY BAR ASSOCIATION PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD

Presented by the chief justice, this award recognizes a voluntary bar association that has demonstrated a significant contribution in the delivery of legal services on a pro bono basis to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford the services. This award recognizes an extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.

THE DISTINGUISHED JUDICIAL SERVICE AWARD

Presented by the chief justice, this award is given for outstanding and sustained service to the public, especially as it relates to support of pro bono legal services.

DISTINGUISHED FEDERAL JUDICIAL SERVICE AWARD

This award, presented by the chief justice, recognizes an active or retired federal judge for outstanding and sustained service to the public, whether through legal or civic service or a combination of them, especially as it relates to the support of pro bono legal services.

 

BOARD OF GOVERNORS TO MAKE DECEMBER APPOINTMENTS

 

Florida Realtor-Attorney Joint Committee: Five lawyers, one from each state appellate district, are needed to serve two-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The Florida Bar president receives the recommendations of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section for consideration. The committee membership includes 11 lawyers appointed by The Florida Bar and 11 realtors appointed by the Florida Association of Realtors. The committee promotes cordial relations between realtors and attorneys and presents educational seminars.

Florida Rural Legal Services: One attorney is needed to serve a three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2021, on its 20-member Board of Directors. Other appointing organizations are the NBA, Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter, ACLU, voluntary bar associations and various other eligible client and community organizations. The mission of Florida Rural Legal Services is to empower low-income individuals, groups and communities by providing them with access to justice through legal advice, representation, and advocacy.

Eleventh Circuit Judicial Conference: One delegate is needed to represent the Southern District of Florida to serve a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The biennial conference consists of educational opportunities and meetings (by state) on matters of mutual concern. The Bar’s three delegates contribute to planning and organizing an event during the conference in every odd-numbered year.

Persons interested in applying for these vacancies may click here to download the Application for Special Appointment or should call Bar headquarters at (850) 561-5757, to obtain the application form. Completed applications must be received by the Executive Director, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-2300 or submitted via e-mail to specialapptapp@floridabar.org no later than the close of business on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Resumes will not be accepted in lieu of the required application. The Board of Governors will review all applications and may request telephone or personal interviews.

October is Conflict Resolution Month – A Reminder “It’s About Resolution, Not Revolution”

October 2020
By: Theodore A. Deckert, Esq.

 

I am again honored to write the ADR Corner article for October.  October is special to me because it is recognized worldwide as “Conflict Resolution Month”, the third Thursday (15th) is “Conflict Resolution Day” and the third week (11-17th) is designated by the American Bar Association as Mediation Week.

I first want to highlight our ADR Committee’s activities promoting ADR in our community.  Covid 19 has made this October very different.  As I write in August I don’t know what our world will be like when you read in October.  I do know the ABA Theme for Mediation Week this year is “Mediation and its role in expanding access to justice during and after a pandemic.”  The Committee had to cancel our school essay contest. We are still planning a noon seminar “virtually” on October 15th, with Elder Mediation the topic and Alice Reiter Feld, a recognized advocate for seniors and their families, the speaker.  The Committee has again arranged for Mediation Week proclamations by the County Commission, School Board, and many municipalities. For more about the work of our ADR committee throughout the year, go to https://www.palmbeachbar.org/alternative-dispute-resolution-committee.

Two years ago the ABA declared the 2018 Mediation Week theme as “Mediation, Civil Discourse, and ABA 2011 Resolution 108”.  It reminded us then of our responsibility as lawyers to address the toxic environment of political and social discourse in our country which has only continued to deteriorate over the last decade.  Because of the Pandemic and other events this spring, the consequences of political divisiveness and long standing racial and economic disparities in our country can no longer be ignored.

Crisis presents opportunity.  So many protests nationwide compel us to look more closely at the issues and strive to better understand how “others” live in our country. Personally, I found our Bar Association’s “21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge” online summer program eye-opening. I urge anyone who has not done it to go to      https://www.palmbeachbar.org/21-day-racial-equity-habit-building-challenge  and do so. I was saddened and embarrassed to learn the many ways our legal system has been used to preserve privilege for some and oppress others.  The ABA Mediation Week theme this year is a recognition of our responsibility as lawyers to address the disparities in our justice systems. With this in mind, I offer my personal thoughts.

Our country was founded upon a declaration “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The founders declared that that government should “secure these rights” for ALL to “effect their Safety and Happiness.” (Excerpts from The Declaration of Independence)

The confluence of a Pandemic, economic and political systems that have caused a wide disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” and a partisan system of government no longer able to govern for the “Safety and Happiness” of ALL it’s people has vividly demonstrated that our country is far from achieving that goal.  I personally feel we are at a major “tipping point” for whether or not it will ever be achieved in our country.

In my opinion, our legal system has contributed to this crisis by failing to be the “check” our founders intended in our form of democracy.  Just as our system too slowly recognized that the rights stated in the Declaration are not limited solely to “men,” our legal system has unfortunately been complicit in perpetuating and increasing the disparities among the lives of Americans.  See the “21 Day Challenge” for specific examples.

I hope as lawyers we can be better leaders and get our country back on course. We must promote and elect political leaders who understand their job is to govern for the “Safety and Happiness” of ALL people, regardless of color, origin, gender or any of the other “differences” that make each of us unique.  We must remember the “Rule of Law” is to ensure a just and fair society, not a tool of control and oppression, and be more mindful of our duty to society as well as to our clients.  We must find ways to overcome how technology has corrupted rather than enhanced communication and discourse and enabled the election of people who lack the values and abilities necessary to do the difficult job of governing for ALL people in today’s world.

I urge everyone who reads this to do several simple things. First, do The 21 Day Challenge if you have not already done so. Most importantly, VOTE IN PERSON and VOTE EARLY. Encourage and help others to do so also and help good qualified leaders get elected. If our country is to achieve the noble goal of our founders, we must elect leaders who have demonstrated the values and abilities they need to lead us to achieving that goal.

I believe our country’s GREATNESS is not measured by its stock prices, GNP or wealth.  It is measured by the “Safety and Happiness” of ALL its people.  Unless lawyers and judges do our part better, I fear our country will not achieve TRUE GREATNESS. I hope it will.


Theodore A. Deckert, Esq. is a Past Chair of the Palm Beach County Bar Association ADR Committee and a Past President of The Florida Academy of Professional Mediators. He has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil & Family Mediator since 2000 and he has been a full time Mediator and Third Party Neutral affiliated with Matrix Mediation LLC since 2008.  Prior to becoming a full time mediator, he was a civil trial attorney since 1976 and a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer for 25 years.  He has helped thousands of people resolve virtually every type of civil dispute.  For more information email him at ted@matrixmediation.com  or go to www.matrixmediation.com

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Why it’s Better than the Alternative of Trial

September 2020
By: Nick Marzuk

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Why it’s Better than the Alternative of Trial

As a law student, I was under the impression that mediation and arbitration were either uncommon or part of a small niche of the law – something I would rarely use, if ever.  Then as a practitioner and trial lawyer, the value of these practices became clearer to me. Now, as a mediator, I see how great they are for everyone involved.

Use Them Early and Often

Parties to a dispute/lawsuit will spend thousands of dollars on experts, exhibits, and attorneys’ fees to find out what their case is about and posture their position. A lot of those expenses are building the case for trial.  Yes, due diligence is important, and using mediation or arbitration without knowing anything about one’s case is not a good idea for anyone, but spending a fraction of that money early on can provide many advantages to both sides, or even bring finality to the case.

More and more contracts are adding pre-suit requirements of mediation or arbitration, making litigation the alternative.  Benefits of early mediation or non-binding arbitration include (1) seeing what the opposing side’s theory of the case is, (2) knowing how the opposing side values the case, and (3) for arbitration, seeing how a deciding body would rule on the dispute.  If the case does not resolve, these pieces of information are very helpful for both sides moving forward and will likely save both parties in costs/fees in the long run.  Lastly, an “unsuccessful” mediation or non-binding arbitration often leads to a subsequent resolution due to what transpired in those attempts.

What’s the downside of an early attempt at dispute resolution? At mediation, as well as many arbitrations, everything in confidential.  The cost is small compared to other litigation costs.  Lastly, putting the outcome of the dispute into the hands of the parties makes the result something both parties can agree to, unlike a verdict.

Most cases resolve pre-suit, and most lawsuits resolve before a verdict. Sure, there are some cases that are destined to go to trial, but even those cases are mandated to mediate before trial (if litigating here in Florida). Using dispute resolution early and often can streamline litigation, ultimately result in an early resolution, and be in the best economic interest of both parties.

Uncertainty of Trial

An honest trial lawyer will tell you they’ve won cases they should have lost, and they’ve lost cases they should have won.  Our judicial system is designed to optimize the chances of the fairest decisions/outcomes.  With our system though, verdicts usually result in clear cut winners and losers. Trials should be the last resort – and they are in Florida – but mediation is too often seen by litigants as a required impasse needed before trial.

When someone is wronged and wants “their day in court,” they’re usually leaving the outcome of something very significant in their lives up to a jury.  Six strangers, all summoned to jury duty simply because they have a driver’s license, decide cases worth all different amounts of money. One wouldn’t let six strangers choose the next type of car to buy or where to send a child to college.  So why would someone want those strangers to decide something so important as a lawsuit? Something that to some is the most consequential decision in their entire life?  And then the chance of an appeal? No thank you.

As mentioned, some cases just can’t resolve, and that’s what trials are for.  But the uncertainty of trial is such that the parties should be encouraged to try all they can and resolve the dispute while they still have control over the outcome.

Convenience in a Post-COVID19 world

As courts, particularly trials, were on hold for months and months this year due to the global pandemic, the wait to get to trial will grow for each case heading that way.  With both sides knowing that their case may be tried a year later than they expected due to the global and judicial landscape, finality is something to consider so the parties can move on past their dispute.

With virtual platforms allowing parties and their lawyers to attend mediations from anywhere in the world, spending a couple hours from the comfort of your home is extremely convenient. The convenience of resolving your case through a virtual mediation rather than in trial, for days and days, is worth, to many, money and peace of mind – that can allow parties to be more giving in their negotiations, which could result in a successful agreement at mediation.

Ultimately, trials will still exist, and they should. Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (although the term Dispute Resolution is starting to replace the outdated term) however should be considered more often by litigants than they currently are; getting a resolution that all parties can agree to is something worth considering when weighing the pros and cons of trial


Nick Marzuk is an attorney at The Schiller Kessler Group as well as the founder of Marzuk Mediation. He focuses on PIP litigation and personal injury. Nick lives locally with his wife and kids, and his favorite hobby is cooking. For more information, visit www.MarzukMediation.com

BOARD OF GOVERNORS TO MAKE DECEMBER APPOINTMENTS

 

Florida Realtor-Attorney Joint Committee: Five lawyers, one from each state appellate district, are needed to serve two-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The Florida Bar president receives the recommendations of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section for consideration. The committee membership includes 11 lawyers appointed by The Florida Bar and 11 realtors appointed by the Florida Association of Realtors. The committee promotes cordial relations between realtors and attorneys and presents educational seminars.

Florida Rural Legal Services: One attorney is needed to serve a three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2021, on its 20-member Board of Directors. Other appointing organizations are the NBA, Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter, ACLU, voluntary bar associations and various other eligible client and community organizations. The mission of Florida Rural Legal Services is to empower low income individuals, groups and communities by providing them with access to justice through legal advice, representation, and advocacy.

Eleventh Circuit Judicial Conference: One delegate is needed to represent the Southern District of Florida to serve a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The biennial conference consists of educational opportunities and meetings (by state) on matters of mutual concern. The Bar’s three delegates contribute to planning and organizing an event during the conference in every odd numbered year.

Persons interested in applying for these vacancies may click here to download the Application for Special Appointment or should call Bar headquarters at (850) 561-5757, to obtain the application form. Completed applications must be received by the Executive Director, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-2300 or submitted via e-mail to specialapptapp@floridabar.org no later than the close of business on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Resumes will not be accepted in lieu of the required application. The Board of Governors will review all applications and may request telephone or personal interviews.