September 1, 2005 Letters

first_img Letters JNC Process I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read the August 1 News article about the Judicial Independence Committee’s “exploration” of Florida’s JNC process.Several commentators in the article expressed concerns about the governor’s preference for six, rather than three, candidates for judicial vacancies, and suggested that a larger pool of candidates makes it less likely that the “best of the best” will be selected for judgeships.In truth, the governor’s changes to the JNC have simply reduced the power of a subset of Bar elites, who all too often concluded that the “best of the best” included only those whose views and backgrounds mirrored their own.The numbers speak for themselves. Since Gov. Bush took office and demanded changes, a record number of women and minorities have made it through the JNC process and joined the ranks of Florida’s judges. In addition, there has been a marked increase in the diversity of viewpoints represented on the bench. The governor should be praised for his leadership, not pilloried for politicizing the process. Reginald J. Brown Washington, D.C. Shakespeare Revisited “I hate attorneys” is an often heard refrain. There are those who always wish to share their kind words about attorneys with a Shakespearean quote: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” We are referred to as gunslingers or mouthpieces. What happened to counselors or advisors? These issues of perception and civility have troubled me over the years.We are supposed to be able to communicate a point of view. But what is the point of view we are to communicate? How society views what is right and what is wrong ultimately determines what attorneys will reflect back in their practice of law. It is the attitudes prevalent in a society which impact our legal system.Although we as professionals have our shortcomings and are not perfect, so it is the same with the society in which we practice. It is not perfect. We are influenced by society’s values. Can we create for society a better format for communication than currently exists? Absolutely. We have the ability to maintain civility with our colleagues. We have the opportunity to mediate and help people settle their differences in a more civil manner. We have the ability and knowledge to help change laws which are unfair, ineffective, or overly burdensome. We have the ability to advise people that a matter is not appropriate for litigation and that we will not handle the matter. We have the ability when on the bench to throw out a frivolous case. We have the ability to express our points of view and leave the door open for meaningful discussion without resorting to inappropriate behavior or coercive tactics.I know this is possible because I see the changes in attitude when parties so desire. Even in hostile litigation, counsel can rise above the bickering and communicate on a professional level. They can extend courtesies to opposing counsel so that the process can run smoothly and channels of communication can remain open. Attorneys do not have to be reflective of society’s norms. We can set the tone of how people can communicate on a civil basis, although they may have strong differences of opinion.It is sad that society forgets the intent of Shakespeare’s suggestion to kill all of the lawyers. No lawyers meant no one to protect against antisocial behavior. The statement was actually a compliment and acknowledgment of the important role lawyers play in maintaining law and order in a society.I am an attorney, and I am proud of being one who counsels and mediates. Michael Garlick Boca Raton The Name Game The “It is important to practice under your real name” UPL Update column in the August 15 News misstates the law and illustrates misplaced priorities.The author’s example is that a lawyer licensed as Cynthia R. Jones may not call herself Cindy Jones in her law practice. This contradicts the only formal authority we have in Florida on the subject, Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 74-20, which says, in pertinent part:“We do not believe that a William signing a letter Bill, a Henry signing a letter Hank, or a Francis signing as Frank is going to mislead anyone, particularly where his full name is set out on his letterhead, although we know of no rule absolutely requiring this.”There is simply no possible reasonable reading of Rule 1-3.3 that forbids, for example, use of a middle initial in a signature instead of spelling out an entire middle name or entirely omitting the middle name from the signature or using Jill instead of Jillian. The purpose is to prevent misleading identifications, not to nitpick at practices so universal that enforcement in accordance with this article would make offenders out of perhaps a majority of the members of the Bar.In presenting an overreaching and insupportable interpretation of an otherwise legitimate rule, this column invites resentment and the sense of harassment that fuels so much of the attack, in the legislature and elsewhere, on the Bar’s regulatory authority. Rick Johnson (a/k/a Richard Errol Johnson) Tallahassee( Bar UPL Counsel Lori Holcomb Responds: Mr. Johnson’s letter gives an example from an ethics opinion on how letters may be signed. I do not believe that the column contradicts the ethics opinion. It states that the nickname may be used “particularly where his full name is set out on his letterhead.” Someone seeing the letter would have the full name and be able to find the attorney in the Bar’s records.) September 1, 2005 Letters September 1, 2005 Letterslast_img