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Bar presidents close ranks behind three justices

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Three Florida Supreme Court justices, targeted for ouster by some conservative activists, flexed some political muscle Wednesday by announcing they’ve got the backing of 23 former Florida Bar presidents.

The lineup of lawyers signed a resolution critical of what they labeled as an attempt to politicize the state’s high court. They also conceded that voters have a poor understanding of merit retention, which Justices Peggy Quince, Fred Lewis and Barbara Pariente face in November.

The three justices, the last appointed by a Florida Democratic governor, are being opposed by a tea party-linked political committee called Restore Justice 2012, which cast the justices as a liberal-leaning bloc.

The campaign is seeking to make the trio the first Florida justices ever ousted in a merit retention campaign. The three justices – combined – have already raised more than $1 million for their campaigns, virtually all of it coming from lawyers and law firms.

In merit retention, justices don’t face-off against an opponent. Instead,  voters get to decide, “yes” or “no,” on whether a justice should be given another six-year term.

“Voters need to send a message that politics has no place on the bench.  A vote ‘yes’ for retention sends that message loud and clear,” said former Florida Bar President Howard Coker.

Atwater round-up: CFO gives thanks, seeks more control over state contracts and goes after lawyers

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Times may be tough but there’s still plenty to be grateful for, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater tells Floridians in a Thanksgiving video message released today.

Atwater, a North Palm Beach banker and former Senate president, says he’s thankful for his “exciting year” as the executive in charge of the state’s checkbook and he’s appreciative of the country’s military serving overseas, who “risk their lives every day so that we can enjoy the blessings that we have been afforded: our safety, our security, the ability just to spend time with our families, our friends.”

Read about Atwater’s possible face-offs with Gov. Rick Scott over state contracting and The Florida Bar over PIP after the jump.

West Palm Beach lawyer to lead Bar

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 by John Kennedy

West Palm Beach lawyer Scott Hawkins is expected to be sworn-in next week as president of the Florida Bar, the organization charged with overseeing lawyer regulation in the state.

Bar members played a central role this spring in fighting House Speaker Dean Cannon’s push to add three members to the state Supreme Court, while splitting it into criminal and civil divisions.

 The legislation also would have set aside a specific funding level for the courts, which the Bar generally supported as a way to stave-off shortfalls like one this spring which  threatened courtroom closures and employee furloughs.

Hawkins, a partner with Jones, Foster, Johnston and Stubbs, is scheduled to take office June 24, at the Bar’s annual convention in Orlando. Hawkins has been with the firm since 1985.

During his term, Hawkins wants to study how the Bar handles the grievance process through which lawyers face discipline when violating rules governing the profession.

“We need to honor our obligation as effectively as we can,” said Hawkins. “I want to have a broad, representative group, some of whom are not serving on the Board of Governors, to take a look at the grievance process.”

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