Friday, September 27, 2013

Professionalism And Ethics: Synergy Within The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit

By Judge Ashley Moody, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit; Julie Sneed; and Joan Boles

In the beginning of his term, Hillsborough County Bar Association Past President Bob Nader gave a clear directive to the co-chairs: “Reinvigorate the Professionalism Committee.” The first order of business was to change the name to the Professionalism & Ethics Committee to more accurately reflect its mission. During his term, the committee participated in the HCBA Bench Bar Conference and the ABOTA/HCBA Practicing with Ethics, Civility and Professionalism Seminar. It published articles in the Lawyer, provided speakers for events, and began to make connections within the legal community.

An important connection was made between the HCBA committee and the Florida Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Committee on Professionalism. The Circuit Professionalism Committee Program Guide states: “In 1997 the Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism determined the need for professionalism programs and activities to have a primary emphasis at the local level. It was decided each circuit should have a Professionalism Committee. The intent was for programs and activities to be implemented locally and shared among the circuits.”

The connection led to a consensus in formalizing a combined committee with structure for appointments going forward to promote consistency and continuity. This consensus comes at the ideal time and has the full support of HCBA President Susan Johnson-Velez.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently issued Opinion No. SC 13-688, In Re: Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints, within each circuit. It reads in part:

“The Professionalism Commission has proposed that a local committee in each circuit be activated to receive, screen and act upon any and all complaints of unprofessional conduct and to resolve those complaints informally, if possible, or refer to The Florida Bar if necessary. We agree with this proposal and also adopt the Local Professionalism Panel plan. The Chief Judge of every circuit shall create a Local Professionalism Panel to receive and resolve professionalism complaints informally if possible. In the discretion of the Chief Judge, the Circuit Committee on Professionalism may be designated as the Local Professionalism Panel. The Chief Judge of each circuit is responsible for activating the respective committees.”

The Standards of Professionalism are found in the Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Creed of Professionalism, The Florida Bar Ideals and Goals of Professionalism, The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and the decisions of the Florida Supreme Court.

A combined taskforce has been created to address the Supreme Court mandate regarding professionalism efforts and a local panel in our circuit. The taskforce is chaired by Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Ashley Moody and includes members of the Professionalism and Ethics Committee, Committee on Professionalism, and the HCBA Peer Review Program. A Thirteenth Judicial Circuit plan and structure will be put in place for implementation. Stay tuned.