Thursday, January 29, 2015

Elder Law: Great Programs Bring In The New Year

By Debra Dandar

As we begin a new year, we would like to update you on our final meetings of 2014 and our first meeting of 2015, as well as keep you informed about the exciting speakers we have lined up until the summer break.  

Our November luncheon speaker was Diane Daniels, owner of Senior Advocates for Medicare & Medicaid, LLC, who addressed issues concerning Medicare coverage. We had a good turnout, including financial advisors and non-elder law attorneys. We all walked away with a deep appreciation for Diane’s expertise and learned tips regarding the intricacies of Medicare coverage.  

Our December 12 speaker was Laura Penley, district long-term care ombudsman, who provided us with an overview of nursing home residents’ rights and armed us with knowledge and resources to carry out zealous advocacy on behalf of our clients.

On February 5, Travis Finchum, a co-trustee of Guardian Pooled Trust, will instruct us on SSI rules and lesser-known Medicaid programs such as QMB, SLMB, QI1, and Medically Needy.  Travis also will answer questions regarding special-needs trusts. 

On March 13, April Hill and Javier Centonzio will give us an insider’s overview of the VA health care system, as well as VA Pension and Aid and Attendance, service-connected compensation, and other VA benefits. April Hill, of Hill Law Group, is a frequent lecturer on these topics, and Javier Centonzio, also of Hill Law Group, is a former clerk for the Federal Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.

On April 23, Tae Kelley Bronner, a renowned expert on the subject of homestead, will be the speaker for a joint luncheon between our section and the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section and provide us with a review of the relevant law regarding the constitutional homestead exemption from claims of creditors and the impact of trusts on the availability of that exemption.

Each luncheon qualifies for one hour of CLE credit and provides the opportunity to visit and network with elder law attorneys and other professionals. Networking begins at 11:30 a.m., with luncheons beginning at noon. All luncheons are held in the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center.

So please join us at our meetings, and as always, if you have suggestions or ideas or would like to submit an article for publication in the Hillsborough County Bar Lawyer magazine, please contact Elizabeth P. Allen ― or (813) 877-9222  or Debra L. Dandar ―  or (813) 282-3390.  

We look forward to seeing you and wish each of you a very happy, healthy, and successful 2015!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nominations Sought For Thirteenth Circuit Pro Bono Awards

"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good." - Minor Myers

Good work is always a reward in itself. But at the 2015 Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Awards, attorneys will also receive recognition for their time and dedication to pro bono work in Hillsborough County.

Do you know someone who has lent a legal hand to help those in need? The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and Bay Area Legal Services Volunteer Lawyers Program are seeking nominations for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Awards, which will be presented April 23 at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center.

Nominees are being sought in the following categories:
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Lawyer
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Young Lawyer (36 years or younger)
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Paralegal
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Law Firm
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service by an Organization
- Jimmy Kynes Pro Bono Service Award

For more information or to nominate someone, please review the nomination form.

Please submit your nomination form(s) by February 17 to Rachel May Zysk at

Diversity Committee: Tampa Hispanic Bar Association Grows In Community

By Luis E Viera

Though we have many wonderful voluntary Bar associations, few are as unique as the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association (THBA), and few are as uniquely Tampa.

In 2006, a group of attorneys, including THBA founding President Luis "Tony" Cabassa, met at the old Valencia Gardens Restaurant on West Kennedy Boulevard to found the THBA, which would grow to more than 100 active dues-paying members. For me, three facts make the THBA unique.

First is the THBA’s community involvement. The THBA’s monthly Spanish Family Forms Clinic, presently led by board member Karla Faviola Gonzalez-Acosta, assists Spanish-speaking individuals, free of charge, with family law form packets. For these efforts, the THBA was awarded our Circuit’s Pro Bono Service Award (2011) and the Florida Supreme Court’s Statewide Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Award (2013). Also, there is the THBA Court Interpreter Program for pro-se litigants, which provides free court-certified interpreters, and the annual college scholarship program.

Second is our diverse leadership. There is Immediate Past President Victoria Cruz-Garcia, whose father served in the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War; President Miriam Velez-Valkenburg, a former Drug Enforcement Agent in intelligence and litigator; and President-Elect Vivian Cortes Hodz, a family lawyer who is the first person in her family to attend college. Board member Jenay Eunice Iurato’s work in combating human trafficking is exemplary; Secretary Andres Oliveros is a Marine and Iraq War veteran; and board member Lourdes Bernal-Dixon and Treasurer Doris Del Castillo are proud daughters of Cuban exiles. Board member Rene Hernandez came to the United States at the age of 16 on the Cuban Mariel Boatlift and is now corporate counsel at Florida Travelers, and board members Steve Barbas, Hernando Bernal, and Rick Fueyo are proud Jesuit High School graduates who never forget the Jesuit Catholic principles they learned.

Third are the THBA’s organizational values. This is an organization that our ancestors, who struggled as immigrant “strangers in a strange land,” can be proud of. The THBA honors the struggles of our families who came from all over the world to not only the United States, but Tampa, as Latinos and became proud Americans. Tampa’s heritage uniquely reflects the American value of pluralism through a rich Latino influence. From the Spanish immigrants who toiled in the Ybor City cigar factories and the Cubans who made West Tampa their homes to the heroism of Lt. Baldomero Lopez and great names like Mayor and Gov. Bob  Martinez, Judge Virginia Covington, and “Mr. Latino” himself, Judge E.J. Salcines, Tampa is a city of Latino achievement and history. Tampa stands as a symbol of the American Dream for Latino Americans, and the THBA builds on this legacy by paying tribute to our families’ history. The stories we were told by our parents of their struggles, day after day at our kitchen and family tables, define the THBA’s DNA.   

As Latino Americans in Tampa, our families’ stories may have different beginnings, but all have the same conclusion: with us being proud Americans, here in Tampa. These stories form important bricks in what songwriter Abel Meeropol called “the house I live in,” or the house of the United States. And in our community, the THBA plays an important part in the house we all live in, Tampa. I am proud to be a member and hope you can join in support.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Criminal Law: Discovery Of The “Informant Witness”

By Matt Luka

A jailhouse informant testifying to a defendant's purported confession is often the most powerful evidence in a criminal trial. After all, how can we expect a jury to ignore the defendant's own words? Such witnesses can be difficult to cross-examine, particularly without a sufficient opportunity to prepare. 

According to the Innocence Project, of the exonerees released from death row, 45.9 percent were convicted, in part, due to false informant testimony. In re Amend. to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.220, 140 So. 3d 538, 540 n.3 (Fla. 2014). Further studies have shown that informant perjury was a factor in nearly 50 percent of wrongful murder convictions. Id.

In response to that troubling reality, the Supreme Court of Florida recently amended Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220 to include more detailed disclosure requirements for informant witnesses. Id. at 539. The amendment adds as a new subset of Category A witnesses: informant witnesses, whether in custody or not, who offer testimony concerning the statements of a defendant about the issues for which the defendant is being tried. Id. at 540 (Appendix). This amendment encompasses not just "jailhouse informants" but any informant who testifies about a defendant's statement.  

In addition to the identity and address of the informant witness, the state must disclose whether it has “any material or information that has been provided by an informant witness,” which includes: (i) the substance of any statement allegedly made by the defendant that the informant witness may testify about; (ii) a summary of the informant witness's criminal record of the; (iii) the time and place the defendant's alleged statement was made; (iv) whether the informant witness has received, or expects to receive, anything in exchange for his or her testimony; (v) the informant witness's prior history of cooperation, in return for any benefit, as known to the prosecutor. Id. at 539. 

The amendment is not intended to limit in any manner the discovery obligations otherwise provided for under Rule 3.220. Id. at 539. Because informant witnesses are Category A witnesses, Rule 3.220(h)(A) permits a deposition of the witness without leave of court. However, the Rule 3.220(g) confidential informant privilege still applies. This could create conflict between the two sections of the rule depending on how the state uses the informant. 

One question that may arise is whether the state has an obligation to identify an informant witness if the witness is not expected to testify at trial but provided information that led to the discovery of other evidence such a probable cause for a search warrant. Typically, an informant who only provides supporting information, such as probable cause for a warrant, does not need to be disclosed absent a showing by the defendant of an exemption to the confidential informant privilege. See State v. Powell, 140 So. 3d 1126, 1131 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). However, the Second District Court of Appeal recently held that the state's discovery obligation for Category A witnesses is not limited to witnesses and evidentiary materials that it intends to present at trial. State v. Fernandez, 141 So. 3d 1211, 1222 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014). Although the "informant witness" amendment is limited to witnesses "who offer testimony," an accuser who makes a formal statement to government officers, even if out-of-court, also offers testimony. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 51 (2004). The answer to this question may lie in Florida's adherence to the purpose and spirit of the discovery rules to avoid surprise and trial by ambush. Scipio v. State, 928 So. 2d 1138, 1144–45 (Fla. 2006) (citations omitted).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Corporate Counsel Section: Eleventh Circuit to Revisit Interns’ FLSA Status

By Deborah C. Brown

Companies offering internships have recently been confronted with whether unpaid interns are “employees” entitled to minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. The FLSA does not clearly define employee status, but the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) excludes interns from coverage when certain criteria are met. Those criteria are: (i) The internship, even though including actual operation of the employer’s facilities, is similar to training in an education environment; (ii) the internship experience is for the intern’s benefit; (iii) the intern does not displace regular employees but works under existing staff’s direct supervision; (iv) the employer providing training derives no immediate advantage of the intern’s activities, and on occasions its operations may actually be impeded; (v) the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the internship’s conclusion; and (vi) the employer and intern understand the intern is not entitled to wages for the internship. Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (April 2010). 

These factors’ significance is subject to debate. The Eleventh Circuit describes these factors as “a body of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for guidance.” Kaplan v. Code Blue Billing & Coding, Inc., 504 F. Appx 831, 835 (2013), cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 618 (2013). They have been relied upon when disposing of intern claims. Demayo v. Palms West Hosp., Ltd. P'ship, 918 F. Supp. 2d 1287 (S.D. Fla. 2013); Schumann v. Collier Anesthesia, P.A., 2014 WL 2158505 (M.D. Fla. May 23, 2014). But other circuits have been less deferential to the DOL. Solis v. Laurelbrook Sanitarium & School, 642 F.3d 518 (6th Cir. 2011) (rejecting DOL factors in favor of “primary benefit” analysis). Thus, the level of DOL deference, how much weight each factor receives, and whether all factors must be met are unclear among federal appellate courts. 

That issue is now before the Eleventh Circuit on appeal in Schumann, which involves a suit by interns in a clinical training program supervised by Collier Anesthesia but part of Wolford College’s nurse anesthesia master’s degree program. Schumann’s significance stems from use of the DOL factors without it being necessary to resolve each in the defendants’ favor. Rather, by using the factors to determine whether the economic realities supported finding an employment relationship, a defense summary judgment was granted even though only three factors were conclusively established for the defendants. 

Private companies using unpaid interns should examine the academic nature of their intern activities, the onsite supervisor’s role, whether academic credit/other benefits are given to interns, and how to best create a qualifying mutually beneficial relationship. Greater risk exists in programs without educational institution support to formulate the academic components. But governmental/nonprofit internships have been unaffected because they operate under an FLSA exclusion for volunteers. 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(4); Hill v. Watson, Feb. 4, 2014 WL 440371, n.1 (N.D. Ill. 2014); WH Op. Ltr. FLSA2008-14 (Dec. 18, 2008). With proper structure and oversight, private internships can remain viable, too. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Collaborative Law: The Big Picture - Applying The Collaborative Process To The Medical Industry

By Jon Wax

If patient safety was managed like airline passenger safety – with a collaborative process led by an outcomes-oriented oversight agency – thousands of lives and millions of dollars could be saved.

Look at the numbers: Air travel has become the safest mode of transportation in America – after decades of oversight by the FAA and the NTSB. In 2013, according to the latest estimates from the NTSB, there were only two fatalities out of nearly 9 million U.S. commercial airline flights. Contrast this with the medical industry. A 2013 study reported in the Journal of Patient Safety revealed more than 200,000 deaths are associated with preventable harm in hospitals annually. That is the equivalent of three commercial planes crashing every day with no survivors.

Why doesn’t the medical industry have a better record? The simple answer is the lack of a centralized system to investigate, solve, and improve these outcomes.
Imagine a world where doctors, patients, and families freely discuss medical "events" and work together to reduce the incidence of medical errors, which in turn would reduce medical malpractice premiums and, ultimately, the cost of health care. This is possible, but not within the archaic, inefficient, and adversarial system that prevails in our country today.

Chesley Sullenberger, the U.S. Airways pilot whose 2009 emergency splash-landing of an A320 saved the lives of 155 passengers, has become a crusader in the cause of saving patients’ lives by reducing medical errors and accidents. His approach highlights a major medical industry deficiency: Information about medical accidents and errors is not pooled and mined to identify systemic issues. 

Sullenberger envisions making American hospitals safer by “applying all the things we’ve learned for decades in aviation and making them transferrable to medicine.” He advocates forming a medical accident investigation board to oversee a formal “lessons-learned” process where the findings are widely disseminated but locally actionable. The board would also enforce a doctor’s “checklist manifesto” similar to the ones pilots use. 

Information related to medical errors and accidents must be shared. The FAA and NTSB require complete access to crash sites, evidence, records, survivors, and anything else they deem necessary to understand causes, effects, and solutions. All parties must be forthcoming. Only when the investigation is complete, and remedies are made to mitigate future occurrences, can the parties pursue civil action. 

In medicine, civil hostilities will remain a critical impediment unless there are changes to the method of settling these disputes. Enter the collaborative process, which would enable a medical investigation board to uphold fairness and civility in dispute resolution. The collaborative process differs from traditional mediation by contractually prohibiting lawyers and other professional intermediaries from representing parties if the process breaks down. This is an inducement for the entire professional team to make the process work.

We should encourage non-adversarial collaboration to achieve common good: reduced medical errors resulting in lives saved; elimination of defensive medicine; and reduced settlement amounts, litigation, and malpractice premiums.

The collaborative process can improve the medical malpractice field. Imagine the positive effect on other civil practice fields. Please consider how the collaborative process can improve outcomes for your clients and your practice. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Community Services Committee: Make A Difference Day - Adopt A Veteran Was A Huge Success

By Lisa A. Esposito

When Lara LaVoie and I agreed to chair the Community Services Committee (CSC) two years ago, we did it to make a difference. We wanted to have a positive impact in our neighborhoods, to help change the negative perception many people have about our legal community. Thanks to our members’ generosity, we are doing just that: making a difference!

For example, the CSC just chaired Make a Difference Day, Adopt a Veteran, and it was a huge success! For the second year, we adopted every veteran on the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital’s hardship list. In fact, the list almost doubled from last year, but the CSC was undaunted. We got to work, ensuring every veteran was adopted. 

For those who are unaware of this amazing project, these veteran heroes sadly have no family and live in small group homes, as they can no longer take care of themselves. They have limited funds, so with the help of generous volunteers, gifts are assembled for delivery to each of them. In fact, many of you said that reading these soldiers’ wish lists brought tears to your eyes. We agree. Their wishes are simple ― a shirt, some socks, perhaps a puzzle ― but their needs are great. 

It wasn’t just purchasing gifts that allowed us to make a difference; it was the time we spent with them. The hours we spent meeting these soldiers and hearing their stories left its mark, not only on them but on us, too.  

More than 50 volunteers got up super early on a Saturday, all to make a difference, and it was definitely worth it. (In our defense, Lara and I did bring some tasty doughnuts). Lawyers and paralegals came; Gators, Bulls, and Noles came; parents brought their children ― all to honor our American heroes. 

I personally had the honor of meeting two veterans, one was in WWII, and the other was in both Vietnam and Korea. Andy refueled ships during WWII. Can you imagine? He lost his wife and only son but still has a positive outlook. Andy was almost 90 but still feisty and quick with a retort. He got a deck of cards in his care package and informed me he would be playing poker later, even hinting it may be the lose-an-article-of-clothing type of poker. I didn’t press it. I moved on. Walter was career Navy, did 20 years. While in the Navy, he traveled to many locations but loved Spain the most, at least what he could disclose as some things were still classified. 

The soldiers we spent time with smiled that day, delighted to have someone to reminisce with, and we got to learn about their experiences and history. In reality, we thought we gave to them, but we walked away realizing that we got much more.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Construction Law: Use of Case Management Orders in Construction Litigation

By Lindsay G. McCormick

As a construction litigator, you have likely seen your fair share of large, complex case management orders. Some orders are better than others, and although no order is perfect, below are provisions of case management orders that have proven very useful in complex construction cases.

Deposition Holds: These provisions specify days each month that parties hold open for depositions, and they are useful in scheduling the numerous depositions necessary for complex construction disputes (usually involving a large number of deponents). Without deposition holds, it is near impossible to schedule all depositions at mutually agreeable times for all parties involved. The most successful deposition hold provisions also mandate notice periods, which allow the holds to be released if no depositions are noticed within a specific timeframe. This notice period allows attorneys to keep calendars in check and prevents parties from being "blind-sided" by depositions without time to prepare.

Court Reporter and Exhibit Requirements: Ordering the use of a single court reporting company helps significantly in processing transcripts and keeping a running, sequential exhibit list. In doing so, the court reporting company will bring a copy of the list and exhibits to each deposition. Using the same reporting company reduces confusion during depositions, motion practice, and, ultimately, trial.

Set Hearing Times: Pre-scheduling hearing times with the court, and allowing any party to notice motions or matters within those times, prevents the nightmare of trying to coordinate dates and times with numerous attorneys and promotes the expeditious hearing and resolution of motions.

Project File Production: Construction cases are usually document-intensive, and numerous requests for production will be filed in the course of discovery. Ordering all parties to produce their project files within a certain timeframe reduces discovery filings and facilitates parties efficiently obtaining all necessary documents. This approach, similar to initial disclosures in federal court, greatly increases the efficiency of the discovery process and typically reduces fees/costs associated with formal discovery.

Newly Added Parties: Frequently, complaints are amended by adding new parties after entering a case management order. Therefore, it is advisable to include a provision requiring the plaintiff to provide the order to new parties within a certain timeframe of the new parties appearing in the action.

Mediation: Recently, Judge Paul L. Huey of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit has proposed a standard Mediation Referral Order that may soon be incorporated into many case management orders. This mediation order includes useful provisions such as requiring carriers to disclose coverage issues before mediation and potentially requiring coverage counsel to attend mediation, if necessary. The order also creates a Mediation Organizing Committee to handle mediator selection, scheduling, format, and to determine discovery necessary prior to mediation. At this time, it is not clear whether the mediation order will become a standard for construction litigation; however, its contents and intent are very useful in managing mediation, an extremely important aspect of construction litigation. 

Although no case management order is infallible, these elements have proven useful in tailoring the order to the needs of each case. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Appellate Practice: Filing Documents Under Seal In Appellate Proceedings

By Jessica Dareneau

Failing to ensure that sensitive information is not filed publicly could result in irreparable harm. Despite broad sunshine laws, Florida law protects social security numbers, medical records, trade secrets, and other private and sensitive information. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(c)(9). Before the electronic age, such documents would simply be filed in a sealed envelope. Since the implementation of mandatory electronic filing, however, the written procedures don’t quite mesh with filing realities. Thus, it is critical for the filing attorney to ensure such information is not inadvertently made available to the world for review. Do not wait until the deadline to file your brief because it will likely take some time to ensure that information is filed under seal. 

James Birkhold, clerk of the Second District Court of Appeal, has provided some helpful guidance for attorneys wishing to file documents under seal in the Second District. 

In proceedings involving review of a final order, the lower court clerk prepares the record and is responsible for informing the district court clerk of any sealed information contained in the record pursuant to Rule 2.420(g)(8). Issues for attorneys will mainly arise in the review of non-final orders because the attorney must prepare an appendix. If there is already an order from the lower court sealing the information, then isolate the information you are seeking to seal from the other documents in the appendix. Next, alert the appellate court of the lower court’s order sealing the information. This can be accomplished by selecting the confidential option in the e-portal and then filing the information with a cover letter with bold and large font stating that the document must be sealed. The cover letter should cite to the lower court’s order sealing the information, and the order should be attached. 

If there is not already an order from the lower court sealing the information, then you will need to file a motion with the appellate court under Rule 2.420(g), Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. This rule sets forth strict parameters for sealing information in the court’s file. 

Do not file your sensitive information until the district court has ruled on your motion to seal. If the court grants your motion, a separate appendix should be prepared with the sealed information. If the confidential information is of a nature that the other side should be restricted from accessing it as well, do not electronically file the sealed appendix because it will be electronically served on the opposing party automatically. Clerk Birkhold suggests instead filing a motion in which you request court approval to email the district clerk the confidential portion of the appendix.  

The electronic filing system is evolving and will eventually have a method to replace the traditional sealed envelope method. Until then, it is always best to contact the clerk of the district in which you are filing well before the filing deadline for guidance, as each district will likely have different methods and preferences. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Legacy That Lasts: George E. Edgecomb

By Cory J. Person

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
― from “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole

In Florida, one becomes accustomed to the sight of bridges. Indeed, bridges are everywhere across our fair state, allowing travelers to cross expanses of water, vast or small, to arrive at our intended destination. Rarely noticed or noted are those who came before to build the bridge, across which so many have traveled. Every so often, however, a bridge is built so exceedingly well that its builder must be etched in history. Such is the case of the late Honorable George E. Edgecomb. 

A native of West Tampa, Edgecomb graduated from George S. Middleton High School with honors in 1960, where he served as president of the student body. Leadership would be a theme of Edgecomb’s life, both as a student and law professional. 

After high school, Edgecomb attended Clark College in Atlanta, where he served as president of the freshman class, sophomore class, and ultimately president of the student body. It was during this time that he met Tampa attorney Delano S. Stewart. 

“I did not know George at the time, but my parents knew of him and asked that I find George when I started classes at Morehouse,” Stewart says. Taking his parents advice, Stewart sought out Edgecomb, and the two established an enduring friendship. 

“God creates people for a purpose. He [Edgecomb] was president of the freshman class, sophomore class, and the student body president for two years. He was respected and admired by his peers. He was destined to do what he did swiftly – that was his destiny,” Stewart says.

The destiny Stewart refers to began in 1968, when Edgecomb received his Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University School of Law. After graduation, Edgecomb returned to Tampa and began his legal career as an attorney working with Stewart. 

Edgecomb did not consider his only obligation as that owed to his clients; he felt a great obligation to serve his community. Accordingly, he served on the Greater Tampa Urban League Board of Directors and received multiple awards for his service to the Tampa’s underserved communities. 

On August 13, 1973, George Edgecomb was invested as a county judge, becoming the first African-American judge in Hillsborough County. He was also the first African-American chief assistant county solicitor and Hillsborough County’s first African-American assistant state attorney. 

Judge Edgecomb passed away on January 22, 1976. In 1982, Judge Edgecomb’s friends and colleagues created the George Edgecomb Bar Association (GEBA) to preserve his legacy. Today, GEBA boasts a membership of more than 100 lawyers, judges, and law students. 

Though I began practicing law 30 years after Judge Edgecomb’s passing, I have walked across the bridge that he and other trailblazers have built. I have been a member of GEBA since I arrived in Tampa in 2006; I was sworn in as a lawyer at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse. It is likely that the view and capacity of African-American lawyers in our community have been shaped, in part, by Judge Edgecomb’s varied accomplishments in the legal profession. 

There is no doubt that any success I and other African-American lawyers may claim would not be possible without the planks that were laid down, the towers that were erected, and the cables that were suspended by the late Honorable George E. Edgecomb.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

News From Around The Association

Erin Smith Aebel of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, has received the American Diabetes Stop Diabetes SHARE Leadership Award. The award recognizes an individual volunteer who has demonstrated a significant and ongoing ability to recruit, train, and motivate local volunteers. Aebel is a partner at the firm and the co-chair of the Tampa Health Law Department.

Carter Andersen, shareholder at Bush Ross, P.A., has been reappointed to the Thirteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission. Andersen's practice includes civil litigation matters in both state and federal courts and in alternative dispute resolution settings, including arbitration and mediation.

Adam L. Bantner II of the Brandon Legal Group has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. Bantner practices criminal defense, personal injury, and immigration law.

Edward J. Carbone of Roig Lawyers presented the Medical Malpractice Update Course to insurance adjusters at the Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation for the State of Florida on October 15. Carbone specializes in medical malpractice, health care law, appellate litigation, and business litigation.

Michael L. Forte of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.A., recently presented "Public Records and Sunshine Law" to a gathering of police chiefs from the Tampa Bay area. Forte has also been named a "40 under 40 Up & Comer" by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Forte is a litigator who practices in the areas of retail and hospitality, government, and products liability.

Erica Gooden and Alyse Latour have joined Holland & Knight as associates. Gooden practices commercial litigation and dispute resolution, and Latour practices securities law.

Rachel B. Goodman of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, spoke to the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management on September 17. Rachel’s topic was “Health Law 101: The Basics Your Doctors Need to Know to Protect Their License and Liberty.” Goodman practices health law at the firm.

Lee D. Gunn IV, founder and president of Gunn Law Group, was the 20th recipient of the Florida Justice Association’s EAGLE Centurion Award. Participants in EAGLE (the Endowment for Association Giving to Law and Education) have become leaders and advocates for public service, setting an example and leaving their mark by protecting access to Florida’s courts. The Centurion Award recognizes those who have contributed $250,000 to the Endowment for Association Giving to Law and Education.

Jason F. Lamoureux of Holland & Lamoureux, P.A., presented "How to Preserve a Constitutional Challenge to the Threshold Defense" at the Florida Justice Association's Masters of Justice Auto Negligence Seminar in Orlando on September 19.

M. Elizabeth “Liz” Lanier has joined Gunn Law Group’s litigation team. Lanier focuses her practice on medical malpractice, nursing home liability, and serious personal injuries.

Jordan D. Maglich, an attorney with Wiand Guerra King, was recently appointed to serve on the Editorial Board of the Federal Bar Association.

Judge Stevan Northcutt, of the Second District Court of Appeal, recently exhibited "CorgiModern," his series of photographs juxtaposing cardigan Welsh corgis with mid-century-modern furniture, in a gallery show at Beth Kokol Arts in Tampa.

W. Jan Pietruszka, partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, was a panelist at the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance group on October 24 at International Plaza, where he discussed navigating effective performance reviews to avoid HR and legal issues. Pietruszka's practice includes defending corporations and management from claims of discrimination, sexual harassment, workplace torts, breaches of employment contract, and unpaid wages.

William K. “Bill” Thomas has joined Hill International Inc. as vice president of its Claims & Consulting Group. Thomas focuses his practice on forensic accounting and fraud investigations both in and outside of the construction industry.

Burton W. Wiand, a founding member of Wiand Guerra King P.L., was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Federal Equity Receivers. Wiand has served as an equity receiver on numerous occasions, having been appointed at the suggestion of the SEC, FTC, and also in state court by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

Gregory C. Yadley, partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, has been reappointed to serve as a member of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies. Yadley was also acknowledged by the American Bar Association in Chicago for his service as chairman for the past three years of the ABA Business Law Section Middle Market and Small Business Committee. Yadley practices corporate and securities law at the firm.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Second DCA Judicial Nominating Commission Accepting Judicial Applications

The Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission has announced a vacancy due to the retirement of Judge Charles A. Davis Jr. The Judicial Nominating Commission has been asked to provide Gov. Rick Scott with nominees for this vacancy.

Qualifications of Applicants:

Applicants must be residents of the territorial jurisdiction of the court at the time they would assume office, electors of the state of Florida, and members of The Florida Bar for the preceding 10 years.

Instructions for Submission:

1. Current Judicial Applications must be used and can be downloaded in Word version from The Florida Bar’s website at
2. The completed application must be typed and bound. The inclusion of a photograph is encouraged.
3. In addition to the original application, applicants must provide: (i) 10 copies of the original application, (ii) one electronic copy of the original application on a flash drive in PDF format, and (iii) one printed redacted copy excluding all exempt information under Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or other applicable public records law. All printed copies should be two-sided.
4. The completed application, attachments, and flash drive must be delivered to Lara J. Tibbals, chair of the Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, 101 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 3700, Tampa FL 33602.
5. The deadline for submission of the application is 5 p.m. Friday, January 30. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Additional Information:

After the deadline for submitting applications, the commission will determine which applicants to interview. Applicants will be contacted to confirm the date, time, and location.

All proceedings of the commission are open to the public except for deliberations. Applicants should not expect their applications to be kept confidential.

If an applicant is nominated, all materials attached to the original application will be submitted to the governor.

A list of
members of the Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission is available from The Florida Bar’s website.

Members of the bench, the Bar and the public are urged to contact the members of the commission concerning applicants for judicial positions.

If you have any questions, please call Mrs. Tibbals at (813) 222-8501. 

Dash And Then Dine At The 5K And Pig Roast On March 21

By 5K Pro Bono River Run Committee

The countdown has begun for the Seventh Annual HCBA 5k Pro Bono River Run on Saturday, March 21! Get ready for a fantastic family-friendly event. The event has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years and will be open to the first 350 people who register.  

The River Run is well-suited for everyone from casual walkers to elite runners, featuring professional chip timing, a USTAF-certified course, a water station, and the glorious Hillsborough River! Race day check-in begins at 4 p.m. at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, and the race begins promptly at 5:30 p.m. Check-in will also be available at the Ferguson Law Center on from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, March 20. You can register for the 2015 River Run through the HCBA website. Early registration for the race will end March 5. The early registration fee is $35 for adults and $15 for youths (ages 12 and younger).

More importantly, we hope to better the 1,672 pro bono service hours that were pledged last year. Pro bono service is at the heart of this race and provides a tremendous service to the many people in our community who do not have the funds needed to obtain legal representation.  In addition to runners who are pledging hours, we are hoping to get others in our legal profession to support the race by pledging their own pro bono hours on behalf of a runner. This gives everyone a great opportunity to support the race in a very meaningful way, even if running 3.1 miles is not high on your “to-do” list.   

After the River Run, please stay for the Judicial Pig Roast/Food Festival on the grounds of Stetson University’s Tampa Law Center. You can expect to enjoy delicious food, an abundance of fun, and even a little dancing. The Pig Roast is free for HCBA members and their families.  

Not a runner or walker? You can still get involved by volunteering or sponsoring the event. Last year, we had more than 60 volunteers. Please contact Laura Westerman Tanner at if you are interested in volunteering. You can sponsor the River Run or the Pig Roast through a financial contribution or an in-kind donation for the goody bags. If you wish to be a sponsor, please visit the HCBA website for a form or contact Corrie Benfield at or (813) 221-7779.

So, grab your sneakers and come on downtown for an exciting race, a fun afternoon, and a chance to support pro bono legal services! We hope to see you there!

Monday, January 5, 2015

State Attorney's Message: Investigative Subpoenas - A Tool For Prosecution

By Mark A. Ober

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups:  the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.”  This clear-cut distinction is well-known to anyone who has ever watched the opening sequence of an episode of “Law & Order.” Of course, in real life, this distinction is not always so clear. Although law enforcement completes the bulk of every criminal investigation, it may be necessary for the state to conduct a follow-up investigation with witness interviews.  

Under section 27.04, Florida Statutes, the state attorney is empowered to summon witnesses “to testify before him or her as to any violation of the law.” This statute is very broad and allows the state to conduct an investigation to determine whether criminal activity has occurred. State v. Investigation, 802 So. 2d 1141, 1144 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001). The state may exercise this power through a subpoena for the testimony of live witnesses or through the use of a subpoena duces tecum. See id. at 1143-1144; Doe v. State, 634 So. 2d 613, 615 (Fla.1994); Imparato v. Spicola, 238 So. 2d 503, 506 (Fla. 2d DCA 1970); State v. Nat'l Research Sys., Inc., 459 So. 2d 1134, 1135 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984); Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 94-86 (1994). An assistant state attorney is authorized to administer oaths to these witnesses, § 27.04, Fla. Stat., and law enforcement may be present for a witness interview pursuant to this section. In re Getty, 427 So. 2d 380 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983). No right to counsel attaches to such an interview, See State v. Sievert, 312 So. 2d 788 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975); Gordon v. Gerstein, 189 So. 2d 873 (Fla. 1966).,  although an attorney for the witness may be present if he or she does not interfere with the investigation. Creamer v. State, 447 So. 2d 978 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984). If the state has served a subpoena on a witness to testify as part of an investigation, section 914.04 may be triggered, providing the witness with immunity for statements made in response to the subpoena. Immunity would not extend to any perjured testimony provided by the witness. See State v. Mitrani, 19 So. 3d 1065, 1067 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009; Fowler v. State, 447 So. 2d 296 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984).

In my office, my attorneys conduct in-person witness interviews with victims of violent felony offenses. These witnesses receive a subpoena to appear at our Victim Assistance Program, where they are placed under oath and interviewed by an assistant state attorney about the facts of the case. Not only does this interview give us an opportunity to learn about the case and assess our witness’ ability to testify, but it also gives the witness an opportunity to ask questions about the court process and provide input about future dispositions. 

To keep the citizens of Hillsborough County safe, my attorneys take the legal actions necessary to assess and build strong cases. In conjunction with the hard work done by our law enforcement partners, my investigative authority through the use of subpoena powers allows my office to pursue justice for the people of Hillsborough County.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

President's Message: A Continued Commitment To Diversity

By Benjamin H. Hill IV

As the holidays and 2014 are now but a memory, I hope everyone is well underway to a healthy and prosperous new year. I know many have made resolutions for the year, and I wish you much success in fulfilling them.* Although it is a new calendar year, we are entering the second half of our Bar year, with much work and fun still before us. We have a lot of positive momentum at the halfway mark, but we still have many aspects of Operation Respect and Service ― our themed mission for the year ― to advance. So, what’s next?

I now want to lift up the increasing diversity within our local Bar and profession. In doing so, I only hope to continue the great work that my predecessor, Susan Johnson-Velez, so capably led in highlighting this important subject. As the HCBA continues its growth, so does the diversity of our membership. To be sure, the diversity within our Bar increasingly reflects the diversity within our area, state, and country. As this diversity evolves, we acknowledge both the progress that has been made and the positive impact it has had on our local Bar, profession, and community. As we all know and cherish, our heritage within our local community is richly and inextricably intertwined with great diversity. Of course, this is part of what makes this area we call “home” such a great place in which to live and work.

In this issue, we spotlight diversity through, among other things, a wonderful article in which HCBA Secretary Cory Person remembers the Honorable George E. Edgecomb and his enduring legacy. We also showcase our local legal profession’s significant Hispanic roots and ties via Luis Viera’s well-written article featuring the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association. The HCBA values, and benefits from, the strong and collaborative relationship it has with our smaller but no less important local voluntary bar associations such as the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, GEBA, THBA, and various others too numerous to mention.

Our next General Membership Luncheon on January 22 will also be devoted to diversity. In keeping with our lineup of diverse speakers this year, we are very excited to welcome Paulette Brown as our guest. Ms. Brown currently serves as ABA president-elect and will soon be the first African-American woman to serve as ABA president. If you have not already done so, please register for this event.

Then, on Saturday, February 21, our HCBA Diversity Committee ― led by superstar Co-Chairs Amanda Buffinton and Jessica Goodwin Costello ― will host the Diversity Networking Social at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center. This event will provide law students from across the state with opportunities to meaningfully interact with lawyers and others working within Tampa Bay’s legal market. It aims to connect these students with potential mentors from local firms and area voluntary bar associations and to educate them on the professional development opportunities available in our area.

In resolving to kick off 2015 by continuing our Bar’s strong commitment to diversity, we simultaneously advance another key component of Operation Respect and Service. Indeed, diversity remains a vital part of our Bar’s mission “to inspire and promote respect for the law and the justice system through service to the legal profession and to the community.”

*Note: Although I have not been a consistent setter of New Year’s resolutions, I did commit this year to run the Gasparilla half-marathon on February 22. I will be running in support of Hope For The Warriors, one of this year’s official charity partners of Gasparilla Distance Classic. If you would like information about this wonderful organization and its mission, please visit If you would like to join me and other lawyers on a team in support of Hope For The Warriors, email me at