March 1, 2006 Letters

first_img March 1, 2006 Letters LettersRighting Wrongs I am a criminal defense attorney in Miami. I was a prosecutor here many years ago. I read the story in the February 1 News about Wilton Dedge being released after many years in prison as a result of DNA evidence. I am really glad to see that the prosecutor said he was sorry it happened. When I was a prosecutor, I handled a minor case against a juvenile. I had doubts about her guilt. I dug deeper and found out she was innocent, beyond any doubt. I nolle prossed and I apologized to her and her family on the record. I was told later that “we don’t apologize.. . . ” I cannot think of many times when government attorneys ever said they are sorry, but I can think of thousands of times when they should have. I commend the prosecutor, Chris White, for his comments. Michael A. Catalano Miami Reading the February 1 article “Dedge prosecutor details decision-making process” containing the conciliatory words of the assistant state attorney in which he tells how sorry he is for the “injustice done to an innocent man.. . . ,” but claims not to know how to avoid making the same mistakes again, was upsetting. Perhaps, in the future, he might discount the generally perjured testimony of uncorroborated jail house snitches who speak with the thought of obtaining a better deal for himself. Perhaps the assistant state attorney might not hire a bogus dog to sniff out two-years-old “evidence” and call it science. Thirdly he might consider even though victim/witness eyewitness testimony is generally known to be less than accurate and, in this case, the age, weight, and height of the defendant did not come close to that victim/witness’ description, just maybe he might have considered not prosecuting. Fourth, he might try to listen to the words of the alibi testimony from six co-worker witnesses indicating Dedge was at work at the time of the crime. As for the $2 million compensation Dedge received, I wonder if any prosecutor would give up 22 years of his or her life for a crime they did not commit for a paltry $2 million. If prosecutors thought they might have to take the place of the wrongly convicted, perhaps they would consider first trying to find the truth instead of trying to close a file. The state attorney is the public’s shield and should not be motivated by something other than finding the truth. In making this error, the real rapist went free, probably to rape again and again. Louis E. Slawe Philadelphia IOTA Pioneer Henry Zapruder passed away January 24. Henry practiced law in Washington, D.C., and was not a Florida lawyer. His contribution to the poor, to law students, and to the administration of justice in Florida was inestimable, however. When the Florida Supreme Court adopted a first-in-the-nation program for utilizing the interest from unproductive lawyers’ trust accounts for the benefit of the poor and the improvement of the administration of justice, the program required a ruling from the IRS to become effective. The court, the Bar, and the Bar Foundation turned to Henry, a youthful but talented D.C. tax attorney, to attempt to get the necessary tax ruling. Henry was immediately receptive to the concept of the program, and worked with Florida’s IOTA proponents on a pro bono basis. The product of Henry’s efforts was the tax opinion which made possible the implementation of IOTA in Florida, and the implementation of comparable programs (called IOLTA) in 49 other states and the District of Columbia. Henry’s contribution to Floridians and residents throughout the U.S. did not stop there. He worked tirelessly and gratuitously in the years that followed with jurists, bar leaders, and legislators in other states to help them attain and preserve favorable income tax treatment for their distinctive IOLTA programs, both individually as called upon and generically as tax counsel to the ABA’s IOLTA Commission. Henry also counseled attorneys throughout the United States who were defending IOLTA programs in the courts from relentless assaults by individuals and organizations opposed to aiding the poor with the interest generated from otherwise unproductive lawyers’ trust accounts. The name “Henry Zapruder” is not a household word among lawyers, and there is no building, street, or monument in Florida that bears Henry’s name. Henry’s unheralded tribute is in the heart of every Florida law student who participated in an IOTA-funded Legal Services Summer Fellowship Program, every legal aid attorney who participated in IOTA’s Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and the administrators of every Florida organization that was able to deliver legal services to the poor from an IOTA grant. Henry’s reward was knowing that, since 1981, he made it possible for Florida’s IOTA program to receive more than a quarter billion dollars, and for programs nationwide to receive more than $1.5 billion. Dollars, however, cannot possibly measure Henry’s contribution. Henry leaves an immeasurable legacy of goodwill for those who have benefited from his efforts, and an indelible memory of boundless admiration and pure joy for those who knew him. Few have improved the lives of so many people out of the pure goodness of their hearts. Henry will be missed, but never forgotten. Arthur J. England, Jr. Miami Metadata I am troubled by the Bar Board of Governors recent pronouncement in the January 1 News that lawyers should not be looking at metadata. Metadata has been around for more than 10 years and is an invaluable tool for ferreting out fraud and unethical individuals. For example, a customer of the corporation I represent presented us with a counterfeit part and a certificate of conformance, claiming that it was a genuine part made by my company. I examined the metadata on the certificate and discovered that it was not generated by my company, but instead was written by the Chinese broker who sold them the counterfeit part. Further, negotiating agreements is a part of my daily life. Tracking additions and deletions (i.e., metadata) is part of the normal process until the parties reach an agreement. I have encountered attorneys and others who make changes to documents without turning on the “Track Changes” feature of Word, thereby attempting to conceal what they changed. Those individuals should bear the brunt of the “unethical slime” label given by the letter writer in the February 1 News, not the individual who discovers such underhanded tactics. If the board does not fully appreciate the ethical usage of metadata, they should not be so quick to issue a wholesale condemnation. Douglas A. Balog Palm Bay Lawyer Regulation Our system of government demands that the legal profession command the public’s full trust and confidence. A recent survey by The Florida Bar’s Research, Planning and Evaluation Department revealed 68 percent of those surveyed say the public does not have confidence in the legal system. Under the current system, Florida’s attorneys are licensed, supervised, and regulated by the Florida Supreme Court through The Florida Bar, which is the delegated administrative arm of the court. While self-regulation of the profession by the Bar may have been a worthwhile experiment, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it fails to even-handedly regulate lawyer misconduct. The Bar’s failure is a disservice to both the public and the professionally responsible attorneys who suffer by association. Among the greatest flaws in the Bar’s grievance and disciplinary process are inadequate investigation and documentation to support grievance committee decisions. Written records are not ordinarily kept of grievance committee proceedings. The discussions are typically oral and not, routinely, recorded. This fosters cronyism characterized by a lack of meaningful investigations and nod-nod, wink-wink decisions when well-connected lawyers are involved. Many firms are political juggernauts that enjoy a unique shield against consequences for violating the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Is there a solution to the Bar’s inability to appropriately regulate lawyer misconduct? It doesn’t seem capable of investigating itself. Maybe the current system just cannot be fixed and must instead be changed. Legislators, public officials, and special interest groups have in the past called for the regulation of the legal profession by an entity other than the Supreme Court. Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation seems the logical entity to take over since it already oversees licensing and regulation of most other professionals including accountants, veterinarians, contractors, and about 200 other occupations. It seems likely the DBPR would be a far better watchdog over the legal profession than the current system of the Bar and the Supreme Court of Florida. The fox has guarded the hen house long enough. Jeffrey R. Hill Jacksonville Paralegal Regulation I read with great interest the February 1 letter in the News regarding paralegal regulation. I’ve worked in the legal profession for approximately 30 years, working my way up through the ranks. I received my CLA/CP certification a few years ago. If attorneys aren’t familiar with the intensity of the tests or the wide range of legal knowledge and skills required to pass this test, I encourage them to do so. The attorney I work for was quite amazed when he reviewed the review course book and mock tests for this exam. In order to be in a position to comment, one would have to know that the CLA/CP exam is a two-day, multi-sectional test that involves comprehensive testing in areas such as legal writing, legal research, and other practice areas that are much more than just multiple choice or true/false questions. In my position, and with my years of experience, I can honestly say that I perform many of the tasks a new associate would, and more. In cases where our clients have been awarded fees, my hourly rate was awarded by the court at $l25 per hour, and considering this is the tiny town of Clearwater, I believe that is significant. While my salary isn’t anywhere near the $60,000 figure mentioned in the letter, I will say that, unlike a new lawyers’ salary that will undoubtedly soar, mine will not as I’ve pretty much reached the salary cap for paralegals. Our purpose for wanting to be regulated is not driven by salary increases, but rather to indicate our dedication to our profession. Isn’t that why attorneys strive to become board certified? Lynn Adams Buckley Clearwater March 1, 2006 Letterslast_img read more