Covering legal ethics, judicial ethics, bar admissions in Florida, Tennessee, and nationally.  See our Subject Index to past postings.

NEW in Florida Legal Ethics . . .

A lawyer hired to represent a trustee does not owe a fiduciary duty to the trust beneficiaries, per the Eleventh Circuit . . . (see more) [Added 3/30/15]

A county’s delay in providing public records in response to an anonymous request from a generic email address was not an unlawful refusal and thus would not support a fee award to the requestor . . . (see more) [Added 3/23/15]

The current version of F.S. 57.105 does not require an express finding of a lawyer’s bad faith before fees can be assessed as a sanction . . . (see more) [Added 3/21/15]

The guardianship statute does not authorize the court to order payment of fees from the alleged incapacitated person when a guardianship is not established
. . . (see more) [Added 3/20/15]

If the words and numerals in a rejected proposal for settlement do not match, the proposal is ambiguous and will not support a fee award . . . (see more) [Added 3/19/15]

The Fifth DCA reverses a fee award resulting from a rejected proposal for settlement, where the offer was ambiguous as to whether it applied to potential contract claims related to the tort claim at issue . . .
(see more)
[Added 3/18/15]

The statutory formula for computing attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases can apply separately to more than one “claim” handled in a claimant’s case . . .
(see more) [Added 3/16/15]

Actual prejudice to the defendant is not required before a public defender will be permitted to withdraw during the pretrial phase due to conflict involving another client
. . . (see more) [Added 2/25/15]

A judge’s denial of a motion to disqualify him is upheld, where the motion appeared to be based on an adverse ruling . . . (see more) [Added 2/20/15]

The Supreme Court adopts a new Rule of Juvenile Procedure regarding appointing counsel to dependent children with special needs
. . . (see more) [Added 2/19/15]

A lawyer is ordered to personally pay appellate fees as a sanction under F.S. 57.105 for prosecuting a frivolous appeal . . . (see more) [Added 2/14/15]

Quarterly Safety Committee Reports prepared by a mall where a slip and fall occurred are protected from discovery as work product
. . . (see more) [Added 2/13/15]

The Supreme Court suspends, rather than just reprimands, a lawyer for lack of diligence despite the fact that his client suffered no harm . . .  (see more)   [Added 2/12/15]

In a paternity and child support action, a court erred in ordering production of settlement agreements involving non-party clients of the law firm employing the lawyer/mother
. . . (see more) [Added 2/12/15]

A judge who receives no alimony or support from the judge’s former spouse is not disqualified from cases involving a former partner of the former spouse who still rents space from the former spouse . . .  (see more)   [Added 2/12/15]

The Second DCA reverses a verdict for defendants in a personal injury case and remands for a new trial, refusing to reward defense counsel’s “’gotcha’ tactics” . . . (see more) [Added 2/11/15]

The First DCA addresses a question with “no clear answer” – whether a state attorney’s office is legally required to coordinate its ongoing discovery review for trial with a public records request review regarding the same records . . . (see more) [Added 2/10/15]

The Florida Bar Professional Ethics Committee publishes a proposed advisory opinion on the duties of lawyers in advising clients to “clean up” their social media pages before litigation is filed . . . (see more) [Added 2/4/15]

The Florida Bar Board of Governors adopts “Professionalism Expectations” for Florida lawyers . . . (see more) [Added 2/3/15]

The Supreme Court amends the Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints to grant immunity from civil liability to persons on Local Professionalism Panels and Circuit Committees on Professionalism . . . (see more) [Added 2/2/15]

Rejecting the referee’s report, the Florida Supreme Court finds a lawyer guilty of misrepresentation and trust account violations and remands for a sanctions hearing . . . (see more) [Added 1/26/15]

The Florida Supreme Court concludes that most “Medicaid planning” activities conducted by nonlawyers are the unlicensed practice of law . . . (see more) [Added 1/25/15]

The Third DCA declines to extend Padilla v. Kentucky to require counsel to advise a defendant of immigration-related consequences of a guilty plea short of deportation . . . (see more) [Added 1/16/15]

A trial court erred in denying a full evidentiary hearing to a party seeking disqualification of opposing counsel . . . (see more) [Added 1/15/15]

The Fifth DCA criticizes improper prosecutorial argument, urging lawyers to avoid devolving into a “‘win at all costs’ mentality” . . . (see more) [Added 1/14/15]

Jump-start your ethics research using the 2014 Florida Legal Ethics Review by Tim Chinaris
. . . (see more) [Added 1/5/14]

An order denying a motion to cancel a lawyer’s charging lien was not a final order and thus may not be appealed
. . . (see more) [Added 12/31/14]

The Third DCA strikes a motion for F.S. 57.105 fees as premature, when it was filed before the opposing party filed any papers in the case
. . . (see more) [Added 12/31/14]

In a “textbook case of why the legislature authorized an award of fees against obstinate public entities such as Appellant,” the Fifth DCA sanctions a county for filing a frivolous appeal
. . . (see more) [Added 12/30/14]

Whether an offer of judgment was made in good faith is based on objective criteria, and a claim for fees based on the offer does not waive attorney-client privilege or work product protection
. . . (see more) [Added 12/29/14]

The Second DCA indicates that one party had no standing to challenge the authority of a lawyer who appeared for the opposing party
. . . (see more) [Added 12/26/14]

An “all or nothing” proposal for settlement made by multiple offerors to a single offeree is not ambiguous and thus is valid
. . . (see more) [Added 12/24/14]

A fee award based on an offer of judgment is reversed because the offer contained a settlement condition that was beyond the offeree’s control
. . . (see more) [Added 12/24/14]

The Florida Supreme Court certifies to the Legislature the need for 35 additional trial court judges (3 circuit, 32 county)
. . . (see more) [Added 12/24/14]

A lawyer is suspended for one year, rather than the recommended 60 days, for failures in diligence and communication that led to clients spending time in jail for contempt . . . (see more) [Added 12/24/14]

A judge’s comments about a city’s police officers ignoring subpoenas are not a sufficient basis on which to disqualify the judge from cases involving that police department
. . . (see more) [Added 12/23/14]

A judge’s apparent attempts at "wit or erudition" fall flat, leading to his disqualification
. . . (see more) [Added 12/23/14]

The Florida Bar withdraws its “Guidelines for Advertising Past Results” after a federal court finds them unconstitutional
. . . (see more) [Added 12/22/14]

By filing an action to reform a contract to accurate reflect the parties intent, the party seeking reformation does not automatically waive the attorney-client privilege
. . . (see more) [Added 12/9/14]

Rejecting the recommendation of the Board of Bar Examiners, the Supreme Court permanently denies admission to an applicant who “has demonstrated a lifetime of dealing in falsehoods”
. . . (see more) [Added 12/3/14]

A lawyer who would testify for her client at a contempt hearing was properly disqualified from representing the client at that hearing, but could continue to represent the client in subsequent proceedings in the case
. . . (see more) [Added 11/29/14]

A lawyer’s failure to confess error regarding the scope of a disqualification order against opposing counsel is treated as “a self-evident violation” of Rule of Professional Conduct 4-3.3(a)(3) and leads to sanctions . . . (see more) [Added 11/29/14]

A lawyer who is “too personally involved with the issues” in a client’s case may violate ethics rules regarding competence and independence of professional judgment . . . (see more) [Added 11/29/14]

The Fourth DCA chastises a lawyer for “lobbing acrimonious grenades in the form of unprofessional comments directed at opposing counsel and the trial court” . . . (see more) [Added 11/29/14]

A proposal for settlement made to a minor plaintiff and her mother, who was acting as her guardian, was not ambiguous and thus would support a fee award under the offer of judgment statute
. . .  (see more[Added 11/22/14]

Section 57.105 fee awards are not available in workers’ compensation proceedings before a Judge of Compensation Claims under Chapter 440 . . .  (see more[Added 11/21/14]

An order reserving jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement containing an attorney’s fees provision does not substitute for compliance with Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.525 (motion seeking fees must be served within 30 days of entry of judgment) . . .  (see more[Added 11/20/14]

A judge is disqualified from a post-dissolution proceeding after not allowing a party to present argument or additional evidence prior to ruling on his opponent’s motion for temporary support . . .  (see more[Added 11/19/14]

The Florida Bar asks the Supreme Court to approve proposed rules on diversion in discipline cases, attorney’s fees, confidentiality obligations and exceptions, duties to prospective clients, supervision of nonlawyer assistants, unauthorized practice of law, lawyer referral services, and others . . .  (see more[Added 11/18/14]

A trial court erred in awarding fees against a party under the offer of judgment statute after the party voluntarily dismissed on of its two claims without prejudice . . .  (see more[Added 11/11/14]

A criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when the court denied his lawyer’s request to conduct an inquiry into a potential conflict arising from the state’s alleged investigation of the lawyer . . .  (see more[Added 11/10/14]

Closed-door mediation sessions between a City and its police and firefighters unions resulting in changes to the unions’ pension plan were collective bargaining sessions that should have been held in public . . .  (see more[Added 11/9/14]

The Third DCA upholds an order requiring production of a law firm’s trust account wire receipt records over attorney-client privilege objections . . .  (see more[Added 11/5/14]

The Supreme Court removes a county court judge from office for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct including conducting a private business out of her chambers and obstructing the JQC’s investigation . . .  (see more[Added 10/30/14]

A party who moved for a judge’s disqualification is not entitled to take the judge’s deposition in order to provide support for the motion . . . (see more[Added 10/21/14]

A judge is reprimanded for demeaning those who appeared before her in certain cases and for appearing at a first appearance criminal hearing for her sister . . .  (see more[Added 10/20/14]

The First DCA urges the Supreme Court to adopt a procedure for raising ineffective assistance of counsel claims in parental rights termination proceedings where ineffectiveness is not apparent on the face of the record . . .  (see more[Added 10/19/14]

Once the appeals court remanded and directed the trial court to fix the amount of fees due under the offer of judgment statute, it was too late for the opposing party to claim the proposal was not made in good faith . . .  (see more[Added 10/15/14]

A lawyer is hit with a sanction of appellate attorney’s fees and referred to the Florida Bar for pursuing a frivolous appeal . . .  (see more[Added 10/10/14]

A law firm’s defamation suit against a former partner was dismissed as barred under the absolute litigation privilege, notwithstanding a non-disparagement agreement . . .  (see more[Added 10/8/14]

The Fifth DCA criticizes the state’s counsel in a criminal appeal for ignoring relevant case law relied on by the opposing party rather than trying to distinguish it . . .  (see more[Added 10/2/14]

A partner of the lawyer representing a party may not serve as a “disinterested” appraiser under an insurance policy . . .  (see more[Added 9/29/14]

The Florida Bar results for the July 2014 exam are released; the University of Florida tops the list with 90.6% passing . . .  (see more)  [Added 9/22/14]

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee addresses whether a candidate may accept endorsements from the state attorney, the sheriff, and the police chief . . .  (see more[Added 9/19/14]

A proposal for settlement made earlier than 90 after a party was added as a defendant will not support an award of attorney’s fees to that party under the offer of judgment statute and rule . . .  (see more[Added 9/15/14]

In a third-party bad faith suit, the attorney-client privilege may apply to protect communications between the insurer and its counsel, per the Fifth DCA . . .  (see more[Added 9/12/14]

A trial court erred in awarding appellate attorney’s fees as a discovery sanction authorization from the appellate court . . .  (see more[Added 9/9/14]

It was error to award attorney’s fees to a former wife who had ample means to obtain counsel . . .  (see more[Added 9/3/14]

A settlement agreement conditioned upon a former client’s withdrawal of a Bar complaint is an unenforceable term that is not severable from the purported agreement . . .  (see more[Added 9/2/14]

A “shade meeting” transcript becomes public record on conclusion of the underlying lawsuit, notwithstanding the later filing of a related suit . . .  (see more [Added 9/1/14]

The Fourth DCA allows financial discovery as to the relationship between a plaintiff’s law firm and treating physician regardless of whether the firm referred the plaintiff to the doctor . . .  (see more[Added 8/28/14]

A court erred in ordering production of a law firm’s file to its former client despite the firm’s assertion of a retaining lien . . .  (see more[Added 8/19/14]

Criminal defendant’s lawyer did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel by refusing to call witness who would testify falsely . . .  (see more[Added 8/16/14]

Although a lawyer’s behavior was “not professional,” a trial court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions for creating “an atmosphere of anxiety and hostility” that disrupted a compulsory medical exam . . .  (see more)   [Added 7/21/14]

The Florida Supreme Court adopts minimum standards for lead counsel in capital postconviction proceedings and prohibits defendants sentenced to death from representing themselves in postconviction proceedings . . .  (see more)   [Added 7/7/14]

At its June 2014 meeting, the Florida Bar Professional Ethics Committee approves allowing nonlawyers to affix electronic signatures to documents for lawyers, and tables action on issues relating to lawyers advising clients to “clean up” their social media pages before suit is filed . . .  (see more)   [Added 7/2/14]

An email request for public records is sufficient to give standing to bring a mandamus action to compel production of the records sought . . .  (see more)   [Added 6/18/14]

The Florida Supreme Court approves multiple rule changes requested by the Florida Bar, including revisions to rules governing conflicts and paying witnesses, but rejects a proposal to restrict activities of suspended and disbarred lawyers . . .  (see more) [Added 3/29/14]