Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gov. Bush Glad for Report of Attorney General Charlie Crist's Selective Enforcement of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act

Unresponsiveness by Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist's office necessitated calling upon Governor Jeb Bush to look into selective emforcement of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, at least where politically well-connected law firms are concerned. See previous posts for additional details.

By email dated Jan. 28, 2006, I asked Crist to explain for voters what his office's position is concerning this issue. After almost three weeks with no response from Crist, I sent two Feb. 14, 2006 emails to Governor Bush asking him to help correct a situation harmful to the public interest and more widespread than many imagine. I've still heard nothing from Crist, but that doesn't surprise me.

In drastic contrast to Crist's Office, Governor Bush's office promptly responded to my concerns by email dated Feb. 22, 2006 from Warren Davis from the Governor's Office of Citizens' Services. Davis stated, "Governor Bush is glad you took the time to share your perspective and asked me to respond on his behalf."

Davis suggested, "I encourage you to continue working with the Attorney General's office to resolve your concerns in this regard. As you know, the Attorney General is a state elected official who has administrative authority over his office and those under his supervision."

According to Davis, "Governor Bush wants to know how Floridians feel about the many critical issues we face, and promises to keep your ideas in mind as he forms policy for addressing these concerns."

I responded to Davis by email dated Feb. 22, 2006 explaining,

"Unfortunately, it seems futile to continue working with Attorney General Crist's office to resolve my concerns, I've contacted his office on several occasions over the last year with no results. Pursuing the issues through the media will hopefully prove productive."

"Selective enforcement of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act when well-connected law firms are involved is gaining increasing attention this election year. By email dated Jan. 28, 2006, I asked Florida Attorney General Crist to explain what his office's position is concerning this issue. So far, no response whatsoever. Seems like we Florida voters deserve better, particularly from a man who aspires to be our next Governor."

"Unresponsiveness by Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist's office is what led me to call upon Governor Bush. to look into the situation. Thank you and the Governor taking the time to consider and respond to my concerns."

I have faith that Governor Bush will stand by his promise to keep my ideas concerning Crist's Selective Enforcement of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act in mind as he forms policy addressing the critical issues facing Floridians. He's a Bush, after all, and I have yet to be disappointed by him, his brother or father.

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey R. Hill. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Solution to The Florida Bar's Inability to Evenhandedly Regulate Lawyer Misconduct

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% of those surveyed say the public does not have confidence in the legal system. See my previous posts for reasons I'm surprised that percentage isn't even higher.

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 Florida Bar may have been a worthwhile experiment, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it fails to evenhandedly regulate lawyer misconduct. The Florida 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 Florida Bar's grievance and disciplinary process are inadequate investigation and documentation to support grievance committee decisions. Written records are not usually 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 in cases involving well-connected lawyers. Many law firms are political juggernauts that enjoy a unique sheld against consequences for violating The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

Is there a solution to The Florida Bar's inability to appropriately regulate lawyer misconduct? It seems incapable 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 of Florida. Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) 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. The Florida Bar has firmly opposed the proposed change but its arguments in opposition are unconvincing at best.

The DBPR would be a far better watchdog over the legal profession than The Bar and the Supreme Court of Florida. Just take a look at my posts summarizing the Bar's 'investigation' of The Law Offices of Eddie Farah's blatant overcharging practices.

The foxes have guarded the henhouse long enough. It's time to acknowledge the failed experiment of a self-regulating Bar and put a suitable system in place.

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey R. Hill. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Trust Juries

JACKSONVILLE, FLA---I have faith in the American jury trial system. Lots of cronyism in politics, but juries have a knack for finding the truth. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by rendering fair verdicts. Sometimes, the wrong verdict is rendered, but statistically the system is an overwhelming success.

No system is going to be perfect. The overhaul needed of The Florida Bar's role in regulating lawyer misconduct is one example. Florida Attorney General and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist's seemingly selective enforcement of Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is another. See earlier posts in this blog for details concerning these examples.

The availability of trial by jury is one of the beauties of our justice system. It's an honor, although a bit of a pain in the butt, to serve on a jury regardless of the magnitude of the case. The cases are important to the parties involved and that makes them important to the system itself.

I trust juries. Juries are folks like you and me who have no political agendas to attend to in deciding the cases before them. One of my favorite movies is "To Kill a Mockingbird" starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch and a young Robert Duval as Arthur "Boo" Radley. A great film that was way ahead of its time. "The Verdict" starring Paul Newman and wonderful character actor Jack Warden is another -- the names of the characters aren't as engraved in my memory, but I haven't seen that film near as many times as I've seen 'Mockingbird'.

It's a bit like Frank Capra's classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and many other fine actors -- a movie that's really stuck with me over the years. Not a courtroom drama, but one that still resonates for me. The Baileys avoided court because of overwhelming, but well- deserved, support from their community. It's hard to forget George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) running down the snowy streets of Bedford Falls exuberantly shouting "Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!" ;)

Whatcha think? Should I just shut my pie-hole? Lotsa money to be made if attorneys can defraud clients with impunity just by doing business as professional assocations.

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey R. Hill. All rights reserved.


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Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Word Yet From Fla. Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Crist RE: Selective Enforcement of Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act

TALLAHASSEE, FLA---Selective enforcement of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act when well-connected law firms are involved is gaining increasing attention this election year. By email dated Jan. 28, 2006, I asked Florida Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist to explain for voters what his office's position is concerning this issue.

If you've read previous posts here, you know I'm a lawyer -- please don't hate me for it! ;) Crist’s office failed to investigate my reports of a well-connected law firm's widescale misappropriation of its clients' funds. I was employed by the The Law Offices of Eddie Farah in 2004 when I discovered, The firm was frequently 'padding' costs charged to personal injury clients by $300 or more per case and had been doing so for several years. It overcharged hundreds of unsuspecting clients and the combined misappropriated funds are estimated at several hundred thousand dollars.

According to the firm's web site, it is now known as the Law Offices of Farah & Farah, P.A. The principals in the firm are Eddie Farah and his brother, Charlie E. Farah.

I have yet to receive any response whatsoever to my latest inquiry to Crist. Maybe he just has no explanation for his office's obvious inaction despite having been provided with ample documentation of the law firm/professional association's overcharging practices. I can only guess since he hasn't responded. Seems like we Florida voters deserve more, particularly from a man who aspires to become our next State Governor.

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey R. Hill. All rights reserved.


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