County Court Courier

Volume 3, Number 10

January, 1997

Conference of County Court
Judges of Florida

Room 209, Old Court House,
324 S. Ft. Harrison Avenue
Clearwater, FL 34616
(813) 464-3261

Judge Hugh Grimes

Judge Hugh Grimes, President

Conference of County Court Judges of Florida

 

Contents

 


Minutes of the Executive Board Meeting Conference of County Court Judges Hyatt, Sarasota, Florida October 1, 1996

President Hugh Grimes convened the meeting and the Minutes from the prior Executive Board Meeting were distributed and thereafter approved. The Treasurer’s Report was also approved and a motion to advance presentation of the annual proposed budget to the Spring Board Meeting was tabled.

The Board then approved payment of the amended bill for the Harvey Ford Award Video.

Chair Peter Blanc reported that Long Range Planning efforts are ongoing as the committee identifies strategic issues and develops a vision for our Conference’s future.

During the Claims Committee report, it was noted that Small Claims jurisdiction increases to $5000.00 effective January 1, 1997.

Conference Manager Earl Collins reported that this Board Meeting was well attended and perhaps the Conference will return to the Sarasota Hyatt in the near future.

The Winter Conference at the Sawgrass Marriott, January 15-17, 1997, will include a reception Wednesday night for which the Board approved a $15.00 charge (in addition to the customary $20.00 hospitality fee).

The Spring Board Meeting in Tallahassee (at the Radisson) will include a Legislative Reception on Wednesday, April 23, 1997.

Summer Conference once again will be at the Registry in Naples July 9-12, 1997. Several members of the Board and the Conference Committee requested that Destin be considered for Summer 1998.

Vice-chair Anne Kaylor reported that the Court Technology Committee will have its own website with Supreme Court approved forms and information for litigants and "chat rooms".

In lieu of a New Judge Luncheon, all Judges will be invited to attend a Thursday luncheon at the Winter Conference with "roundtable discussions" on a variety of topics designated by table and facilitated by discussion leaders. Please contact Judge Judy Goldman at your earliest convenience with requested/suggested topics. Luncheon cost will be included in the registration fee.

JQC Representative Harvey Goldstein explained the new system under the proposed Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot. A motion passed that our duly elected JQC representative remain in office until the next Conference Business Meeting in July 1997.

The Board adopted a Resolution seeking statutory amendment to permit a presently prohibited surcharge for Traffic Magistrates.

Anyone interested in ordering a Polo shirt with the Conference logo should contact their Circuit Representative or Judge Woody Hatcher.

All business being concluded, the meeting was adjourned.


"More Than a Judge" by Judge Hubert L. Grimes

There is an African parable on a wallpiece in my office that draws a lot of attention and chuckles when viewed by visitors and lawyers. It states, "CROSS THE RIVER BEFORE YOU INSULT THE CROCODILE". That parable holds a great amount of truth. Over the last few years, there has been a tremendous increase in efforts to improve the standards of professionalism amongst the legal profession, with the most recent effort being the creation of the Supreme Court Committee on Professionalism. That committee is expected to explore ways of dealing with reversing the negative perception of the general public towards lawyers.

As judges, we are not exempt from the wrath of the public as it relates to our standards of conduct. Certainly the Code of Judicial Conduct is a benchmark as are the opinions promulgated by the Committee on Standards of Conduct governing judges and the Rules of Judicial Administration. Yet, each of us wear many other hats in our daily lives which help us to be the "total" package that we are. Some of us wear labels of mother, daddy, husband or wife. Some labor as teachers, professors, or computer whizzes. Many hold various offices in their respective churches, synagogues, temples or religious centers, while others are referred to as scoutmaster, coach or musician.

Each hat that we wear is uniquely tailored to our total life. Therefore, our individual legacy must be judged not only by the standards which deal with our working lives as judges but must transcend an even higher benchmark as established by the way we live our lives in total. Yes we are judges, but never allow that standard alone to be the sole indicia of your life.

A noted writer once said that "life as described on a headstone is that little dash mark (-) between the date of birth and the date of death". Each of us fulfills our legacy not only as a judge but as human beings when we recognize the short time span with which we have to impact the lives of others — be they spouses, children or the people we encounter in day to day life. Never forget to treat others as you desire to be treated. Such is the mark of humanity and being more than a judge. Life is about living, doing and being the best you can be both in and out of the courtroom. When we understand that, we truly become more than a judge.

May the fun, frolic and the blessings of the holiday season be yours.


 

The Conference of County Court Judges of Florida goes "on-line"

Florida’s Conference of County Court Judges Leads into the New Millennium

by Judge Scott J. Silverman

Miami, November 13, 1996: The Florida Conference of County Court Judges recently became the first trial level judicial organization in Florida to create its own Internet web site. The home page is located at http://www.fl.judges.com.

The Conference of County Court Judges is a creation of the Florida Supreme Court. Every County Court Judge in the State of Florida is a member of the organization, which currently boasts a membership of over 200 judges. The purpose of the Conference is to better the judicial system of the State of Florida, and to improve the procedures and practice of the state courts.

The decision to go "on-line" resulted from a suggestion by Dade County Court Judge Scott J. Silverman at the 1996 Summer Conference to make the Conference’s work more accessible to the public. With the strong support of Conference President, Judge Hubert Grimes of Volusia County, the Conference Executive Committee quickly approved the recommendation.

Judge Silverman and Judge Ann Kaylor of Polk County, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Conference’s Technology Committee, will maintain the site. Any suggestions or comments may be addressed to them at webmaster@fl.judges.com.

The Conference’s decision to go "on-line" follows the Florida Supreme Court’s hugely successful JOSHUA web site. James McMillian of the National Center for State Courts recently hailed JOSHUA as the "finest judicial web site in the Country."

 

 


 

Civil Rules Committee Report

by Judge Ronn Legendre, Chair

The committee discussed the effect of a revocation of an assignment of medical benefits in PIP cases. State Farm v Gonnella, 21 Fla. L. Weekly D1799.

Judge Grube brought the committee up to date on the Florida Bar Civil Rules Committee and recent case law as follows:

a. The Fla. Sp. Ct. rules that post judgment interest can apply to prejudgment interest. Quality Engineered v. Higley, 21 Fla. L. Weekly S141.

b. The 1st DCA ruled that the contract interest rate will apply to prejudgment interest but not to postjudgment interest absent express language that the contract rate will apply postjudgment. Because of a conflict with the 3rd DCA, it certified the question. Whitehurst v. Camp, 677 So. 2d 1361.

c. The Florida Bar committee is working on final judgment forms for replevin. There will be several different forms to meet the different situations that arise.

d. Judge Grube handed out flow charts explaining the procedure for obtaining discovery contempt orders. He is seeking to obtain uniformity around the state.

The committee discussed the increase in the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Rules to $5,000.00 and the change in Rule 7.140, which are effective Jan. 1, 1997. The changes are in 21 Fla. L. Weekly S439.


Education Committee Report
by Judge Terry P. Lewis, Chair

 

The 1997 winter educational program will include the following subject areas:

Wednesday:

Civil Law Update, Criminal Law Update and ADA will be covered in plenary sessions.

Thursday:

Civil Law Potpourri/Discovery Violations, Domestic Relations, Probation, Professionalism, Evidence/Hearsay, Consumer Law Issues (Lemon Law, Motor Vehicle Repair, Mechanic’s Lien Law) and Criminal Law Review will be covered through TRACKS.

Friday:

Florida Lawyers’ Assistance, which addresses lawyer substance abuse programs; Courts Under Attack, which will address ways of improving the public/media perception of judges will be covered in plenary sessions.

 

The 1997 summer educational program will tentatively include the following:

Wednesday:

Legislative Update and Domestic Violence (focusing on sensitivity awareness through the use of a performing arts group utilized by the ABA) will be covered in plenary sessions.

Thursday:

Sentencing Alternatives/Fairness, Costs/Fines, Small Claims/Pro Se Litigants/Medication (perhaps L/T mobile home or commercial), Decision Making, Computer Skills and Specialized Courts (Teen Court, Domestic Violence, Etc.) will be covered through TRACKS.

Friday:

Civil Law Update and Criminal Law Update will be covered in plenary sessions.

Judges Sloop, Becker, Goldman and Seig are working on incorporating round table discussion groups during both winter and summer conferences, in order for judges to have an opportunity to share different procedures utilized in the state. Call them if you have ideas.

Bench Book is coming along well. If you have material please send it to Beth Bloom.

Evaluations (Summer Conference) were pretty good. Thanks for all of the specific individual comments. They really help us focus.


 

Voir Dire and the Psychic Juror

Court: Ma'am, I understand you wish to be excused because you know some of the parties to this case?

Juror: Not exactly, you see I’m a psychic and I already know how this case will turn out and what the verdict will be.

Court: I see.... well that’s very interesting. (Pause) Let me see if I can expedite this by asking counsel if they have any objection to you being excused.

State Attorney: We have no objection, your honor.

Defense Attorney: Defense has no objection.

Court: Thank you for your service ma'am, you are excused from further service..

Juror: Oh, I knew you were going to do that.


Sentencing Committee Report

by Olin W. Shinholser, Chair

The sentencing committee discussed the mission statement as charged by the president. The purposes of the sentencing committee are:

1. To monitor proposed and new rule and statutory changes effecting sentencing.

2. To gather and disseminate to the membership creative sentencing options.

3. To recommend to the education committee training sessions on issues pertinent to sentencing.

The committee discussed implementation of the new public defender statute effective January 1, 1997. The last word any of the committee members had was that the chief judges were still awaiting guidelines from the state court administrator’s office as to implementation of the statute.

The committee has been attempting to gather creative sentencing ideas from around the state. The education committee has on its proposed agenda a session on sentencing alternatives in the summer of 1997.

 


Criminal Rules Committee Report

by Judge Aymer L. "Buck" Curtin, Chair

 

The Criminal Rules Committee met on Wednesday, October 30, 1996.

The Committee discussed the development of a mission statement. Basically the Committee agreed to continue to monitor proposed changes in the rules, proposed changes when problems occur and strive to assure that the rules promote fairness to all parties.

The Committee discussed Fla. R.Crim.P. 3.131(k) Summons on Misdemeanor Charge at the request of Judge W. Michael Miller of Orange County. Judge Miller’s concern is the issuance of a capias upon the return of an unexecuted summons on a sworn complaint even though the rule provides that a capias shall only be issued when the Court has reasonable grounds to believe the person will not appear in response to a summons. All in attendance agreed that rarely is information available to the Court which could form the basis for a good faith belief a capias is appropriate. Discussion indicated that in many jurisdictions it is not uncommon for a capias to be issued. The Committee decided to draft an amendment to the Rule to allow for the issuance of a capias on an unexecuted summons without the finding of likely non-appearance. The proposed change would contemplate a ROR Bond. The exception would be domestic violence cases which the Committee agreed warrants a further change to "will not appear in response to a summons or constitute a danger to the community." Judges Curtin and Graham will prepare a proposal and circulate to the membership via fax prior to the winter meeting. Any member wishing to participate in the preparation of the draft please advise Judge Curtin at his office (352) 374-3650 or fax (352) 374-5238.

The Committee discussed the problem of reciprocal discovery from the defense on the eve of trial. Judge Cary of Lee County indicated defense counsel in his jurisdiction wait until the last

possible moment and then provide reciprocal discovery pursuant to Rule. 3.220(d)(1)(A). Defense rationale is that it was only upon preparing the case for trial that they knew who they "expect to call." It was proposed that the word "expect" be changed to "may" and that would hopefully correct the problem. No action was proposed.

The Committee discussed a problem in Lee County whereby defense counsel is using the Bureau of Driver Improvement Hearing for discovery purposes. After the hearing and upon the receipt of transcription the defense does not provide the State a copy for trial. The argument is it is as available to the State as it is the defense and why should the State benefit from the defense’s expenditure of funds. No action was taken or suggested in regard to this matter. The meeting was then adjourned.


Judicial Assistants Liaison Committee Report
by Judge Judy Goldman, Chair

The J.A.s continue their efforts to seek retirement benefits and sick leave policies consistent with State Attorney Offices’ employees but no formal proposal has been submitted to our Conference to date.

Judge Heinrich reported instances of Circuit J.A.s being hired by County Judges while keeping their circuit salaries ($30,000 +) with the differential being paid from the COUNTY J.A. SURPLUS FUNDS. While all present supported such J.A.s maintaining their salary levels when hired by County Judges, none wanted to see the County J.A. "pot" diminished, especially considering that it is often much less than the Circuit "pot". This all lies within the discretion of the Chief Judges of the State unless and until the applicable statutes are amended. The Committee reluctantly concluded that this matter should be referred to JAAF and their legislative consultant.

 


 

Notice of Proposed Bylaw Amendments

by Judge Peter Blanc

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN OF THE FOLLOWING PROPOSED BYLAW AMENDMENTS TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE GENERAL MEMBERSHIP FOR A VOTE AT THE UPCOMING WINTER CONFERENCE TO BE HELD JANUARY 15-18, 1997.

ARTICLE IV, SECTION 6 SHALL BE AMENDED AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 6. The Treasurer shall bill for and collect dues, keep the funds of the Conference and pay its bills and expenses, and shall carry out all other duties as are usual to this office and as are assigned by the President. The Treasurer shall prepare a financial report for the Conference twice per year. One report shall be presented at the Annual Business Meeting. Copies of both financial reports shall be made available to the general membership upon proper demand. It shall be the responsibility of the Treasurer to assure compliance with any and all tax and reporting requirements. Further, the Treasurer, shall be responsible for preparing a proposed budget for the ensuing fiscal year. The proposed budget shall be presented to the members of the Board at least seven (7) days prior to the next regularly scheduled Board meeting after the Treasurer assumes office and shall be voted upon by the Board at that meeting. Further, the treasurer shall prepare a proposed budget to be presented annually to the Board of Directors at the spring Board meeting. If approved, the budget will be effective for the fiscal year beginning with the next summer meeting.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROPOSED AMENDMENT IS TO REQUIRE THAT A PROPOSED BUDGET BE SUBMITTED TO THE BOARD APPROXIMATELY THREE (3) MONTHS BEFORE THE BUDGET WOULD BE EFFECTIVE. THIS SHOULD ALLOW THE TREASURER SUFFICIENT TIME TO BETTER ANTICIPATE COSTS AND EXPENSES FOR THE ENSUING YEAR.

ARTICLE XIV SHALL BE AMENDED AS FOLLOWS:

THIS PROPOSED AMENDMENT WOULD ELIMINATE ARTICLE XIV, SECTION 1, AND WOULD CHANGE SECTIONS 2 AND 3 TO SECTIONS 1 AND 2 RESPECTIVELY. THE PURPOSE OF THIS AMENDMENT IS TO ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY LANGUAGE IN THE BYLAWS THAT WAS NEEDED WHEN THEY WERE INITIALLY ADOPTED IN 1993.

 

 


Conference Committee Report

by Judge R. Earl Collins, Chair

Eighteen persons signed the roster in attendance of the Conference Committee meeting on Wednesday, October 30th, at 5:00 p.m. at the Sarasota Hyatt Fall Workshop.

The following meetings were affirmed:

A reception, with heavy hors d’oeuvres and entertainment will be held at the Winter Conference on Wednesday, January 15th, in lieu of the dinner/dance as voted on earlier. The assessment has been set at $15.00 per person to defray costs.

A luncheon program will be scheduled on Thursday, January 16th, which will recognize and include the "newly elected" judges. Cost of the luncheon will be assessed to all registered attendees.

The Spring Workshop is being held in Tallahassee for the purpose of hosting a reception for the Florida Legislators before their adjournment. The reception is being held on Wednesday evening, April 23rd, on the top floor of the Florida State Capitol. Please make your reservations early as space is limited.

The Conference Committee recommended that the Florida Panhandle be investigated for a Summer Conference in 1998.

 


Mark Your Calendar!

 

Winter Educational Conference

January 15-18, 1997

Ponte Verde, FL

 

Spring Workshop

April 23-25, 1997

Tallahassee, FL

 

Summer Conference

July 9-12, 1997

Naples, FL

 

Courier Deadline -

January 31, 1997