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Daily News Summary

An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department. Electronic links are only active in today's edition. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.

April 21, 2017

FLORIDA JUSTICES APPROVE BALLOT LANGUAGE FOR FELON RIGHTS, GAMBLING INITIATIVES

Miami Herald | Article | April 20, 2017

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday [April 20] approved two proposed constitutional amendments that would restore felons' voting rights and restrict the expansion of gambling in the state. Supporters of the measures still face the task of collecting hundreds of thousands of petition signatures to get the proposals on the November 2018 ballot. The court unanimously signed off on the proposal that would automatically restore the voting rights of many felons after they have completed the terms of their sentences. The amendment would not apply to people convicted of murder and felony sexual offenses. The Supreme Court was more divided about whether the gambling-related initiative should move forward. The measure was approved in a 4-2 decision.

FLORIDA AGENCIES THAT BREAK RECORDS LAWS COULD PAY PRICE

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | Article | April 20, 2017

Government agencies would have to pay attorney fees for people who successfully sue them to obtain public records under a bill heading to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Under the bill, unanimously approved by the House on Thursday [April 20], government agencies would have to pay attorney fees if a judge determines they broke the state's open government laws by not providing records. The law would apply if someone seeking records gave written notice of what they were trying to obtain at least five business days before filing suit. But if a plaintiff's public records request was made with improper intentions, such as to harass an agency or to force a violation so they can sue, a judge could order the requestor to pay legal costs and attorney fees to the agency.

COURT: IMMIGRATION AGENDA NOT PART OF CHILD DEPENDENCY REVIEW

Daily Business Review | Article | April 20, 2017

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday [April 20] ruled juvenile courts cannot reject immigrant children's petitions for dependency without giving them a chance to present evidence. The 4-3 ruling came with four separate opinions, showing a variety of thoughts on a divisive issue that two justices said needs "immediate legislative attention and clarification." Florida judges have seen a flood of dependency petitions from children seeking permanent U.S. residency. In recent years, "dozens, if not hundreds" of those petitions have been denied without an evidentiary hearing, according to University of Miami law professor Bernard Perlmutter, who co-directs the school's Children & Youth Law Clinic.

OCWEN FINANCIAL CORP. STILL FILING BAD FORECLOSURES, NEW LAWSUITS SAY

Orlando Sentinel | Article | April 20, 2017

Ocwen Financial Corp., which has faced trouble previously for filing bad foreclosure lawsuits, was hit with similar new lawsuits Thursday [April 20]. The company's errors have resulted in "significant harm to borrowers, including but not limited to improper late fees, inaccurate negative credit reporting, and borrower frustration," a lawsuit filed by Florida's Attorney General and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Twenty states filed similar actions, along with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A review of Orange County Court records in Orlando shows Ocwen has filed at least 120 foreclosures locally over the past three years, many of which are still pending. The Florida suit says West Palm Beach-based Ocwen filed illegal foreclosures, mishandled loan modifications, misapplied mortgage payments, failed to pay insurance premiums from escrow and collected excessive fees.

JUDGE BLOCKS CITY OF MIAMI FROM TARGETING AIRBNB HOSTS

Miami Herald | Article | April 19, 2017

Judge Beatrice Butchko on Wednesday [April 10] temporarily blocked Miami's city government from going after thousands of Airbnb hosts accused of illegally renting their homes by the day and week. Prompted by a lawsuit filed last week by the home-sharing platform and five of its hosts, Butchko issued a temporary restraining order that bars Miami's code compliance department from enforcing the city's short-term rental ban in residential neighborhoods. Butchko, in issuing her order, ruled that the city was preempted by state law from enforcing its policy. The impact and scope of Butchko's ruling was still being parsed Wednesday evening by Miami's legal staff. But it appears her decision protects all Airbnb hosts throughout the city as attorneys for the company and the city litigate their case.

OFFICIALS FIGHT TO KEEP FEDERAL COURTHOUSE

Panama City News Herald | Article | April 20, 2017

Negotiations are ongoing to try and keep the federal courthouse in Bay County. Due to what some officials have called the "completely unacceptable" conditions of the current courthouse, Federal District Court Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers has said the lease on the current building won't be renewed. Now, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson have teamed up with local leaders, including Rep. Neal Dunn, to save the division. The facility has numerous security concerns. In what Doug Smith, the co-chairman of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce, called a "somewhat inexplicable" turn of events, the situation somehow evolved so that the entire Panama City division -- which represents a little less than 20 percent of the caseload in the Northern district -- could be dissolved. To keep the division, a task force is focusing on finding a new facility. The lease for the current courthouse is set to expire in December 2018.

HOUSE ADVANCES JUVENILE JUSTICE BILL, ADDING ADULT DIVERSION PROGRAM

Florida Politics | Article | April 20, 2017

On Thursday [April 20], the Florida House version of a juvenile justice bill, sponsored by Seminole Republican Larry Ahern, changed again in the House Judiciary Committee. The committee approved the bill but the addition of an amendment allowing mercy for adults is drawing concerns. Ahern's bill would expunge the arrests of juveniles for certain first-time misdemeanor crimes. That differs significantly from its Senate companion. Longwood Republican Scott Plakon's amendment to the House bill would allow adults arrested for certain crimes to go into a pre-arrest diversion program. Several speakers called on Ahern to amend the bill back to its original language, which would mandate diversion for juveniles arrested for certain offenses, marrying it to the Senate bill.

PROSECUTOR TAKES ANTI-DEATH PENALTY FIGHT TO HIGH COURT

Daily Business Review | Article | April 19, 2017

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala wants the Florida Supreme Court to referee a dispute over death penalty politics, race relations and the power of elected officials. After Ayala refused to seek the death penalty in capital cases, Gov. Rick Scott removed her from all 23 homicide cases in her Orlando-area jurisdiction and sent them to Ocala prosecutor Brad King. Ayala responded by asking the high court to support her right as a constitutional officer to prosecute the criminal cases in her circuit as she sees fit. The situation is unprecedented, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

MAN WITH ALLEGED ISIS SYMPATHIES ACCUSED OF PLOTTING TO KILL FEDERAL JUDGE IN TAMPA

Tampa Bay Times | Article | April 20, 2017

Federal authorities say that Jason Jerome Springer, accused of plotting to kill a federal judge, is an ISIS sympathizer who has previously written on Facebook that "death is the best teacher." A grand jury on Wednesday [April 19] indicted Springer on a charge of threatening to assault or murder U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich. Springer was awaiting trial on a gun violation when he told at least four inmates that he wanted to kill the judge on his case and would do so if released, according to court documents. Court records say that Springer talked about flying an "explosive-packed drone" into the judge's office and tried to learn her home address. It is unclear how he first came to the FBI's attention, but testimony suggests the agency looked at his Facebook page as part of another, broader investigation, the nature of which is not yet public. A Facebook post led to the gun charge.

AFTER BRINGING GUN TO DISNEY WORLD, MIAMI LAWYER ACCUSED OF FAKING PRESCRIPTIONS

Miami Herald | Article | April 20, 2017

Andrew Gerson, a Miami lawyer once arrested for bringing a revolver to Disney World, has been accused of faking prescriptions in the name of a dead doctor. Gerson was arrested this month after police said he tried to use a sham prescription to buy powerful painkillers at a North Miami Publix. An investigation revealed that Gerson had used fake prescriptions 17 times at the supermarket, police said. Gerson has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to be arraigned on May 4. After his arrest at the Disney park, Gerson was placed on probation for a charge of illegally carrying a concealed weapon. He was still on probation when he was arrested April 4 at the North Miami Publix. Gerson, a lawyer since 2004, remains an active attorney. The Florida Bar is monitoring the case.

DAILY NEWS SUMMARY

The Florida Bar | News | April 21, 2017

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