My name is Bill Gelin, and I am running for Florida Bar Board of Governors in the 17th Circuit. If you are a lawyer or judge with an office in Broward, or know an eligible member in the 17th Circuit, please vote or urge your friends and colleagues to support change by voting for me.
Both an E-Ballot and a paper ballot will be sent out to Broward voters starting February 28th. If you elected back in January for an E-Ballot only, you will not receive a paper ballot, so please check your email and spam folders in the coming days. For those receiving both, whichever ballot the Bar receives first, E-Ballot or paper, will be counted.
These are traditionally low turnout elections, and I’m as guilty as anyone for typically placing my ballot in the trash instead of making an informed contribution. In the last contested race for Board of Governors in the 17th Circuit, only 1,289 of 7,215 eligible votes were cast. It’s now reached a point where collective apathy, mine included, has reached a crisis point.
The Bar, once a proud and respected institution, is suffering. Bar Associations are under legal assault at the national level, and many members of the Florida Bar are rooting for the opposition.
Animosity by lawyers against a Bar that’s perceived to collect dues and do nothing more has grown to epic proportions. Compounding the problem, the Bar’s disciplinary arm has been criticized by lawyers and from the bench for launching misguided investigations and prosecutions against well-respected practitioners with little to no advance research or diligent preparation. Such actions, which may support the Bar and a corresponding bar defense cottage industry, do not serve to protect the public, and are disrespectful, irresponsible, and distracting stands against lawyers who have spent their careers helping others.
Think about it. So many lawyers have a Bar horror story to tell. By example, ominous, stress-inducing, and unfounded letters requiring time-consuming responses by counsel or their attorneys have been sent to lawyers with perfectly clean disciplinary records for speaking against a judge’s reelection, for asking for a reset of a trial date when the target lawyer was facing child care issues due to a family member facing her final hours in hospice care, and just last week, inviting a private attorney into fee arbitration at the behest of a seasoned criminal defendant with mental health concerns represented by the Public Defender who falsely claimed that he had instead hired the private lawyer. These are just a few examples, but when coupled with the perception that fat cat, powerful lawyers like Scott Rothstein are politically immune from bar scrutiny until law enforcement steps in, the need for reform at the highest levels of the Bar becomes clear.
Make no mistake about it, this isn’t about going soft on discipline, but rather making the system fair, efficient, and focused to free up the resources necessary to convict and weed out bad apples, powerful or not, that give all of us a bad name.
As my colleague Michael Shelley, running for the Board of Governors in the 11th Circuit, says in his platform statement, the Bar needs transparency and consistency in the discipline process, and a shift away from attacks on constitutionally protected speech. I strongly echo his beliefs, and ask for your support as an agent for much needed change.
Lastly, a word about my opponent, Jay Kim. You may have received campaign emails from him already, or met him if he came to your office, as he did to the Broward State Attorney’s Office last week seeking votes. He’s endorsed by former bar presidents, and as a fixture on the rubber chicken dinner legal circuit, which I definitely am not, enjoys establishment support. He seemingly has plenty of time for campaign activities, while refusing to even acknowledge my numerous emailed requests to publicly debate him on the many pressing issues facing the Bar today. I believe he’s afraid, or at best reluctant, to publicly air and address the legitimate grievances and concerns of many, many members, and I hope you take his anti-transparency position into account when deciding who to vote for.
In closing, if you are happy with the status quo, then by all means abstain, or vote for my opponent. But if you would like to see real dialogue and meaningful change implemented at the highest levels, I promise to fight for fairness, transparency, and common sense reform if I am fortunate enough to be elected to represent you on the Board of Governors.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
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