Dan Lewis, CEO of Strategic Technologies & Research, has been a strong supporter of Laura Watson not only during her election campaign, but throughout the JQC proceedings. The message below is by Dan in support of Watson.
On another note, Dan let slip there are some “surprises” coming up regarding the 2014 election cycle in both Broward and Palm Beach counties. He isn’t naming names just yet, but states two sitting judges in both circuits will be receiving opposition, not including Lynn Rosenthal. Lewis is checking with the potential candidates, and hopes to be able to at least unmask the Palm Beach lawyers as early as next week.
In other 2014 news, Jahra McLawrence confirmed this morning that he is running against Rosenthal, and will be filing next week. In a county where minority judges are typically targeted by Whites, McLawrence is taking a bold step by turning the tables, and he will need your support.
Also, the deadline to apply for the county court vacancy created by Ed Merrigan’s appointment to the circuit is May 5th. The JNC will be highly scrutinized in picking replacements for both Merrigan and Joe Murphy, who is set to retire at the end of July. Rick Scott has yet to appoint a Black person to the bench in Broward, and community leaders have been actively recruiting qualified applicants to put in for both upcoming county slots. It should be interesting.
Lastly, Mike Satz issued the following statement through PIO Ron Ishoy last week, when asked whether he would permit his qualified minority lawyers to apply for judgeships:
“It’s Mr. Satz’s job to make sure he has the best lawyers on staff to conduct the state’s business. He does not, however, discourage anyone from seeking a judgeship.”
And without further ado, here’s Dan Lewis on yesterday’s JQC ruling:
There are two intertwined threads of this case. The first is the alleged violation of FL Bar Rules with its associated facts, and the second is the JQC’s process of arriving at its recommendations.
The alleged violations of bar rules involve a legal service contract with clients which provides for 100% client damage recovery, including interest without any set off for attorney’s fees or costs – and provides for the attorney’s ability to collect their fees & costs from court awards or defendant negotiated settlement of attorney’s fees only. Although all the affected clients received 100% of their claimed damages plus interest, the Bar and JQC have taken the position that these client contracts were unethical. Judge Watson disputes this and was prevented from admitting evidence of court attorney’s fees awards, or the work that was performed on each client’s case by the JQC panel. The Bar/JQC’s position was that the client agreements were a form of contingency agreement, which they objectively were not.
The second alleged violation of bar rules involved disclosure to clients. Here, the JQC suggests that beyond the 100% of damages plus interest the clients were entitled to contractually, they also were entitled to full disclosure of the attorney’s fees and costs not only in their own case, but in all the related cases. Not only were the clients not entitled to this information contractually or ethically because the clients had had no standing either financially or otherwise in the attorney’s fees or costs, especially after they received full compensation – but, it would have been ethically improper to share information about another client. The JQC in reaching to find a basis for its predetermined recommendation attempted to make individual but similar cases into a broad class action – which it was not.
The third alleged violation of bar rules involved Judge Watson’s promise to defend a settlement agreement. The JQC alleged hypothetically that if required to defend the settlement, then Judge Watson would somehow breach a fiduciary relationship with her clients. Not only has this not happened, but logically the assertion is absurd because, again – the Clients did not claim nor were entitled to more than 100% of their damages plus interest, which is what they received.
Interestingly, none of these three alleged violations were explicit in either the JQC’s notice of investigation, nor in the JQC’s notice of formal charges, and did not become apparent until the JQC’s closing argument at the final hearing. Had Judge Watson been put on notice that these were the actual charges, she could and would have had a clear defense for each of these alleged violations.
Anyone who has followed this case knows that Judge Watson has objected to the JQC’s process, which is more like a “star” chamber then a deliberative process among professionals. She has objected to the manner in which accused Judges are treated and how they are prevented from mounting a defense, receiving due process, equal treatment, and how the JQC’s alleged misconduct can and in this case did occur without consequence or oversight.
For a particular discussion of these process matters, I would refer you to Judge Watson’s DEC action filed with the Florida Supreme Court prior to the JQC’s published recommendations. Although a new Florida Supreme Court action, this case was docketed in the JQC case area. It can be found here, here, and here.
I would encourage every judge and attorney to read this filed case.
The disciplinary process for attorneys and judges through the BAR and JQC is completely dysfunctional, and horribly flawed. Its duel speeds of what I call railroad or whitewash must be addressed and stopped.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the Watson case will have a significant impact on the professionals in our judicial system. How the Supreme Court of Florida acts on the serious issues before it today will determine the character of our future Florida courts.
“The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing”. Judge Watson is standing up for the Judiciary while others duck and hide. An independent judiciary is our best defense against tyranny.
Coming Soon – An Open Letter to Broward’s Judiciary …