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- Florida’s Death Penalty System Subject to Further Questioning
- Summer Driving Safety Tips
- Florida Supreme Court Votes to Maintain Reasonableness in Workers’ Compensation Law
- Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Makes a World of Difference
- Florida Bar Approves New Animal Law Section
- Obama’s Immigration Program Faces Supreme Court
- Gov. Scott Passes New Law to Protect Children, Vulnerable People, and Pets
- Leading Causes of Personal Bankruptcy
- 10 Things to Remember if Stopped for a DUI
- New Legislation Puts Future of Greyhound Racing in Question
- What role can social media play in your personal injury case?
- Governor Scott Signs Questionable New Water Policy
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Florida’s capital punishment system is currently facing its greatest uncertainty since the 1970s. In early May, a Florida Supreme Court judge questioned the constitutionality of the state’s new death penalty law. The law went on trial in front of the Florida Supreme Court, as a death row inmate who was sentenced to execution by the state asked for a life sentence. While the constitutionality of the law is in question, the future for 390 death row inmates remains uncertain.
Florida’s death sentencing system was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in January, because it gave too little power to juries in capital cases. The case heard by the federal Supreme Court was that of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Cynthia Harrison. Though the court did not invalidate Hurst’s death penalty itself, his attorney argued that Hurst should instead be sentenced to life, due to the previous law’s defective nature.
“You can’t separate the punishment from the procedure,” Hurst’s attorney, David Davis, said. “You can’t have one without the other.”
Carine Mitz, Florida Assistant Attorney General, disagreed with Davis. “If the (Hurst) case were to be remanded (back to a trial court), it would have to be under the new statute,” she said. “I still don’t think we have a problem.”
Justice Barbara Pariente, who is often among the court’s five-person majority, sees the biggest problem with the case. Pariente takes issue with the fact that the new law could violate the Eighth Amendment’s restriction against cruel and unusual punishment, because it requires the existence of just one of 16 aggravating factors that make a defendant eligible for a death sentence under Florida law.
“If only one aggravator is needed in this state to put someone to death, we have a serious Eighth Amendment problem,” Justice Pariente said. “If we want a death penalty in Florida, we need it to be constitutional.”
The state does not agree with Pariente’s opinion. “I don’t think that the new statute is as detrimental as some might present,” Mitz said. “I probably should have said it’s actually better.”
Florida Justice Charles Canady, a death penalty supporter who typically finds himself in the court’s minority, notes that the court cited two aggravating factors in the Hurst case, recommending his execution in a 7-5 vote.
Pariente was concerned about the Hurst case long before the US Supreme Court intervened. In 2014, when the court upheld Hurst’s death sentence in a 4-3 decision, justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry joined Pariente in her partial dissent.
In 2014, Pariente wrote, “I dissent from the majority’s affirmance of Hurst’s death sentence because there is no unanimous finding by the jury that any of the applicable aggravators apply.” She continued, “The absence of juror unanimity in the fact-finding necessary to impose the death penalty remains, in my view, an independent violation of Florida’s constitutional right to trial by jury.”
According to Attorney General Pam Bondi, there are currently 43 death sentences that are eligible to be reduced to life in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court’s consequent steps regarding the death penalty system will determine the fate of those 43 inmates. For more information regarding Florida’s death penalty, [Click Here].
More fatal accidents are reported in the summer months, as vacations and road trips cause greater road congestion and road work leads to more obstacles and detours. Several other factors add to the danger of summer driving. Keep yourself and others out of harm’s way by minding the following safety tips before hitting the road this summer.
Check your tires.
Checking the air pressure and overall condition of your tires will help you save time and money, and better protect you from unexpected breakdowns and accidents. While keeping your tire pressure at the manufacturer’s recommended level increases fuel efficiency, it is also important to check your tire tread. The tread should not be less than 1/8 of an inch, especially during the rainy summer months when traction is crucial to road safety.
Road trips and vacations are often the most exciting part of summer, but overloading your vehicle can lead to unnecessary risk and damage. Your owner’s manual likely contains information about your vehicle’s maximum payload capacity. Adhere to these guidelines to avoid potential breakdowns and damages. Also ensure that the driver can see out of all windows before embarking on your summer journey.
Manage glare and heat.
Store a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle so you are always prepared for the bright Florida sun. Additionally, using a sunshield can help reduce your vehicle’s interior heat. Always remember it is unsafe to leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle, as they are much more susceptible to overheating and dehydration.
Keep summer allergies in check.
Dry or irritated eyes, frequent sneezing, congestion, and exhaustion, all common allergy symptoms, can pose a serious threat to your safety and that of your passengers. Most over the counter allergy medications cause drowsiness, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medications that are safe to take before driving. You can also proactively prepare your vehicle for allergy season by keeping windows closed, regularly changing air filters, and frequently washing floor mats and other interior surfaces.
Exercise extreme caution during summer storms.
Roads are especially slippery during the first thirty minutes of a storm, or even light shower, as the rainwater mixes with oil and other substances covering the road. Ensure that your wiper blades are in working order and remember to keep your speed in check if you are on the road during one of Florida’s many summer storms.
Share the road.
Summer always means more motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians on the road. Scan the road in front of, behind, and to the side of your vehicle before switching lanes or turning to prevent collisions. AARP Smart Driver recommends increasing your following distance to four seconds or more when following a motorcycle, and cautions against ever sharing a lane with motorcycles.
Pay special attention to pedestrian crosswalks, as they always have the right of way.
Blick Law Firm is happy to meet your legal needs this summer and all year round. Call us now at 888-973-2776 for a free consultation with one of our trusted attorneys!
The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled on a case involving limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases. The hearing resulted in a 5-2 ruling in favor of Florida’s injured workers.
Businesses argued that attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases both increase the cost of workers’ compensation insurance and jeopardize the state’s overall economic success; as a result, some Florida businesses were pushing for a law mandating lower fees. The court’s decision to strike down the law means that Florida legislators will have to mediate between Republic-aligned businesses and left-leaning law firms, who sit on polar opposite sides of the issue. Because 2016 is an election year and businesses and law firms are major contributors to political campaigns, lawmakers are expected to hold a special session regarding the issue.
The case in question was that of Marvin Castellanos, a Miami man and employee of Next Door Co. After injuring his head, neck, and shoulders in a work-related accident, Castellanos faced an aggressive defense by Next Door Co. and was ultimately awarded $822.70. Castellanos’ lawyer sought a fee of $36,817.50 for 107 hours of work on the case. He received $164.54.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the majority, stating that the law violates workers’ due process rights under the state and the United States Constitution and would do away with any notion of reasonableness. “Without the likelihood of an adequate attorney’s fee award, there is little disincentive for a carrier to deny benefits or to raise multiple defenses, as was done here,” Pariente wrote. “Virtually since its inception, the right of a claimant to obtain a reasonable prevailing party attorney’s fee has been central to the workers’ compensation law.”
Ricky Polston and Charles Candy, the courts two conservative members, dissented from the majority opinion. Candy said the law involves a “policy determination,” linking he amount of benefits obtained by workers to the amount of attorney’s fees awarded. Candy wrote the following: “The definition assumed by the majority categorically precludes the legislative policy requiring a reasonable relationship between the amount of a fee award and the amount of the recovery obtained by the efforts of the attorney…there is no basis in our precedents or federal law for declaring it unconstitutional.”
Kevin McCarty runs the Office of Insurance Regulation, which regulates workers’ compensation rates in Florida. He said that until the Legislature decides otherwise, his office will base attorney’s fees on the “reasonable” standard defined in the 2008 case, Murray vs. Mariner Health.
“Limiting attorney’s fees has been an important factor in reducing workers’ compensation rates.” According to McCarty, “A legislative remedy will be required to prevent significant increases in rates, and we look forward to working with all parties affected to bring about a sensible solution.” For more information regarding the worker’s compensation law, [Click Here].
Personal injuries, whether brought about by an accident or by negligence, can leave you vulnerable. Personal injury claims are best handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer, who can both provide you with peace of mind and ensure that you receive the compensation you are entitled to. The following are four benefits from hiring a personal injury lawyer to seek the justice you deserve.
With an experienced personal injury lawyer, you receive the compensation you are entitled to. All too often, insurance companies try to lower the amount of benefits you receive by contesting your claim or making the offer more appealing to be accepted earlier. Not all quick settlements are doing your case justice, and an experienced personal injury lawyer knows this. Hiring a lawyer will ensure you don’t settle for less than you deserve after suffering an injury.
A personal injury lawyer can help you avoid intimidation from parties that can take advantage of your injury. Severe personal injuries may keep you in the hospital, out of work, and/or losing income. Outside parties may see this as the perfect opportunity to take advantage of your situation, using intimidation tactics, ranging from legal technicalities and incomplete appraisals about your condition, to get you to yield. A personal injury lawyer will have your best interest in mind, and can speak on your behalf regarding your injury and your case. Don’t let outside parties bombard you with stress and legal jargon, when your lawyer is there to help.
The benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer far outweigh the costs. While hiring a lawyer can be expensive, those costs will be worth it in the end, when you are granted the compensation you deserve. Serious injuries come with serious compensation, and by hiring a lawyer, chances are you will be able to pay off your legal expenses and still have money left over following your case’s settlement. Achieving early settlements without legal advice, may leave you with less than you deserve and need to cope with your injury.
A personal injury attorney can ensure that your personal injury case is a solid case. Lawyers are legal experts, who understand the court system better than anyone else. They also have all the right connections to ensure that your case is solid and in good standing when you get to court. Hiring the right legal team can make all the difference in a personal injury case.
If you or a loved one has recently been injured and don’t know where to turn, the answer is simple. Blick Law Firm’s highly professional team of attorneys has over 30 years of experience in handling personal injury cases. If you have not yet acted on your personal injury claim, call Blick Law Firm at 888-973-2776 today for a free consultation! For more information, [Click Here]
With increasing frequency, pet owners, breeders, animal activists, and other are turning to the legal system to settle disputes over animals and to protect the creatures. This has led the Florida Bar to recently approve an Animal Law Section, which goes into effect July 1. The Bar is encouraging attorneys to begin or continue developing their expertise in this area of law.
Gil Panzer is a family law attorney located in Boca Raton who helped create the new animal law section. “The animal law field is expanding rapidly,” Panzer said. “I think that’s because so many people are interested or involved with animals. About two-thirds of households today have pets, more than children.”
The new animal law section will replace the Florida Bar’s Animal Law Committee, which was created in 2004. Unlike committees, sections have the power to provide input on legislation, giving animal attorneys more pull over contested issues like puppy mill regulations, housing and public access rights for service or therapy animals, and negligence standards for groomers, veterinarians, and pet product manufacturers.
Tallahassee attorney Ralph DeMeo will chair the section. He believes that the section’s creation provides an opportunity to educate both Bar members and the general public on the role animal law plays in other areas of law and will prove how great the need for the new section is. According to DeMeo, more than 1,000 Bar members have indicated interest in joining the new section this summer.
South Florida’s animal activists are some of the section’s most avid supports. “It’s tremendous and long overdue,” said Michele Lazarow, a Hallandale beach commissioner who is passionate about banning “puppy mills” and similar large-scale breeding operations. “I think there is a paradigm shift away from animals being viewed as property, and I think it’s happening very quickly.” Lazarow added, “The section will be a tremendous help to advocates who need lawyers.”
Marcy LaHart is a former Palm Beach County attorney and is recognized as one of Florida’s first animal legal specialists. LaHart currently handles cases from around the state, and reports that most of her animal cases come from South Florida, “because that’s where the condos are.” The majority of LaHart’s clients are pet owners fighting to have companion animals under the Fair Housing Act.
People with service animals often have trouble when they go to public spaces or move to housing with condo or property associations. These pet owners, even those suffering from debilitating and limiting medical conditions, are often asked to prove their need for a service animal.
Right now, it is unlikely that a large number of attorneys will choose to exclusively represent animals and their owners, because the money isn’t there yet. But as Florida joins 17 other states with animal law sections, and the attitude toward animal rights evolves, the practicing of animal law holds future promise. For more information, [Click Here]
When President Obama announced his plan to prevent deportation for parents of children who are legal citizens or residents in late 2014, Florida was one of 26 states show legal opposition. This week, the Obama administration will ask the eight Supreme Court Justices to lift a lower court injunction blocking the implementation of Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.
The injunction came about in February 2015, when a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas ruled against the executive action. The group of 26 states, led by Texas, believes that the president is overstepping his boundaries and attempting to impose unnecessary costs on state governments.
Supporters of the program have faith that the eight justices, namely Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, will show support for the Obama administration through their decision. Immigrant Rights groups are hopeful that the Supreme Court will find that the states do not have the right to sue the federal government to bar such immigration actions. If the case is decided in Obama’s favor, the case could be thrown out and the administration could start implementing the new program.
This paramount decision comes at a time when there is an empty chair in the US Supreme Court, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. With just eight Supreme Court Justices, there is a likely possibility that the decision will be split 4-4. In the event of a split decision, the lower court’s ruling would be left in place, which would all but guarantee that the program will not be implemented before Obama leaves the office.
Immigrants and pro-immigration activists from will travel from around the country to the District of Columbia to show support for Obama’s program, which would protect nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants. The Florida Immigration Coalition is just one of many groups traveling from Miami to the nation’s capital this week.
Jorge Cortes and Jacqueline Lopez are two immigrants making the journey from Miami to the District to show their support for Obama’s DAPA program. Cortes said, “I’m going to Washington because we are demanding justice for the rights of millions of families who deserve to enter the system.”
Lopez is making the trip because she wants undocumented immigrants to be able to live peacefully in safety. “We want an opportunity,” she said, “so we can work and live in peace. We do not want to separate from our families and we do not want to live in fear anymore.” Call Blick Law Firm today at 888-973-2776 to set up a free consultation! For more information, [Click Here] and [Here].