Breaking News: Florida’s 3rd DCA Decides Facebook Friendship No Cause for Recusal

Today, Florida’s 3rd DCA upheld a trial court judge’s refusal to recuse herself based upon a Facebook friendship with an attorney on one side of a civil case in her courtroom.  The opinion indicates that the 3rd DCA has sided with Florida’s 5th DCA analysis in the “judges on Facebook” conversation and respectfully acknowledges that the 3rd DCA is in conflict with its “sister court,”the 4th DCA.

The opinion provides three reasons for its decision, which is based on the 5th DCA’s finding that a Facebook friend does not necessarily indicate a close relationship. First,many individuals have literally thousands of Facebook friends. Second, individuals may not recall everyone who has ever become a Facebook friend. And, third, Facebook friends may be the result of Facebook’s data mining technology rather than personal interactions.

The opinion pays respect to the 4th DCA and earlier JEAC opinions by noting that social media and technology has evolved and perhaps several years ago, a Facebook friend connoted greater intimacy, but today the 3rd DCA concludes that a Facebook friendship alone is not enough to establish a well-grounded fear that a judge cannot be impartial or is under the influence of a Facebook friend.

To read the opinion click here

In the Cloud? The Florida Bar Publishes Guidelines for Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

In the Cloud? The Florida Bar Publishes Guidelines for Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

The Florida Bar’s Technology Committee in collaboration with The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Institute have published both a quick start guide to cloud computing and  more comprehensive due diligence guidelines to assist lawyers in selecting a cloud service provider.

The Florida Bar News reports:

“Two things are happening more than ever right now: Lawyers are using the cloud to store sensitive information; and lawyers are under attack from cyber criminals looking to steal sensitive information,” said Tech Committee Chair Al Saikali, who also chairs the Privacy and Data Security Practice area at Shook, Hardy & Bacon. “It was therefore important to develop a document that teaches lawyers about the cybersecurity and legal issues associated with the storage of cloud service providers.”

To read the article that contains links to the new guidelines click here

Texting is Permissible Advertising in Florida

The Florida Bar Board of Governors decided that texting potential clients is not impermissible in person solicitation, but rather permissible written communication that constitutes advertising. Of course,  the text message must comply with Florida’s advertising regulations for direct mail and email advertisements. The decision reversed an opinion of Florida’s Standing Committee of Advertising in which it had found texting to be impermissible in person solicitation akin to directing telephoning potential clients.

 The Florida Bar Board of Governors dismissed the concern that texts are more intrusive than emails or snail mail by responding that individuals will be able to opt out of receiving texts from a firm.

Just another indication that technology has invaded the practice of law.

To read more click here.

Florida Bar Considers Tech Savvy CLE Requirement

The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on July 24th and approved new language that adds technological know how to the definition of competence and an additional CLE requirement of 3 credits of  technology courses during every three year reporting cycle. The Florida Bar News reports that the new language in the comment to Florida’s Bar Rule  4-1.1 on competence would not only include language from the ABA Model Rule comment that lawyers must have“an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the use of technology,” but would also add:

 “Competent representation may also involve the association or retention of a non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question. Competent representation also involves safeguarding confidential information relating to the representation, including, but not limited to, electronic transmissions and communications.”

The addition of 3 CLE technology credits to the current requirement of 30 credits every three years is controversial. The original proposal was for an additional 6 credits of technology education–one more than the 5 ethics credits that are now required.  Some lawyers oppose both the additional credits and what they believe to be a paternalistic approach to dictating the need to learn technology in CLE courses.  The younger lawyers contend that they possess the knowledge and the older lawyers claim to have competent assistance available to deal with technology issues.

The Florida Supreme Court will be the final arbiter as both the proposed new comment to Rule 4-1.1 and the new CLE requirement must be approved by the Court.

Florida Bar Releases Best Practices for Effective Electronic Communication

The Florida Bar has released guidelines for electronic communication that consider issues of professionalism and legal ethics that may arise when an attorney uses texting, emailing, a smart phone, and social media in his or her practice. The best practice suggestions range from considering client confidentiality to understanding technology to practical suggestions for responding to an “angry email.”  To read the Florida Bar’s Best Practices for Effective Electronic Communication click here.