Sunday, February 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: In DUI case, Bar acts to restore confidence in justice system

The misconduct charges the Florida Bar voted to pursue against three Tampa attorneys should finally bring some clarity to an explosive legal scandal. It is essential for public confidence in the justice system that the legal profession's disciplinary arm resolve whether members of the Tampa firm violated Bar rules by helping to arrange the drunken-driving arrest of a rival lawyer in a high-stakes civil suit. The case smelled from the start, but only the lowliest heads have rolled. It's high time the Bar judged the conduct of its members in this sordid case.

The Bar's grievance committee found probable cause last week that attorneys Robert Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut committed misconduct in a case involving the arrest of rival attorney C. Philip Campbell. The attorneys were on opposite sides of a bitter civil suit between warring radio shock jocks Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and "MJ" Schnitt. One evening in January 2013, after a day in trial, police arrested Campbell after he left a downtown Tampa bar. Almost immediately, it was learned that the tip-off to police came from employees of the Adams and Diaco firm.

A special prosecutor appointed by the governor found that a paralegal for Adams and Diaco had recognized Campbell in the bar. Melissa Personius lied about where she worked and flirted and drank with Campbell while texting her bosses at the firm. Filthaut gave a play-by-play report to a "close, personal" friend who happened to head the Tampa Police Department's DUI squad. Sgt. Ray Fernandez, in turn, organized a stakeout, and Campbell was pulled over as he left the bar to move Personius' car to a nearby lot.

The special prosecutor dropped the DUI charge, saying the flurry of messages between the Adams and Diaco employees and Fernandez amounted to a collaboration "to effectuate the arrest." Tampa police later fired Fernandez and disciplined the arresting officer for being rude and confrontational. As part of the fallout, the Tampa Police Department changed its policies for handling DUI cases, and Hillsborough County prosecutors dropped 12 DUI cases in which Fernandez was a witness. And last week, in announcing it would proceed with charges, the Bar confirmed that the Justice Department, the FBI and a federal grand jury were investigating whether these attorneys conspired with police to violate Campbell's civil rights.

The Bar has fulfilled its public duty by taking the case seriously, and it should proceed to the next step by seeking the appointment of a judge to act as a referee to determine any guilt and recommended disciplinary action. Though the final say on the case rests with the Florida Supreme Court, the Bar deserves credit for recognizing the public interests at play in maintaining the ethical standards of the legal profession. Federal investigators should work to bring their inquiry to a conclusion, too, to give the attorneys the fairest and fullest opportunity possible to defend themselves and to help restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18