Sunday, April 22, 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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18