Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Letters To The Editor

Tuesday's letters: Reform law on experts' testimony

Rules on expert testimony

Improve law on experts in court

As a career prosecutor, I had the honor of serving our country for almost 30 years, first as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps and culminating in six years as the presidentially appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

In 1993, in a case called Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a new standard for the admission of expert scientific evidence in federal courts to ensure that expert opinions presented in court are reliable and based on sound science.

In the 20 years since that ruling, a majority of states have adopted that standard, but Florida's courts continue to use a 90-year-old standard that allows the admission of "pure opinion." In practice, this means that almost any so-called scientific evidence or opinion is allowed in state court.

Now, the Legislature is considering changing the law to bring Florida in line with the federal courts and the majority of states.

Opponents of the proposal say that the new standards will be costly to implement and impose a burden on the courts. In my experience, that's not true.

I worked for the U.S. Attorney's Office when the federal courts transitioned to the new standard. At that time, the workload impact consisted of a 20-minute brown bag lunch-and-learn.

In addition, there's no empirical evidence of a potential financial impact on the courts. Even if there is some yet-to-be-determined cost involved — which history shows is unlikely — isn't the pursuit of truth and justice worth it?

I've dedicated my career to aiding in the administration of justice, upholding the integrity of the law, and working hard to ensure innocent persons are not wrongfully convicted. The Florida Legislature can help others do that by passing House Bill 7015 and Senate Bill 1412.

Gregory R. Miller, U.S. attorney, 2002-08, Tallahassee

Rubio should follow Nelson's lead April 6, editorial

Unshakable self-interest

According to an unspoken code, politicians must have unshakable core beliefs. First, they must believe in keeping a paycheck — theirs. Second, they must believe in voting whichever way the political wind is blowing. Third, in resolving any conflict involving hotly contested issues, refer to the first unshakable core belief.

John C. Carr, Palm Harbor

Conviction, convenience

I have no problem with those who honestly and as a matter of conviction favor gay marriage. What I find beyond contempt are those people with influence, like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who have a long-held religious belief in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman who suddenly, for political reasons, shift to the other side. Florida seems to have more than its share of flip-floppers.

Bill Bravick, Tampa

Families need more options | April 5, letter

Hospice care standards

Medicare recipients and all others who become hospice patients in Florida are cared for by some of our nation's finest hospices. While some localities may have single hospice providers, all hospices in our state are guided by a Certificate of Need, which holds them to a rigorous set of patient-care guidelines. Failure to meet CON requirements carries serious consequences.

Having a "physical plant" and "administrative overhead," cited by the letter writer, is more about infrastructure than it is about the provision of quality hospice care. The essence of exemplary hospice care is its spirit of compassion and commitment to patient and family choice. Hospice care is unique in that it is guided by patient and family decisions. Therefore, hospice care is provided in the settings patients choose, such as private homes, hospitals or nursing homes, not solely in prescribed locations.

It is important to note that hospice patients are never required to give up their own, trusted physicians. In fact, many doctors recommend hospice care to their patients. When patients want to keep their own doctors involved in their care, hospice doctors and care teams are pleased to collaborate with them.

A number of studies have shown that hospice care is economically sound and, more important, enhances quality of life for patients and their families. Hospices are as committed to compassionate care as they are to resolving pain and symptom issues. In addition, hospices guide and support family caregivers, resulting in increased confidence and peace of mind as they care for their loved ones.

Rafael J. Sciullo, president and CEO, Suncoast Hospice, Clearwater

Informed debate can only aid pier April 5, editorial

Not what was planned

Misinformation is a good description for the statement that the Lens design "hews closely to one of the options put forth by a citizen task force." The Lens proponents claimed in May 2012 that the original, contest-winning design was based on the task force's Alternative 4. The task force Alternative 4 had two main features: a 36,000-square-foot main building built on the upland to house 26,000 square feet of restaurant space for multiple restaurants and banquet space; and 5,000 square feet each for retail and public use and a single, straight, 500-foot-long landscaped pedestrian and fishing pier to a 100-by-100-foot pier head with a small structure.

The original Lens design, however, provided only 6,000 square feet of kiosks for snacks and shops on the upland. It featured two curved bridges with one flying over the other, each over 1,000 feet in length, out to a 7,000-square-foot collection of low concrete platforms and a 250-square-foot gelato stand.

On top of this so-called promontory was an abstract structure 350-plus feet wide and 90 feet high. The main building, the proven attraction recommended by the task force in all of its alternatives, was not part of the Lens.

Since then, the design has been amended to include a potential 7,500-square-foot restaurant on the upland and a 900-square-foot open grill on the promontory. But they will still offer less than a third of the restaurant capacity recommended by the task force.

Neither the claim of the Lens proponents nor your "hews closely" statement are supported by the facts.

William C. Ballard, president, Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg Inc.


Wednesday’s letters: Proposal would restore Florida Forever funding

Florida ForeverPlan boosts land protectionMost of us thought funding for land conservation in Florida would be restored when we voted the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) into law in 2014. It passed easily, with 75 percent of voter...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17

Tuesday’s letters: Writer should look to his own mistakes

Is anyone ever wrong anymore? | Dec. 8Writer should look to own errorsIn Mitch Daniels’ article about people who have been wrong, he finishes with the statement that our lives would be greatly improved with more people saying, "I was wrong."He mi...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Monday’s letters: Don’t drill in Arctic refuge

Arctic National Wildlife RefugeStop plan to drill for oil in refugeOur nation faces yet another effort to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge reserve to oil and gas drilling. Drilling in the Arctic simply doesn’t make sound financial sense. W...
Published: 12/08/17

Sunday’s letters: Tax bill puts U.S. on right course

The GOP’s regressive tax plans | Dec. 5, editorialTax bill puts U.S. on right courseThe Times is already crying wolf over the new tax cuts, claiming that the new laws "could" result an increase in the national debt of $1.5 trillion over the next ...
Published: 12/07/17

Saturday’s letters: Don’t inject political money into churches

Tax billKeep political cash out of pulpitA provision buried in the 429-page House tax bill, Section 5201, nullifies the Johnson Amendment, which protects houses of worship from partisan politics by prohibiting them from endorsing or opposing politica...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Friday’s letters: Most unpopular tax bill ever

Tax bill clears Senate | Dec. 3The most unpopular tax bill ever"Democracy dies in darkness" is the motto of the Washington Post. At 2 a.m. on the dark morning of Sunday, Dec. 3, 51 Republicans approved the most wildly unpopular tax bill in U.S. h...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Thursday’s letters: Give your child the gift of reading

Fatherhood Involvement in Literacy CampaignGive your child the gift of readingPart of a successful game plan in sports is identifying plays that can put points on the scoreboard. Whether I was playing quarterback at Florida State or running the point...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Wednesday’s letters: Bill gives small businesses tax relief

Tax bill clears Senate | Dec. 3Small businesses get tax reliefThe Senate and House have now passed their respective tax bills. Once Congress sends a final package to the White House, President Donald Trump will deliver us the most powerful tax re...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/05/17

Tuesday’s letters: Transplant bill will help Medicare patients

November Letter of the MonthThe winning letter addressed the unresponsiveness of elected officials.Representatives aren’t listeningFor whom do our legislators work? I ask because my Florida senator doesn’t appear to work for me. I drove 27 miles on N...
Published: 12/04/17

Monday’s letters: A citizen’s heroic act

Suspect arrested | Nov. 29A courageous citizen’s actOn Nov. 28, a courageous act occurred in the Tampa Bay area. It was one that law enforcement professionals applaud and hope becomes more frequent. An ordinary citizen did the right thing and spo...
Published: 12/01/17