The point of the article was to highlight the need for continued emphasis on "practicing with professionalism." The Florida Bar has long required new members to attend a seminar with that very name.
Recently, on July 11, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order requiring every circuit to organize and administer a program to receive complaints and respond to circumstances of unprofessional or less than civil behavior on the part of members of the Bar.
While the 4th Judicial Circuit has long maintained an informal process to address complaints of alleged improper conduct of Bar members, in response to the Supreme Court's order, a new administrative order was issued by Chief Judge Donald Moran on Aug. 19.
Administrative Order 2013-09 provides for the establishment of a local professional panel that will comprise a chairman, five members and the chief judge. The purpose of the panel is to address complaints about attorneys who have failed to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the standards of professionalism as set forth in the oath of admission to The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Creed of Professionalism, the Florida Bar "Ideals and Goals of Professionalism," the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, the decisions of The Florida Supreme Court and the Jacksonville Bar Association's "Professionalism Guidelines."
The order outlines the procedures for how referrals are to be made to the panel, whether by an attorney, non-attorney, judge or The Florida Bar's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program. In fact, the order includes a form to be completed by the person making the referral. The order also provides an explanation for how referrals will be handled.
The order includes a list of decisions that the panel may reach, including: a recommendation that the attorney participate in The Florida Bar's Ethics School, an eight-hour ethics program, The Jacksonville Bar Association's Mentoring program or other programs designed to assist and educate attorneys on appropriate conduct. Ultimately, if the offending attorney is unwilling to participate in the program or fails to respond to the referral, the panel may direct the referral to the Florida Bar.
In recognition of the fact that referrals to the panel are not intended to be handled as disciplinary matters, the order provides that participation in the program is voluntary and that participation and successful completion in the program shall not result in the imposition of sanctions or discipline.
Further, all records regarding referrals to the panel will be maintained in strict confidence and destroyed within (30) days of the conclusion of the process.
A complete copy of the order can be found in the official records of Duval County in Book 16497, pages 866-873.
Ultimately, the message from the Supreme Court in its July 11 order and Chief Judge Moran in the recent administrative order is clear: "Professionalism and civility, anything less will not be tolerated." Now where have I seen that before?
Last month, I wrote about the concepts of professionalism and civility, referencing the rules promulgated by The Florida Bar that govern attorney conduct as well as types of conduct that may be deemed less than civil, but are harder to regulate with any specific rule.