Annual reports of committees of the Florida Bar.


Adoption Law Certification

This committee certifies attorneys whose practice of law deals with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoption placements, including civil controversies arising from the termination of the biological parents' parental rights and adoptive placements. Certification in this field is the first of its kind in the country and was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009. The Florida Bar, through the oversight of the Board of Legal Specialization and Education, has certified 24 attorneys as Florida Bar board-certified adoption attorneys.

What a great year we had serving on this committee. During the 2014-15 year, the committee met to review applications for certification and to prepare the examination. The applicant review process includes a determination as to whether an applicant meets the criteria for substantial involvement in the practice of adoption and also demonstrates the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. This incorporates a comprehensive peer review process. All submissions are carefully considered by the committee in the evaluation of each applicant. The committee drafted, reviewed, and prepared the examination for certification. This year, we were directed to submit our questions to pre testers and received overwhelming support from board certified attorneys who have taken the time to review and make constructive comments on the questions presented. One applicant applied this 2014-2015 year, however, although qualified, declined to take the examination. The committee set up informational booths at various adoption law CLE events to increase awareness of the value and benefits of board certification. At a recent CLE seminar, 12 attorneys showed an interest in board certification in adoption and we sincerely hope each follows through to completion.

Although this committee is one of the smaller certification areas, our area represents matters very personal, private, and emotionally charged. Our purpose is to educate and protect individuals in the adoption process. By carefully screening applicants for board certification, we hope to make adoption placements safe and permanent.

The committee met each month, twice in person, and other months via a "join me" service provided by committee member Amy Hickman, which we greatly appreciated. This year, we had an opportunity to review the standards for substantial involvement and to refine the rules with the assistance of Bar staff and guidance from the BLSE. The committee discussed and voted to propose a new area for certification that provides for certification for attorneys who not only have expertise in adoption, but also have substantial involvement and expertise in areas such as assisted reproduction, surrogacy, and reproductive law. Members of our committee will continue to meet monthly to discuss the procedures that would enable the creation of such a certification area for qualified attorneys.

Members of the Adoption Law Certification Committee consist of Mary Ann Scherer, chair, Ft. Lauderdale; Danelle Barksdale, vice chair, Tampa; Susan Stockham, Sarasota; Amy U. Hickman, Boynton Beach; Ellen M. Kaplan, Coral Springs; Anthony B. Marchese, Tampa; Michael A. Shorstein, Jacksonville; Jeanne T. Tate, Tampa; and Michele Hausmann, Boynton Beach. I thank each committee member for their significant commitment of time, energy, and thought in serving on this committee. It has been a pleasure to be chair and to have such an energetic, passionate group who always put children first.

On behalf of the entire committee, I express our collective appreciation for the knowledge, skill, and experience of Vicki Simmons and Maritza McGill, our excellent Bar staff liaisons, who worked with the committee this year. We thank them for providing wisdom, insight, expertise, and support for each of our meetings, and also to Scot Rubin, our BLSE liaison, for providing key advice as to Bar policies and procedures.

I extend an invitation to all eligible attorneys to apply for certification. There is no better way for an adoption attorney to advance his or her skills, professionalism, and ability to network in the practice of adoption law than by certification, which assists in raising public awareness of this area of law. Mary Ann Scherer, Chair

Admiralty and Maritime Law

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee held its annual meeting in June 2014 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, and, in a break with tradition, held its inter meeting in January in Coral Gables at the University of Miami as a joint meeting with the ABA/Torts and Insurance Practice Section, Admiralty Law Committee, providing its members at both meetings with CLE credits and advanced credit toward certification. The committee reports that both meetings were well attended by the majority of committee members appearing in person or via telephone. The committee is appreciative of The Florida Bar leadership recognizing the importance of these outreach efforts with other organizations.

The June 2014 meeting covered a legislative update on our new bills pending final approval involving different aspects of vessel operation and removal of derelict vessels; a case study on small craft pollution discharge in dealing with the USCG, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida DEP; and a presentation of Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition Hypothetical discussing the interpretation of the Longshore and Harbor workers Compensation Act and the need for uniformity relative to the determination of maritime "situs" and "status" prerequisite to coverage under the LHWCA.

The committee continues its work within the subcommittee devoted to the presentation of a yearly maritime law seminar, promoting ethics and professionalism in the practice of admiralty and maritime law, and reviving the Florida Maritime Law Practice Manual. These efforts remain a priority for the coming year.

In keeping with our committee goals, we have focused our outreach to partner and co-market the committee with other maritime law organizations. Our desire is to have the committee recognized as the thought leader in the development of admiralty and maritime law, not only within Florida, but also nationally. We are pleased that various members, including past chairs, Michael McLeod, Matthew Valcourt, as well as Patricia Olney, who headed the initiative with the Federal Bar Association, Admiralty Law Section, all helped to lead in its August 2014 seminar in Ft. Lauderdale. Through their efforts, we were able to offer CLE credits along with credits toward certification to the attenders. The committee continues its efforts to encourage the participation of members of the maritime industry in the committee, which provides a practical component to the meetings. The inclusion of maritime industry representatives also fosters a closer relationship between the maritime bar and the community it serves.

The committee's January 2015 meeting was a first of its kind, with the committee meeting away from the site of The Florida Bar general meeting. The committee appreciates of the efforts of committee member, Robert Gardana, also serving as vice chair of the ABA/TIPS Admiralty Law Committee, in leading the effort of this joint committee venture. The joint meeting addressed substantive topics within the framework of a vessel arrest symposium, covering the perspective of the arrest from the U.S. Marshal's office; the effective use of substitute custodian; and updates on the ethics, procedural rules, and jurisdictional issues involving vessel arrests. In addition to being well attended by admiralty and maritime law practitioners, the meeting was well attended by law students as well from the South Florida area. By all reports, this joint venture was a great success and offered continued exposure of the committee.

We continued these joint efforts with another seminar with the ABA/ TIPS Admiralty Law Committee and the St. Thomas University Law School Maritime Law Society, April 10, at St. Thomas University Law School in Miami Gardens. The seminar was an open forum discussing McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC, which is pending certiorari before the U. S. Supreme Court, and the availability of punitive damages in unseaworthiness injury, death, and zone of danger cases. Many thanks to committee member and St. Thomas University Law School professor, Attilio Costabel, in coordinating the joint seminar.

The committee is excited to move into 2015 with renewed momentum and will continue to allow members to appear via teleconference for CLE and meetings. We further invite interested members of the Bar to attend meetings and apply for committee membership.


Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee is responsible for certifying attorneys in the diverse and specialized field of admiralty and maritime law. Florida was the first state to provide for certification in this field in 1996. As the committee enters its 20th year of service to The Florida Bar and its members, there are currently 62 certified admiralty and maritime lawyers in Florida. This represents a significant portion of the lawyers who are members of The Florida Bar's Admiralty Law Committee. Nevertheless, the committee is determined to increase the number of board certified lawyers to more than 75 as soon as possible. Three applicants were approved to sit for the 2015 examination.

During 2014-15 year, the committee met several times in person and by teleconference to review applicants for certification and recertification; prepare and grade the certification examination; review and revise the Admiralty Standing Committee Policies; and review and approve CLE requests of certified lawyers. Several committee members attended the Board Certification Leadership Conference.

The committee drafted, revised, and...

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