Annual Reports of Sections and Divisions of The Florida Bar.

AuthorCarden, Leenetta

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, some of the events described below have been rescheduled or cancelled since this issue went to press in early April. Please consult The Florida Bar's COVID-19 resource page at updated information.

Adoption Law Certification

The Adoption Law Committee had another productive year. Adoption law is still a comparatively new board certification section and continues to be a more exclusive area of practice. We currently have 27 attorneys board certified in adoptions, which includes some retirements and one new qualified applicant who was approved to sit for the exam in March 2019. Having achieved a passing score, we were delighted to welcome one new adoption law board certified specialist effective June 1, 2019. No attorneys were eligible for recertification this past year.

The committee met throughout the year via telephone conference calls and in person to review applications for certification and to prepare additional exam questions, thereby increasing the pool of available questions for use on future exams. The committee also reviewed and updated the model questions maintained on The Florida Bar website for the benefit of new applicants. As further support for candidates for certification, the committee continues to post information on adoption-related CLE courses for the benefit of applicants preparing to sit for the exam.

The BLSE Exam Drafting Roundtable held during The Florida Bar Winter Meeting in Orlando once again proved to be exceedingly helpful. The speakers were knowledgeable, well-prepared, and provided excellent information on best practices and techniques for exam drafting. It was an opportunity for members of all the committees to exchange ideas for encouraging and increasing BLSE participation throughout the general membership.

At the request of the Bar's Board of Legal Specialization and Education Section, the committee continues to edit the section of the Standards for Board Certification and Recertification in Adoption Law, in an effort to bring uniformity with other sections, where possible, and to increase readability and comprehension where necessary. Suggested changes included adding a new 14-year waiver provision, a health waiver provision, and a good-cause waiver provision to help retain certified members in the recertification process. The committee also edited the language regarding contested adoptions and interventions in dependency cases to bring consistency to the current language. The committee is continuing its effort to review the qualifications where practicable with the intent to broaden the applicant pool. The BLSE rules subcommittee approved the Adoption Law Committee's proposed amendments and placed them in the full package for the BLSE email vote.

Recertification applications continue to be posted to The Florida Bar website. Recertification requirements must be met and the recertification application postmarked by May 31. If an extension to meet the recertification requirements is required, the extension request must also be postmarked by May 31. The filing period for initial certification applications begins July 1 and ends August 31. Although adoption law is a relatively small group, we consider board certification to be extremely important in this area of practice.

In an ongoing outreach effort to encourage our colleagues to apply to become board certified, the committee made a presentation at the Florida Adoption Council (FAC) annual conference held in the Fall at the Mission in Howey in the Hills. It is generally attended by most attorneys who practice adoption law. Additional outreach will be made this year to the juvenile dependency summits with the expectation of reaching additional potential applicants.

The committee extends its heartfelt thanks to all the judges and attorneys who have responded this year and in past years to requests for peer reviews and evidence of substantial involvement. This feedback is heavily regarded in the vetting process. The extra effort to provide this information is very much appreciated.

Thanks also to my fellow committee members for their contributions this year: Vice Chair Ellen Kaplan, Michelle Hausmann, Amy Hickman, Richard "Jake" Jackson, Brian Kelly, Susan Levin, Peggy Senentz, and Rob Webster. We are especially grateful to have Paige Dooley-Levy as our new staff liaison. She has been a very quick study in her first year in this position. Her support has been invaluable to the committee. We appreciate her assistance and look forward to working with her this coming year.


Admiralty Law

The Admiralty Law Committee continues to advance the practice of maritime law and foster continued learning by offering complimentary live seminars about recent developments and trends in this practice area.

On June 26, 2019, the ALC meeting and seminar was held in conjunction with The Florida Bar Annual Convention at the Boca Raton Resort. The meeting addressed committee business, the leadership transition, and planning for upcoming seminars. Speakers included noted maritime lawyers Capt. Alan S. Richard (Florida maritime law legislative and regulatory updates), Matthew Valcourt (recent U.S. Coast Guard and customs crackdown on illegal charter businesses around the country), and Michello Otero Valdes (pending IMO 2020 limits, which would change how the U.S. Coast Guard handles MAR-POL violations).

We are pleased to announce the completion of the Admiralty Law Committee's 2019 publication, Florida Maritime Law and Practice (6th ed. 2019), a Florida Bar publication, written by ALC members and distributed by LexisNexis. It was published in 2019 and is now readily available. Many thanks to the several authors, the Steering Committee Chair Ryan Eslinger, and committee members for their hard work and diligent efforts to get this done.

On February 7, the ALC presented the Third Annual Passenger and Crew Claims Seminar at the Florida International University College of Law. Building upon the momentum of previous years, this event was a great success, with over 100 maritime practitioners and professionals in attendance. This complimentary event was sponsored by CED Technologies, Inc., Jeannie Reporting, and Florida International University College of Law. Panel presentations were comprised of highly skilled maritime attorneys, each of whom presented on a specific area of law and practice, then engaged the audience and fellow panelists in thoughtful discussion. We heard from some of the best maritime lawyers in the state, including Curtis Mase, Philip Parrish, Jonathan Skipp, Carlos Chardon, Michael Eriksen, James Walker, Tonya Meister, Brett Berman, Michael Guilford, Robert Peltz, and Adria Notari. The panel discussions were moderated by Tyler Tanner, Robert Gardana, and Ryon Little. All speakers were engaging, and the substance was all relevant, recent, and interesting. This seminar was a joint regional event with the American Bar Association-TIPS Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee. As a result, it received national attention through the ABA-TIPS AMLC's affiliation and garnered great interest of the national admiralty bar. Through the willing service and dutiful efforts of its membership and Vice Chairs Michelle Otero Valdes, Ryon Little, Samantha Loveland, and Christopher Hamilton, the ALC acted cohesively and is certain to build upon its momentum and continue to progress in 2020-2021. We invite interested members of the Bar to attend ALC meetings and encourage them to apply for committee membership.


Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification

This year, the Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee continued its work of preparing, updating, and revising its comprehensive exam to test the knowledge, experience, and abilities of Florida lawyers for certification in the area of admiralty and maritime law. This unique area of the law provides a challenge to test preparers and test takers. Recent court decisions in the 11th Circuit have added another layer of challenge to the exam.

The certification exam covers 15 distinct areas of admiralty and maritime law, including admiralty jurisdiction, marine insurance, limitation of liability, maritime liens, and maritime personal injuries. Each area may contain as many as five or six subtopics, all of which are important areas of inquiry for the exam. The exam includes 100 mandatory multiple-choice questions, and a variety of fact patterns touching the primary substantive subjects in the discipline. The questions reflect the various specialties and test the applicant's broad knowledge of admiralty procedure and maritime law. Several lawyers took the 2020 exam.

An important goal of the committee and the Bar is to increase the number of certified lawyers in the admiralty and maritime specialty. This helps to strengthen the field and to meet and overcome the effects of generational turnover. To this end, the committee has been actively developing marketing lists of interested attorneys and law students who pursue admiralty and maritime law classes. The committee is also developing a protocol to initiate and maintain regular and welcome ongoing communication with potential applicants.

The committee always encourages certified attorneys and law firms to mentor younger lawyers who are practicing admiralty and maritime law and will soon be meeting the five-year minimum experience requirement for taking the exam. Presentations promoting certification have been made at admiralty and maritime conferences, including the Southeast Admiralty Law Institute, Mariner's Club conferences in Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee meetings, the ABA TIPS--Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee, St. Thomas University Maritime Law Society, and during CLE seminars around the state.

During 2019-2020, the committee met numerous times both...

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