Florida Bar president focuses on hot topics during term

Jesse Diner, president of The Florida Bar.

Jesse Diner, president of The Florida Bar.

Budget shortfalls, e-filing and the One Campaign are just part of what Jesse Diner, president of the Florida Bar, hopes to address in his one-year presidential term.

But with less than six months remaining, Diner has his hands full, especially as the Florida Legislature gets up and running March 2.

“Court funding will be a serious issue for the Bar again this year,” Diner said, acknowledging the estimated $2 billion shortfall in the state’s budget.

The Legislature attempted to remedy the problem in 2009 by establishing a trust fund for the courts; this was the first step toward funding the needs of the courts and it funded about 70 percent of the court system last year.

But that fund still left a deficit, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince has pledged to, “secure the funding needed for our courts to handle every case efficiently and effectively,” in a statement prepared by the Office of the State Courts Administrator. “The new State Courts Revenue Trust can provide the funding the courts need for critical priorities and reduce the need for further budget reductions.”

Diner has pledged the same: “We must remain vigilant protecting court funding, because Florida has a growing unfunded liability in terms of having enough revenue to meet its obligations and services it hopes to render to its citizens,” Diner wrote in the Florida Bar Journal.

Electronic filing, or “e-filing,” is another hot topic for Diner and the Florida Bar. By automating the process for filing court documents, the courts will “get more things done,” explained Diner.

The effort was prompted by the Florida State Courts System, which has been working to automate the system since 2008. One of those efforts is a statewide electronic filing portal, or e-portal, that will be a uniform public Web-based gateway used to transmit documents electronically.

The process started last summer with analysis of the circuit courts’ probate division. The work is nearly complete, and juvenile dependency cases are next.

Diner recognizes the e-portal will eventually be a cost savings and expects to have hard numbers to show the legislature in the spring.

Another Bar priority is the One Campaign — One Client, One Attorney, One Promise — an effort to increase volunteer legal work by Florida’s attorneys.

The focus of the One Campaign is to engage more attorneys in providing pro bono legal services through their local legal aid programs by taking on one case.

“It is a great honor to represent 87,000 lawyers,” said Diner, who pointed out that it is the duty of the Bar president to carry out the objectives of the association. But he also explained that a year isn’t a whole lot of time to get things done.

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