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Secrets of the Florida Bar by David Arthur Walters

Secrets of the Florida Bar by David Arthur Walters

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Published by Ryan Webster
Desperately seeking whistleblowers in the legal profession!
Desperately seeking whistleblowers in the legal profession!

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Ryan Webster on Sep 13, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/09/2013

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 THE SECRETS OF THE FLORIDA BARBy David Arthur WaltersIt was not what regulators actually investigated butwhat they declined to pursue and even condonedthat brought ruin to the greatest number of people. This time the entire nation was brought to the brinkof disaster at the culmination of yet another reign of greed in the annals of unbridled capitalism’s sordidfinancial history.For example, time and time again the Securities andExchange Commission was alerted to the fraudulentactivities of Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, butregulators were either sleeping on the job or sittingon their hands.And down in sunny Florida, the favored locale forAmerican-style fraud, where Mr. Ponzi himself hadretired, bank regulators stood by while fraudsterAllen Stanford’s licensed brokers fleeced investorsout of billions of dollars. Funds were being launderedand documents shredded right under the regulators’noses, yet there were no “red flags” raised, becausethe unique laundry trust had been condoned by statebanking lawyers in collaboration with Mr. Stanford’slawyers – we would say “in collusion” if it were notfor the fact that the agreement laying the foundationfor the scheme was embodied in a public document.But the public was woefully ignorant. Little did thepublic know about that agreement, for the publicrelies on duly licensed lawyers to forge legalagreement, and it depends on its lawmakers to make
 
sure state officials are ensuring the public welfare. Thus can the rest of the public occupy itself withother tasks. While doing so, it was being defrauded. The press watchdogs were sleeping too – the bottomline ruled: newspaper chains had become the powerelite’s advertising agencies in disguise.Something smelled rotten in Florida to a very fewpeople, especially banking lawyers on both sides of the illusory fence between public and privateinterests. In fact the deal officials struck with Mr.Stanfords lawyers at Greenberg Traurig, thepowerful, politically connected Firm, was rotten at itscore. Mr. Stanford had previously solicited BowmanBrown, a prominent Florida lawyer, to strike the fishydeal with the state, but Mr. Brown’s ethics precludedhim from being retained. The deal with Florida stunkto high heaven, and several lawyers knew it, butwhat could they do except gossip about it amongthemselves?For one thing, they could have complained to TheFlorida Bar, the Supreme Court of Florida’s licensingand disciplinary “arm,an official agency of the judiciary. The Florida Bar is an integratedorinvoluntary bar, meaning that Florida lawyers mustbelong to it in order to practice law in state courts. The bars of several states became integrated withthe judicial branches when their respective courts,citing each other in a colossal exercise of judicialvanity, realized that the judiciary had always had aninherent power or natural right, corresponding totheir very existence as courts, to regulate thepractice of law without interference from the
 
legislative and executive branches. All this incontradiction to the principle elaborated byAlexander Hamilton, that the courts “were designedto be an intermediate body between the people andthe legislature” but not superior to the legislature, for“the power of the people is superior to both”, and the judiciary should not act contrary to the authoritydelegated to it. (Federalist 78).Mind you that the American judiciary had to strugglelong and hard for its independence since the dayswhen courthouses were burned down in some placesand laws were passed that anyone of good reputecould practice law regardless of his training.Alexander Hamilton, for one, read the law for onlythree months, and a reading of Blackstone mightinspire one to hang out a shingle. President Thomas Jefferson tried to use the impeachment process,which he called a political “farce” due to his ownexperience presiding over an impeachment trial, tosmother the judiciary in its crib lest it becomegenuinely independent.Suffice it to say that the bar was not highly regardedamong American Revolutionaries, mostly because of the experience with the British courts. A lot was doneto restore the profession’s integrity thereafter, butthere were still too many individualists not tomention bad apples in the barrel. The mostsuccessful concerted reaction to the assaults on theintegrity of the bar was the integrated bar movementof the 1930s.

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