"PRESSURE (presh-er) The exertion of force upon a surface or item by an object in contact with it."
When Lyndon Johnson unexpectedly became the 36th president of the United States, he was faced on November 23, 1963 with multiple challenges. To reassure a nation, project confidence and calm, and start the logjam-stalled process of getting President Kennedy's bills passed- none of which a recalcitrant congress had deigned to do during 1963. In the space of 8-10 weeks, facing unrelenting pressure, Johnson lowered the budget 5 billion dollars, reduced the total number of federal employees, got an unpopular tax cut bill passed (ironically, in 1963 it was Democrats fighting for a tax cut to stimulate the economy while being fought by conservative republicans who wanted higher taxes and no deficits) and got the most comprehensive civil rights bill passed in the face of southern democratic senate opposition that had prevented such bills even coming up for votes in over fifty years. Viewed by liberal northerners as a fake liberal, and conservative southerners as a turncoat traitor to the south, Johnson had pressure everywhere he turned. And there was also that troubling issue with a small country called Vietnam.
Joel Brown, the 4th administrative judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit (in our memory- Wetherington, Rivkind, Farina, and Brown) is facing pressures of his own to implement the new Limited Registry Act (LRA). The LRA a/k/a "the cheap two bit lawyers act") provides for minimum wage level payments for court appointed attorneys (for example, $2,000 for a non-death penalty first degree murder case. Assume 200 hours prep time over two years and 25 hours in trial time, and five hours in post trial work, motions, sentencing, yields 2000/230= $8.70 per hour). The law requires the administrative judge of each circuit to issue administrative orders implementing the act.
On one side Judge Brown has the Florida Legislature, backed up presumably, by public opinion firmly opposed to spending tax- payer dollars on criminals and their sleazy lawyers. On the other side is the criminal defense bar, warily watching the Judge, ready to pounce (presumably) with objections, motions, requests for hearing, lawsuits, appeals, mud wrestling challenges- basically all the tools in a trial lawyer's tool box/belt.
Pressure cannot build forever. Even continental shelfs rubbing against each other in unrelenting slow motion for hundreds of years (check out DOM's post on self pleasuring here) eventually release their pressure in the form of earth quakes. When that happens nuclear power stations melt down and spill radioactive waste into the sea contaminating the seafood of the world's largest seafood consumer- just to mention one bad outcome of pressure.
The rumor mill of the REGJB says that Judge Brown will release his administrative order and unleash fee armageddon this Friday. Judge Brown for his part is as willing to speak with us on this issue as President Obama is willing to buy Justice Scalia a beer and chat about his dissent in Arizona v. U.S (which you should really read.)
Will Brown melt down? Will REGB lawyers be reduced to panhandling for scraps of fees- working for an hourly rate less than the hotdog vendor on the corner or the janitorial staff that make our courtrooms so sparkling clean?
What can Brown do for you?
We shall see.
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