The firm has once again been ranked a Tier 1 law firm by U.S. News - Best Lawyers in America for 2017. This ranking is based "on vigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process." The firm earned Tier 1 ranking in the following areas of practice: appellate practice, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white collar, employment law - individuals, and First Amendment Law. Individual members of the firm are also listed by Best Lawyers in these practice areas. Mr. Sheppard previously has been recognized as Lawyer of the Year in the areas of non-white collar criminal defense, white collar criminal defense and employment law - individuals (2010, 2012, and 2014), in recognition of his decades of expertise in those areas of practice.
In March of this year Florida Legislators made a change in the death penalty laws, requiring only a 10-2 vote by jurors to impose the death penalty. In an article published by the Daily Record, Bill Sheppard is quoted as being "dumbfounded" by the change. Sheppard has defended many clients in death penalty cases over the course of his career as a prominent criminal defense attorney, including Gary Alvord.
We have received several inquiries about the status of the lawsuit we brought with prominent local civil rights attorney Sam Jacobson, Scott v. Hogan, over the disenfranchisement of almost 440,000 registered non-republican voters in the local state attorney race. As of the this posting, the lawsuit remains pending in the Florida Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to hear the case. For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit, our firm, along with Bledsoe, Jacobson, Schmidt, Wright, & Sussman P.A., filed a lawsuit to enforce the Universal Primary Amendment in the local State Attorney race. This amendment is a provision of the Florida Constitution that requires primary elections to be open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, where the winner of the primary will not face opposition in the general election.
The AAJ Civil Rights Section presents the Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award, annually, to honor an attorney or a civil rights advocate who has made a noteworthy contribution to the defense of our civil rights and civil liberties bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact.
Folio Weekly celebrated 29 years in publication by honoring 29 influential Floridians. Bill Sheppard was included in their list. In Folio Weekly's own words, "we've decided to honor influential locals who stomp around, kicking ass and taking names, saving lives through advancements in medicine, opening their hearts and homes to strangers, and generally crusading for the environment, social justice, truth and the American way, Northeast Florida-style."
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has ordered that the state pay more than $500,000 in legal fees to the ACLU of Florida, William Sheppard, Betsy White, and Samuel Jacobson who represented the Brenner plaintiffs more than a year ago in a case where the same-sex ban on marriage in Florida was deemed unconstitutional.
Kevin Gay, founder and CEO of Operation New Hope, will receive the Medal of Honor, The Florida Bar Foundation's highest award for non-lawyers on June 16th. Operation New Hope was founded in 1999 to rebuild Jacksonville's challenged communities and give felons an opportunity to lead productive lives upon their release from incarceration.
Randal Ratledge, who fired off two rounds of a gun, hitting no one, walked out of the Duval County Courthouse on Friday morning a free citizen.
This month, attorney Bill Sheppard and Bryan DeMaggio succeeded in winning the State v. Ratledge case, where they defended Florida man Randal Ratledge. Ratledge faced 120 years in prison after firing two gun shots into the air, harming no one. In the decision of this case, the Florida Supreme court ruled that judges have the authority to sentence criminal defendants in these types of cases to no more than 20 years in prison.
Earlier this week, the First District Court of Appeal denied a juvenile offender's request for the court to remand his 45 year term for a non-homicide crime for resentencing, which he contended violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The case, Kelsey v. State, involved a defendant whose sentence had already been lowered once as a result of conflicts with the Eighth Amendment. Kelsey initially received two life sentences after he was convicted for Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Burglary, and two counts of Sexual Battery. However, while his case was on appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, which held that a life sentence for a non-homicide juvenile offender, without possibility of parole, violated the Eighth Amendment.