Florida's restoration of civil rights process is designed to make it virtually impossible for convicted felons to regain their fundamental constitutional rights, such as the right to vote. On February 1, 2018, Judge Walker, federal district judge for the Northern District of Florida declared the process to be unconstitutional. As politicians in Tallahassee continue to attempt to suppress the right to vote (see its recent efforts to tally a non-vote as a NO vote in constitutional amendments placed on the ballot for citizen consideration), it is now more important than ever that our federal courts reject these blatant efforts to diminish our voices. This is not a political issue; it is a matter of protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of all citizens in this state. Rather than continuing to discourage, and indeed, prevent people from exercising their constitutional right to vote, this governor and his legislature should be affirmatively looking for ways to make the ability to vote more, not less, inclusive. A copy of Judge Walker's opinion can be found here.
William Sheppard and Betsy White were interviewed last week by the Bar Bulletin Staff of the Daily Record about the recently filed complaint against Chief Judge Mahon and Sheriff Mike Williams as it relates to the unfair bail practices against misdemeanants.
Congratulations to Bill Sheppard and Sam Jacobson for their receipt of the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award, given each year by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA). This award is given in recognition of their efforts to "provide justice for the poor and marginalized", and specifically recognizes their "pro bono service, philanthropy and unwavering dedication to fairness and honesty."
Congratulations to Mr. Sheppard for being named Jacksonville's 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Criminal Defense: White Collar by Best Lawyers In America. This will be the fourth time Mr. Sheppard has been selected as Lawyer of the Year in his areas of practice, in recognition of his work in the areas of criminal defense, first amendment and employment law. In addition being named Lawyer of the Year, he was recognized this year in the areas of Appellate Practice, Criminal Defense, General Practice, Employment Law-Individuals and First Amendment Law. The firm has also been recognized as a Tier 1 law firm and individual members have been recognized in their areas of practice. While the firm appreciates such accolades, we are mindful that our greatest reward is assisting people in their time of legal need and vigorously defending their cases.
As is his practice, Mr. Bogdanich has written an extensively researched article about how Agent Rodgers became the object of a campaign to destroy his career and reputation. His offense was the refusal to rubber stamp the conclusions of a deeply flawed investigation into the death of Michelle O'Connel.
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."