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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 1, 2005 16 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa)

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Court records back online by summer?: The Committee on Privacy and Court Records issued a draft proposal on court records on the Internet with recommendations that fall mostly in favor of open-record advocates.Bar trouble: Rumors swirled for months that the Tampa office of the Florida Bar had lost several of its senior attorneys, including Tom DeBerg and Steve Whelan. High employee turnover was reported to have brought a slowdown in the investigation and prosecution of lawyers accused of wrongdoing.Changing of the guard: John LaRocca succeeded Ray Sandelli as chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership at its recent annual meeting. LaRocca partners with Allen Murphy at Tampa's Murphy LaRocca Consulting Group, a land-use and real estate consulting group.Fishkind forecast: We're at the peak: Hank Fishkind, the widely quoted Florida economist, expects the national economy to enter a slow period beginning the second half this year. But there's some good news. He doesn't expect the impact of that slowdown to appear in this part of the nation until next summer.Long-time mentor named outstanding lawyer: John "Jack" Rudy II, a founding member of Bush Ross Gardner Warren & Rudy PA, was honored June 28 as the Hillsborough County Bar Association's outstanding lawyer of the year.NFIB taps Tampa CEO as 'small-business champion': Tampa businessman David Hurley was named "Small-Business Champion" of the Southeast region by the National Federation of In
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

Coffee Talk (Tampa)

Court records back online by summer?

The Committee on Privacy and Court Records issued a draft proposal on court records on the Internet with recommendations that fall mostly in favor of open-record advocates.

Clerks of court have been barred from showing judicial records over the Internet since March 2004, when Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead issued a moratorium because of privacy concerns. The committee was created to review the issue and make recommendations.

Among the 24 issues discussed in the draft report are protections from posting family, juvenile, drug court, psychological and probate records. But, aside from contradictions in the text, most of the recommendations for the redaction/protection of confidential information are left to filers and affected parties rather than clerks of court.

Stepping somewhat beyond its purview, the committee recommends that the Legislature enact laws to protect personal information housed by state agencies and data companies.

"I think possibly we could be right back to where we were with access," says Sarasota Clerk of Court Karen Rushing.

"How far back we can go on records will depend on what they choose as exemptions," Rushing says. "If we didn't treat them as exempt records before we may have to open the records going forward. I think it is certainly a good attempt to give as much access as possible."

A final proposal might be ready by summer.

Bar trouble

Rumors swirled for months that the Tampa office of the Florida Bar had lost several of its senior attorneys, including Tom DeBerg and Steve Whelan. High employee turnover was reported to have brought a slowdown in the investigation and prosecution of lawyers accused of wrongdoing.

Well, it's true.

Tony Boggs, director of the bar's legal division, confirms that four of the six Tampa prosecutors quit in recent months.

To help the Tampa office, Miami bar prosecutors took over investigations in the 20th Circuit, which includes Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties. And the Orlando bar office has also pitched in on some investigations.

"One office of the bar system is suffering certainly," Boggs says. "But the system has 27 lawyers in it. Investigations are continuing."

DeBerg, who now practices family law as well as lawyer defense with Solomon Tropp PA in Tampa, says it was just time to leave. "I had been there 19 years - a long time," he says.

Stephen Whalen, also a longtime bar prosecutor, joined former bar prosecutor David Ristoff at his New Port Richey law firm, Williams Ristoff & Proper PLC.

Prosecutor William Thompson also left. And Coffee Talk hears bar counsel Debra Davis is leaving later this month. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Changing of the guard

John LaRocca succeeded Ray Sandelli as chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership at its recent annual meeting. LaRocca partners with Allen Murphy at Tampa's Murphy LaRocca Consulting Group, a land-use and real estate consulting group.

Prior to forming his own firm in 1993, LaRocca had served as a Pinellas Park zoning administrator, Tampa development coordination manager, a Florida Land Design & Engineering senior urban planner and a Dames & Moore senior urban planner.

There's no respite for Sandelli, the Florida senior managing director in the Tampa office of CB Richard Ellis. He now serves as chairman of the Center for Real Estate Studies in the graduate program at the University of Florida.

Fishkind forecast: We're at the peak

Hank Fishkind, the widely quoted Florida economist, expects the national economy to enter a slow period beginning the second half this year. But there's some good news. He doesn't expect the impact of that slowdown to appear in this part of the nation until next summer.

"So this is the top for our growth rates," Fishkind said recently during his weekly radio show out of Orlando. "And we, too, have experienced some of the excesses in the real estate markets. These will have to be digested next year, meaning that home sales will cool off under the pressure from higher mortgage rates next year."

Long-time mentor named outstanding lawyer

John "Jack" Rudy II, a founding member of Bush Ross Gardner Warren & Rudy PA, was honored June 28 as the Hillsborough County Bar Association's outstanding lawyer of the year.

Rudy, admitted to the Florida Bar in 1971, has mentored hundreds of young lawyers over the past three decades. A 1963 graduate of Washington College of Law of American University, he received the bar association's "Outstanding Lawyer of the Year Award."

NFIB taps Tampa CEO as 'small-business champion'

Tampa businessman David Hurley was named "Small-Business Champion" of the Southeast region by the National Federation of Independent Business. He was honored at a dinner in Washington, D.C.

Hurley, owner of Landmark Engineering & Surveying, was selected from 84,000 small-business owners for his activism on behalf of small business, his devotion to encouraging entrepreneurship and his commitment to the community.

"David Hurley is a tireless advocate for free enterprise and highly deserving of this honor," says Ray Mahaffey, NFIB Southeast region vice president.

Steve Birtman, Florida director of NFIB, says Hurley is well known. "Many of our legislators in Florida know David because he consistently makes it a point to speak out for small-business owners on our critical issues."

Tampa appraisal firm seeks Chapter 7

Tampa's Gillis & Associates Inc., a commercial real estate appraisal firm, has filed a petition to liquidate under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The firm has yet to file financial statements, but Rod Gillis, the firm's president, estimated in court records it has assets of less than $50,000 and liabilities of less than $500,000.

Among those liabilities, the firm owes the balance of three years on a lease it vacated in the Huntington Plaza, 601 N. Plaza Drive. LSF601 Ashley LLC, the building's owner, claims in a separate lawsuit the appraisal firm owes nearly $100,000 a year on those remaining three years.

The debtor maintains several disputes against the building owner that should offset any claims, says Tampa bankruptcy attorney Herb Donica, who represents the firm.

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