Court asks Bar to take a look at internship rules

first_img February 15, 2004 Britt Dys Assistant Editor Regular News Court asks Bar to take a look at internship rules Court asks Bar to take a look at internship rules Assistant EditorA bungled attempt to extort an airline out of millions. Drug convictions resulting in the loss of civil liberties. Identity theft. All were crimes committed by law students seeking Supreme Court certified internships.“Law students are having more and more interaction. . . with law enforcement than I think you would believe,” Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis told the Board of Governors at its Tallahassee meeting in January. “I think it would shock you.”Justice Lewis asked the Board of Governors to address the “problems” with Chapter 11 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, which covers law students participating in internships and handling cases under a lawyer’s supervision for state attorneys, public defenders, and legal aid agencies.Justice Lewis said law students are perceiving the certified internship program not as a privilege which allows them to represent citizens before they are admitted to the Bar, “but as an entitlement.”“It is a wonderful process if it’s not abused, but our experience is it is being abused,” Lewis said.One possible solution, Lewis said, might require prospective interns to register early in their law school experience for the necessary background check that the Florida Board of Bar Examiners must otherwise conduct on any student seeking admission to the Bar following graduation. The fee for that investigation is $75. a student then would have to be cleared before practicing as a certified legal intern. Lewis said the Board of Bar Examiners’ capacity to conduct the investigations into whether students are fit to enter the certified internship program would be more expansive than anything the court can do now.Court rules allow for law students to gain experience as attorneys under the supervision of various state offices and nonprofit organizations throughout Florida, and Lewis noted internships can serve as an educational tool that is advantageous to both students and the courts. Students are eased into the transition of becoming lawyers, while lending their ability to the courts in the process, he said.However, tarnished records of some law students are not the only cause for concern when dealing with the Chapter 11 rule, according to Lewis.In one case, a law school wanted student interns to work for a private Miami lawyer who handled conflict cases from the public defender’s office.“They selected an individual who had been disciplined by The Florida Bar for shaking down clients in a similar circumstance before. . . and we were going to be placing our students under that kind of supervision?” Justice Lewis asked.Justice Lewis said other abuses included the inconsistent or absence of university policies handling the certified internship issue and the lack of court funding and resources for performing background checks. Moreover, if a challenge is made regarding the court’s decision, there is no resolution process, “so there are problems that we need to address if this is to be a viable and quality program, which it can very easily [become] —with some small tweaking in the right places,” Justice Lewis said.Lewis asked the Bar to “help craft a rule that is workable, that benefits students, that continues to protect the legal aid societies, the state attorneys, and public defenders’ offices.”Bar President Miles McGrane set up the Special Board Committee to Study the Law School Practice Program. Board member Robert Rush will chair the panel, and other members include Young Lawyers Division President Mark Romance, and board members Mayanne Downs, Peter Brandt, and Don Horn.last_img