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Journalism award nominations sought by Florida Bar

The call for entries is out for The Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida and the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award, The Florida Bar announced Wednesday.

For the Thomson awards, work submitted for consideration may include news stories, series, features, editorials, blogs, documentaries, columns, special sections — anything that is produced by a news organization and deals with law and lawyers, courts, law enforcement, the delivery of legal services, the effectiveness of the justice system, the work of the organized Bar or related matters.

Any newspaper, radio station, blog, television station, wire service or online-only publication located in Florida is eligible to enter. The entry deadline is July 31.

Entries must have been published or produced between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017. Content of entries may be current or historical, objective or analytical in nature. Special consideration may be given to entries that demonstrate courage or tenacity on the part of the news medium or the journalists who produced the entry.

Reporters receiving first-place awards will take home $500, and those receiving second place will get $250. If multiple reporters are bylined on a winning entry, the cash award will be divided evenly among them.

Reporters who choose not to accept the monetary prizes may opt to make a donation to the First Amendment Foundation. All honorees and their media outlets will receive plaques.

Media organizations large and small are encouraged to enter. Judging criteria are not based on the greatest amount of resources used, but whether those resources available are used well and to the fullest in the tradition of outstanding journalism.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors and the Media & Communications Law Committee renamed the media awards as a tribute to Miami lawyer Thomson’s countless contributions to media law.

Thomson, a Florida attorney since 1961, died in 2017 at 85. From 1968 to 1983, Thomson represented numerous prominent clients, including the Miami Herald, The New York Times, AT&T and Bank of America, in First Amendment cases. His expertise included helping newspapers obtain public records.

Thomson argued three cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miami Herald Publishing Company vs. Tornillo in 1974. He represented the Herald and won, overturning a state law that required newspapers to allocate equal space to political candidates on the editorial pages.

The Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award honors a retired or working journalist who has written or reported extensively in an outstanding fashion to educate citizens on the system of law and justice as it affects the people of Florida.

The award recipient will receive a cash prize of $500, a plaque, and travel reimbursement to attend the awards ceremony at the Florida Capitol. A reporter who chooses not to accept the monetary prize may opt to make a donation to the First Amendment Foundation.

Spencer-Wendel was a veteran Palm Beach Post courts reporter who died in 2014 after a well-documented fight with ALS. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Media & Communications Law Committee in 2012 and numerous other media awards throughout her career.

The Parker Thomson and Susan Spencer-Wendel media awards will be presented at the Reporters’ Workshop dinner on Sept. 24 in Tallahassee. Winners will be notified in advance.

For the nomination forms, click here.

Ashley Moody

Ross Spano backs former opponent Ashley Moody for attorney general

Former Attorney General candidate Ross Spano says he’s throwing his support behind Ashley Moody as she continues to pursue the Republican nomination in that race.

Spano exited the contest back in April to run for Congress in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. He currently represents House District 59.

Now, he says he’s backing Moody over her only remaining primary opponent, Pensacola state Rep. Frank White.

“Ashley Moody is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and will always stand up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners and against the liberal gun control agenda,” said Spano of his endorsement.

“Ashley has the experience to defend the Second Amendment rights of Floridians and that’s why I’m endorsing and standing with her conservative campaign for a stronger, safer Florida.”

Moody, a former Hillsborough Circuit Court judge, responded to Spano’s endorsement: “Throughout the campaign, it was evident Rep. Spano and I shared conservative values and goals for the State of Florida, including putting an end to human trafficking, defending Second Amendment rights, and protecting our seniors.

“Thank you to Rep. Spano for his endorsement of my candidacy to be Florida’s next Attorney General. It is an honor I will work hard to deserve.”

Moody was endorsed early on by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is term-limited this year.

Democrats Sean Shaw, a House member from Tampa, and Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens are also running to be Florida’s next attorney general. Non-party affiliated candidate Jeffrey Siskind rounds out the list of candidates.

The primary is Aug. 28.

Judge closes book on disputed abortion law

In a case that focused heavily on First Amendment rights, a federal judge has issued a permanent injunction against a 2016 abortion law approved by Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who granted a preliminary injunction against the law in September, issued the permanent injunction last week and ordered the state to pay attorney fees for a group of plaintiffs who challenged the measure.

The permanent injunction came after attorneys for the state and the plaintiffs filed a joint motion last month indicating the state did not want to continue contesting the issues in the preliminary injunction.

“In order to spare the parties and the court the cost and burden of further litigation, plaintiffs and defendants have reached an agreement for the court to convert the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction … enter a declaratory judgment in plaintiffs’ favor, and retain jurisdiction over an award of attorneys’ fees, if necessary, thereby resolving all the claims,” the June 22 joint motion said.

Hinkle’s order last week, like the preliminary injunction, found disputed parts of the law unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in December 2016 on behalf of several clergy members and abortion-rights organizations.

The law, in part, sought to require people or groups who provide information about abortions — considered “referral or counseling” agencies under the law — to register with the Agency for Health Care Administration and pay a $200 fee.

It also sought to require anyone who counsels women about abortions to provide an explanation about the procedure, including alternatives, before making referrals or assisting in obtaining abortions.

Hinkle in the September ruling agreed that the law could affect the plaintiffs, including the clergy members who sometimes counsel people about abortion.

“At least on a literal reading of (the law), all of the challenged provisions apply to these plaintiffs and will require the plaintiffs to take prompt action unless enforcement of the statute is enjoined,” Hinkle wrote in September. “The plaintiffs will be required to register and pay the attendant fee. When they refer an individual to an abortion clinic, they will be required to engage in compelled speech — to give a full and detailed explanation of abortion, including the effects of and alternatives to abortion, whatever that means — and will be subject to prosecution if they fail to do so. And if they refer a minor to an abortion clinic, they will be required to notify and provide the same information to the minor’s parents or guardian.”

Hinkle found that the law violated the plaintiffs’ free-speech rights.

“(The) state has no legitimate interest, let alone a compelling interest, in requiring disclosure of private religious speech of this kind,” he wrote in September. “The statute is a naked effort to impede speech on a disfavored topic promoting a disfavored but legal viewpoint.”

Democratic legislators weigh in on #AbolishICE

At least one Democrat between the state House and Senate is calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Other Democrats, meanwhile, are hesitant to say ‘abolish,’ but seem to agree that the scope of the agency’s work should be revisited and narrowed.

Calls to stop the agency began as a distant battle cry of the far left, but amid recent turmoil sparked by reports of the Trump administration’s embrace of the practice of separating detained immigrants from their children and fueled by reports of ICE raids across the country, pushes to disband the agency have gained somewhat-mainstream traction among staunch opponents of the country’s immigration laws.

Florida Politics reached out to several Democrats in the state Legislature, including both minority offices, for their takes.

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said he supports “the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form” — the strongest statement against the agency provided to Florida Politics.

He said ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have “become police and child separation agencies, known for terrorizing our communities and tearing families apart.” That’s a departure and a deterrent from what Smith claims even the employees acknowledge as their primary responsibilities: tracking down “drug cartel leaders, child pornographers and human traffickers.”

“Border security and compassion are not mutually exclusive, which is why I support the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form,” concluded Smith.

Smith’s statement echoed that of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s notice earlier this week that he supports a “comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer.”

Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, has attempted to stake claim to being the progressive option for primary Democratic voters. Smith, who helped found and led the first-ever Progressive Legislative Caucus, has backed Gillum in his quest for the governor’s mansion.

So as it stands, progressive leaders in the state seem to have no problem throwing the term ‘abolish’ around. Other Democrats, however, have had more hesitation.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who’s competing against incumbent Republican state Sen. Dana Young for the District 18 seat, said, “ICE, under [Donald] Trump‘s direction, has been an absolute disaster — separating children from their parents and criminalizing personhood. This needs to be fixed immediately through reforms at ICE or by other means that keep our borders both secure and humane.”

While not stated outright, the aforementioned “other means” could include abolishing the agency.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, also of Orlando, criticized the agency’s current state, but stopped short of calling for its abolishment.

“[ICE] needs to confiscate drugs, arrest drug traffickers, identify human trafficking and gang members,” Stewart said. She added that the current mission “has been redefined” and claimed agents “should not be involved with legal asylum seekers.”

In the House, Rep. Nicholas Duran, a Miami Democrat, also stopped short of calling to abolish the agency. He instead suggested Congress suspend ICE’s non-essential activities — like its widely-criticized raids — “until ICE’s policies are reviewed and a new framework can be put in place.”

“ICE should focus on actual, imminent threats – drug dealers, gangs, terrorist cells – not the father and grandfather with a misdemeanor from a decade ago, not the mom who calls the cops when her husband’s been beating her, only to be threatened with deportation, not rounding up DREAMers around college campuses,” Duran explained.

He pointed to President Donald Trump as the reason for the agency going awry.

“ICE is a government agency and like all government agencies, it takes its cues from the top,” Duran said. “And at the top, we have a demagogue who is using immigrant families to distract from his failure of a presidency.”

Both Duran’s and Stewart’s comments reflect what some higher-ticket Florida Democrats have been saying.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces tough reelection this year against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn’t support the abolition of the agency when asked by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. And in a statement, Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy shied away from calling for an end to ICE as well. Murphy, like Nelson, faces a tough reelection in her Orlando district.

Greyhound racing ban backers ante up in June

The political committee backing a ballot measure to ban greyhound racing in Florida took in more than $250,000 last month, with much of that cash coming in from a pair of national groups.

The Committee to Protect Dogs showed more than $165,000 in contributions between June 1 and June 22, and Grey2K USA Worldwide easily topped the report with a $100,000 check and another $10,000-plus worth of “in-kind” support covering staffing, supplies and travel.

The next report turned in by the committee, covering June 23 through June 29, clocked in at $102,237 and included a $100,000 check from The Humane Society of the United States.

Much of the remaining June money came in via a $50,000 check from the Santa Barbara, Calif.- based K-M Revocable Trust, though numerous small-dollar donors chipped in as well, including a couple dozen at the $13 level, a nod to the greyhound ban’s status as Amendment 13 on the 2018 ballot.

In all, the Committee to Protect Dogs has raised $317,756 since it opened in mid-March. It had about $296,000 on hand on June 29.

The greyhound ban, which was placed on the ballot by the Constitutional Revision Commission, is one of 13 measures that will go before voters in the 2018 general election. Proposed amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Amendment 13 is being opposed by the Florida Greyhound Association, a coalition of greyhound owners and trainers. The group has challenged the proposed amendment in court; a trial is set for next month in Tallahassee.

Frank White releases ad touting Florida Right to Life endorsement

Republican Attorney General candidate Frank White announced an endorsement from Florida Right to Life Tuesday by rolling out a new campaign ad.

The hardline pro-life group, which opposes all abortion even in cases of rape or incest, sent the Pensacola Republican a letter saying that their endorsement “indicates that you are the best pro-life candidate in the race and is a recommendation that our members and supporters vote for you.”

White, who works as general counsel and chief financial officer for his father-in-law’s auto dealership chain, included that endorsement letter in an announcement touting his credentials as a pro-life candidate.

“I am 100 percent pro-life. Our Constitution’s primary purpose is to protect our God given rights, including the right to life. As Attorney General, I’ll ensure defending the rights of the unborn is a priority just as I have throughout my career,” White said. “My wife Stephanie is an adoption attorney and has dedicated her life to finding forever homes for children. For our family, we don’t just talk about being conservative. It’s our way of life.”

The announcement also included a new video ad featuring Stephanie White talking about her career and her husband’s pro-life stance.

“Soon after Frank and I got married, life threw us a surprise and blessed us with twin boys. I decided to pursue a career as an adoption attorney and child advocate,” she says in the ad. “Like me, Frank believes that all life is precious. That’s why he’s spent his career fighting for the unborn and those who can’t defend themselves.”

The ad then turns over to Frank White, who says he believes “that life begins at conception” and that “the most vulnerable people in our society are unborn children.”

Stephanie White continues, “For us, our conservative values aren’t just words. They are a way of life.”

White is one of two Republicans running to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. He faces former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who has Bondi’s support, in the primary.

White has put more than $2.7 million of his own money behind his campaign. As of June 22, White had about $2.4 banked, while Moody had about $2.2 million.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election. Two recent polls show Shaw leading both Moody and White among likely general election voters.

White’s ad is below.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

Gwen Graham: Republican governor streak must end

The last time a Democrat served as governor of Florida, Bill Clinton was still president.

In a new campaign ad, Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham says it’s time for that to change.

Titled “Twenty” (see below), Graham critiques Republican leadership of the state for the past two decades, and argues she is the candidate best equipped to flip control over to the Democrats.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control,” says Graham in the new 30-second ad.

“It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee. They have not taken Medicaid expansion. They have hurt education. It’s going to take bringing it back to, ‘How do I serve the people?’ “

That echoes the pitch Graham has made recently, telling Florida Politics the 2018 election “is so important for the future of the state.”

“Graham says stand up to the corporate special interests,” explains the ad’s narrator. “Put health care, schools and people first again.”

The Graham campaign has also been focused on the future of abortion rights, after the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and Monday night’s announcement of his replacement, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham, a former Tallahassee congresswoman, has been near the top of the Democratic gubernatorial field in recent polling, along with former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach real estate billionaire Jeff Greene and Winter Park businessman Chris King are also competing for the Democratic nomination.

Graham’s new ad is set to air on Orlando and Tampa TV markets. You can watch it below, via YouTube.

Another statewide candidate blasts Bullsugar over questionnaire

Yet another statewide Republican candidate — attorney general hopeful Frank White — is hammering environmental advocacy group Bullsugar over its questionnaire regarding Florida’s algae bloom problem.

The questionnaire is highly critical of the sugar industry, including questions such as “Do you agree that your campaign will be sugar-free, accepting no contributions from any source with ties to the sugarcane industry?”

Bullsugar has faced criticism for previous false claims about the blooms and a failure to disclose its donor list.

That history resulted in a scathing response from GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, who called Bullsugar “one of the most obscene groups in Florida” that pushes a “constant stream of twisted misinformation spread to the public.”

Now, White is following up with his own statement bashing the group.

“I, and other like-minded conservatives, will not be held hostage by binary environmental advocacy which threatens jobs in agriculture and seeks to erode property rights,” said White, a state representative from Pensacola.

“I believe you can care about the health and well being of our state without launching aggressive attacks on the hardworking people of the Glades.”

White says this isn’t a critique of environmental groups generally, but rather Bullsugar’s tactics in particular.

“There are a variety of environmental organizations across the state who seek to truly address our water quality challenges without taking aim at hardworking Floridians, and I will continue to work with those organizations as I believe our values are more closely aligned.”

White is competing with former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody for the Republican nomination. Democrats Sean Shaw, another House member, and attorney Ryan Torrens are also running for A.G., along with non-party affiliated candidate Jeffrey Siskind.

Greyhound racing-ban group releases more endorsements

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign has announced more endorsements from civic organizations, animal welfare organizations, and local animal shelters.

The group is promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

“Amendment 13 has now won the support of 23 local animal shelters, 15 animal welfare organizations, and four civic groups including the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, the Florida Federation of Republican Women and League of Women Voters of Florida,” the campaign said in a news release.

“Protecting greyhounds is a rare issue that unites Republicans and Democrats,” said Jean Gonzalez Wingo, first vice president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. “It’s time that we join other states and outlaw this cruel practice.”

The campaign’s latest list of endorsements is below:

— Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

— Florida Federation of Republican Women

— League of Women Voters of Florida

— The Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar

— Animal Defense Coalition

— American Humane Animal Rights Foundation of Florida

— Best Friends Animal Society

— Big Cat Rescue

— Concerned Citizens for Animal Welfare

— Doris Day Animal League

— Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations

— GREY2K USA Education Fund

— Humane Society Legislative Fund

— Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

— Save the Animals Store

— South Florida Wildlife Center

— Alachua County Humane Society

— Humane Society of Broward County

Greyhound owners and breeders, who oppose the ban, have challenged the proposed amendment in court; a trial is set for next month in Tallahassee.

‘Raised right’: Rebekah Bydlak releases first TV ad in HD 1 race

Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak is rolling out her first TV ad in the race for Northwest Florida’s House District 1.

The 30-second spot will start hitting TV screens in the Escambia County district today. Titled “Fresh Conservative Choice,” the ad touts Bydlak’s conservative credentials as well as her status as an “outsider” candidate.

“Isn’t it time for a fresh conservative voice who will work with President [Donald] Trump in Florida? That’s Rebekah Bydlak, a conservative outsider, not a politician. Bydlak is 100 percent pro-life and is endorsed by the NRA for defending the 2nd Amendment,” the ad narrator states.

Bydlak then says, “I was born and raised right here in Escambia County, which means I was raised right. I’m a conservative wanting to make a difference, not a politician looking for my next job. Together, we can hold politicians accountable.”

The penultimate line in the ad could be taken as a jab at former Republican Rep. Mike Hill, who is looking to return to the state House after his failed bid for state Senate in 2016.

To-date, Bydlak has outcampaigned Hill in most metrics. She held a better than 5-to-1 cash advantage in the money race at the end of May, and through June 22 the gulf grew wider with $116,000 in the bank for Bydlak compared to $20,000 on hand for Hill.

She has also snagged the bulk of the endorsements in the race.

In addition to the NRA, Bydlak has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Florida Medical Association, and the Florida Realtors. She’s also gotten the green light from current HD 1 Rep. Clay Ingram, who cannot run again due to term limits.

Also running in the primary is Milton Republican Lisa Doss, who entered on the eve of the June 22 qualifying deadline.

Whomever emerges from the Republican primary on Aug. 28 will be the presumptive winner, though they’ll still have to go up against either Vikki Garrett or Franscine Mathis, are competing for the Democratic nomination.

HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview and Brent. Ingram has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012. Before that, he held the old HD 2.

Bydlak’s ad is below.

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