PREP Presents Ethics to Miami-Dade County Attorneys and Public Defenders

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Miami Law’s Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program develops interactive continuing legal education ethics trainings that are designed to facilitate discussion with practicing attorneys about cutting-edge ethical issues. This spring PREP students, supervised by PREP director Jan L. Jacobowitz, made its annual visits to the Miami-Dade Public Defenders Office and to the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office.

Spencer Booth, Lilli Balik, Kevin Hellman, Bobby Ignazio

PREP students Lilli Balik, Spencer Booth, and Bobby Ignazio presented to the Public Defenders on ethics issues having to do with jury selection, discovery, technology and lawyer well-being. For the first time, the presentation was lived streamed to the juvenile department. Assistant Public Defender and Training Coordinator, Kevin Hellman, reported via email that the live streaming was a success and that the presentation led to a robust conversation in both locations. 

PREP students, Paige Coles, and Jonathan Portuondo presented to the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office, on topics including E-Discovery and witness preparation. 

Coles conducted a discussion exploring issues that may arise when preparing a witness for a deposition, including scripting versus coaching a witness. Questions concerning whether an attorney can talk to a client during the deposition, by a note, or during a break in the deposition, along with objections and asking for a recess were also discussed.  “According to the Florida Rules, an attorney can caution against excessive long narratives and loquaciousness, but can be sanctioned for conduct that impedes, delays, or frustrates the fair examination of the deponent,” said Coles.

Jonathan Portuondo, focused on technology and led a discussion about spoliation of evidence and how the growing field of e-discovery can present spoliation issues even before litigation has commenced. “A best practice for attorneys to avoid any spoliation complications in their cases is to do their homework about each client to ensure that the attorney knows where all evidence that may be relevant to the discovery process could possibly be stored,” said Portuondo.

PREP is an award-winning program that develops continuing legal education ethics training for the legal community. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service, and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar. During training, students are often able to make a positive impact on attendees by prompting them to consider and reconsider their approaches to some of the toughest ethical dilemmas that may arise in the practice of law. 

In 2012, PREP was recognized by the ABA with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and advancement of professionalism among lawyers and judges. In addition to presenting ethics training, throughout the semester PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, can be found here.