News

Cameron Carstens Selected as 2024 Florida Rising Star

Messer Caparello, P.A. is pleased to announce that Cameron Carstens has been recognized as a 2024 Florida Rising Star by Super Lawyers in the field of Civil Litigation: Defense. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers that includes a patented, multi-phased selection process based on peer recognition, professional achievement, and other factors.

Only 2.5% of lawyers across the state of Florida who are under the age of 40 are included on the Rising Stars list. Mr. Carstens has been selected as a Rising Star every year since 2019.

Terry Lewis Presents on Evidence at Criminal Law Review & Board Certification Seminar

Terry Lewis Presents on Evidence

Terry Lewis, a former Leon County Circuit Judge, recently participated as a Presenter at the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Criminal Law Review & Board Certification seminar held on April 5, 2024, in Lake Mary Florida. Judge Lewis presented on the topic of Evidence. Judge Lewis is a member of the Firm’s mediation and arbitration team. With over thirty years of judicial experience, Judge Lewis has the unique experience and resources to make his mediations and arbitrations successful.

Terry Lewis Participates as Faculty Member at the Florida Bar’s Civil Trial Certification and Review Seminar

Terry Lewis, former circuit judge, recently participated as a faculty member at the Florida Bar’s Civil Trial Certification and Review Seminar. Judge Lewis presented on the topic of Evidence during the seminar, which was held on February 1-2, 2024, in Fort Myers, Florida. Judge Lewis is a member of the Firm’s mediation and arbitration team.

Best Lawyers® Names Messer Caparello, P.A. a Best Law Firm in its 14th Edition National Rankings

Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, names Messer Caparello, P.A. a Best Law Firm in its 2024 rankings. Best Lawyers’ ranking highlights Messer Caparello’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Mediation practice areas. With nearly 50 years of experience in Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Messer Caparello is unrivaled in its representation of public officials in Florida. The Firm’s mediation professionals are likewise uniquely skilled in alternative dispute resolution, having handled thousands of mediations or arbitrations involving a wide variety of legal issues. More information about Messer Caparello’s professionals in these areas can be found here:

Mark Herron
Dom Caparello
Terry Lewis
Thomas Bateman
Richard “Rick” Miller

Rick Miller Conducts Mediation Workshop

Richard “Rick” Miller recently conducted a mediation-skills workshop for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Entitled “Mediation Training: Mediation Survival,” the interactive presentation (which was recorded and posted on the Circuit’s YouTube channel) highlights techniques to avoid impasse and foster resolution. Rick became of counsel with the firm last year and specializes in mediation.

Don’t be too quick to discipline students for social media posts done off campus!

When may a school discipline a student for social media postings? Student speech is protected by the First Amendment. And when a student engages in “pure speech” on political or social issues, the student is entitled to extra protection. The law is clear that schools have authority to discipline students for things they say on social media while at school or at school-sponsored events, provided the speech disrupts classwork or invades the rights of others. But what about something a student posts on social media while the student is not at school or at a school-sponsored event?

The United States Supreme Court addressed this issue on June 23, 2021, in the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. In this case, BL had tried out for the varsity cheerleading squad at the end of her freshman year, but she wasn’t selected. Although B.L. was offered a spot on the JV squad, she wasn’t happy. During the weekend, while at a convenience store, she and a friend used B.L.’s smartphone to post some images on snapchat. According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, one of the images “showed B.L. and a friend with middle fingers raised” and included the caption, “Fuck school, fuck cheer, fuck everything.” The image was seen by the cheerleaders, other students and the cheerleading coaches.

What should the cheerleading coaches do in this situation? After talking it over with the school principal, the coaches decided to suspend B.L. from the JV cheerleading squad for the upcoming year based on her use of profanity and violation of team rules. The Supreme Court ruled against the School District, holding that the suspension violated B.L.’s First Amendment free speech rights (meaning B.L.’s suspension from the JV squad was expunged and she was also entitled to a judgment against the School District for her attorney’s fees).

The Court noted that although some members of the cheerleading team were upset, the school district had not shown that B.L.’s snapchat post had caused “substantial disruption” in the classroom or within the cheerleading program. The Court also explained that a school has less authority to discipline students for social media postings when the posting is not done while the student is at school or at a school-sponsored event.

The lesson here is that schools should not be too quick to discipline students for off-campus speech. Student discipline is more likely to be constitutional when it relates to: (a) perceived threats to school administrators, teachers, other staff or students; (b) speech that criticizes or derides school administrators, teachers or other staff and (c) clear instances of bullying and severe harassment of other students. Otherwise, schools should exercise great caution when considering discipline for off-campus speech.  

Case Information: Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., 141 S.Ct. 2038 (June 23, 2021).

For more information, contact Bob L. Harris, Esq., at [email protected] or (850) 222-0720.

Former Judge Terry Lewis Joins Firm

The law firm of Messer Caparello, PA, is pleased to announce that Terry Lewis, who recently retired after 30 years as a trial judge, has become of counsel with the firm and will focus on mediation and arbitration.

Mr. Lewis was a general practitioner for 12 years before his election to the county court in 1988. He was appointed to the circuit court in 1997 where he served until 2019, handling countless cases of every variety in all divisions of the court. During his judicial career, Mr. Lewis was heavily involved in judicial education. He served as faculty for numerous courses, as chair of the education committees for both the County and Circuit Court Conferences, and as dean of the Florida College of Advanced Judicial Studies. He has also been an adjunct professor at the F.S.U. College of Law for several years, teaching Evidence, Florida Civil Practice, and Professional Responsibility.

Mr. Lewis was named Judge of the Year by the Florida Law Related Education Association in 1993 and 2013 and Trial Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates, Tallahassee Chapter, in 2000.

We’re excited to have Terry join us at the firm where he will use his extensive experience and knowledge to help parties resolve their disputes.

Employees Can’t be Fired for Being Homosexual or Transgender

It is now a violation of federal law for an employer to fire an employee because the employee is homosexual or transgender.

The United States Supreme Court, issued its ruling, in a 6 to 3 decision, on June 15, 2020, in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Under the Court’s ruling, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 now prohibits employment discrimination based on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) status.

The Court’s decision changes the law of Florida. The federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which encompasses Florida, Georgia and Alabama) had previously held that sexual orientation was not protected under Title VII.

In the opinion for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch stated:

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority. Justices Samuel Alito Jr., Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Significantly, the Court did not address the effect of today’s ruling on sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes. These other issues will continue to be hotly litigated.

For more information, contact:

James J. Dean, Esq.

[email protected]

850-222-0720

Home Health Care Referral Sources Can be Legitimate Business Interests Under Florida’s Non-Compete Statute

It has long been established that non-compete agreements are enforceable only when justified by a “legitimate business interest.” A recent decision of the Florida Supreme Court held that home health care referral sources can be a protected legitimate business interest for purposes of this requirement of Florida law.Continue Reading Home Health Care Referral Sources Can be Legitimate Business Interests Under Florida’s Non-Compete Statute

Cameron Carstens Selected to Participate in Advanced International Advocacy Course in Oxford, England

Messer Caparello, P.A. is pleased to announce that attorney Cameron Carstens will be participating in the Advanced International Advocacy Course at Keble College, Oxford, England on August 28, 2017 through September 2, 2017. The course is run by England’s South Eastern Circuit Bar.

 Mr. Carstens is one of four lawyers from the state of Florida to receive a Bennett Scholarship from the Trial Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar to participate in the course, which is internationally recognized as one of the most intensive advocacy courses in the world. The course helps participants refine their trial and appellate advocacy skills by performing simulated exercises involving all aspects of trial. Participants are critiqued on their performances by highly-experienced English lawyers and judges after each exercise. The course will conclude with each lawyer participating in a trial of an assigned case before an English High Court Judge.

 Mr. Carstens focuses his practice at the firm on defending claims brought under federal and state employment statutes, constitutional claims, as well as litigating claims involving breach of contract, restrictive covenants and other business disputes. Mr. Carstens also advises public K-12 educational institutions on a wide range of matters unique to the educational setting.