Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This is one of those subjects that few consider- until it effects them.  Please understand that the foundation of our democracy is under attack, and before most people realize it, it will be too late.  The subject: JUDICIAL MERIT RETENTION ELECTION.-- What's that, you say. Since 1978, Florida has utilized the process of Merit Selection and Retention of judges.  In an effort to remove politics from the process of electing judges, the citizens of the State of Florida passed a Constitutional Amendment putting our current system in place.

Remember Civics class?  Separation of Powers- 3 Branches of Government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial).  This is why our system works- not all the power is in any one branch.  The courts have to be fair and impartial, without regard to wealth, poverty, or political party.  To ensure this, appellate judges (including the Florida Supreme Court) are chosen by a committee who evaluate each applicant's background, experience, demeanor and impartiality.  That committee then nominates a slate of qualified applicants presented to the Governor for eventual appointment.

There have been 16 Merit Retention Elections since the process was established in 1978.  On the ballot this year, voters will be asked whether a particular judge should be retained in office.  There are 3 Florida Supreme Court Justices up for retention as well as 15 District Court of Appeals Judges.  Ballots in Citrus County will only include the 3 Supreme Court Justices as the District Court Judges are from other districts around the state.  The Florida Bar issued a poll to the lawyers of the state, asking about the retention of these Justices, and the overwhelming opinion of Florida lawyers is to VOTE YES; 90% on average.

Unfortunately, yesterday the Republican Party of Florida announced an intention to support the corporate interests that now seek to unseat these very qualified jurists.  In the history of our system, there has never been such a blatant infusion of politics into a judicial race.  Today, Florida Bar President Gwynne Young released the following statement:

       "A fair and impartial judiciary, free from political or special interest influence is the purpose of Florida's non-partisan merit retention elections for appellate judges. The Florida Bar does not believe any political party – Democratic, Republican or other – should participate in any non-partisan election, particularly for judicial positions.

       Maintaining the integrity and impartiality of Florida's judges is critical to preserving the principles of democracy on which our country was founded. Non-partisan merit retention elections were established by the people of Florida to ensure that the rule of law, not popular thought or political view, is the basis for all judicial decisions. "

The Florida Bar is committed to providing Floridians with objective information regarding merit selection and retention and the biographies of the justices and judges who are on the November 6 ballot. Through the non-partisan educational program, The Vote's in YOUR COURT: Judicial merit retention. Know the facts., the Bar is informing Florida voters about merit retention and the role of judges. The program offers extensive website information, printed materials and speakers for groups.

"The Florida Bar is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse or support the retention of any justice or judge. The Florida Bar encourages all voters to make educated decisions in this – as in any – election."
Visit the website and learn about these Justices. Your vote is more important than ever.  Mr. Taylor is available to speak to your group about this very important issue.  Please call our office to schedule Mr. Taylor to speak or to have your questions answered, but most importantly, understand the issues, the importance of these issues and VOTE.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Election Spotlight: Florida Health Care Amendment

In November, there will be a total of eleven constitutional amendments on Florida voters' ballots. We want to provide you with information about these amendments so you can make an informed decision, however you vote, when election day comes. Today, we'll spotlight Amendment 1: The Florida Health Care Amendment.

The Amendment aims to prevent any law which would require a person or employer to purchase or provide for health care coverage in order to comply with the recent federal health care reforms, which are often referred to as “Obamacare.” 

Supporters of the proposed measure argue that the federal health care law is an abuse of federal power, in part because it requires that people buy health insurance. 

Opponents of the proposed measure argue that a constitutional amendment will not protect individuals from the federal reform because the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution would cause the federal law to override the state law.

Regardless of how you vote on your ballot in November, we encourage you all to get informed on the important issues you are being asked to decide and make your voice heard. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is Judicial Merit Retention?

Among the many important decisions Florida voters will face in November will be a vote on Judicial Merit Retention. Justices and appellate court judges appear on Florida ballots after 6-year terms. Voters are tasked with the decision of whether or not to retain these judges and Justices. This year, there will be three Supreme Court Justices and 15 appellate court judges on Florida's ballots for merit retention vote. However, there are no appellate judges on the ballot for the 5th District Court of Appeals, which is the district where Citrus and Marion counties are located.

Many voters do not know any of the Justices and judges listed on the ballots. We encourage you to get informed on the candidates and their qualifications, and to understand the process of judicial merit retention. You can find more information on the Florida Bar's website, The Vote's in Your Court, or by watching this short video with an introduction from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The video is less than ten minutes long and is full of information about how the merit retention system works and how you can make an informed decision in November.

While most citizens don't often consider how our judges and Justices come to be in office, and most don't have regular interactions with them, it is important for every Florida citizen to understand the process involved in electing those individuals tasked with safeguarding justice for our people.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Man Arrested for Carrying Machete at Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention taking place in Tampa has seen at least one arrest so far. Jason Wilson, a 31 year old Tallahassee man was arrested yesterday for carrying a machete strapped to his leg. When told to stop, Wilson reportedly resisted arrest. He was taken to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

For more, see the full story here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

6 Steps to Finding the Best Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer is often one of the most critical choices you can make in some of the most difficult situations in your life. Whether you're going through a divorce, buying a piece of property, selling a business, or you've been injured in a motor vehicle accident, having the right lawyer to represent your interests is essential in ensuring you will have the best possible outcome in your case. Hiring a lawyer is also a big investment. Before you spend your hard-earned money on legal representation, you want to make sure you are getting what you're paying for. Here are 6 steps you can take to make sure you have the best lawyer possible to represent you in your case.  

1. Identify your legal issue

Not every law firm handles every type of case. You want to make sure the lawyer you hire has experience and expertise in the kind of case you actually have. It won’t help you much if you’re lawyer has a lot of experience in corporate cases, but you’re getting a divorce.

2. Gather references and investigate credentials

It is very likely that someone you know has hired a lawyer at some point. Ask them about their experience and whether or not they would recommend that attorney and why. Personal references are a great way to start your search for the right lawyer, but it shouldn’t be your last step.

3. Do your homework

Look at the lawyer’s website. Does it look professional? Is it easy to use? Do they practice the type of law you’re looking for? Are any of the firm’s attorneys board certified (this means they are certified as experts by the Florida Bar)?

4. Make an appointment for a consultation

You can usually make a consultation appointment right over the phone. Note whether the person you’re talking to is courteous and helpful. In most cases, it shouldn’t take longer than 24 hours to receive a returned phone call.

5. Ask questions

During your initial consultation with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. A good lawyer should be both able and happy to answer questions like these: 
  • What is your experience in cases like mine?
  • How many cases have you handled in this area? 
  • How long do these types of cases usually take to resolve? 
  • How and how often will I be billed? 
  • Who will actually be handling my case? (Some lawyers who advertise are not actually the attorney that will be handling your case when you walk through the door. Make sure the attorney you meet with is the one who will be working on your case.) 
Listen carefully, take notes, and write down any information you receive. Make sure this lawyer is a member of your state bar association. Check for peer reviews and client feedback on law review websites like Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo.

6. Make sure you’re comfortable

How was your experience during your first visit to the attorney’s office? Were you treated well? Did you feel comfortable? Was the attorney professional? Did he or she put you at ease? Above all else, you should feel like you can trust your attorney to protect your interests. Finding someone that you feel comfortable with is essential to having a successful attorney-client relationship.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dangers of "Write your Own Will" Software

We have all seen the ads for websites and software that offer to help you write your own "simple will" for a low flat rate. A tough economy has pushed many to use these types of programs to draft their own important legal documents, rather than using an experienced legal professional. Consumer Reports recently published a report where they test 3 software products claiming to help you write your own will. What they found was that all of the three products tested had major issues, and that none are very likely to meet your individual needs. Some of the major areas of concern included:

  1. They had outdated information
  2. They don't allow for sufficient customization, and rarely refer to specific state estate law in any detail
  3. They were not flexible in certain areas, with some arbitrary age or time limits
  4. They were too flexible in other areas, allowing you to completely contradict your will after it's completion
  5. They left out many popular options for estate plans like special-needs trusts, pet trusts, or domestic partnerships
  6. They didn't address tax issues
The biggest concern for most seems to be that as a layman you can't be sure what is missing in the finished product; a scary proposition in such an important document. As the New York Times said in their article finding many of the same pitfalls, you "don't know what you don't know." So, while it may seem these types of programs are an inexpensive alternative to having a lawyer draft your estate planning documents, you should think twice before putting such an important aspect of your family's financial planning in the hands of these programs, leaving you to simply hope that the finished product covers all you wanted it to. 

Our office is happy to offer free estate planning consultations, where a trained and experienced estate planning attorney will sit with you to discuss your specific needs and ensure that you have an estate plan that does exactly what you want it to do. If you're considering drafting your own estate plan, or if you already have drafted an estate plan and you would like our attorneys to review it, please contact our office today and set up your consultation. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Citrus Springs Man Dies After Domestic Disturbance

A domestic disturbance on Sunday left a man dead and his stepson hospitalized with stab wounds. The Citrus County Sheriff's Office was called to a domestic disturbance at a Citrus Springs home just after 4pm on Sunday. When deputies arrived, they found 69 year old Harold Gene Brown deceased with multiple knife wounds. Michael Staton, Brown's 56 year old stepson had also suffered stab wounds, which required he be airlifted to Tampa General Hospital based on reports by the Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office reports that Brown's wife was also at the home, though investigators did not say who they believe to have stabbed whom. A homicide investigation is currently under way.

For a full report on the incident, see the Tampa Bay Times.

Attorney Adam Czaya Elected Secretary for Citrus County Bar Association

Associate Attorney Adam A. Czaya
         The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor, P.A. is proud to announce the election of our Associate Attorney, Adam A. Czaya, to the Secretary position for the Citrus County Bar Association. The Citrus County Bar Association is an organization for lawyers, judges, and members of the legal field in Citrus County which promotes attorney professionalism and the administration of justice. Active in Citrus County since 1969, the Citrus County Bar Association provides local legal professionals with opportunities for community involvement through scholarships, community outreach, and public awareness programs.
          The Association held elections at the end of June and will begin meetings for the upcoming year this month. Associate Attorney Steven D. Fichtman served as the Association's President for the past year, and will serve as Past President in an advisory role for the upcoming year. Attorney Adam Czaya is "looking forward to a great year for the C.C.B.A. and a lot of exciting changes and new opportunities for the club and it's members to become involved in the community." All the attorneys at The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor are continuously looking for ways to be more involved in their community here in Citrus County. For more information on how we get involved, visit our website. For more information on the Citrus County Bar Association, visit their blog or facebook page.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Supporting Local Small Businesses

The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor, like many of the businesses operating in and around Citrus County, is a small local business. We also have the privilege of working with other local small business owners in our community, helping them set up their corporations or manage their businesses' legal issues.

We encourage you to look to local small businesses for your products and services, rather than using large chain stores and mass market companies. The benefits of shopping locally are tremendous: It helps keep money here in our community, building a stronger and better place to live and raise a family; It provides more jobs for our neighbors, as small businesses employ half of all private sector employees and generated 65% of new jobs in the last 15 years. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration); It allows small business owners to reinvest in this community; and it is convenient and earth-friendly, saving the time and resources of traveling outside our county for the same goods and services.

When we face tough economic times, it benefits us all to spend our hard-earned money where it will do the most good for our community. By shopping with our own neighbors, we can help build a stronger future for Citrus County and its residents.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stop Hunger Now - Crystal River Charity Event to Feed Children

Saturday, February 25th at 8:30 am, local organizations like the Rotary Clubs and Citrus-Hernando Inn of Court, along with local volunteers, will gather in the Crystal River High School Cafeteria to participate in a Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event.

The volunteers, which are expected to exceed 150 in number, will work together to package filling, nutrient-rich meals which will be sent to under-nourished school children around the world. Last year's event, chaired by Attorney Keith Taylor, saw over 100,000 meals packaged which were shipped by Stop Hunger Now, an international aid organization, to schools in Vietnam. He is excited to have the same level of success this year.

If you would like to get involved by volunteering your time, please contact our office and speak to Angela. The whole family is welcome. If you would like to donate, each meal costs only 25 cents, so even small donations can make a big difference for hungry children worldwide.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Purple Heart Ceremony to be held Saturday in Crystal River

Originally established by George Washington in 1782 as the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart is given to honor those combat-wounded men and women who have selflessly sacrificed for their country. The Purple Heart is the oldest award that is still given to members of the U.S. military. On Saturday, February 18th, members of Aaron A. Weaver Chapter 776 Military Order of the Purple Heart will honor the legacy of the Purple Heart by inviting veterans and the public to their seventh annual Purple Heart Ceremony.

The Ceremony will take place at the Florida National Guard River Armory in Crystal River at 11:00 am. The ceremony will include a tribute to fallen heroes and wounded veterans and Patriot Riders, the Civil Air Patrol, the Young Marines and some JROTC units will participate. There will also be a mural on display which honors 300 Floridians who have sacrificed their lives during the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns with both their engraved names, and color portraits.

During the ceremony, a wreath will be placed to honor these eight Citrus County soldiers who have died in Action.
  • Cpl. Johnathan Taylor, U.S. Marines
  • Pfc. Michael Mahr, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Jonathan Peney, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Dennis J. Boles, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan, U.S. Army
  • Cpl. Stanley J. Lapinski, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Robert A. Surber, U.S. Army
  • Chief Warrant Officer Aaron A. Weaver, U.S. Army
If you would like any more information on the Purple Heart Ceremony, visit www.citruspurpleheart.org or call 352-382-3847.

We would like to salute the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed so much for our nation. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Impact of Foreclosure During Divorce

By: Steven D. Fichtman

As the economy worsens and housing markets continue to decline, many people have made the decision to allow their homes to go into foreclosure and to "walk away" from their mortgages. Some even continue to live in the home without payment as their foreclosure case moves forward.

In a divorce case, an issue can arise when only one spouse wishes to "walk away" or stop paying the mortgage. The other spouse may not agree for a number of reasons, including not wanting to risk a foreclosure on his or her credit, not wanting to risk losing the marital home and wanting to preserve marital assets.

Under Florida law, the parties have a joint obligation to maintain the asset, despite the wishes of one party to “walk away”. Therefore, a Judge can force the parties to continue to make the monthly mortgage payments and make both parties responsible for the mortgage. A Judge can also force each party to pay their share (or the full amount) of the mortgage each month until the divorce is final and it is decided what would happen with the marital home.

While the facts of every case are different, the important thing to know is that the parties have an obligation to remain current and responsible on marital expenses and responsibilities, including the martial home.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We Now Offer Florida Probate Services!

At The Law Office of Keith Taylor, we are constantly growing and expanding to meet the needs of our clients and our community. To help offer even more inclusive legal services, we now proudly provide Florida probate services!

Probate is the legal process that involves administering and distributing a person’s estate after their death either under their Last Will and Testament, or through the State of Florida’s statutes if there is no Will.

This process might include interpreting the wishes set out in a Last Will and Testament, paying debts to creditors, or distributing assets to beneficiaries or legal heirs.

It can be a complicated, frustrating, and time-consuming process, especially when the person trying to handle all this has recently lost their loved one. Often, to avoid the frustration of dealing with these issues alone, individuals look to an experienced and dedicated probate attorney to handle these issues for them.

Our attorneys work closely with the personal representative of the estate, step-by-step, to ensure that the estate is distributed and administered efficiently and effectively.

If you have recently lost a loved one and are trying to deal with the complicated probate process on your own, call our office and let our dedicated team of professionals help you. If you would like more information on the services we offer, you can visit our website, contact our office, or email Attorney Czaya at Adam@KeithTaylorLaw.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If I don't have a Will, will the State get all my property?

By: Adam A. Czaya

Another question frequently posed by clients is what happens to their property if they don’t have a will at the time of their death. Many think that the property automatically goes to the state, while others believe the property will pass completely to their spouse. The short answer is that it depends on your family structure. 

A person who dies without a will dies intestate. This means that your property will pass according to the state’s intestate statutes (§§ 732.101-732.111). While it is not common for property to pass to the state, or escheat as it is called, this can sometimes happen.

In Florida, an individual’s estate can escheat to the state when a person dies leaving an estate without being survived by any person entitled to a part of it (F.S. § 732.107(1)). However, before your estate escheats to the State of Florida, there are a long list of individuals who may inherit the estate according to Chapter 732 of Florida’s intestate statutes, which can be found on the Florida legislature’s website, including children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, among others.

If the estate does escheat to the State of Florida, the state will then sell the property and give the proceeds to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, who will then deposit the proceeds of the sale in the State School Fund. Even after the funds are deposited with the CFO, heirs of the intestate estate have ten years to reopen the administration and prove they are entitled to the proceeds.

Of course, if you wish to avoid this sometimes complex distribution scheme that the State of Florida has written for you, you can always write your own Last Will and Testament, which will distribute your estate according to your own wishes.

If you wish to create your will or simply to get more information about your estate planning options, please feel free to contact our office and set up a free consultation.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Do I need a Living Will?

If you’re not sure how to answer that question, you should head over to our website to check out our latest edition of The People’s Law School. You might be familiar with the series of web-seminar videos, The People’s Law School, which The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor offers to help you understand and handle your own legal issues without an attorney. For this latest edition, we asked our Facebook friends what they wanted to know, and we were excited about all the feedback. Based on those votes, we are proud to offer this installment as the first of a multi-part series on Basic Estate Planning.

In the short video, Attorney Keith Taylor explains the Living Will. He helps you understand what it is, what it should look like, and whether or not you should have one. You can see this edition and all previous editions of The People’s Law School on our web-site by visiting www.KeithTaylorLaw.com/People’sLawSchool.htm.

There are plenty of forms out there to make your own Living Will (we have one on our website –It’s free!), but if you would feel more comfortable using a lawyer to prepare this important document, or if you are looking to update your entire estate plan, including your Last Will and Testament, and would like the help of a team of experienced attorneys, contact our office to schedule your consultation. We are happy to help.

If you would like to give us your feedback on what People’s Law School topics would be most useful for you, visit our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/keithtaylorlaw and let us know, or send us an email.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Law in the News: McDonald's Hot Coffee Case

The Law in the News is an ongoing series where the lawyers of The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor offer their perspective on the legal cases and topics that are making headlines.

We are quickly approaching 20 years since a woman by the name of Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee that spawned a flood of bad press for the legal profession and the justice system. The $2.9 million verdict has made this case the poster child for a legal system gone wrong. Unfortunately those who have so successfully engrained this case in the minds of millions of Americans have a bad habit of leaving out some important details – details that might cause you to reconsider your opinion of the verdict.

While descriptions of the facts of this case often sounds something like, “a lady took the lid off her coffee, stuck it in her lap, it spilled, she got millions,” that tends to leave out some important parts that you may or may not know. What is often not shared is that McDonald’s knew that their coffee was dangerously hot (McDonald’s required franchises to serve it between 180 and 190°). They had been sued for very similar claims to this one before. They kept the coffee too hot because they thought it looked better (because of all the appetizing steam it created). We also don’t hear much about the very severe injuries that Ms. Liebeck had as a result of the spill. She sustained third degree burns to her legs and pelvis after seconds of exposure to the accidental spill (liquid at that temperature causes third degree burns in 2-7 seconds). Her injuries caused her to have skin grafts and spend eight days in the hospital undergoing emergency treatment. During her hospital stay she lost an extreme amount of weight, reducing her to only 83 pounds. After her skin grafts and discharge from emergency care she still had to undergo another two years of medical treatment for her injuries.

Another detail that is often left out is that Ms. Liebeck tried to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000.00, less than one percent of the jury verdict, to cover the costs of her medical treatments. McDonald’s offered her $800.00. When she tried to settle with the company two more times before trial, they refused. We also don’t hear about the parties actually reaching a confidential settlement after the fact (which means Ms. Liebeck did not get $2.9 million out of this, or even a quarter of that amount). Another thing to remember is that the bulk of the jury verdict in this case was punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish someone for something they did wrong with the idea that it will deter future wrongdoing. The idea behind the high punitive damages in this case was that an amount less than $2.7 million (the approximate amount of the jury verdict that was punitive in nature) would not punish McDonald’s because that amount would be covered by about one or two day’s worth of McDonalds’ profits from coffee sales alone.

From a line in a Toby Keith song to a film, “Hot Coffee,” which was featured at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, it seems we are all still fascinated with this little cup of coffee. Hopefully, with a different perspective on the case, we can make a more balanced judgment about the outcome of the case and the reasonableness of the verdict, and recognize how the actions of those in the legal profession can often be misrepresented by the media and the public.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why is it called a Last Will and Testament?

By: Adam A. Czaya, Esq.

This is a question often posed to us by our estate planning clients and an interesting bit of legal trivia. Historically, a document called a “will” disposed of a testator’s real property, while a “testament” disposed of his personal property. They were often combined into single a document called a “Will and Testament” to dispose of both types of property more efficiently.

Today, we often refer to the single document as a “Last Will and Testament,” although that title assumes that the document is the final statement of the testator’s estate planning wishes, which isn’t always the case. To avoid this potential misstatement, some estate planning lawyers will simply title the document “John Smith’s Will,” or “The Will of John Smith,” as the term “will” has evolved to encompass the historical meanings of the legal terms “will” and “testament” in both colloquial and legal language. However, many lawyers, perhaps wishing to preserve a bit of the history associated with the document, retain the title “Last Will and Testament,” since either title is legally effective.

If you would like to create or update your last will and testament, please feel free to contact our office and schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.