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Talking with Jesse Diner, President of the Florida Bar

Fort Lauderdale attorney Jesse Diner wants electronic filing across the court system, better funding for the judiciary and more protections for kids who are going through the legal system.

That's Diner's platform for his year-long presidency of the Florida Bar, which started about a month ago when he was sworn in as the 61st president of the association.

In the past month, Diner has become the chief executive officer, spokesman and the man responsible for committee appointments for the Florida Bar. He's also trying to keep up with his practice. Many former presidents cut back slightly on their caseloads, but Diner decided not to.

“It's a very involved job,” Diner said. “I'm still practicing. I still have a very full caseload and I'm working longer hours to be able to take care of both. Because I think I need to pay attention to my clients and I also need to do what I need to do for the Bar.”

Diner, 62, has practiced in Florida since 1973 after returning from New York where he attended law school at St. John's in Queens. He partnered with Wilson Atkinson following his return to Florida and is still a shareholder in Atkinson, Diner, Stone, Mankuta and Ploucha where both his wife and stepson also practice.

Diner has been on the Bar's Board of Governors since 1996 and is also on the Board of Trustees at Gettysburg College, his alma mater. He is also past president of the Gettysburg Alumni Association.

For Diner, one of his biggest priorities is pushing for electronic filing throughout the court system. It is used sparingly now, but Diner said it could make information immediately available for courthouse employees and lawyers. Plus, it could save the state some money by cutting down on personnel costs.

“I think when a state has a financial crisis like our state does, it's something that's going to be looked at,” Diner said. “But I'm not sure it's something that can be done in a year..”

Diner hopes that the court system can also be more financially stable. The Bar engaged in a massive lobbying effort last legislative session, partnering with the business community, to promote court funding.

The courts have lost 301 positions in the past two years, mostly in support staff, which has delayed processing time for cases, judges say. And Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince released an opinion this past spring saying the judicial system needed 68 additional judges.

When it comes to the budget, Diner said the judiciary sometimes hasn't been seen as a third equal branch of government.

“In the past, it had been treated as a department or agency,” he said.

Diner said his other priorities for the upcoming year include providing assistance for lawyers who are struggling because of the economic climate. He also wants to revisit some unfinished recommendations from a 2002 Bar commission on the legal needs of children, specifically dealing with children's representation.

The next general meeting of the Florida Bar committees and sections is Sept. 9 through Sept 12 in Tampa.

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