BYLAWS OF THE REAL PROPERTY, PROBATE AND TRUST LAW SECTION
NAME AND PURPOSE
Section 1. Name. The name of this section is “The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar” (“section”).
Section 2. Purpose. The purposes of the section are to:
(a) provide an organization within The Florida Bar open to persons having an interest in real property (including construction), probate, trust, or related fields of law, that furthers the knowledge and practices of members in those areas;
(b) inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public; and
(c) serve the public and its members by improving the administration of justice and advancing jurisprudence in the fields of real property (including construction), probate, trust, and related fields of law, through all appropriate means, including the development and implementation of legislative, administrative, and judicial positions; continuing legal education programs; standards for ethical and competent practice by lawyers; and professional relationships between real property (including construction), probate, and trust lawyers, and other lawyer and nonlawyer groups.
Section 1. Membership Types. The membership of the section is the active members (“active section member”), affiliate members (“affiliate section member”), and honorary members (“honorary section member”).
(a) Active Section Member. Any member of The Florida Bar in good standing may become an active section member by applying for membership and paying the section's annual dues. Any person who is an active section member who ceases to be a member of The Florida Bar in good standing also ceases to be a member of the section. Reinstatement as a member of The Florida Bar in good standing automatically reinstates the person as an active section member, provided that the member is current in the payment of section dues.
(b) Affiliate Section Member. The Executive Council of the section (“executive council”) may, in its discretion (after review and approval of the applicant's qualifications for membership), enroll as an affiliate section member, any person who has shown the dual capacity of interest in and contribution to the section's activities and who is either a law student enrolled in an accredited law school, a graduate of any accredited law school, or a legal assistant, as defined below. Affiliate section members pay the annual dues prescribed by the executive council and have all the privileges of active section members, except that they may not vote or hold any office or position in
the section. The number of affiliate section members may not exceed 1/3 of the number of active section members.
For purposes of this Article, a legal assistant is a person who assists a member of The Florida Bar in the delivery of legal services in the area of real property (including construction), probate, trust, or related fields of law, and who has satisfied the following minimum requirements:
(1) successful completion of the certified legal assistant (CLA) examination of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc.;
(2) graduation from an ABA-approved program of study for legal assistants or graduation from any accredited law school;
(3) graduation from a course of study for legal assistants which is institutionally accredited, but not ABA-approved, and which requires not less than the equivalent of 60 semester hours of classroom study;
(4) graduation from a course of study for legal assistants, other than those set forth in 2 and 3, above, plus not less than 6 months of in-house training as a legal assistant;
(5) a bachelor degree in any field, plus not less than 1 year of in-house training as a legal assistant; or
(6) five years of in-house training as a legal assistant.
(c) Honorary Section Member. The executive council may only make an honorary section member of any person whom the executive council finds to have made outstanding contributions in the fields of real property (including construction), probate, trust, or related fields of law. An honorary section member has no vote at section meetings, is not be entitled to hold any office or position in the section, and is not required to pay dues.
Section 2. Membership Year. The membership year of the section runs concurrently with the membership year of The Florida Bar.
Section 3. Dues. The executive council establishes the amount of annual section dues for each type of section membership, subject to approval by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar (“board of governors”). Annual section dues are payable in advance of each year of section membership. There is no proration of annual section dues.
(a) The Florida Bar bills active members of the section for annual section dues simultaneously with billing for regular membership dues of The Florida Bar. Members of The Florida Bar who become active section members are not be required to pay annual section dues for the first fiscal year following their admission to The Florida Bar.
(b) Annual section dues for affiliate members of the section shall initially accompany applications for affiliate section membership and must be paid by the date that membership dues for The Florida Bar become due.
(c) Any member of the section whose annual section dues are not paid by the date Florida Bar membership dues become delinquent ceases to be a member of the section.
Section 4. Membership Standards. All members of the section are required to observe the standards of professionalism and ethical conduct expected of members of The Florida Bar, and legal assistants who are affiliate section members are also required to observe and adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility established by the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. The executive council, by 2/3 vote of the members present and voting at a meeting, may terminate section membership for misconduct involving moral turpitude or the failure to observe the standards of conduct established by these bylaws. Any proposed termination of section membership by the executive council is an agenda item at an in-state meeting, and the affected member must be given reasonable notice of the basis for the proposed termination and an opportunity to be heard at that meeting.
The section is divided into 2 divisions, "the real property law division" and "the probate and trust law division." The section and its real property law division are served by committees and section liaisons that operate under the supervision of the real property law division director. The section and its probate and trust law division are served by committees and section liaisons that operate under the supervision of the probate and trust law division director. The section also is served by general standing committees and section liaisons that operate under the supervision of the chair-elect.
OFFICERS, ELECTED POSITIONS, AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Section 1. Officers. The officers of the section are the section chair, the chair-elect, the secretary, the treasurer, the real property law division director, the probate and trust law division director, the immediate past section chair, and the at-large members director (“section officers”). The section officers, the representatives for out-of-state members of the section, and the at-large members, are selected in the manner set forth in this article.
Section 2. Qualifications. No person may serve as a section officer or in a position as representative for out-of-state members or at-large members unless the person is an active section member. Loss of active section member status causes that office or position to be vacant. Status as an active section member may cease because of a loss of status as a member of The Florida Bar in good standing that is solely attributable to a delinquency in:
(a) the payment of membership fees or dues; or
(b) completing continuing legal education requirements,
Reinstatement as a member of The Florida Bar in good standing and as an active section member automatically reinstates the member to the vacant office or position if it has not been filled if the person’s status as an active section member ceases solely because of a Florida Bar member’s delinquency in payment of Florida Bar membership fees or violation of continuing legal education requirements.
Section 3. Executive Committee. The section officers, together with the chairs of the section CLE seminar coordination committee and legislation committee, will serve as the executive committee of the section (“executive committee”), which is the planning agency for the executive council. In the event that the section CLE seminar coordination committee and/or the section legislation committee have a co-chair for the real property law division and a co-chair for the probate and trust law division, each co-chair is a member of the executive committee and entitled to one vote. The executive committee also has the full power and authority to exercise the function of the executive council when and to the extent authorized by the executive council with respect to a specific matter, and on any other matter which the executive committee reasonably determines requires action between meetings of the executive council. All action taken by the executive committee on behalf of the executive council must be reported to the executive council at its next meeting. The executive committee must not take any action that conflicts with the policies and expressed wishes of the executive council. The executive committee also:
(a) recommends to the chair-elect appointments for chairs and vice chairs of section committees and section liaisons;
(b) recommends to the section’s long-range planning committee (“long-range planning committee”) nominees for at-large members; and
(c) performs such other duties as directed by the executive council or prescribed in these bylaws.
Section 4. Nominating Procedure.
(a) The long-range planning committee consists of all past section chairs who are members of the executive council, is chaired by the chair-elect, and submits nominees to the section for election to the offices of chair-elect, secretary, real property law division director, probate and trust law division director, treasurer, at-large members director, and the positions of representatives for out-of-state members and at-large members. If the office of chair-elect becomes vacant during the year, the nominations submitted by the long-range planning committee for the following year must include a nominee for the office of section chair. The long-range planning committee must notify the members of the section of the names of the nominees no later than 60 days prior to the section’s annual meeting (“election meeting”). In submitting nominations for at-large members, the long-range planning committee considers recommendations from the at-large members’ director and the executive committee.
(b) No nominations for any elected office or position other than those made by the long-range planning committee will be permitted, except that nominations may be made by a written nominating petition signed by 25 or more active section members and submitted to the section chair not less than 30 days prior to the election meeting. If
more than one person is nominated for any elected office or position, the section chair, assisted by any special committees appointed by the section chair, will determine the procedures to be followed for that election.
(c) Each nominee will be permitted to prepare a statement of no more than 500 words, to be reproduced and distributed by the section to its members, either as an article in the section's publication, Action Line, or separately. Any statement will also be distributed at the election meeting.
Section 5. Election and Term of Offices and Positions.
(a) The section officers, the representatives for out-of-state members, and the at-large members, are elected by majority vote of the active section members in physical attendance and voting at the election meeting held prior to July 1 of each year. Voting by proxy is not permitted. At the election meeting the section chair, chair-elect, and secretary determine the number of active section members in physical attendance and voting. Voting is by written, secret ballot prepared in advance. If no nominee receives a majority vote for an office or position, additional balloting will take place between the 2 nominees receiving the greatest number of votes until the required majority is obtained. Results of the election will be immediately announced by the section chair.
(b) The nominees elected serve for a period of 1 year, beginning on July 1. The chair-elect automatically becomes section chair on expiration of the term as chair-elect or on the death, resignation, or removal of the section chair.
Section 6. Duties of Officers.
(a) Section Chair. The section chair is the chief executive officer and principal representative of the section, and presides at all meetings of the section, the executive council, and the executive committee. The section chair also is responsible for reports to The Florida Bar or the board of governors and for performing other duties prescribed in these bylaws or which customarily pertain to the office of section chair. The section chair is an ex-officio member of all section committees.
(b) Chair-elect. The chair-elect is be responsible for:
(1) the general standing committees and any projects assigned to them, including the preparation and submission of any required reports;
(2) duties designated by the section chair, the executive council, or the executive committee; and
(3) other duties as prescribed in these bylaws or that customarily pertain to the office of chair-elect. The chair-elect shall serve as acting section chair in case of temporary disability or absence of the section chair, but only for the duration of the section chair’s disability or absence. Any issue concerning the disability or absence of the section chair is determined by the executive committee, subject to review by the executive council.
(c) Secretary. The secretary takes and records:
(1) minutes of meetings of the executive council (including record of attendance);
(2) significant actions taken by the executive committee, including all actions which exercise any function of the executive council; and
(3) the election results at the election meeting. The secretary files all of those records with the permanent records of the section at The Florida Bar headquarters in Tallahassee. The secretary also reports and keeps a record of all policies adopted by the section as a separate record.
(d) Division Directors. The real property law division director and the probate and trust law division director are responsible for the section committees within their respective divisions, and for the projects assigned to them, including the preparation and submission of any required reports of such section committees.
(e) Treasurer. The treasurer and the appropriate staff of The Florida Bar makes certain that the financial affairs of the section are administered in a manner authorized by the section’s budget and in accordance with the standing policies of the board of governors. The treasurer monitors and reviews for correctness all accounts, reports and other documents pertaining to section funds, revenues and expenditures that are furnished by the staff of The Florida Bar. No reimbursement may be made to any member of the section without approval of the treasurer, and any reimbursement to the treasurer must be approved by the section chair or chair-elect. The treasurer:
(1) works with the chair-elect to prepare and submit a projected budget to the executive council;
(2) reports from time to time on the section's present and projected financial condition, advising the executive committee and the executive council as to the financial impact of any proposed action that might have a significant impact on the financial condition of the section; and
(3) prepares other recommendations and special reports of financial affairs of the section as requested by the section chair.
(f) At-large members Director. The at-large members director:
(1) defines any responsibilities of the at-large members in consultation with the executive committee;
(2) is responsible to the section for the at-large members;
(3) evaluates the performance of the at-large members on an annual basis; and
(4) recommends nominees to the long-range planning committee for at-large members.
(g) Immediate Past Section Chair. The immediate past section chair provides counsel, guidance and advice to the executive committee.
Section 7. Vacancies.
(a) If the office of section chair becomes vacant, the chair-elect immediately assumes the office of section chair, and serves as section chair for the remainder of the unexpired term, as well as for the following term for which the chair-elect was elected to serve as section chair.
(b) If the office of chair-elect becomes vacant, the section chair assumes the duties of the office of chair-elect for the remainder of the unexpired term. In that event, at the next election meeting, a section chair must be nominated and elected in the manner provided in these bylaws.
(c) If the offices of section chair and chair-elect both become vacant, the long-range planning committee must convene an emergency meeting and select a qualified person to serve as section chair for the remainder of the unexpired term. In that event, the person selected as section chair shall also assume the duties of the office of chair-elect for the remainder of the unexpired term and, at the next election meeting, a section chair shall be nominated and elected in the manner provided in these bylaws.
(d) If any office other than section chair or chair-elect becomes vacant within 6 weeks of the next scheduled in-state meeting of the executive council, the executive council at that meeting selects a section member to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term. If no in-state meeting is scheduled within 6 weeks following the creation of a vacancy, the executive committee selects a section member to fill the vacancy.
(e) Vacancies in the positions of representative for out-of-state members and at-large members are filled by the section chair.
Section 1. Power and Duties. The executive council is the governing body of the section and has the power and duty to fully administer these bylaws, including the power to exercise all authority expressed or implied in these bylaws and to employ necessary personnel on behalf of the section.
Section 2. Membership. The executive council consists of the section chair, the chair-elect, the real property law division director, the probate and trust law division director, the treasurer, the secretary, the at-large members director, the chairs and vice chairs of section committees, the section liaisons, the member of the board of governors appointed as its liaison representative to the section, the at-large members, the past section chairs, and the representatives for out-of-state members of the section.
Section 3. At-large members and Regional Representation. The existence of the at-large members category is intended to help the section achieve the goal of maintaining active, productive members on the executive council, while preserving regional representation. To be considered for such a position, a prospective at-large-member must demonstrate the willingness and ability, through previous committee leadership or otherwise, to assist the section with its needs. To the extent that the section officers, chairs and vice chairs of section committees, section liaisons, and representatives for out-of-state members of the section serving on the executive council do not include geographical representation from each judicial circuit and outside of Florida, the at-large members should include such representation when reasonably practicable.
Section 4. Attendance. Regular attendance by executive council members at executive council meetings is requisite to the proper performance of their duties and responsibilities. Accordingly, if any past section chair is absent from 10 consecutive in-state executive council meetings, or if any other member of the executive council is absent from 3 consecutive in-state executive council meetings in any membership year, the member is deemed to have resigned from the executive council, and any section office or position held by that person is deemed vacant. The resigned member is not be eligible for election to or membership on the executive council for the next succeeding membership year unless: (i) the executive committee, on a showing of good cause for the absences, waives the attendance requirement for the membership year involved; and (ii) the waiver is announced at a formal meeting of the executive council and duly recorded in the minutes of the meeting. Any vacancy created by the absence of a member as provided here is filled as provided in these bylaws.
SECTION COMMITTEES AND LIAISONS
Section 1. Committees. The section chair has the authority to establish and dissolve committees and liaison positions as the section chair deems necessary or advisable, except for the section legislation committee and the CLE seminar coordination committee. The section chair promptly reports such changes to the executive council, and they are effective until and unless disapproved by the executive council.
Section 2. Section Committee Chairs and Liaisons. Prior to July 1 of each year, after considering the recommendations of the executive committee, the chair-elect makes the following appointments for the coming year:
(a) chairs and vice chairs of the section’s real property law division committees;
(b) chairs and vice chairs of the section’s probate and trust law division committees;
(c) chairs and vice chairs of the section’s general standing committees; and,
(d) section liaisons to other sections and groups.
The section chair has the power to remove chairs and vice chairs of section committees and section liaisons if the section chair believes that it is in the best interest of the section to do
so and to fill vacancies in those positions (including vacancies resulting from the section chair’s creation of new section committees or liaison positions). As used in these bylaws in reference to section committees, the term “chair” includes co-chairs.
Section 3. Committee Members. The chair of each section committee may appoint and remove members to and from that committee, except that a committee chair may not remove a vice chair of the committee.
Section 4. Section Membership Requirement. No person except an active section member may serve as a:
(a) member of any section committee;
(b) chair, vice chair, or voting member of any section committee; or
(c) section liaison.
Reinstatement as a member of The Florida Bar in good standing and as an active section member automatically reinstates the member to the vacant position if the person’s status as an active section member ceases solely because of a Florida Bar member’s delinquency in payment of Florida Bar membership fees or violation of continuing legal education requirements, but only if the term of the position has not ended, and if the position has not been filled.
Section 5. Committee Reports. The chair of each section committee must submit a written annual report of the committee's activities during the year to the executive committee by the date requested by the section chair.
Section 1. Annual/Election Meeting of the Section. The section chair designates the annual meeting of the section each year, which is the election meeting and will be held prior to July 1. The executive council may call special meetings of the section only after 30 days’ notice is given to all section members. The active section members in physical attendance at any meeting of the section constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business and a majority vote of those in physical attendance and voting is binding. Voting by proxy is not permitted.
Section 2. Executive Council Meetings. There are no fewer than 3 in-state meetings of the executive council each year. The executive council may act or transact business authorized by these bylaws, without meeting, by written or electronic approval of the majority of its members. The section chair may call meetings of the executive council by giving no less than 15 days notice to its members. Those present at a meeting of the executive council duly called will constitute a quorum and a majority vote of those present and voting is binding, unless a greater majority is required by these bylaws for a particular matter. Voting by proxy is not permitted.
Section 3. Executive Committee Meetings. The executive committee meets as directed by the section chair, and holds an organizational meeting prior to each membership year at a time, date, and place selected by the section chair. The section chair fixes the date and location of each meeting and must give written, electronic, or oral notice of its date and location to each executive committee member at least 7 days prior to the meeting. A majority of the executive committee may exercise its powers unless a greater majority is required by these bylaws for a particular matter. The executive committee may take action by mail, e-mail, telephone or other means without a formal meeting. Voting by proxy is not be permitted.
Section 4. Conduct of Meetings. The current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised governs the conduct of all meetings of the section and its subdivisions, except that provisions contained in these bylaws prevails over any conflicting provision in those rules. The section chair may appoint a parliamentarian to advise and assist the section chair or any other person presiding over a meeting of the section or any of its subdivisions in connection with any procedural issues that may arise. Non-members of the executive council may address the executive council with the permission of the section chair or upon 2/3 vote of the members of the executive council present and voting without debate.
LEGISLATIVE, ADMINISTRATIVE, AND JUDICIAL POSITIONS
Section 1. Authority. The section may be involved in legislative, administrative, and judicial, including amicus curiae and court rule, activities that are within the purview of the section. Activities are within the purview of the section if they are significant to the judiciary, the administration of justice, the fundamental legal rights of the public, or the interests of the section, provided they are consistent with the purposes of the section and the policies promulgated by the board of governors, including the requirements that:
(a) the issue involved is within the substantive areas of real property (including construction), probate, trust, or related fields of law;
(b) the issue is beyond the scope of permissible legislative activity of The Florida Bar, or is within the permissible scope of legislative activity of The Florida Bar, but the proposed section position is not inconsistent with an official position of The Florida Bar on that issue; and
(c) the issue is not one that carries the potential of deep philosophical or emotional division among a substantial segment of the membership of The Florida Bar.
Section 2. Section Positions. A “section position” is a legislative, administrative, or judicial (including amicus curiae and court rule) position that complies with Section 1 of this article and has been adopted by the section in accordance with this article. A section position, which may be expressed as a concept, may either support or oppose a matter. Any advocacy by the section must be based on a section position and comply with the requirements of this article.
Section 3. Legislation Committee. The section legislation committee consists of a co-chair for real property and a co-chair for probate and trust; a vice chair for real property; a
vice chair for probate and trust; the section chair; the chair-elect; the director of the real property law division; the director of the probate and trust law division; and other members of the executive council appointed by the chair of the section legislation committee with the approval of the section chair. The section legislation committee coordinates the legislative activities of the section and acts as a liaison between: (i) the executive council or its executive committee; and (ii) the section lobbyist and legislative and administrative bodies.
Section 4. Procedures for Adopting and Reporting Section Positions.
(a) A proposed section position must be placed on the agenda and supporting documentation distributed to the executive council at least one week prior to the executive council meeting unless those requirements are waived by 2/3 of the members of the executive council present and voting at that meeting.
(b) A section position may be proposed by a section committee.
(c) To adopt a section position, the executive council must, by a 2/3 vote of the members present and voting: (i) find that the proposal is within the purview of the section, as defined in Section 1 of this article; and (ii) approve the proposal. Voting by proxy is not permitted. If the executive council cannot meet to adopt a section position prior to the time when legislative, administrative, or judicial action is required, the executive committee may by a 2/3 vote of its members present and voting adopt a section position. Any section position adopted by the executive committee must be reported to the executive council at its next meeting.
(d) Written notice of the adoption of a section position is promptly given to The Florida Bar, and circulated for comment to all divisions, sections, and committees of The Florida Bar that are believed to be interested in the matter.
(e) A section position may not be advanced unless it has been submitted to, and not disapproved by, the board of governors. A section position remains in force for the current biennial legislative session unless rescinded by the board of governors.
(f) In even-numbered years, the section legislation committee recommends those section positions to be renewed at the executive council meeting held in conjunction with the election meeting of the section.
(g) The section may not participate as an amicus curiae without the consent of the board of governors.
(h) Section positions must be clearly identified as positions of the section, and not those of The Florida Bar.
Section 5. Expenses Incurred in Advancing Section Positions. If the section lobbyist or section chair requests the appearance of a section member to advance a section position, the section may pay the member’s reasonable expenses in accordance with its budgetary policies.
Section 6. Section Lobbyist. Subject to the approval of the board of governors, the section may retain a lobbyist to assist the section in its legislative activities or matters.
Section 1. Integrity of Section Proceedings - Disclosure of Conflict and Recusal. The section’s ability to effectively discharge its mission requires that the procedures it uses and the positions that it adopts are principled and not motivated by personal or professional gain. The section seeks to encourage the input of a wide range of views in order to understand the actual and potential consequences of each of its decisions. All members are welcome to present their views within the debates of the executive council and its committees. However, a member of the executive council or any section committee may not vote on a section matter if circumstances exist that may reasonably be expected to cause that vote to undermine confidence in the integrity of the section, executive council, or section committee. Where any fact or circumstance exists that may reasonably bring an accusation of bias, prejudice, or conflict of interest on the part of a member while participating in a section matter, it is the duty and responsibility of any member having knowledge of the fact or circumstance to make full disclosure of the fact or circumstance to the executive council or section committee. A bias, prejudice, or conflict of interest may arise from a member’s personal interests, employment, or client relationships. When such an issue arises, the chair or other person presiding over the proceeding may request the member to voluntarily refrain from voting with respect to the matter. In addition, recusal may be ordered by 2/3 of the members of the executive council or section committee who are present and voting. On recusal, the member may not vote in proceedings concerning the matter. If recusal should have occurred but did not, the validity of its actions will not be adversely affected.
Section 2. Action of The Florida Bar. No action of the section may be represented or construed as the action of The Florida Bar until it has been approved by The Florida Bar.
Section 3. Compensation and Expenses. No salary or other compensation may be paid to any member of the section for performance of services to the section, but members of the section may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary telephone expenses, reproduction expenses and other similar out-of-pocket expenses that the member incurs in the performance of services for the section.
Section 4. Policies of the Section. Policies adopted by the executive council, including section policies, are maintained in a separate journal at The Florida Bar Headquarters in Tallahassee, Florida together with the other official records of the section.
Section 5. Amendments. These bylaws may be amended only with the consent of the board of governors on recommendation made by the executive council.
Section 6. Notice. Any requirement in these bylaws that notice (whether written or otherwise), information, or materials be furnished may be satisfied by:
(a) any method of delivery specified in the requirement;
(b) transmitting the notice, information or materials by e-mail to any e-mail address provided by the recipient to The Florida Bar; or
(c) posting the notice, information, or materials to the section’s website and notifying the member of the posting by e-mail to any e-mail address provided by the recipient to The Florida Bar.
Section 7. Effective Date. These bylaws are effective on their adoption by the executive council, or upon their approval by the board of governors, whichever occurs later.