Judge Renee Goldenberg Circuit Court Judge

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Judge Renee Goldenberg

Circuit Court Judge

Unified Family Court

Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida

Broward County Courthouse

201 S.E. 6th Street

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

(954) 831-7395

Fax (954) 831-5572


  1. February 1, 2014 Florida Bar News: 2013 Florida Bar Membership Opinion Survey mailed to 2, 812 randomly selected Bar Members and 30% of the surveys were returned.

Forty-nine percent of all respondents don’t expect the economy will improve for the legal profession “in the near future.”

In light of the current economy, 25 percent of respondents said they have considered changing careers and 14 percent have considered moving to a different field of practice.

Serious Problems

When asked about the most serious problems faced by the legal profession today (respondents could list up to three),

49 percent of all respondents said there were too many attorneys — up from 33 percent two years ago. (BROWARD IS THE SANDWICH)
Thirty-one percent citied difficult economic times, (FLORIDA IS GROUND ZERO)
26 percent listed poor public perception. (ROTHSTEIN)
Almost one quarter (24 percent) cited affordability of legal services (FAMILY LAW --NOT BY CHOICE—ONLY TIME IN COURT)
and lack of ethics/professionalism (23 percent). (LAWYER TO LAWYER STRANGER)
Still Very Satisfied

While 78 percent of respondents report that the legal profession has become less desirable as a career over the past few years,
71 percent of respondents also said they are either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their legal careers. 

Only 7 percent say they are “very unsatisfied” with their careers, down from 9 percent two years ago.

Important Issues

Garcia said 39 percent of all respondents say the oversaturation of lawyers will have the greatest impact on the profession over the next five years — up from 23 percent two years ago; (DISTINGUISH YOURSELF FROM THE PACK)

followed by technology, 14 percent;

access/affordability of legal resources, 10 percent;

competition from nonattorneys, 9 percent; lack of appropriate judicial system funding, 8 percent; the economy,

6 percent; public perception, 5 percent;

threat to judicial independence, 5 percent; and tort reform, 3 percent.

The median income for those polled was $100,000. That figure has not changed in six years. Over two-fifths — or 45 percent — of all respondents earned more than $100,000 before taxes from legal work last year,” Garcia said. 

Here’s a breakdown of median income before taxes of the respondents:

partners/shareholders, $165,000;

corporate counsel, $120,000;

sole practitioners, $95,000;

associates, $75,000;

state government attorneys, $55,000. 

Male lawyers report a higher median income ($120,000) than female lawyers ($75,000).
Garcia notes that the average years of experience for a male lawyer in this survey is 20 years, compared to 12 years of experience for the average female attorney.

II. Florida Bar Acts

Vision 2016 commission. The Vision 2016 commission will perform an in-depth review of four general areas that will impact the future practice of law in Florida:
legal education,


Bar admissions,

and delivery of legal services/pro bono.

The commission will look at the current impact, as well as the long-term challenges that the legal profession will face.

This comprehensive study will provide the foundation to “prepare today’s lawyer for tomorrow’s practice.”

Jay Cohen, Ft. Lauderdale, overall administrator
FROM PRESIDENT EUGENE PETTIS: Appointing the new Commission 2016, which, over the next three years, will perform a comprehensive study of the future practice of law. President-elect Greg Coleman will chair the technology subcommittee; Board of Governors member Ray Abadin will study the future of legal education; BoG member Lanse Scriven will chair the Bar admissions subcommittee; and former BoG member Adele Stone will lead the review of the delivery of pro bono/legal services. BoG member Jay Cohen will serve as the commission’s administrator.

  1. We Act

November 15, 2014 Bar News:

Bar President-elect Ramón Abadin spurred on the Board of Governors to debate issues the Vision 2016 Commission is tackling.

“I don’t think we have a choice anymore in how we practice law. I think that choice is being taken away from us, and it’s going to be taken away from us, if we don’t act,” Abadin said. 

November 1, 2013 Bar News:
Bar President Gene Pettis, “ . . . the true drivers of the ongoing changes in society and the legal profession in particular are technology and the Internet, and consumer’s attitudes of wanting more for less. . . .all want to get their services at a cheaper price. . .Lawyers must identify how to deliver their services more effectively, efficiently, and, more importantly, in the way the public wants to receive them.”

Bar President Elect Coleman: “In the past, clients would walk through the door wholly uneducated about issues they were consulting lawyers about. Today, a client that walks into your office has, in all likelihood, Googled just about everything having to do with their claim,” he said.
Our rules are antiquated. They were created in a much different time, and as technology is changing and evolving, we as a Bar have to keep our rules relevant to the technology that is in existence and the technology that is coming.”
He also foresees more legal work shifted to nonlawyers or performed through automation, such as the form-generation software available today.”
Jordan Furlong, lawyer, consultant, and legal industry analyst: “The dinosaurs existed for 200 million years. How did they do that? They were masters as adaptation. They evolved perfectly to fit the environment of their time. But when that environment changed very suddenly, very severely, they could not adapt fast enough. . . . .The difficulties dinosaurs encountered with the cataclysmic impact of an asteroid that dramatically altered their environment is analogous to what lawyers are currently facing.”
We are going to need to find a way to educate people about the value of human lawyers.”

Raising the Bar

April 17, 2015

The Professional Insights Gained by Over Forty Years Experience with Children and Families: What You Don’t Know in the New Practice of Florida Family Law and Once You Know It You will Wonder How You Ever Lived Without It”


Judge Renee Goldenberg

  1. Family Lawyers and Family Law at the Forefront


      1. FAMILIES AND CHILDREN LEAVE SYSTEM BETTER THAN WHEN THEY ENTERED (therapeutic jurisprudence evolution)


      3. ONE STOP SHOP

    1. CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES: Due Process and Justice for All; Public trust and confidence in Florida State Courts: second rule of three: BOUNDARIES, FORMALITY AND CLOSURE

      1. Family court may be only contact with the court system in Florida

      1. Perceptions of procedural fairness are significantly affected by the quality of treatment that the public receives during every interaction with the court.

      1. Family Court “Self Represented”: their truth and the impact on the system: emotional stages of dissolution of marriage /disability

        1. Be mindful of bias, boundaries and formality

        1. Treat all with respect, fairness and dignity

        1. Strive to be fair and accurate.

    1. Life Passage Events: emotional dissolution of marriage

(lawyer selection-hiring and firing, client selection, process and procedure, war or peace, domestic violence, settlement, courtroom entering and leaving and everything inbetween, DISCOVERY, DEFAULT, high conflict child issues (equal timesharing) and relocation, job loss, compliance and enforcement, power and control; mediation)

      1. Legal family division proceedings. The Holmes –Rahe Social Adjustment Stress Rating Scale

[Kunzweiler v. Kunzweiler, 698 So. 2d 1251 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997)(only death of a spouse is generally reported to be more stressful for adults than divorce; more stressful than going to jail, losing job, personal injury, illness, mortgage foreclosure; for even healthy personalities, divorce is severe challenge; for persons with significant pathology, stress of divorce can cause emotional crisis; divorce causes, exacerbates or unleashes host of serious psychological problems.)]

      1. Every Family is Unique: MORE COMPLEXITY

      1. Perception skews reality: telling their truth

[Nateman v. Greenbaum, 582 So. 2d 643 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991)It is recognized that a judicial officer is the sum of his past, who is expected to be influenced by real life experiences . . .Application of that experience in weighing the facts and credibility of witnesses is not inappropriate conduct in a nonjury trial . . .it is the judge’s duty, while listening and watching them, to form attitudes toward them. He must do his best to ascertain their motives, their biases, their dominating passions and interests, for only so he can judge the accuracy of their narrations. . . He must cannily penetrate through the surface of their remarks to their real purposes and motives. Impartiality is not gullibility. Disinterestedness does not make child-like innocence. If the judge did not form judgments of the actors in those court-house dramas called trials, he could never render decisions.).]

    1. FAMILY COURT DEALS IN VOLUME: Over-saturation: paralegals or self help units = Millions of Dollars

    1. EVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION: 15-20% of the population can afford lawyers: pro se or ‘self represented”

      1. Family Division

        1. 65% self represented

        2. 15% lawyer on one side

        3. 20% lawyers on both sides

        4. 80% pro se at end of case

      1. 927 pages of Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure and Florida Family Law Forms since 1992-1998 [revised and updated—713 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 1998)

      1. What ‘system” has set up, including limited representation 2001-2004

    1. Present Family Court: Expect a self represented party on approximately 50% of your cases and maybe up to 80% close to trial!

      1. Perception of Self Represented

          1. Who are they: all families are unique--rich and poor and everyone inbetween

          1. What “Self Represented” cannot do

            1. Studies:

              1. Inadequate understanding of court

              2. proceedings, decorum, law and rules of court

              3. Unprepared and unable to asset defenses

              4. Blame the court and lawyers

            1. From Personal Observations * see Appendix

              1. Cannot fill out self help forms [RG]

              2. Most common self-represented claims {RG}(See appendix)

I do not/did not understand

I never received anything

I did not know I had to do anything / I was waiting to be contacted

I did not know I had to communicate with the other side

I want to talk to the judge NOW

    1. What is wanted by population avoiding lawyers:

      1. Confidentiality

      1. Simplicity

      1. How much it will cost and when will it be done

      1. fast access and fast everything

      1. vindication and validation

    1. What is asked for most frequently by Self-represented


    1. What is wanted by lawyers with a self represented party on one side:

      1. To require representation

      1. To follow Law and Rules

      1. To get self represented party to comply

      1. To Sanction and Restrict

      1. Dismiss their case

    1. EVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION of LIBERALIZATION OF PROCEDURE with Self Represented Which Frustrates Lawyers on One Side

        1. Strict view of Self Represented:

          1. 1925: Any person, whether an attorney or not. . ., may conduct his or her own cause in any court of this state. . . subject to the lawful rules and discipline of such court. [Section 454.18, FL ST]

          2. 1975: Self represented must comply with rules [Carr v. Grace, 321 So. 2d 618 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975)]

          3. 1992: Mistake to hold a self represented party to a lesser standard than a reasonably competent attorney. [Kohn v. City of Miami Beach, 611 So. 2d 538 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992)]

        1. Liberalization Process

          1. 1993: Self represented pleadings are entitled to liberal construction and petition will not be dismissed simply because it is mislabeled. [Eichelberger v. Brueckheimer, 613 So. 2d 1372 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993]

          2. 1993: While it appears that amended complaint. . . contained lengthy narrative allegations, and voluminous and extraneous exhibits, dismissal is the ultimate sanction in the adversarial system and should be reserved for those aggravating circumstances in which a lesser sanction would fail to achieve a just result. [Kozel v. Ostendorf, 629 So. 2d 817 (Fla. 1993)]

          3. 1994: No strike pleadings unless noncompliance with discovery extreme. [Neal v. Neal, 636 So. 2d 810 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)]

          4. 1995: Litigant’s right to access to the courts may be restricted upon a showing of egregious abuse of the legal system. Attwood v. Singletary, 661 So. 2d 1216 (Fla. 1995)]

        1. Self Represented Party and Liberality: lawyer can rescue

          1. 1996: Self represented letter to be read as whole and construed liberally as a pleading. [(Maritinez v. Fraxedas, 678 So. 2d 489 (Fla. 3d DC 1996)]

          2. 1999: Vacate default where respondent thought his counsel had been simultaneously served with petition. [Apple Premium Finance v. Teachers Ins., 727 So. 2d 1089)]

          3. 1999: Finding requirement: “contain an express finding of deliberate and contumacious disregard of the court’s authority.” [Spencer v. State, 751 So. 2d 47 (Fla. 1999).]

          4. 2004: Relief from judgment on colorable claim. [Chancey v. Chancey, 880 So. 2d 1281 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004).]

          5. 2004: Set aside default, general rules 1.540 insufficient where child’s wellbeing is at issue; court must receive testimony and evidence from both parents. [Causin v. Leal, 881 So. 2d 20 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).]

          6. 2007: Self represented are given substantial leeway in litigation. [Stokes v. Dept. of Corr., 948 So. 2d 75 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007).]

        1. 2010 to present: Judge Shall Liberalize Hearing Procedure.

          1. Sanctioning of judges: Judge violated RJC by employing an unduly rigid process in dealing with pro se petitioners for domestic violence injunctions impeding their ability to obtain relief and protection [In re Eriksson, 36 So. 3d 580 (Fla. 2010).]

          1. Appellate Court Construing Self Represented Pleadings. Plain reading of jailed father’s pro se pleading, though poorly or inartfully drafted, shows that he was seeking a prospective modification. “We read appellant’s pro se pleading seeking abatement and modification as a request for the court to enter a subsequent, superseding order.” [Faulk v. DOR, 40 FLW D447 (Fla. 1st DCA February 18, 2015).]


    1. Florida Constitution Article 1 section 21: Access to the Court.

    1. Judicial Education, Fairness and Procedural accommodations for self represented litigants [AJS Course on Fairness and Diversity, June 2014]

    1. Fairness and the Pro Se Litigant”: “to afford fairness to self represented litigants procedural accommodations are required. Cynthia Gray, “Reaching Out or Overreaching: Judicial Ethics and Self Represented Litigants State Justice Initiate” page 5, 2005 (“Some of these practices—treating litigants courteously, liberally construing pleadings, liberally allowing amendments, and asking questions to clarify evidence—cannot be considered accommodations for self represented litigants; they are requirements in all cases and for all litigants although they take on greater urgency in cases involving self represented litigants.”)]

    1. Procedural Accommodations [(“. . . under the code of judicial conduct, no reasonable question is raised about a judge’s impartiality when the judge, in an exercise of discretion, makes procedural accommodations that will provide a diligent self represented litigant acting in good faith the opportunity to have his or her case fairly heard—and, therefore, that a judge should do so.”)

      1. Domestic Violence Court similar to Small Claims Court rules: “In an effort to further the proceeding and in the interest of securing substantial justice, the court shall assist any any party not represented by an attorney on: (1) courtroom decorum; (2) order of presentation of material evidence; and (3) handling private information (added in 2011)

      1. Procedural accommodations do not change facts, law, burden of proof, or ensure victory for unrepresented litigants.

      1. Procedural accommodations include:

        1. Liberal construction of pleadings: liberal construction rule

          1. (1) liberal construction rule requires that a judge give effect to the substance, rather than the form or terminology of a self represented litigant’s paper;

          1. (2) means that a judge should apply the relevant law regardless of whether a self-represented litigant has mentioned it by name

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