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An e-mail sent by former Florida Bar president Terrence Russell to about 100 lawyers around the state endorsing Democratic attorney general candidate Buddy Dyer has irked attorneys and prompted one company to vow never to hire Russell’s law firm. Some recipients of the e-mail sent on Election Day complained that it was inappropriate for a recent official of the nonpartisan Bar to publicly endorse a candidate. But most complaints related to the snafus inadvertently created by the e-mail traffic — another reminder of the problems people often encounter when they broadly transmit sensitive information by e-mail. Russell’s one-page e-mailed letter, addressed “Dear Colleagues,” spoke of the Orlando state senator’s educational and professional qualifications for the attorney general post. It concluded: “Buddy has proven he is a friend of the Bar and a dedicated public servant. I appeal to you as a professional and a colleague to help ensure that a competent and qualified lawyer is elected to be our next attorney general.” The Nov. 5 message bore no Florida Bar insignia, made no claims of being an official Bar endorsement and was signed, “Sincerely, Terrence Russell” — without any mention of his Fort Lauderdale law firm, Ruden McClosky Smith Schuster & Russell, or of his being the Bar’s immediate past president. The message was co-written by Dyer’s staff, was approved by Russell and was e-mailed by the Dyer campaign. A prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney and partner at a major South Florida law firm who did not want to be identified, described the endorsement as “really tacky.” Russell said in his own defense that since his one-year term as Bar president ended in June, he’s free to give candidates his personal endorsement. “I’m not disenfranchised as a citizen,” he said. “I’ve done my public service and I’ll endorse who I wish.” Francine Walker, spokeswoman for the Florida Bar, confirmed that as immediate past president, Russell is no longer on the Bar’s board of governors, has no official Bar functions, and is indeed free to make endorsements without falling afoul of any Bar rules. Nevertheless, Russell profusely apologized for any problems caused by the e-mail message and the replies to it, and vowed never again to participate in any mass e-mailings unless there were strong safeguards against such mishaps. Dyer told the Miami Daily Business Review that his campaign created the e-mail problems and that Russell shouldn’t be blamed. It appears that most of the objections arose from e-mail traffic generated by recipients to Russell’s e-mail. For reasons that are unclear, instead of the responses going just back to the Dyer campaign, copies of Russell’s original message and every previous response were delivered to all recipients of the original e-mail. As a result, every recipient received a steady stream of e-mail reactions to Russell’s message, which clogged law office computer systems across the state. Many e-mail replies were requests to be taken off the mailing chain. Others expressed anger over Russell’s message. One reply copied a commentary by St. Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler endorsing Dyer’s Republican opponent Charlie Crist, who won the election with 54 percent of the vote. “I got one reply every five minutes, throughout the entire day,” said the Fort Lauderdale lawyer, who wished to remain unidentified. Jack Attias, a Key Biscayne general practice lawyer, said he got about a dozen copies of Russell’s e-mail and the responses. “I didn’t like to receive all of that,” he said, noting that as a solo practitioner spending much time on the computer, he was repeatedly interrupted by the e-mail barrage. “I tried to erase it all and it interfered with my work.” One objection was one from Jeff Brams, vice president and associate general counsel at Arby’s Inc., headquartered in Fort Lauderdale. Brams said he got 700 e-mails Tuesday arising from Russell’s endorsement message. “My productivity really just ground to a halt,” he said. “There’s a reason why we have anti-spam legislation. I think I lived with the reason yesterday.” After consulting with his company’s general counsel, Brams dashed off his own e-mails. First, he sent Russell a reply attached to the endorsement letter. Then he fired off separate e-mails to Russell and to Ruden McClosky, complaining that the e-mail was inappropriate and intrusive. He told the law firm’s leaders that having a partner send out such an endorsement showed such bad judgment that he had no intention of ever hiring the firm. “[Russell] has a right to wave a sign or contribute to a campaign or express his views,” Brams told the Daily Business Review. “It’s his judgment.” Donald McClosky, a partner at Ruden McClosky, told the Review that he had received Brams’ note but didn’t know what the Arby’s lawyer was talking about. McClosky said he had put in a call to Russell but hadn’t heard back yet. “I don’t blame [Brams] for being mad. I just don’t know enough about it to comment,” McClosky said. “Just what we need — nice publicity.”

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