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The Florida Bar is under fire for selling its mailing list — and labels — to a neo-Nazi group that sent mailers to thousands of Florida lawyers containing anti-Semitic and racist propaganda. The letter with an eight-page brochure was sent to Florida criminal defense lawyers by the National Alliance, an offshoot of the American Nazi Party, which law enforcement and watchdog groups characterize as a violent, neo-Nazi organization. The mailing contains anti-Semitic cartoons and an article titled “Building a New White World,” along with a letter calling on attorneys to join their organization. “We need legal talent to augment our technical, musical and writing talent,” stated the letter, signed by Tampa unit coordinator Todd Weingart. “That’s why we’re writing to you today.” Attorneys who received the letter were doubly shocked to learn that the Bar sold the organization its mailing list and prepared labels for the group for a fee. The Bar is technically an arm of the Florida Supreme Court and is considered a quasi-public agency. Anyone can obtain names and addresses of lawyers from the Bar’s Web site. But the Bar also sells mailing lists and prepares labels of attorneys and their addresses for a fee, said Paul Hill, the Bar’s general counsel. Lawyers throughout the state receive frequent mailings from lawyers announcing new addresses and partnerships and from companies that market products and services to lawyers. Hill said the Bar had no idea it was selling the list to a neo-Nazi group when the National Alliance contracted the Bar to print labels for all 2,500 members of its criminal law section. But even if the Bar had known the nature of the group, it would have had to sell it lists and labels, Hill said. “This is a dark side of our public records law,” he said. “We can’t screen the message. We can’t be selective — it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. We are trying to explain to everyone � sometimes they have to hold their nose or use their trash can.” Criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, prosecutors and judges are all members of the Florida Bar’s criminal law section and received the letters. The charge for labels is 10 cents per name. The National Alliance’s fee was $262. After the Bar received a handful of complaints, Hill said, he consulted with Pat Gleason, general counsel of the Florida attorney general’s office, on the issue. But Gleason disputes Hill’s view. She said attorney names and addresses are indeed public record, but nowhere in Florida’s public records law does it state that the Bar is required to sell mailing lists and prepare labels. The National Alliance made national news this month when it put up a billboard on Florida’s Turnpike in Sumter County reading: “Who Rule$ America?” and giving an Internet address for the group. Jerry Sullivan, the owner of the billboard company Sunshine Outdoor of Florida became the target of complaints when the New York-based Jewish Defense Organization, a group that fights anti-Semitism, put the billboard owner’s name, address and telephone number on its Web site and answering machine and urged people to complain to Sullivan and boycott his business. At first, Sullivan refused to remove the sign as long as it was paid for, citing the First Amendment. But after being inundated with angry phone calls, he told the JDO he would remove the billboard. The National Alliance was founded by William Pierce, author of “The Turner Diaries,” the inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The group contends that Americans are duped by a Jewish-controlled media and that white Europeans are genetically superior. In its recent missive, the group appealed to attorneys to “counter the abusive lawsuits that the enemies of freedom are sure to file against us in an attempt to shut us down.” “As an attorney, you’re often privileged to see what’s really happening in our society, since you’ve experienced criminal and civil cases firsthand before they are edited, filtered and spun by the media,” the letter states. In an e-mail to the Daily Business Review, Weingart said his group has received “a few responses” to the mailing. He said no other mailing lists from other bar organizations were purchased. The Anti-Defamation League’s Miami office received several complaints from lawyers about the letter. Arthur Teitelbaum, the southern area director of the ADL, called the National Alliance “perhaps the most dangerous extremist organization in the country,” and called on the Bar to review its procedures for selling mailing lists and to donate the money from the labels to charity. “Providing the list in the form of a mailing list and labels to the National Alliance was an unnecessarily gratuitous act, which only made it easier for the National Alliance to engage in its hateful activity,” he said. “These are contaminated funds, which they should refrain from depositing in the coffers of The Florida Bar.” Raag Singhal, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney and former president of the Broward County Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, was furious with the National Alliance letter. He instantly realized the mailing, which included his Bar number, was funneled through the Bar. “It’s offensive, and I can’t understand why the Bar is giving my name and address to people who are threatening me,” he said. “I pay a lot of money to the Bar in dues. They don’t need to be making money off me this way.” Neal Sonnett, a Miami criminal defense attorney and vice chair of the Anti-Defamation League, was also offended by the letter. But he also sees some irony in it. “Why are they soliciting me to join their organization when I clearly am not eligible?” he wondered. David Fussell, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said his group made the decision to sell its mailing list only selectively. Unlike the Florida Bar, its membership roster is private. “We’re very selective,” he said. “We don’t want our members to be harassed with junk mail or mail that is inappropriate.” Still, Fussell said the Bar could have been an innocent victim in this situation. “The name National Alliance sounds legitimate,” he said. “You wouldn’t necessarily be suspicious.”

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