JAMES ESTES WILLINGHAM, JR., ATTORNEY AND COUNSELOR AT LAW, Jasper Florida
Before formulating his own firm in 1979, Mr. Willingham was an Associate Attorney from November 1978 to November 1979 for Giles Hedrick and Robinson, PA of Orlando FL. It was there that he worked with Senior Partner David Hedrick on various matters for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, First Federal of Orlando, analysis of Abstracts of Title and rendered Land Title, opinions and conducted loan closings and began the Entertainment Law Department for the firm, represented recording artists in contract negotiations and litigation. He is married to Linda Hoover who is a recording singer/songwriter and they have two children. He is very involved in his church, music and drama ministries, choirs, mission trips abroad with choir and drama..
From 2007-2018, Mr. Willingham attended quarterly two-day continuing legal education seminars in the broad areas of State and Federal Laws and regulations impacting local government and education. From 2008 to the present, has been appointed by successive Governors to serve on the judicial Nominating Commission for the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida, Participated in applicant evaluation and selection process in 2013 to recommend to the Governor candidates for appointment to fill vacancy on the Lafayette County Court bench.
Privacy and Name/Gender Changes in Student/School Records” presentation for the 2015 Joint Florida School Board Attorneys Association and Florida Association of District School Superintendents Conference and for the subsequent Florida School Board Attorney Association Spring 2016 Quarterly Meeting. From 1978-2004 he was a volunteer court appointed Attorney and Guardian Ad Litem for abused, abandoned and neglected children in dependency matters in the Orange County Florida Juvenile Court.
Mr. Willingham has an Attorney Rating of BV with Martindale Hubbell, distinguished High Professional and Ethical Achievement. He is a Member of the Florida Bar Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law (EASL) Committee Member of the EASL Copyright Law Revision Committee and a Panelist at UF’s Law School Music Law Conferences and Midyear Florida Bar Convention. He has been invited as speaker on Entertainment Law, Music Conferences in Nashville, Orlando, North Miami Beach and Florida Coastal School of Law.
Since starting his owner Attorney firm in 1979, he has served in general practice in the Orlando area and Hamilton County Florida. Since 2007 until 2018 he represented the School Board of Hamilton County as General Council, attending all school board meetings and rendering legal services in diverse areas State and Federal Laws and regulations impacting local government, Ethics, Government in the Sunshine and Public Records, Contracts, The Florida Administrative Procedures Act, Labor and Public Employee Collective Bargaining, Elections, Civil Rights, Government Finance, Ad valorem tax sales tax, Real Property law, Land Use, Health, Domestic Relations, Disability, Personal Injury and other Torts, Intellectual Property, Sovereign Immunity, Criminal and Guardianship. He is a local counsel in complex real property option agreement negotiations, drafting and performance for a bio power joint venture, as well as complex Hamilton County Comprehensive Plan and Line Development Regulations Amendments before the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the Suwannee River Water Management District and other state agencies.
He has represented the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners in real property matters and occasionally is asked to sit with the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners when the Hamilton County Attorney cannot be present. He has appeared in complex and other litigation in Florida County and Circuit Courts, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) arbitration, appeals before the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Florida defending and prosecuting matters in many areas including but not limited to disputes regarding contracts, real property, intellectual property, including copyrights and trademarks and patents, construction, entertainment, plaintiff’s personal injury, mortgages, real property boundary, survey and title disputes, defending securities issuers, bankruptcy, domestic relations, immigration and naturalization and criminal felony and misdemeanor cases.
I WILL PERSONALLY ATTEND ONE Town Council Meeting per month for a retainer of $500.00 per month.
I will make myself available to whomever the Town authorizes me to communicate. However, beyond the time I am personally present at one Town Council Meeting per month, all of the time my staff and I spend communicating on behalf of the Town, preparing for the Town Council Meeting and otherwise rendering services in all matters assigned to me in writing by the Town the following charges will apply.
For time spent during normal business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, a payment of $125.00 per attorney hour and $25.00 per attorney’s staff hour.
For time spent outside of normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, a payment of $200 per attorney hour and $45 per attorney’s staff hour; and
Time will be invoiced monthly in 0.10 hour increments along with any reasonable costs I incur in the representation of the Town. Invoices will be paid in full by a set time each month.
The Town will pay my travel, room and board and the costs to attend the Annual Seminar of the Florida Municipal Attorneys Association (FMAA) and the “Annual Local Government Law in Florida” seminar presented by the City, County and Local Government Law Section of the Florida Bar. I will not charge for my time spent attending these continuing legal education seminars.
Either party may terminate this contract by giving the other party written notice no less than thirty days prior to the termination date of the contract.
Although Mr. Willingham’s focus has been in all areas of Civil Law, especially involving contracts with the Entertainment Industry, it is obvious his practice has not strictly related to serving Government and Municipalities. It appears, this is a practice he is currently undergoing and may not have the experience required to change White Springs to be a less corrupt municipality.
As a one man owner/attorney firm, it is obvious he has diverse experience in a variety of areas. We would need to know whether he has a back-up attorney in the event he is unable to assist the Town or be in a meeting. The difficulty in being only one attorney with no additional attorneys in the firm, is that there is never a mentor or a second opinion available. That has been the case with Rhett Bullard and Karen Hatton. They really do not grow with other attorneys around them and I see that as a problem, especially when laws become misconstrued and opinions are thought to be facts.
What I have learned about the attorneys for the County and School Board is they have no clue about contractual law, transferring liability through loss control or if they do, very limited understanding. Johnny Bullard wishes to remove liablity and his coordinator, just added liability by taking a simple certificate in the case of the basketball camp. Don’t understand why the people hired don’t have the necessary background. I bet Stephanie and Meagan could change that around.
This time councilors, I hope you do not go for cheap but for quality. We know that Meagan Logan’s firm’s fee per hour of $225 for attorneys is less than that of GrayRobinson’s Stephanie Marchman of $250 an hour.
Meagan’s firm is way out of the ballpark as respects the Monthly retainer. Frankly, our Town cannot afford $4,200 a month. It would be different if we had a great amount of litigation or complex problems outside of Employment Breaches of Contract where it would be warranted, but it would be easier to just have that fee based per hour. Since Ms. Logan worked for the FMIT as an outside Attorney defending municipalities, we need to not only determine what Stephanie Marchman’s firm may be considering since they left retainers open but see whether Ms. Logan’s firm may lower their retainer based upon our poor financial situation.
Meagan’s firm can litigate in-house rather than taking it to the courts for which they have had great success without costing a Municipality an arm and a leg. That is a plus. Also Meagan’s firm will not be charging us for word processing, copies and faxing. That is a plus as well and is therefore included within the hourly rate and not separate.
The nice thing about large firms is that we do not have to pay for educational seminars for which I understand Karen Hatton even had us pay for the time she spent learning what she needed to learn in the first place. How do we know she learned anything? Did she give us a report if we had to pay for her time?
There is one thing I would like straightened out with respect to the attorney we hire. When the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust Attorney takes over a case, in my opinion, we should not be paying for the Town Attorney as well based upon said litigation rates of the Town Attorney;s contract. I complained about Koberlein just sitting at all the depositions in my and Joe’s case against the Town, earning litigation per hour fees, for doing nothing. And, of course the Mayor and Council did nothing as well. This double dipping should stop.
Likewise if we hire an outside attorney firm for a discrimination case like the Anita Rivers case, why are we also paying the Town Attorney when the outside attorney is hired to do the job. This was another Koberlein situation and he did not need to pad his pockets.
And it was only after Koberlein left the Kennon firm that he, himself, became involved in Sunshine Laws and Municipal Laws after being sued; and even then he skirted the issue and has since learned he cannot do so in the big leagues. It is time we hired someone like Meagan Logan or Stephanie Marusak Marchman who already have the experience and do not have to learn on the job as past attorneys have done to the detriment of White Springs.
Karin for the blog
P.S. Did you note that both Meagan and Stephanie have “Employment Law” experience. Maybe if either gets hired we can finally clean town hall. Get rid of Stacy for her numerous breaches of contract and fire her as an at-will employee; get rid of our finance director/town clerk/ get rid of our fire department/ reorganize our police department, etc. Maybe just maybe we can get rid of corruption.