Patchen, Lead Plaintiff In Citrus Canker Class-Action Lawsuit–Representing Estimated 100,000 Property Owners

“For decades, Brian Patchen and his wife, Bunny, enjoyed the bounty of fruits picked from the half-dozen robust citrus trees growing on their Miami Beach property. Then, without warning, the state chopped them all down to stumps in the fall of 2000.

“On Halloween, our trees got tricked instead of treated,” Patchen, a longtime Miami attorney, testified on Monday.

Patchen is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit representing an estimated 100,000 property owners in Miami-Dade who believe they were wronged by the state. Depending on the outcome of the class trial, they could be eligible for more than $120 million in damages from the state of Florida for having cut down about 250,000 of their citrus trees at the height of the canker wars between 2000 and 2006.”

Patchen: Faculty Speaker at CLE International’s 19th Annual Eminent Domain Conference in Tampa, FL

Measuring Full Compensation Under Unique Facts_10.16.15Heather A. Patchen, Esq. of Patchen Law, P.A. recently spoke at CLE International’s 19th Annual Eminent Domain Conference held at the Sheraton Riverwalk in Tampa, Florida on October 15-16, 2015.  Addressing a group of over 100 eminent domain practitioners, appraisers, and other industry professionals, Patchen provided strategies on what to do when unique facts and circumstances affect market value, making it difficult to obtain full compensation. For a complete copy of the presentation, please click on the following link: Measuring Full Compensation Under Unique Facts & Circumstances

Based in Denver, Colorado, CLE International has been a provider of continuing professional education programs throughout the United States and Canada since 1983. Its seminars, which focus on the cutting edge of emerging legal issues of vital importance to attorneys and their clients, real estate professionals, accountants, consultants and government agencies, have received wide acclaim from bench and bar for the high quality of its faculty (all of whom are recognized experts in their fields of specialty) and its efficient organization of detailed and useful information.

Patchen Named Vice Chair of the Florida Bar Eminent Domain Committee

Heather A. Patchen has been appointed Vice Chair of the Florida Bar’s Eminent Domain Committee for 2015 -2016.  The next meeting of the Eminent Domain Committee will take place on Friday, September 18th at the Tampa Airport Marriott.

“I am honored to have been selected to serve as Vice Chair and I am 4166829565_c0e86c494clooking forward to assisting with the educational planning for our Committee meetings,” said Patchen.

The scope and function of the Eminent Domain Committee is to study and keep informed of recent developments in the field of condemnation of private property for public use by governmental agencies or private companies who have the power of eminent domain. Through quarterly meetings and a Committee newsletter, members of the Bar are kept informed of significant developments in this particular area of law.

Real Estate Agents BEWARE: Hackers Are Sending Emails Changing Disbursement Instructions!

Email HackersALERT: Email Hackers are getting the best of real estate and title closing agents with “new” disbursement instructions!

You need to be aware of a scam where hackers are able to hack into the email accounts of real estate brokers and others to get details of closing transactions. They then send emails to the closing agent, directing a change to the disbursement instructions.

In a most recent incident that occurred this past Friday, a closing agent sent an email to all of the parties in a transaction letting them know that the transaction had closed and the funds had been disbursed.  A party member who could not attend asked to pick up their check on Monday.  Monday morning the closing agent received an email from the absent party member that it would be more convenient if the funds could be wired instead.  Coincidentally, while the closing agent was in the process of initiating the wire transfer, the absent party member sent a text message asking when would be a good time to pick up the check.

As it turns out, the absent party member never emailed the closing agent and the account the funds were to be wired to was not his account!  

To prevent this from happening to you, do not rely on instructions received by email, no matter how good the email looks, or how many specific details the email sender provides. These hackers are good.

In my own practice, I ask that all disbursement instructions are provided in writing and notarized.  Any changes to such disbursement instructions requires a my personal verification and a new notarized disbursement instruction sheet.

Patchen Law Joins Lawyers For Children America, Representing Abused & Neglected Children in Dependency

Lawyers for Children AmericaPatchen Law, P.A., is proud to serve Lawyers For Children America, Inc. (LFCA) by providing free legal representation to children, who are victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in the dependency court system.  In Florida, where children in dependency court are NOT entitled to government-funded attorneys, unlike their parents, LFCA fills a critical gap in services to this vulnerable population.

“As a law student, I was proud to serve as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children, advising the dependency court as to ‘the best interests of the child.’ In the capacity of an Attorney Ad Litem with LFCA, I am now responsible for advocating the actual needs and desires of my client children, ensuring that their voices are heard in court,” said Heather A. Patchen, Esq.

“Often times the children in foster care are told nothing about what is happening to them and they have no one they can confide in or trust. Many are left scared and confused while they get shuffled through the system. My goal is to make sure my client children are in a stable environment and to guide them through the process so they feel safe and know that there is at least one person in their corner fighting for them,” she added.

LFCA educates volunteer attorneys with an extensive two part day-long CLE training on legal representation for children.  LFCA also provides ongoing support to the volunteer attorneys including consulting with the pro bono attorneys at every step of the case, accompanying them to court hearings, reviewing legal pleadings, keeping them apprised of new developments in law, and helping them obtain community resources for child clients.

In addition to the training provided to volunteer attorneys, LFCA sponsors the Miami Chapter of Florida Youth SHINE (Striving High for Independence and Empowerment), a leadership and advocacy organization led by current and former foster youth who advocate to improve the system.

About Lawyers for Children America

LFCA is a lead child advocacy non-profit organization protecting the rights of children, who are victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect, by providing quality pro bono legal representation and collaborating for systematic change to improve the lives of children.  The LFCA Miami chapter was established in 1998 under the leadership of the late John Edward Smith of the law firm of Steel, Hector & Davis and the Honorable Rosemary Barkett, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Since its inception, the LFCA Miami chapter has recruited, trained, and supported over 1,000 pro bono attorneys, who have provided free legal representation to over 3,000 abused and neglected children in our community.  For more information about LFCA visit:

LFCA Miami – 200 South Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 4000, Miami, FL  33131. Phone: 305-577-4771.


Heather Patchen Appointed to The Florida Bar Eminent Domain Committee

799228254_14e64ef92aHeather A. Patchen has been appointed to the Florida Bar’s Eminent Domain Committee effective July 1, 2014, and until June 30, 2015.

The scope and function of the Eminent Domain Committee is to study and keep informed of recent developments in the field of condemnation of private property for public use by governmental agencies or private companies who have the power of eminent domain. It should keep the members of the Bar informed of developments of great significance in this field, maintain liaison with private companies and governmental agencies who have and use the power of eminent domain, and study and consider legislation, law or problems in the area of eminent domain law as developed by the committee or assigned by the president or the Board of Governors.

Heather Patchen Now Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate

florida_dbpr_logoPatchen Law, P.A. is pleased to announce Heather A. Patchen, Esq. is now also a licensed real estate sales associate.

As a complement to the firm’s practice, Patchen Law is entirely dedicated to issues involving property with a particular emphasis in the areas of eminent domain, property rights, real estate and title closings.

Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case

Published March 20, 2014


Feb. 8, 2005: The home of Susette Kelo in the Fort Trumbull section of New London, Conn. The small house once at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on government seizure of private property was later disassembled and relocated to a site close to downtown New London. Avner Gregory, of New London, the new owner, dedicated his house on June 21, 2008, before a crowd of about 200 participants and onlookers. (AP/Jack Sauer)

The controversial Supreme Court ruling that expanded eminent domain to give government the right to take private property to allow economic development may have been all for nothing, according to a report.

Nine years after the high court sided with a Connecticut municipality in Kelo v. City of New London, a ruling Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has likened to the court’s disastrous Dred Scott decision, the 90-acre plot once earmarked for office buildings, luxury apartments and a new marina, remains vacant.

Seven residents who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep their working-class homes in the city’s Fort Trumbull section have only their memories and whatever remains of the money they were forced to accept.

“See that pole with the transformer hanging from it?” Michael Cristofaro, a 52-year-old computer network engineer, told The Weekly Standard, which recently visited the town. “That was where my family’s home was.”

In the landmark 5-4 ruling, named for the lead plaintiff, a nurse named Susette Kelo, the Supreme Court upheld a state Supreme Court ruling that the city of 27,000 and a nonprofit entity called the New London Development Corp. were entitled to seize those properties in the name of economic development. Previously, eminent domain had been seen as limited to cases involving projects deemed as benefiting the public, but not a private economic interest.

“The nationwide outrage that followed in the wake of the Kelo decision spanned from left to right and back again on the political spectrum,” The Weekly Standard noted. “It didn’t help that one of the chief beneficiaries of the NLDC’s economic development plan would have been the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc., which New London had lured into the city via an 80-percent, 10-year property-tax abatement for a $300 million research facility — an expansion of the company’s research operations in Groton, Conn., across the Thames.”

More than 40 state legislatures would later pass laws banning or restricting the use of eminent domain for economic rejuvenation, particularly if homeowners would be displaced. And at least seven states amended their constitutions to ban the use of eminent domain for economic development, with some state courts explicitly rejecting the Kelo ruling as precedent, The Weekly Standard reports.

So how does New London, specifically Fort Trumbull, look now?

“The homeowners were dispossessed for nothing,” wrote The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby. “Fort Trumbull was never redeveloped. Pfizer itself bailed out of New London in 2009. The Kelo decision was a disaster, as even the city’s present political leaders acknowledge.”

Associate Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy formed the narrow majority in the landmark Supreme Court decision, with its conservative bloc dissenting.

“Today, the Court abandons [the Fifth Amendment’s] long-held, basic limitation on government power,” now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in her dissenting opinion. “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded, i.e. given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public — in the process.”

The story of New London is akin to a Greek tragedy, according to The Weekly Standard, or perhaps “Eminent disaster,” as the Globe’s opinion headline reads.

“The founders put the takings clause in the Bill of Rights for a reason,” Jacoby wrote. “The desolation that is Fort Trumbull is a grim reminder that where property rights aren’t secure, neither is freedom — and without freedom, there is nothing the government can’t destroy.”

Patchen Law Attends MOCA Mystery Date 2014 at GEORGE SÁNCHEZ-CALDERÓN Studio

Heather-Patchen-700x479Patchen Law recently attended the 2014 MOCA Mystery Date Fundraiser held at the GEORGE SÁNCHEZ-CALDERÓN Studio, which is currently under threat of eminent domain.

Hosted by the Shakers, MOCA’s membership group for patrons between the ages of 21 and 45, Mystery Dates kicks off with a cocktail party featuring live music and cutting-edge contemporary art at MOCA, where guests discover the “mystery” location of their dinner. Mystery Dates sends over 450 MOCA patrons to stunning residences throughout Miami, from Aventura to Coral Gables and South Beach to the Design District. Hosts throw open their doors for Mystery Dates dinner guests in celebration of Miami’s diverse and thriving cultural scene. Attendees intimately experience how art lovers in South Florida find unique ways to incorporate culture into their lives, during a lovely evening filled with glamour, artwork and philanthropy.

Patchen Law Quoted in Florida Bar News


Senior Lawyers Committee charts its course

By Gary Blankenship
Senior Editor

Passing along professionalism standards and practice skills to younger lawyers.

Finding a way to use lawyers who no longer represent clients but want to remain active in Florida Bar activities.

Getting assistance with ever-changing technology.

Those were among the many topics and suggestions raised at the initial meeting of the Bar’s new Senior Lawyers Committee.

Chair Jake Schickel opened the meeting, held January 23 at the Bar’s Winter Meeting in Orlando, saying, “What we’ll do today is talk a little bit about what we’d like to see done, where we’d like to go, and organize a little bit.”

He added: “This is not to be a substantive law committee; this is to help us with the lifestyle and what we might do in continuing to practice and work. We’re not an enforcement group. The committee is to do ‘for’ lawyers and not ‘to’ lawyers.”

There was no lack of suggestions and observations from the several dozen lawyers of all ages in attendance.

Heather Patchen of Miami Lakes said she practices with her father and joined the committee “to learn how I can help him with the transition [to a reduced practice] because I know he loves it.”

Glenn Roderman, of Ft. Lauderdale, said he’s concerned with the declining ethics in the profession.

“I’m really into the old school ethics, which I don’t see much anymore,” he said. “I think there’s a lot we can do here in terms of ethics and mentoring.”

Martin Haines of Lake Park, a former chair of the Family Law Section, agreed. 

“What I see is an evolving practice of ‘gotcha.’ And it’s the ‘gotcha’ element that started to piss me off,” Haines said, adding he wants to see judges welcome lawyers into the courtroom and lawyers welcome decisions from judges, not become angry about them.

Marie Antonados of Coral Springs isn’t interested in slowing down.

She said she doesn’t like being asked, “‘Are you trying to wind your practice down?’ No, I’m trying to keep it wound. I don’t want to be an old attorney who is sent out to pasture. I want to be an older lawyer with as much dignity as possible.”

George Waas of Tallahassee noted he retired after 40 years, including 32 years with the state, mostly in the Attorney General’s Office. He said he doesn’t want to hang out a shingle or join a law firm, but he does want to remain active in Bar activities even if he’s not practicing law.

“There should be a category of membership between active and inactive. I’m very much in favor of that,” he said. “If you’re not seeking clients, you ought to be able to remain an active member of the Bar.”

West Palm Beach attorney Leonard Singer, who has practiced since 1965, said, “The older I get the more I want to work. The biggest problem I’ve found is technology. Fortunately, I have two daughters who live near me and help me with technology.”

Daniel Vaughen of DeLand has the opposite wish. He wants to scale back his practice, except for clients who refuse to be referred elsewhere, and concentrate on helping other lawyers with technology issues, especially related to Apple products.

And so the meeting went. 

Young lawyers who wanted to help senior members with technology or who want to scale back their practices to only cases they want to do. Older attorneys seeking to mentor younger attorneys and help them deal with the business of law so they can enjoy the practice of law and have a better balance between work and their personal lives.

Bar President Eugene Pettis and President-elect Greg Coleman attended the meeting and invited members to give their suggestions.

“We’re looking forward to your ideas and input,” Pettis said.

Schickel said he will appoint subcommittees based on ideas and interests expressed at the meeting, and also consider a website and newsletter for the committee.

“Now we take all the enthusiasm and ideas and try to put them into practice,” Schickel said after the meeting. “We are dividing into committees and subcommittees and will send everyone out with the message to bring back to the committee, at the Annual Convention, a game plan by which we can implement all these great ideas.”

For further information about the committee, email Lani Fraser at The Florida Bar at