In addition to the dues dispute, the handling of the petition itself appears to have caused hard feelings. Cantero, Berg and Spuhler had planned to attend the Bar's Board of Governors meeting in March where the petition had been put on the agenda.
But Cantero said the trio changed their minds after Pettis discouraged him from attending.
"He said, well you're always welcome to come if you want to come. But he led me to believe that we hadn't been invited, that we were kind of crashing the party," Cantero said.
Pettis said he never told Cantero not to attend the meeting but advised him that he would have "a few minutes to speak" and that Cantero joked that, as an appellate lawyer, he was comfortable with the short time frame.
"Why they elected not to show up, I don't know. But it was not due to me disinviting him or discouraging him or telling him not to come," Pettis said.
Pettis said he had hoped Cantero and his allies would drop the effort.
"I don't know the reasons why he brought forth the petition. But if it was to bring this to the front of everybody's agenda, he succeeded. If it was to get action now on trying to resolve the problem, he's succeeded. If you wanted to get the foundation and the Bar to work together toward some solutions, you all have succeeded. I don't know what more, and this was my conversation with him, I don't know what more you can hope for on this issue," Pettis said.
Cantero accused Bar leaders of being "intimidated by the petition because they feel like they're going to lose control of the process of setting fees."
But Pettis said that $10 million won't resolve problems delivering services not just to the poor but also to low-income Floridians who do not qualify for legal aid.
"There is no silver bullet out there," he said. "So that's why I don't understand why we're not spending our energies in corporate relationships, bringing each other together to address a long-term solution to the problem. Get off of this up to $100 a member. If everybody put money in the kitty, $10 million would be not a solution."
Pettis said Cantero proposed having the Bar agree to the petition and then discuss alternatives later.
"I said no. We're not going to sit here quietly and allow you to do this without us letting the court know what our feelings are on this process," Pettis said.
Berg helped draft the 1987 petition, backed by the foundation but opposed by the Bar, that resulted in the current funding system that requires lawyers to contribute the interest from their trust accounts.
He said the Bar needed to "show some leadership" on the issue.
"This could be a major wonderful thing that the legal profession does for the people of Florida,'' Berg said. "We give lip services to legal services for the poor but when we're asked to step forward and help in any meaningful way we oppose it. It could be a public relations disaster for the Bar in my opinion. This is a wonderful opportunity for lawyers to show the good that they do, by putting their money their mouth is."