Thursday, February 26, 2015



BREAKING NEWS ..............


Numerous news agencies are reporting that President Barack Obama has nominated Barzee Flores to an open seat in the Southern District of Florida.  (This is the open seat from when Robin Rosenbaum was elevated from the District Court bench to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit).

Judge Barzee started her career as an associate with the law firm of Sonnett, Sale & Kuehne and she worked there for two years before becoming an Assistant Federal Public Defender from 1990 - 2003.  She then ran unopposed for Circuit Court Judge in 2002 and won a seat on the Circuit bench in Miami-Dade County and served there from 2003 - 2011.  (She won reelection in 2008 without opposition).  While on the bench, she served in both the Criminal Division and the General Jurisdiction Division as well as having the honor to sit by designation on the 4th DCA.  She resigned from the bench and joined the law firm of Stearns, Weaver where she concentrates her practice in commercial litigation and arbitration.  She also serves as a private judge, arbitrator, special master, and umpire in appraisal disputes. She is a UM law school graduate.

The two finalists who did not make the cut were U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer and Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez.

Good luck to Judge Barzee as she makes her way inside the beltway and through the confirmation process.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


When we last left the Honorable Jacqueline Schwartz (Motto" Last names matter")  she had told the supporter of her opponent "F*&K YOU" literally and after winning he election, "F%#K YOU" figuratively to Miami's Latin Community.  Here's the recap of her insulting the Cuban Community and her apology.  Basically, after winning a contentious race where she cursed like a sailor, she reflected on her victory by saying "that voters had "gone past the days when any nondescript Hispanic could go on the ballot and defeat any Anglo sitting judge." 
We covered the most infamous judicial victory speech here. 

Now the Florida Supreme Court will publicly reprimand Judge Schwartz. For those of you not familiar with a public reprimand, the Supreme Court summons the offending judge to Tallahassee where basically they yell at her and ask "what the F%^K were you thinking?" 

How will this all play out? 
No F'ing idea. 
See You in F'ing court. 

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/11/miami-dade-judge-apologizes-for-saying-she-defeated-nondescript-hispanic.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, February 23, 2015


There was a Florida Supreme Court workshop on Courts today in Miami. Judge Soto was there. So were a host of other judges. The public participated, mostly asking questions about how and why they got screwed in their particular case, which of course the judges couldn't answer. 

Here is the startling news to come out of the workshop: (steady now) The court system is out of money, it works inefficiently,  and the technology is thirty years old. 
Yup, that is a big blow for most of you to read, but the truth will out no matter how difficult to hear. 

Electronic filing is the glaring example of Florida court system incompetence that we cannot figure out. 
Roughly a decade ago the federal court system went to electronic filing. There are also electronic dockets. Anyone with access to the CM/ECF system can access any case and see any document (that hasn't been sealed) that has been filed. The government files discovery electronically, a sample of which we have included below. 
As much as we hate to say it, the Fed system works. You can file the same document in Dallas, as in Miami, or anywhere else in the federal system and you file it the same way (except in Dallas where your pleadings have to include "y'all"). 

With this template before it, Florida apparently ignored the Feds. We understand the sentiment, but in this case Florida ignored the Feds  to their detriment. Couldn't Florida have hired the same software developers? The biggest flaw in the Florida system is that the documents are not accessible. So If you come late into a case you can't simply go on-line and download the documents to get up to speed. The Florida system looks cheap, it acts clunky, there is this ridiculous requirement that if you don't enter  the exact number of pages in the document the system makes you start all over.  Overall, Florida bought a "compuserve" system in an Apple world. Or put another way, Florida has a rotary phone system in an iPhone world. Or put another way, they got ripped off and screwed. But that's technical legal jargon, better left for the civil blogs to discuss. 

Basically, the Feds got it right and we dropped the ball. Ouch. There. We said it. 

See you in court. 

Here's an example of the wonderful discovery that you get in federal court, not including Jenks material, which as we all know must be disclosed within two dozen years after the verdict.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Life turns on a dime. The pages of this blog in the new year have shown a much, as a seemingly never-ending litany of death an illnesses  are recounted day after day. 

From noted neurologist and NY Times contributor Oliver Sacks:

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver...but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can
Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

A beloved judge falls ill and has a serious operation and is hopefully recovering. Judge Morton Perry lives a long and productive life before passing away this year. Ditto for Judge Marshal Ader. And yet every so often we walk into the courtroom on the sixth floor once occupied by Judges Manny Crespo and Rob Pinero and we remember that there are no guarantees. The days of our lives are not fixed by anything other than….what? Luck? Happenstance? Providence? 

How can we believe in Providence when we recall the case of the innocent child cut down by the bullet meant for the drug dealer? The Miami Dade Police officer murdered in his car in a tragic case of mistaken identity?  The family killed by a drunk driver, when leaving the house five minutes earlier or later would have avoided the confluence of lives and tragedies? 

Is Dr. Sacks lucky to be able to confront his mortality? Are the precious days in which he will squeeze every ounce of juicy life worth the fear of the near, impending end? Or does the certainty remove the fear? 

Questions; we have thousands. Answers; we have few. 

It may sound trite, but we know this: in the end it is the quality of the life you live, not the quantity. The stand taken for principal. Character is celebrated when a small woman won't go to the back of the bus. But real character is what you do when no one is looking; when you pause as you rush to your next case and hold the door for the overburdened woman pushing a stroller or stop and spend a minute to assure an elderly woman that her grandson will be released shortly, or the money you slip into the hands of a hungry person, or the anonymous donation you make to the charity. There are the smiles on the face of children when the work you have done results in their father or mother walking through the door of home that night. The teenager who completes drug court after you refused to give up on her and the parent who can do no more than say a heartfelt  "thank you" when she has her daughter back. 

This is life. Not the life of your family, but the life of our work, and it is what we do that hopefully, when the end arrives, will allow us to say we took our skills and made a difference. That we squeezed from life every last ounce of juice and drank deeply and with satisfaction. It is what, we think and hope, will allow Dr. Sacks to live these last months, and hopefully more, with a smile on his face. 

See you in court. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


This email went out today. 

 Friends & colleagues, many of you have been inquiring about our good friend Stan.  Stan underwent a very lengthy robotic surgery at UM for oral throat cancer, the surgery went very well, and in about 6 weeks he will undergo intense radiation therapy. Stan is still in ICU, and will be at UM for the balance of the week. Obviously he has taken a leave of absence from the Family Bench.  I spoke to him this morning, and he is upbeat and positive, and sends thanks to all of his well wishers for their prayers and support.  Feel free to email him gatorjudge13@gmail.com, since talking is difficult for now. Best, Bruce

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Miami activist who helped found the Alternatives program- Georgia Ayers, has passed away. The Herald Obit is here. 

Ayers commanded the attention of local judges, city officials, public defenders and the media.
“Mrs. Ayres was one of Miami's most influential civil rights activists who worked tirelessly to guide troubled young people away from the criminal justice system and encouraged them to lead productive lives. Her work as the founder of the Alternative Program will always be remembered as well as her contributions to Miami-Dade County’s history,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement.

If four  of the best words a baseball fan can hear is "pitchers and catchers report", then the two best words in the English language- first place obviously being "NOT" & "GUILTY" are "Play Ball." 
Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday. Opening day is not that far away. 

Great job by the Captain getting Judge Emas to write about his memories of Irwin Block. 

See you in court. 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article10523009.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, February 16, 2015



IRWIN BLOCK HAS DIED ............... Services at 3PM today.

On July 31, 1963, two gas stations attendants were murdered in Port St. Joe, Florida, a small town located in the Panhandle of the State.  Within hours, the Gulf County Sheriff's Office had arrested Freddie Lee Pitts and Wilbert Lee.  Pitts and Lee were indicted on two counts of First Degree Murder.  On August 28, 1963, Judge W.L. Fitzpatrick sentenced both men to death.

You did not read that incorrectly folks.  It took 28 days from the day the crime was committed until the date that the death sentence was ordered.

For most of the next decade, a young attorney by the name of Irwin J. Block took on the cause of Pitts and Lee, pro bono, in a case that all Criminal Law 101 law students now study.  Block, along with Former Miami-Dade Public Defender Phillip Hubbart represented Pitts and Lee before the 1st DCA, the Florida Supreme Court, and the US Supreme Court; they also represented the two defendants in their 1972 retrial, (where they were again found guilty), and didn't stop fighting for the two men until Governor Ruben Askew pardoned both men in 1975. 

The Miami Herald summed it up best by saying of Block: "He was one of South Florida's most highly sought defense attorneys, a legal legend who helped get two black men off Florida death row in a 1963 murder they didn't commit."  Block also represented Clarence Gideon for a period of time as part of his work with the ACLU.

We did not know Irwin Block personally, but 3rd DCA Judge Kevin Emas did.  We asked Judge Emas if he could provide us with some personal words.  Here they are, unedited:

Captain:  I had the privilege of working with Irwin for six years while I was at Fine Jacobson Schwartz Nash Block and England. Here are a few thoughts.  Thanks for doing this.

Mr. Block

Irwin Block was old school.  87 years old and still going to work.  He loved the law.  He loved being a lawyer.  He loved being a trial lawyer.  And make no mistake about it.  Irwin was not a litigator.  He was a trial lawyer.  And he was extraordinary in trial.  Even opposing counsel in a trial would sometimes find themselves becoming spectators, watching with admiration as Irwin held the witness and the jury in the palm of his hand.   

Many of you know that Irwin Block (together with Phil Hubbart) represented Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, two black men charged with murder in St. Joe, Florida in 1963.  As a result of the efforts of Irwin and Phil, and those of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Gene Miller, Pitts and Lee were pardoned after twelve years on death row for murders they did not commit.   

Irwin Block was involved in many high-profile cases over the course of his exceptional career.  But for all his talents as a trial lawyer, Irwin was a humble man.  He never sought the limelight, and bristled at the notion that he should ever be honored for just doing his job.  But honored he was, including the American Jewish Congress’ Judge Learned Hand Award, History Miami's Legal Legend Award, and the DCBA’s David W. Dyer Professionalism Award. 

Irwin was more interested in fighting for clients than fighting for causes.  Old school indeed.  He taught me much about being a trial lawyer.  I’ll never forget his cardinal rule:  “You can’t always outsmart the other side.  But you can always out-prepare them.”  As good as he was in trial, he was even better in pretrial strategy, motions and deposition.  He won hundreds of cases that would never see the light of a courtroom because of the damage he had done in deposition and pretrial motions.  Irwin left a legacy of excellence.  Each of us who knew him, who worked for him, who worked with him, who learned from him, has a profound respect that is difficult to explain in words.  But here’s just one example: Nearly every lawyer who worked with him, even after leaving the firm and establishing their own successful practice, would continue to call him Mr. Block when they saw him.   They felt it somehow disrespectful to call him anything else.  (I must confess that my first draft referred to him only as Mr. Block.  I hope he will forgive this final version.)

I’m not just a better lawyer for having known Mr. Block.  I’m a better person for having known Mr. Block.

A celebration of his life will be held on Monday February 16th at 3 PM at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel, 1115 Jog Road, Boynton Beach, FL - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/herald/obituary.aspx?n=irwin-j-block&pid=174159601&fhid=5131#sthash.FEeVtFpE.dpuf
A celebration of life will take place on Monday, February 16, 2015 at 3:00 PM at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel located at 1115 Jog Road, Boynton Beach.  Block was 87 years old.

His obits can be found here and here.

A celebration of his life will be held on Monday, February 16th at 3 PM at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel, located at 1115 Jog Road, Boynton Beach.

CAPTAIN OUT .............

He was known as someone with impeccable ethics and the highest level of professionalism and spent his career fighting for civil rights. He received numerous awards during his law career, including the David Dyer Professionalism Award (2011), the Judge Learned Hand Award (1989), the Dade County Bar Association Criminal Justice Award (1990) and the Metropolitan Dade County Florida Certificate of Appreciation. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/herald/obituary.aspx?n=irwin-j-block&pid=174159601&fhid=5131#sthash.FEeVtFpE.dpuf