WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, AND THE POPE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Friday, August 23, 2019

AUGUST IS THE HOTTEST MONTH

Couple of things on our plate. 
The first is that if it's August, then the REGB is populated by well dressed, fresh-faced, eager new lawyers from the SAO and the PDs wandering around, wide-eyed, ready to make their mark in the criminal justice system. We welcome them and will have more to say shortly on these pages that your supervisors have explicitly told you that you are now allowed to read at work (while they do it). 




OIL AND WATER DO NOT MIX 
Neither do criminal defense attorneys and police officers, especially in the morning whilst scrambling for parking. Then the powers that be separated the two factions under the "separate but equal parking doctrine" that has yet to be overruled by Brown v Board of Parking
But there are cracks in the plan, and police cruisers have been spotted in the segregated section of the parking lot.  We're getting a flood of emails and pictures. Attorneys are up in arms, which is never a good thing, although most of them do not practice civil law, so the lid is still on the volcano, but not for long. 
Heed our warning. This will not end well. 




"But it's an ill wind blaws naebody gude"
Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott. 

B MINUS FOR CREATIVENESS 








Wednesday, August 21, 2019

REVENGE OF THE JEDI TRIBE

Civil law. Gotta love it. Cases do not die. They just get appealed and re-litigated. 
Just when you thought the Miccosukee/Lewis Tein contretemps was over, comes your friendly neighborhood 3rd DCA, reversing the order of the trial court which denied attorneys fees. 
So now L&T, which no longer exists, is on the hook for much wampum. 
Note that L&T bringing in the big guns at Colson Hicks did little to save the day on appeal. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

SCATTERED LIGHT


The doldrums of August shall not dissuade the courier of the Constitutional Calendar from the swift completion of his appointed rounds. (Go to 421 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, and look up). Because we are not alone in disliking ado, we present this edition of Judge Hirsch's Constitutional Calendar without further of the subtance no one likes. 

On August 21, 1790, George Washington wrote a letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island.  The quality of Washington’s prose reminds us how much we have lost in American public discourse.  More importantly, his obviously heartfelt expressions of religious tolerance make clear that America, unlike the principal nations of Europe, really meant to be that place in which every man might “sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”  I am not ashamed to say that, as an American Jew, I cannot read this letter without a tear coming to my eye.  Here’s the letter:



Gentlemen:



While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.



The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.



If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.



The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.



It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.



It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.



May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.



May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.



G. Washington


Sunday, August 18, 2019

CUETO'S REPORT BASHES BAR

When dog bites man, there is no headline. 
But when Judge Bites the Florida Bar, there is. 

Long rumored, much discussed, and the subject of a torrent of emails and comments to publish the Mueller Cueto report,  we present it for your review.  Have at it. 

The Florida Bar (motto "We'll get you my pretty and your little  dog too"). 
doesn't look good here.  Attorney Ramon Rodriguez vindicated in the Lewis/Tein/Miccosukee mess which has resulted in disbarment for other lawyers.  




Friday, August 16, 2019

FIVE MIAMI DADE JUDGES CHARGED BY JQC .......


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

THE JQC VS. FIVE MIAMI DADE JUDGES .....

Intrepid Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, recently returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, breaks the story.

The JQC filed formal charges against five Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judges, including: (the FSC Docket can be found here).

Judge Cindy Lederman (Retired), represented by James Blecke
Judge Rosa Figarola, represented by David Rothman
Judge Marcia Caballero, represented by Joseph DeMaria
Judge Teresa Pooler, represented by Andrew Berman
Judge Mavel Ruiz, represented by Brian Tannebaum

All five judges were, at the time of the allegations, assigned to the Unified Children’s Court. According to the factual findings of the JQC:

"The Florida Department of Children and Families ("DCF") routinely contracts with private companies to administer its programs throughout the state. In some instances, these contracts are worth millions of dollars." ... "In March of 2018, DCF initiated a competitive procurement process to award the contract to become the "Lead Agency for Community Based-Care for the Southern Region of Florida-Dade and Monroe Counties" ("Lead Agency")." ... "The competitive procurement process used to select a Lead Agency, known as an Invitation to Negotiate ("ITN"), requires companies to submit proposals to DCF who then selects which company should receive the contract." ...

"The contract was potentially worth upwards of $500 million dollars, over five years."

"In March 2018, when DCF began the ITN process, a non-profit business called Our Kids of Miami-Dade and Monroe, Inc ("Our Kids, Inc.") held the contract, and had served as Lead Agency for the last several years. Only two companies participated in the ITN: Our Kids, Inc, and Citrus Health Network, Inc (also a non-profit corporation)."

The JQC learned that, the five charged judges (along with Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia and GM Steven Lieberman), signed a letter authored by Judge Lederman, written to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), suggesting or implying that Our Kids, Inc. "is the favored provider of the 11th Judicial Circuit, and that the court will work only with Our Kids, Inc.".

Judge Sampedro-Iglesia resigned on April 28, 2019 and was not part of the JQC inquiry.  GM Steve Lieberman was not part of the inquiry as the JQC has no enforcement authority over General Magistrates.

The JQC and all five judges have filed a Stipulation with the Florida Supreme Court where all of the judges have admitted to the violations charged by the JQC. While there are several Canons charged, (the Investigative Panel determined that probable cause existed that the Respondents had violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 4A(1), 4A(2), 4A(5), and 4A(6) the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.), the gist of the violations is that the judges were advocating for one vendor (Our Kids, Inc) over another and using the prestige of their positions to do so.

The FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF DISCIPLINE (which can be found here) stated the recommended penalty for all five judges as follows:

"The Commission therefore finds and recommends that the interests of justice will be well served by a written public reprimand of the Respondents by publication of an opinion."

Now it is up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether to accept the Findings and Recommendations filed by the JQC.

CAPTAIN OUT .......
Captain4Justice@gmail.com

RUMPOLE ADDS THIS COMMENT RECEIVED WHICH IS RELEVANT:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Let's not go nuts here. This appears to have been a well meaning "whoops" moment. The judges are humans too.

"the Commission believes it is important to note [in] its findings that the Respondents[] were not motivated by any corrupt intent or design. The Commission believes that the intent was to protect the interest of the children and families served by DCF."

See page 8 of the Findings and Recommendations of Discipline. https://efactssc-public.flcourts.org/casedocuments/2019/1377/2019-1377_miscdoc_354669_findings202620recommendation.pdf






Thursday, August 15, 2019

MURDER MYSTERY AND POLITICAL INTRIGUE

Jeffrey Epstein Murder Mystery: The plot thickens. No conspiracy theorists we, but a Rumpolian look at the evidence yields the following: 1) Mr. Epstein was taken off of suicide watch two weeks before his death when his attorneys told officials at MDC that the injuries to his neck resulted from being attacked by a murderous thug (former police officer) cell mate; 2) Epstein's last cell mate was removed from his cell a day before his death. In violation of procedure, he was left alone in his cell; 3) The corrections officers did not check on Epstein  for hours before his death. Two of three officers on duty were not actual corrections officers but other employees trained to fill in when needed; 4) The day before his death Epstein was reported to be in good spirits and telling his lawyers he felt the 2nd Circuit would order his release and that his double jeopardy motion would be granted. He told his lawyers he was looking forward to seeing them the next day; 
AND NOW THIS: 
The NY Times reports today here  that the Medical Examiner has currently listed Epstein's death as "unclassified" AND that the hyoid bone in Epstein was fractured. Long time and careful readers of the blog know that in his younger days Rumpole liked nothing more than a good murder and developed a bit of expertise in the manner and method of untimely deaths. While Hyoid bones are known to fracture in suicide hangings, especially in individuals over sixty, they are almost always fratured when death is caused by strangulation. Indeed the fracture of the Hyoid bone is a signature event in a strangulation (something a young medical examiner was forced to admit during an uncomfortable hour under the cross examination by your blogger many years ago in a successful murder defense in a galaxy far far away).

Former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara tweeted shortly after Epstein's death that there should be a full video of Epstein killing himself. He should know. To date there has been no discussion of the video. Does it exist? Have people, including the ME seen it? If the ME has seen it, there would be no reason not to classify the death as a suicide. 

Rest assured that Rumpole is taking a second and harder look at Mr. Epstein's demise. 

JUDGE FABER NEW ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE FOR CRIMINAL COUNTY COURT
That white smoke you saw in the hallways of the REGJB recently wasn't some santeria ritual. It was the signal that the Judges had decided that Judge Robin Faber, long head of the jail division of county court, a blog reader and blog Fantasy Football participant, will don the scarlet robes (not really, but they do it in England and should do it here) and take over as head honcho of the criminal county court judges. Talk about a thankless job! And he has big shoes to fill with Judge Sam Slom retiring on Halloween. 

JUDGES VIE FOR CHIEF JUDGE SPOT
For reasons not entirely clear yet, Judge Soto will not be up for chief judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit (Motto: "Call us Dade-County, not Miami or Miamahh por favor") when her terms expires in about a year (the timing is also not clear yet). To be clear, we did NOT say she is retiiring from the bench, only that she cannot (or has decided not to)  stand for another term as Chief Judge. 

Two candidates have thrown their electronic hats into the ring via email: Judge Nushin Sayfie, currently chief Judge of the felony criminal dvision, and Judge Scott Bernstein, recently honoured with a judicial award. 
Predictably the fault line has appeared between criminal and civil. 
You think the democratic presidential nomination is hotly contested? To quote Ronald Wilson Reagan "You ain't seen nothing yet!". 
Judges Sayfie and Bernstein are both excellant choices. Well respected and quite able, each will be able to lead our gagle of Judges into the future.  We have more experience with Judge Sayfie who we have seen lead the criminal court judges through thick and thin, and a few scandals that she was on top of and handled admirably. We can always use a voice at the top that understands the trials and tribulations of an REGJB lawyer. However, that is not a blog endorsement. There is a lot of time between now and the election, and a week is a lifetime in politics. 

JUDGE SINGHAL NOMINATED TO FEDERAL BENCH
Mr Markus' federal blog, which has uncomfortably been dabling recently in state court toipics, broke the story yesterday that Judge Raag Singhal, who serves in Broward, has been nominated by POTUS to an open spot on the Southern District Of Florida. The nomination has long been rumored and is well deserved. 



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

IN MEMORIAM: JEFFREY EPSTEIN


The suicide death of Jeffrey Epstein disappointingly brought out the worst in our criminal defense brethren.  Social media was full of “good riddance” posts. We expect that from the unenlightened, uneducated deplorables who sit around swilling beer, scratching, and cursing life’s unfairness. Also from Republicans.

But we do not expect such expressions from dedicated criminal defense attorneys. So we rise, once again, pushing, pulling, prodding and treading where only the brave dare perambulate. 


We wonder whether Epstein's death will highlight the deplorable conditions  the government holds  defendants pre-trial. Mr. Epstein literally could not survive his incarceration while awaiting trial. How could he and his lawyers be expected to prepare for trial? 

Most federal cases are extensively investigated before indictment, generating tens of thousands of documents. It’s nearly impossible to master these docs in the comforts of a penthouse office (some atop garages across from federal court). It is nearly impossible to discern the key to freedom cleverly tucked  into  the pile of refuse, whilst confined in jail.

But we have bigger fish to filet. 


Mr. Epstein unrepentantly supported his belief in sex with young women, many still juveniles. He was recently quoted in a newspaper interview from a year ago comparing such laws to prior prohibitions on sodomy and same sex relationships.

Mr. Epstein’s views were repugnant, ill-advised, selfish, self-deluding, harmful to others, and downright wrong. He was by all accounts a sexual predator who used his wealth to prey on vulnerable young girls. That is why he needed strong, hard, unbending defense, in life and in death. To defend Jeffrey Epstein is to defend an Al Qaeda Jihadist,  Nazis who want to march in Skokie. Illinois,  and all those who hold views that the majority deem repugnant.

Who could defend enemy occupying soldiers wrongfully killing Americans on American soil? John Adams, future president of the United States. 


Our strength is not in the easy cases. The Constitution is built on the steel girders of the hard cases; the defense of the un-defendable- the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world. The Constitution is strongest when turned loose to defend those accused of the darkest of deeds.


All criminal defense attorneys proudly recall the first “how can you defend that person?” moment at a family meal or a party. And yet, when Mr. Epstein killed himself in despair, criminal defense attorneys from across the United States piled on, trashing Epstein, celebrating his death, murmuring conspiracy theories. 


Epstein’s death is a missed opportunity. We have a chance to highlight to the world the horrific conditions under which our clients are incarcerated. Federal detention centers are designed to force pleas.  The abatoir system of indictment and pleas undermine our most cherished and important right- to force the government to prove its case. We already labour under the (wink*wink) no trial tax system, where prosecutors in the blink of a “no” go from recommending one year to twenty, and judges follow along, trying to keep a straight face while denying that the defendant was punished for going to trial and losing. 

And yet in the face of this trial tax, a few brave souls solider on, forcing the government to trial, fighting for their client, and often winning. But sometimes the unbearable burden of pre-trial incarceration proves to be too much. 


Inhumane pre-trial incarceration is the real lesson of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. The #metoo movement has nothing to do with how this case ended. All victims have the right to be heard, listened to, respected, and believed when the evidence is credible. And this includes the victims of incarceration in the Gulag United States. 


No one else is brave enough to say this, so we will: rest in peace Mr. Epstein, the legal system failed you. The government has your blood on its hands, and we are sorry.