Monday, April 14, 2014


UPDATE: It's a familiar refrain, but Heat lose again, this time to the Washington Wizards, and now they are knocked out of the top spot in the East and may not have home court advantage in the conference finals,  if they make it that far. 

"Why is this night different from all other nights?"

For those of you who observe Passover in this season of miracles, Happy Pesach.  Good Friday and Easter Sunday and ABC's airing 
of the Ten Commandments coming up this weekend. 

Here is the dream scenario: three weeks ago your client is arrested and unreasonably denied bond by the evil (pharaoh) Judge. 

So you take a writ of habeas corpus to the 3rd DCA and late Friday the decision is handed down reversing the judge. 

You get to go into court and say "Thus sayeth the 3rd DCA...LET MY CLIENT GO."

Anyway, one can dream. 

See you in court. 


Courtesy of the second best blog in Miami, Random Pixels, we are reminded of a riot at the Dade County Jail 50 years ago in April. The Sheriff blamed it on "black muslims." It's not entirely clear about what caused the riot, but we took note of the first of two breakfasts served that infamous day: "sliced peaches, dry cereal with milk, coffee, two biscuits with apple butter." Pretty much what we eat today. 
The other day a client complained that the breakfast frittata's onions were not certified organic, but other than that he enjoyed it. 

A Tough Day At Work:
Last week Jorge Durand passed away. A longtime courthouse fixture as a corrections office and later Judge Joe Fernandez's bailiff, Mr. Durand's daughter Michelle works at MDPD Liason at the REGJB. It has been suggested to us that next week will be a tough one for her and even if you know her and knew her dad, it might be appropriate to refrain from expressing condolences while she works. Work can be a refuge and she might just need some time to do her job without constantly dealing with well wishers reminding her of her loss. 
Just a thought. 

What's the toughest part of a trial? Easy: the verdict. 
How do you deal with verdict stress? 

See You In Court. 

Friday, April 11, 2014


Miami Dade's Drug Court (Motto: "First in the nation") celebrated twenty five years today with a graduation ceremony attended by dignitaries and retired  Judges  Jeffrey Rosinek and Herb Klein, and former drug court judge Deborah White-Labora. 

Miami Dade did indeed launch the first drug court in the nation and that is something we all should be justly proud of. 

Treating the disease instead of criminalizing the addiction has saved literally tens of thousands of lives. 
Judges like Jeff Rosinek, the late Stanley Goldstein and Deborah White-Labora created and carried on a tradition of caring, concern, and successful treatment of drug addiction. The savings of costs to our community in lives saved, families restored, not to mention the return of productive citizens to our community is immeasurable. 

It's popular these days to say government doesn't work. 
Drug court proves that government works. 
Drug court works. 

Congratulations to all the clerks, bailiffs, prosecutors, PDs, support staff and judges who dedicated their  time and effort to make Miami's Drug court  an indispensable and life saving program. You are doing the work of saints.  Godspeed. 

Enjoy your wonderful Masters spring weekend. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Jorge Durand, Judge Joe Fernandez's bailiff, passed away suddenly over the weekend. 

Mr. Durand, a former corrections officer and then Bailiff, and proud father of two daughters who both became police officers, was a fixture at the courthouse ever since the late 1970's. Mr. Durand was one of the correction officers who transported Ted Bundy to the Justice Building (as it was simply known then) for trial. 

Besides his two daughters, Mr. Durand is also survived by his wife, who is also a bailiff. 
The well written Herald obit is here. 


Who polices the police who police the police? Apparently the FBI. 

David Ovalle and the Herald broke the story of Internal Affairs LT Ralph Mata getting arrested for acting as muscle for a drug gang running drugs and money through Miami and New York and New Jersey Some of the allegations include helping move money through a NY airport and helping to plot the murder of rival drug traffickers. 

The Herald article is here. 
Whenever we read something like this we always think that beyond the money that the prosecutors will say motivated the officer, there was the thrill of the crime. For a small segment of the population, the thrill of being the bad cop, the excitement of a  CIA agent turned double agent and leading a double life is what motivates the person.  There's just something wrong with people who do something like this (assuming the feds are correct) and it goes beyond the money. 

That's our thought anyway. 

Your Miami Heat lost to the Brooklyn Nets last night for the fourth time this year. This loss- at home- was punctuated by LeBaby being rejected as he attempted a game winning dunk with one second left.  The Nets swept your Heat for the season while you know who wailed at the refs. 

See you in court. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


As WWII was coming to a close, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during a meeting with Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, cautioned Stalin about considering the views of the Vatican during the post war division of Eastern Europe. 
"How many divisions does the Pope have?" Stalin sneered in reply. 

If trials are wars, then the events and time leading up to the trial are filled with the same angst, posturing, intelligence gathering, and diplomatic entreaties that nation-states engage in right up to the moment the guns begin to fire (or the jury walks into the room). 

In both instances fear plays a role in the outcome. Nations capitulate in the face of armies massed on a boarder. Defendants plea rather than face the enhanced consequences of a guilty verdict. 

The trial lawyer must manage his/her own fear as well as the fears of the client, much like the general before battle or the President/Prime Minister must mange both their personal fears and the fears of those they lead. 

It's a lonely position when a person or a nation places their lives in your hands. Success is partly achieved by facing your fears. Preparation is the key to success. Sun Tzu famously wrote that every battle is won before it begins.  So are most trials. 

The jury trial is under assault. Prosectors over charge cases, invoke decades of minimum mandatory penalties and then make generous plea offers. The consequences of going to trial, they solemnly warn you, are great. Judges punish defendants who lose. It starts in misdemeanor court with simple trials and escalates in felony courts where the penalties can be as high as life in prison. 

There is one and only one way to fight this attack. You must manage your fears, and you must ceaselessly and relentlessly prepare your case for trial.  The more cases we try, the more times we stand up to the threats of the prosecution, the more times we file appeals and cite judicial and prosecutorial vindictiveness in unconscionable sentences, the more we preserve our precious right to trial. 

Fight the good fight. And never never never surrender. 

See you in court. 

Monday, April 07, 2014


"There are only two things that are infinite: The Universe and human stupidity. And I'm not too sure about the Universe."
Albert Einstein. 

Well, we learned one thing from this weekend's caption contest, some of us have a sense of humor. And some of us don't. 

"Some cause happiness wherever they go. Some, whenever they go."
Oscar Wilde.  

Walter Ferguson, a true Miami original and legendary "River Rat" and father in law of ASA Chet Zerlin has passed away. Here is the Herald obit. 

The Volokh Conspiracy: A legal blog you should be reading. 

(H/T: the other legal blog you should be reading: Hercules and the Umpire.)

Enjoy this spring week. 

Coming next week: Who said "Let my people go!" ?

Friday, April 04, 2014


Submit your best caption and much like the New Yorker Magazine, we will pick a winner:

From @Davidovalle305"s twitter account, Ted Mastos with client Sara Zamora, arrested for creating sexual fetish videos of torturing chickens. A crime most fowl indeed. 

Ovalle's article in the Herald is here. 

Our submission:

"Tell me this again....You did what?"

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


There is nothing funny in the 3rd DCA's decision in Alex Michael's contempt case. While the decision is a partial vindication for Michaels, it leaves standing one contempt conviction for which Judge Miranda will surely seek her pound of flesh by insisting that Michaels finish serving the two day sentence she originally imposed.  Left unsaid in the opinion was the court's scathing commentary during oral argument about a judge that imposed a two day prison sentence on a Friday afternoon and did not allow Michaels to post an appellate bond. 

The more disturbing portion of the 2-1 decision is the court's traducingly gratuitous comment about referring Alex to the Florida Bar. The majority's comment further demeaned an opinion that was persuasively refuted by the dissent of Judge Lagoa. 

So here is the opinion and have at it, but be warned that we will not post vituperative and demeaning comments. 


Your Miami Marlins are 2-0.  

We have reprinted a few of the best comments about recently retired ASA Phil Maniatty:

 Steve Kramer said...
I first became acquainted with Phil when we were roommates at the UM Law School dorm in 1974. I was the New Yorker and Phil from Burlington, Vt. Two very different people who have been friends for 40 years. I won't bore you with the many stories that Phil loves to tell, but you should know that Phil is the same small town, unassuming, and pleasant guy he was all those years ago. He became one of the most effective and diligent prosecutors I have ever encountered, yet never losing his smile and common sense.
Enjoy your retirement my friend. You've earned it

 Anonymous said...
Phil was a great division chief. He was a great teacher and supervisor.

As the writer states, he was from a simpler time.

When I was assigned to his division he took all of us to the old Marine Bar for a couple of beers and a game or two of pool. Hell, once he even took the division to lunch at Joe's.

We had espirit de corps. There isn't too much of that anymore.

Phils's a gentleman.

Everyone knows that a condition of probation is that you cannot possess or carry a firearm. Unless you are also a law enforcement officer. Then you can carry your gun, even when you report to your PO:

Judge Ed Newman today allowed MDPD Ofc, Larry Laverde, on probation for reckless driving & leaving accident scene, to carry firearm for work
The herald article is here. Nice job by Arnie Trevilla getting the breakdown for his client. 

Pro Bono:
To: Members of the Southern District of Florida Bar
From: Chief Judge Federico A. Moreno
Re: Call for Assistance -- Pro Bono Panel

I am very pleased to announce that our District is embarking in a new direction that hopefully will result in more unrepresented litigants obtaining counsel than ever before. And we need your help!
You may have heard of the Courts decision last month to discontinue operations of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). In recent times the expenses of operating a program like the VLP simply have become disproportionately high when compared to the number of pro se cases it could service. Because the program was funded from funds collected through a portion of attorney admission fees from members of our Bar and pro hac vice fees, my colleagues and I felt a special responsibility to insure that those monies would be used as wisely as possible.
The decision to disband the VLP was not taken lightly, but rather after exploring various alternatives. In the end, our Judges determined that it would be a better use of resources for us to take a more active role in seeking out counsel for pro se litigants. This will permit much of the money used to fund the VLPs efforts to be shifted toward expense reimbursement for volunteer attorneys.
This is where each of you comes in. I urge all members of the Southern District to join us in a renewed commitment to assist the unrepresented in this District. How can you help? There are a number of ways, the easiest of which is to simply take a case! Pro Bono Opportunities can be found at the Courts and are regularly distributed by way of electronic email blast. In addition, I urge each of you to register via the website to be included in a Pro Bono Panel list of those attorneys have an interest in assisting with worthy cases in the future or who are in a position to help locate other attorneys, such as associates in their law firm, who may take cases. There is no commitment from registering, but rather this will simply help us build a database of first contacts when the need arises.
I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank those who have volunteered in the past through the VLP, and particularly its Director Randy Berg, for their important service to the Court. I am sure that their spirit of public service will carry on as we move forward with this new endeavor. My colleagues and I look forward to seeing each of you in Court.

Federico A. Moreno
Chief United States District Judge