Frank Perdue said “it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” and many people have said it takes a big man to apologize.
Judge Sheldon Schwartz writes about a bad experience last week:
I apologize for my demeanor this past Thursday at the Miami Beach court. It was an aberration. Those who appear before me regularly know I start dockets punctually and my dockets run smoothly. I am always in court early and handle many things prior to the arrival of the public and counsel. That goes for mitigation dockets which at counsels request I volunteered and continue to handle. They are usually at REG every Thursday (but last Thursday of month when I go to Miami Beach).they are scheduled for 8:15 but I arrive at 7:30 and review and render my decision on the computer. Attorneys then review their cases and if they wish them to be reviewed again i do so. This way attorneys do not have to wait. Check with any attorney who handle these matters and you will see this is the truth. But this past Wednesday my staff was advised we had no 8:15 mitigation docket and they called me to so advise. I arrived at court 8:10 to find no fewer than 3 attorneys waiting with notices for 8:15.i handled their matters (one was for 10:30)and continued on with the mitigation docket with attorneys coming and their cases being called.
We then started a criminal traffic trial docket with attorneys and officers being called first, providing they were present when that docket started. Cases were resolved by trial, Plea or dismissal. The same held true on the misdemeanor docket.
I believe that the unrepresented defendant should have equal justice in the courts as a represented defendant. I believe the defendants and witnesses and the public have a right to be informed of the law and understand perhaps why a certain action was taken. Perhaps by explaining in lay terms we will have less crime in our community. Perhaps we should try to make the moment in court an educational and or learning experience. Maybe people should know they may loose their drivers license for certain violations of the law etc. By informing perhaps we will find ourselves having less crime in the community.
Perhaps you would have preferred for expediency. I issue a warrant when the court lacked jurisdiction on a unrepresented defendant who had been placed on probation by another judge in May, with me covering in August and advising the state they had no warrant issued and must have one prior to probation term expiring; or perhaps I should have permitted the state to use a police officer having nothing to do with the case to introduce evidence in a trial because his witnesses had not appeared .
Well, that is not me so if it took a few additional moments I could not help it.
Yesterday was a day I do not wish to remember and one I will not forget. If you were on time and I did not call you out of turn I apologize. I further apologize for my demeanor because of the total frustration I was feeling.
Rumpole responds: Dear readers, here is our favorite quote from our favorite Bard, which we too often find ourselves resorting to at sentencing. However, it fits here as well.
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heavenUpon the place beneath.
It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice.
Here are some reader’s comments about Judge Sheldon Schwartz’s post:
"shelly schwartz says SO SO SO SO SO SO SORRYWill the other robed ones follow?........"
"At least Judge shelly Schwartz had the courage to say sorry. That is more than others in the legal profession who make errors do ."
"For those who review this blog,it is suggested we all look at ourselves.yes,judge schwartz was curt with me on more than one occasion. why? i sent a client by himself to court to request a continuance the day of trial; and a second time when i filed a motion but did not seek a ruling from the court but presumed it would be granted.i will not do such things again although i had managed to do it before.he wishes and wants the best for all people and thats why he takes the time to explain many things.the public seems to understand his word as do police officer and i have seen this thru my own jaundiced eyes as a fellow attorney. "
"Kind of sad that this blog allows people to anonymously attack nice guys like Shelly Schwartz. I only had a couple of problems with him. Each time, I went and spoke to him. He was more than fair and accommodating. Perhaps if some of you guys who had problems with people actually spoke to them outside of court, you'd see that things could be worked out pretty easily. Just a thought. "
Rumpole replies: You are wrong. Judge Schwartz was criticized (not attacked) for having a difficult calendar. That is what this blog is for. Attorneys had a place to discuss their anger and frustration. Judge Schwartz heard their anger and responded. Everyone is better off for it. Attacking Judge Schwartz would have been some untoward comment on his tie. That we will not allow.
"Sheldon Schwartz is a bit loud and sometimes talks too much in court, but he's otherwise a much better judge than some of the nice and polite judges that we have in the building "
"Linking back to the poll about judges punishing defendants who elect to go to trial, we can say in defense of Shelly Schwartz that he is a judge who doesn't put up with that concept. He has resisted the current trend in traffic and misdemeanor courts to punish those defendants who elect trial at soundings and pretrial conferences, and he's quite vocal about it. "
"About the 'other robed ones', who do you think should follow with apologies? Has anything else like this happened anywhere else lately? "
"We should thank Judge Sheldon Schwartz:he does not just appoint the office of the Public Defender and tells all to get an attorney. "
"Be on time! Have common courtesy!Be professional!If you follow these simple rules, the Judge Schwartz is with you. Yes,he talks a lot, but that is because he truly cares about all whose who come before the Court. Perhaps that area he can work on. But others should also care ,be they attorneys or judges. "
"Thursday on the Beach was not a good experience.But it was not because of the judge;but the prosecutors who had no idea what they were doing.Those who were present saw "baby"prosecutors who had no knowledge of what they were doing.One did not even know what jurisdiction is.I sat thru some of this,until my case was called,and yes it was called out ofturn by the judge.
"If Shelly's robes were black, his ties conservative, and his comments short, no one would complain about him. "
"Judge Schwartz(Sheldon)not my favorite judge but gives unrepresented defendants most justice of any judge;victoms learn the system and restitution is made,not merely promised as is often the case.I was present Thursday.It was not a good day. But we all have bad days.We were laughing when the A.S.A .tried to use an officer from Miami Beach who had nothing to do with the case to introduce evidence in a trial where a defendant went pro se!Is a judge to laugh or cry for having such prosecutors before him or any other judge?I for one believe the judge did correctly in explaining to the prosecutor the way he did. Most of us would have made some comments which would have placed us in contempt!Judge schwartz cool down. Continue to be fair to all even if it take an extra ten minutes for such to be done. "
Rumpole sums up: bottom line is that sentiment is running in favor of Judge Sheldon Schwartz. Everyone has a bad day at work from time to time.
Judges who have bad days usually have them in front of crowded courtrooms.
We applaud Judge Sheldon Schwartz for his courage to engage in this dialogue.
He always had our vote, but we think even a lot more of him today.
See You In Court.