UPDATED WITH THE DEFENSE OF THE JUDGE
THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
Whether you are a veteran prosecutor or an experienced defense attorney, a barrister who is in the "pits" on a daily basis, we all have that ability to recognize when some new judge appears before us, who is destined to be a truly great judge. There is a second group of judges who, well, let's just say that they ascended to the bench just a little too early in their legal career. Then finally, there is that final group of judges - these are the ones that belong nowhere near a bench, let alone the courtroom itself. They can be very dangerous with a gavel in their hands. They step up those 40" risers to their seat in the courtroom and truly believe that "they are" holier than thou.
Judge Cheryl Aleman is one of those judges.
Aleman is a former prosecutor, appointed to the bench in December of 2001 by Governor Jeb. She was a Senior Assistant Statewide Prosecutor from 1996-2001. Aleman first made news, and drew significant criticism, during her robing ceremony, when she discussed her religious views. She went on to earn the lowest marks among the candidates in a Broward County Bar Association poll. That was in 2004, when she ran against Robert Malove and beat him by 9,000 votes (with 158,000 cast). Almost half of the attorneys responding to the poll deemed her "not qualified."
In 2002, Aleman was criticized twice by the Fourth District Court of Appeal for decisions in dependency cases in which the appellate court found she was too strict with her rulings. In one of those cases, the court said she abused her discretion when she ruled against parents relying on public transportation who were 25 minutes late for a trial to take their daughter away. "The purpose of the statute is not to inject `gotcha' practices into the dependency process," the court wrote.
In 2003, she made national news when she denied a request from a drug offender dying of AIDS to be released early from jail to spend his last months with his family. Jean Felix, 41, was in jail for violating his probation in a drug possession case. Felix was in such bad shape that a Broward County Jail official called his lawyer to suggest releasing him to a cousin's care so he could die with dignity. The defendant's lawyer made the request and the prosecutor didn't oppose it. Doctors testified he would die in anywhere from a few days to two months. To understand how absolutely insane her ruling was, one only has to look at who overruled Aleman and released the defendant from jail. It was none other than Chief Judge Dale Ross; (widely considered one of the toughest judges in the courthouse).
Fast-forward to 2006, where the judge continued to make headlines. First, she threatened to hold two assistant public defenders in contempt because they were unable to file a recusal motion within a 15-minute deadline she set. The case was a first degree murder case. Several weeks later, Aleman made more news when she sentenced criminal defense attorney Adam Katz to 60 days in jail for missing two hearings.
Finally today, the JQC filed formal charges against Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman, alleging she “engaged in a pattern of arrogant, discourteous and impatient conduct” on the bench. Judge Aleman was charged with violating several judicial canons. The seven-page notice cites several instances of the judge holding or threatening to hold attorneys in contempt. The JQC also cited her refusal to recuse herself from cases where she had a perceived conflict of interest.
The complaint cites to canons that require that judges uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, respect and comply with the law and act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary. She was also charged with violating a judicial canon that calls for a judge to be “patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers” and others that the judge deals with professionally.
In the Katz matter, the JQC said Aleman ordered Katz to appear before her knowing he was out of town. The JQC complaint even addresses the 2003 Jean Felix AIDS case and accuses her of releasing a “misleading” order defending her decision that “conspicuously omits” the stipulation agreed to by both prosecutors and defense attorneys that the inmate was dying of AIDS-related causes.
In describing the conduct of Judge Aleman, it was probably best said by Assistant Public Defender Bruce Raticoff, when he spoke of the JQC charges against Aleman. “In my 26 years of practicing law, I have never once been in front of a judge that not only treated me with such contempt but, more importantly, my client with such contempt.”
Here's hoping that Judge Cheryl Aleman gets her just desserts. It's about time JQC.
CAPTAIN OUT ............................................
THE DEFENSE WILL NOW GIVE AN OPENING STATEMENT
I remind the jury that what attorneys say is not evidence. But an opening statement is intended to guide you as to what the attorney believes the evidence will show:
Not that anyone here wants to deal in the truth but here it is....
1) I was at that Robing she thanked God, she said that her Faith meant a lot to her. She never said anything bad to anyone or that due to her faith she was better then anyone.
2) That poor guy dying with AIDS was alive at least a year after the decision. He may still be alive today.
3) Adam Katz, lets see.....Katz takes over a DWLS case that had been kicking around for almost a year. Judge tells Kats it has to be ready for trial next time up no more continuances. Katz sends a coverage guy to the next trial appearance requesting a continuance. Judge is pissed but allows the continuance but says again under no circumstances would there be another continuance. Katz a week before the trial date sends a written motion for continuance which the judge denies. The day of the trial Katz sends a coverage guy who tells the judge he went to Vegas for "business" and needed a continuance. She ordered him back for a contempt hearing, showing no remorse or respect for the Court she held him in contempt for a weekend. Say what you want, Dade Broward, good judge or bad judge, no one can disrespect the court the way Katz did and get away with it. Can anyone here say that they would treat a judge this way, no.
As for the stuff with the 15 mins to do a recusal that is bad. I am not saying Aleman is perfect or should walk on this but at least we should know the facts.
Rumpole has the last word: This judge has priors. She is the same judge reprimanded for removing children from their parents, twice, in one instance after the mother was late to a court hearing because she took public transportation. I am sure her prior record of intolerance was factored into this decision.