Thursday, March 29, 2007
“I would never, ever make a change in a United States Attorney position for political reasons, or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.”
Alberto Gonzalez testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 18, 2007
Gonzalez’s Chief Of Staff D. Kyle Sampson ranked every United States Attorney for purposes of considering who to fire and replace. Chicago US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was ranked in the group of US Attorneys who “have not distinguished themselves.” Ask Scooter Libby about Fitzgerald’s abilities as a prosecutor.
The Senate renewed the Patriot Act containing a little known item allowing the President to appoint US Attorneys without Senate confirmation. This month the senate voted to revoke that provision of the act.
David Iglesias, US Attorney for New Mexico, was fired after complaints by US Senator Pete Domenici that Iglesias was not quick enough to complete election fraud investigations of several democrats before the last election in November. Iglesias said Domenici called him at home to discuss the pending investigation before the November election. Iglesias refused to discuss the matter. Domenici complained to President Bush several times. No Democrats were indicted before or after the election. When New Mexico State Republican Party chairman Allen Weh mentioned Iglesias to Karl Rove, Rove replied “he’s gone.” Iglesias was one of the 8 fired US Attorneys. Iglesias recently wrote an Op Ed piece for the NY Times in which he stated that his office had a 95% conviction rate, had filed a record number of prosecutions, and had conducted and prosecuted the largest political corruption cases in New Mexico’s history.
San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam was fired for not being loyal enough. Lam’s political investigation put long time Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham in jail for massive fraud with, and kickbacks from, defense contractors. Lam was continuing the investigation into other Republican lobbyists and donors at the time she was fired.
US Attorney Chris Christie of New Jersey was not fired. Just before the November elections, Christie announced a high profile investigation into Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. The Republicans would have held the senate if Menendez has lost the election. The announcement of the investigation was quickly incorporated into last minute attack ads by Republicans against Menendez. Had the ads been successful, the Democrats would not be in the position of having the Senate Judiciary Committee issue subpoenas into the US Attorney scandal.
We are witnessing the politicization of the federal prosecutors office on a scale never seen before. Not content with awarding prominent Republicans with US Attorney positions, the Bush administration has sought to influence the prosecutors appointed to those positions to conduct investigations against Democrats during election periods for the purposes of maintaining the Republicans grip on power.
The result is not just the current scandal, but the public’s loss of confidence in the integrity of the prosecutor’s office.
Scene: An airport in Africa. The fog is rolling in. An airplane roars and is about to take off in the midnight air.
Two men in trench coats face each other. One man (Major Strasser) is dialing a phone to stop the plane from taking off. The other man (Rick) tells Strasser to put down the phone. Strasser and Rick fire their weapons almost simultaneously. Strasser’s shot is wide, Rick’s is true, and Major Strasser falls down, mortally wounded.
Through it all, the local police Captain, Captain Renault witnesses the entire event. Seconds later Renaults officers arrive in force.
Renault: “Major Strasser has been shot.” Renault looks at Rick. Rick looks alarmed. Renault looks to his officers:
Renault: “Round up the usual suspects.” The police salute and hurry off.
This is what our Federal Prosecutors Offices are about to become- lackeys of the Bush administration who round up the usual suspects to placate the President and his Rove backed henchmen.
See You In Court – representing the usual suspects.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Then help her out however you can.
If you're wondering, her case was in Texas. Figures.
We have decided to address the identity issue with a brief update.
Every day we get about a dozen private emails regarding our identity. They mostly center around a character in a popular novel. We have a usual response which we have decided to post here. It all started with an enterprising Judge who, pondering our identity, was moved to go to page 21 of a particular novel. Here is an approximation of what we emailed him, and others.
You should think outside the box. The email name can be commonly associated with a character in a novel. But that is thinking inside the box. Those who associate our identity with a particular novel, do so by choosing to completely ignore the full email address. There are not 20 other emails with the same name with Google. (We checked.)
Going to a particular novel and looking at page 21 is a brief example of trying (but not succeeding) at thinking outside the box. You need to try harder and drop the associations with the author, because, it really has very little to do with our identity. Or just stop caring about it because it doesn't really matter in the long run.
This is not another clue, but a better example of thinking outside the box. A few of you will recognize it immediately, and proceed accordingly. The rest- and we are warning you now not to spend your time cracking the code- will try to crack the code. That is thinking inside the box.
11TH CIRCUIT HISTORICAL SOCIETY
We hear (doesn't mean we were there-doesn't mean we weren't there.) there was a great turnout last night for the inaugural event for the 11th Circuit Historical Society.
Our Courts are repositories of a great deal of history, and there are wonderful people (and characters) associated with that history. Some great Judges and lawyers contributed to the community and shaping Miami as the town it now is.
We commend Judge Silverman for his efforts and urge everyone to click on the link on yesterday’s post, go to the 11th Circuit Historical Society’s Web Page and join the society.
FEDERAL JUDGE COHN SAYS NO TO STEROID EVIDENCE IN DEFENSE CASE
We saw this article on the Federal Blog and we re-print the link to the Sun Sentinel Article.
Defense lawyers representing Kenneth Wilk in the federal criminal prosecution in which Wilk is accused of killing BSO Deputy Todd Fatta, were told by Judge Cohn that they could not introduce evidence that the deputy had anabolic steroids in his system at the time of his death. Wilk's lawyers are attempting to show that their client acted in self defense and that the Deputy acted in an overally aggressive manner.
Rumpole says: This is a clear cut issue in state court. Evidence of use of drugs is admissible if the defense can show that it is relevant and either occured at the time of the event, or that the habitual use of the drugs affected a witness's memory.
In Federal court, where it seems 404(B) evidence is liberally admitted (what we call Williams Rule Evidence in State Court) it is somewhat surprising to see that the door does not swing both ways. One would think that if the prosecution had evidence that the Defendant was using anabolic sterodis at the time of the shooting they would seek to admit it for the same reasons.
Far be it for us to impose our humble and apparently misguided view of evidence on one of the members of the Federal College Of Cardinals, but it seems like the defense in this case isn't catching any breaks, including the use of evidence that would be admissible in a self defense case in State Court. Perhaps, as Judge Moreno says, "Three Wiser Judges in Atlanta" will see things differently if it gets to that stage.
The defense in this matter is being handled by William Matthewman and and J. Raphael Rodriguez. We don't know Mr. Rodriguez, but if you want to see one of the best defense attorneys in the nation in action, go watch Mr. Matthewman.
See You In Court.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Who was Ed Cowart; Who is Ed Carhart? What about Tom Scott? Ellen Morphonios? Gerald Wetherington? Seymour Gelber?
If you don’t know whose those people were (or are, in the case of Mr. Carhart, Judges Gelber, Wetherington and Scott.) then you don’t know Jack about the REGJB. For those of you lucky enough to practice law in our little world, you might be surprised to know that you are practicing law in the footsteps of some great lawyers and Judges.
If you need a little brushing up in your REGJB history, have we ever got an event for you!
Tuesday March 27, 2007 at 5:30 pm at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (located just to the west of the Dade County Courthouse) is the inaugural reception of the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society. Come bush up on your courthouse history. Come meet the board members of the Historical Society, which include Janet Reno, Bennett Brummer, former Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit Gerald Wetherington, and Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan, who sat as a circuit court Judge in Dade until the Governor appointed him to the Florida Supreme Court.
Have some fun, enjoy some free food and drink (always the most important item for us), and talk some 11th Circuit History with self appointed 11th Circuit history buff Judge Scott Silverman (who was kind enough to email us an invitation).
Just send an email with an RSVP to:
Here is the link for the 11th Circuit Historical Society's website. Come join the society. HISTORICAL SOCIETY
CONFLICTS WITH CONFLICTS
A depressing email from FACDL member, and ace civil lawyer Rick Freedman reached us today.
“As many of you know, the Florida legislature is in session and is considering several new alternative models to the three year old Court Appointed Counsel program…
Rumpole notes that apparently the legislature was under the impression Sy Gaer would be handling all the conflicts in South Florida, and budgeted $20,000.00 for all of the cases. Much to their shock and surprise, the program is over budget, as Mr. Gaer could not handle all the work by himself.
We couldn't make up the asinine proposals coming from Tallahassee if we tried.
Mr Freedman writes:
The Senate, on the other hand, is considering scraping the entire present system, and creating a new bureaucracy that would be known as the "Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel". There would be five Regional Counsel offices (corresponding to the five district court regions in the state). The offices would be full time offices that would hire investigators and "Assistant Regional Counsel (ARC) attorneys". These attorneys could handle private work in addition to their responsibilities as an ARC, but the work could NOT include criminal cases.”
Lawyer. “Hi, I’m your court appointed attorney. You have been charged with first degree murder and the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. I’m here to help.”
Client: I hear the most experienced prosecutor has been assigned my case.
Lawyer. That’s true. But I’ve been a lawyer twenty years myself.
Client. And you do criminal law?
Lawyer. Well, not exactly. They’re not allowed to appoint attorneys who handle criminal law to represent defendants. But I do four closings a week in my practice!
Client. Great. If they add mortgage fraud to my case, then I’m all set.
Mr. Freedman writes that Judge Farina along with FACDL regulars Brian Tannebaum and Richard Hersch are advancing the position of keeping things the way they are, but appropriating a few extra dollars to cover those cases Mr. Gaer can’t get to.
Rumpole says: We guess the legislature has decided its cheaper to pay a few hundred thousand bucks to those few defendants who are able to prove their innocence after a few decades in prison, rather than spend the money to hire qualified lawyers to represent them to begin with, and avoid the tragedy altogether.
Makes sense to us.
So did the argument that Saddam had WMDs.
See You In Court.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
You’ve got your State Court Judges who were nominated to the Federal Bench. All in all a very good group of Judges. Then you have your lawyers who were nominated. A mixed bag at best. Some of these Judges are very good, dedicated and hard working. And some of these Judges are just higher priced political hacks.
If one more of these federal hacks threatens to send a US Marshall over to my courtroom to grab an attorney who is in trial before me, I’m going to call their bluff and tell them that I will have the Marshalls arrested by Metro Dade for trespass.
Do these Judges really think their cases are more important than mine? And while they may be appointed for life, do they really want a public showdown on this?
Here’s a common scenario- we have a murder trial that’s gone three weeks instead of the planned two, and I have the defense attorney begging me to call the Federal Judge because they have to try a two day disorderly conduct in a post office case, or some such federal nonsense. Now, if I’m lucky enough to get a former state court Judge on the phone- no problem. But if I get one of these self anointed Kings or Queens of the Legal Profession, then I start hearing about Federal Marshalls and holding attorneys in contempt. If I can just get the right defense attorney to play along- then one day I’m going to call that pompous Ass’s bluff and get the Metro Dade Police to bar the Marshalls at the courthouse. Then I’m going to get a dozen state court judges to appear at the contempt hearing, along with a few former judges as defense attorneys, throw in the Herald and The Daily Business Review- and maybe I can get one of these blowhards to back down from their precious two witness petty theft from a National Ranger Station case in light of my 35 witness death penalty trial.
And people don’t think we day dream from the bench.
The current politically correct thing to say is that “it’s the people’s seat, not my seat.” Hogwash. This is my seat. I went out for it. I fought for it. I risked ruin for it. It’s mine and it will stay mine until they pry it from my cold dead hands. That being said, it’s important to remember I am one election away from sitting in my office and hoping the 2500 dollar check clears so I can pay my rent. I’ve been there- and while I don’t want to go back- I will if I have to.
I’m all for closing the door behind me, and making my seat a merit retention seat. And yet, I know a dozen or more of my colleagues will become completely insufferable if they don’t have the threat of an election to keep their ego in check.
I’ll tell you Rumpole- I re-read my diary to prepare for these little missives I write- there is 80% of material I cannot ever disclose. The massive egos- the moronic statements- the stupidity- the inexperience and just plain meanness that I have seen. And through it all, what I remember most are the decisions my colleagues have made that have caused them anguish. The life and death decisions- those are obviously hard. But I have had colleagues cry in my office over sending someone to jail for thirty days. Those are the great Judges. The ones who never forget for one moment the hardship a case causes everyone. Those Judges, who even after 20 years, still struggle to do the right thing- big case or small. I hope I’m one of those. I really do. Because If I’m not- If somehow without knowing I’ve become a bitter "know it all", well, I will never forgive myself. Because I know better.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Now that we’ve gotten past the predictable accusations ( “He may be a serial rapist”) to which our colleague Mr. Milt Hirsch responded by calling the alleged victims “serial accusers” can we examine the real issue here?
What in the name of standards and psychological evaluations is going on at the City Of Miami Police Department? The Department is developing a long and sordid history of hiring the worst and most troubled candidates. Didn’t any screening process catch Officer Ragusa’s predilection of allegedly preying on women?
Perhaps it would help if the Miami Dade Police Department removed the sign in its recruiting office:
“If You Have A Prior Record Or Psychological Problem, Please Apply to the City Of Miami Police Department.”
INTERIOR DEPARTMENT DEPUTY HEADED TO PRISON
Speaking of a tradition of honor and integrity, J. Steven Griles, the former Deputy Secretary of the Interior- the second highest official in that department from 2001-2004, entered a plea of guilty in Federal Court on Friday to lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee when he testified he had “no relationship” with convicted Lobbyist Jack Abramoff. While the Bush administration is racking up an impressive list of officials under indictment or convicted, what is of more concern is that before becoming the second most powerful person entrusted with the Nation’s natural resources, Mr. Griles was a powerful lobbyist for the mining industry.
Talk about the Fox guarding the Henhouse.
Why don’t they just get the city of Miami Police Department to guard the dancers at Solid Gold?
US ATTORNEY SCANDAL
This week we learned that Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Gonzalez’s Chief of Staff sent this email in January 2005-
"As an operational matter, we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys--the underperforming ones ... The vast majority of U.S. Attorneys, 80-85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc.”
Eventually 8 US Attorneys were sacked, and the fingerprints on the weapon lead to Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove.
Rumpole’s History Quiz- What event took place on October 23, 1973 that shook the country down to it’s constitution? If you answered the Saturday Night Massacre, you get an A from professor Rumpole.
What depresses us is that most prosecutors we litigate against weren’t even born when this occurred.
Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox issued a subpoena to President Richard Nixon for the tapes from the Oval Office. On Friday Night President Nixon offered a compromise- to have Senator Stennis review the tapes and summarize their contents to Cox. Cox refused, setting the stage for a legal battle.
On Saturday Night Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and Nixon fired Richardson.
Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus refused so Nixon fired him.
Wandering the halls of the empty Justice Deparment, an enraged President stumbled across a janitor named Robert Bork (OK- we have taken a little liberty with history. Bork was actually the Solicitor General). Nixon appointed Bork acting head of the Justice Department and ordered him to fire Cox.
Bork fired Cox, and a Governor in California named Ronald Reagan, while reading his Sunday Morning paper the next day, turned to his wife and said “You know, if I’m ever elected President, this Bork guy would make a great Supreme Court Justice” to which his wife Nancy replied “Eat your prunes Ronnie.”
Anyway, what has changed in 34 years?
What has changed is that in the administration of the most corrupt presidency in the 20th century, the Attorney General in the Nixon administration, and his deputy, placed the Constitution above politics.
Not any more, in what is shaping up as the most corrupt administration of the 21st century, (granted – it’s the first, but can you imagine anything worse?) the Attorney General views his position as one more cog in the Republican election machine. Remember that this whole scandal started over the perception that certain local US attorneys were not prosecuting democratic candidates during the last election.
Now to the important stuff:
The Herald and the NY Times reported today on the embarrassing situation where the University of Florida refused to bestow an honorary degree on Former Governor Jeb Bush. President Bush reacted angrily to the alarming situation and promised to immediately send legislation to the Hill to fix the problem.
“My administration is pledged to the simple principle that no Governor will be left behind.” said the President.
See You In Court Monday.
Tomorrow- the latest installment of Diary of a Mad Jurist.
Friday, March 23, 2007
There is an old axiom- Republicans get us into wars, and Democrats get us out of wars.
For decades, the Republicans have run as the party who was more committed to keeping the US strong. Whats wrong with this picture now?
The NY Times Reported Tuesday:
For decades, the Army has kept a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on round-the-clock alert, poised to respond to a crisis anywhere in 18 to 72 hours. Today, the so-called ready brigade is no longer so ready. Its soldiers are not fully trained, much of its equipment is elsewhere, and for the past two weeks the unit has been far from the cargo aircraft it would need in an emergency.
Pentagon officials worry that among the just over 20 Army brigades left in the United States or at Army bases in Europe and Asia, none has enough equipment and manpower to be sent quickly into combat, except for an armored unit stationed permanently in South Korea, several senior Army officers said.
Rumpole says- It seems to us that our nation was stronger and better able to respond to emergencies when President Clinton was in office. President Bush took office scoffing at President Clinton’s predilection for using airpower and not sending troops into conflicts.
“Boots on the Ground” was what W wanted when faced with a crisis. President Clinton was able to respond to the crisis in Kosovo without ensnaring the country in an endless ground war. His management of that crisis doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect now, does it?
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave a press conference right after Baghdad fell. He scoffed at the critics who said the country was entering a “quagmire.”
Former Secretary of State Collin Powell was widely quoted as telling President Bush before the current war that “You break it-you bought it” in reference to plans to invade Iraq.
History has vindicated the advice one of those men gave to their President.
We think the lesson from this whole mess is this- war is a difficult endeavor.
The military action to liberate Kuwait was an anomaly. Wars aren’t normally played out in 100 hours of ground action. However, as a country, we became intoxicated by our success in the first Gulf War, and we ignored the lessons of history.
Now we are paying the price.
The Professionals- Powell, General Shalikashvali, and a whole host of others warned the amateurs (Clinton, Bush, Rumsfeld) about the perils of committing troops and going to war.
One of those three men was smart enough to listen to those who knew more than he did. The other two bear the responsibility for over three thousand American lives, a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, and countless men and women injured.
The world is not a safer place.
The United States is not in a better position to stop North Korea or Iran or China should they start a military action.
This is price the world is paying for for the Hubris of Rumsfeld and Bush.
The Greeks warned us about Hubris. When will we listen?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
ED LOCASCIO, THE CPA ON TRIAL FOR ORDERING HIS BROTHER TO MURDER HIS WIFE WAS FOUND GUILTY TODAY AROUND 5:00 PM ON ALL COUNTS. THE TRIAL WILL NOW ENTER THE PENALTY PHASE.
Veteran courthouse observers called this one close. No body, no murder weapon, and with the actual killer already convicted, veteran prosecutor Gayle Levine was without many of the usual advantages Major Crimes Prosecutors have up their sleeve when they go to trial. Throw in the lead detective's admitted affair with a witness, and you have all the makings of a real Miami trial- sex and murder were once again intertwined in a REGJB courtroom.
Locascio was more than ably represented by ace criminal defense attorneys Bob Amsel and David Raben, who now find themselves in the unenviable position of fighting for their client's life. The defense did not have an easy time of it, with a pending divorce between the departed Mrs. Locascio and her CPA husband providing all the motive a Miami jury needed to find Locascio guilty. There were whispers of a senile juror, which may complicate matters in phase two. Judge Stan Blake presided over the three week trial with his usual common sense and fair approach to matters. With the defense down but not out, the only question left is whether this one goes to the Third DCA (if the defendant is sentenced to life) or directly to the Supreme Court (if the defendant is sentenced to death.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
EPISODE II- THE “HIGH” COURT
[Longtime and careful readers of the blog will remember the Pilot Episode, which debuted on this Blog on February 9, 2007.]
[ A DARK SCREEN WITH WHITE LETTERING]
ROLL CALL 7:02 AM
FADE TO A CROWDED ROOM WITH A BALDING DISTINGUISHED MAN AT A PODIUM. HE IS SERGEANT ESTERHAUS, AND HE RUNS THE ROLL CALL MEETING. HE IS ADDRESSING A GROUP OF 20-30 JUDGES WHO HAVE CROWDED INTO THE ROOM. SOME ARE SIPPING COFFEE, EATING BAGELS AND DOUGHNUTS. A FEW SERIOUS ONES HAVE NOTEBOOKS OPEN.
A FEW IGNORE THE PROCEEDINGS AND CHAT AMONG THEMSELVES.
THERE IS A BLACKBOARD WITH SOME WRITING BEHIND THE SERGEANT:
A FEW NOTES CAN BE SEEN OVER HIS SHOULDER INCLUDING
“Dade sucks”…."minimum mandatories rule!".... “remember…bonds can be raised as well as lowered” and “guidelines are for sissies”
SGT ESTERHAUS: People…people settle down.
Item 9: There were three not guilty verdicts last week. [The room becomes immediately silent and the Judges become very attentive. Esterhaus notices the change and likes it]
SGT: That’s better. Our Chief “DR” wants you all to know that he understands that mistakes happen. [Esterhaus pauses two beats] Just don’t let it happen again. [There is some scattered applause as Esterhaus smiles, and the Judges all relax].
Sgt. Item 10. I have a note here from a Court TV reporter. Whoever stole her notebook and purse from the woman’s lavatory on six during the hearing on Anna Nicole Smith, she would like it back, no questions asked. [There is some low level chatter and several names are called out: “Dale-give it back.” ; "Larry took it"; and “I didn’t know Paul could read” are heard over the din.]
Sgt. Item 11. As you all may have heard, one of our own was taken down over the weekend. Judge Larry Korda was arrested as he communed with nature as it were in Goldman Park on Saturday, for possessing and apparently enjoying a rolled cigarette alleged to contain cannabis sativa.
[There is wide spread hooting and hollering.]
Hold it down people. We can expect a deluge of comments from attorneys and the media, including comments about “the High Court”, and Larry getting the “munchies”, not to mention the off-hand comments about “cronic” and the “good shit”.
You will all recall that because of Korda’s comments last year about a battered woman not speaking English, the Chief required all of us to attend sensitivity training.
[we hear in the background “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”, and “how do you say pot in Spanish?”- "Ganja!!" someone replies.]
So in his time of need, the Chief asks all of you to step up and help your colleague. He wants names of all attorneys making smart remarks.
You know the drill about how to handle them.
Sgt: Item last- in connection with Judge Korda, we can expect the Governor to appoint a Judge from out of town to handle this matter. This is no current truth to the rumor the Judge will be from our friends down south in Dade County.
[There are whistles and hoots in the background. “What a buncha woosies” someone yells. "Dade? Is that in America?" and "No Habla ingles in Dade."]
Sgt: However, and I say this off the record- whomever gets appointed might need a friendly reminder that love him or hate him, Korda is one of our own. As such, the out of town Judge needs to be reminded that we have a long memory here on the Hill, and there will come a time when someone from this county gets appointed to handle a case in their county. It might be appropriate to mention that unless they want to see a colleague of theirs slammed, now would be the time to consider granting that motion to suppress. You know how it’s done.
A friendly chat at the coffee pot is all that’s needed.
Sgt. That’s it. We have the blood drive next week, a refresher by the Chief on imposing contempt during trial, the annual roast of the Judge who had the most not guilty verdicts last year, and the famous and much loved Dade Dartboard.
[There are cheers in the room].
Order your dartboard with the picture of your least favorite Dade Defense Attorney. Proceeds go to the window replacement fund.
[All the Judges get up to leave and some make it to the door]
Sgt. Hey…hey HEY. [Everyone stops.]
Lets get some guilty verdicts out there.
ROLL OPENING THEME SONG.
Monday, March 19, 2007
The Miami Herald reports that North Of the Border Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Korda was arrested and given a promise to appear for smoking Cannabis Sativa this weekend.
We left the Death Penalty post up over the weekend and through Monday because of the lively debate (notwithstanding the participation of some character from Fast Times At Ridgemont High) in the comments section.
We now move on to less serious, but no less important matters.
Kudos to Judge Jacqueline Scola.
She handled an issue the other week in a way that is near and dear to our heart. When a young infant cried in her mother’s arms in court the other day, rather than just have her bailiff chase her out into the hallway, Judge Scola had the bailiff get the case name the woman was in court for, so the matter could be called out of turn. Too often parents who bring their children to court are harassed and treated like criminals because their child cries. We have written about this problem before, and it is nice to see at least one Judge treating the citizens in her court with respect and dignity.
Prosecutors Prosecutors Prosecutors.
We have had little success at getting those county court prosecutors out of the middle of the road. Like little ducklings hyped up on Starbucks, they trek though the parking lot by walking right in the middle of the road, and give anyone who honks at them dirty looks. The irony is that they prosecute traffic and traffic related crimes.
We suggest to these young Hamilton Burgers that the next time they're bored in court, to try perusing section 316.130(10) Florida Statutes.
(10) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
It may seem like a little thing, but it bothers us. We have to start our day by negotiating a gaggle of prosecutors, then go through the highly trained security personnel before being yelled at by some Judge because we are late.
Get out of the way will ya?
"BUT JUDGE, WE DON'T HAVE IT"
Once we get in court, we can’t help cringing at this argument, which is continually accepted by the Court. We suggest all Judges and Prosecutors read Kyles v. Whitely, 514 U.S. 419, 115 S.Ct. 1555 (1995). Longtime and careful readers of the blog know that the times we actually read case law are as infrequent as one of our dear Robed Readers picking up the cheque at Happy Hour. But Kyles is worth perusing.
Here is the scenario- a defense attorney informs the court that the prosecution has not turned over some piece of discovery like a police report, the autopsy report, the accident report, etc. The Prosecutor retorts that they don’t have the document in question. The police have it, and there is nothing they can do.
Au contraire mon ami.
We quote from Kyles:
This in turn means that the individual prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government's behalf in the case, including the police. But whether the prosecutor succeeds or fails in meeting this obligation (whether, that is, a failure to disclose is in good faith Page 438 or bad faith, see Brady, 373 U.S., at 87), the prosecution's responsibility for failing to disclose known, favorable evidence rising to a material level of importance is inescapable.
Kyles, 514 U.S. 437-38.
Prosecutors have a duty to speak with their witnesses, learn about discoverable evidence, and obtain it and disclose it. It is not sufficient to legally aver “no my job” as we hear time and time again.
And you Judges, stop accepting that as an excuse. The defense does not have the ability to get an officer to turn over a report. All the officers are instructed to give their reports to the prosecution. When a report exists, the prosecutors have to get, pure and simple.
'WE THE JURY THIS _ DAY OF MARCH, 2007, FIND THE DEFENDANT, AS TO THE CHARGE OF MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE...."
Those words will soon be spoken this week as a murder trial extraordinaire comes to a conclusion. Judge Blake presided over the trial, while Prosecutor Gayle Levine slugged it out for the last three weeks with defense attorneys Bob Amsel and David Raben.
The defense represented a CPA charged with orchestrating his wife’s death. The prosecution has already secured a conviction against the killer- the current defendant’s brother. But whether the defendant had his brother kill his wife- well, it’s been a good old fashion Dade County slug fest, with homicide detectives sleeping with witnesses, and the prosecution left with want of an interficio telum (murder weapon). We hear that the prosecution has had a tough road to hoe and the outcome is anyone's guess.
We await the Jury’s verdict.
We cited a case and praised a Judge- all in one remarkable post. You won't see the likes of these two odd occurrences again for quite some time. Must be the Ides Of March.
See You In Court.
Friday, March 16, 2007
On one side of the debate was veteran Dade Prosecutor Abe Laeser. His approval of the verdict in particular and the DP in general touched off a bit of a furor and there were several responses and replies, which we summarize below.
Our brief thoughts: The discussion on the blog boiled down to this: are there people who are truly evil? Or can apparent evil be explained in modern medical terms- with issues like diseases of the frontal lobe, genetics which cause irresistible impulses, and the scars of a horrific childhood, being used to explain otherwise incomprehensibly evil behavior.
Mr. Laeser’s support of the death penalty is also under attack from distinguished jurists who have decided the system is broken and cannot be fixed. This is Rumpole's position. We do not enter the arena of “evil” because we believe this system is irreparably broken. We believe the system may well have executed an innocent man. And we know this legal system of ours has incarcerated over a hundred innocent men on death row, many for decades. We do not need to debate the evil issue. We do not have a system that works, and for us, the debate ends there.
The indefensible and undisputable fact is that over 100 people who were sentenced to death row were exonerated. Amnesty International reports that since 1973, 123 prisoners have been released in the USA after evidence emerged of their innocence of the crimes for which they were sentenced to death. There were six such cases in 2004, two in 2005 and one in 2006. Click on the AI link below for the source of these statistics.
What do we do when we execute an innocent person? What will the proponents of the death penalty say to that person’s next of kin? That in the name of justice (or vengeance) we killed your husband- we took a father from a child- and on behalf of the State of Florida, we would like to apologize?
Is that enough?
The Innocence Project reports that in Dallas County 12 Defendants who were convicted (not all were DP cases) have been exonerated within the last 5 years. That’s in one County in one State. Click here for the stats:
The United States remains in the undistinguished and small society of otherwise repressive nations that routinely execute their citizens.
In 2005, 94 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US. It doesn’t appear to us that we as a Nation are in the best of company on this issue. China executed at least 1700 of its citizens. Iran executed at least 94 people, and Saudi Arabia at least 86. There were 60 executions in the US.
Source= Amnesty International Web Site.
Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote this in a dissent in 1994:
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored...to develop...rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor...Rather than continue to coddle the court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved...I feel...obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies
Justice John Paul Stevens gave a speech in 2005 in which he acknowledged that because of the number of innocent people exonerated, the death penalty system in the United States was broken.
We find ourselves in the distinguished company of Blackmun, Stevens, and most of the civilized world in saying that the death penalty is an anachronistic penalty of the past, and that because of the real possibility that an innocent man will be executed, we do not support the imposition of the death penalty. Ever.
On the Blog Mr. Laeser got things rolling with this: ( We have edited the comments here for length- nothing was added. The full comment is still in the comment section.)
abe laeser said...
Miami-Dade jury recommends Death for Couey, by vote of 10-2.
Probably surprised the 5th Circuit prosecutors, who are used to 12-0 recommendations. Guess the crayons and coloring book were good for two votes. Even people who think that the death penalty is immoral probably have to spend time to convince themselves (again) on a case like this one. Is there a facility that is proper for a man who could kidnap, rape, and then bury this child while she was still alive? What is the right punishment for someone capable of this?
In ancient days the family of this innocent child would have had the right to carry out the death sentences. Maybe they were not all that uncivilized back then.
Anonymous fired back:
Dear Mr. Laeser,
Contrary to your assertion, the State of Florida v. John Couey is an easy case for opponents of the death penalty. Think about it. Is there really any doubt that these men who continually sexually molest little children do so because of a sexual impulsion that they cannot control? And from whence do you think this sexual impulsion comes? It's pretty obvious that this sexual impulsion is chemical--and therefore genetic--in origin.
And therein lies the rub.
Because as I'm sure even you would agree, if criminal behavior occurs because of a chemical imbalance due to a person's particular genetic makeup, then that person's ability to possess the necessary mens rea for the crime is vitiated. There is no question that John Couey and his ilk need to be locked away for a long time, possibly forever if treatment is not feasible, but executed? Never. That would be simply barbaric.
No, the case of the 30 year old (with multiple prior violent felony convictions) who barges into a 7-11 and executes the cashier for $100 is a much tougher one for opponents of the death penalty. But even here, my hunch is that one day, science will eviscerate the notion of free will that underpins our system of criminal justice. There is already evidence suggesting a genetic component to violent behavior. And as science digs ever deeper into who we are and why we behave the way we do, I suspect that we may someday have to abandon the system that "serves" us today.--
Not a criminal defense attorney
abe laeser responded: ..
I do not believe that the death penalty issue is capable of rational debate. You may see me as being irrational, just as easily as I may see you. However, that being said, people kill for a variety of reasons. Some do so for their personal pleasure. Couey may have had certain sexual desires. They are NOT genetic. They are NOT caused by chemical imbalance or brain damage. The boy who grows up on the farm and become involved in bestiality is not brain damaged. The child who is enticed into bizarre sexual acts, and eventually becomes the victimizer himself, is not chemically imbalanced. Even if the world wanted to concede that the sexual deviant cannot control his desires [every crime has an equal and opposite excuse], why did he have to kill his victim? He chose to do that to: (a) avoid discovery, (b) cause pain to the victim, (c) satisfy his own psychic pleasures, ad nauseum...
Now you want to blame some amorphous chemical imbalance for the fact that truly evil people inhabit this planet. If I follow your "LOGIC", perhaps we can do genetic testing and incarcerate children at birth to prevent future acts of horrible violence. Does that concept bother you? As a German Jew whose parents were in concentration camp, it sure as hell frightens me.
Maybe I am actually right, a few people become 'broken' in some fashion. Was it an abusive parent, their own victimization, crystal meth, the brain damaging car accident, the wicked step-sister --- somehow they are broken, unfit to live amongst us. They have become capable of a monstrous depravity and every form of evil.
Now what? Do we say: hormonal imbalance, damage to the frontal lobe, depraved because you were deprived? Or do we say: You have commited a vile crime and taken human life in a cruel manner. We must punish you for your criminal acts.You suggest: "Locked away for a long time"?
"Treatment"? I cannot treat evil, and neither can anyone else. Purely as a matter of retributive punishment for crimes already committed…Couey deserve(s) to be put to death. After 34 years of studying these criminals from a vantage point on the 'inside', I am certain that each had the capacity for free will. Perhaps their narcissism and anti-social traits made it easier to murder, but it was always their individual choice. They had the capacity, even at that last moment to either take a life, or not. They chose to kill.If that were not true, how could we ever punish the burglar, car thief, robber, or rapist? Does your 'fiction' about a lack of free will apply to all crimes? Or just the ones that are so evil that the rare use of the death penalty may be justified?
Rumpole says: Well there you have it. The issues framed for a lively debate.
Leave Markus and Markus alone already, and have at it.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Any persons having knowledge bearing upon the fitness or qualifications of any of the senior judges on the list to continue service as a senior judge should send written comments to Thomas D. Hall, Clerk, Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399, or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone to the chair of the appropriate review board as noted on or before April 13.
The Miami Judges:
Review Board Three (Judge Gerald Cope, Jr., chair, (305) 229-3200):
Jack Block, Eli Breger, Phillip Cook, Robert M. Deehl, John W. Dell, Richard Y. Feder, Seymour Gelber, William E. Gladstone, Edward S. Klein, Gerald J. Klein, Gerard J. O’Brien, Jr., Leonard Rivkind, Michael H. Salmon, Alan R. Schwartz, Martin Shapiro, Herbert Stettin, and David L. Tobin.
North Of the Border:
Review Board Four (Judge Frederick A. Hazouri, chair, (561) 242-2078): James E. Alderman, Richard B. Burk, Marc A. Cianca, David C. Clark, Patricia W. Cocalis, Harold J. Cohen, Walter N. Colbath, Jr., Robert O. Collins, John E. Fennelly, Robert J. Fogan, Howard H. Harrison, Jr., Barbara S. Levenson, Hubert R. Lindsey, Mary E. Lupo, Gerald Mager, James A. McCauley, James W. Midelis, John A. Miller, Estella M. Moriarty, W. Herbert Moriarty, Robert H. Newman, Jerry Pollock, Edward Rodgers, and C. Pfeiffer Trowbridge.
Rumpole says: Gerry Klein- he’s a treasure (the FACDL doesn’t think so, but who cares what they think?). He does the work of two Judges and still gets on the golf course most days. We encourage everyone to email comments about Judge Klein. We also support Judge Tobin, Judge Schwartz, and Judge Salmon. We don’t have any negative opinion about the other Judges, we just haven’t been in front of them lately.
As to North of the Border, certain religious vows cause us to aver that we cannot say anything nice about any Judge up there- except- if there was ever a Judge who didn’t belong in Broward- its Judge Fogan. A wonderful man. He started the Broward Drug Court, and makes Judge Rosinek look like a tyrant.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
We Just can’t keep our noses out of Mr. David O Markus’s business and blog.
Fresh on the heels of his foray into the contretemps surrounding Judge Highsmith (who once loudly chewed us out for asking for an interpreter when out client responded “yes” in court- and didn’t want to hear that “yes” was the only word in English he knew.) comes this mess:
From our favourite federal blogger’s blog yesterday:
"David Markus" ineffective
So the calls and emails started rolling in this morning. Who was that lawyer taken to task throughout the opinion in Richard Thompson v. United States, they asked.
I quickly jumped onto the 11th Circuit website and read today's opinion.
The coffee I was sipping went all over my desk!
Judge Barkett, writing for the 11th Circuit, in a published decision explained how criminal defense lawyer "David Markus" was ineffective for a whole host of reasons.
The thing is, it's not me -- it's the other criminal defense lawyer in town named David Markus. He's David Scott Markus. I'm David Oscar Markus. The court didn't use any middle initial. So now what do I do? Any suggestions?
Rumpole sez: The ol’ "It’s the other guy with my name defense” huh? .
We do that all the time in State court. Rarely works.
Actually, the good news for clients in South Florida is that either David Markus you hire for a criminal case is an excellent lawyer. We don’t know the particulars of the decision written by Judge Barkett (it’s going to take more than this to get us to read a case) but we do know about David S Markus. He is a former prosecutor, and an excellent and well respected criminal defense attorney. Perhaps that David Markus will be blaming some other David Markus. If this keeps up, there might be a real identity defense here.
Anyway, its been a tough week for our favourite federal blogger.
A couple of six figure federal fees should snap him out of it.
But since he sought advice, we refer him to the wonderful Bard, whose prose we read for succor and sustenance of the soul:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man.
O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet;
To which we humbly add:
Markus, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee -Take all myself.
Of course, the Bard didn't have to worry about Google searches from prospective clients.
See You In Court trying the "its the other guy with my name defense" again.
An anonymous post yesterday said these lawyers/Judges were the front runners for a seat on the bench at the 3rd DCA that will open when Judge Fletcher retires.
The front runner you never heard of. Civil lawyer. Class Action specialist. Made a ton of dough from some class action cases. Appears to be a big Republican donor.
Former Judge. Also big in Republican circles. Very successful civil lawyer.
Seemed to have the connections in the last administration. Really wants this spot.
What have you done for me lately?
Dark horse. Loves his appellate appointments. Works hard at it. Not a political candidate, but if the Governor is looking to make an appointment strictly on merits, he could get it.
Rumpole says she's the favorite among the Judicial candidates. Has both the political connections and the smarts to wow the governor. Wow'ed the last administration in her interview for her circuit slot.
Rumpole sez: Hanzman or Shuminer.
Note: We have no idea if these people have been nominated. But if they have been, this is how we see the "race".
FEDERAL BLOG BROUHAHA
Everyone's favourite federal blogger- David O Markus- whose blog can be viewed by clicking on the link on this page- got himself and his blog into a spot of hot water the other day, by publishing the well researched rumor that Federal Judge Highsmith was retiring. Julie Kay from the Daily Business Review jumped on the bandwagon and wrote an article and before you can say "contempt" Chief Judge Zloch was issuing denials.
Actually, everyone apparently had a good laugh about the whole episode, and the mere fact Mr. Markus was seen sweeping the floor of Judge Zloch's courtroom the other day had nothing to do with Mr. Markus's ill advised venture into the land of rumor and innuendo.
Leave that stuff to us we say. As Muhammad Ali used to say- "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see" and last we checked there was no known address for US Marshalls to appear at to take us into custody.
Mr. Markus writes a great blog. But we think he is better off writing about the legislative histories of Federal Statutes and cheering on Judge Cooke in the Padilla case. In either event, it was nice to see that Rumpole isn't the only Florida legal blogger who needs counsel every now and then.
See You In Court.
PS. A little clerk whispered in our ear that this blog is all the rage among certain Judges at the 3rd DCA. Said they get a big chuckle out of it.
PSS. Speaking of Mr. Markus, we hear that he has welcomed former State and Federal PD hot-shot Bill Barzee into his office. Mr. Barzee's sister is the renowned Judge Mary Barzee who was kind enough to email us an invitation to Bill's going away party- which we also hear was well attended by Judges from State court and a few high powered members of the Federal College Of Cardinals. Mr. Markus appears to be building quite a little legal empire. This bears watching.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Last Friday was a busy day at the REGJB. The lines out front that our favourite herald Scribe is forced to stand in along with the hoi polloi were compounded by the fact that the security screening machine in the back was broken.
There was a disturbance in the front of the building and an obviously agitated man who had already stood in line was sitting on the floor by the exit saying very loudly that he had already stood in line and was not going to do it again. It became clear that as he was leaving the building he reached the exit and perhaps stepped over the magic line and realized he needed to go back inside. Security, first in the form of a woman who could not speak the English language in any intelligible manner, barred him from re-entering. The man then- in the best traditions of those of us who lived in the sixties- staged his own sit-down and refused to move.
A larger security officer approached the man, and here’s where the system broke down.
There was no effort at communication. There was no effort at understanding this man’s frustration. There was just a threat and escalation in anger that was quickly heading towards violence.
For all we know the man staging the sit-in could have been violent or mentally ill. By our view, all it would have taken to defuse the situation is a half-way intelligent human being talking to this man for a few moments. Sympathizing with him and his plight, and perhaps agreeing to take him back through the security screening process quickly.
But our highly trained security specialists are not trained to do that. They are trained to threaten, threaten more, and then call for the police. And that’s where the system broke down. Because in our little courthouse where normally you can’t expectorate without hitting one of Miami’s finest, there were no brown or blue uniforms to be seen. The highly trained security officer used his radio, and then-we are not making this up- he put his radio down and appeared to call 911. In the Justice Building.
911: Do you have an emergency?
Security: Yes I need a police officer. A man will not leave our building.
911: Address please
Security: 1351 NW 12 th Street.
911: You're kidding right? You can't find a cop at the Justice Building?
As this was happening- an alert Metro Dade uniformed officer walked into the building. The highly trained security officer- who by the way was not being assisted by his fellow highly trained security officers- waved to the alert Metro Dade Officer- who by this time had reached the escalator. The officer- pleased to be recognized and wished a good day- responded with a big smile and wave and went on his way. All the time, the highly trained security officer was standing next to our 60’s protester- while dialing 911 for help.
If the man who was upset had been bent on causing havoc, he could have rampaged through four floors before any help would have arrived. It reminded us of the time we saw a man barge to the front of the line- go through the machine-which beeped- and then said “I’m late for court.”- and then walked into the building- while the highly trained security officer smiled at us and shrugged her shoulders and said something in Spanish.
Back to Friday: eventually a more alert Metro Dade Officer arrived and soon the front of the building was teaming with officers as if Rudy Giuliani had arrived and said he saw an airplane flying suspiciously.
The point is that we who enter the building on a regular basis know that the security people are overwhelmed. They are under trained- many do not understand English- and we are sure they are under paid.
What is it going to take to bring some order and professionalism to the security force at the REGJB?
How about tweaking the budget and employing an off-duty uniformed officer at each entrance from 8am to noon everyday to help supervise the security screening of the morning crowds?
Let’s be innovative. What does an off duty officer get? 20 bucks an hour? Sell some advertising. 80 dollars a day, $400.00 a week- and a large sign- ‘THE SECURITY AT THE BUILDING TODAY COURTESY OF THE TICKET TEAM. GOT A TRAFFIC TICKET? CALL THE LAWYERS WHO HELP KEEP YOU SAFE- 1800- WHATEVER.
It could work.
See You In Court dreaming of protests and sit-ins
PS The security screening machine is still broken at the back of the courthouse. Today when we entered the building at the rear we saw attorneys handing their briefcases to be screened. The cases were screened by the highly trained security officer glancing inside. This is a major breach of security. Someone dressed in a suit and tie with a briefcase can now bring a weapon into the building by posing as an attorney and coming in the back. Just something else to keep us awake at night.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Email us your links, or post them, and we will review them and create a RUMPOLE APPROVED set of links to websites sure to help you with the practice of law.
We note that the guilty verdict in the Couey trial made national headlines this week.
A quick recommendation: Read the article in this week's New Yorker Magazine about City of Miami Police Chief John Timoney. It's a great article about an interesting man, with all of his accomplishments and personal life hardships on display for all to see. We came away from the article with a greater appreciation for the Chief and the hope that he just might be the guy to straighten out what has been a troubled department for decades.
See You In Court, once we return.
Monday, March 05, 2007
SCOOTER LIBBY CONVICTED ON 4 OF 5 COUNTS. JURY OUT TEN DAYS.
File this under the truth is stranger than fiction category.
We received an email from FACDL President, big-wig, and all around nice guy (Plus everyone's favourite federal blogger ) David O Markus, announcing that lawyers can attend a Marlin's Game on Thursday April 19, 2007 and receive CLE Credit to boot.
The Marlins are hosting (we kid you not ) LAWYER APPRECIATION NIGHT.
Query: Who will set the record for BOOS this year? Barry Bonds, or the Miami Bar?
We just can't imagine ponying up to the concession stands and having someone offer to buy us a beer when they find out what we do for a living.
"You're a lawyer? Let me buy you a beer. You guys are so misunderstood."
Pour a beer on us? Much more likely. And a terrible waste of beer.
Back to the evenings festivities:
Lawyers who attend this event will:
1) Meet Billy The Marlin AND the Marlins Mermaids.
2) As surprising as it seems, the flyer trumpeting this event also touts the ability of attendee to "Watch the Mets and Marlins!" (That's an actual quote).
Go to a ballgame and watch the game. What will they think of next?
3) Get CLE credit.
("Objection your honor. It's hearsay and a violation of the infield fly rule. Plus, the prosecutor may well have made a motion to first during the question, and that's clearly a balk.")
And now for the show stopper.
Want to know what the CLE event is?
We couldn't make this up if we tried.
HOW TO AVOID A BAR COMPLAINT.
See you in Court.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
OK, here I am at a Judicial Conference at the same Hotel in Orlando. Its either Orlando, Tallahassee, or Jacksonville for these things. Sometimes Naples, which can be nice.
The same old Judges, with the same old jokes.
Here we go…calling the 11th Circuit the Republic of Miami….hahaha..nope…another cracker is calling us the 11th Judicial Circus…haven’t heard that one but 100 times at these affairs. Yup, we’re the Judges of Miami…we don’t put people in jail for 10 years for possession of cocaine for a first offense. Yeah we grant a motion to suppress every now and then….umm…the fourteenth amendment makes the US Constitution’s guarantees applicable to the State of Florida. Might be nice if that was ever discussed at a conference.
It’s true we don’t have too many Judges here named Robert E Lee or John Wilkes Booth, and we probably have more Jewish and Hispanic Judges than the rest of the state combined, but we seem to manage just fine thank you.
Here’s a dilemma- the bar tonight with the same old coots …or room service with the same rubbery steak. They wouldn’t know picadillo from a Ruben Sandwich in these parts.
That’s kind of the nice thing about my colleagues in Miami. A group of Hispanic Judges will get together for lunch at Jerry’s Deli, while a group of Jewish Judges will driver over to Isle De Canarias.
I remember when Judge Kahn used to hold cooking contests in the Justice Building. One month it would be best Lasagna, the next month best Cheesecake. We don’t have that kind of congeniality any more. It’s more cliquish, which is inevitable with the larger number of Judges. We have Judges now who I remember as CLI’s at the State or PD’s office. Kind of scary. They seem nice, but how much experience can they really have?
In every generation there is great…good and mediocre. I guess I have no right to complain. We had Judge Scott and Judge Cowart…. But we also had a bunch of hacks who couldn’t make it in private practice…so the more things change the more they remain the same.
[I have obviously incorporated some older diary notes about a Judicial Conference with more current events].
We have this major murder trial from Orange County. Jessica Lundsford. The trouble with this job is that sometimes we see the absolute worst of human nature. That poor girl. Her poor family.
I remember when Cowart had the Bundy case. That was a big deal. He was some Judge. I used to love to watch him handle difficult lawyers. “Why bless your soul” he’d say when an attorney objected, and the case went right on. Those records on appeal were a scream. But he was patient, and smart, and wise. And there is a difference between being smart and wise. Many of my colleagues are plenty smart. Less of them are wise.
I pray every day for the wisdom to do the right thing, and the humility to remember that I am only human and so long as I do my best, sometimes that’s good enough. The real problem with this job- the real agony that no one can ever know until they have sat in my seat, is when you try your best and fail. So many things can go wrong when I’m wrong. That’s why I have trouble sleeping at night.
Anyway Rumpole, that’s enough for this week.
And I hope you feel better. Try green tea. Anti-oxidants and all that.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
There are several interesting trials that are continuing or were concluded this week.
Of course everyone was talking about the implosion of the murder case before Judge Reemberto Diaz this week. After spending a week picking a jury, attorneys Andy Rier, Renee Sotorrio, and everyone’s favourite Rumpole suspect Phil Reizenstein were defending two men accused of second degree murder.
The word is that before the defense attorneys could say “no way, Jose” witnesses were imploding and exploding on direct examination. Tales of coerced and tainted photographic identifications filled the air, along with direct accusations by witnesses of being threatened by the police. One eyewitness, the girlfriend of the deceased, spoke of being repeatedly threatened with having her children taken away from her.
Before you could say NOT GUILTY, the case was nolle prossed during trial.
We hear the real fireworks happened afterwards, when the police department read the SAO spinmeister’s initial statements to everyone's favourite Herald Scribe about taking allegations of police misconduct seriously. Thus, we were not surprised to see the SAO back in the paper next day stating that there would be no investigation of the police.
From an email we received from one of the attorneys:
...Perhaps the worst part of this smelly affair was that the Lead Detective was the one who arrested the eyewitness for perjury. The Eyewitness accused the lead detective of threatening her and threatening to take her children away from her. At the very least, these accusations should be investigated. And then, it is the lead detective who signs the Arrest Report for perjury and arrests the eyewitness. If that is not making good on a threat, then I don’t know what is.
Rumpole replies: Something’s rotten in Demark, as well as at 1350 NW 12th Avenue. Doesn’t it seem like, for the appearance of propriety, some independent agency should review what happened here?
Now to the case two floors down: The Murder Trial Before Judge Blake.
We hear attorneys Bob Amsel and David Raben had quite a time on Friday as the lead detective slinked on the witness stand to admit romantic involvement with one of the witnesses.
"What’s a good murder case without a little illicit sex?" we always say.
We hear that it was definitely a defense day on Friday, and the case without a body is looking pretty good for the defense.
GO AHEAD ...MAKE MY DAY.
And now, word reached us late Friday that attorney and noted tough guy, Scott Hidnert, seen around these parts as one of those attorneys scurrying from courtroom to courtroom handling a bevy of traffic tickets and bullying thuggish motorcycle cops, put a bullet between the eyes of a putative robber on Thursday.
Well Done Mr. Hidnert.
And if you need representation on any possible criminal charges, just say “Help Rumpole” and we will be there with our copy of the self defense jury instruction.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Yesterday, the young girl's Father and Grandmother testified. This whole process cannot be anything other than reliving a nightmare for the family of Jessica Lundsford.
We hope the trial proceeds in a fair and orderly fashion, and that this trial marks the beginning of healing and closure for all those devastated by this tragic event.
The posts have been short this week as we have, like many others, been battling for truth and justice and against a persistent upper respiratory infection.
See You In Court.