Thursday, July 12, 2007



We have some thoughts on Broward Judge Charlie Kaplan and his comment to a juvenile defendant who was wearing all black in his courtroom,

From the Broward Blog:

A fourteen year old is caught at school with a razor blade in his pocket. At an adjudicatory hearing, Kaplan asked the juvenile if he was "wearing all black that day too?. . . Is that the color you like going with? Black all the time?" A case manager told Kaplan that the child was not a danger, and the child's mother explained that her son had never been in a fight or hurt himself. The judge then associated this minimal crime with the horrific events at Columbine where two students killed twelve people: "I mean, I'm no expert. I just know what I read in the papers, but it's like Columbine, right? He's dressed in black. . .He's depressed." When defense counsel argued that the events of Columbine should not be taken into account, Kaplan responded, "[w]ell, I don't agree with you." Kaplan denied J.R.'s Motion to Disqualify, but today the 4th DCA granted a writ of prohibition finding that J.R. has a reasonable fear that he would be more harshly sentenced due to his choice of wardrobe colors, apart from the facts of the case.
J.R. v. State, case number 4D07-1361 (Fla. 4th DCA July 11, 2007).

Rumpole says: Just hold on one second. A young man has a weapon in his pocket in school. He appears in court wearing all black, perhaps in an attempt to dress in the "Goth" fashion. The Judge is concerned that the young man may be depressed. The Judge knows that in another case responsible people overlooked the warning signs of young men who had weapons, were depressed, dressed in a "Goth" style, and ended up shooting up a school.

As much as it pains us to rise to the defense of a Judge North of the Border (lord knows they would never do the same for us) we do not think Judge Kaplan did anything wrong. This is Juvenile court. Among other things, a Judge becomes a quasi-social worker-psychologist-Judge, in trying to fashion remedies to assist children and their families. To require Judge Kaplan to remain blind to what he is seeing is just wrong. Don't we want our Judges to remain vigilant to problems that they might be seeing in the children that come before them? There is nothing to suggest that the Judge treated the child more harshly because of what he was wearing. It appears to us that Judge Kaplan was saying "hey, there might be more here than meets the eye. Lets do something before another tragedy occurs."

If a young person appeared in court in Miami wearing a swastika on a tee-shirt, and raised their hand in a Nazi salute when appearing before the Judge, wouldn't the Judge have a responsibility to see that the child got some help?

We think the 4th DCA was not correct in deciding this case strictly along the lines of just considering Judge Kaplan's comments about the attire of the young man. It has never been more apropos to say "there may be more here than meets the eye" meaning that the manner of dress of a teenager MIGHT indicate something else was going on. And then again, the manner of dress may not have meant anything. The point we are making is that we do not think Judge Kaplan was doing anything wrong in making an inquiry to make sure there was not a problem. This is what we want our Judges in juvenile court to be doing, and we applaud Judge Kaplan for taking the time to be concerned.

There. It didn't come easy, but then we have defended worse clients than this before. A Rumpolian defense of a Judge North of the Border. And there is not even a blue moon outside.

See you in court.

After this post went up, we received this comment, which is just so good that it needs to be included in the post:

Broward Judges are all dressed in black robes including Judge Kaplan. Does this mean they are depressed? Well maybe after all that has been going on with them they should be.

Rumpole says: well done.


Rumpole said...

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Anonymous said...

Gee, I wear black pants and a dark shirt and a black jacket almost every single day. Black socks and shoes too.
Guess I must be depressed.
Oh wait, I'm an attorney. (close enough)
I think a child's clothing "might" be relevant to what's going on in his life but to attempt to base a ruling on the color of his clothing is ridiculous.
The comments made regarding the child's behavior from the case worker and mother should be more important than the color of his clothes.

Anonymous said...

The equation of black clothing *meaning* depression is so simplistic as to be worthy of criticism.

Anyone who knows kids should now that fashion doesn't tell you much about mental state.

If the judge had just requested an evaluation, without prejudging it, that would have been excessive, but not reversible. This was waaay over the top.

Pacificus said...

Broward Judges are all dressed in black robes including Judge Kaplan. Does this mean they are depressed?
Well maybe after all that has been going on with them they should be.

Rumpole said...

great comment. We posted it on the front page.

Anonymous said...

Please don't minimize it. It's an 8th grader. He's not wearing a suit like lawyers do. His fingernails are also painted black. He has a razorblade at school--maybe sitting next to your kid. And here's what the PD left out of the writ: the psychological evaluation said the kid was about to explode. The evaluation wasn't made part of the record for obvious reasons, but the PD handed it to the Judge. The Judge ordered another evaluation. He reset the case. The Broward PD thinks a razorblade at school is for cutting drugs because that is what he used to do in 8th grade. Wait till someone's kid gets cut. This is a juvenile Judge and he did not let it affect his sentence because he DID NOT sentence. He reset it so he could have the kid re-evaluated because the first evaluation was bad for the kid.

Anonymous said...

if mr. dongo killers receive a bond which bondsman will write his bond.?

Anonymous said...

Most kids doing odd things are really seeking attention. They do not have a parent that shows affection. The way a kid dresses & acts is a sign of trouble at home. A major influence on your kid is the group of friends they have attached themselfs to at school. The dark clothes and goth style is a very clear sign of trouble no two ways about it the kid has issues.

The 4th DCA was correct as the case was a "criminal" case not a dependency or TPR case that would cater to judicial comments of this sort. No one to this point has filed a TPR or Dependency petition so the Judge should have recused himself for the comments.

Our federal & state constitution protects all. Just ask the right wing they say it protects a 2 month old fetus.

Anonymous said...

Seen about town last week:

Dan Q Lurvey, the Q, Freddy Moldovan, and Hector Lombada, lunching at a downtown power steakhouse, casually discussing who they will get elected for PD in the next election.

Lurvey Moldovan and Lombada are sometimes known as Miami's equivalent of the Tri-lateral Comission- a secret group that wields lots of power.
The Q is a wild card player with the bunch.

Rumpole said...

We did not publish the comment that contained a reference to anal sex.

Anonymous said...

Charlie's a total defense attorney-type. Don't worry about his motives. Juvenile court requires some real probing, activist judging.

A North-of-the Border Robed Reader

Anonymous said...

A judge trys to find out how much of a danger a kid in juvenile court is and he is vilified. But if the kid shoots 5 people at school a month later they ask why he didn't pay more attention. Other than white men in suits on Wall Street and in Washington, the most feared person in our society is a undersized skinny teenager who will shoot you in a heartbeat or rob you. Look at all the murder and carjacking cases and they are all scrawy kids in their teens and early 20s. I remember how caring judge Altonaga was in juvenile court and Moreno in county court. They are both now federal judges.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, that's FAKE north-of-the-border Robed Reader.

Anonymous said...

With music that promotes the violent crimes how can we fight this?

Anonymous said...

A judge should have the duty to do something if he sees a kid in trouble- or the potential for trouble. But a harsher penalty is not the answer. Fear of harsher penalty is what the court was ruling on.