Tuesday, August 07, 2007








It’s with sadness that I wanted everyone to know that attorney, Sy Gaer, passed away this morning. Sy was a special person who will be greatly missed by those of us who saw him in the REGMJB daily. Our “most important case” on the calendar, as Sy would always say, will no longer be there. We will miss his wit and his willingness to try any case at any time in defending his clients. David Markus will be finding out later today the details of any service. I am glad that before his passing, Joe Farina had a proclamation honoring Sy for his dedication and service to the Criminal Justice system in honor of his 75th birthday. Sy was touched that so many of us recognized him for all the years of service and we will all miss him and the smiles he brought to our faces.

Stan Blake

From an email we received forwarding Judge Blake's email:

Judge Blake advises that Sy’s funeral details are:



Rumpole said...

I can't even express how sad I am right now. I will miss him greatly. He was a friend.

Rumpole said...

I have turned off comment moderation because Sy was such a special man had such a special place in all our hearts that I am hoping we can put aside our rancor and spend the day with comments about our friend.

David Oscar Markus said...

That is horrible news. If anyone symbolized the MJB, it was him.

He was one of the first lawyers I ever saw in the Justice Building when I was an intern for Sid Shapiro. I watched him in the German Tourist Robbery trial and I thought his opening was as good as it gets. I remember being inspired and thinking "now that's a criminal defense lawyer!"

What a loss.

Anonymous said...

I just heard the news about Sy. He was a great friend. When I was a prosecutor we tried several cases against each other. Far from the image some may have of him, he was an excellent trial lawyer. Crafty, smart, fast, quick, he seized any opening I gave him and ran with it.

Every working day for probably the last 20 years, I would see Sy and he would say “Phil darling how are you?” He would ask about my family, and sometimes we would sit down and talk about cases. I remember when I was a young prosecutor in County Court Sy was talking about retiring and moving out to where his son was in San Diego. I remember thinking that I didn’t want him to do it. That the Justice Building would not be the same without him.

When my office was near his, I would sometimes walk over and see him when he was not in trial. You should not be surprised to know that many times I would find him reading the FLWs. He knew his case law. Once when I was a prosecutor and having a tough time with an issue, I mentioned it to him, and don’t you know he knew the exact way for me to get something into evidence that I could not figure out how to do.

Those of us who have been around a while remember that Sy could always be found at the Alibi Lounge after work at the old Holiday Inn having a few. When I was a prosecutor he was probably the first defense attorney I ever bought a drink for. I would enjoy listening to him talk about criminal law in the 70’s. The wild times, the Judges, the characters he knew- attorneys and clients.

I know I am rambling. I just know that I am very sad and will miss him. Watching Sy in court was one of the real pleasures of coming to work. Lately, when confronted with a prosecutor seeking to revoke a client’s bond for getting re-arrested, I have taken to saying to the Judge “As Sy would say Judge, a clear pattern of police harassment is emerging here.” It never fails to get a laugh, and I never failed to give credit where it was due for the man who came up with the line.

Sy, I am sure there is a Jury panel waiting to be entertained by you on the other side. Rest in peace my friend.

Phil Reizenstein.

Anonymous said...

I have been blown away by the news of Sy's passing. The JB simply will not be the same without him.

brian tannebaum said...

Three weeks ago Sy had been named a “Legal Legend” in the inaugural class of 12 honorees by the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society. He was to be presented this honor this fall at a dinner downtown with 11 other "Legends."

The committee was made up of civil and criminal practitioners and state and federal judges, all knew or knew of Sy. It was amazing to hear civil lawyers talk about him.

I am very sad, for our system. No matter how long I had been waiting in court, if Sy was there I insisted he go first. Many of us did that, out of respect, and out of a desire just to hear something funny.

Informations were "declarations of war," and every client's file was the "tear stained one."

Many know that Sy was a great trial lawyer. I watched him get a coke trafficker acquitted only because the testifying informant couldn't remember how much coke was in a cooler. "5 kilos, 9 kilos," don't remember? Not Guilty. Sy tried the case without depos, as usual, and made the jury disregard that the defendant in fact, had provided the informant with a trafficking amount of coke. He was deported sans the 15 year minimum mandatory.

There will never be anyone like him.

All of us should be thrilled we had the opportunity to walk the halls with him, stand in the courtrooms with him, and enjoy his presence.

Anonymous said...

what did he die of, and where? was it sudden or did he have a cronic disease?

Anonymous said...

Well said Phil R and Brian T.

David Young said...

When I received the call of Sy's passing my heart sank. When he would come into my courtroom I would always refer to him as "Mr. Mayor". His dedication to the criminal justice system is and will always be unmatch.The system is richer because of the Mayor of the Gerstein Building. We have lost a wonderful man and friend.

Anonymous said...

I almost feel that in a fond way, his death should be announced, followed by the statement he will be picking a jury this afternoon. He was one of a kind. I once watched him get a verdict, which was NG and he got the biggest smile on his face and clapped his client on the back. The client was stunned, but Sy was a gentleman and never made the prosecutor feel bad after a loss.

Rumpole said...

Sy probably had 50 open files. We should all volunteer to take one on as a way of tribute to his memory.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that I will no longer be referred to as "kid". Sy was a giant among men. Kind, funny, smart, not arrogant and honest as the day is long.

It has been a tough couple of years for the RJB...we lost Manny Crespo, Henry Leyte-Vidal and now Sy. I can picture in my mind these three sitting in "Heaven's Pickel Barrell" swaping some great stories.

My well wishes are with his biological and RJB family.

See, you someday, "kid".

Anonymous said...

I am honored to have known you, feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to watch you in court, and am grateful for the years of entertainment you have provided to me. I learned a lot from you. I will miss you greatly - the place will never be the same. Rest in peace and keep an eye on us from above.
- One of the "kids"

Anonymous said...

I was so sad to hear the news. I met Sy when I was first starting out in Miami. He always had a bit of advice for me, a funny joke, and ended it all by saying "sweetheart". He always had a hello and it was an honor to watch him in court. He will be missed, and will always remain a legend in my mind.

Jonathan Blecher said...

As a young ASA Sy would remind me that each Information was a "travesty, sham and a mockery of the justice system". Tounge in cheek, but not without some truth. I will surely miss him.

A person never truly passes away when there are those alive who remember them. That is evidenced here.

His black book should be encased in a memorial in the lobby, like the Declaration of Independence.

Anonymous said...

I can remember the first time I met Sy almost 18 years ago. I was a new, "know-nothing" ASA. He insulted me in open court and I laughed my ass off. That was my first great accomplishment at the MJB--I understood Sy. You could give Sy everything you had and he was like the man of steel deflecting the shots off his chest.

In my new gig, I told Sy that I was still waiting for the day he might walk in and give me one of his well worn lines. What an honor it would have been. Among many other things, I am grateful to Sy for teaching me to have proper perspective.

Joe Fernandez

Anonymous said...

To borrow from Kissinger's eulogy of Nelson Rockefeller--To think that Sy Gaer is dead is both shattering and nearly inconceivable. One thought him indestructible. We have lost a giant. Rest in peace--

Larry Schwartz said...

No one could brighten a courtroom like Sy, when he began to speak. I'll miss you my friend. You've moved on to a higher Court. How lucky for them and saad for us.

Anonymous said...

Sy was the the best. Most don't know he was a wounded combat vet, bayanetted (sic) by the chinese in the Korea. A tough guy w/ always a kind word and a how ya doing kid. He was our Perry Mason & Matlock. We Will miss you greatly Sy,
D. Sisselman

Anonymous said...

My best memory of Sy was when I was an ASA and had to rush in to cover an Arthur hearing for a colleague and, of course, request a continuance. In the way that only he could, after I requested the continuance Sy objected, needled me and even suggested that I needed psychiatric help. I laughed so hard I nearly fell over. And of course, after that he patted me on the back and we shook hands.

Yes, we all loved Sy and his shtick. But having tried cases against Sy, he was a damn good and tenacious trial attorney. He also knew when his client was getting a good or raw deal and advised accordingly. I was able to resolve a truly tough case due to Sy's honesty and candor both with myself and his client.

Sy, you were one a kind and you will be sorely missed by your friends on both sides of the bar and the bench. Rest in peace my friend.

Anonymous said...

sy joins the other giants who have labored in the regjb. among those are henry carr[the silver fox],marvin emory[who went in a blaze of fire],paul pollack,ira dubitsky,terry mcwillams,and others.out of respect i will not comment on his trial skills, but he was truly one of a kind....

Rumpole said...

Terry McWilliams was a hell of a trial lawyer. But I'd take Sy over Pollock any day. Sy was good at what he did, don't think he wasn't.

Bill Matthewman said...

Sy cross-examined me when I was a young Miami cop. I would have rather had root canal. After I left Court humbled (and pissed), the prosecutor told me, don't worry, that's just Sy. Since then, as a defense attorney, we had cases together and I grew to admire him. We became friends, and I'll miss the old guy. If there are trials in Heaven, he'll announce ready upon entering the Pearly Gates.

alan schwartz said...

sy was a great lawyer and an even greater person.

Jennifer Quezada said...

How I wish I had stopped for awhile longer the last time I was at REG. Sy had a story but I was in a hurry. I can still hear his "see ya, kid" and see his smile. My apologies to all the judges in whose courtroom lines, I heard all the other stories he was willing to share. I miss you already, Sy.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I met the Justice Building Blog because I needed help on an obituary. And here I am again. I'm working up a story on Sy, whom I will also miss very much. Anyone who wants to tell stories, I'd like to encourage you to post them in the comments section of the Herald (not to take anything away from Rumpole, of course. You can just cut and paste if you like.) I'm hoping we can put together an online guestbook that his family will enjoy. We have a brief story online now, and will have more coming.

And I'll be calling many of you as the day progresses. Anyone who'd like to talk about him, please feel free to call me. I'm at my desk. 305-376-3499

Susannah Nesmith (also, proudly, one of the kids)
Miami Herald

Anonymous said...

Most attorneys who have practiced at the SAO or PD think they are a great trial lawyer after they win a few cases. In the REGJB you were not considered a skilled trial lawyer until the man knew who you were and only a handful did HE follow around and watch them. He knew everything that went on in that building- if there was a motion to suppress in a murder case on the 4th floor today or a DUI manslaughter voir dire on the 6th. He was so respected that all he had to do was enter a judge's courtroom and a word or gesture by him could determine if a judge thought you were a lawyer or a joke. And since I only met him when he was in his 60s I am sure he had won more battles and forgotten more law by then than most of us will ever know. That is a true warrior-the ones who have had so many battles and have accomplished so much that an arrogant lawyer in his 20s or 30s is like a lion on the savannah in Africa ignoring the pesty flies that hover around him. Any critic of his skills at the end of his career has a memory issue. May one of the true kings of the jungle of criminal law rest in peace. P.S. The number of lives he impacted can partially be summed up by the fact that children were named after him by the fathers he saved from life in prison for transgressions made attempting to overcome obstacles to success that almost none of us have faced and almost no young prosecutor can fathom which is why so many prosecutors have mourned his passing because he helped teach them compassion for the poor and oppressed and not scorn and he did it through humor and most never had the intellectual sophistication to understand why judges let him act that way in their courtrooms-it was because he knew that most of the cases were nothing more than prosecution of the poor as opposed to helping them escape their chains of bondage. And at the Pearly Gates God gave SY GAER a pat on the back, said good job, you understood what the others could not fathom. Now tell me about....

Anonymous said...

Twenty four years ago this month, I was an aspiring law student tagging along to “learn the ropes,” when I first saw and was introduced to Sy Gaer. His ever-present flip it pad in hand, I recall his sharp preacher like oratory, making his point all the while causing his audience to ponder the issue and search for a response - all with a smile.

Over the years, I was awed by Sy’s deceptive appearance, much like the millionaire who walks into the Mercedes dealership in old shoes and crumpled sport jacket - a real sleeper in race horse jargon. Those unfamiliar with Sy Gaer or his talent, were often surprised - if not shocked - for while they laughed at his jokes Sy was scoring points with both judge and jury. His ever ready repertoire would put anyone in check, or get him out of a spot at trial, making the jury think that what had just happened was not really important.

I learned a many a lesson from Sy, but non more valuable or important than to laugh it off - it is not worth getting worked up about it.

My partner, Gorge Machin, and I would call on Sy to pinch hit for us. Boy the surprised look on the face of an ASA when they realized it was Sy who was going to try the case was worth the price of admission. This morning, my partner and I were scheduled to do a probation violation hearing with Sy before Judge Areces, when we learned of his death. Ironically, we were both looking forward to his presentation like school kids on a field trip.

Sy epitomized the fabled old school trail lawyer, ever ready to pick a jury and try his case - the heck with discovery. I recall him once telling a judge he was ready for trial, then just asking for a couple of sheets of paper. Now there is a trial lawyer par excellence!

I can only smile as I imagine Sy arguing at the pearly gates.

Sy’s humility and whit will be sorely missed. Our small community will not be the same without Sy Gaer and his flip it pad. His memories will long pursue all of those who were fortunate enough to share the space with him. We have all lost a friend and part of ourselves.

Until later my friend.

Pepe Herrera - and - George Machin

Anonymous said...

a great man, a world of knowledge and a man to be reckoned with.......sy gaer

CAPTAIN said...


I miss him already. I was another one he called "kid" and I enjoyed the time I spent speaking with him, usually, between courtrooms on a busy day.

While he was never an elected official, I call for Chief Judge Farina and Administrative Judge Blake, to permit the flags flying at the GJB to be flown at half-mast - in honor of a man who truly represented our criminal justice system.

Goodbye my friend.

CAPTAIN OUT ..................

Jason Grey said...

He was always there. Every day of my 19 years in the REGMJB. Always a kind word or a happy greeting. Never an empty glass if Sy was around. A cunning fox in trial, He had incredible passion for this work we do and the passion was real, you cannot fake it, they will know. There are not a lot of guys I would let abruptly cut in front of me when I was next in line to call a case; Sy did it all the time, and I never said a word, not once.

Sy may you forever rest in peace

Anonymous said...

Too bad you have to die sometimes before people sing your praises. I surely hope that many of the posters here gave Sy some of those wonderful comments in life. Della Street

Rumpole said...

Actually, that is why I was so pleased with Judge Blake and Farina for giving him that award when Sy turned 75. There was a very well attended party at Tobacco road, followed by a great article in the Herald By Oh Sussanah Nesmith. So we can all feel good that we let Sy know how we felt. And he did know, and he was very touched.

Tobacco road this Friday would be a great place to meet and swap Sy stories. He would approve.

Anonymous said...

Such a sad day. I will remember Sy as a great gentleman with sharp wit and a sense of humor. He always brought a smile to my face when he approached the podium in court to talk about his "poor innocent child" of a client. I will also miss how he greeted me with a "how ya doing kid?" every time he saw me.

A class act all the way...

A. Collado

Anonymous said...

I can safely thank almost every attorney in the building for giving this man the appreciation and respect he deserved in life - here's a case where each of us derived a benefit at no cost, other than stepping back a moment to watch history in the making. Good for you Sy, most people don't succeed without appearing to try too hard, and even fewer gain the praise of competitors while the war is still being waged. You had our gratitude and life, and its safe to say your memory will live on as a kind smile for whenever a hint of your existence passes through the building.

Anonymous said...

I'm a better lawyer for having known you, and you didn't even know it. Thanks Sy,

Batman said...

Sy was a man of tireless energy for his clients. We all may have laughed at some of the things he would say on behalf of his: "poor, down-trodden child who is being abused by the system", but behind it was a man who believed in the system and what he was doing. He had no illusions as to who his clients were or what they may have done. He knew that all he could do is make the best pitch he could, make the best deal he could and do the best he could for his clients.

His humor, his ability to laugh at himself and the honest appreciation he had for those around him will be missed. Sy,if there is a heaven and you approach the pearly gates, the first words out of G-d's mouth will be "I have this angel who has a problem, can you help him out."

Anonymous said...

as usual a simple request goes unheeded as a handful have to use the death for self promotion, to jab at others, or to be self righteous. if you weren't taught it here is a life lesson-if you don't have anything nice to say about someone who died shut up and don't go to the wake or funeral.

Rumpole said...

ummm... I don't see that. All the comments have been about Sy.

abe laeser said...

I am most sad on this day.

Perhaps I had hoped it would never come. Sy was a father-figure to many; even those of us who are now long in the tooth.

His pleasant, yet scornful laugh was a great way to begin the day - as it had been for many years.

Always a gentleman, a fine lawyer, and a real mensch.

Goodbye, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Sy was the greatest. A huge loss. In our building, he was larger than life. I think we all tried to tell him how wonderful he was, but he would just wave us off with some sly comment. We are all richer for having known him and poorer for having lost him.

Anonymous said...

Here is my Sy story. As a bondsman, I once had a Nebbia to satisfy and Sy was the defendant's attorney. i took him the Nebbia Documents and he reviewed them. Sy looked at me after about ten minutes and said he could not present the Nebbia in this manner. He could not bring himself to do that. The cleints and I were pissed but he really showed me right then and there that he was just unwilling to BS the courts. Maybe it took 75 years of wisdom to make him be so wise, but in ten minutes he taught me a lesson I will never forget. Thanx Sy. I know you are watching us.

lurveydarling said...

The reason I became a lawyer was because of Sy. Summer internship from UF in 1983 with Marco Loffredo (another great guy). Saw Sy's show one day and found him everyday that summer and followed him around. He made it look so fun. Many years later I asked him how he did it everyday. He raised his hand slightly above his shoulder, palm to the heavens and said "its all right here, in the hand"

Anonymous said...

You always expect the legendary to be around forever. I prosecuted cases against Sy, later he appeared before me in court. He never changed, never had a client who wasn't "poor and misunderstood".
Most folks didn't know that he was a decorated Marine during the Korean War, or know of his pro bono work for some of the least of our bretheren, or know of his kindness to attorneys just starting private practice. Sy wasn't one to brag.
He was truly a good man.
Rest in peace, my good friend.
Your "sweetheart",
Katie Pooler

Rumpole said...

Very well said. It is important to remember Sy was a mentor to young attorneys and often gave them several cases to get them started in private practice.

Anonymous said...

SyGaer was unique among our peers!
He was humble;not egotistical.
He was gregarious and jovial,entertaining to all(except attorneys waiting to be called after him);not mean spirited,rude or obnoxious
He wa deceptively intelligent,catching many whom he opposed by surprize unless previously warned.
He was a most capable trial attorney;few attorneys having the ability to go to trial on an instant,without discovery and onloy with his"little black book".
How many of us had the ability or desire to go to trial with one case in the morning between 8:30 and 12 and then a second trial from 1:30 and 6 and be succesfull for his clients.
St was truly a legend aroud REG and will be sorely missed by all,myself included albeit he has appeared in my court seldom over the past few years.But seeing his smiling face weekly,was most pleasant and reassuring.
Memories of Sy Gaer will always be present at REG!

Anonymous said...

A true gentleman and a great lawyer who was a consumate professional and made the rest of us look good- he will be missed. a true original his like will not come again

Anonymous said...

Sy Gaer I raise my whiskey glass and give you a toast..."to a life well lived and to a great career" May you RIP.

Anonymous said...

The lesson I learned from Sy is that fifty percent of the time, if
you just keep announcing ready on cases, the State's case will either fall apart of you'll get a better plea deal.

Let's all announce ready on all of
our cases for the rest of the year
and drive judges crazy.

Anonymous said...

Today has been such a long day. I always knew this day would come, but Sy seemed so indestructible. Even as his health faltered in the past year or two, I thought he would outlive us all.
We shared the same office for over twenty years. We were together longer than most people are married. Never in that time was there ever a cross word between us, except, several years ago, when I wanted to buy a fax machine and Sy thought it was a useless extravagance.
When I left the SAO an eternity ago, what I missed most was the feeling of collegiality amongst my peers and the ready availability of a sounding board for what to do on a case. With Sy, I was able to have that on a smaller scale. He was always available to help, listen, or give advice about work or personal matters.
I got to see a side of Sy many didn't. For all his bombast in the courtroom, he was a truly humble man who just liked to help people. He quietly helped a lot of lawyers (myself included)in trouble. He was humbled by the article written about him and by the award he was to receive as a 11th Judicial Circuit "Living Legend". He wasn't a glory-hound- he never talked to the press or tried to use a case to see his name in the newspaper.
He was an honest man who treated his clients fairly. If a client couldn't pay, he did the case anyway. He made a lot of money, but he wasn't about the money.
Good bye Sy- there will never be another like you.
David S. Markus

Anonymous said...

I am new to this community and I didn't know Sy... I never had the honor. But after reading all of your comments, and talking to a couple of you in the past few hours, I know he was the kind of man, the kind of person, I one day hope to become. He was "one of the good ones".

On this day, today, he rests in peace.

I wish that for him and for all of those who mourn for him. I hope his family and friends and those who loved, admired, honored and respected this amazing individual see what I, a stranger see. So much admiration and love for a man who touched many, many lives and hearts.

May God bless you all.

Good night, Sy...sweet dreams.

Anonymous said...

The Board of Directors of the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society recently voted to recognize Sy Gaer for what he became over his many years of devoted legal service...A Legal Legend. To be selected, one needed to make a substantial contribution to the law, legal system, or the administration of justice. Sy earned this honor and the many friends he made a long the way.

On November 2nd Sy will be designated a "Legal Legend" by 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society. His name will be among eleven others in the inaugural group which will include Janet Reno, Justice Kogan, Judge William Hoeveler, Burton Young, Chesterfield Smith, Johnnie Ridgley, Judge Joseph Hatchett, Robert Josefsberg, Judge John D. Johnson, Robert Traurig and Albert Krieger.

Sy did what so many people are unable to achieve in life. Sy made a difference, and in doing so, he enriched the lives of all those who knew him.

The Justice Building will never be the same.

PD said...

I never knew Sy, but I feel compelled to write for the first time on this blog. Sy sounds like the kind of person that the world, not just the REG, could use many more of. It is a rare thing for an adversary or Judge to be charmed by teasing jabs and a reminder that our system of justice = oppression of the poor. If I become even half the attorney that Sy was, I will have done my job. Well.

Anonymous said...

Miami-Dade is a better place because of good honorable men like Sy and Judge Crespo. I truly know that many in our legal arena have the integrety of Sy and that is what makes me happy to say Miami is my home town.

RIP Sy....

Anonymous said...

I remember one morning, I saw Sy getting out of his Infinit in the parking lot.

That day, Sy and I were arguing at the podium. During the hearing Sy stated, "I am just a poor, humble lawyer defending an innocent child." I retorted, " a poor, humble lawyer who drives an Infinit". Sy, without missing a beat said,"what's wrong, kid, ever heard of a stolen car?"

I laughed so hard, I almost wet my pants!
P.S. He won the motion and I got a great story!

Anonymous said...

When I was an ASA transferred to Judge Silverman's division, I had a armed carjacking case against Sy. Judge Silverman always would disclose on the record that sometime many moons ago, through marriage to some family member, Sy was related to Judge Silverman. I stated on the record I had no problem with it. One of the clerks or corrections officers then asked if it was true. Sy then says (on the record and in front of a full court), "Of course it's true. When Judge Silverman was part of the family it was a very dark period for us. Would anyone want to admit in front of complete strangers they are related to Judge Silveman?" He then promptly walked out of the courtroom, black book in hand. It was the first of many cases I had with him and each was both a pleasure and learning experience.

Sy was one of a kind and will be deeply missed.

Peter Sautter

Anonymous said...