WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Monday, April 30, 2007

WHERE IS EVERYONE?

Don’t be surprised this week if you see an abundance of robed readers wandering through the hallways in the late afternoon and early evening looking busy, acting judicial, bellowing out nonsensical orders that nobody listens to anyway (get that cell phone!) . This past weekend the blog was rife with rumors that some media outlets are about to do a story on Judges leaving early. There are alleged surreptitious videos of our judges out on the golf course, picking up kids from school, or otherwise gallivanting about town during normal working hours.

Scene: Civil Family Courthouse. "Joes Cafe".

Chief Judge Joe Farina is on the phone with some colleagues who are on a golf course: "He did what on the ninth? With a five iron? Get outta here!"

A bailiff arrives with a reporter in tow: Bailiff: "Chief, this reporter wants to know where all the Judges are."

Reporter: "It's 2:15 pm on a Friday afternoon, and there is only one judge in the criminal courthouse, and I'm not naming names, but he's still on his arraignment calendar."

Chief Joe: " I am shocked, shocked to find out Judges are leaving early."


Here is the thing: In our opinion, the worst place a judge can be, from the prospective of a lawyer, is working. Keep them on the golf course and out of our hair we say. They will only cause trouble and mess things up if they start working late and paying attention to their cases. Things are just fine the way they are.

First of all, the worst thing a Judge can do is work late and keep jurors and litigants in court all hours of the night. It makes for a very poorly presented case, and jurors end up too tired to devote the time and energy necessary to do their job properly. We have always criticized judges, usually new county court judges, who think they are demonstrating some kind of macho attitude by working to midnight and taking verdicts at 2AM. If this happens as a result of the story, we will all be worse off for it.

There is a fine line between a Judge who works hard and wants to try cases, and if their calendar is clear and there is nothing to do, leave at 3-4pm, and the judge who treats the job as a 10-2 jackpot, and picks up their kids at 4 so they can shop and cook dinner by six. The former judge does not deserve criticism, while the latter does.

Lets face it: there is a prevalent criticism that says some judges sought the bench because they could not make it in private practice. Like any stereotype, it demeans our profession to deal in anything but particulars. Some Judges are great, some are good, and some stink. Just like lawyers or stupid Football general managers who waste a first round draft pick on a wide receiver who is injured and may not even practice before August. Where was I? Oh yeah- Judges.

As much as we have demonstrated a particular glee when any of our robed readers are taken down a notch or two, we truly hope that the upcoming story does not unfairly target a hard working Judge. We all know the Judges who are hardworking, dedicated, and willing to pitch in to try someone else’s case in a pinch. We hope the media has not happened on one of those and caught the rare occasion they took an afternoon off.

As for our robed readers we have a suggestion: if you want to play golf a few times a week at 3 pm, or spend a lazy Friday afternoon fishing, or wake up at 9 am and go to the gym before ambling into work, do what thousands of other likeminded individuals and great Americans have done: run for Congress.

See You In Court, hopefully not working too late.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

COURT APPOITNMENTS KAPUT

David S. Markus said...


The Monday meeting in Au Bon Pan is off.

Thank you to the many lawyers who responded to Joel and I, stepped up and contributed. We were too little, too late.
We all should have gotten involved months ago. Now, the battle will be trying to undo this system. It can be undone. We need to have concrete ideas on how to reduce the costs of conflict representation.

Perhaps now would be a good time to seriously address the need to depose every "A" police officer in every case, particularly where a detailed report is provided........... Or how about if the SAO were to review death penalty cases at the front end to determine if the case is really a death case. Most of my "death cases" begin with the ASA saying that they will probably waive death, but can't right now. A second chair is appointed and tens of thousands of dollars in atty fees, expert fees and investigative fees (for penalty phase investigation)are generated in cases where the facts and the defendant's age and lack of significant priors drive the decision to waive the death penalty-facts that are known in the beginning of the case. The SAO has to deal with the next of kin and often it is easier to get their assent to a waiver after the case is delayed a couple of years- but that should not be the reason to unnecessarily spend so much money preparing a penalty phase case that everyone knows will never be presented to a jury. I truly believe that the role of second chair counsel only matters in about 25% of the cases. Those are the cases where the fruits of our mitigation evidence search really matter.

I invite all to think about these ideas, and others that will save money yet not deprive our clients of a meaningful defense. The legislature cares only about how much money the system will cost. We can undo what they have done this year only if we present alternatives to the old way of doing things. We need to do more than simply tell them to "Stay The Course"- It's not working for Bush in Iraq and it won't work here.
Time to think outside the box.
Anyway, these are my random musings on a Sunday night.

David S. Markus

Rumpole says: Haven't we been saying "think outside the box" ever since we started this blog? Nobody listens to us (except juries).

Anyway, to paraphrase another of our favourite movies: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

COURT APPOINTMENTS

The court appointments are on life support. A gunshot wound inflicted by the Florida Senate has left the system in Dire Straits (money ain't for nothing and the court appointments are not for free.)

David S Markus (Not FACDL Prez David O Marus) is convening an emergency cabinet meeting in Au Bon Pain at 11AM Monday. The issue is money. Some lobbyists are telling some attorneys down here that for a nice steak dinner, some good red wine, (and 200K), they can..ahem...solve our problems. Here is our new lobbyist.





This is what he says he's going to do: "I'm gonna make Crist an offer he can't refuse."


David S Markus writes:

To all attorneys who accept court appointments:It appears from recent posts by Rick Freedman and FACDL Secty Brian Tannenbaum that the court appointment system as we know it is dead. I think Rick, Brian and others put forth a great effort on our behalf and this post should not be read as a criticism of those efforts.They are probably right, but may not be. There is a week left in the legislative session and I and others are not ready to quit yet. About ten thousand dollars has already been raised to hire a different lobbyist from the one used by FACDL and more money is needed. The lobbyist has given us a concrete suggestion on how to allocate any funds raised. A group of us are going to meet in the cafeteria at 11AM on Monday to discuss this issue further. Please come and bring your checkbooks.I am not a political person and this is a new area for me. I do not pretend to know all the answers.


David S Markus



Rumpole says: So it's time to go to the mattresses huh? I suspected Crist, but he could never have out-fought Sonny. Here is what I did not know until today: "It was Barzini all along."

Go get em guys.

Friday, April 27, 2007

DRAFT DAY

2PM UPDATE:
DOLPHINS DRAFT SHOCKER. Fins pass on pretty boy passer Brady Quinn. Big reach for Ohio State WR Ted Ginn, Jr. What's going on here?

Rumpole says: all is not lost for long suffering Fin fans. Our Dolphins have loads of second round picks, including the number 40 overall (#8 in round two). Watch the Dolphins grab Drew Stanton from from Michigan State or our personal favorite: Trent Edwards from Stanford (Blake). He's big, he's smart, he has a gun for an arm.
If that happens, the Dolphin brain-trust might just be smarter than we are all thinking at the moment. Stay tuned.


Today is the NFL Draft. If you read the papers this morning, the Dolphins are primed to blow it again. The Herald reported that the Dolphins want to move up in the draft to get Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn (warming the heart of Federal Judge Moreno) IF he is available after the Cleveland Browns pick at 3.

IF Quinn is available at 3, the Browns will draft him. So If the Dolphins want Quinn, they need to move to number 2, and at that spot there are better players.

But more importantly, IF Quinn is not drafted at 3, then in all likelihood, he will fall to 9, where the Fins can grab him. So IF Quinn is not drafted at 3, there is no need to move up.

That's our expert draft analysis.


Rick Freedman reported yesterday that the Florida Legislature has killed the Court Appointment system as we know it. That might not be a bad thing. More on that next week.

Rick Freedman also reported that Judge Venzer was not aware of the Orders of the Court posted on the front of the door to the entrance to her court banning cell phones.
Here are our thoughts: 1) Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This is a constructive possession case, and we still think she knew or should have known about the orders posted on her courtroom's front door. 2) Judge Venzer is not a bad judge and this is not a personal attack on her.

The point of the post yesterday is that judges need to be aware that the Public follows the orders of the court because that is what they are supposed to do. The integrity and respect a court has is a fragile thing, and every judge needs to be aware of everything the pubic sees and hears when they enter a courtroom.

Point made, controversy over.

See You In Court Monday complaining about the Dolphins. Again.

R...E....S....P....E.....C.....T

BREAKING NEWS: COURT APPOINTMENTS: DEAD. FLORIDA SENATE HOLDING SMOKING GUN. Read Rick Freedman's comments in the comments section today on who actually fired the weapon. Rumpole thanks Rick for keeping us updated, and the work of FACDL reps Brian T and Old Man Hersch for their valiant efforts to keep the current system viable.



Courts and Judges walk a fine line. They are respected and obeyed because our culture and society require us to do so. If the institution loses the respect of the public, there would be little anyone could do to enforce the orders of the court.

As attorneys we are officers of the court and required to uphold the rules of the court and respect the authority of the court. The court is required to issue lawful orders.

We are serious when we write that Judge Venzer and her staff should immediately remove the sign hanging from the door leading to the courtroom BANNING cellphones and beepers. The order is quite clear that no one may enter the courtroom possessing a cellphone and/or beeper. The order cites to a Judge Farina administative order banning THE USE of cellphones or beepers in the courtroom.

There is a marked difference between possession and use. We who labour in the criminal courts should know that better than anyone. Furthermore, unless there is a box for us to deposit our offending cellphones and beepers before we enter, how can we as officers of the court follow Judge Venzer's order?

What is now happening is that the public and the officers of the court are just brazenly disregarding Judge Venzer's order. Most people probably say to themselves "what she means is we can't use our phones in court."

However, the practical effect of Judge Venzer's order is to breed complete disrespect for the orders of the court. Since a fair amount of defendants leave any criminal court with orders to follow, Judges should take their orders seriously if they want them to be followed.

It may seem like a small matter. but respect is something that is earned. Once you lose it, it is almost impossible to regain.


Respect for the Justice System and the orders of the court is the topic of the day.
We depend on those who make and enforce the rules to respect those rules as well.
Isn't that right Attorney General Gonzales? You know what we are getting at, right?

See You In Court, without a beeper (who even carries one of those these days?) or a cellphone in a certain courtroom on the sixth floor.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

AUTHOR ARTHUR

Controversy surrounding the State Attorneys Office's unannounced policy of revoking plea offers for Defendants who request Arthur Hearings has been making the rounds lately.

Here is what we think:

Do not give into this “policy”. If a prosecutor insists on threatening your client, request that they put it in writing. If they refuse, ask why they will not commit to their policy in writing.


Ask them what they are afraid of? If they refuse to put the threat in writing then you should confirm the conversation in writing and file a copy with the court. Of course the prosecutor would not put something like that in writing, because they know, and we know, such a policy is unethical and would be grounds for discipline from the Bar.


Lets game play this out a little bit.

A prosecutor that threatens not to make any plea offer if a defendant elects his or her rights under the Florida Rules Of Criminal Procedure to seek a bond in a life felony case, is basically abandoning their responsibility to seek justice. If a client has an Arthur Hearing would the prosecutor continue to prosecute the defendant if they later learned the defendant was innocent? How about the requirement to seek justice and proper punishment? Is it ethical to seek life in prison for an individual who otherwise should be placed on probation, house arrest, or receive youthful offender sanctions based on the specific facts of the case?

A prosecutor who threatens you with a "policy" is stating that they will no longer evaluate a case based on the specific facts. Does that seem right? A prosecutor would never publicly admit to abandoning this responsibility, and therefore like any bully, like any individual who makes illegal threats, the way to handle the threat is to cast the light of truth on the situation. And like any bully, publicity is the last thing they want.


Can you imagine Kathy Fernandez Rundle standing on the courthouse steps and proudly announcing her office’s new policy of seeking the maximum for any defendant who has the audacity to defend themselves and invoke rights guaranteed by the Florida and Federal Constitution?

If we as defense attorneys let them get away with this, what is next?

A policy to seek the maximum sentence for any defendant who does not confess?

A policy to seek the maximum sentence for any defendant who takes deposition?

Sy Gaer already has more than enough business.

Make no mistake that such a policy is a direct attack on the criminal defense bar, the Constitution, the courts, and our clients. We cannot and shall not allow prosecutorial bullies to scare any defendant into forsaking any right they are guaranteed.

If we do, we as defense attorneys bear the shame, because we know better.


A prosecutor's case load is too heavy? Tell it someone who cares. We don’t ask prosecutors to offer lesser sentences because we’re too busy. A responsible lawyer handles their own problems and does not let their problems effect any particular case.

It takes a lot of time to prepare for an Arthur Hearing?
Do your job.
As citizens of Florida, we depend on good and honest prosecutors to do their job and prosecute those individuals who deserve it. A person who kills someone or commits a sexual assault may well deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison. A 17 year old kid with no priors driving a car occupied by someone who has just committed an armed robbery may well deserve youthful offender sanctions. And any prosecutor who would have the vicious and evil intent to punish him with a life in prison sentence because his attorney requested an Arthur Hearing deserves to be disbarred.

David O Markus, who runs the Federal Blog is president of the FACDL Miami chapter. He has been receiving emails on this issue. If you are currently having a problem, you should contact him. But take our suggestion and see if the prosecutor who threatens your client will put it in writing. And if they refuse to do it, write them a letter confirming their “policy” and send a copy to Kathy Rundle Fernandez and she how she responds.

We have nothing to fear from this except our own temerity and inaction.

Our system of adversarial justice depends upon both sides aggressively advancing their cause. The system stops working when one side gives in prematurely. The only thing that can come out of a well contested Arthur Hearing is a well developed set of facts for the rest of the case to proceed on. What's wrong with that?

Tragedies happen- and innocent people are convicted- when defense attorneys pre-judge a case and abandon their job to challenge the evidence aggressively, ethically, and legally.

See You In Court, and at Arthur Hearings in any and every case where our client is entitled to one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

STRINGS AND LEVY.

The other day we inquired about this gent Bob Levy. He has been mentioned of late in the comments section. He is apparently a political consultant much active in the judicial election fray.

We received this email (edited by Rumpole) in answer to our question:

Rumpole - the "thing" about Levy is that he is responsible for such bright minds as Peter Adrien, Barbara Areces, Sarah Zabel, Judy Rubenstein, Ana Pando and Will Thomas. In the last elective cycle he alienated himself from Al Lorenzo because Al found him to be too dishonest and too unethical. Now that is the pot calling the kettle black. Levy's influence over the judges throughout the system makes him the subject matter of this blog and any discussion regarding the administration of justice in Miami-Dade County.


Rumpole responds: putting aside the under-handed compliment about the above named Judges, we agree that political consultants who are hired by judges or judicial candidates are fodder for this blog. Lord knows one JA -cum-consultant made the pages of this blog last election cycle as frequently as Paris Hilton makes the pages of the National Enquirer.

The individual who left the above comment went on to write that Mr. Levy uses the familiar yet odious tactic of running individuals against Judges who do not hire him. Judges Adrien and Areces defeated very experienced judges. While both of these Judges are very pleasant to deal with on the bench, our limited experience leads us to conclude, in our own personal opinion, that the voters did not make the correct choice. Our own firm opinion is that the bench is not the place to get experience. It is the place to dispense justice based on experience. Ergo, a Judge who lacks experience cannot complete the equation.

However, the issue at hand is political consultants and whether they “threaten” judges to hire them, lest they run other candidates against them.

Having approved Mr. Levy as “blog worthy”, and despite the fact that Mr. Levy occupies one of the very small gaps of knowledge we have about any and all things, we invite comments on him, his profession, and the troubling topic of political consultants who make judges miserable. (hmm….perhaps we have overreacted. If someone makes a judge miserable, well, lets just say that cowpoke is drinking for free when we are around.)

1+2+3+4+5......


Speaking of threats, we are about to go to war with our own beloved Miami Herald.
For a few weeks we did not get our morning paper. The Times carried us through the tough spots, but who can live for more than a few weeks without Joan Fleishman telling us who is divorcing whom, and how much the attorneys are getting?

So we picked up the phone and made a call. And lo and behold, the morning paper arrived…and arrived. Now we were getting two a day.

Being greener than Al Gore, we began to fret about the harm to the environment our multiple papers were causing. So we fired off an email, and followed it up with a well placed phone call…and you guessed it- we started getting four a day. Now, living a few weeks without the damsel of dirt giving us the dish is one thing---but getting a daily dose of two national headlines interspersed with a hundred and ten pages of Burdine ads to the power of four, is quite another thing.

Sooooooo….account number in hand we asked (nicely) to speak with a supervisor.

Then, in broken Spanish, we demanded (not as nicely) to speak with a supervisor who spoke English, not that we had any trouble saying “No deseo cuatro heralds diarios” ….and…this past weekend, on Sunday…the big Herald Day….SIX PAPERS ARRIVED.

Now, luckily, our Herald delivery lad is not familiar with Fibonacci number sequences, or the entrance to our abode would soon be blocked with ads for Best Buy. But, and correct us if we are wrong, we sense a disturbing trend here. It may just be that the karma of the universe is equaling out our jibes at Judges Adrien and Areces. And it is the universe's role in this expanding mystery that has us worried.

M Theory in physics is currently attempting to account for the proposed "dualities" of string theory. M Theory has succeeded in "unifying" five superstring theories. And string theory proposes to unite the division between the large universe (General Relativity) and the super small universe (Quantum Mechanics).

This seemingly irreconcilable division occupied most of the rest of Albert Einstein's life after he proposed general and special relativity during his Annus Mirabilis .
[On a related topic, we believe Judges Slom and Blake are on their own "Einsteinan" quest to unite Circuit Court (large scale ineptitude ) and County Court (small scale ineptitude)]

Now here is what keeps us up at night: For String Theory to unite the two major prongs of cosmology, it must have strings that vibrate in at least ten separate dimensions. We can't even imagine the number of Heralds that are currently arriving at our doorstep in the other seven dimensions.


But we intend to do something about it.

Even if it means writing nicer comments about certain Judges.

See you in court, handing out the Herald.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Rumpole In Trial

Blog will be slow for a few days. Sorry. I will try and get the comments up as soon as possible.

You ever get the feeling a Judge just doesn't want to pick a jury?

Newly minted Judge Joe Fernandez responded to a complaint:

Joe Fernandez said...
Wow! What an inauspicious way to finally make the blog, huh?


A concerned friend alerted me to the post to which I will respond as follows:

I do not have a policy of not calling lawyers out of turn. I only have one announced policy and that is a policy of accommodation...I haven't had the need to come up with any others. In fact any lawyer can walk up at almost anytime and ask to be called out of turn on any calendar. This is generally not possible when dealing with a trial calendar becasue of the unique logistics of a trial calendar. Sometimes, I know, I fail to announce that private lawyers can come up and call their cases. It's because I simply forget to do so...still getting used to this judge thing, I guess. Some lawyers come in and sit in the audience and never say anything until their case is called. It is a large, poorly lit courtroom. I will often ask my bailiff to approach these folks and ask if they are attorneys and, if so, to tell them to come up and call their case. Some lawyers come to Court dressed informally (which I generally don't mind) so there is no way for me to know until I call the case.

I make an effort to call folks with children or scheduling problems out of turn even if they are pro se. This past friday was unusual because there were 3 infraction trial calendars in a row, with an average of 42 cases per calendar. The majority of these are accident cases with civilian witnesses and police officers. These cases often involve lengthy testimony. I only have 45 minutes for each calendar and everyone wants to get out of there. No one (attorney or pro se party) has ever taken me up on my offer to return after lunch or later in the day. Again, I am still learning.

Regarding the "yell[ing]" at a "defendant" (I usually call them "drivers" in infraction cases, by the way): I don't yell. If, as the poster says, he/she was in the courtroom for an "unusually long" period of time that morning, he/she knows that.

As a lawyer for 17 years (12 as a criminal defense attorney) prior to being elected, I never thought it inappropriate for a judge, when called upon and when appropriate, to make an impression on a party by speaking firmly. To avoid any possible violation of the canons by discussing the case, I invite anonymous to call my office (anonymously, if he/she wishes) to discuss any concerns.

Rumpole says: well done.

Friday, April 20, 2007

SWEETWATER SHENANIGANS?

We keep getting emails from someone in some place called Sweetwater. Things do not appear to be so sweet there these days. This email was interesting enough for us to post up front. We plead ignorance on the goings-on in this little bayou of Miami. Perhaps someone can fill us in.


SWEETWATER UP DATE, APRIL 19, 2007;AGAIN THE STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE GIVES SWEETWATER A PASS ON CLEAR CRIMINAL CHARGES.

Today, Mayor Marono and his band of thugs were caught red handed illegally in possession of absentee ballots which they had illegally collected and had in their position. At about 6:00 p.m. units from the Miami-Dade Public Corruption Unit, who we are informed were monitoring the activities of these thugs, stopped Sweetwater commissioner Manuel Duasso and Mrs. Antelo,the wife of the City Maintenance director who happens to be the uncle of the Mayor, while they were traveling in the Mayor’s Chevrolet Tahoe with full campaign regalia. Chief Robert fulgeria, who was campaigning for the Mayor along with commissioner Guerra, responded to the scene of the detention, as did other Sweetwater units to assist law enforcement.

Upon a search of the Mayor's vehicle, the PCU found about 12 absentee ballots, which obviously did not belong to any of the occupants of the vehicles who were in possession these ballots. Upon contacting the SAO, PCU was instructed not to arrest any of those who were illegally collecting and in illegal possession of the absentee ballots. The Mayor responded to the scene, arriving while several Sweetwater units were on scene. The Sweetwtaer units were ordered to clear the scene by Sweetwater brass, Chief Fulgeira, but before clearing from the scene the Mayor was overheard calling a "Bob" and screaming into the phone to call "Kathy" (we assume this was KFR.)

About two hours later, and supposedly after contacting the SAO and having received instructions from the SAO, the PCU allowed all those detained with illegal possession of the absentee ballots to leave, PCU did retain the 12 or so absentee ballots.

WHY we ask did the SAO, after the Mayor called "Bob" not arrest these ballot brokers. Could it be that these ballot brokers have helped those in power in other campaigns. Is this a great country or what. Way to go KFR and Joe Centorino. Oh can Joe centorino and KFR tell us who "Bob" is in case we stop him for some illegal act we want to extend our courtesy.

We dumb cops in Sweetwater have figured "Bob' is not Bob Graham because Bob Graham does not run campaigns. KFR and company until when will you allow The Sweetwater Family to run this corrupt enterprise. Will you allow another beating to occur before you preten to act or send your sidekick Ulysis to suck up to Marono and Duasso for votes.

Here is the link:
LINK

Perhaps this link will help you build a case. It seems the Mayor is confessing to illegally collecting absentees ballots, what do all you fine lawyers think.Oh we posting here because we think the Defense Lawyers are more committed to fighting corruption than the SAO.

Please send this to the real Corruption Busters.

A FRUSTRATED SWEETWATER OFFICER WHO PRAYS FOR SOMEONE TO ACT

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY

Too often we as lawyers ignore the human element that sits a few feet above us in court. When we win a case, or a motion is granted, or a downward departure is given, we take the credit. When we lose a motion, or a higher sentence than we were expecting was given, we criticize the Judge as being “prosecution oriented”.

The truth is that like all of us, a judge's decision is guided by experience (or lack of experience), the law, the facts, and emotions. The fascinating issue is when a judge's emotions come into conflict with what the law and justice require.

Judge Scott Silverman and the late Judge Henry Leyte Vidal have authored a wonderful article about the feelings local judges have had when confronted with imposing the death penalty.

ARTICLE


As lawyers is that most of us have never sat on the bench. Even those of us who worked as prosecutors and defense attorneys have never had the unique prospective of sitting above the fray. We as criminal defense attorneys value Judges like Reemberto Diaz and Stan Blake who were excellent criminal defense lawyers. We feel they know our problems and concerns because they have stood where we are standing. And yet to become a really great lawyer, you need to know what is going on in the Judge’s mind. How will they feel about a particular motion, or about imposing a less serious sentence than the prosecution is asking for?

This is the value of Judge Silverman and Leyte-Vidal’s article. It give us, as trial lawyers, insight into what a Judge thinks and feels when considering the most serious of sentences.

The article is not that long and is worth reading.


And speaking of death sentences, word reaches us today (Wednesday) that the jury in the Carabalo case has recommended a sentence of death. Now the final decision comes down to Judge William Thomas. Judge Thomas joins the long line of REGJB Judges who have had a defendant's life in their hands. Some of the great ones, like Judge Cowart, who sentenced Ted Bundy, among others, to death, are remembered for their wisdom and humanity even in the face of imposing the death penalty.

Some Judges like former Judge Philip Bloom, are remembered for their courage. Judge Bloom stood firm against public opinion and a jury recommendation, and sentenced a defendant to life in prison.

In the end, after all the fine lawyering in the Carabalo case, it will be Judge William Thomas who makes the final and most difficult of decisions.

We believe that this is Judge Thomas's first possible death penalty sentence. Judge Thomas comes to the REGJB as a former ace Federal Public Defender. We will neither applaud nor criticize his sentence, whatever it is. The defense bar was closely watching this case. Not for the final outcome- but,we speculate- for how Judge Thomas ran his courtroom and the process of this death penalty case. From all appearances, Judge Thomas did a very professional job so far. We await his decision in this matter.

See You In Court.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

OF JOHN ADAMS, NAME CALLING, AND THE SELLING OF BROWARD

MODERATION

Maybe its time to explain in detail, for the less intellectually gifted among our fair readers, exactly why this blog moderates it’s comments.

We want people like Brian T, Bobby Reiff, Jason Grey, Phil R, Abe Laeser, Judge Pinero, Judge Glick, and many others who sign their name to contribute with comments. What we don’t allow, is a tidal wave of comments that follow their comments calling them (anonymously) all sorts of names. If that’s what you want to do, go to another blog. We will not be a part of that.

We have steadfastly held to the belief that some anonymous comments about the practices of Judges are appropriate. Comments about whether a Judge is habitually late, or is not being reasonable with continuances, or for that matter well thought out comments on a particular case- sentencing, or the granting or denying of a motion, are also under many, but not all circumstances, appropriate. Who decides? We do. It’s our blog-get used to it.

So, since we have now said in the most clear terms possible that calling someone an asshole will not make the blog, stop wasting your time writing the comment, because it will not be posted.


PENALTY PHASE BEGINS

The defense opened today in the penalty phase of the Caraballo case.
A comment in yesterday’s section noted that Mr. Joel Denaro was acting in the finest traditions of a defense attorney. We second those comments.

Many alert and well schooled readers know that John Adams was our second president and principal author of the sixth amendment (the right to counsel). Many of our colleagues also know that in 1771, before our nation declared independence, Adams successfully represented 8 British soldiers in Boston, who were accused of murder when they fired into a crowd of civilians.


Hardly the most popular of cases- defending soldiers of an occupying army who killed citizens of Boston. Yet, Adams took on the case and six of eight were acquitted, and the other two were found guilty of manslaughter. Adams defended those who many thought had no defense and deserved no defense. Out of that episode, came many of Adams’ beliefs which he codified into the right to counsel.

Many people in our community do not believe any of the five people in that truck in which two people were abducted, deserve a defense. But Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Denaro have spoken up and defended their client in the best traditions of our country. And eight other defense attorneys representing the other four accused men are right behind them ready to do the same thing.

The defense does not diminish the memory of the victim. The defense is an exercise of the rights the Constitution guarantees. For if these men get the very best defense, then no one else need worry when they need a lawyer.

THE SELLING OF BROWARD.

File this under truth is stranger than fiction. Many readers had a chuckle at our April fools post in which we announced the selling of corporate sponsors for the courthouse and personnel. Now comes news that the folks North of The Border are about to do just that:
BROWARD

We always suspected the powers that be read our humble blog, and now we have some proof.


DANIEL PEARL

Finally, because the story bears repeating, the Miami Herald reported Monday on the touching story of Daniel Pearl’s grandparents lighting an candle in his memory this weekend in Miami Beach. Let us remember that shortly before he was murdered, Mr. Pearl was forced to kneel and state “I am Jewish”.

The popular saying in response to the holocaust is “never again”, and yet, in this decade, more than 67 years after the holocaust, a man again was killed simply because he was Jewish. That is why U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan. To remove those band of thugs who terrorized a nation, and believed it was appropriate to behead a man, simply because he was Jewish.
You can read the story here:
DANIEL PEARL

See you in court raising money to sponsor the "Miami Defense Attorneys" Broward Courthouse. Wouldn't that make a certain segment of the population (who happen to wear black robes to work north of the border) sick?



Saturday, April 14, 2007

SUNDAY IS DIARY DAY

Monday Update:

We think it's important to remember those who died at the hands of tyranny. American soldiers are now fighting, and dying, to defeat the type of people that
be-headed Daniel Pearl. The Post from Sunday stays up today, as we reflect on Mr. Pearl's life.
(It's either that, or complain about taxes, and who wants to be predictable?)



We wrote and posted this yesterday, but it bears repeating today:

The Herald reported that murdered Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl’s name will be read today on Miami Beach at a ceremony at the memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Pearl’s name will be added to the wall of names and read, along with millions of other names, all who were victims to hate and intolerance.

Daniel Pearl was killed by Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan in 2002 because he was Jewish. Pearl was beheaded because he worshipped a deity who was different from the deity that those who killed him worship. In Pearl’s religion, life is sacred, and the lord commands that one should do good deeds for others for the sake of humanity. Those who killed Pearl, worship hate and intolerance, and they condemn themselves, and their religion, to a fate much worse than that they inflicted on Daniel Pearl.

May Daniel Pearl’s name always be remembered and spoken, as a brave man, who was killed by cowards.

We will speak Daniel Pearl’s name aloud today, and everyday that courage is celebrated.

It is unfortunate in a sense that Pearl's name will be read along with those who are also remembered as victims. To be sure, Pearl and those who lost their lives in the holocaust were victimized. But in the end, their memory will outlast those of their killers. They may have been victims, but their humanity outlives the ideas of those who murdered them. It is their names that will be spoken today, not the names of those who killed them.

Daniel Pearl will be remembered by me as a hero. And in a sense, from the youngest child, to the oldest person, all whose names are spoken today, and who are remembered individually and as a member of "the six million" are heroes. Their lives were taken in a struggle against inhumanity. By our very existence today; by our very act of speaking their names and remembering them, we celebrate the victory of humanity.


DIARY OF A MAD JURIST.

A Judge emailed us this week to express some displeasure over our regular series: Diary of a Mad Jurist. We were sufficiently chastised to remind everyone that this post is emailed to us anonymously, and we have no idea if the writer is a Judge.

All rise.....

DIARY OF A MAD JURIST.

Rumpole, I've had occasion to read some case law lately on judicial vindictiveness. I have to tell you that some of my colleagues do not make me proud. If you read the case law, you see, in limited circumstances, sarcastic and sneering Judges handing out outrageous sentences. The worst cases are where the offer was something like 3 years, and the defendant gets 40 after trial, and the judge sneers "he should have taken the plea when it was offered."

These are people's lives you know. Criminal conduct must be punished. But conduct worth three years (the length of law school) does not suddenly become worth 30 years because someone had a defense and it didn't work. Do not get me wrong Rumpole. People who use violence and hurt innocent people need to be removed from society, unless some rare circumstance can convince me otherwise. But the sentences I am reading about are just awful. How do some of these Judges sleep at night after taking away a 1/3 or 2/3's of a person's life? Don't they know how horrible prison is?

And that's another thing. There are so many things that need our tax dollars. Hungry children, health care, education, and yet I can't help thinking that a civilized society needs to treat its inmates better. I'm not talking about color TV's and the best gym equipment. I'm talking about making prison a quiet and sobering experience. Where time is spent in thought and remorse, and not some hell hole ruled by thugs where the guards have no control. I guess, having sent my fair share of people to prison, I just wish I could believe that there would be a chance of some of them coming out better than they went in.

Anyway Rumpole, thanks for the time.

A BUSY DAY

Friday was a busy day for our intrepid local scribe, Herald reporter Susannah Nesmith. She was busy covering the guilty verdict in the Caraballo case before Judge Thomas, while in the Locasio case, the jury was returning a recommendation of life in prison. Judge Blake promptly sentenced the convicted accountant to life in prison, no deductions, no exemptions, no amortizations.

Here is Ms. Nesmith’s opening sentence in her coverage of the Caraballo case: it’s a good one:
Victor Caraballo's best hope is to live to be an old man in prison, because he will definitely die there.

Alas, says Rumpole, there will be an appeal, so while “definite” is not really “definite” in the theoretical sense, one cannot imagine an appellate decision discharging the Defendant in this matter.

Ms. Nesmith and the Herald also reported that in the Locasio case, Judge Blake, before sentencing Locasio to life in prison, commented that the case was one of the toughest he has ever handled.

We have a few questions: Was the decision to impose life in prison for a man who ordered the death of his wife difficult? Was the Judge wrestling with an override of the jury’s recommendation? Or was the evidence in the case, including the lack of a body, the difficult part of the case? Or was the case difficult because Mr. Locasio might be innocent? It would be nice to get a better picture of what made this case so difficult for Judge Blake.



Our favourite federal blogger Mr. Markus spent the week crowing about the interesting federal cases currently being tried. We’ll take a good old fashion REGJB murder case over a federal disorderly conduct in a post office case any day of the week.


And finally, the Herald also reported that murdered Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl’s name will be read Sunday on Miami Beach at a ceremony at the memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Pearl’s name will be added to the wall, and read, along with millions of other names, all who were victims to hate and intolerance.

Daniel Pearl was killed by Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan in 2002 because he was Jewish. Pearl was beheaded because he worshipped a deity who was different from the deity that those who killed him worship. In Pearl’s religion, life is sacred, and the lord commands that one should do good deeds for others for the sake of humanity. Those who killed Pearl, worship hate and intolerance, and they condemn themselves, and their religion, to a fate much worse than that they inflicted on Daniel Pearl.

May Daniel Pearl’s name always be remembered and spoken, as a brave man, who was killed by cowards.

We will speak Daniel Pearl’s name aloud tomorrow, and see you in court on Monday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

JUSTICE AT DUKE

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: LATE AFTERNOON VERDICT: VICTOR CARBALLO GUILTY AS CHARGED ALL COUNTS IN THE HORRIBLE RAPE, ROBBERY, MURDER AND ATTEMPTED MURDER CASE. CASE NOW PROCEEDS TO PENALTY PHASE.


Rumpole has two thoughts: we absolutely hate Friday afternoon verdicts.
Joel Denaro has his work cut out for him. This is a very very difficult case to try and defend the life of a client convicted of some of the worst possible criminal acts imaginable.










"We believe these individuals are innocent "





Those six words spoken by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ended a criminal case against three Duke Lacrosse players that lasted 395 days.





This case was the perfect storm.
Element One: The allegation occurred in the South.
Element Two: Three young white men were accused of rape.
Element Three: They attended the privileged world of an elite university.
Element Four: They were athletes.
Element Five: Their accuser was an African-American woman attending a community college from the other side of town.
Element Six: The community demanded action and the nation was watching.
Element Seven: The prosecutor was about to face a strong challenger in the upcoming primary.

Add it all together and a disaster emerges.



Sex. Race. Wealth. Politics. College Athletics . Only religion is missing.





Here's what happened.: A black stripper says she was raped by white members of the Duke lacrosse team. The boys families hired good lawyers and the prosecutor went before the national media assuring everyone, including the voters in his upcoming primary, that the South's shameful history of double standards was over.

“She said it. We believe it. This will not go unpunished”
Satisfying words. Wealth and race will not allow criminal conduct to go unpunished this time.
In a high profile case, a black woman from the south will get justice.

All well and good.
Except the boys were innocent.
Reasonable Doubt and the Presumption of Innocence were sacrificed to the public's desire to right all the wrongs of the past.



You know the stereotype- “these wealthy white boys will buy their way out of rape in the South. Once again, a black woman will not be believed. She will not get the justice she is entitled to.” When you base legal decisions on stereotypes, no matter how well intentioned, justice is never done. And have no doubt about this- we believe this case was less about the good intentions of the prosecutor, and more about his political ambitions.





The Duke case teaches us that every case needs to be judged on its own merits. All the wrongs perpetrated against African Americans in the South, and all the wrongs perpetrated against women victims of sexual assault cannot be righted by prosecuting innocent men-even when the case pushes all the right or wrong buttons.

As the investigation progressed evidence was ignored and kept from the defense. The initial DNA report didn't mention that DNA trace evidence from other men was found in the young woman’s panties. There is competent evidence to belief that the Prosecutor intentionally withheld this evidence.
No DNA evidence was ever found linking any of the players. The identification of the players was done by displaying individual pictures to the woman. Not photo-lineup, no live lineups. The woman identified one of the players-stating that it was him except he had a moustache. The young man had never had a moustache in his life, yet he was indicted.

As one of the accused just said- “my experience with the justice systems leads me to wonder what happens to defendants whose families don't have the ability to hire lawyers to defend them?”
What indeed?


And what does this say about our grand jury system? Perhaps the standard of “indicting a ham sandwich” needs to be re-examined. It is evidently clear this case should never have been brought.

The next time someone questions why we have criminal defense attorneys- mention this case.
The next time someone states that where there is smoke, there is fire, and the police don’t arrest innocent individuals- mention this case.
The next time someone mentions that grand juries take the politics out of charging decisions- mention this case.



This case is just as sameful as the past wrongful prosecutions in the South of black men accused of raping white women, or the failure to prosecute white men who murdered black men. For many years, in many types of cases, Justice has not been blind in the South. This case just continues that shameful tradition.

The system didn't work this time. All that happened is that competent lawyers refused to back down to a prosecutor who played the most insidious card of all- the public opinion card.

See You In Court.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SCHRODINGER'S JUDGE

BLOGGING FROM THE BENCH

Much like the Imus contretemps, (he was fired by MSNBC Wednesday night) a “throw-away” comment about Judges blogging at work has erupted into a thoughtful conversation, on Judges, Blogging at work, and voire dire in family court.

Judge Faber started things off with a well written explanation on why he hired some of his current staff that used to work for his predecessor.

Then Judge Pinero chimed in with a thoughtful comment on Judges Blogging, voire dire, and yogurt. You can read both of the Robed Readers comments in the comments section to Monday’s post.

Judge Pinero had this to say on the issue of the propriety of Judicial blogging:

Firstly, please know that I did not decide to post under my own name on a mere whim. I thought long and hard about doing so. The Canons require I should uphold the integrity of the bench at all times--if i don't I will be and well should be in deep doo doo. Leaving aside the medium used for my comments. My comments have been directed at all times to issues, which I humbly believe, furthered the proper administration of justice--also mandated by the Canons.

Judge Pinero then threw in a clever plug for the blog, showing that he knows where his bread is buttered: Secondly, as to the medium--posting on Rumpole's blog. Where else do you get immediate and varied feedback?

In the penultimate paragraph, a quote from the Bard and the Merchant of Venice by Judge Pinero was sure to win our favor as well: Lastly, believe it or not, judges are people too--when you prick us, do we not bleed? (no infantile comments, please)

And finally, in the best traditions of the blog, a little fun with the readers: As an example of how the blog can be a learning experience I wish to inform some members of the criminal bar that I have decided to emend my practice and follow their and Rumpole's suggestion. While in the family division, I have decided to allow the litigators free rein to conduct exhaustive and wide ranging jury selection with no interruptions from the bench.

All in all, a textbook comment.

Quantum Mechanics is never far from our mind, and as we have previously written, neither is Schrodinger’s Cat. The principle behind Erwin Schrodinger’s postulation of a possible paradox, is that in quantum mechanics, one could imagine placing a cat in a steel box (we have such thoughts over certain prosecutors and judges from time to time, but for purposes of tradition, we’ll stick with the cat) and removing it from all outside influences to the extent that at some point the state of the cat could only be described by combining possible rest states- as any measurement could not be done without the observation interfering with the experiment. The experiment envisioned a machine that when a radioactive isotope decayed, released poison gas. Under these conditions of isolation and no observation, the cat could-under the laws of Quantum Mechanics- be said to be both alive and dead at any particular moment.

Now, to solve our own little dilemma, one can imagine a Judge, safe from prying eyes in their secure chambers, either studiously labouring on an order denying our motion to suppress, or writing comments on the blog. This being the Justice Building, the JA is on a break, and the Bailiff is playing on-line poker on the computer in the chambers next door. Without any observation (assuming FDLE has removed the remainder of the bugs left over from Operation Court-Broom) our Jurist could be said to be both denying our motion to suppress, and blogging, at the same moment.


Quite a feat for a Judge who doesn’t bother to read the cases we send with the motion.

We think judicial participation on the blog is a good thing. Judges have apologized, explained, and risen in indigent defense of their actions. All helped to promote a dialogue between the parties. We agree that a Judge should not expound on the propriety of a decision of another Judge, or opine on a legal issue that may come before them. But a brief comment on why they hold 8am soundings, or conduct voire dire until 9PM might be appropriate.

And of course, Judge Pinero’s new experiment on voire dire in family court bears watching. Perhaps, he might expound on his ideas and write a scholarly article on the subject. Maybe even a book deal is in the future. In any event, no one can dispute that we enjoy his input and the blog is better off for it.

See You In Court, and not in court, all at the same time. (In theory).

Monday, April 09, 2007

HOME IS WHERE

....THE CAUSEWAY IS.

The NY Times reported that sex offenders on probation in Miami are living beneath the Julia Tuttle causeway – with approval from their probation officer- because that is the only place they can find to live that doesn’t violate the rules regarding where sex offenders may live.

ARTICLE

Rumpole says: once again Miami is portrayed in the national media as a town of buffoons. When will we ever learn?

Predators of children need to be stopped, monitored, controlled. How is legislating that the only place they can live is under a bridge solving the problem? Wouldn't you rather have them in a home where they can be monitored?

The problem, in 1970's speak is NIMBY (not in my back yard).

We don't know the answer, but surely the current state of the law is not it.

MODERATION.

Long time and careful readers of the blog may have noticed that the blog is on moderation. This is for a lot of reasons. Several long time readers who are frequent contributors have complained about the mean anonymous complaints that pop up after they make a post. Some have suggested making it a members only blog. But we have been insistent that the ability to make a well reasoned anonymous complaint about a Judge is a good thing. If for example, a Judge routinely shows up late, that would be a good subject, and human nature being what it is, no lawyer wants to appear before the Judge having made that complaint on the blog under their name. From time to time, however, people make more mean spirited complaints and comments that are eventually taken down. However, those comments should never see the light of day.

So moderation it is. It does take away the spontaneity of the blog. But most posts get up within a few hours at most. And hopefully, this new policy which will remain in effect permanently, will encourage more Judges and well known lawyers to start posting again. We fondly remember the original members of the 'not afraid to sign my name club" and hopefully they will return. The readership of the blog remains a constant 550 or so a day, and that is a very nice number.

Thanks for reading and start signing your name to comments , secure in the knowledge that we are on the job, dodging bill collectors, and enforcing the rules of the blog.

See You In Court, moitoring the blog between trials.

IN PRAISE OF MODERATION:

No matter what happens... somebody will find a way to take it too seriously. ~ Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"

Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance. ~Epicurus

They are sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing. ~William Shakespeare

NEWS

OPENING IN DEATH PENALTY CASE

A reader emails us about the prosecution's opening in the death penalty trial before Judge Will Thomas today:

Rumpole, the prosecution opened it's case today in the horrible kidnapping, sexual assault, attempted murder and murder case before Judge Will Thomas. Holding a picture of the young woman who was raped and murdered, ASA Laura Adams seemed on the verge of tears as she recounted the last moments of this poor young woman's life. Her opening, which contained a cleaver twist on the victim's last name meaning "Angel" in English- the unspoken contrast with the Defendant as a the devil, was informative, a bit argumentative, and very emotional. The jury was attentive, but somewhat taken aback by the brutality of the prosecution's accusations. It is hard to conceive outside of unknown blockbuster evidence how a verdict of anything but guilty is in store in this case. The facts are almost too horrific to speak of.

Rumpole says, its a very tough job, but the lawyers on both sides of this case are up to the task.


DRUG COURT CLOSED.

Overwhelmed with a case load exceeding 2200, Judge Rosinek has asked for and received a moratorium on new cases being assigned to drug court.

Rumpole says: a sad but understandable situation. People obviously need this help. Judge Rosinek does a great job. It's just a sad fact that for the foreseeable future, client's who are ready, willing, and able to start getting help for their drug problem will no longer be able to get it from the Dade County Court system.

See You In Court.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

HAPPY EASTER




DIARY OF A MAD JURIST

Rumpole, I was reading that lawyers are already placing their names in opposition to Judges that are scheduled for election in September 2008. By my calculation, that is 16-17 months before the election.

I wonder if this has a chilling effect on the judiciary?
Do you think a Judge might be inclined to rule differently in a high profile case knowing he/she has opposition? Just a thought. Perhaps there could be a rule not even opening the process until 6-8 months before the election. They could let a lawyer file an intention to run (thus allowing them to raise money) without requiring the lawyer to state specifically who they are running against. Anyway, this is all about names and money. We all know a judicial election is not about ability. Perhaps they could devise a "Bar Exam" for anyone who wants to be a Judge and for Judges who are up for re-election. Then the Herald could post the scores. Of course, being a Judge is about more than book smarts.

Tell me Rumpole, are things so bad out there? Is that why so many people want to be a Judge?

There has got to be a better way to do this. But I have no idea how.

I was glad to see there was some discussion of my post on Federal Judges. That whole situation needs to get better in a hurry.

I was also glad to see your support of the 11th Circuit Historical Society. There were some wonderful Judges in the past, and some real colorful characters. I saw some pictures of Judges from the Old Municipal Court, and boy did that bring back memories. Yet time marches on, and most of those dear souls are no longer with us.

Ever just sit and stare at the REGJB? Wonder about all of the life changing moments that have gone on in the courtrooms (and back hallways) of our wonderful building? The triumphs. The tragedies. You know what gets me the most? The drug trafficking cases of the 1980's. I am not coming out in favor of legalizing drugs. I have seen close-up the devastating effects of drugs on Miami. Yet, I remember some of those trials where clearly the small fish were being tried on the 15 year minimum mandatory cases. The anguish in the faces of the families of some of those men -who obviously made horrible choices- as they were sentenced; sometimes, for no reason at all, I will remember one of those sentencings.

See, here's the kicker: from up close, the war on drugs in the 1980's was all about money. The defense attorneys got rich. The police departments made a fortune in seizures, overtime, federal spending. Some drug dealers at the top made millions. And the poor people in the ghettos got high and fell apart, and every now and then we lost a great cop like Scotty Rakow from Miami Beach on some drug sting that was not worth it. Now what I mean by that is not that Officer Rakow was not dedicated to his job, or that his job was not important. What I mean is that he was killed in a drug sting that was one of a hundred or a thousand that used to go down every year in this country. Nothing's changed. We still have a drug problem.

I hope that whatever comes out of the 11th Circuit Historical Society includes some history on the brave officers who died working for the citizens of Miami. Their story is part of our story and deserves to be told.

Anyway, sorry to end on such a morbid note.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

MORE TROUBLE FOR THE FEDS

Another aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned yesterday. She did not give a reason for her resignation, but did invoke the name of the almighty in blessing Gonzales's future endeavors. We think Gonzales is going to need more than prayers to survive this growing storm. The NY Times article is here: ARTICLE


There is no truth to the rumor that the halls of the Justice Department are so empty that the GSA has taken to renting office space to attorneys running a ticket business in D.C. Not yet anyway.


QUEEN CROWNED IN MINNESOTA ?

There is another contretemps involving the new US Attorney for Minnesota. The NY Times has the story here:
STORY.

This "experienced" 34 year old prosecutor had a coronation that included a choir and a Marine Color Guard. We wonder if that Color Guard might have better things to do, like honor the wounded and dead returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, rather than entertain some political hack.

Anyway, three top deputy supervisors in the US Attorneys Office of Minnesota have been so taken with new US Attorney Rachel K. Paulose’s management style that they have resigned their supervisory position and assumed positions as trial lawyers.

We don't approve of her coronation or apparent management style, but we will sheepishly admit to this- we wouldn't mind being caught in flagrante delicto with this US Attorney, and that is definitely the first time we have ever admitted to that. Her picture accompanies the story above.


JURY SELECTION CONTINUES
[STRIKE THAT- MR. Laeser has written in to inform us that Openings are Monday morning.]

Our favourite federal blogger has a post this week on jury selection in federal court and several comments spoke about the differences between voire dire in federal and state court.

Jury selection resumes on Monday before Judge William Thomas in one of the more horrific allegations of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder that Miami has seen in many years. Abe Laeser and Laura Adams for the prosecution, while former Major Crimes Prosecutor Gary Rosenberg and new defense super-star Joel Denaro are for the defense in this death penalty prosecution. You couldn't find four better lawyers anywhere and this trial is worth watching.

See You In Court.

Friday, April 06, 2007

TICKET PLEASE

Our friends at CBS 4 have a video on their website on how to act when stopped by a police officer and how to get out of a traffic ticket.


To summarize:

When Stopped by a Metro Dade Police Officer, it is recommended to fold the fifty behind the license and place the thumb over the money and the forefinger over the license. Hand the license to the officer and discretely slide the currency into the officer’s palm. Those of you that have been to Joes and not waited long for a table know how to do it.

When stopped by the City Of Miami or Miami Beach, it is appropriate to immediately advise the officer of any special medical conditions so that they may beat you in a manner that does not aggravate the injury. The City of Miami Beach specifically recommends that you place your wallet in your hand and curl into a fetal position. When the “appropriate amount of force necessary to subdue the unruly motorist” has been applied, Miami Beach requests that the payment to the officer be proffered prior to the arrival of Fire Rescue.

Hialeah and many departments in Broward like to taser their drivers as a way of “warming up” the parties, however quick thinking motorists can negotiate a lower voltage with a private chat with the officer before the taser is used.

Here are a few other “Do’s” and “Don’ts”:

Do: alert the office to any unusually large amount of drugs or money in the car.

Don’t: offer to split the dope with the cop.

Do: Comment on the professionalism and courtesy the officer exhibits when you are pulled over.

Don’t: mention Rodey King, Arthur McDuffie, Officer Lozano, Johnny Cochran, or any type of Ticket Clinic.


On a serious note, we recognize that the “average traffic stop” can become one of the most dangerous situations for a police officer. We always go out of our way to advise clients to be nothing but polite and respectful to police officers (but to never make any statement under any circumstances.)



JUDGE LEIFMAN TAPPED

Channel 4 also reported here
LEIFMAN that the Florida Supreme Court has appointed Judge Steve Leifman as Special Advisor regarding Florida's treatment of mentally ill inmates. This has always been a special cause to Judge Leifman and we applaud his efforts. Memo to Channel 4- just call Rumpole to find out the correct spelling of Judge Leifman's name.


Passover is upon us and Easter Sunday looms a few days away.

While the courts are closed and many of us have the day off, perhaps this is a good time to reflect on the fact that we are still a country at war. There are American Men and Women away from their families during this holiday season putting their lives on the line so that others may be free. No matter your opinion about keeping troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, we went into those countries so that their citizens did not have to live under the yoke of oppressive dictators or gangs. Here’s our simple prayer that our soldiers return to their families as quickly and safely as possible.

See You In Court Monday, unless we get a stopped for speeding on the way.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

PLEAS.....E?

BREAKING NEWS:
Mr. Markus reports on his blog that a member of the Federal College of Cardinals had to be rescuced from an elevator today. This is just too good to be true.

Apparently the elevator was one of those that speak and when the Judge ordered the elevator to open its doors the elevator replied that it was denying the motion and informed the Judge he had ten days to appeal and that if the Judge didn't have the money to file an appeal, s/he could proceed informa pauperis.

The Judge wanted to file a complaint with Building and Zoning but was told the US Supreme Court made the Building and Zoning regulations discretionary and therefore the elevator was within its rights to let the judge out on the floor he/she wanted, let the judge out on a lower floor (a downward deviation) let the Judge out on a higher floor (an upward deviation) or keep the judge in for 360 floors to life.

Rumpole heard that when the Judge called for help s/he was told that they needed to text their call for help in a PDF format to the electronic help desk, which would review the matter and get back to them shortly.

There is no truth to the rumor that the call for help was referred to a magistrate who reviewed the matter and denied it without a hearing.

Sometimes you just get a hanging curve ball.

BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POST:

Does anybody else feel like they are buying a car when they enter into plea negotiations with a prosecutor?

It goes something like this:

ASA: It's 3 years prison.

Defense Atty : How about a withhold and a year probation?

ASA: No way.

a few calendar calls later...

ASA: OK..I see your point about the bad stop. I agree the depos aren't great for me. Let me go talk to my supervisor. (At which point the ASA goes into that fabled backroom).

ASA. Well, I've never seen this before...you must be really good. It's 364 but you have to buy the extended warranty and the undercoating.


The point is that there has to be some discretion given to individuals who have managed to graduate from law school, pass the bar, and be hired as a prosecutor.
Granted, discretion comes from experience, but perhaps there is a better way.

It now truly feels like a bad car buying experience trying to get even the most simple part of a plea changed. It also slows down the entire court process, and turns the prosecutor into a glorified messenger.

Perhaps the answer is to have the supervisor in court more often. I remember a young ASA being given a hard time about not breaking down a DUI many many years ago. The Judge called Janet Reno, and Reno asked to speak with the ASA. A few moments later the ASA hung up the phone.

"What did she say?" asked the Judge.
"That she'd be right down to try the case with me." responded the ASA in the days when the SAO was on the 6th Floor of the Justice Building.

The point is that Judges and defense attorneys find it very annoying when trying to resolve a case, to deal with some nameless/faceless all powerful "supervisor" that skulks the hallways of the SAO saying "no deal" every time someone hands them a phone.

There is obviously another side to this story, and any prosecutor who wants to fashion a response will get it published in the comments section. If it's good enough, we'll post it on the front page.


See You In Court, waiting for a supervisor to say no.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TAKE TWO

The State Attorneys got themselves a brand new Plasma TV , which they have installed in the waiting room on the first floor of their office. (We are sure one of our clients could have gotten them a better deal on a brand new Sony ‘just off the truck’ as it were, but who are we to tell the State Attorney where to shop?)

We were sitting in the waiting room the other day, trying to read our NY Times when the TV sprung to life and there was our elected State Attorney, giving a primer on the court system and her well run office. Eventually her spiel turned to Spanish and we decided to practice our rudimentary Spanish skills.

It was right after the State Attorney was either talking about the alarming decrease in the Cod stocks off the coast of New England, or if our Spanish was not up to snuff perhaps she was talking about the availability for restitution for victims, when the image on the screen merged to film footage of an actual trial.

The Judge presiding was Alex Ferrer, and –we couldn’t make this up if we tried- the prosecutor was George Cholakais.

Now to summarize, in order to make people more comfortable with the criminal justice proceedings, the State Attorneys Office is using footage of a person who is not a Judge- but plays one on TV; and a prosecutor who in fact is not a prosecutor, but a defendant in a current criminal case.

We are not making light of Mr. Cholakis’s case, which is nothing but a tragedy for all parties involved.

We are however, again taken to wondering just who is in charge over there and approving these public relations nightmares?

Here’s an idea- why not just tune the TV to a local station and play re-runs of Judge Milian on the People’s Court?

From low morale among prosecutors, to the constant whining refrain from assistants in court that they “have to speak with a supervisor” there is not much going on these days at the SAO that lends confidence to a public that looks to it’s prosecutors office to provide professionalism and stability in enforcing the laws of the State Of Florida.


See You In Court, waiting for a supervisor to approve the prosecutor’s use of a coloured pen.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL

RUMPOLE ALERT

Boy those Federal Prosecutors. Can’t say enough about them.

Here is one of their newer tricks. They’ve been doing it for awhile, but they are really accelerating the number of cases they are filing in these matters, and as practitioners in the REGJB and State court we need to be aware of this pending problem.

The Feds are scanning the calendars and investigating cases where clients plead guilty to Carrying a Concealed Firearm, many times for Credit Time Served or a withhold and probation. The Feds are then, after the plea in state court, indicting the defendant for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, where the penalty is a 15 year (or as they say in Fed land- 180 month) minimum mandatory prison sentence.

It’s kind of hard to defend a client in federal court to a charge he has already pled guilty to in State Court.

What’s the lesson?

If you have a client that has any possibility of being indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, think twice or even thrice before entering a plea in State Court. If possible, try and get a provision in the plea allowing your client to withdraw the plea if indicted. We are not giving legal advice here, just pondering some possible ways we can do our job better.

Lets face it- no one wants to have a jury trial when a client is offered CTS or a withhold and a small amount of probation, where an angry state court judge might sentence your client to five years prison if you lose. Before the emails start flooding in from our robed readers, lets just say in a hypothetical sense, there just might exist, in some far off land, a judge not nearly as wise and kind as you, who may just slam someone who turns down what appears to be a reasonable plea offer, and is found guilty at trial.

The Feds could, to use a colloquial yet sexist expression, “be a man about it” and indict the defendant before allowing him to be tricked into pleading guilty in state court. But then again, if we take a close look at just who we are talking about, “honesty” and “integrity”, which as we all agree starts at the top of any organization, are not qualities that immediately spring to mind.

Anyway, this has been a RUMPOLE ALERT.

See you in court, rejecting plea offers on CCF’s.
A tip of Rumpole's Bowler to the Two Time Defending NCAA Men's Basketball Champions. THE FLORIDA GATORS.
WELL DONE.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

IITH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT TO ACCEPT CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP!!!!

An aggrieved jurist obtained the secret plans of our Chief Judge to sell corporate sponsorships for the 11th Judicial Circuit and emailed us an outline of the plans. Included in the plans to sell out, are the following.

The REGJB will be now called the Fed-Ex Gerstein Justice Buiding.

The Civil Courthouse will be called the Kinkos Civil Court House.


Pepsi will be the official soft drink of the 11th Judicial Circuit. Pepsi will issue commemorative cans with pictures and biographies of the Judges of the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Visa will be the official Credit Card of the 11th Judicial Circuit and will be the only credit card accepted for payment of court costs and filing fees.

Individual Judges will be able to sell corporate patches -3 per robe- similar to corporate logos on NASCAR. The fees for each logo have been set by the Court, but any Judge able to sell space on their robe will be able to keep 50% of all fees, with the other 50% going to the 11th Judicial Circuit general court fund.

The 11th Judicial Circuit will sell ad space on the front of each bench. There is discussion of installing electronic ad signs.

Each courtroom can have one official sponsor. Circuit Courtrooms cost $50,000.00 per year, County Court Courtrooms will cost $25,000.00 per year. Lawyers and law firms will be able to purchase sponsorships of the Courtrooms and all notices for all hearings must contain the corporate sponsor in the notice, eg., “The following motion will be heard in courtroom 4-2, the Greenberg Traurig Courtroom, on….”

Judges and their staff will be permitted to produce and sell approved 11th Circuit memorabilia, including coffee mugs, t-shirts and Golf Caps. The proceeds will be split with the 11th Circuit 50/50.

The Clerks will be sponsored by Mircrosoft. They will call the "Microsoft Outlook Calendar" and will wear shirts with Microsoft patches.

Dell will be the official computer of the 11th Judicial Circuit.


The Paul and Young Ron Show will be the Official Morning Radio Show of the 11th Judicial Circuit. They narrowly outbid the Neil Rogers show.


Local business will be permitted to produce and sell 30 second ads to jurors selected in cases. At three selected time periods during any trial, the trial will be halted and the bailiff will play the ads on flat screen LCD TV’s that are being installed in all courtrooms. Fed Ex, Publix, Walgreens, have already agreed to purchase 100 hours of ad time.

Outside of sponsoring courtrooms, lawyers and law firms will not be permitted to advertise in the courthouse.


Assistant Public Defenders and Assistant State Attorneys will be permitted to have two items reflecting corporate sponsorship, one item being a cap, and one item being a small placard that will be placed on the table and displayed to the jury. Publix has purchased the rights to all DUI Prosecutions, and local driving schools are purchasing rights to the defense in all reckless driving cases.


The Chief Judge will shortly issue an email to all Judges and 11th Judicial Circuit Staff that will say in part:

“Corporate Sponsorship is the wave of the future. Miami has always been at the forefront in new developments in courts and the law, and I believe that we can generate significant revenue that will enhance our legal system, while still protecting the dignity and independence of the court system and the people who work in it.”

Rumpole says: WOW.