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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

TV JUDGES

With confirmation that Judge Shuminer has accepted a job with Univision, there are, by our count, four former Miami Dade Judges with television shows on the air or about to begin.

Lets contrast the accomplishments of our Judges with what has been going on North of the Border.


Recently, we have seen these changes in the Broward Judiciary:

1) The Chief Judge Resigned.
2) Three Administrative Judges resigned, one (Judge Greene) because he called African American participants in a case “not human”.
3) One Judge arrested, while his colleague gained national attention while weeping over the Anna Nicole Smith fiasco.
4) One Judge chastised some litigants for not being fluent in the King’s English, while another Judge tried to call Immigration on people who appeared before him who were not US Citizens,
see our post of March 17, 2006, Broward 2021
BROWARD 2021

while his Hispanic colleague accepted a paid suspension for his not too secret email criticizing his colleague.

It’s a Circus up there!!!

Meanwhile Miami Traffic Magistrates are busy hiring Hollywood agents.

See You In Court.

AFFIRMED ON APPEAL

The 3rd DCA issued an opinion recently that we find troubling.

You can find the full opinion on the 3rd DCA’s website. Click on "recent opinions and then on the opinions for May 30, 2007. It is Major v. State.

3RD DCA


We reprint a portion of the opinion and invite commentary. We will provide our own view of the matter at a later date. However, to summarize, in a murder trial, the prosecutor prevailed on the ME to change his testimony right before he took the stand. The change was a significant blow to the Defendant’s theory of the case. The 3rd DCA affirmed because the defense attorney did not object.

We view the decision as “result oriented”. The simple fact is that if the 3rd DCA believes the issue deprived the defendant of a fair trial, they should have overlooked the fact that it was a murder case and reversed the case and remanded it for a new trial:

Here is the selected portion of the decision:

Prior to the defendant’s trial, the medical examiner, Dr. Shuman, stated that that he could not conclude whether the bullet fragment removed from Roberts’ brain, which he identified as the fatal bullet, came from a handgun or a shotgun....

However, at trial, Dr. Shuman testified that he was certain that the fatal bullet was fired from a handgun. Dr. Shuman also testified that he changed his opinion the morning of trial when the prosecutor met with him, provided him an additional photograph of the headrest in Roberts’ car, and told him that a witness would testify that a shotgun was fired from the third floor...

The record reflects that, after the prosecutor became aware of Dr. Shuman’s changed opinion, she failed to immediately disclose the inconsistent testimony to the defense. Although Dr. Shuman’s expected testimony was critical evidence in the State’s case, the prosecutor inexplicably failed to mention that Dr. Shuman would now testify that the fatal bullet was fired from a handgun...

In this case, it is undisputed that defense counsel was surprised by and unprepared for Dr. Shuman’s changed opinion. It is also undisputed that, upon learning of Dr. Shuman’s changed opinion during his direct examination defense counsel did not object to the existence of a possible discovery violation or request a Richardson hearing. Instead, defense counsel cross-examined Dr. Shuman and attempted to impeach him using a medical report that apparently reflected his inconsistent testimony...

Where a defendant fails to timely object to a discovery violation or to request a Richardson hearing, the defendant does not preserve the point for appellate review...

Instead, we find that we cannot reach the issue of whether a discovery violation occurred because this was not preserved for appellate review...

However, the defendant may seek post-conviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 for ineffective assistance of counsel... A better case for ineffective assistance of counsel is difficult to imagine as the changed testimony here crippled the defense’s theory of the case and would have caused a criminal defense attorney with any modicum of effectiveness to object to this new evidence and demand a Richardson hearing. Undoubtedly, the defendant’s proper course of action is to pursue a claim that his attorney was ineffective for not preserving the purported discovery error for appellate review.


Rumpole says, a careful review of former 3rd DCA opinions will yield a little case written by former Chief Judge Schwartz in which, confronted with a clear case of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal, reversed the conviction in which, and we are quoting from memory here, he writes that the court prefers to save time and do now what clearly would be done later. A special bonus to anyone who finds the cite and posts it.

See You in Court, objecting to everything, which apparently the 3rd DCA wants trial lawyers to do, lest we miss an issue for appeal.


Special thanks to our favourite Herald scribe who tipped us off to this decision. Apparently she reads more case law than we do.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

JQC ROCK

BREAKING BLOG NEWS: MORE BROWARD JUDGES RESIGN ADMINISTRATIVE POSITIONS!!!!!:

The Broward Blog is reporting that both the Chief Administrative Judges for the civil and criminal divisions (Judges Cowart and Spechler, respectively) have resigned. If this keeps ur their going to have to start pressing traffic magistrates into service to handle calendars.

It just confirms our deepest suspicions that even the Broward Judges don't like going to court in Broward.

THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF JQC ROCK, JI-JUDICIAL INVESTIGATOR.

THE CASE OF THE SAD CHIEF

We were just sitting around the office, staring at some files. Old cold Chinese food containers sat on desks, with chopsticks forlornly sticking out. Maybe someone had a bottle of Jack that found its way into my glass of Coke. Anyway, the phone rang, and I picked it up.

I should have learned my lesson by now.

There was a JI on the other end from Broward. He needed some help.

I hung up the phone and leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes. My head had started to throb. My new partner, the Kid, was still pouring over the Hanzman case, looking for a break. We had brought all the candidates for the 3rd DCA seat in, but they lawyered up. Said nothing. You get used to that in my business, where most suspects are Judges or lawyers.

The Kid got up and walked over. “Something new Rock?”

“Yeah, Kid, you could say that.”

“What’s up.”

“Broward caught a big one. They need our help. Turn on Channel 7, the story will be up in a few moments.”

The Kid flipped on the TV and there was a reporter I knew. I had more than a passing acquaintance with certain soft parts of her anatomy. But that was a long time ago it seemed. Or maybe last week. But this was business. The story came on, and there was our new case: A big picture of Chief Judge Dale Ross. Except he wasn’t the chief no more. Someone had seen to that.

We have a saying here in the JI office- “When your job ends, our job begins.”

The Kid looked at me in astonishment. I nodded my head.

“Yup, Kid. Someone took out Ross, and Broward JI called. They need our help. Lets roll.”

We got to Broward and met up with the JI heading up the Ross case. He had a copy of the Sun Sentinel. It wasn’t pretty. The Kid made a face.

“Hang in there Kid” I growled.

The Broward JI laughed. “Whatssmatta Kid, ain’t you never seen a Judge go down before?”

“Its so messy. I never thought Judicial politics could be that bloody.”

The Broward JI and I laughed. “After the first hundred bodies, it gets easier Kid, hang in there.”

We talked for a few minutes, and I went over the notes the Broward boys had collected. They had their theory of the case, but I didn’t like it. No, I didn’t like it one bit.

There were several Judges who were candidates to replace Ross sitting in the other room.

“They talked?” the Kid asked in astonishment.

The Broward JI nodded. “Yeah. It’s different up here. None of that Miranda crap flies in court, so you can hardly expect a Judge to invoke it when they need it.”

“They all got alibis?” I asked.

“Yup.” The Broward guy said. “But someone will crack. Someone planted those stories in the Sun Sentinel and on TV. I’ll catch the bastard.”

I reviewed the case file in silence for 20 minutes. The Broward guys were barking up the wrong tree. I was sure I was right. I walked back to the bullpen area where a few JIs were sitting around.

“All the Judges alibis check out, right?”

“Yeah” said one JI sadly. “We got nothing.”

“ I wouldn’t say that. You got the guy. He’s right under your nose.” I made a gesture to a picture hanging on the wall.

The JIs looked at me like I was crazy. Even the Kid seemed to think I’d flipped out.

“You can’t be serious Rock.”

“Shut up and listen kid, I’ll learn ya somthin.”

The Broward JIs all gathered around.

“You ever see a stiff off himself by cutting his wrists? What ya see is a bunch of attempts first. They make small cuts to see how it hurts before making a big one. Same thing with Ross. Nobody did this to him; he took himself out. The pattern fits. He starts making strange rulings from the bench. He knows he’s got some problem Judges like Seidlin and Korda and Greene and he does nothing about it.
He wanted to go. He took himself out. I seen it a hundred times.

The Hastings Federal Case in the 80’s; The Courtbroom guys in the 90’s, hell I worked the Huttoe case in the 70’s. They all did it to themselves. Ross is no different. He’s human. He got bored, frustrated. Didn’t want to just quit. That was against his nature. So he took himself out and made it look dirty. He called the Sun Sentinel. He was the source on those Channel 7 stories. He needed a break. He needed a way out. Go drag in those reporters, and you’ll see. I’m right. Come on Kid, we still got the Hanzman case to solve.”

We walked out past a dozen stunned Broward JIs.

The Kid and I drove home in silence. It was well past midnight. When you work my job, you get used to the long hours.


I dropped him off at his apartment. It was one of those new ones on Brickell. He didn’t have a few ex-wives to support, but that would come with time. So would the experience to do this job without getting rattled. But today was a tough one for him.

I stopped the car. He opened the door and muttered something and walked off into the hot Miami night.

A few days later we got a call from Broward. One of the reporters cracked under questioning and admitted Ross was his source for a story. After that it all fell into place. Yeah, Ross took himself out. I could solve Broward’s mess, but I still had a monster stalking 3rd DCA candidates in my own backyard, and I didn’t feel one inch closer to solving that case.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A QUESTION

We received this comment/question from a law student. It merits a response from our loyal readers:

Anonymous said...
I need some help. I am a law student and need to know if to get a job as a PD/SA or work at a firm.

Here is the Question: Do PD/SA go there because they have so much money that they can afford to work for peanuts, but get to play with people's lives? Or, is it because they do so poorly in school that those are the only jobs they can get and are stuck making peanuts?

I have a good GPA and attend a top 50 school. I am pretty with little body fat, a six pack and was Phi Beta Kappa in undergrad. Meaning, that I am blessed with looks and smarts. I do not want to waste my opportunity and make an unwise selection. Help! I would love to hear from as many of you as possible.

Thanks Rumpole.

Rumpole responds: Mr. Laeser has often reminded us that experienced lawyers are encouraged to mentor young lawyers/law students.

We are somewhat concerned that the student who posted this did not leave an email address. Sort of like sending a motion without a certificate of service. However, the question is a good one and it merits a response.

Have at it.


FED JUDGE CROSS ABOUT CROSS

While we're on the subject of questions, the Federal Blog (now sponsored by the Daily Business Review!!!) has coverage of the Padilla trial. One attorney had at it with the FBI's translator, questioning closely the witness's ability to understand popular American phrases like "cherry pick". It appears one theme of the defense will be that the FBI selected transcripts to translate, and used an interpreter that did not do an adequate job. Apparently former Dade ASA and current Fed Russell Killinger didn't like the cross- no surprise there. But Judge Cooke voiced her displeasure as well!

We didn't see the "offending cross" but it sounds quite normal to us. It's not like the lawyer accused the witness of being a few french fries short of a happy meal.

Anyway, Judge Cooke has been getting high marks for her handling of this high profile trial. We for one, shall withhold our judgment until we see whether defense lawyers are further "discouraged" from advancing their theme of the case.

See You In Court, and if we haven't said it lately, thanks for reading our humble blog. We recently entered negotiations to be sponsored by one of the hot dog vendors outside the REGJB. As soon as we firm up the deal (just how many hot dogs a week we will get on the arm) we will let you know.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND THOUGHTS

As we spend another holiday weekend in our fair city, there are several random thoughts we thought we might share.

Go over to the Broward Blog.


As the debate rages in Broward County between the Status Quo Brigade of Judges and a few good ol boy lawyers (Motto: "It’s our Court System and we’ll run it however we damn please.") and the upstart Brigade of Brave Broward lawyers, there is a nice reprint of Thomas Payne’s Common Sense pamphlet on the Broward Blog.

Printed anonymously in February 1776, Common Sense serves now to remind us why reasoned anonymous critique is a backbone of American Democracy.

The Broward Judiciary’s “Diversity Committee” immediately responded to the Blog's defense of anonymous critique with a press release stating “anything written about Common Sense has absolutely nothing to do with the Broward Judiciary.”

Rumpole says that what these lawyers have done is nothing short of remarkable. We who labour here in Miami well know the feeling of being “a stranger in a strange land”. Ask any Judge who was a practicing trial lawyer before ascending to the bench, and they will tell you that “going to Broward” is one of the things they miss the least. These Broward Blogging Lawyers have drawn intense media coverage of their Courthouse. (Of course, lets give credit where credit is due. They were ably assisted by a bevy of Judges whose propensity for making outlandish statements from the bench, or getting arrested, was remarkable.)

The Broward Bloggers succeeded in bringing down the Chief Judge, and have opened for discussion with the current judicial leadership topics like why the rate of defendants sentenced to State prison in Broward is the highest in the State by far.

In a very real sense, Blogging is the 21st century American’s answer to the anonymous pamphleteering during the Revolutionary War. It is no surprise that of all the countries on earth, it was the United States that brought forth blogging to the forefront of political action.
Questioning authority by reasoned critiques of those who govern, is in our blood. It makes us proud to be a small part of this legacy of democracy.


HEADLINES:


Switching topics, if you head over to the on-line edition of various newspapers you might randomly view headlines like these:

“Engulfed by Climate Change, Town Seeks Lifeline”


MELTDOWN
The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.
Erosion has made Newtok an island...


and

White House rejected warnings on Iraq War

WARNED ON IRAQ

U.S. intelligence agencies warned the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq that ousting Saddam Hussein would create a ''significant risk'' of sectarian strife, encourage al Qaeda attacks and open the way for Iranian interference. ..
Nevertheless, President Bush, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top aides decided not to deploy the major occupation that force military planners had recommended, planned to reduce U.S. troops rapidly after the invasion and believed that ousting Saddam would ignite a democratic revolution across the Middle East.


What these two stories have in common is a man from Texas with his head buried in the sand.

Experts told the current administration that global warming was a fact and needed to be addressed. The administration responded with a campaign to terrorize those experts by threatening their jobs if they released their reports.

Experts told the current administration that we did not have enough troops to win the peace in Iraq. They were ridiculed by men (namely the President, Vice President, and their respective staffs) whose youth was marked by a successful determination to avoid military service in the Vietnam war.

Welcome to Vietnam redux.

Created by men whose main qualification to lead a country into war was the ability to look into the camera and tell the American public that because they pray, they can be trusted and know what their doing-- its fourty years later and a new generation of old men are sending young men and women to die half way around the world for a war no one wants.

Hopefully, as an electorate, we will never make that mistake again.

So there you have it.

Good old American common sense and the legacy of Common Sense drives modern day Bloggers North of the Border to take back our courthouse from the oligarchy of Ross and his crowd.


Meanwhile a town in Alaska melts- but don't tell the President it's because of global warming, because his henchmen may well just fire you. No, maybe those Inuit are just praying to the wrong deity.
And more troops die in a war the President was told we could not win -but- as an idiot from Texas once tried to say "fool me once shame on you....fool me twice, shame on me."


There is a lot to think about on any Memorial Day, but this is what is on our Mind this Memorial Day Weekend.


Be safe, and see you in Court Tuesday, and maybe for drinks and Hors De Oeuvres afterwards.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AU REVOIR JUDGE YOUNG

We say “fare thee well” but not goodbye, to Judge David Young, who hangs up the robes this week, and leaves the comfy confines of our Justice Building for the bright lights of Broadway, Hollywood, and Television. We will miss him.

By our calculation, as a Prosecutor, County Court Judge, and Circuit Court Judge, David Young has given close to 25 years of service to the Citizens of Dade County. As much as we will miss him, the people he served will miss him more. Here’s why:

Judge Young’s tenure on the bench was marked by a strong streak of pragmatism. You never had to worry about an unfair result occurring because some poor unfortunate individual got mixed up in something where the law mandated a result that was unfair and unanticipated. Judge Young mixed a strong belief in fairness and common sense with a sharp legal mind. There was never a case, and there was never a day, when we rued appearing before Judge Young.

There are hundreds of stories out there where lawyers have credited Judge Young with stepping in and speaking with or chastising prosecutors who were seeking unreasonable or unfair results just because “the victim wants the max” or some other “head in the sand” reason.

We can’t finish our farewell to Judge Young without mentioning his campaign to make sure sexually active teens were engaging in protected sex. Judge Young was on the bench during the time AIDS ravaged this community. He often spoke of those he knew who died of AIDS. Perhaps many lawyers have thought that Judge Young’s lectures to teenagers who appeared before him were out of line. What we admire so much about Judge Young is that it appeared that he thought all the criticism in the world was worth it if he saved one young person from the early death of AIDS.

With all due respect to the current craze for conservative judges who keep their noses in their strict constructionist law books, we need more people like Judge Young, who saw wrongs, and quite simply, tried to right them.

We wish him well in his new endeavors.

We are happy to publish (with permission) the invitation to his going away soiree:

David’s last day is fast approaching.
Please join us to toast him farewell.
We will gather for Champagne and Hors De Oeuvres at:
La Loggia Ristorante (68 West Flagler Street) on Tuesday, May 29, 2007, 5:00 – 7:00.

ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY WEEKEND. GET OUT AND HAVE SOME FUN IN THE SUN.

See you in Court Tuesday, and knowing our penchant for free booze, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see you somewhere else.

PS. Today Judge Crist tubed the Court Appointment system. You get what you pay for. Just watch what happens now.


PSS. We put up a permanent link to the Broward Blog. It is to the left, just beneath our favourite federal blogger’s link. The adventure of the defense attorney who was harassed by the Broward Cops after a Broward DMV is a must read.

BREAKING NEWS - SB 1088

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

At just after 9:00 pm tonight, Governor Charlie Crist signed into law Senate Bill 1088 effective immediately. The new law changes the way all court appointed counsel cases will be handled in the future. The JAC Court Appointed Counsel system that began on July 1, 2004 is officially history and the new "second public defender's office" will now represent most of the conflict cases when Bennett Brummer's office files a conflict.

Kudos to the FACDL for trying their best to get the governor to veto the bill; (he did actually veto bills on residential tenancies, vessel registration, health care and cosmetology, but 1088 was not one of them).

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THEY JUST CAN'T HELP THEMSELVES

Is there anything more satisfying these days than being a journalist or blogger and covering the Court North of the Border?

We couldn’t make this up if we tried.

PROBLEM: The Broward Judges are concerned about recent criticism that they are a judiciary out of control and out of touch with the public. The criticism has included that the Broward Court is comprised of an “old boy network" of Judges and lawyers protecting their interlocking interests, the public be damned.

To combat the perception that Judges are “arrogant” and that the Judiciary operates as a secret and exclusive club that does what it wishes- aided and abetted by a small group of lawyers who put them there and financially benefit from the arrangement, the Broward Judiciary formed a Diversity Panel.

What’s the first thing the panel did?

SOLUTION: Book a private room in a swanky restaurant and meet over dinner and drinks with some Bar leaders….IN SECRET.

We kid you not.

When intrepid Daily Business Review Reporter Jordana Mishory found out about the meeting she was barred from entering, and like an abandoned and homeless mongrel, she was left outside with her nose pressed against the window.

DBR Executive Editor Eddie Dominguez wrote a commentary piece that is a must read.

DBR

Dominguez critiques the faulty logic of the Judiciary that in order for Bar leaders to freely speak their mind to Judges, they have to be able to do it in private.

Here is part of what he wrote, and he hit a home run in our humble opinion:

But how does one counter the public’s perception of an insensitive court with closed door discussions?


More important is that Williams’ [ Judge Elijah Williams, who chairs the commission] justification of the secret meeting would endorse the notion that a climate of intimidation and retribution does exist in Broward’s courts and that people are afraid to speak their minds unless they do so in private.

Most startling: if bar leaders can’t express their honest opinions openly, then no one can. That the judges want to operate in a closed environment is no surprise.

A number of Broward judges have demonstrated a penchant for closed proceedings. It is the insular and parochial nature of the courthouse that has helped bolster the belief by many that judges are out of touch, arrogant and not accountable. The reasoning also begs the question of why bar leaders need anonymity and secrecy to do what they were elected to do?

So, to summarize. Our Robed Readers to the North, to combat the notion that their courthouse is a private and clubby enclave of secret meetings in which no public dissent is tolerated, they…..meet……in……a……private…….room…….of……a…..restaurant…….IN SECRET.


Invitation only and Rumpole need not apply.

Well, we can think of many other individuals we would rather break bread with. And knowing the Judiciary’s penchant for drinking on someone else’s tab, we can think of better things we can do with our money. Still, if Jordana Mishory wanted to share an Apple Martini and scintillating conversation with soon to be former Chief Judge Dale Ross, why shouldn’t she be able to do so?

We repeat our oft heard lament: It’s just not fair that our friends to the North have such easy targets to write about. We publicly call upon our own dear robed readers for one of them to protect the honor of Dade and step up to the plate and do something stupid. Quickly.


See You In Court, where it’s boring these days and none of our Judges has managed to put their foot in their mouth recently. But we have hopes.

DOWN GOES ROSS!!!!!


(With apologies to Howard Cosell and his call of the Foreman Frazier title fight)

DOWN GOES ROSS…DOWN GOES ROSS….

BREAKING BLOG NEWS: OUR BRETHREN BLOG IN BROWARD (SAY THAT 5 TIMES FAST) HAS TAKEN DOWN A CHIEF JUDGE:

NIXON RESIGNS…ROSS RESIGNS…..

Here is the text of the announcement:

After much reflection and soul searching, maybe it's time to be a real judge again. It is my intent not to serve the new Chief Judge term to completion. I'll call for a special election for Tuesday, July 3, 2007 to fill an anticipated un-expired term beginning September 4, 2007 through June 30, 2009.


The last couple of years have been particularly difficult for me and my family. In July I am having my hips replaced and will be out for a while.

For these reasons and others, [umm...like Judges calling people less than human, like Judges belittling people for not speaking English?) but primarily because of my love for our circuit, I think a new Chief Judge should lead us forward.

It's appropriate that I take the summer to try to help with an orderly transition.
[I'll give North of the Border this: we don't have to wear a tie in court during the summer.]
I am particularly proud of this circuit and its personnel, who have labored so hard to make it the best in Florida . [Pardon me. I'm choking. I also just fell out of my chair. Blatant disregard for reality tends to have that effect on me.]

Our circuit has accomplished a number of "firsts" and has been very aggressive and pro-active in serving the people of the State of Florida . I extend my appreciation to our Administrative Judges (past and present) whose valuable advice and hard work made my job so much easier. ... I truly love being a judge and public servant. [Not to mention the kick you get out of humiliating litigants and lawyers you don't like]. To quote Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories," it's been special.
Dale Ross, Chief Judge
[To quote someone else: Don't let the door hit you on the way out.]

Rumpole says: Thanks for the memories….(not). I cannot remember one time I appeared before that Judge that he did not treat me and my client rudely, made mention of my office being located in Miami, and made my client feel he/she made a grievous mistake in hiring a lawyer from Miami. Good riddance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

HANZMAN HATCHET JOB.

The Blog proudly presents the first adventure of JQC Rock, Judicial Investigator (JI).

THE CASE OF THE KNIFE IN THE BACK............

[JQC Rock takes up the case of Third DCA Nominee Michael Hanzman and the article published by the Herald on Sunday which "revealed" that Hanzman used to belong to a private golf club that didn't have any women as members. ]

My name is Joe Quinton Carlton, but my friends call me Rock. That’s right, my initials are JQC. And I work for the city investigating Judges and prosecutors. My town is Miami, and I rarely have a free moment. My jurisdiction covers Judges and wannabes.

It was Sunday morning and my phone rang. My pillow still smelled of whisky. So did I.

It was a broad on the phone. You know, long legs, pouty lips, never quiet when you want them to be.
And she was my boss.


“Rock. You read the Herald yet?”
“No. But tell me anyway.”
“We got another body. Get over here right away.”

I showered and threw some day old coffee in the microwave.
My Old Chevy Impala coughed to life, and a few minutes later I was downtown.

There was a group standing around the paper. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.


“Whatta we got?”
The kid next to me was new. Eager to make his bones on the squad, so he piped up: “Male. White. Well fed. Member of a private club. Was on the short list to serve on the Third DCA. But not anymore.”

I glanced over and read Fleishman’s article. I winced. It wasn’t pretty.
I walked away and wiped the sweat from my forehead
.

The Kid walked over to me: “You OK Rock?”
“Yeah, I seen this a hundred times. But you never get used to it. He had everything to live for. Successful lawyer. 8 Handicap golfer. Member of a swanky private club. Judicial nominee.”


“Yeah”

"And then someone put a knife in his back. And bam! Just like that it’s over."
“Just like that. You got any ideas?”

I looked at the rookie and laughed. “Yeah kid. I got a few.”
“Like?”

“Like there are five other lawyers who benefited from this. And one of them handed Fleishman the story and knife. And he never saw it coming.”
The kid nodded “Never saw it coming.”

I put my hands on my hips. The Kid did the same. He coughed….”Say Rock, could I work this one with you?”

“You got the stomach for it kid? This is politics. This is murder. This is the 3rd DCA. It won’t be pretty. You think you can handle it?”

“I can’t get the picture of Hanzman with that knife sticking out of his back, out of my mind. Maybe if we catch the perp the image will go away.”
“You got a lot to learn to kid. The image never goes away. But…yeah. You can work this one with me.”

“What do we do first?”
“Like said, there’s five other lawyers on that list who benefited from that knife in Hanzman’s back. Lets start with the first one on the list….”
The kid pulled out a notepad and licked his pencil. ..

This is what I do. When lawyers or Judges go down, the City pays me to find the killer. That’s me: Joe Quinton Carlton. JQC,JI. But call me “Rock” .

Keep your eyes open for the further adventures of JQC Rock JI- Judicial Investigator.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

UTPAL OUTRAGE

A REGJB BLOG EXCLUSIVE
Jack Thompson, a long time local Coral Gables Lawyer, has written to our Dade State Attorney who we affectionately(???) refer to as "Fernandle" , inquiring as to why her office would employ a prosecutor who was SUSPENDED AND PROHIBITED FROM PRACTISING LAW?

Mr. Thompson, who did a little digging on Dighe (actually he called the Bar) learned that Prosecutor Utpal Dighe who was recently arrested for purchase of Marijuana was suspended by the Bar in October 2005 for failing the "basic skills test." He since failed to re-take the exam, so he was suspended by the Bar. In October 2006 Mr. Dighe failed to pay his Bar Dues, and was suspended again.

Here is the closing paragraph of Mr.Thompson's letter to the State Attorney:



"Thus, you had this guy representing the State of Florida as an Assistant State Attorney, and he didn’t even have a Bar license. Your failure to supervise this lawyer in this simple regard opens you up to Bar discipline, and I plan to research that and act appropriately.

I did see you in Home Depot the other day. Maybe you were looking for someone in the “lumber” section to handle homicide prosecutions."


What in the name of professional office management is going on at the State Attorneys Office?

We recently wrote a piece in which we posted an imaginary phone between the State Attorney and her aide, in which she was on vacation. Everyone is entitled to a vacation. But the genesis of the that idea was based on courthouse chatter that our State Attorney is out of the office a lot- and we don't mean in Tallahassee lobbying against the defendant's right to conduct cross examination.

Back to the Dighe disaster: Query: Can a defendant be prosecuted and convicted by a prosecutor and legally sentenced by a Judge when the prosecutor was not allowed to practice law in the State Of Florida? Just how many informations did Mr. Dighe sign under oath, and is each and everyone of those informations now evidence in a perjury investigation? And is Ms. Fernandle derelict in her duties to supervise her lawyers, which may in fact expose her to discipline from the Bar?

Mr. Dighe may have had his problems responsibly living up to his obligations. It is often said that excessive use of Marijuana will cause a "devil may care...I'll do it tomorrow attitude." Who knows?

The real question is what is going on at the SAO.????
They have an awful lot of chiefs, and not enough Indians. You would think one of those chiefs would take a moment from telling an Indian that they cannot offer a "reduced plea" of 30 years on the grand theft case with no witnesses, and spend a moment or two on personnel issues.



"Has everyone paid their Bar dues? "
"Is everyone current with CLE?"
Here's a neat one: "Is any prosecutor currently suspended by the Bar?"


Or would that kind of work drag the big important supervisor away from their precious duties of sitting on their duffs and writing the word "NO" over and over again in inter-office emails.?




We anxiously await answers to these and other pressing questions in our new Soap Opera/Novella: : "As the SAO Spins."

Tomorrow on As The SAO Spins: it turns out one of the supervisors for the felony division is an identical twin and two people have actually being doing the work of one supervisor.

See You In Court checking the CLE records of our distinguished opponents.

PS. That last line of Mr. Thompson's letter had us chuckling.

Another Tragedy

KEN FELDMAN MEMORIAL

A memorial service honoring former St. Thomas Law School Professor Ken Feldman will be held Monday, June 11th at 6:00 PM at the St. Thomas Law School in Miami Lakes, Florida.


Here is part of the NY Times story we mentioned in a comment about an innocent man convicted. We would like prosecutors to comment on professor Scheck's statement that

ELIZABETH, N.J., May 15 — A man who served 19 years in prison for the sadistic murders of his companion’s two children walked out of the Union County Courthouse flanked by his family members after a judge vacated his convictions on Tuesday.


Prosecutors contended that DNA evidence in the case would probably change the mind of the jury that convicted the man, Byron Halsey, 46. They also said that the DNA evidence pointed instead to Cliff Hall, a neighbor who testified against Mr. Halsey at his 1988 trial and who is currently in prison for three sexual assaults.
Mr. Halsey, who was handcuffed, sat crying silently during the brief proceeding in Union County Superior Court before Judge Stuart L. Peim.


As he left the courthouse, Mr. Halsey said, “I thank my Lord and savior Jesus for keeping me.”
Asked about his emotional state, he smiled and said, “I don’t want to get in more trouble.” He added, What was done to me was criminal at best.”


Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, the Manhattan legal clinic that revived the case, said: “It’s a miracle that Byron is here with us, because if ever there was a case where there was a risk of executing an innocent man, it was this case. Because the facts of the case were so horrible.”

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Mr. Halsey in the 1985 killings. The crimes were particularly chilling — Tina Urquhart, 7, was raped and strangled, and her brother, Tyrone Urquhart, 8, died after four nails were hammered into his skull with a brick. The children’s bodies were found in the basement of a rooming house in Plainfield where Mr. Halsey lived with their mother.

...

Mr. Halsey contacted the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University after exhausting his appeals. Advanced DNA techniques that were not available at the time of the trial showed that the evidence had no link to Mr. Halsey. It did, however, show a match with Mr. Hall, whose DNA samples were already in the state’s database because of his convictions in sex crimes that occurred after the Urquhart children were killed.

...
Mr. Scheck noted that in about a quarter of the 201 wrongful convictions that have been overturned with the use of DNA evidence, people had confessed or admitted to crimes they did not commit. Mr. Halsey signed a confession after 30 hours of interrogation, Mr. Scheck said. Mr. Halsey’s lawyers said he had a sixth-grade education and severe learning disabilities.


Rumpole says, the next time a prosecutor tells us that they will revoke all plea offers if we seek a bond hearing, or file any motions- because our client confessed and is clearly guilty- we will just attach a copy of this newspaper article to our letter to their supervisor complaining about their actions.

This business of "punishing" defendants for having attorneys who vigorously defend them has got to stop. We call on the State Attorney to either abandon this policy or defend it in public, and we call upon Judges to not let prosecutors get away with such bullying tactics in their courtrooms.

And before all the emails start flooding in- yes, we recognize that in certain limited cases- like where children are victims, or in the case of sexual assault, it is good policy to remind all parties that the prosecution may revoke a plea offer after all the other work is done, and the defense indicates it wishes to depose the victim.

How can we work in a legal system where we revere the Constitution, and then punish a defendant who seeks to use the rights afforded by the Constitution?

This merits serious discussion.

Have a good weekend.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

PERSONALS

"Lonly Hisp. W/M. Atty. Gen of the U.S. Lost or losing many of my frnds. Seeking LTR. Must have law degree and be friend of W."

The hallowed halls of the Justice Department must be very lonely places these days. One can almost hear the echoing foot steps as the Attorney General wanders around wondering where everyone is. They have been fired or quit. This past Tuesday Paul McNulty, the deputy attorney general of the US and the second highest ranking official at Justice called it quits. He is fourth official at Justice to resign in the wake of the US Attorney firing scandal.

This week we were treated to the regalia of the Bush presidency's very own Saturday Night Massacre. We have previously written about the events of the Nixon presidency when the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States resigned rather than follow the President's orders and fire the special prosecutor investigating Watergate. Eventually, Nixon found a janitor at the Justice Department named Robert Bork who was only too happy to follow the orders of the president and say, in those immortal words of Donald Trump: "Archibald Cox...you're fired!"

Now comes word of high speed car races to the Hospital bedside of then Attorney General John Ashcroft. Doped up on pain killers prior to his gallbladder surgery, and barely coherent, we learned that former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, with lights and sirens blazing on his motorcade, and FBI Director Robert Muller at his side, raced to the hospital to head off Bush's Chief Of Staff Andrew Card, and Alberto Gonzales- in his then role as counsel to the President. At stake on this rainy March night in 2004, was nothing less than Bush's illegal attempt to use the NSA to intercept phone calls of US Citizens without court authorization.

With Ashcroft seriously ill, the White House needed the Attorney General's signature to re-authorize the program. But Comey was acting Attorney General and his department's Office Of Legal Counsel had just issued an opinion that the secret program was illegal. Comey refused to sign the re-authorization order. With the program set to expire the next day, Card and Gonzales raced to the hospital to apparently hold Ashcroft's hand while they guided a pen on the line that said: "To Subvert the Constitution: SIGN HERE."

Comey testified before Congress this week that he literally raced up the hospital steps with the Director of the FBI close behind. As they ran into Ashcroft's hospital room, FBI Director Mueller shouted orders to Comey's FBI security detail not to let anyone remove Comey from the room without his permission.

Finally, the FBI vs. Secret Service shootout we've all been waiting for!!! Sort of like Batman versus Superman.

Anyway, the crisis lingered until Comey went to the White House the next day for a conference on terrorism. President Bush, wandering the hallways looking for his dog ( the president is way too busy to attend conferences) bumped into Comey. He put Comey in a headlock and patiently explained to Comey that the Constitution didn't exist for Presidents from Texas. The President then wrestled Comey into the family quarters, past a startled Laura Bush, and held him down on the floor while Dick Cheeney fast forwarded through the Godfather CD until he got to the point where Michael explains to his future wife Kay about how Luca Brazzi held a gun to a bandleader's head and explained that either his signature or his brains would be on the paper giving Johnny Fontane his release from his contract.

Comey signed the extension for the NSA to continue intercepting phone calls, and the NSA recently released this interesting transcript:

Hello?

Kathy? It's Don.

Hi Don. What's up?

Don: We've had four more prosecutors arrested this week, and 16 resigned. We lost 9 of 10 jury trials, and there are more complaints about low morale at the office.

Kathy: Well, it sounds like a normal week. I'll be back from vacation in three or four weeks. Keep me informed.


It's been a fun week to be an American. And to those boys and girls labouring in obscurity at the Justice Department. To quote from Stripes: "I gotta party with you. When you stole that cow....you are a wild man."

We never really knew that the ability to sprint up a flight of stairs at a hospital and shout orders to the FBI to square off with the Secret Service was all part of the job of being a government lawyer. Kind of gives you a new way of looking at those supposedly out of shape AUSA's we keep seeing at 10:oo Am and 1:30 Pm during Magistrate Court.

See You In Court, limbering up in case we have to run interference to save the Constitution.

PS: You MUST go to David Markus's federal blog and check out the motion by Milt Hersch for his client to wear his cowboy hat in court, and the outstanding order written by Judge Cooke granting the motion. Who says the feds are a boring bunch of stiffs? (Actually we say that, but Judge Cooke is #1 in our book. A Federal Judge with a sense of humor.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

LETS GET TOUGH ON CRIME

Ahem.....Our local State Attorneys Office (Motto:don't do the crime. But if you must, we may have a job for you as a prosecutor!) has issued the following press release:
STATE ATTORNEY
ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF FLORIDA E. R. GRAHAM BUILDING1350 N.W. 12TH AVENUE MIAMI, FLORIDA 33136-2111
KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE TELEPHONE (305) 547-0100STATE ATTORNEY
MEDIA ADVISORY

Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-0535
Assistant State Attorney Loses Job After Buying Drugs
Miami (May 16, 2007) – After a Tuesday evening arrest, Assistant State Attorney Utpal Dighe’s employment terminated today. The 31-year-old attorney was arrested for purchasing and possessing marijuana in the Coconut Grove section of Miami at approximately 6:30 p.m.


“I am deeply disappointed in the decisions Mr. Dighe has chosen to make. As a prosecutor, one is sworn to uphold our criminal laws, not violate them. I cannot tolerate one of my prosecutors behaving as if their oath of office required no personal commitment to the law.” [Rumpole notes: Time to get a new press agent. There is no name attributed to this quote in the release issued by the State Attorneys Office. Just who exactly is so disappointed?]

Mr. Dighe had worked as an Assistant State Attorney since August of 2004, recently prosecuting criminal cases before Circuit Court Judge Spencer Eig. He had been the subject of disciplinary action in November 2006 for his failure to obtain necessary approvals when making a plea offer in a criminal case. [Rumpole notes: Ahh...there's the rub. Marijuana is one thing, but not following the chain of command in the army of Fernandle's Freedom Fighters (Motto: "We fight against freedom")....well , that is a high crime that cannot be ignored. Who was it who said "orders must be obeyed?"]


Utpal Dighe is charged with 1 count of the Purchase of Cannabis, a 3rd degree felony, and 1 count of Possession of Cannabis, a 1st degree misdemeanor.

A letter is being forwarded to Governor Crist requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the prosecution of the above drug charges.

Rumpole says: And what's even worse is that drug court diversion is not available because drug court is closed. Remember that scene in the movie The Hunt for Red October at the end where the embarrassed Russian Ambassador goes to the US National Security Director seeking help to locate a second submarine. And the National Security Director takes great pleasure in saying "you've lost another sub?"

Ms. Rundle.....You've had another prosecutor arrested? If this keeps up, you're going to have to find office space to accommodate all the special prosecutors assigned to prosecuting your prosecutors.

By the way, what if on the extremely slim chance the City Of Miami Officers arrested the wrong guy? We know the City of Miami rarely ever makes mistakes. But still....Ever hear of the presumption of innocence? Or has that gone the way of defense rebuttal closing arguments?

A suspension is warranted. But a finding and adjudication of guilt prior to arraignment? What is this...Broward? Not really the best way to stand behind your loyal employees is it?

By our abacus, that's at least three prosecutors arrested in the short time we have been running the blog. And the Dade PDs' keep humming along, fighting for rights, and managing to obey the laws of our fair State. Who woulda thunk it?

Judges get arrested for possessing marijuana. Prosecutors get felony arrests for buying marijuana. What's wrong with this picture?

1) That purchase of marijuana is a felony, is a joke. It's a waste of resources. Marijuana possession is an infraction in many parts of this country, yet a prosecutor finds himself the subject of a felony prosecution for what really amounts to possessing marijuana.

Isn't is about time we made possession of marijuana a civil infraction, and sale or purchase a misdemeanor? Do we need the valuable time of our circuit court judges

(-sound of Rumpole choking after saying something nice about a robed reader-) taken up with these kinds of cases?

Or- and we address this to our local Prosecutor who has a penchant for hiring people who violate the law- is it time to get "really tough on crime" and throw the book at this prosecutor?

Come on. Put your money where your mouth is. If purchase of marijuana is a third degree felony, how about 18 months prison followed by 2 years probation?

Don't give us that crap about it being a first offense. Do you really think this is the first time he purchased marijuana? Lets not forget that the federal guidelines have sentencing enhancements for individuals who abuse their position of authority when they commit a crime.

Or is it time to bring some reason and sanity into the world of crimes and prosecution?

See You In Court.

PS: What's the deal with Judge Eig? They give him one of those hidden courtrooms on the third floor that no one ever goes to, and we have yet to pick up a case in his division. It's almost like he's out of the loop and the blind clerk is not assigning him cases.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ANONYMOUS

The Broward Blog was the subject of several newspaper articles in he past few days. If you visit the blog by clicking on one of the links we previously posted, you can view the articles.

The main criticism by the Judges quoted in the newspaper articles, other than the comments from everyone's favourite comedian Uncle Dale, was that the anonymous comments tend to be extremely vicious. We have not perused the comments section of the Broward Blog at length, but the criticism gives us time to pause and reflect on our rules.

We favour anonymous comments because it gives attorneys the chance to lodge legitimate comments or complaints without worrying that the Judge may deny their next request for a continuance. However, we firmly believe that the comments need to be screened because of the potential vicious nature that anonymity can bring. We have no problems with someone commenting about a Judge in relation to their judicial demeanor or intellect. We do have a problem with someone taking out a decision or verdict that did not go their way by cursing a judge or attacking their family or other private matters. Therefore, to keep the blog on an even keel, we have adopted the policy of screening and not posting some comments. The comments we do not post are very few indeed. Perhaps one every other day. And when we do not post a comment we usually leave a comment explaining what we did and why.

This blog has been an amazing success. From nothing, we arose to become the place criminal lawyers in Miami turn to discuss a topic or event, or mourn the passing of a friend and colleague. We have had amazing discussions between top attorneys- who can forget Roy Black and Abe Laser discussing the case that made Miami burn in the 1980's?

Anyway, we think things are going well, but there's always room for improvement. What is your idea for making things better? We'd like to know. (Of course having Judge Dale Ross move to Miami to provide us an endless source of entertainment is something we would love, but for a variety of reasons, it is not likely to occur).

So beyond having Uncle Dale regale us with his witty yet witless ruminations on blogging, what else would you like to see on our blog?


See you in court.

Monday, May 14, 2007

KEN FELDMAN OBITUARY

We have received several emails informing us that Ken Feldman's obituary was in the Philadelphia Inquirer and there is an on-line remembrance book that people can leave messages for Ken's family and friends. Try going to the Inquirer's website and looking for the obituary link, and you should be able to view it and leave a note.

Here is the link: KEN FELDMAN

We are not currently aware of any South Florida memorial, although we have been told that something is planned and when arrangements are finalized, we will post them.

Keep the wonderful comments coming.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

UPDATE: KEYS AND NORTH OF THE BORDER BLOG

Comments and private emails have been flooding in from the lawyers attending the Federal PD conference in the Florida Keys.

We can summarize the topics and the prevailing trends in the case law:

Supreme Court Update: Roberts Court to 4th Amendment: “Drop Dead”

Sentencing Update: “New trends in the federal guidelines: How high can you count?”

Death Penalty Update: zzzzshocking.!

Local Trends: More work, less money, hurrah!

Guantanamo: After July 1, 2007, the new “I’m Proud To Be An American” Act passed by Congress and signed by the president makes it a crime to say "Guantanamo", or print "Guantanamo" in a newspaper. There is a special “terror enhancement” under the federal guidelines for writing or saying "Guantanamo" with references to individuals being held there without any protections or rights that a supposedly free democracy affords its inmates.


State Court Update: In light of the success of the changes to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Legislature will consider next year the following measures to “make trials more fair”: 1) Prohibit the defense from making an opening statement. As Florida State Senator Clem “Hap” Wilkes-Booth said “Them darn criminals are always talking bout their dag gun right to remain silent, so let em remain silent I says.”

2) Prohibit the defense from conducting cross examination in any case where the defendant has a prior arrest record.

3)And finally, a bill proposed by the Florida Association of Prosecutors will propose to eliminate closing arguments on behalf of the the defense. As one prosecutor said: “They (liberal pinko commie defense attorneys) complained when we eliminated their right to rebuttal. If they don’t give a closing, the prosecution does not give a rebuttal, so this bill is really a pro-defense bill sponsored by prosecutors who are just trying to be fair to the defense.”


For those of you who missed it, we hope the above summary proves useful.

Several confidential informants emailed us about Federal Death Penalty Ace Steve Potolsky and his display of our blog during the death penalty update, wondering if in fact we were in the Keys sipping a Pina Colada as we said we might be?

We’ll never tell….but we appreciate the publicity.



NORTH OF THE BORDER UPDATE:

As we previously reported, the DBR was doing a blockbuster article on the Broward Blog. The entire article is listed in the comments section of The Broward Blog's Thursdays post. But here is our little gem of a quote that made the paper:

Gelin’s actions impressed a Miami-Dade courthouse blogger who has operated the popular Justice Building Blog for the past year and a half under the pseudonym “Rumpole.” “I was surprised the lawyer who started the [Broward] blog did so openly,” Rumpole, who says he’s a Miami-Dade criminal defense lawyer, said in an e-mail to the Daily Business Review. “He should be applauded for his bravery.
I, of course, am not so brave.”

Apparently those who run the blog and those who post on the blog have been the subject of bar complaints that have been dismissed. We just mention that in passing for those concerned with such things.

And finally, these two gems from the Broward Blog:

The Blog reported that Chief Judge Dale Ross had this to say about the blog he has never read (and by the way, file this Dale Ross gem under the "we couldn't make this up if we tried" category):

"“I like folks who are serious people, who come up to me face-to-face and say, ‘Hey Dale, I have a problem I’d like to talk to you about,’ ” he said. While Ross said he doesn’t read the blog, he complained that he hadn’t “seen one thing yet that was factually correct.”

Rumpole notes: If this was a fight between Ross and the Broward Blog, it would have to be stopped for humane reasons. You gotta love the Chief's pluck- he just keeps slugging away in a battle of wits without having any ammunition.

Ross treats the blog like our motions to suppress: he doesn't read them, but knows they are wrong anyway. It's just not fair that the Broward Blog gets to have Judge Ross and all his amusing comments. If we had a Judge Ross in Dade, we wouldn't have to struggle so hard with topics to write about every day.

And the Broward Blog has this wonderful quote from the Daily Business Review from Fred Haddad about attorneys who post on blogs:"Despite the Bar complaint, Conway recently forwarded a JQC complaint he filed against Aleman to JAABlog, and it was posted. Conway “can post all he wants,” said his attorney, Fred Haddad of Fort Lauderdale. “What are we in Russia?”

See You In Court Monday, and to Mr. Haddad we say: Das Vadana.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

MEMORIES OF KEN FELDMAN

Wonderful tributes and memories of our friend and colleague:


Judy & Dave Tobin said...
Kenny was one of the finest attorneys in Miami, but more importantly was one of the nicest human beings we've known. He has always taken care of other people's problems. And for those of you who do not know, several years ago Ken donated his bone marrow to his dying brother. We will miss him greatly. Rest in peace my dear friend. Judy & Dave Tobin


JONATHAN COLBY said...
In my 6 years that I spent over at the Justice Building, I met so many interesting and accomplished attorneys. Each had their own unique personality. Ken Feldman stood out somehow. He always came into the courtroom with a big smile, was thoroughly prepared and his clients seemed to love him - no matter what their punishment was going to be -they always thanked him and knew that he did his best to defend them. Ken was the first person to line up to assist in everyone's re-election campaign. He never had to be asked. I remember how hard he worked for all...from Kathy Fernandez Rundle to all of his friends who were looking for a JNC appointment. He was always kind to everyone. I never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. I remember that he loved to teach and he gave so much of himself to train young lawyers and students. He genuinely had a passion to pass on what he had learned, introduce these young lawyers to the judges that they would appear in front of and explain the importance of ethics to them. "Kindness" is what he always gave. After all, as the lyrics to that great song say: "in the end, only kindness matters". It is very sad that he must have felt so alone before he died. It is so sad that he would feel compelled to take his own life. What it must be like to feel that one does not have anything to look forward to or that they could not overcome the emotional demons within their soul. Rest in peace Ken. With your profound and unselfish kindness to others, you made an impact on so many others during your life. That is what we all should strive for. You have taught us all to be more kind to others Ken. Thank you. Jonathan Colby


Anonymous said...
Ken was a great man with tremendous enthusiasm for the things he cared about, including his students. I'll miss him.



Ken Feldman was a gentleman and fine attorney.Unfortunately,these word are often not mentioned during a persons lifetime,but after their demise.St.Thomas Law School students will miss him,as will the criminal justice system in Miam Dade County.

Judge Shell Schwartz


Anonymous said...
Mr. Feldman was a spectacular man and excellant professor. He gave so much and touched many lives. He was one person at our university and another when you spoke to him on a personal level. Driven, dedicated, and lonely. Despite his own turmoil During difficult times in my own life he stepped up. He never allowed me to give into hopelessness. This from a man I barely knew . He was always there to hand me a tissue and to tell me to toughen up or I would never make in the legal profession. Over time Mr. Feldman and I became friends and our time together discovered a man who was not only lonely, but in a tough place in his own life. As he once told me "We all have issues its how we cope and make change". Ken always made the students feel as if they had someone in their corner in a COLD COLD place. I will miss Ken and Professor Feldman and our pep talks. I will continue praying for his soul.


Anonymous said...
Mr. Feldman was a spectacular man and excellant professor. He gave so much and touched many lives. He was one person at our university and another when you spoke to him on a personal level. Driven, dedicated, and lonely. Despite his own turmoil During difficult times in my own life he stepped up. He never allowed me to give into hopelessness. This from a man I barely knew . He was always there to hand me a tissue and to tell me to toughen up or I would never make in the legal profession. Over time Mr. Feldman and I became friends and our time together discovered a man who was not only lonely, but in a tough place in his own life. As he once told me "We all have issues its how we cope and make change". Ken always made the students feel as if they had someone in their corner in a COLD COLD place. I will miss Ken and Professor Feldman and our pep talks. I will continue praying for his soul.


Theodore G. Mastos said...
We have all lost a dear friend and colleague in Ken Feldman. He truly cared about his clients, his students, and the system we all work to uphold. I always knew that any campaign would include Ken without his being asked to participate. He was always there in his quiet yet comforting way.

Rest in peace, Ken.

Theodore G. Mastos


Anonymous said...
Ken Feldman will be missed. He was an excellent attorney, a great teacher, and an even better human being. He was ALWAYS willing to help, guide, and lead. He graciously donated his time and energy to good causes, and never thought twice about helping a young attorney further their career. It is with great sadness that we mourn his passing. He will always be thought of fondly, and his smile, as well as uplifting personality, will be missed in the rather gloomy justice building.

Rest in peace Ken...you are in our prayers!!


Anonymous said...

Judge Jonathan Colby's tribute to Ken Feldman says it all. Bravo for the way that you have stated Ken's fine attributes and how important kindness is. WE AS A COMMUNITY AT THE REGJB should take to heart this message and Judge's should treat attorneys, defendants and victims with kindness - - - asa's and defense attorneys should treat each other with kindness --- and we should all take this lesson out into public and treat all of those who we encounter with "kindness". That would be a fitting tribute to Ken Feldman. "

In the end, only kindness matters" - That is a stunning and true comment.

Rumpole says: wonderful words and thoughts and it reminds us that at a basic level, we in this community are friends and some are close enough to be considered family. We laugh together, love together, and sometimes we weep and mourn together.

Friday, May 11, 2007

KEN FELDMAN HAS PASSED AWAY

Tragedy has stuck at our ranks today as we learned of the untimely death of our friend and colleague Ken Feldman. He died as a result of a gunshot wound that may have been self inflicted.

We have received lots of comments and private emails from the lawyers in the Keys at the Federal PD Conference. There is a lot going on, much of it humorous. However, this is not the time for humor.

We remember our friend and colleague and we mourn his passing.

And we received this email from Dean Garcia at St. Thomas Law School, forwarded to us by someone who wanted to remain anonymous:

It is with deep regret that I must convey the sad news that Professor Kenneth N. Feldman passed away late last night. Professor Feldman will be remembered as a man who embodied the mission of the law school and who was loved by the students, faculty, and staff. He was profoundly committed to the spirit of service and dedication to others.

As Director of Pro Bono Services for the law school, he helped students understand and respond to the needs of underprivileged persons. He spent many hours helping students contribute to a wide range of community-based public organizations. He lived his convictions, spending many hours building homes with Habitat for Humanity and assisting shelters such as Women in Distress- eventually being honored with the Miami-Dade County Pro Bono Award for assisting victims of Domestic Violence.

As an attorney, he was a respected criminal litigator and served as chairman of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee for the 11th Judicial Circuit (Dade County).
As an adjunct professor here, he taught Trial Advocacy Practice and Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiation for over a decade.
Please keep Professor Feldman in your thoughts and prayers. Once final arrangements are made by Professor Feldman’s family, I will notify the STU community.


Professor Feldman will be remembered in prayers at tonight’s Baccalaureate Mass. In addition, at tomorrow’s graduation ceremony we will remember Professor Feldman through an award to a student who exemplified the mission of pro bono service instilled by Professor Feldman. James Karrat will receive an award for contributing over 450 hours of pro bono community service while he was a student at our law

May Ken Feldman, my good friend and colleague, Rest in Peace.
Alfredo Garcia
Dean and Professor of Law
St. Thomas University School of Law



Thursday, May 10, 2007

WHAT WE DO....DONE TO US

Here's a familiar scenario:
A family comes to our office. Something bad has happened or is about to happen. It just so happens that we know the people who are making the decision. Perhaps with a well placed phone call and follow-up meeting, and we can change what has occurred or is about to occur.

The family is in great distress. They are about to lose a great deal of money, or a family member is about to lose their freedom. There is a price for our services. Not everyone can just pick up the phone and get the decision maker who is causing such problems on the other line.

"Here is our fee" we say. They wince, and we stand up and suggest they talk in private for a few moments. No rush. The family confers and after deciding that there are several people they can call to raise the money, plus a second mortgage on a home, they agree to our terms and hire us.

This is what we do. We profit on the troubles of others. If we do our job well, we are successful, often saving the client from themselves and their own poor judgement. ( "Tell me again why you confessed, on tape, to something you didn't do?")

Well now, after the big meeting on Wednesday with the high powered political lobbyist, doesn't it seem like the shoe is on the other foot? "You blew it" we have been told. "You were getting tens of millions of dollars of tax payer money and you never spent a nickel to protect what you were getting.
Welcome to the big leagues."

"Well now, all is not lost." (Gleaming white smile). "For a fee (re-occurring every year) we can solve your little problem and get back your lost kitty. Just ante up and let the professionals take it from here. "

Rumpole says: We are reminded of the story of the very successful surgeon who had some pain, went to a doctor and was told he needed some surgery. He scoffed: "Surgery is for patients...not for me."

Apparently we lawyers are in about the same position, collectively, as our clients. True we have not committed any crimes (most of us anyway). But we have been told by the pros that we don't know how to play the game, and we have no one to blame but ourselves for the position we now find ourselves in.

Here's the rub- and don't deny that many of you have been thinking the same thing:

Are we going to hire the lawyer who really believes in our cause, is good, and will give us a chance at winning? Or -and unfortunately we all know colleagues like this- are we about to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars with some guys, who will be going out to the bar afterwards to brag about the big, fat, loser client they just got hired to represent?

Food for thought.

Hey you guys in the Keys, hows the weather? Hows the tequila?

See You In Court.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

DADE AND BROWARD

Dade and Broward....Dade and Broward...goes together like a horse and carriage...


There is a nice picture of Broward Chief Judge Dale Ross on the broward blog. He looks like he was just told he would have to spend a week in Miami observing how our judges do it here without managing to get arrested or refer to defendants and victims as less than human.

Come to think of it, perhaps Stan Blake and Sam Slom can pick up the phone:

JA: Chief Judge Dale Ross's Office.
B&S: Hello, this is Judges Blake and Slom from Miami, is Judge Ross available?
JA: He's kind of busy now, there is a Judge crying on Court TV and another one about to be arraigned.
B&S: We know. We thought we could help.
JA: Hang on....
DR: This is Ross.
B&S: Dale! It's Stan and Sam in Miami.
DR:Who?
B&S: Judges Stan Blake and Sam Slom in Miami.
DR: Ahhh....yeah...how can I help you fellas?
B&S: Well, actually we thought we could help you. We thought you could spend a week or two down here and see how we handle things. Watch our Judges in action, see how the chief judges handle the rest of the judges. You know, pick up a few tips.
DR: You're kidding right?
B&S: No....
DR: Well I'd love to chat with you guys but another Judge just cursed in court at a victim so I gotta go.


Rumpole likes to say that no good deed goes unpunished. But the way they are going in Broward they're going to have to start asking for Judges down here to fill in and cover calendars if any more Judges spout off and get re-assigned to civil. Meanwhile, the word is that the civil docket has never been lower in Broward, what with all the extra help these days.

We'd like to hear some comments on the big Mahi-Temple meeting this evening and the upcoming Fed-PDs conference in the Keys.

THE SWALLOW, THE SERPENT, AND THE COURT OF JUSTICE

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

This Aesop Fable is about a swallow, returning from abroad and especially fond of dwelling with men, she built herself a nest in the wall of a Court of Justice and there hatched seven young birds. A Serpent gliding past the nest from its hole in the wall ate up the young unfledged nestlings. The Swallow, finding her nest empty, lamented greatly and exclaimed: "Woe to me a stranger! that in this place where all others' rights are protected, I alone should suffer wrong."

The swallow will soon be joined by herds of criminal defendants upon Senate Bill 1088 becoming law. Defendants and victims and the citizens of our state, who thought that the courthouse was a place where their rights were protected, will all find themselves shouting out about how they have suffered from this very bad piece of legislation. As soon as Governor Crist signs the bill, parts of it will immediately become law. Other sections of the law take effect on July 1 and the balance of the bill takes effect on October 1, 2007.

What does it mean for the public? It means that a rape victim, a robbery victim, a home invasion victim, a witness to a murder; for all of those citizens of our community, they will go through the process of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. They will eventually testify in a trial and after the jury comes back with the guilty verdict and the defendant is sentenced, they will go back to their quiet lives, attempting to put the frightening experience behind them. Two or three years later, they will receive a phone call; it may come from a detective or from a prosecutor or from a witness coordinator and they will be told the horrible news. The case was appealed, the defendant won the appeal, and now you have to go through the entire nightmare one more time. When the victim asks why, they will be told that the appellate court reversed the verdict because of ineffective assistance of counsel.

What does it mean for the defendant? It means a citizen of our community, after getting arrested and having their liberty taken away from them, will be appointed an attorney who will likely have inferior skills and not be qualified to handle the case effectively. The attorney will be told that their client is a H.O., or a H.V.O., or a GORT, or a PERP, or some other form of alphabet soup. And the defendant will fight and get their trial and be found guilty and sentenced to many years in the state prison system. And some of those defendants will be wrongly convicted – because they were innocent. But, they will likely sit for 20 years in prison before they are finally released. And then, when they file their claims bill before the legislature, for compensation for being wrongly incarcerated, they will be told to come back next year, and next year, and next year still.

What does it mean for you, the defense attorney who has worked so hard to maintain your growing legal practice? You have a private practice, but you supplement your income with the dozen or so court appointments you get each year off “the wheel”. Or you do it because it is the right thing to do; you want to give something back to your community. Now you are told that, after the Public Defender’s Office conflicts, and the Regional Counsel Office conflicts, that you will be asked to take the case. You are told that you now are under contract and will be paid a flat fee. How much you ask? Let me tell you how much:

CAPITAL SEXUAL BATTERY...................................... 2,000
LIFE FELONY ................................................................ 2,500
FIRST PBL ....................................................................... 2,000
FELONY 1ST DEGREE.................................................... 1,500
FELONY 2ND DEGREE................................................... 1,000
FELONY 3RD DEGREE....................................................... 750
VIOLATION OF PROBATION - FELONY ..................... 500

Here are the rules: Let’s say you plead a third degree felony first time up, no depos taken, wham bam thank you ma’am; five hours of work, $750; that’s $150 per hour. But, let’s say you have that tough case, defendant with multiple priors, or psychological issues, or maybe they are even not guilty, and you need to try the case. You spend 75 hours on the case, and what do you get paid? You guessed it, $750; that’s $10 per hour.

Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum. The Life Felony. The case you will spend 75 hours on, take eight to ten depositions, do your diligent investigation, go to court for six soundings, see your client in jail a couple of times, and, after working the case for six to nine months you get the ASA to offer you a sweetheart of a deal and your client takes it. You just spent 75 hours on the case and you get paid a whopper of a fee: $2,500 or just over $33 per hour. Or the first degree felony case; your client is a PERP and looking at serious time. You spend your 75 hours on the case and make $20 per hour for your $1,500 fee.

And don’t even think about trying to get paid over the flat fees. You want to go over the statutory caps. You know, the ones that have been in place since Reagan was president. You would have to jump through more hoops than you can imagine. By the way, get your bills in to the JAC within 90 days of the close of the case, or you will suffer a 15% penalty deduction from your bill.

It’s time to stand up and fight. There will only be approximately 600-800 felony appointments for the private bar under this new system. It can only work if the attorneys on the wheel (about 325 of them) are willing to take these cases and get paid these ridiculous fees. If you just say “NO”, all of you, there will be nobody to take these cases and you will shut down part of this new system. But all it takes is a few attorneys breaking from the pack and taking the cases, and then, well, the legislature wins. The community loses, the victims lose, the defendants lose, and you lose.

The swallow was pissed off and you should be too – you can get all eloquent on us like Aesop did or you can stand up and fight and you can do so by just saying “NO”!!!!!

AND THE CAPTAIN HAS SPOKEN !!!!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

BROWARD BROUHAHA

Things are really sizzling up North. Check out the Broward Blog again HERE
We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried:

The Broward Bloggers are obtaining Blackberrys to hand out to attorneys who can act as agents provocateurs in the courtrooms of Broward. [Wikipedia defines an agent provacateur as :
" a person employed to associate with suspected individuals or groups with the purpose of inciting them to commit acts that will make them liable to punishment."]

Here's all they need to do:
Agent: Judge can I call a case out of turn.
Court: (warily) Ok.

Agent: Judge I'm from Miami, and I would like my client to get a bond.

Whoooheee- watch the fur fly when a bunch of lawyers try that one out North of the Border!!!! The Blackberrys will be humming.


Here is the post from our colleague up North:



BLACKBERRYS AND THE ANONYMOUS TIP BOX
JAABLOG will soon be acquiring Blackberry devices for the express purpose of courtroom monitoring. Our goal is to have enough undercover "monitors" throughout the courthouse, armed with the devices, in order to report in real time anytime they see something of public interest. It could be funny, unusual, spiritually uplifting, tragic, inappropriate, gossip, an interesting photograph, a grave injustice, kudos to a judge or an attorney (State or Defense), or simply informational in nature. Send it along to JAABLOG, and it will be on the web, available to the community or any media person that may happen to peruse the blog. The info can be sent anonymously (see below), or with your name attached, it's your choice. Obviously, you can also utilize these devices for personal use as well, although we haven't quite completely figured out what direction to take to ensure that costs don't spiral out of control.




NEW JUDGE ALEMAN COMPLAINT:

The Borward Blog has the post about Attorney Sean Conway, who filed an additional JQC Complaint against embattled Judge Cheryl Aleman. The Blog has Mr. Conway's complaint which details a frightful series of exchanges in two "incidents" with Judge Aleman. In one "incident" Judge Aleman adopted a "seven working days policy" between arraignment and calendar call for trial, in which Mr. Conway avers, Judge Aleman had an agenda in forcing defendants to waive their rights to a speedy trial.

Rumpole says that we have seen Judge Aleman in action. At times she appeared to be a bully in robes. In our opinion, she clearly had her own anti-defendant agenda, and it was an agenda that was not- in rare praise of the Broward County State Attorneys Office- shared by the prosecutors in her division.




The real solution to the Aleman problem would have been to send Sy Gaer up there for a few weeks. That would have straightened her out.


KORDA KOPS A PLEA:
Finally, there are links to various news media articles on Judge Korda's acceptance of PTI for his possession of Marijuana.

Anyway, its a rare week or month when North of the Border can steal the spotlight from Miami. Usually we are the clowns. Not this month.




"ALL RISE?"

Brings to mind that famous eulogy for Chuckles the Clown on the Mary Tyler Moore Show: "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down their pants."

Enjoy the circus and see you in court, and maybe in the keys this weekend.