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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SPEEDY TRIAL CRISIS?

We'll take this moment to remind US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: "When you strike at the King, you must kill him." Ralph Waldo Emerson.  (It was either Emerson who said that, or former Judge Howie "The Mouse" Gross.) 

(Cathy Vogel retires. See Below.)

Speedy Trial Crisis?

Not really, although the title of the post links to the Herald article where outgoing Public Defender (and incoming special consultant?) Bennett Brummer bemoans the fact that defendants facing third degree felonies who are represented by his office will "have to wait much longer to face a judge."

Oh really?  NO. 

As long as the judges are not shut down by the budget crisis, they will still set cases for trial within the normal course, and all defendants will be in court on a regular schedule. And Mr. Brummer knows that. We all do. 

There is a crisis, but we don't think Mr. Brummer is properly explaining it. We'll return to him in a moment- because right now the State Attorney is in our sights. 

Her brilliant proposal, as quoted in the article was for Mr. Brummer's office to spend less resources on defending misdemeanor cases. 

Bulletin to the State Attorney which she can ponder while on one of her many out of the office "trips":  The Public Defender's office would not have to spend any resources on misdemeanor cases if your lawyers stopped asking for jail on ridiculous misdemeanor cases!!!  Would you like us to ask our county court lawyers to write in on a daily basis with all the outrageous plea offers being made on petit theft cases, or possession of marijuana? Do you really want the statistics on PD domestic violence cases that are dismissed because the complaining witness has stated several times s/he lied and nothing really happened, and yet the prosecution continues the case for months and months? 

Yes, there are minimum mandatory jail sentences on repeat DUI offenders who need representation in county court. But as to all the other cases, don't take our word for it. 
Go speak to the County Court judges who see those other ridiculous cases prosecuted- they will tell you how out of touch the State Attorneys Office Supervisors really are. They will tell you how it takes three and four levels of supervisors who are all scared of their own shadow (remember last year's Christmas Eve Massacre at the SAO? Click here) before the prosecutor in court can do anything different than what some nameless -faceless supervisor wrote on a file six months before. 

Madam State Attorney: You want the PDs to spend less time on misdemeanor cases? Straighten up your own house before you throw stones at the PDs. 

Whew!  We've been waiting a long time to say that. 

OK Bennett, now get back to court. Wait. You're gone. Or are you? Is it Colorado or 14th Street? Or both? Lets us know. 

CATHY VOGEL RETIRES!:
Long time REGJB regulars remember Ms. Vogel as a good and fair and decent (decent as in caring and concerned) prosecutor. Several years ago she traded in her shoes for flip flops and went to the SAO in Key West (Motto "eat a shrimp out of season and we will get you!"). Now she writes in the  comments section yesterday that she has  retired and hung out a shingle across the street from the Key West Courthouse. Well Done Ms. Vogel!. Thank you for 32 years of service to our state.

Here is her comment:

Catherine Vogel writes:

I would like to let all my friends and former colleagues at the MJB that I have finally retired from the SAO here in Key West. (Yes, I have 32 1/2 years in as a State employee, time flies when you are having so much fun.) I am staying here and am opening my own practice doing CRIMINAL DEFENSE. I'll be doing a little family and mediation on the side. Some of you have visited me, my new office is right across the street. You can reach me at 305-296-0203 or 305-849-8663 after January 5. I can't wait to start pestering young prosecutors! Miss you all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!




15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brummer, Weed, Stein, Martinez and company are simply grandstanding on this overworked PD issue. I acknowledge there is a problem but why not get a caseload and help out your overworked lawyers if you really care about the clients. Between the 4 of you administrative types you could easily represent 50 clients each which would start alleviating some of the problems.

Then start having just one PD per county courtroom and two PD's per juvenile courtroom and send the others to felony. That would add atleast 10 more attorneys to the felony division. If the State has
1 year attys handling a C caseload, why can't 1 year PD's handle a C caseload.

Then get your County Court and Juvenile heads to actually take a caseload as well and start doing some actual in court supervision instead of simply being administrators. The PD should make it a priority to have as many lawyers in felony as possible. Felony is where guys are getting launched every day. But you guys seem to care more about what the NY Times, media and general public think than the actual clients.

Happy New Years!!!

Anonymous said...

Brummer and Rory have run off together to Colorado to become ski bunnies and have left their favorite furry bunny carlos to keep guard.

Anonymous said...

Furby was made popular by the HBO show entourage. One of the great episodes was when Drama put on the rabbit suit to thrust home.

So when I found out that five west of the BHB building was engaged in acts of furby I was not the least bit shocked. But the image of Rory Stein dressed up like a rabbit is funny.

Anonymous said...

I like all involved but, Kathy has no business telling the PD what to do.

I do lots of county stuff and boy do they waste time prosecuting bullshit.

Now that their boss Pat Trese is leaving and going to Sex Bat (so everyone says) it may get better.

I just hope Kathy puts a good person in charge over there.

As for the PDs granstanding... they have to do that to get the point made.

Good luck to Cathy Vogel.

Anonymous said...

Brummer has no idea how the system works so the fact that he thinks his clients will not get in front of the judge is par for the course.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between an ASA with 1 year of experience handling felony cases and a 1st year PD doing the same. The PD actually needs to represent a client effectively, whereas an ASA needs to have the requisite experience to annotate files effectively. It's a night and day comparison.

Anonymous said...

For all you DUI guys out there..a DUI defense attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona has been all over the news talking about his new portable breath test keychain he is selling on his website for $10 (proceeds going to MADD supposedly). Thoughts? Is this ethical? Is this opening him up to liability? How can he argue against the validity of breath tests in future cases when he sells them on his website? See what his fellow collegues in Arizona are saying about him: www.duilawblog.com

Anonymous said...

Vogel really messed up the Ayalya witness situation which resulted in the cocaine Queen walking. and embarassed the SAO and Kathy when the SAO was successfully sued in Fedeeral Court by Sherry Rossbach an ended up paying $500,000 in damages and attorneys fees. well done ms. vogel.

Anonymous said...

The only real advantage (if you can call it that) to arresting Gov. Dum Dum, was that Jessie Jackson, Jr, did not get the senate seat for a cool $500,000.00 is that not correct?

Anonymous said...

bennet give up your cushy consulting gig and they could hire another lawyer to help with cases. come on dude isnt 35 years sucking the government teat enough? 489k drop payout isnt enough plus your pension?

go work as a greeter at walmart if you need extra money or become a poker dealer at the seminole but dont take money that could go to overworked pds

you should be ashamed and why the herald hasnt scolded you for this is beyond me

Anonymous said...

The State prosecutes a lot of crappy misdemeanors in order to show an increased case load for budget purposes and also to collect as many courts costs as possible. In more commonsensical times, the state would automatically nolle prosse drinking in public, panhandling, sleeping in public and similar b.s. misdemeanors. Now, they pursue each case, supposedly because to nolle prosse such cases would make it look like if the state were condoning such "criminal" behavior, but they just don't want the court costs slip away.

The state, also in times with more commonsensical leadership, used to amend criminal driver license and tag violations (except driving while license suspended tickets) to infractions so that they would end up in the infraction calendar without any waste of state manpower or resources. Now, the criminal traffic calendars are clogged with b.s. tickets.

The problem is one of leadership. KFR puts young prosecutors who have never seen a felony to run the county court. Some of these kids, while well-intentioned, have no maturity, no life experience, want to build conviction statistics, and either lack common sense or are afraid of using it due to the rigidly bureaucratic structure of the office.

Anonymous said...

to 2:56 -

1 year pd with proper supervision
can handle a C caseload. Easy job -
interview client, ask investigator to conduct necessary investigation,
take depositions, file motions and
prepare for trial. This is not
that difficult.

Anonymous said...

"The State prosecutes a lot of crappy misdemeanors in order to show an increased case load for budget purposes and also to collect as many courts costs as possible. "

I couldn't agree less. If a crime has not been committed per Florida Statutes or a county ordinance, then fine. However, if the State proceeds on one of these crimes you deem "crappy," but all the elements are met within the four corners of the arrest form, then write your legislature and/or think about acting as an attorney in a pro bono fashion and show the State they are going forward on a crappy case. The State ultimatley is spinning it's wheels if there is nothing there, and you can feel good you helped out someone who could normally not afford an attorney.

You are ignorant if you think this boils down to court costs, because realisticly, what percentage are paid by people charged with these crimes? What percentage of the PD application fee do you think is collected upon by more serious crimes?

You then go on to state the basis for this is, "to build conviction statistics." I can assure you not one ASA at the ground level has ever mentioned this in my lifetime. I would think every prosecuting body in the world would like the conviction statistics to be high, as it shows that the system is working from the arrest all the way to the prosecution. I would think all PDs and private attorney's would want there cases to end up dismissed, no actioned, nolle prossed, etc...

And for Rump, I would love for you to post a constant update on how often the State is seeking jail on your misd cases. I would bet that update comes once a year if that. The majority of these cases in county have no jail penalties attached unless the case goes all the way through the trial process. The pleas rarely involve jail.

Anonymous said...

10:02:00 a.m., the state attorney has prosecutorial discretion on who and what to charge and prosecute. Even if all the elements are met, they can choose not to file charges (no action), amend the charges or drop (nolle prosse) them. They can use that discretion with those "crappy" misdemeanors but they are afraid to use it. How many cases of adultery or cohabitation are you filing or prosecuting this week? They are crimes according to the legislature. Yes, the majority of court costs are collected in misdemeanors and traffic cases. Check the figures.

And, yes, prosecutors want to have a high conviction rate so that they can advance in the office.

The content and tone of your post prove my point precisely about the bureaucratic mindset and dearth of maturity at the county court division of the state attorney's office.

Anonymous said...

On the average crimes misd. arr calendar in division (usually about a 100 cases) the SAO certs jail on maybe FIVE (yes just five) cases. 5%. It's avoided unless the course of conduct is severe and the defendant's priors are outrageous.