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. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

THE JAIL SAYS " NO"

What a surprise. The Dade County Jail has a new policy. Attorneys who go to see a prospective client at the jail can no longer see the individual except through the glass. Only attorneys who have filed a notice of appearance can see their client in a meeting room.

This information comes to us from ace attorney Bob Amsel.

Perhaps this is the jail's attempt to stop fellow criminal defense attorneys from "hustling" cases at the jail. And that's a good thing. But we believe the jail supervisors have not thought this through.

Scenario one: a family asks a lawyer to meet with their son to discuss an appeal a week after a guilty verdict. Under the new policy the meeting must take between glass.

Scenario two: A lawyer asks another lawyer to consider assisting in an upcoming trial. The client wants to meet the second lawyer before agreeing to release the funds and hire the lawyer.

Scenario three: a person who is just arrested asks a half dozen lawyers to meet with them at the jail so they can make a hiring decision; or a person has an attorney withdraw two years into the case and wants to hire a new lawyer.

The permutations are endless, but while we assume the new policy has the best of intentions, the practical results are problematic at best.

Alex Michaels has a new big case. Click here to see Alex hold a press conference on the steps of the juvenile courthouse (and no he didn't say the decision of the SAO to direct file his client in adult court was "bullsheeeeet".)

Here is the prosecutor's response in the Broward sex battery case that we have been discussing. This is the comment he left on the Broward Blog.

ASA Griffis wrote:
Much of the above posting about this case that I prosecuted could not be further from the truth.

It’s precipitated by a partial quote in the newspaper, part of a much larger statement I gave to the reporter, that has been taken out of context. Granted, even in context, this was not the best choice of words on my part. What I had intended my words to mean was not how they were construed.

Beyond that, the above posting neglects many of the facts in this case.

Going in, I knew this case would be very difficult. But then, if cases were dropped simply because the evidence consisted largely of the testimony of a sole witness, there would be numerous cases that would be unjustly dropped. That is not the standard that I gauge cases by.

Prior to the trial, I considered the strengths and weaknesses of the case. I again brought in the witness, a nurse’s aide who witnesses the incident and had never met the defendant. Following that interview, I was confident that there was a reasonable likelihood of conviction. The witness was very specific about what she saw, including the defendant’s sex organ, and what he was doing with it. She was adamant that there was no mistake on her part. The surrounding evidence supported her story. On the stand, the defendant acknowledged he was standing at the head of the bed, not kneeling nor holding her hand.

During the trial, it simply was whether the jury believed the witness was accurate in her observations. They did not. Hence my “comment,” only partially reported and misconstrued as it was.

There was no pressure to proceed from those above me, no “indoctrination”. In fact, I had been told quite the contrary, to drop the case if I felt that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction. I concluded there was a reasonable likelihood of conviction. Had I felt the defendant innocent, I would not have proceeded to trial.

Rumpole inquires: regarding that last sentence, does this ASA have any comment in response to the hundreds of defense attorneys who all relate a similar story that the Broward County SAO has consistently responded that in cases where the individual ASA believes the defendant to be innocent, it is the office's policy to proceed to trial "and let the jury decide"?

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not that Alex instigated anything, but is it any surprise that there was a fight after his case was finished at Juvie.

Anonymous said...

Alex rocks! Dis case is bulllsheeeeeet!

F the Q- fear the mad Rumanian!!!

Anonymous said...

How in the WORLD did that family think to hire Micheals???

Anonymous said...

Rump,

The ASA's statement supports my earlier criticism of your comments regarding his statements.

Your last question to him regarding Satz is ridiculous. Haven't you subjected him to enough scorn? You really expect him to bash his boss? Come on. Give the kid a break.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Note to Rodriguez family--you wasted your money. Alex Michaels could be a fine defense attorney if he wanted to, as he knows his craft well and has the tools to be a very good trial attorney. But he is such an a-hole that most ASAs, judges and even fellow defense attorneys cannot stand him. Dealing with him is almost as pleasant as a trip to the dentist for a root canal. As a result, few take him seriously and everyone views him as unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

Dade Lawyer here. I have a difficult sex case with Justin Griffis and he has been professional, diligent and responsive. Going anonymous to avoid the appearnce of kissihg up.

Grumpole said...

My name is Grumpole, the alter-ego of Rumpole. you'll know when i'm grumpy, usually following the lead of rumpy.

Anonymous said...

ASA Griffis,

why are you justifying your actions to a dade defense blog. We all know what a back ass county broward is, and we aren't scared to try any case against any of you. Just look at your acquittal rate. Highest in state. Props.

Thanks for letting the jury decide not guilty in a majority of trials.

Anonymous said...

Dear Broward ASA.


As Alex would say...

You are full of bullsheeeeet.

Anonymous said...

Former Dade ASA here.

Whatever, dude. You had no physical evidence, no statements, no nothing. You had one person who said it happened and one person who said it didnt. Sounds like you barely had enough to file the case, much less proceed to trial. The acquittal was not a surprise to anyone that practices criminal trial law. After an impartial jury told you your case did not pass the smell test and if you walked away surprised, your ability to evaluate cases needs serious work.

Hopefully, you learn from this experience and realize that one witness cases with scant evidence and nothing else are not favorites for juries. And your office's informal policy of "let the jury decide" is cowardly and an abusive use of the great power you wield when charging someone with a crime and threatening the liberty of someone. I have heard too many stories of Broward ASAs proceeding on bullshit cases and thinking to myself "No respectable Dade or Palm Beach ASA would file that case." Even in some "back woods" counties in the central and northern part of the State, the ASAs seem to have better judgment.

I am not some "everyone is innocent" former PD or ponytailed liberal either. A few years ago, I was one of you and I filed cases that needed to be filed and dumped cases that needed to be dumped.

kinda worried said...

Rump- you have more experience than most of us. Tell me, what's the secret to happiness and success?

Rumpole said...

Eat a diet with a lot of fiber.

Fake BlaKE said...

You're funnier than you look, Rumpole. Cut it out. That's my gig.

Anonymous said...

what a bunch of loser bottom feeder whiners !

Batman said...

I would agree with the former Dade ASA at 3:17, that the policy in Broward is cowardly. Satz is more concerned with keeping his job than he is about what is the right thing to do. The truth is "let the jury decide" is a abdication of his ethical obligations under the Code of Professional Repsonsibility.

The State Attorney serves the people of the State of Florida. Although they are elected by the Circuit, the reach of their power is for all crimes committed by anyone within that circuit and how well they do that job affects everyone. The words "prosecutorial discretion" have real meaning. It actually does exist. It is to be exercised diligently and the obligations under that doctrine are substantial and essential.

With that said, without the support of "The" State Attorney, the assistants are loathe to act independently, lest they lose their jobs.

Hmmmm, what is more important, your job or your soul?
Good question. Think about it Broward ASA. Justify as you will, but admit, don't you sleep better knowing the jury said: "Not Guilty"?

Anonymous said...

I am a defense attorney in Miami and a former accused in Coward (Broward) county. After 6 depositions, 5 of which stated that I did nothing wrong, even one by the police officer saying I was respectful, cooperative and he didn't believe I was at fault, and one complaining alleged victim, Satz and company proceeded to trial anyway. Thank goodness for juries.

As much as Miami ASAs are pompous, most of them would have dropped that case after the first set of depos. That being said, there is a few in county court that don't get that yet. Hopefully they will mellow in time.

Anonymous said...

Funny how the only two people who seemed to know the Broward ASA have said nice things about him. All the criticism ya'll are throwing out for the world to see is based on pure speculation (do you know the ASA? Have reviewed the entire transcript? Do you know all the facts? Have you interviewed the witnesses?).

Bashing a young attorney you don't know on incomplete facts is wrong any way you slice it. You sound like a bunch of sanctimonious fools.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

PS---it's ironic to see you fools jumping to conclusion without knowing all of the facts and bashing the ASA for not appreciating the weaknesses of his case. Pitiful.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

I prosecuted a case against Alex Michaels years ago when I was a Miami-Dade ASA. Michaels is a great guy and VERY easy to get along with if you don't take him seriously and understand his game.

Anonymous said...

The Dark Side of Down Times for Lawyers- a blockbuster Wall Street Journal article to come out next week. The WSJ interviews dozens of lawyers anonymously and they make some startling statements, including:

The managing partner of a midsize white shoe firm who was spending 2,000 a week on apartments and hotel rooms for the three- countem-3 mistresses he was keeping. "With the downturn in the economy, I bill less and have less I can write off as expenses. So for me, the downturn in the economy means I have to go back to sleeping with my wife."

The new partner at a large wall street firm- "I was billing $100,000 a year extra just by padding my bills 5 hours a week to various clients. I get $400 an hour and an extra 5 hours a week is an extra 250 hours a year. I kick ass for these clients and they never used to look at the bills and ask for a detailed accounting of the hours. They were happy to pay as long a I kept their cash cows flowing. Now that the mortgage money is gone they are complaining when we charge them for postage so over billing is out for now."

The large firm second year associate: "They are pounding us- just pounding us for hours. 10 hours on a Saturday is normal and if you're not giving 5-7 on a Sunday you're in danger of going to the top of the layoff list if the economy has a hiccup again. In the history of this firm no one can remember more difficult times when fear was such a motivating factor. I came out owing Harvard more than 125 grand, I can't afford to lose my job."

Mario Blecher said...

The Q:: There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During the cocaine craze we ran cases out of Colombia.... made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him.

Later in the 1980s on he had an idea to build a DUI firm in Aventura. That kid's name was Richard Essen, and the firm he founded handled only DUI and traffic cases. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in the Miami Courthouse.

Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry; I knew Richard, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I have had several instances in Broward of prosecutors grudging dropping cases where actual innocence was proven only to have them state something to the effect of "well he might not have committed this offense but I know he must be guilty of committing others." In Miami, this has NEVER occurred to me. So you tell me, is it coincidence or part of the overall culture of the respective States Attorney's Offices?

Anonymous said...

My name is Marc Cooper. I am a former bail bondsman. I am "outing" myself because this issue is a real problem.

Rump-I notice your hustling lawyer comment didn't get alot of attention so far. Yet, the problem of the JD risking his license for a small amount of money is not the real problem in the system. The real problem is the "houseman" system corrections has in place. The "house" is always set up with a bail bondsman who is always set up with some cheapy lawyer in need of a $500 retainer. The real unintended consequences could be avoided by stopping the inside of the jail from becoming akin to a Turkish flea market wherein housemen approach the "good" defendants as they are getting booked and set up a very lucrative relationship as a result.

Good, honest(somewhat, anyways) lawyers can never compete with the criminality engendered within the "houseman" jail system. You are dealing with a level playing field as you (now) try to communicate with your client through a window while the house is setting you up with an inside lawyer. To believe otherwise is to not realize what you are dealing with.

I am telling you the way it was when i was around. And this institution will never change as long as the "house" is in charge. The Dade county jail is a market for bondsman and lawyers to "hustle" while the rest of you are in your deep slumbers.

Fix the "houseman" institution and many of the real problems in the system will go away. If you don't, the money corrupting the system will make your practices more and more difficult to sustain.

The reality is this-a shingle waiving in the wind, a fancy website, a referral from a family friend, etc, etc, none of this can compete with a "houseman's" friendly referral at the outset of a case.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

6:52 PM--as an ASA I tried three cases against Alex Michaels (one as second chair). Only one made it to verdict. He was an arrogant, bombastic jackass during all three. He regularly hurled personal insults at both myself and my colleagues, the judge and the witnesses. He was held in contempt of court. In one instance he decided to get cute during my voir dire. I am still thankful that case pled out after the first witness testified. During the trial of another case his conduct was so egrigious that the State had to ask for a mistrial--which the judge granted. The judge commented that dealing with Alex's crap during trial made him physically ill.

I have also personally observed him yell at and berate clerks, and even punch a plexiglass window when a clerk didn't do something to his liking.

All trial attorneys--criminal and civil, prosecution and defense--work in an environment where disagreement and dispute are the norm. While most of us try to maintain a professional demeanor, nearly all of us have lost our cool and said inappropriate things at one time or another. I will readily admit to doing so myself. Alex, on the other hand, seems to thrive on such behavior. He has gone so far as to be reprimanded by the Bar on several occasions for such conduct.

You are not alone 6:52, as I know a handful of others with similar views about Alex Michaels. But remember that you are a member of a very small club. Alex's reputation and his record speaks for themselves.

Real fake blecher said...

A coupla obsevrations, pithy in nature.

David Letterman- I've spoken with my good friend Scott Farrell- we agree- YOU DA MAN.

MARIO BLECHER- Funny, but stop stepping on my toes.

Alex Michaels antics are fully detailed on page 87 of the book "Barguments".

ST- I'm done.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole

You're always bitching about something. Find your self a good man and relax a little.

Anonymous said...

Ray Ray Armstrong says hell yes.

The U.

It's a Canes thing so don't try to understand

Anonymous said...

" Real fake blecher said...
A coupla obsevrations, pithy in nature."

Real Blecher would use spell-check.

Anonymous said...

Justin Griffis is an idiot that for some strange reason will put the innocent out to perish for his own poersonal gain.However he stands to convict everyone guilty or innocent mainly because he was abused as a child believing that everyone thats accused is guilty there are alot of people out here being falsely accused,Yet this a*hole doean't give a shit. Justin put your own personal feeling aside and do your job The job we as tax payers pay you to do! If you can't come to grips with the reality of life then i say move over and let some real caring attorneys take over!!