UPDATE: DAVIS JURY OUT- if someone could email us when the verdict comes in that would be appreciated.
Far removed from the familiar confines of NW 12th Street and 12th Avenue, we have been wondering why we have taken such an interest in the current trial of disgraced former Judge Phil Davis.
Phil Davis was a one of three sitting Circuit Court Judges to be arrested in Operation Courtbroom. Judges Alfonso Sepe and Roy Gelber were the other two sitting circuit court judges to be arrested along with sitting County Court Judge Harvey Shenberg, former Circuit Court Judge David Goodhart and a few other criminal defense attorneys. There were a few separate crimes and conspiracies going on at the same time, the chief offense being that defense attorneys were giving circuit judges kick backs for what was then lucrative court appointments. Along the way County Court Judge Harvey Shenberg agreed to sell the name of a CI that he was led to believe would be killed, for $50,000.00.
Davis and his cohorts represented both the end of innocence at the Justice Building, and a shattering of the belief that Judges-like them or not- were there to do justice. Sometimes wrong, often arrogant and seemingly uncaring, many Judges seemed to us at the time as petty and insecure, and not really suited for the responsibilities they had been entrusted to shoulder. But never in our wildest imagination did we believe that a Judge- not to mention four sitting judges- would be actively striking against the principles we all stood for.
Suddenly, every ruling a Judge issued resulted in whispers. "They're on the take, just like the rest of them" people would say, and what could we as lawyers do to respond? For all we knew, our world having been turned upside down, maybe there was another shoe or two to drop.
An innocent cup of coffee between a Judge and a lawyer now looked like a conspiracy.
In short, Davis and his conspirators turned our courthouse into an outhouse. They defecated in it, and then they left. Hustled out in handcuffs. We- the lawyers and judges who remained- were left to clean up their effluent waste.
Today, the court appointment system is almost gone. Interaction outside of court between Judges and lawyers is much rarer. And perhaps that's a good thing. Our building survived, our reputation has slowly been rebuilt and in many ways our system of justice in Miami is stronger and wiser because of Courtbroom.
And then, almost like a one night stand you regretted once the sun rose, there is Davis, back in our courthouse, a defendant once again. And all the memories of the disgrace and pain and shame he brought upon all of us is dredged back up to the surface once again.
Davis was acquitted in Courtbroom, mostly due to the eloquent closing argument of former Federal Judge and now Congressman Alcee Hastings. And just to show that Courtbroom was not an isolated incident, Davis managed to find more trouble shortly thereafter and was disbarred. And now for the second time in twenty years, Phil Davis will stand before a Jury to hear his fate. This time, Alcee Hastings won't be standing next to him.
It doesn't really matter what happens to Phil Davis. The damage he did remains, although the scars have faded. He is clearly a tortured soul. He had a job many aspire to- and he threw it all away. He had a profession many envied. And he threw that away too. He set up charitable organizations to ostensibly help the underprivileged, and now he stands accused of the reprehensible act of stealing from the poor he promised to serve.
In the final analysis, it's not the damage Davis did, but the lessons we learned.
It's not the money he stole, but the integrity we refused to relinquish.
It's not the office he disgraced, but the proud service of those who came after him.
Which is why, in retrospect, Phil Davis doesn't matter at all.