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Monday, February 08, 2010

COUNTY COURT IN DISARRAY!!

UPDATE BELOW:

The Colonel of County Court reports:

Alright, remain seated and listen up. We continued our reconnoiter of the Monday County Court situation and things are not looking good. This experiment of no soundings is headed towards failure.

The simple reason is that courts don't work if people cannot get into court. And the standing room only crowds of clients, witnesses, lawyers, and officers spilled into the hallway several people deep outside of the courtrooms of Judges Bloom, Newman, Miranda, Ortiz, Seff, Serrafin, and Krieger-Martin.

Here's what some of the soldiers in the field are reporting:

" Judge Miranda was slammed this am with so many traffic cases it was literraly impossible to get in to the courtroom up through 11 am."

" Newman was impossible to get into up to 10:30."

" Bloom was uncharacteristically flustered and running way behind all morning and was having a hard time handling the large amount of traffic cases."


Bottom line- judges are realizing they cannot do a Monday trial calendar with all the traffic cases that weren't sounded being set. Many clients were in the hallway when their case was called leading to some short tempers and Judicial threats to take people into custody when they finally struggled into the courtroom late.

We can report that Judge Luise Krieger-Martin has started setting some traffic cases for trial Wednesday mornings and that has eased the over flow in her courtroom a bit.

Here's an even larger problem: Most cases handled by attorneys in traffic court are now being done by firms. The firms promote the idea of being able to handle the case without the client appearing in court. As such, the firms file motions to represent and plea or have a trial in absentia, as the rules allow.

Judges Krieger-Martin and Ortiz reasonably let the attorney handle the case on the Monday trial setting. If the state's witnesses fail to appear, the case is dismissed. If the State is ready, in more than 99% of the case the case is settled.

However Judges Newman, Bloom and Miranda are totally unreasonable on this- forcing pleas even where the prosecution is not ready. Their disingenuous response to the situation is that the attorney can calendar the case before the trial setting and ask permission to proceed in absentia. However- again knowing that most traffic firms have 25-100 cases set on Mondays- this is akin to asking each firm to create it's own sounding calendar for each judge - necessitating the attorney to call the JA, schedule a hearing, and attending court to ask permission for what Judges Ortiz and Krieger-Martin reasonably allow on most traffic cases like NVDL, driving without glasses, or other simple traffic cases.

The Colonel calls on Judge Slom to step in and explain to these Judges the reasonableness of allowing them to proceed in absentia on these non-DUI traffic cases. The attorneys who routinely proceed in absentia are well versed in the requirements including having fingerprints for their clients when the state is offering an adjudication.

Finally- there is this problem rearing it's ugly head- the DWLS conundrum.
Most regular criminal traffic defense attorneys know that 3 DWLS pleas (Including withholds) results in a client being habitualized and losing their license for five years.

In recognition of this harsh sanction, the prosecution in many cases would alert the court and the defense to this potential outcome at sounding- and usually offer a reduction in charges- usually to NVDL with 200 community service hours. It was a fair and reasonable settlement.

Now however- without the soundings- these problems are first coming to light at the trial stage when the prosecution is reluctant to offer the reduced charge. There is no apparent solution to this problem.

Summary- County Court is currently a mess- and not just from the defense side of things. The increased caseload on Mondays has pushed overworked courtroom staff to the breaking point. It's not unusual for morning calendar to run to close to 1pm, and it is not until then that the Judges can discuss giving their staff a quick lunch break before getting to the DUI motions and trials. This experiment is failing and we predict it will not last.

Dismissed. And remember- as difficult as things are these days, there's gold in dem dere misdemeanors.

UPDATE- A reader had a good comment:

When judges go to judge school, do they talk about the art and science of the bench warrant? I ask because it appears, as it has for years, that bench warrants should be issued when the client fails to appear.

Am I wrong? Are bench warrants meant to be our version of "if you're not in your seat when the bell rings you're late?" Are bench warrants meant to help judges close cases when they are asked to set them aside and then turn to the state and ask "what's the offer?" Are they meant to send the police out to arrest defendants at 9:03 even after the lawyer advises that the client just called from "the line" and are looking at a conveyer belt of shoes moving along?

Maybe like all prosecutors take a tour of the jail, all judges should be required to come to the building one day at 8:15 in plain clothes, park, and come to the building. Then maybe they wouldn't roll their eyes about how its more difficult to get into the REGJB than it is the airport, where they're looking for people who want to blow up airplanes, not just listen to their lawyer ask for a defense continuance or take a withhold on a pot case.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010 11:05:00 AM



19 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL. Back in the day, there were no soundings and no stand-by system. All cases were set for trial four days a week. Defendants were required to show. Guess what? It worked far better. The system was killed by departments trying to save money. In the end, the conviction rate has plunged and it's become far more troubling for the judges, lawyers, offenders, victims and cops (who are expected to "be ready" on their days "off" despite not being paid unless they're called). I believe we should return to the pre-standby system.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Amen. It is not working.

CAPTAIN said...

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

So you want to be a Circuit Court Judge .....

A reminder that the deadline to file an application with the JNC for the Norman Gerstein seat is Thursday.

The Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission has been asked to provide Gov. Charlie Crist with nominees for the vacancy in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court resulting from the resignation of Circuit Judge Norman S. Gerstein.

All persons interested in applying must deliver a complete application and 10 copies to:

Mark A. Romance, Chair
Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
c/o Richman Greer, P.A.
201 S. Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1000
Miami, FL 33131

The deadline for submitting an application is Thursday, Feb. 11, by 5 p.m. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered. Applications may be downloaded from The Florida Bar’s Web site at www.flabar.org. Note that a new form of application was approved by the JNC Rules Convention and is to be used. The inclusion of a photograph is encouraged. Please do not submit three-ring binders.

Members of the bench, the Bar and the public are urged to contact the members of the commission concerning applicants for judicial positions. The commission members are: Gonzalo Dorta, Philip Freidin, Manny Kadre, John Kozyak, Rayfield McGhee, Jr., Andrés Rivero, Mark Romance, Daniel W. Schwartz and Marlene Quintana.

BTW, great report Colonel!

CAPTAIN OUT .....

CAPTAIN said...

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

So you want to be a County Court Judge .....

And, the JNC is also now accepting applications for the Amy Karan seat.

The Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission has been asked to provide Gov. Charlie Crist with nominees for the vacancy in the Miami-Dade County Court resulting from the resignation of County Court Judge Amy Karan.

All persons interested in applying must deliver a complete application and 10 copies to:

Mark A. Romance, Chair
Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
c/o Richman Greer, P.A.
201 S. Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1000
Miami, FL 33131

The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, March 8, by 5 p.m.

CAPTAIN OUT .....

Anonymous said...

"Many clients were in the hallway when their case was called leading to some short tempers and Judicial threats to take people into custody when they finally struggled into the courtroom late."

When judges go to judge school, do they talk about the art and science of the bench warrant? I ask because it appears, as it has for years, that bench warrants should be issued when the client fails to appear.

Am I wrong? Are bench warrants meant to be our version of "if you're not in your seat when the bell rings you're late?" Are bench warrants meant to help judges close cases when they are asked to set them aside and then turn to the state and ask "what's the offer?" Are they meant to send the police out to arrest defendants at 9:03 even after the lawyer advises that the client just called from "the line" and are looking at a conveyer belt of shoes moving along?

Maybe like all prosecutors take a tour of the jail, all judges should be required to come to the building one day at 8:15 in plain clothes, park, and come to the building. Then maybe they wouldn't roll their eyes about how its more difficult to get into the REGJB than it is the airport, where they're looking for people who want to blow up airplanes, not just listen to their lawyer ask for a defense continuance or take a withhold on a pot case.

Anonymous said...

The new system is awful. No soundings is a ridiculous concept and will not last. The old days are back. Chaos in the courtrooms. Swelling case audits for the judges. ASAs going crazy. Cops making a shit load of money in overtime to watch a guy take a plea to a withold court costs.

Wont last.

Anonymous said...

I want to speak for a moment about the arrogance of the 8:30 calendar. Most judges start at 9. Therefore, most of us are used to waking up at a certain hour, spending the precious little time we can with our family, and fighting an hour of Miami traffic to get to work. Then comes Tunis, Diaz, Miller, and Trawick (I exclude Murphy because he won't give you a hard time if you get there at 9) with their smug attitude ready to bite your head off if you arrive at 8:45. Nevermind the fact that I have personally waited for Tunis and Trawick to take the bench at their leisure. But God forbid you don't get there at 8:30 sharp. Am I alone on this one?

fake ray rodriguez said...

It's a madhouse! A Madhouse!

CAPTAIN said...

to 11:50 am, YES.

It just goes to prove that, no matter what we do, it will never make everyone happy. Some segment of the GJB community will always be upset.

We are trying to stagger the court calendars in Circuit; in the best case scenario, we would have about seven divisions starting at 8:30, seven more at 9:00 and seven more at 9:30. This helps a bit with the traffic flow, parking, and entrance into the building.

But for you, it's a problem. Oh well.

Cap Out ...

My Two Sons said...

to 11:50 am....arrogance of an 8:30 calendar? get for real. i have managed to drive two children to two different schools every day for nearly ten years (both schools are a 30 minute drive from my home). i can make an 8:00 calendar no problem. BFD...they get to school a little early. they know dad has to get his ass to work so to make a living.

Anonymous said...

The county dockets have become fat with cases nobody wants to dispose of, in a month most of these dogs will be dismissed or otherwise resolved and everybody will be the better for it. In the meantime it's like having a blitz every week.

The Field Marshal of Hearing Officers said...

I want to share my secrets about beating traffic tickets!

Anonymous said...

11:50 you are not alone.

I got reamed by Trawick once about how "the notice said 8:30 a.m." and I came in at 9:00. So I took the reaming. Next time, I got there at 8:30 and he was late and then goes through arraignments and lets private counsel sit there with their thumbs up their arses. WTF? It's all about attitude. We HAVE to wait for the judges. They dont wait on us.

Do like Reyes and other judges do. Take the bench and if counsel is there on time, take them out of turn. If you are that late and Reyes called it, it goes off calendar and you're S.O.L. Nobody waits on anyone.

And judges- if you have a line of freaking private lawyers, dont take a freaking CTS plea and hold everyone up.

This all makes perfect sense which is why it will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Rump
This court time issue is BS. Why do Judges play gottya if you come to a 8:30 sounding at 8:55. The court is still in session, the SAO, PD or PA are there , the Court the clerks and the reporter are there. Big deal, so you or your client are not there at 8:30 on the Fing dot. No harm- no foul, Likely the court will be on the Bench till 10 or 11 ( sometimes till 12 or 1), so what is lost the Judge has to call it out again. With traffic, lack of mass transit and the line to get in, not to mention parking, to BW or AC some one for being late is not only BS but wrong, legally and morally. It just shows how small and petty a Judge can be to A? - B/W or take someone in for being 15 min. late esspecially when court is still in session. FAIRLY Resolving the case not punishing the tardy is/should be the work at MJB!
D.Sisselman

Anonymous said...

After all the talk and bullshit, Sam Slom did not listen again. To save the clerk a few bucks he is spending millions on police overtime and creating an absolute nightmare on Monday mornings.

The solution is to have many of the non DUI misdemeanros on any day but Monday.

Hey, what about afternoon trial calendars? Those damn judges are paid to work 9-5 and many go home at 1: 30 pm after forcing all of us to suffer from 8:00 am - noon on Mondays.

Here's an idea, how about a non jury misdemeanor trial calendar at 2:00 pm on Friday...yes Friday. What you say, no judges are around after noon on Friday? Well remember when Rosemary Barkett was Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court? She used to call judges randomly on Friday afternoons and do a bed check.

We need a new boss in town.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately,people in Miami Dade oftentimes believe the court time specified on notices mean nothing:they may stroll in at their leisure.The notice is a mere inconvenience.It may be 5 minutes or three or more hours.This is at trial or arraignment.
Arraignments do not involve other;I mean witnesses.Trial involves persons
who may wish to return to work:shall the court just hold over the case and witnesses to see if the defendant appears.Perhaps the same shou;ld occur,requiring defense counsel and defendants waiting for officer and witnesses two to three hours.
Courts have schedules to be consistant and fair to all that may come before it.
All attorneys have car phones,yet attorneys do not have the courtesy many times to call to advise they are running late,nor do they file notice od appearances in advance but have other attorneys file them following arraignments.Why?.You knew of hearing in advance.
I may agree that something need to be done reference the County Court at R.E.G.Judges may independent of the beaurocracy adjust their respective dockets to best handle the matters before them.They need not follow the leader.They should do what is best to handle dockets to be expeditious and fair to all.
Attorneys can make recommendations to the judges and or Administrative Judge Slom.I am confident they would consider ideas brought to their attention,or I hope they would.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should run their courtroom like ellen sue venzer does....she is the model judge

Anonymous said...

There is great truth in the idea that prosecutors should visit jail. When I was a division chief at the SAO, then PD Steve Potolsky took me to visit a defendant on the ninth floor. Later Mike Melinek did the same. I was horrified at the conditions.
Maybe after a visit some of our prosecutors would be less anxious to put people in jail for DWLS or a little grass.

Anonymous said...

Here is the bottom line. The judges try to accomadate the defense attorneys, but it is not enough. I have come to the conclusion that you will never be satisfied unless the judges just dimiss all of your cases.

Sam, stop sucking up and let the judges run their own courtrooms they want to. Good judges will rise to the top and the accomadators and appeasers will drown in their own incompentence.

You wanted these inexperienced children as judges, now you have them. They must do things the way Daddy Slom tells them, because they don't know any better.

The phrase "you don't know what you've got until it is gone" comes to mind.