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

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

BROWARD WAR!!!

Are you curious about the war? Well, according to Judge Carlos Rodriguez's retort to ASA Jennifer Hilal, "Curiosity is for cats." The title of the post links to the SAO's motion to recuse the judge. One of 450 (!!!!) motions filed.

Yes, it's war in Broweird County, and the difference here is that it's the SAO going to war against Judge Carlos Rodriguez.

The date: September 20, 2010.

The Judge: Carlos Rodriguez.

The ASA: Jennifer Hilal.

Case 1: State v. Benjamin Elmore.
Status: Open plea to the court.
Charge: DWLS and Possession of Cocaine.
Priors: Mr. Elmore had 4 prior possession of cocaine cases.
First Proposed Court Sentence: Adj, and CTS. Upon learning that Mr. Elmore had obtained a hardship license, the court decided to change the sentence to a withhold so Mr. Elmore would not lose his license. The State pointed out that it was an illegal sentence because of the number of withholds Mr. Elmore had for the same offense. The court then accepted the plea on the DWLS and set the possession charge for trial.
Objection: ASA Hilal, having heard the court say that he did not want to see Mr. Elmore lose his license after he just got one, moved to recuse the court because she felt the court had already prejudged the case.
Best Quote: "THERE IS NO CURIOSITY IN COURT. CURIOSITY ARE FOR CATS" (sic)

Case 2. State v. Pelfrey.
Charge: Grand Theft.
Plea: State and defense worked out a plea to a withhold and 12 months probation.
Court: Rejected plea and sentenced defendant to a withhold and one day probation.
Objection: State objected to plea and asked for time to have the victim address the court.
Best Quote: Ms. Hilal: So you don't want to hear from the victim in this case?"
Judge Rodriguez: "Have a seat at counsel table will you?...And stay there."

Motion to recuse: "There was no reason for Judge Carlos Rodriguez to order Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Hilal to be confined to her chair..."

In the third case, Judge Rodriguez rejected a negotiated plea to 18 months probation between the state and defense and imposed a one day probation period, which he promptly terminated. When the prosecutor objected and asked for time for the victim, a law enforcement officer to be present, the court said that the case was set for that day and it was the prosecutor's problem as to why her witnesses were not in court. When the prosecutor rightly stated that she had a deal with the defense and thus had no reason to suspect the plea would change, Judge Rodriguez stated that she was now on notice that any time a case was set, even for an agreed upon plea, the court reserved the right to reject the plea and impose a plea of its own.

CONGRATULATIONS JUDGE CARLOS RODRIGUEZ. We have been practicing law in Florida courts for more than a quarter of a century and you are the first judge to make us feel sorry for a prosecutor.

The fact is that when a Judge does what this transcript shows, it demeans the court and the entire judicial process. There were law enforcement officers who were victims who had been told the defendant would be getting 18 months probation. They had no reason to suspect a judge would act crazy and start rejecting pleas and giving away the courthouse.

The transcript shows a Judge who was demeaning to a prosecutor, who did not treat her with the respect all lawyers are entitled to be treated to, and who had a blatant disregard for the legal process. For the first and perhaps only time in our career, we are on the side of the Broward State Attorneys Office. And prior to today we would have bet a million bucks we would never write that sentence.



32 comments:

South Florida Lawyers said...

I'd avoid all talk about betting right now....

Anonymous said...

The judge has the complete discretion to sentence as he did in each one of those cases, the discretion was given to him by Florida law and the voters in Broward county. Frankly, from what I know about the Broward sao if they offered 18 mths probation on a battery on a leo it means the cop beat up the defendant. A lot of these cases are dicussed at length during a number of hearings, it is a cheap shot to criticize the judge when you have absolutely no context to the final disposition and you know how morally and legally corrupt the broward sao is. Judge Rodriguez is clearly standing up for the citizens of broward, your post is offensive.

Anonymous said...

Official word out come January 2011

Venzer to Civil
Glazer to family
Schwartz to Probate

all other openings to dill the domino effect by seniority

Rumpole said...

Hey genius at 4:23- just how is the Judge standing up for the citizens of Broward by refusing to give victims a chance to be heard when he rejects a plea offer they approved?

Are you a lawyer? have you been to court? Have you ever been a victim and had a case in court? Do you know the impossibility of pulling 50 cops off the street every morning and hundreds of witnesses for every case that is before the court every morning because the judge has issued an edict that every time the case is on calendar it is fair game to get tubed by him?

Rumpole said...

And BTW to SO Fla- see me at the end of the season. We all have our down weeks wise ass.

Anonymous said...

Shoot, you should pull some of Judge Brennan's court transcripts!

mikal said...

"Curiosity Are For Cats"? Tell me you're joking. Please tell me. That is embarrassing.

Maybe, just maybe, Satz and his minions will have some compassion for defendants. Power is intoxicating. Not knowing either party personally, it seems as if the SAO got jammed a bit. She will recover, and her boss will force her to take it out on another hapless and unlucky defendant.

Anonymous said...

Why do we have to hear stuff about Broward. We live and practice down here so that we do not have to deal with the craziness of Broward.

Anonymous said...

where did this turd judge come from? pd's office? civil? mars?

Anonymous said...

4:23, the judge violated the Florida constitution. Which, of course, he swore to uphold. Discretion does not equal license to yield to a fit of pique, which is exactly what he did. If he rejected the 18 months and said "5 years" the defendant ould rightly cry foul. Which, come to think of it, aptly describes your post.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see a judge in Broward have some balls for a change and actually stand up to the prosecutors. We don't know the whole story of the history between Judge Rodriguez and this prosecutor. I'm sure there's more to the story.

Anonymous said...

Well said Rump!

BTDT

Rumpole said...

Mikal- click on the title to the post and read the transcript.

7:31- I write about Browierd because I just can't help myself. It's low hanging fruit that just needs to be plucked.

Anonymous said...

Rump
From todays Herald
DS

FBI: Stripper, drugs, guns and judge don't mix
.Related Content

By GREG BLUESTEIN
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA -- A 67-year-old federal judge's wild relationship with a stripper started with a lap dance, prosecutors said, and quickly escalated into escapades of prostitution and gun-toting drug deals for cocaine and prescription pills.



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/10/05/1859224/ga-federal-judge-arrested-on-drug.html#ixzz11Zsw0jfF

JC Former Judge said...

I aver that this blog has sunk to its lowest levels. After a frenzied weekend of promoting illegal gaming, the author has besmirched the good reputation of a judge appointed by a governor AND elected by the citizens of Broward County. Enough is enough. This has to stop.

If I was still a judge I would sign a warrant for your immediate and prolonged incarceration.

Anonymous said...

"...the author has besmirched the good reputation of a judge appointed by a governor AND elected by the citizens of Broward County. Enough is enough. This has to stop. If I was still a judge I would sign a warrant for your immediate and prolonged incarceration."

Ever heard of the First Amendment, Your (alleged) Honor? Criticism of the government is a fundamental aspect of this little thing we've got here called "democracy." Judges who think themselves above criticism thanks to their robes should not be judges.

We do not live in an oligarchy; we live in a free society in which the government can, and should, be criticized by an informed (or even uninfromed) citizenry. That's what makes us better than the Nazis and Soviets, in whose justice systems your style of judging would have fit perfectly.

JC Former Judge said...

First of all, I'm a retired Judge so I can say what I want.

Second- I don't recall seeing the first amendment in the FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, which I interpreted on a daily basis.

Third- if I come back and sit as a retired Judge, you'd better damn well hop to your feet and call me "your honor."

I don't go for this touchy-feely stuff that some judges engage in. The courtroom is a hierarchy and I sit at the top when I preside.

Anonymous said...

I am a defense attorney, and I agree that the judge was wrong and Prosecutor Hilal was quite reasonable. But I would probably support this judge if he were in felony court where the Broward prosecutors truly are unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Judge Newman.

Abusive prick

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's it Rumpy, you want a 3rd degree felony prosecutor, trained in Broweird, who is 1-2 years out of law school, running the court.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, lay down the Chateau Miami River and whatever you are putting in the cigars you are smoking with it.

Just like the judge has the discretion to reject the plea agreement worked out between the SAO and defense attorney and offer a higher court offer, the judge can also make a lower offer.

I once lost a client when I worked a case out with the state and the judge refused to go along and offered a year more then the state was offering. I've also seen a judge accept a guilty plea "with an explanation" and, after the explanation, adjudicate the defendant "not guilty".

This judge is ballsy and doing his job, specially considering than in Broward County the SAO goes forward to "let the jury decide" when they have no case or the defendant is innocent.

So, I don't see no reason for the arguments in your post other than the ingredients in your drinks or cigars.

Rumpole said...

A Judge can and should undercut the state. I ask them to do it every day. A judge should not:

1) Embarras a lawyer who is doing her job. Telling the ASA to sit down and stay there because she was telling the judge she wanted the opportunity to have the victim address the court and the sentence the judge was undercutting the state with, is unacceptable and bad behavior. This prosecutor was doing her job.

2) Act unreasonably. It's one thing to undercut the state. It is quite another to make some ridiculous statement like telling the prosecutor to have all her witnesses in court every time because at any time the defendant may plead open to the court and the judge might at any time under cut her plea offer.

Quite frankly I am surprised at the level of support for this judge. Can you defense attorneys put aside your defense bias and admit this judge was acting improperly?

Anonymous said...

PCA Opinion of Third DCA sitting as visting judges for Fourth DCA

In Re 180 Disqualification Cases Involving Judge Rodriguez

Before SLEEPY, WEEPY, and CREEPY, JJ.

CREEPY, J.

PER CURIAM.
The actions of Judge Carlos Rodriguez are hereby Affirmed. Rumpole's concerns are mere bagatelle.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, you chastize Judge Rodriguez but defended and couldn't imagine why Judge Seff wasn't reelected-when in fact she pulled the same "nastiness" in Court again and again-she told me to sit down and shut up when I objected to the State asking for a $20,000 bond on an A/C for a simple battery (which she granted). I think you need to be consistant here.

CAPTAIN said...

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

So, you want to be a County Court Judge?????

The following have been chosen by the JNC for an interview for the open seat in County Court:

Olanike Annette Adebayo
William I. Altfield
Tanya Brinkley
Ivonne Cuesta
Dawn Denaro
Carlos M. Guzman
Charles K. Johnson
Robert J. Kuntz
Steven Lieberman
Silvia Perez
Margaret Rosenbaum
Maria de Jesus Santovenia
Flora E. Seff
Marie Jo Toussaint

Those that submitted an Application but were not chosen to be interviewed:

Maria Guitian Barker
Melisa L. Coyle
Jeff Cynamon
Rachel Diaz
Michael R. Jones
Cynthia I. Wolper

Interviews will take place on October 18, 2010 with the JNC submitting up to six names to Governor Crist. This will likely be the Governor's final Miami Dade judicial appointment before his term expires at the beginning of January 2011.

Cap Out .....

Anonymous said...

"Second- I don't recall seeing the first amendment in the FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, which I interpreted on a daily basis."

The idea that the First Amendment does not apply in Florida is so fundamentally flawed that a response seems unnecessary. But, Your Honor, please be advised that the Florida Constitution provides Freedom of Speech rights in Article I, Section 4: "Every person may speak, write and publish sentiments on all subjects .... No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press."

"Third- if I come back and sit as a retired Judge, you'd better damn well hop to your feet and call me "your honor.""

Agreed. Absolutely and without a question. A lawyer who fails to respect the court shouldn't be a lawyer, and I agree that there's way too little respect paid to the Court in the courtroom these days.

But to suggest issuing an arrest warrant because a blogger disagrees with the actions of a judge is abhorrent. Judges, governors, and legislators are, and should be, subject to criticism from the people who elected them. That's the nature of democracy, and the idea of chilling the rights of the governed to criticize the government is undemocratic.

We left England because tyrannical judges locked people up for criticizing the government. Rumpole has every right to publish his criticism of this, and any other, judge.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole
Its OK the the Judge to offer a legal plea below the State's offer. But VICTIM's deserve their right to make a comment. The Judge needed to reset it or issue Standing Orders the Inform the State to inform victims of the Hearings and their right to be present. The Judge should allow the cops/victims to attend via phone.
I have seen Betty Butchko reset cases and tell the State to Ask the Cops/Victim's to attends the next hearing and when they show, Butchko talks them into OKing the plea or even Oking PTI.
D.S.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole
Got to say the Judge was way off telling the State to sit at counsel table and stay there. Only way it was right was if all Attornies MUST stand / stay at the table. But Shutting off a legal arguement is wrong and rude.
I think it is one of the WORSE things a Judge does to an Attorney and, therefore the Attorney's CLIENT ( including the State of Florida) is to shut an Attorney down and not let them make their presentation , arguement or record. It is an affort to AND Due Process / Fairness,
I have had it happen and it sucks!
David Sisselman

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the SAO in Broward is making such a big fuzz out of this judge's attitude because they have never seen anything like it. Prosecutors there are used to huge sentences when defendants plead open to the court and when they saw a Broward judge acting un-Broward-like, they must have thought that the Earth poles had reversed or something equally cataclysmic had taken place.

Anonymous said...

I say yeaaaahhhh to Judge Rodriguez! Are you kidding me, the offers in Broward SUCK and you are egging them on to continue this. At least the Judge is willing to get involved in the plea. I say we need more judges in Broward that give a case porportionate sentencing and don't just lockem up and through away the key! ALright Judge ROdriguez can I say I LOVE YOU!

Anonymous said...

Recently I was a victim in Carlos Roriguez's coutroom. The defendants would enter the court with a plea deal of 18 months that would be shortened to one day by the Judge.It seemed that the real deal was between the Judge and the defense attorney. It appears the two opposing counsel would work out something mutually aceptable and then once in court the judge would decide on a much lighter punishmnent. This serve both the client(no jail time) and the judge (money for the lighter senternce). The losers in this deal are the victim and their family who are killed by this defendender Along with Judge Carlos Rodriguez all the lawyers that presernted cases in front of him shoud be investigated.

LawyerGalSeekingRulingsBasedonLawandNotFear said...

I was in Court, today - Judge made an odd statement - and detailed more fully below, the statement came despite despie the evidence from both sides being the same and therefore, the long standing cases in Florida require a judgment in favor of my client -Here it is, steady everyone who practices law: "Have you all been following the recent rulings out of the 4th DCA - I am being reversed on any summary judgment I grant; therefore Defense Motion for Summary Judgment is Denied" HUH? what happened to reviewing facts, looking at the law and doing a job because YOU ARE A JUDGE and YES, the 4th DCA may find those rulings wrong - but at least there was a judicious decision.
So, I sit in my hotel room - on the phone with tons of people looking into this and having to do a background, pull financials, pull political contributions... NOT to complain to the judge... NO... I am doing it because I MUST find an explanation for this type of judicial inaction. If I cannot, then I can no longer practice law as the Consitution just became worth the paper it was written on (well, okay, maybe worth toilet paper) I am married to a minority, I come from a line of Civil Rights Activists (we are primarily white family) and I would like to take this opportunity to say "thank you to Martin Luther King, Medger Evers (and your wives who carried on your torch); to civil rights activists who fight daily; to those who have been killed in the movement"... THANK YOU to these incredibly brave people for standing up and NOT GIVING A CRAP about how their Justice Filled actions might upset someone that could make their lives less comfortable. These were people who just took up a fight because it was right - why can't a judge, sworn to uphold what is right, what is just and outlined in the Constitution, make a decision without fearing a reversal? No matter who the judge is, where that judge is from - No Judge should be a "yes" man or woman.