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. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Sunday, November 14, 2010

COUNTY COURT CRISIS?

A report from the Colonel Of County Court:

Good morning Rumpole and readers, with a criminal county court bench in flux (two judges- Bloom and Seff are out in the new year) there are troubling issues that are already bedeviling county court. These issues are reported after several weeks of witnessing most of these problems myself and with speaking with several long time county court practitioners

PROBLEM #1 EX PARTE COMMUNICATION:
Judges (and prosecutors who are being encouraged by Judges), are routinely engaging in ex parte communication with clients in an effort to clear their courtroom. Here's what happens: All judges are different in their ability to timely move their calendars, which usually are set every half hour. A solo practitioner may have to go to Judges Miranda and Krieger-Martin for a 9 am trial (both on the 5th floor) then race up to Newman and Bloom on 6 before trotting down to Schwartz on two. Meanwhile it is now 9:30 and the practitioner runs to Seraphin on 4 and waits in a long line until getting called at 10:15. In the meantime one or more of the 9:30 am cases that he or she hasn't gotten to yet has been dismissed. While the attorney is in another courtroom the judge in one of the 9:30 am cases tells the client to leave or the prosecutor does at the encouragement of the judge. The attorney runs back to that courtroom-can't find the client- calls him or her and the client says "the case was dismissed without you... why did I even need to hire a lawyer?" Now the lawyer has to explain that the case was dismissed because of the ten hours of work he or she did in getting the client a new license and then communicating that to the ASA before the trial was set or because the ASA agreed with the motion to suppress or dismiss that was filed, or for any other reason based on work the attorney did and the client didn't see.

Bottom line: Judges and prosecutors do attorney great harm when they start talking to their clients, even in a misguided belief that they are helping the client. It's also against the rules of ethics. So stop it.

PROBLEM # 2 : PTI: Basically the SAO and the courts have sold out to the PTI programs. Lets be clear about this - this was a decision based solely on money and not on anything else like a desire to help defendants. Defendants who get arrested are now receiving letters from people who are not attorneys basically telling them they don't need a lawyer to get their case dismissed. And these letters are sanctioned by prosecutors and Judges. Never mind the fact that a PTI disposition is now being used against clients in a whole host of situations, or that innocent people are being coerced to accept something other than vindication. It's not the existence of the PTI program. It's the way it is being marketed to clients before they have a chance to consult with an attorney: the marketing encourages the clients NOT to hire an attorney. If attorneys were allowed to first meet their clients and thoroughly discuss their history, the availability of PTI would be beneficial to all. Would you go to a surgeon without first getting tests and consulting with a diagnostician?

PROBLEM # 3 SLOM LOCKS THE DOORS.
This problem is mostly confined to Judge Slom and his totally intransigent and difficult bailiff. Basically, when Judge Slom covers for one of his Judges, there are times when he apparently wants to segregate the defendants by the calendar and only let the 9am defendants in the courtroom until he is finished with the 9am calendar. A couple of problems with this: First- this is the United States of America and any citizen has a right at almost any time to enter any court of law and observe. Except in Judge Slom's court. Second- to facilitate this segregation- the bailiff locks the door. Thus if an attorney is running from courtroom to courtroom and doesn't time it right- he or she is locked out of Judge Slom's courtroom while the client is inside. Third- Florida has a statute and procedure for closing a courtroom. It involves among other things notice to the media and a hearing on the attempt to conduct court business in private. To my knowledge Judge Slom is not following this procedure.

Additional issues: some Judges are overly influenced by Judge Slom from everything to case law interpretation to exactly how to run their courtrooms. Thus there is this new Slom inspired practice of playing a pre-recorded introduction to court several times throughout the morning, and usually doing it while several attorneys are waiting to dispose of cases.

That's it for now. And remember: There's gold in them there misdemeanors.

Rumpole says: Judges, ASAs, and criminal defense attorneys are invited to respond via comments or email which will be posted on the front of the blog unedited if they so request it.

We forward one urgent help wanted request:
"Help wanted. Professional sports team in Davie, Florida, needs one or more quarterbacks, preferably with experience. Inquire at Sun Life Stadium, attn: Tony Sparano."

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Issue one - then you are spread too thin. You charge peanuts and work on volume. If you have too many courts to cover, looks like you need to hire coverage or another associate. So your client should sit around waiting for his attorney (who probably did nothing) just to be fed some horseshit line? I'm sure you put in 8 good hours on that disorderly intox. This looks like to me as if you have a poor sense of how to run a business, and you want to look good for doing nothing (to help your business, which did I mention, is run poorly). Having said that, I do believe the Judges should take all privates out of turn so long as calendar is running, and not give them grief.

Issue two - in the end you would force your client to take PTI before picking a jury because you wouldn't know where to begin during jury selection. Your crying because the racket of get paid than plea is up. PTI letters early were surely done to help with a swelling docket.

Issue three - Slom shouldn't lock the courtroom.

Anonymous said...

pti notices are bullshit.

M. David McGriff, Ph.D.,CEO, The Advocate Program, Inc. said...

Problem #2: PTI
Allow me to take strong issue to the “problem” of PTI mentioned in the Justice Building Blog. The Advocate Program has been providing PTI services to the State Attorney’s Office and Courts for over 30 years (and on an exclusive basis to the misdemeanor division until about 6 years ago). While we run this agency as a business, and have managed to do that successfully for a long time, as a Not-For-Profit 501 c 3 agency, we have neither owners nor shareholders to please. So we have always been able to set our fees at the most reasonable levels possible. Every time we have an audit done, we send the results to both the State Attorney and the Chief Judge.
It has never been the policy of this Program to discourage a defendant from seeking legal counsel and I should know since my involvement with this Program goes back over 35 years. In fact, I can’t remember when an Advocate PTI letter (and we have been sending them since the late 1970’s) didn’t include the admonition to a prospective client to bring the letter “(with your attorney if you have one)”. We try, as best we can, to determine if an attorney has been retained prior to sending a letter. If the blog was referring to the new Criminal Traffic Diversion program, we have not sent letters on those cases although, per the State Attorney’s Office, we reserve the right to do so. And as always we would never discourage a defendant not to retain an attorney in those cases or any other. Contrary to the blog we’ve always considered the Defense Bar as a critical referral source for us and have worked together in the interests of defendants for a long time. We both understand that a “not guilty” plea and a nolle prose as a result of a PTI program are much better alternatives to a “no contest” plea and a withhold of adjudication which have become the standard results for unrepresented defendants in the misdemeanor Criminal Division. As always, this Program stands ready to work with all of our system partners for the benefit of the citizens of Miami-Dade County and defendants of the 11th Judicial Circuit. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or other issues.

M. David McGriff, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Advocate Program, Inc.
mdmphd@advocateprogram.com

Anonymous said...

That loud bleating sound you hear is the sound of Kounty Kort bottom-feeders crying over the fact that the didn't get to be there when the SAO dropped charges on a case.

eyeonshumie said...

Shumie time anyone? Still hung over from the Fins game.

BTW: Fins Up!

fake alex michaels said...

Dolphins play five quarterbacks and game still goes over?? WHat is diss bullsheeeet?

CAPTAIN said...

The Captain Reports:

PTI ......

The State Attorney's Office is seriously considering one of two options to resolve the PTI problems they are currently having with the defendants bouncing out of PTI at a rate of nealy 70%.

Either limit the referral's back to PTI to a maximum of two times, or, do what they are doing in Broward, which is having the defendant plead Guilty up front so if they do bounce out, the State does not have to go the problem of then prosecuting the case.

Comments & Feedback is encouraged.

Cap Out ....

Anonymous said...

HR
If a JUdge regularly locks the Courtroom he/she should be reported to the JQC and the Bar. All Courtrooms are open to the public except in limited extreme cases where the Statute allows it. Regular Courtrooms an not be locked even for over crowding. Violates not only state statute ( I had a conviction on a sex bat overturned for a closed courtroom) but the Fla in Sunshine admendment in Fla constitution and that thing, oh yess that thing, called the US Constituion has something about open public trials. If a Judge regularly or even ONCE, for a general calendar closes the doors and will not let the public in report them to the JQC so they can loose the bench. A public trial is open to the public and it aint just the trial but all court hearings.
DS

Anonymous said...

How about this situation?

Your case is called at 9:00a.m. Your client is there and you are not because you are either at the South Dade courthouse or you are in courtroom 1-3 covering 3 tickets for $10 each. The cop is not there and the judge wants to clear out as many cases as possible so that a trial can start before noon. The judge forces a nolle prosse and sends your client home FREE AND CLEAR. If the cop shows up late, too bad.

Would you prefer the judge pass the case until you stroll in at 9:30 or later, giving the cop a chance to arrive?

Once again for you guys, it's not about your client or the Constitution, it's about your wallet.

Happy to have county court in the rearview mirror.

Anonymous said...

Problem #3: It is F├╝hrer Slom who is intransigent and difficult and a blowhard who likes to hear himself talk and talk. He orders and demeans his bailiff and staff on a daily basis and constantly strong-arms newbie ASAs into doing what he wants while acting all PC. He is the one that orders that the courtroom be locked so he can play his recordings only to then repeat them for each defendant while we private attorneys have to wait and wait. As a judge he likes to change or make the laws, can't Chief Judge Brown transfer his sorry butt to Civil?

Anonymous said...

Question #1: Rump: It sounds like you are accussing the Advocate Program of the unlicensed pratice of law. If such be the case, can't you file a complaint with the Florida Bar re UPL? Question #2: Does the Advocate Program regularly contribute to judicial and political campaigns?

CAPTAIN said...

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG .....

It was a short five years ago that Rumpole started this BLOG. And now, 1,794 posts later and nearly 500,000 hits, and the Blog has become the place to go for the news of the GJB.

Here's wishing you another five years of great posts, fine football prognosticating, and all the good things that come to those that fight the good fight.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity you have given to me to post my political/campaign election posts over the years.

Happy Birthday.

Cap Out .....

Anonymous said...

Captain

I think u are way off on your blog hits stat. It's actually higher.

Anonymous said...

The attorneys who are complaining about this problem in County Court are not attorneys. You are the 411-PAIN version of the criminal system. I remember being a young PD and seeing some of these "lawyers" come into court with their list. Sometimes there would be 10-15 names on this list for each courtroom. It was disgusting watching them call out the names to clients on a trial day they had never seen a day in their life.

And Rump, who are you kidding? These nitwit traffic hacks and plea machines never spend 10 hours working on a case prior to trial or have never picked up the phone and called a prosecutor to work out any kind of deal or filed a motion to suppress in their life.

Rump, this post is bullshit, with the exception of Slom and his Neo-Nazi bailiff. She is a dreadful woman who should be collecting her social security at some reeducation camp instead of working at REGJB.

M. David McGriff, Ph.D.,CEO, The Advocate Program, Inc. said...

To the Good Colonel: I sympathize with times being bad and business scarcer than ever but why penalize defendants for that? The Bar has looked at our PTI letter and process many times and has never found that we are "practicing law". But let me ask you, in a world free of bias and self interest, do you think a defendant "needs" to consult an attorney before enrolling in a legitimate PTI program? My answer would be "it's never a bad idea to consult an attorney but do you "need to", no". And that's what we'll instruct our employees to say in the future.
And as for the commenter who mentioned a 70% PTI bounce out rate? Please. There is a 70% success rate in felony cases and an 80% in misdemeanors and a high success rate even in domestic violence cases.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the Colonel, and I am not a bottom feeder. I think that 9:13 am probably is not much of a defense attorney otherwise he/she would not be on this side of the issue, so either its a statey or a civilian type!

Second, Yes finally someone said something about that woman Mabel! OMG I am so sorry, and I have plenty of respect for the elderly however she is a nightmare to deal with. I keep expecting her to pull our a hand whip and start speaking with a german accent one of these days. She lacks respect for attorneys and I think that she is a fanatic at her job, one thing is to do a good job another is being militant about it. Its frustrating to deal with her especially when she is telling you you can't come in and you are thinking to yourself, "what about a public forum!"

Anonymous said...

See what happens when you make up facts. Someone uses numbers to show how stupid you are.

Anonymous said...

Judge Slom is a hard working dedicated public servant with a huge case load.

How he chooses to run his courtroom is his business and his business alone.

These private attorneys who don't show up before 10:00 and never meet with their client are plain lazy.

They are the same attorneys who don't contact the judge's chamber to even call and say they are running late -- common courtesy -- and meet with the in-custody clients in the jury box when they have access to the jail 24/7. They are a joke.