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

Friday, July 30, 2010

ROUGH JUSTICE

A jury acquitted former Miami Dade Sergeant Allen Cockfield on Friday of the misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty for kicking his canine partner to death during a training session.

Earlier in the week the state conceded to the JOA argument on the felony charge of killing a police dog.

Kudos to defense attorney Doug Hartman.


Long time ASA Isis Perez takes the loss for the SAO.


The debate on Minimum mandatory sentences:

A reader who apparently stumbled upon this blog in an attempt to locate web pages on how to live with a low IQ has responded to a comment we made the other day about Senior Federal Judge Jack Weinstein's (EDNY) brave stand against minimum mandatory penalties for the possession of child pornography.

Seizing upon the putrid subject matter, and unable to demonstrate the mental acuity of separating the subject matter from the legal principle, the reader responded to our comment with a diatribe against child pornography and an attack against any judge who wouldn't issue the death sentence in such cases.

So as a much as we abhor altruism as a philosophy, we present the following in an effort to assist our addled reader:



From the article:

There is little public sympathy for collectors of child pornography. Yet across the country, an increasing number of federal judges have come to their defense, criticizing changes to sentencing laws that have effectively quadrupled their average prison term over the last decade...
Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a 20 year child pornography sentence by ruling that the sentencing guidelines for such cases, “unless applied with great care, can lead to unreasonable sentences.” The decision noted that the recommended sentences for looking at pictures of children being sexually abused sometimes eclipse those for actually sexually abusing a child....

“I don’t approve of child pornography, obviously,” [Judge Weinstein] said in an interview this week. But, he also said, he does not believe that those who view the images, as opposed to producing or selling them, present a threat to children.

“We’re destroying lives unnecessarily,” he said. “At the most, they should be receiving treatment and supervision.”

The man he has spent three years trying to save from a long incarceration is Pietro Polizzi, a married father of five who collected more than 5,000 graphic pictures of children. If prosecuted in a New York State court, he would have faced a maximum prison sentence of four years. Instead, in federal court, he faced a minimum of five years and a recommended sentence of 11 to 14 years. Because of Judge Weinstein’s intervention, he remains free as he awaits another trial....


We have little hope that this will assist our reader, as the intellectual principles are probably too difficult, but labouring to help all of our fellow citizens is the only reason for our existence, right?

COLODNY CLOCKED

Updates: What happens when a citizen tries to attend a meeting about the proposed new courthouse for Broward County? Well, when the citizen is the distinguished attorney who runs the Broward Blog the chief judge: 1) moves the meeting and tries to keep it a secret; 2) Sends police officers to "ask" the attorney to step out of the meeting and speak with them voluntarily. Check out the JAA blog for all the nasty details on the Soviet State known as Broward County and the apparatchiks who run it. Broward: Where open discussion of ideas will not be tolerated, and daring to disagree with the chief judge could get you arrested.


Coming next week: The real story on the Alvarez v. Newman election. What you know; what you thought you knew; and what you never imagined!


COLODNY:
The title of the post links to the report by the JQC (motto: "proudly doing very little for a long time now." ) to the Florida Supreme Court recommending a public reprimand and a $5,000.00 fine for Judge Colodny for not properly reporting a loan she received from her parents during her campaign to be elected a circuit court judge.


From the report:


Judge Colodny has admitted that her condUct in failing to disclose the loans on her initial Form 6 was incorrect. She accepts full responsibility, and acknowledges that such conduct should not have occurred. Judge Colodny now recognizes that this conduct was incorrect and has undertaken steps to correct the oversight.
In regard to the propriety of receiving a loan in excess of the $500 per person limitation imposed by Section 106.08(1), Florida Statutes, the Investigative Panel concludes that, as in In re Rodriguez, 829 SO.2d 857 (Fla. 2002) and In re Pando, 903 SO.2d 902 (Fla. 2005) receiving a non-commercialloan that was made specifically for the purpose of providing campaign funds in excess of $500 violates the letter and spirit of the law. The Investigative Panel concludes that the lack of proper initial collateralization, the lack of normal periodic repayment schedule, the satisfaction of the mortgage upon a promise of a contingent partial repayment, and its lack of disclosure on the July 2009 Form 6, all clearly indicate that the transaction was a loan made with the purpose of influencing the results of an election.

Rumpole says: blah blah blah.

Let's get a few things straight: as our colleague David Sisselman states, Judge Colodny is a fine judge. Sisselman is right. Colodny hit the bench running. She works hard. Is fair to both sides; knows the law; and has handled in a very competent manner a series of very serious cases in the relatively short time she has been a judge.

Now she has to go to Tallahassee and let the Florida Supreme Court Justices yell at her. That's what a public reprimand is. They call the court into session and yell at her.

Let's put Judge Colodny's case aside for a second.

The punishment for violation of elections laws needs to be more severe. The message this case sends is that you can borrow large sums of money to influence an election and if you win you can expect to keep your job and get yelled at in a court session 99.9999% of the public in Miami will not see nor be aware of.

Our recommendation- and again this has nothing to do with Judge Colodny- is that in the future violations of election laws should have minimum mandatories. Let the judges suffer the same fate as our clients. Let them deal with the fact that mitigating circumstances of the particular facts of any case cannot be considered because the law is the law and the legislature passed a minimum mandatory sentence: 180 day unpaid suspension; public reprimand by the chief Judge of the appellate court of the nearest district in the main courtroom of the building the judge who is being reprimanded serves in; 250 hours community service; $25,000.00 fine.

That would stop these "unintentional" election law violations and would sufficiently punish those who believe that once they get on the bench they are untouchable.

The punishment in Judge Colodny's case appears to fit her malfeasance. But as our legislators and judges well know- punishment is about deterrence and not about the particular mitigating facts of any particular case right?

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. "Get tough on Judges" That's our new motto.

See You in Court.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

GONE FISHIN....




The 86 Canes have been voted the most hated sports team of all time according to Sports Illustrated.
On behalf of all Canes fans, let us say.....FU.

Speaking of most hated, The Assassin- a/k/a Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum died this week at age 61. Tatum was and always will be most remembered for his hit on Patriot WR Darryl Stingley in preseason that paralyzed Stingley for life. The hit was legal and Tatum was never fined nor disciplined by the league. Tatum never apologized for the hit, but to his credit he did attempt to meet with Stngley when he was hospitalized.

Football historians will also remember that Tatum was the Raider who collided with Steeler Frenchy Fuqua on the last play of the 1972 playoff game between the Steelers and the Raiders. The Steelers were down 7-6 when Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw threw a desperation pass to Fuqua on 4th down with less than a minute left to play. Tatum hit Fuqua as the ball arrived and it caromed off either Tatum or Fuqua and Steeler Franco Harris scooped the ball just before it hit the turf and scampered 42 yards into the end zone giving the Steelers their first playoff win ever as time ran out. Under the rules of the NFL at that time, the ball would have to have hit Tatum as an opposing player before it would have been legal for Harris to catch it. If the ball hit Fuqua and not Tatum-or if the ball hit Fuqua after it hit Tatum- the catch would not have been legal. Take a look and you tell us. 38 years later it's still the most amazing finish to a football game we've ever seen.





MELTDOWN

The Blog has melted due to excessive  heat.....


technicians are working on it. 
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please standby. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WE'RE BUSY

This is a heartwarming story: A young girl who is in the 3rd grade achieved a perfect score on her FCAT math and reading tests and was rewarded with a trip to Disney World.  Here's the kicker- this young girl is a foster child who was removed from her parents home because of their involvement in drugs and gangs.  The Herald article is here.  Doesn't that just make you feel great about the potential of kids?  Children are our most precious resource and we damn well better start doing a better job of protecting and nurturing them. 


UPDATE How in the world did we ever forget this race?
Samantha Ruiz Cohen vs. Peter Adrien.  Do we even need to say whom we're voting for? 


Who in the world wants to work on these hot summer days?
Well, we found a Judge and prosecutor who have nothing better to do. 


So, while we're a bit busy talk amongst yourselves.




We received this comment:
rump how bout some election coverage? Kuntz v Gordo




Therefore, how about some chatter on 


Kuntz v. Gordo;
Alvarez v. Newman;
Paulson-Gonzalez v. Seff. 


Rumpole will probably be voting for Gordo, Newman, and  Seff. However, we think Mr. Kuntz and Mr. Alvarez are fine candidates.  There is a very unsettling back story behind why Judge Newman was challenged and in our opinion whether or not it is true, Judge Newman clearly deserves to be re-elected. 


See You in court. 



Monday, July 26, 2010

LAST MONDAY IN JULY

Our long hot summer is half over as July comes to a sizzling conclusion this week, and not a moment too soon.


It was over 100 degrees in the Baltimore/DC area this weekend and temperatures approached 100 from Bahstan to NY and Phiily as the eastern seaboard baked under a summer temperature inversion.




We don't know all the facts, but it appears Judge Illona Holmes in Broward sentenced a former Police Officer to 60 days in jail for hitting and killing a pedestrian while driving at speeds that exceeded 90 MPH.




DAVID RESPONDS:


Mr. Markus seems to think that we're "picking a fight" with him over the issue of whether an attorney should ever promise in opening statement to put his/her client on this stand.
We object.
We're not fighting, we're having a discussion. Here was part of Mr. Markus's response on his blog:


And I agree that in most cases, you can't make that promise. But you can't have hard and fast trial rules. Sometimes, it's worth taking that risk in opening. Every case is different, so I have only one rule of trial practice -- there are no hard and fast rules. 



Rumpole says: Of course Mr. Markus is right. And while we can envision cases where it may seem advantageous to promise the jury that your client will testify, we stand by our prior analysis- the risk of the foundation of the trial changing during the testimony and forcing the attorney to go back on his/her promise is not worth the reward. But to quote the noted trial expert Felix Unger: "Legal minds may differ." And certainly who can argue with Mr. Markus's success?


But here is the master:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RUMPOLE'S SEVENTH RULE OF DEFENSE

TROPICAL STORM BATTERS MIAMI! WIND AND RAIN SEND RESIDENTS SCURRYING FOR SHELTER. CHANNEL 7 IN HYSTERICS!

TRIVIA ANSWER: We forgot to answer that Joyce Cohen wore a black dress to court on the day she was convicted. Alan Ross for the defense with Bob Amsel and both were at their considerable finest during the defense; and an absolutely brilliant job for the prosecution by two of the very best trial attorneys the Miami SAO will ever see: (Now West Palm Beach Judge) John Kastrenakes and Kevin DiGregory. Not many of us who watched it will ever forget Kevin DiGregory sitting down during closing argument and remaining silent for the five minutes that was the time between when Joyce Cohen said she found her husband's body and when she called 911. He just sat there in silence for the full five minutes. It was a very powerful part of the closing argument.

BREAKING NEWS: BECAUSE OF THE TROPICAL STORM THAT IS PASSING BY THE KEYS AND INTO THE GULF, ALL COURTS IN MONORE COUNTY WILL BE CLOSED SATURDAY. The bars will remain open as long as possible.

Rumpole's 7th Rule of Defense:
"Never ever tell the jury in voire dire or opening statement that your client will testify. Ever. No exceptions."

Our friend and colleague David O Markus, who knows one or two things about winning a jury trial for the defense vehemently disagrees with us. While we leave it to David to fully elucidate his theories, he believes that establishing credibility with a jury is paramount and that overrides our reasons for never revealing that your client will testify.

We feel there are two important reasons why you should never reveal that you client will testify:
(in order of importance)

1. All warfare is based on deception*. When you give the prosecution a few days or a few weeks notice that your client will be testifying, you are ensuring that they will be more prepared to cross examine your client. Trials are stressful events. There is always a lot to do. Creating uncertainty in the prosecutor on whether your client will testify creates an on going dilemma for prosecutors- when the trial ends for the day how much time (if any) do they devote to making notes on the testimony of the day to cross examine your client on? With so much to do, and without knowing whether your client will testify, you are increasing the odds that they will not be as prepared when your client testifies then if you had given them advance warning when the trial started.

Rumpole's seventh rule of defense interlocks with Rumpole's First Rule of Defense: Avoid Putting your client on the witness stand at all costs."

When your client testifies, all rules of reasonable doubt go out the window. Regardless of how weak the prosecution's case is, the jury mostly decides the case based on how believable your client was on the stand. Most defendants (not all) will not do a great job on the witness stand no matter how well you prep them. So when deciding whether to take a case trial, a paramount decision is "can you win the case without your client testifying?"

If you decide your client will testify, then you still maintain an advantage by keeping the prosecution in the dark.

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack you must seem unable.
When using forces, you must seem inactive; when near, make the enemy believe you are far away; when far away, make him believe you are near.

Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder,
and crush him. *


2. Trials are unpredictable. As we currently see in the Blogo trial in Chi-town, many unsuspected things can occur during the trial. What seemed a probable occurrence six weeks ago in voire dire, may look entirely different after the prosecution rests.

The credibility you gain in promising the jury that your client will testify is not worth the credibility you lose when you don't put your client on the stand after promising to do so.


If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
If his forces are united, separate them.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where
you are not expected.


These military devices, leading to victory,
must not be divulged beforehand." *


In the final analysis, when you tell the jury in opening your client will testify three bad things can happen: 1- the prosecution will be more prepared for cross; 2-the foundation of the case will unexpectedly shift and you will lose credibility when your client doesn't testify; 3- your client will testify and do a bad job.
One good thing can happen: You buy some credibility with the jury.

When you practice deception and not reveal your strategy two good things can occur: 1- the prosecution will be unprepared (or certainly less prepared) when your client does testify; 2- If the foundation of the trial changes, you will not be in the position of explaining in closing why you went back on your word.
There are no negative consequences with not telling the jury at the beginning of the case that your client will testify.

In our opinion, the risk/reward analysis comes squarely out on the side of never ever telling the jury at the beginning of the case that your client will testify.


See you in court, not saying nuttin about whether our client will testify.



** Sun Tzu, The Art of War.






Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SUTTON GUILTY

Christopher Sutton was found guilty Wednesday of conspiring and soliciting the death of his mother and the attempted first degree murder of his father. The title links to the Herald article.

This was a difficult and heart wrenching case. Mr. Sutton's father, who is a well known attorney in Coral Gables, survived the attack-although he was blinded and suffered facial disfigurement- and was called to testify by the prosecution in the case against his son. After his testimony, Mr. Sutton was allowed to remain in the courtroom for the remainder of the case. With the verdict of the jury Mr. Sutton has lost both his wife and his son.

Congratulations go out to prosecutors Kathleen Hoague and Carin Kahgan.
Mr. Bruce Fleisher now spends that first sleepless night that afflicts most trial lawyers after a negative verdict. There will be little consolation for him in the knowledge of having done his best; such thoughts are overwhelmed with the inconsolable pain of having lost a difficult case.

This case reminded us in many ways of State v. Joyce Cohen. Many long time habituates of the REGJB remember one of the most famous, sensational, and hard fought murder cases of our time. Ms. Cohen was accused of arranging the murder of her husband Stanley Cohen, who was the owner of a successful construction company.
In a case that spanned from Miami to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the pretty Miami Socialite was convicted after a six week trial.

Rumpole Trivia quiz: Who was Ms. Cohen's attorney? Who were the prosecutors who represented the State? Who was the Judge? And what colour dress did Ms. Cohen wear in court on the day she was convicted?




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ET TU CLARENCE?

UPDATE: There's a new blog in town called Kosher Meatball law blog.
And of course, running the preeminent "go-to" legal blog in Miami as we do, the noodles at the meatball blog are trying to curry favour with us by re-printing some of our recent blog rumblings. While we much would have preferred them coming to us, hat in hand (electronically) and asking permission to run a blog in what is clearly our town, in the interest of benign neglect, we decided to give them a plug. Pull up a chair, put on a bib, and manga. (The meatballs go great with some nice mozzarella sprinkled on top. Give it a try.)


Justice Clarence Thomas is an individualist. He does not believe in affirmative action. As a strict constructionist conservative, Justice Thomas believes in the primacy of the individual. The United States was created as a government of the people and government's role is limited at best. Justice Clarence Thomas believes that merit and talent should be the only factors in which an individual is promoted. Ethnicity, race, or anything other than the particular qualities of the individual should not apply. His opinions make all of the above perfectly clear.

At the Utah State Bar convention, Justice Thomas had this to say:

Thomas said his biggest concern is the Ivy League composition of the court and its lack of regional representation. The current court has five justices from the New York/New Jersey area, two from California, one from Georgia and one from Indiana.

“Does that sound like this country?” he asked.

Hmm....sounds like Justice Thomas wants to see the geographical location of a particular individual weighed against the makeup of the court as a consideration for nomination.

To put it more bluntly, it seems as if Justice Thomas would want to see a less talented Judge from lets say Oregon nominated to the Supreme Court over a more talented individual who graduated from Yale, if the court at the time was comprised of "eastern intellectuals."

Not necessarily the thoughts of an individualist. More like the thoughts of a collectivist statist whose particular ox has been gored. For shame Justice Thomas.


TRIAL UPDATES:

State v. Sutton is going to the jury. Final arguments were heard Tuesday. This is a compelling case where the trigger man testified that the son of Coral Gables attorney John Sutton hired him to kill his parents. John Sutton survived the attack, but he was permanently disfigured. His wife was murdered. Carin Kahgan and Kathleen Hoague for the prosecution and Bruce Fleisher for the defense. This is going to be a tough one, and we're not looking for a verdict on Wednesday. Perhaps Thursday, and a little birdie whispered to us that the prosecution is worried.


US v. Blagojevich: This one is less worrisome for the prosecution, as the tapes against the former Governor have been damming. Crude and vulgar comments mixed in with petty personal concerns have the loudmouth Chicago Pol (whose first name is actually Milorad) on the ropes. His brother who is charged in five of the 25 counts took the stand and was eviscerated on cross by the prosecution. The taped evidence against his brother is much less compelling than against the former governor. That's why our Chi-town spies are telling us that despite months of bragging about his upcoming testimony the defense team headed by the spectacular team of Sam Adam, Jr., and his father Sam Adam Sr., are working hard to keep their loquacious client off the stand. One problem- the defense made a spectacular error in promising the jury in opening statement that their client would testify.

Runpole's seventh rule of defense: Never ever ever tell the jury your client will testify. Never. Ever. You can never be sure how a trial will turn out, and if you are certain your client will testify there is no reason to let the prosecution know that. Keep them in the dark as long as possible. The only exception to this rule is.....NONE. Never ever ever ever tell the jury in opening statement that your client will testify.


Monday, July 19, 2010

TEXTING

UPDATES BELOW:

Reprinted (without permission- we didn't ask, but we're sure they don't mind) from the Broward JAA Blog.

The following is an actual series of texts between an assistant public defender (in green) and an assistant state attorney (in white). From Broward, of course.



Query: Is it OK for attorneys who are opponents to text each other on their private cell phones?

We think the answer is yes. We often give our cell phone number to prosecutors and ask them to text us regarding issues that may arise during the pendency of a case. However in this circumstance it appears the ASA didn't want his/her private cell phone used in communication about cases. While it may be shocking to find out that a prosecutor in Broward of all places is uptight, attorneys have a right to privacy (See, Griswald v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) ) and the prosecutor had a right to tell the PD to cut it out (although threatening to call the police was a bit much.)

UPDATE: We received this comment:

I am a Broward criminal defense attorney that is familiar with each of the parties. Trust me, I wouldn't want this particular PD bothering me on my cell phone either. Especially when the context of the texts appears to be: client gets probation when state wants more, court imposes probation, state brings up restitution, PD gloats about the successful departure sentence and the victim's comments.

The PD was once investigated for a road rage agg assault, and later pushed a female ASA into a wall when plea negotiations broke down. The ASA is a standup guy. Trust me, things aren't always as they seem.

Monday, July 19, 2010 10:28:00 PM


MORE FROM BROWEIRD:

Our friends at the JAA Broward Blog report that Judge Matt Destry, who is on the ballot this August and facing a challenge from Attorney Rob Jakovich, is busing in a load of seniors today from a local Broward Condominium, to watch an attempted arson trial that the brave judge is presiding over. The jury was picked on Monday.

This just doesn't pass Rumpole's smell test. What if the State doesn't prove it's case? Will the Judge be more or less likely to JOA the case? It's obvious that most elected officials don't get elected by promising to be "fair to criminals". "I'll be tough on crime" is what most politicians, including Judges, want their message to be.

We wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case.


Meanwhile, there will be a bunch of "altercockers" (yiddish for "old fart") sitting in the courtroom, complaining about the seats, asking for coffee, and wondering what a nice judge like that is doing in a courtroom with a "vance" (yiddish for "bedbug")

Oy Vey.








SNIPES DOWN; TEMP UP. A

Wesley Snipes conviction and 3 year sentence (for misdemeanors no less) was affirmed by the 11th Circuit and guess who has all the coverage on his thoroughly federal blog?

Willy Ferrer was sworn in as the US Attorney for The Southern District of Florida on Friday (yawn) and after all the speeches and blah blah blah everyone went home on Friday no worse for the wear. Eric Holder the US Attorney was present, and that was nice to see, especially since he picked perhaps the only place in the country hotter with more humidity than DC.

Good Monday morning. It's another hot Monday in Miami where male attorneys still have to wear coats and ties to court. Under any other circumstances if you saw a man walking down the street wearing a coat and and a tie where it was 98 degrees and 95% humidity you might be tempted to question his sanity. Except if he was a lawyer on his way to court.

What can Brown do for you? Not much yet.

The Republicans (Motto: "science shmiance" ) tell us that there's no such thing as global warming.
The NY Times reports that NASA says that the January-through-June period this year was the hottest globally since measurements began in 1880. ...
Glacier National Park now has only about 25 glaciers, compared with around 150 a century ago. In the Himalayas, the shrinkage seems to be accelerating, with Chinese scientific measurements suggesting that some glaciers are now losing up to 26 feet in height per year.

HOW NOT TO GET OUT OF A TRAFFIC TICKET...
Especially if you've just been offered a job as a prosecutor.
1) Don't curse at the officer; 2) Don't play the race card; 3) Don't dare the officer to arrest you for having illegally tinted windows and mention that you were just hired at the prosecutor's office.
Having done all of the above, Ms. Lisa Jones-Hall still got her ticket....and lost her job she hadn't started yet. Thanks to ATL for this gem.


ANOMALIES....
And just to pile on because it's Monday, we leave you with the disturbing possibility that not only is the cap on the well in the Gulf not working, but that BP may have screwed the pooch for the surrounding seabed- meaning that even when the well is capped the oil may still leak from the seabed for.....well forever.


But in a letter to BP chief managing director Bob Dudley, Admiral Allen said: "Given the current observations... including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance...

See you in court, wearing a coat and tie.