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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FAST GERRY

Update: The Herald's obit on Judge Klein.

Judge Gerald Klein, known as "Fast Gerry" passed away Sunday at the age of 90. 

Judge Klein was a gem. A man from another time and place when Miami was a small southern town.  Judge Klein served as a county court Judge from 1959-1990 and as a senior Judge from 1991-2007. 

There's one great story (among hundreds) that we love about Judge Klein. The Judge was known as Fast Gerry because at a time when the traffic and crimes sections of county court were separate, Judge Klein would clear his courtroom calendar in the crimes division  and hit the golf links on Miami Beach by 11 am or so most days of the week. 

One day Judge Klein and his partners were robbed in the clubhouse and the news was duly reported probably by the old Miami News at the time. A day or so later a trouble making Herald reporter called Judge Klein to find out what a county court Judge was doing on the golf course at 11 am during a work day when court was in session. "Every now and then court finishes early" Judge Klein was quoted (or words to that effect) "and we can get out on the golf course."

Every now and then was usually about four days a week. But this is not to say that Judge Klein wasn't a good judge. He was a great county court judge during a time when almost nobody went to jail and the county court was a place where most people represented themselves in small disputes. Judge Klein never hurt a soul as a Judge and most people left his coatroom believing they had been given a fair (albeit quick) hearing. 

This is sad news. But at age 90, Judge Klein lived a full life. He loved his job and he was loved by those at his job. What more could you ask for? 

Rest in peace old friend. 
HR. 

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

my favorite Story re Judge Klein was when he would ask the homeless defendants if they for enough breakfast in the am before letting them back out on the streets.

Anonymous said...

RIP. A throwback to another era. I remember when I first encountered him as a prosecutor. He dismissed about ten cases because witnesses did not show up before I even had a chance to look at the calendar. And he made his rulings in a whisper so you could not even hear him. If you wanted to know what justice at the bottom of the food chain was like in Miami when JFK was president and Miami Beach was in its Magic City phase, you didn't have to watch a movie. Just stroll into Klein's courtroom and you got a taste of yesterday on the cheap

John Morrison said...

I only knew him in his later, bond hearing judge days. While he was fast (and I'm still not sure "Do you want to go home?" is an adequate plea colloquy), he was also fair.

It was a real credit to his character that he volunteered to do bond hearings for so many years. I overheard a conversation in which the Chief Judge told him that he was not going to get paid (at least for a long while) because they had run out of money in the budget for senior judges. He never even blinked.

Since his real retirement, no other judge has stepped up to replace him, and I doubt anyone ever will.

Play through, Judge, you earned it.

CAPTAIN said...


Well said, John, well said.

Scott Saul said...

"You have a good lawyer so listen to what he tells you to do

That simple and innocuous phrase meant so much to the hard-working lawyer .

He was a prince off the bench as well.

He didn't give anything away ( he was hardly lenient) but he "got it" ...something the less experienced lawyer that becomes a judge doesn't always comprehend.

I heard the State was instrumental in removing him....did that ever impact the life of the other sitting felony judges.

RIP buddy

"American Minority" said...

Judge Gerald Klein's service to the Judicial System was provident, and he was a man of magnanimous character, may God rest and keep his soul.

~AM~

"American Minority" said...

Rumpole,

The JQC has filed formal charges against Palm Beach, Judge Barry M. Cohen.

I disagree with that decision, I side with Judge Cohen.

Anonymous said...

Whoa...big restructuring going in the PDO? What's up DS?

Anonymous said...

I tried a DUI bench trial with him about 15 years ago.

The cop admitted that the defendant was not all that impaired but, his eyes were all red and bloodshot.

(Remember, folks, Gerry had big problems with his own red and bloodshot eyes and he was not one to ever come to court with booze on his breath)

He pointed to his own eyes and asked the cop if he thought he {the judge) was drunk.

Instant not guilty.

I loved Gerry. He was a good man.

Rest in peace old friend. We will miss you.

Anonymous said...

A giant and a legend. I'm happy I can say I saw him on the bench.

Jonathan Blecher said...

Judge Don Cohn pays homage to Judge Klein by concluding each litigant's appearance with "... you have a good lawyer. Do what she (he) tells you ".

You're never really gone, are you?

RIP Gerry Klein.

Anonymous said...

my favorite Gerry Klein moment was when a young PD would show up in bond court and when the PD would ask for a withhold on some case he would say "counsel does this guy look like this case is gonna keep him out of the airforce academy?"

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of Gerry yesterday, how they need two judges now to do what he did by himself before. RIP

Anonymous said...

I heard the same about the State getting him removed.

Anonymous said...

RIP "Fast Jerry." A good man and a very fair judge--not lenient, but not a hardass. His greatest strength, both as a County Court judge and doing bond hearings, was the ability to sort out the crap from the more serious.

RIP. He was definitely one of a kind.

DS said...

Back in 1989 I did Jail Arraignments w/ Murray the K, then headed up to Jail Trials in 5-5. When Gerry Klein was there , he used to say to me, as I walked in to court, ' Dont worry Counsellor I didn't hurt your clients'
Nice Man, Good Judge,
a Real Mensch.
DS

Anonymous said...

He was a nice guy, but not sure that a legacy of being "Fast Gerry" (ie, you churned cases through the system with little to no thought or reflection) really means you were such a good jurist. Not speaking ill of the dead, but keeping it real, just like Gerry did.

Rumpole said...

If you read the other comments you will see he was a very fair judge. Being fast didn't mean he trampled on anyone's rights. He didn't. He had great common sense so he could evaluate a case quickly and fairly.

Anonymous said...

Klein was a great judge and a great guy. And he was a real winner with the ladies. Many a south beach deb was charmed by his debonair good looks and sophistication. And in his later years he was a real hit with the single retirees.

Adios mi amigo. See you on the other side.

Phil R said...

Judge Klein was my first Judge in county court when I was assigned there as a young prosecutor. He was a gentleman and an exceptionally fair judge. I tried my first jury trial before him (Juan Ramirez was the defense attorney. I lost). I tried my first of hundred bench trials before him. I never saw him lose his temper at any litigant or lawyer. Every defendant who left his courtroom knew he or she had been given a fair shake. Much has been made of what he would say to clients during bond hearings about them having a good attorney. He did that because he had a common sense understanding of the court system, of how scared people were when they were arrested and how difficult private practice could be. Generations of young ASAs and PDs had the same experience I did. And we are all better for it.
Rest In Peace Judge Klein.

Pardo said...

Classic jurist,
It was a good time to be a young ASA. He kept you very grounded. These are misdeamenors Mr. Pardo, remember that, you'll get to felonies soon enough.
RIP
You had a good life.

Anonymous said...

Klein was quick, but he was careful to do no harm to defendants or victims. Don't mistake speed with unfairness. Frankly, we need judges like that to handle these calendars. Wish there were more like him.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

I was an APD in Judge Klein's court and never had a problem with him. In fact, very few people back then had any problems with him (which is amazing when you consider how many cases he handled). He never sent a single one of my many clients to jail and finished his calendar so quickly that I was able to second chair several feliny jury trials while I was still technically in County Court (we were all in the same building back then). Needless to say, I never had a jury trial with Judge Klein. If he knew that we had a "problem case" that we could not resolve, he would always find a way to make the case go away without getting anybody overly upset. After one particularly vexing bench trial, he announced the following ruling: "The testimony is hopelessly confusing; I found and adjudicate the defendant not guilty." I always told my clients that Rule #1 in Judge Klein's court was to be on time, and this advice helped me win many cases where my client's beat the State witnesses in the race to court.

Anonymous said...

"Being fast didn't mean he trampled on anyone's rights"

Really Rump? How about the rights of victims or the duty of the State to prosecute? Hundreds upon hundreds of his "pleas" had to be set-aside becasue of his lack of colloquies. So big deal right? So when someone could have been enhanced from a misdemeanor to a felony but for the lack of a proper colloquy, he wasn't trampling on anyone's rights. Right?

"American Minority" said...

2:30pm,

My God, what an interesting and reveling testament. thanks for sharing. We don't have to many a Judge like Judge Klein who sees through bullshit, and has no axe to grind but that being of fairness. We sure could use the likes of Jerry Klein, he was a friend of my father in law who died at the age of 90 in 2006.

God rest his soul.

the trialmaster said...

Gerry never had any jury trials if he could help it. He would never appoint the PD and said that the case did not merit jail time. No jail time meant to PD and he was able to clear his calendar and get to his gold game. Never could understand why he married Rhea. He will be missed, hard to believe he was 90; He always kept his movie star looks.

Anonymous said...

352, that's not a fair comment. The reality is that there simply was no way to process all of those cases any differently as the vast majority of prosecutors who appeared in front of him would admit.

I never saw him close a real case over State objection.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

You gonna let the prez talk about your hero like that? Like Rand is for immature teenagers?

Obama takes a shot at novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, the author of “The Fountainhead,” and a favorite thinker of some conservatives. When asked about GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s interest in Rand, Obama said, “Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a ‘you’re on your own’ society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.”

Anonymous said...

In honor of my old friend Gerry, I'm knocking off at 11, heading out to the Miami Beach golf course he always played, loading a six pack into the golf cart, and taking a shumie for the day.

Anonymous said...

RIP Judge Klein you were a gentle soul from a gentler time.

Anonymous said...

Even though i was the last lawyer Judge Klein wanted to see sitting at the PD defense table at bond hearing and our bouts were legendary-he knew what a case was worth and what was pure garbage and he didnt care what anyone thought-he just did the right thing-a lesson that could be learned by all the new young Judges-he was a caring and sensitive man who was a friend and who will be truely missed- Rest in Peace Judge- Bobby Aaron

Anonymous said...

3:52, those cases you so wanted to use to "enhance" misdemeanants' sentences were, in their vast majority, pure and unadulterated taurine colonic output.

Did you have any part in the SAO's campaign against Judge Klein when they used something he said as an excuse to get him replaced with judges that would do colloquies that could be used to enhance misdemeanants?