Monday, May 20, 2013

JOINT POST BY JUSTICE BUILDING, SOUTH FLORIDA LAWYERS, AND SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA BLOGGERS


You lose your rights, not with a bang, but with a whimper. One small encroachment after another. A bureaucrat pushes the edges here, a prosecutor challenges the boundaries in a few cases there. No one says or does anything and then you look up and suddenly a cherished right is gone. 
Nothing is more insidious and dangerous to our constitutional rights than a bureaucrat who, under the cover of a government agency, seeks to intimidate someone. That is why the letters we have posted  from the Florida Bar to attorney and blogger William Gelin have so alarmed us: the bloggers who run the Justice Building Blog, the South Florida Lawyers Blog, and the Southern District of Florida Blog.


WIlliam Gelin runs the JAA Blog which covers the Broward County Courthouse. To Mr. Gelin's credit he has never sought to hide his identity as the lawyer behind the blog. As a blogger who has openly challenged the way things are done in Broward, Mr. Gelin has courageously taken on numerous people in Broward County, including judges. Now, apparently after a series of posts about two Judges in West Palm Beach and Broward County, (ironically) anonymous bar complaints have prompted the Bar to send Mr. Gelin letters seeking him to admit or deny his involvement in the JAA Blog. 

We as the legal blogging community in Miami view these letters as an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment and freedom of speech. The letters are chilling, and will have a chilling affect on the free speech of lawyers. Judges are invested with responsibilities and powers and all too often those powers cloud their judgment. The ability of lawyers to freely comment on a Judge represents an important check on those powers. The ability of citizens to write about the issues of the day has a long and storied history in our country. James Madison anonymously published many of the federalist papers under the pseudonym Publius in the local newspapers of the time. Blogging, anonymous and otherwise, serves a similar purpose. 

The Florida Bar's letters to Mr. Gelin amount to both a fishing expedition and a veiled threat for him to stop criticizing Judges from the pages of his blog.  We jointly condemn the letters the Bar has written, and stand behind our colleague in this matter. That is why all three blogs have taken the unprecedented step of running this post simulataneously. We urge our readers to voice their support of Mr. Gelin by writing to the Bar to condemn the actions of the Bar Counsel in this case. 

Thank you. 

Justice Building Blog
South Florida Lawyers
Southern District of Florida Blog

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm no great fan of the JAABlog. I think it's wrong to personally attack people on the web as so many of its bloggers do.

That said, I abhor the Bar's position in this instance. I think it's hypocritical for the courts and the Bar to argue that members of the very profession charged with guarding the First Amendment gives up their First Amendment Rights when they're admitted to practice.

The public votes for judges. If the people who appear in front of them daily can't speak up, what's the point?

Perhaps if more lawyers spoke up, we wouldn't have so many judges who routinely show up late, trample defendants' rights, don't bother to keep up with the case law, allow lawyers on both sides to violate the rules, impose a trial tax, etc.

Bar counsel have a tough job; one I don't envy. I respect much of their work (they're so understaffed that it's amazing they get as much done as they do). But, I think the Bar is overstepping its authority on this one (irrespective of what some judges may say in their efforts to protect themselves).

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Why didn't Kosher Meatball blog sign?

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that Mr. Gellin could post videos of hard core sexual activity on his blog and while the Bar might not like it there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Yet, if Mr. Gellin criticizes a member of the judiciary for bad behaviour, the Bar sits up and begins another Inquisition.

The Florida Bar has absolutely no business bothering Mr. Gellin. It is a good thing that Norm Kent has no fear and that he will probably tell the Bar (politely) to go take a hike.

I would sign my name but I fear the Bar like most fear the IRS.

CAPTAIN said...


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

RULES OF THE FLORIDA BAR .....

RULE 4-8.2 JUDICIAL AND LEGAL OFFICIALS


(a) Impugning Qualifications and Integrity of Judges or Other Officers.

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, ......

So, here is the question Horace - did he?

If the Bar receives an allegation directly from a Judge or anyone else that suggests that Gelin's posts, or some of them, about Judge Robert Diaz or Judge Mary Robinson or Judge Marni Bryson or any other judge that he has criticized is absolutely false and they provide details as to how and why they believe what he posted is/was false, then what are they to do?

They are obligated to investigate.

I have read many of the posts that are covered in the Bar letters. While Mr. Gelin's writing style can certainly best be summed up in a few words; "in your face" journalism, he appears to always back up his posts with as many facts that are available to him to support his allegations. Many of his posts simply provide links to other items that are already available via Google and articles from the Sun Sentinel and other Blogs.

I don't believe the Bar rules are the same as the Rules in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB where players and coaches absoltely have forfeited their first amendment rights to criticize.

I agree that we are obligated to criticize when we see a wrong and believe that the wrong brings down our justice system. Who better than we, who are working in the system each and every day. The David O'Valle's of this world can only do so much and they cannot do it alone.

Just take a look at part of your post on Friday when you said:

"After finding Alex Michaels in contempt, Judge Miranda denied a request to allow him to post a bond pending appeal. This is most disturbing. The sentence was two days jail. Without bond pending appeal there would be no way for Mr. Michaels to seek review of the conviction for contempt without having already served the penalty. The judge's decision indicates that perhaps her emotions were involved, and that she was not impartially dispensing justice, but was angry and seeking to punish without regard to the rules, which are fairly clear:"

Are you next? Very scary!

CAPTAIN OUT .....
captain4justice@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Mon Capeeetan,

You're barking up the wrong tree on this one. The process works when attorneys are able to criticize judges and bring their misdeeds and bad behaviors to light. Criticism cannot be a one way street: attorneys must be free to criticize judges as freely as judges criticize attorneys. Attorneys must realize that the courtroom belongs to the judge, but the attorney should be able to speak his or her mind in a blog or on a website, without fear of persecution from the Bar.

Captain, it is easier for an attorney to be disbarred or suspended for bad behavior than it is a judge.

I think you are missing the one important point in this entire episode: judges are public servants. If Judge Diaz is sitting in his chambers scratching his rear end instead of clearing his docket, the public has a right to know. If the other judges mentioned in your post have financial issues in their past, doesn't the public have the right to know?

Let me ask you this: if someone like Mr. Gellin doesn't let the public know about these things, who will tell us - the JAs,the secretaries whom depend the judges for their jobs, the bailiffs?

Nobody is perfect and nobody is above reproach but rare is the attorney who does not feel a sick feeling in the pit of his or her own stomach when they get an "inquiry" from the Bar.

Maybe this hunt will go nowhere fast. Maybe not, and Mr. Gellin will then spend many hours and many dollars defending himself.

Regardless, the Bar may have already accomplished its goal - that of scaring the crap out of everyone else.

Anonymous said...

most lawyers who operate a blog under their real name are self promotors. this practice is done for no there reason then to gin up business.

the broward blog is the exception

Rumpole said...

Well captain I take certain precautions. Like logging in through an internet service out of kapchatka, do if google gets a subpoena they end up raiding the home of some former soviet official who now serves watered down vodka from a bering sea side bar.

Anonymous said...

A joint letter? Yawn . . . .

CAPTAIN said...


12:16 PM. Very well stated and I agree with all of it. You did not read my post past the part that said: "They are obligated to investigate".

I post about judges and those running for Judge regularly. I do my best to only post facts that I can support with evidence that I ahve been able to locate, through public records, google, court files, background checks, etc.

I believe Gelin posts facts that he knows or believes to be true. I don't think he post lies, falsehoods, etc. I would certainly hope not.

Cap Out ....


Anonymous said...

Shumie time for Gelin? The discussion yesterday on lawyers bangin their staff was better.

Anonymous said...

Captain,

I read the part of the post in which you mentioned that the Bar is obligated to investigate the "inquiries" that might allege certain falsehoods, etc. Just once, I would like to see the Bar investigate the person who files a complaint / inquiry, before they send a letter to the attorney.

Mr. Gellin could spend his life's savings defending himself and beating whatever charges might be thrown at him, but what then is his recourse? Continue blogging only to face another complaint? Suing the Bar for a violation of his First Amendment rights to recoup what he lost? Is there such an action against the Bar for wrongful prosecution?

What strikes me about the letter is the obnoxious tone of Bar counsel. The tone was more than a bit condescending.

Look, the Florida Bar is a good organization that can help protect the public from thieving attorneys. However, they have no business bothering Mr. Gellin when he did nothing more than lift a few rocks and expose a few judges to the sunlight.

Now, if you think the Bar is scary:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-rare-peek-into-a-justice-department-leak-probe/2013/05/19/0bc473de-be5e-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

People, people relax. There is no Bar rule against Blogging or posting an opinion.

There is a rule against saying things that are not true about a judge, lawyer or witness.

Gellin cannot get in trouble for posting stories or opinions but, if he said that a judge has HIV, was arrested, is in a mental hospital.... when the judge doesn't then, he crosses the line.

Anonymous said...

good post Rump. Now I understand why you're anonymous.

FREE ALEX MICHAELS!!!!!

Anonymous said...


2:52 or should I say BT, easy for you to say. Relax. Relax. Tell that to Gelin.

Do you agree with the Captain's analysis. Is that the Bar Rule and are they obligated, upon being presented with a complaint that appears to have validity, to investigate.

Is truth an absolute defense.

Free Alex Michaels! said...

ALEX MICHAELS NEEDS AN ALLY RALLY

THIS THURSDAY 4-9 PM

TOOTSIES GENTLEMAN'S CLUB

Because Alex is a Gentleman and Michael Von Zoom Away is not.

Anonymous said...

When did Navin leave the SAO and go to the bar?

Anonymous said...

Having worked with Navin Ramnath in the past at the prosecutor's office (KFRland), I'm a little surprised to see his name attached to this. He's actually a pretty nice guy.

But this is the life he's chosen. The path of the Florida Bar Counsel. Unfortunately he's got a job to do I guess. Seems terrible though to police this sort of stuff.

Anonymous said...

2:52 - of course you're correct, but the letter was sent solely let Mr. Gillen know that the Bar is watching him. Since when is the Bar in the intimidation business.

Nothing prevents an attorney from blogging or having a website. But, what will stop a judge or anyone else for that matter of "stretching" the truth of the initial complaint?

Is truth an absolute defense? Maybe, if the subject of the complaint has a well funded defense fund. How many of us can afford to take that chance or have that much money to fight the Bar?

This entire episode is troublesome.

Anonymous said...

ITs Pretty Darn Ironic Tha Navin Now Works For The Bar Considering It Took Him Three Tries To Pass The Thing.......Nice Guy Tough

AnyOne Know Why My Phone Is Making First Letter Capitalized In Every Word I Write? Can't Figure It Out.

heat fan said...


ECF starts tomorrow Rump. Will you be staying in hibernation until the Heat drop a game again?

Remember, every time the Heat fall behind in a series they respond by sweeping the opposing team and sending them home.

Last year: Pacers up 2-1, Heat win three straight

Last year: Celtics up 3-2, Heat win two straight.

Last year: OKC up 1-0, Heat win four straight.

This year: Bulls up 1-0, Heat win four straight.

So, Rump, care to make a prediction on the ECF series against Indiana?

I'll be at the AAA on Friday night for game two. I guess I won't see you there.

Heat Fan

Rumpole said...

Oh I'm sure you'll be there Friday, all dressed in white, cheering for your beloved Heat. Because you love the Heat. Ever since they got carpetbagging Lebron you've been just the most loyal fan. And before LeBron...well, you know, it's Miami, and unless the team is in the Championship game every year why bother going? It's why Dolphin stadium was half empty last year and why there are more people in line at the REGJB then at Marlin games. What happened to all those fans who loved the Marlins in the world series?

So give yourself a big front running phony pat on the back and congrats to you. And when Lebron and Wade leave...well it's Miami and there are so many other things to do. Right?

Fed court nerd said...

I thought ECF was electronic court filing system.

Anonymous said...

I think these questions the Bar is asking are chilling.
The public has been so preoccupied with Amendment #2 that the other ones are eroding away before our eyes.
I wish I had the guts to do what Gelin has done.

What else is new said...

Here are recordings and statements of the alleged criminal activities of Berki De Los Santos Alvarez of the SAO in Fort Lauderdale. The Bar is ignoring this because it has important work to do in stopping people from having opinions. https://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=870825&content=music

Anonymous said...

I hope the Heat win it all again this year. Only because I think the second time around, maybe the midnight, wooden spoon, pot-and pan-banging families in Hialeah might make the national news. I love when your Miami craphole and the people living in it are embarrassed on the national stage. Ay que rico. We lub meameee heet!

heat fan said...


WRONG.

You're getting old my good chap. I told you before and I'll tell you again, I was a seaon ticket holder before the BIG 3 and I have already signed a long term contract which could outlast the big three. I am a Heat Fan. A fan of a classy organization run by a classy owner, Micky Arison, who has a classy coach, Eric Spoelstra, and who have classy players.

Boy, when we win, you accuse our fans of having no class and when we lose you claim that the players have no class. And when you can't find something about the Heat to knock around, you change sports and go after baseball and football fans.

Time for you to go back into hibernation again old Rumpy.

Eight down, eight to go.

Heat Fan

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Judges what is the problem with Victoria Sigler?Her behavior on the bench is, in my opinion, digraceful
and disrespectful to lawyers and litigants .Can you imagine the last six years of her service if she gets re elected? Without the prospect of re-election to hold her accountable her cranky disrespectful manner is only going to get worse.A nightmare scenario waiting to happen.

Rumpole said...

Oh Heat Fan- your the guy who has been faithfully trudging down to the arena and the old arena before that following the Heat year after year, game after game. Well, if that's true, you're the only one in this town of front running phonies. When you're there Friday look to the left and look to the right and tell me you can say the same about the phonies in the seats next to you.

And by the way, I believe your story like Judge Miranda believed Alex when he said he was saying fudt which is a Romanian curse word.

Did you enjoy the Marlins games this weekend?
Go sell your "I was a heat fan back when" to that nutty woman from Palm Beach, Because her reaction is mine to your story.

CAPTAIN said...


5:11. If you have something specific that we can follow up on and report then please email me. Please provide the attorneys names, the case, something that we can report on. Always disturbing to hear these allegations, but we need more that your anonymous statement to do something about it.

CAPTAIN OUT
captain4justice@gmail.com

5:11? said...

What about 2:24? This is crazy!

Anonymous said...

Captain ....go sit in her courtroom ......ask the lawyers ......be an eyewitness ....her present crankiness is well known .....and her behavior is obvious .....get your butt out of your chair ......5:11

Anonymous said...

I have appeared in front of Sigler many times. She does not suffer fools lightly. So, yeah, if you show up unprepared or you try to bullshit her - she gets testy. But she reads stuff and rules.

She is a good judge. Take her over Cardumb all day.

Anonymous said...

btdt

you take yourself too seriously. and the word abhor is a yenta word..

CAPTAIN said...


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

NORTH OF THE BORDER:

FINKLESTEIN V. SATZ, ROUND THREE ....

PD Howard Finklestein is at it again. He penned another scathing letter to SA Mike Satz about the lack of a policy at the Broward SAO concerning Brady material.

Read the letter here - the entire story is brought to you by your favorite Broward blogger, Bill Gelin.

http://jaablog.jaablaw.com/files/34726-32374/pd_v_sa.pdf

CAPTAIN OUT .....
captain4justice@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

7:06 maybe someone will kindly allow the community the opportunity to hold a referendum on this issue

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, your faux support of Jaablog is hollow in light of your refusal to identify yourself and thus stand behind your own criticisms of jurists, which go far beyond anything Gelin has done.

You're a coward. With "friends" like you, Gelin doesn't need any enemies. Jack Thompson, Way Ahead of You in Protecting the First Amendment

Anonymous said...

1025......I don't take myself nearly as seriously as you think I do.

I just call it like I see it.

BTDT

PS---my mother would love your comment re "abhor"

DS sez: said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
"Unabridged American Minority" said...

If Judge Sigler is very fair she takes the time to thoroughly read motions and rules fairly. If he does her signature stare at the ceilling and sighs chances are your unprepared and and upnoxious yourself. I'd prefer Sigler over most in this circuit. Disrespectful is Cueto he curses in open court illegally initiates plea colloquy's and threatens lengthy sentences even threatens death and I have the transcript right here on my desk to prove it. Sigler is far from rude, shes a fair judge.

Rumpole said...

Dear 1:11.
I have long been on record advocating that anonymous bloggers should be 1) shot. 2) arrested. 3) prosecuted. 4) jailed.
In that order.

Anonymous said...

Sigler is the best!! She's smart and fair. Her sense of humor is funny, but she never hurts a defendant. For ONCE I actually agree with U.A.M.

Anonymous said...

Sigler is a good judge. Give her and your client the respect they deserve by showing up prepared and she'll treat you well.

She, as others have pointed out, knows the law and is fair to all.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Victoria Sigler is one of the smartest and fairest Judges sitting on the circuit court bench. She gives everyone who comes before her a fair shake.

Her personality, while somewhat quirky, has been the same for the last 17 years. I have practiced before her when she was a county court Judge on up.

If the poster takes offense at Judge Sigler's "rudeness" then obviously he doesn't know Vicky.

We should only have more Judges like her on the bench.

Anonymous said...

Is Vicky Sigler Cuban or she just happens to have a Cuban name? In any event, it is her real name, so no smartasses from this blog can pick on her name come election time like they did with Hispanic candidates like Denise Martinez Scanziani and Michelle Alvarez Barakat.

lawyers in singapore said...

I don't believe the Bar rules are the same as the Rules in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB where players and coaches absoltely have forfeited their first amendment rights to criticize.