Last we left Milt Hirsch, Miami's own "Bard of the Bench" he was safely ensconced in his robes. There was just the nagging issue of his former client Sean Casey. To make a very long story short, Casey was charged with DUI Manslaughter. Milt did a spectacular job and got the blood tests suppressed. The 3rd DCA (in what should have been recognized as a precursor of things to come) reversed the trial judge's order. The case was returned for trial and Mr. Casey fled to Chile where he resided for two years until he was apprehended. Upon return to Miami, Casey, with Hirsch as his counsel, entered a plea and was sentenced to prison.
Casey filed a post conviction motion to set aside his plea. His main contention was that Hirsch and his therapist (recommended by Hirsch- Dr. Michael Rappaport) advised him to flee once the 3rd DCA reversed the suppression of evidence. Prior to fleeing, Casey and his mother surreptitiously taped Hirsch and Rappaport. "The Hirsch Tapes" as they came to be known, ended up in the possession of the SAO (motto: "The tapes are none of your ^%@!$!$~! business"). David S Markus (NOT the blogger) represented Casey on the motion. The court, at the request of the SAO, SEALED the tapes. Markus didn't get access to the tapes, and the tapes were not admitted into evidence. The court denied the motion for relief. The 3rd DCA, without benefit of the tapes, affirmed the denial. Casey filed a pro se motion alleging fraud. The State filed a motion to seal. Enter Bruce Brugmann, a San Francisco owner of the San Francisco Guardian. He filed a motion to intervene and oppose the motion to seal. The court denied the motion. Brugmann appealed: From Judge Rothenberg's dissent:
On September 17, 2009, Brugmann filed the instant petition for review of the trial court’s order sealing the judicial record. On April 21, 2010, this Court issued an order denying the petition without a written opinion, and on May 6, 2010, Brugmann filed a motion for rehearing, rehearing en banc, and for a writtenopinion. The motion for rehearing was granted, and on April 27, 2012, the panel issued a written opinion denying Brugmann’s petition for review of the order sealing the judicial records. Brugmann v. State, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D1041 (Fla. 3d
DCA Apr. 27, 2012). Upon issuance of the written opinion, Brugmann filed a subsequent motion for rehearing en banc. After review of the motion, this Court again granted rehearing; withdrew the April 27, 2012, panel opinion; and a majority of the voting members of this Court denied Brugmann’s petition without
prejudice to seek relief by other means.
In English: The 3rd DCA will not issue any reason for denying Brugmann's petition.
Enter Judge Leslie Rothenberg, friend of the poor, the weak, the oppressed, and champion of open government. She filed a very lengthy (anything over ten pages and we start skimming) dissent, strongly arguing for the release of the tapes. Judges Salter and Ivan Fernandez concurred with Judge Rothenberg's dissent.
What we have here folks, is a very divided 3rd DCA that cannot agree on much in this case. And ain't that fun?
From the peroration of the dissent:
Some of the evidence the successor judge failed to consider in evaluating whether to seal the Hirsch tape is: (1) whether the tape demonstrates that Hirsch gave perjured testimony at the evidentiary hearing; and (2) whether the tape, when
considered with all of the other evidence, supports Casey’s testimony that Hirsch encouraged him to flee the court’s jurisdiction, thereby committing a fraud upon the court at the evidentiary hearing…
Additionally, when ruling on Casey’s motion for relief of judgment, the trial court should have reviewed the tapes to determine if Hirsch and/or Rappaport counseled Casey to commit a crime; Hirsch and/or Rappaport gave perjured testimony; and Hirsch, Rappaport, or the State committed a fraud upon the Courtby falsely representing what was said on the tapes.
Rumpole says: WOW. It's not often we get to use "peroration".
Disclosure: We like Milt Hirsch. And we do not believe for one moment he committed a crime or counseled his client to flee. His reputation earned over many decades as a pre-eminent attorney entitles him to that presumption. And yet....
There is something about this we cannot just abide. Why not release the tapes? Especially if there isn't anything to hide. There is a young man in prison who claims the tapes contain evidence that support his legal arguments and would thus establish a very serious fraud upon the court. Why the rush to seal them? Why won't the circuit court judges hearing his motion listen to them? It is all very...distasteful. One could imagine, in other circumstances, Milt Hirsch as counsel for the accused, championing the release of the tapes and excoriating the government for secrecy, much like Judge Rothenberg has done. This case is bizarre. Down is up. Up is down. Milt Hirsch is on the side of tapes being sealed and kept from a defendant and Judge Rothenberg (to her everlasting credit) is championing giving the defendant a fair hearing and access to evidence.