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. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Friday, March 29, 2013

PROJECT MERCY

Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York is a remarkable man as we and DOM have detailed on our blogs. At this point in his career he is helping institute such earthshaking changes from the federal bench that his role as the lead prosecutor that secured a conviction and lifetime prison sentence against John Gotti is rapidly becoming a footnote to his career. 

Enter Project Mercy. The NY Times reports here about Denise Dalliare, a woman sentenced to fifteen years for a small amount of cocaine. She was recently released after ten years when the sentencing judge, who could never forget the unfairness of her sentence, mitigated the sentence to time served. 


Judge Gleeson, who sits on the Federal District Court in Brooklyn and teaches a course in sentencing at New York University Law School, takes his students and clerks every year to the Danbury prison. He was inspired to do so by his mentor, the late Judge Eugene H. Nickerson, who urged him to spend time in a prison at least once a year to keep in mind where he was sending defendants.
As part of those visits, inmates tell the group about their cases and their lives behind bars. For the past several years, Ms. Dallaire has been one of those inmates...
After his most recent visit to Danbury, Judge Gleeson decided to see if he could get Ms. Dallaire’s sentence reduced. He thought the best way would be to seek a presidential pardon, and he called a friend, Jonathan D. Polkes, a partner in the major New York City firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges, and asked if he would be willing to take on the case pro bono.
The article goes on to state that Judge Gleeson wants to create Project Mercy

Modeled on the Innocence Project where lawyers would donate time to research and help inmates, Project Mercy would seek out cases of inmates who are not innocent but are caught in a prison system where their sentences were issued at a time when minimum mandatory sentences ruled the day
So we ask the Judiciary of South Florida to follow in Judge Gleeson's footsteps. How about taking day trips to some local state prisons? How about seeking out qualified lawyers to work on cases with sentences that in retrospect seem wholly unfair? 
Do we have any Judge Gleeson's in South Florida? 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

JUDGE JASON DIMITRIS

Your new county court judge is Jason Dimitris!

Judge Dimitris was a former ASA and AUSA. 

Everyone's favourite "anti"-twitter tweeter- @btannebaum tweeted that Judge Dimitris is a former Stetson Law School Grad. 

We guess what happens at Stetson no longer stays at Stetson? 

Congratulations Judge Dimitris and welcome to the new and exciting world of those who wear black robes.  In order to get off to a running start here are some things you can practice:

"Is the state ready for trial?"
"The defense's motion for _______ is denied."
(You can insert any of the following: "continuance, bond, suppression, lunch, etc.")
"Thanks for buying lunch."

Anyway, good luck Judge Dimitris. 

See You In Court. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SUPREME COURT VICTORY

Major blog congratulations go to Miami PD Howard Blumberg who notched a win in the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday with the decision in Florida v. Jardines. 

The decision, authored by Justice Scalia (Motto: "strict constructionist unless it upends my statist conservative ideals") upheld the Florida Supreme Court's decision holding that a dog sniff on private property implicates the fourth amendment. 

We'll post a link to the opinion as soon as we find a working one and then we'll follow that up with what you've come to expect: scintillating legal analysis of Scalia's opinion. 

Here is the opinion. Florida v. Jardines.  "That dog won't hunt." Or sniff either. 

Here's a bit of Jardines trivia: Judge Will Thomas suppressed the evidence at the trial court level before the 3rd DCA reversed his decision here (Wells-who wrote the ill fated opinion- joined by Cope and Salter getting the loss in Florida Supreme Court and US Supreme Court) 

Here's the Florida Supreme Court Opinion. 

"Franky" the nosey dog who started this mess is currently considering offers to appear on 20-20, Dateline and as a "bark-dog" for Pets R Us. 

Until then, see you in court. 

LOVE, MARRIAGE AND BONDS PART II

WSVN-TV -



There's something about Judge Rodriguez-Chomat and the elan he brings to bond hearings. Troubled defendants seem to find him like a down and out lawyer and a bondsman, or a Judge and a free lunch.

And we thought this was going to be a quiet week in court. But then "Roddy-Cho" drew bond hearings.

See You In Court. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

LOVE AND MARRIAGE AND BONDS

The Supreme Court takes up two separate "Gay Marriage" cases this week. On Tuesday  the court  hears argument in  Hollingsworth v. Perry, which examines whether the State of California violated the Due Process clause when voters enacted a law that prohibited Gay Marriage.  On Wednesday the court hears argument in US v. Windsor which examines the scintillating issue of whether section three of the Defense of Marriage Act violates the fifth amendment's equal protection of law guarantees. 

Here is our take: WHO CARES? How does it bother anyone if two people of the same sex get married? Who does it affect and how does it affect them? Even better,  lets say two people of the same sex do not get married but walk around and introduce themselves as a married couple. Should that be illegal? 

Passover this week, so it should be a light week in court. 

LET MY CLIENT GO
Judge Firtel caught some flack this weekend for granting a bond in a case in which the defendant failed to appear.  The Herald Hyperbole is here. 
Nothing good can come of this. 
Every time a judge gets negative publicity for granting a bond, it gets harder for the rest of us to get one for our clients. 

That's why we have two recommendations:  First:  from now on, every time your client gets a bond over the opposition of the prosecution and appears in court for a hearing, we recommend that you continually remind the judge of the prosecution's initial opposition. 
"My client is present your honor. If you recall, a year ago the prosecution vociferously argued against bond, and yet my client has made every court appearance and has not been re-arrested." 
Try it. It works. It's a way of reminding the judge that his/her decision has been validated. 

Second: email "you know who" at the Miami Herald and see if the Herald will publish an article: 
"MAN RELEASED ON LOWERED BOND RETURNS TO COURT!" 
By YKW
"John Smith, whose bond Judge Fairness lowered from $250,000.00 to $30,000.00 eleven months ago, returned to court today for trial, despite the prosecution throwing a fit during the bond hearing in which they whined that the defendant wouldn't return and would surely engage in a one man crime wave rivaling that of the fictitious Tony Montoya in Scarface."

 The second thing will never happen. The story doesn't sell newspapers. But our brethren criminal defense attorneys could and should continually remind judges that the prosecution opposed their client's release every time the case appears in court. 

Let my clients go. 
See You In Court. 


Friday, March 22, 2013

CHIEF JUDGE SOTO

The gavel was passed today from Joel Brown to Bertie Soto, who became the chief judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida. 

There was an overflow audience in attendance today  in the ceremonial courtroom in 6-1 at the civil courthouse on Flagler Street in downtown Miami. After getting directions and arriving late and squeezing into a disappointing vantage point to watch the ceremonies,  we saw a beaming Judge Soto  sworn in as Miami's next Chief Judge. 

Our reflection on the speeches, proclamations and pronouncements leads us to say this: it does Judge Soto a disservice to continually reflect on the fact that she is both the first Hispanic and first woman to be Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit. Not that those accomplishments aren't something to be proud of. They are.  

But Judge Soto was elected Chief Judge by her colleagues not because she is a woman, or because she is Hispanic, but because she is a hell-of-a judge. She earned this election and appointment by her colleagues  not because of what she is, but because of who she is, and in the end, doesn't that mean so much more? 

Au Revoir Judge Brown and Congratulations Judge Soto. 

And when you have a moment can we chat on the portion of the parking lot those people from the department of health stole from us? 

A beautiful spring weekend leads us into the Jewish holiday of Passover next week, so there won't be a lot going on.  As we were saying while waiting for an aging elevator in the civil courthouse to flee from the premises while surrounded by an uncomfortable number of civil lawyers: "Let my people go." 

See You In Court. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A WARNING TO A PROSECUTOR


A LAWYER SHALL NOT.....

(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic;
FL ST BAR Rule 4-8.4

This is a warning. It probably doesn't apply to you, so you can click on over to  Amazon or DOM, or  "court reporters gone wild" or whatever. 

About two weeks ago a jury returned a not guilty verdict in a murder trial before Judge Rodriguez-Chomat, The trial was hard fought and lasted two weeks. 

As the jurors were being discharged by the judge and filing out, the prosecutor loudly stated his intention to try the defendant on a separate, pending felony charge, the existence of which the jury was unaware. The prosecutor said this as a way of expressing his anger with the jurors and to try and let them know they had made a bad decision. 

The prosecutor's conduct was beyond outrageous. It affects the administration of justice. Those jurors are tainted from ever serving again.  

A state attorney's office supervisor needs to speak to this prosecutor. If this is how he handles a loss, one can only wonder what he would do when confronted- as another prosecutor was recently- with turning over exculpatory evidence during a high profile murder trial. That prosecutor acted in the finest traditions and obligations of a prosecutor. 

This prosecutor- sniveling about his loss, decided to try and publicly humiliate and blame jurors who were just making a decision based on the evidence he provided, or failed to provide. 

This prosecutor should take a lesson from  the responsible prosecutor who told the jury this during his closing in the penalty phase of the recently concluded Lebron trial:
"The fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

 Mindful of our obligations as a blogger, we have not published this prosecutor's name. But it doesn't mean we won't if this matter is not addressed. So for the moment, don't try and post his name in the comments section.  But we warn him and his office, because other rules are at play here and the judge and the defense attorneys might not be as patient as we are:
(a) Reporting Misconduct of Other Lawyers. A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

FL ST BAR Rule 4-8.3

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DR JOE DAVIS HAS PASSED AWAY

UPDATE: ECOBAR JURY HUNG. A mistrial was declared today in the case involving the murder of City of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan. The Herald article is here, with quotes from the jury foreman. At about 3:30 today Judge Firtel declared a mistrial after the jury, having been out for five days, declared that they could not reach a verdict. The jury deliberated almost one full day after being read an "Allen Charge" yesterday after they first notified the court they could not reach a verdict. Rumor- yet to be confirmed- is that the split was in favor of acquittal.  
David Ovalle  @davidovalle305 tweeted that foreman stated split was 8-4 for acquittal. 
Reid Ruben, Kat Cortez and Penny Brill for the prosecution. 
Phil Reizenstein and Kellie Peterson for the defense. 
No word on what happens next. 

Dade's famous and  long time Medical Examiner, Dr. Joe Davis has passed away. He was 89 

Here is the updated and wonderfully written Herald obit  on Dr. Davis. 

Dr. Davis was the medical examiner for Dade County from 1957-1996.  He trained generations of medical examiners, not to mention prosecutors, and probably more than a few defense attorneys. He was a doctor who made a great difference in this community and it is fitting that the ME's office is named after him. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

MONDAY'S TWEETS

UPDATE: Escobar jury on case involving murder of City of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan asked to come back Tuesday after receiving an Allen charge Monday afternoon. 
David Ovalle tweeted this:

BREAKING: Deadlocked Escobar jury, citing progress in deliberations, wants a "good night's sleep," to return tomorrow


Query: We think this is day five of deliberations. What's your personal record and what's the REGJB record? This case has to be close. 



Monday started off with a bang on Mr. Markus's blog with two posts: one dealing with the 9th circuit's reversal of a a death penalty conviction of a woman based solely on the word of a discredited detective that she confessed to him, and the second on the US Supreme Court's grant of cert (latin for "sure, why not, we'll consider your case")  in a South Florida case involving the federal forfeiture statute. 
You can peruse all the action here. 

We saw some news report over the weekend (probably on MSNBC) about the trend in states to outlaw the death penalty. At some point it will just be Florida and Texas and Alabama and Mississippi. Mitigation y'all? 

@Davidovalle305 tweeting all the latest in Escobar/Estefan jury. We'll be the second to let you know if and when there is a verdict. 

See You In Court. 





Saturday, March 16, 2013

THE IDES OF MARCH

The jury in the re-trial of Dennis Escobar, accused of killing City of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan in 1989 resumes a fourth day of deliberations Monday. 


What a lawyer says: THE RACE CARD?
To recap the controversy in yesterday's blog post and comments, readers are on both sides of the Assistant Public Defender's opening statement, and description of two men who shot the defendant after he tried to run them over with his pick-up truck:

“two young hip hop punks.”

The race card? We think not. To us, that describes, as a good trial strives to do,  an attitude, perhaps a sense of lawlessness or dangerous associated with unruly teenagers or young men. To us, race has little to do with that.  Is it a stereotype? Sure. Just like in the 1960's or 1970's one could have described someone as a "drugged out, long haired hippy" (notwithstanding the fact that many of those hippies are now hedge fund managers with mansions in Connecticut).  In the 1950's one could have used the description  "leather jacketed greaser". 

The point is that the PD was trying to convey to the jury that his client had a sense of fear based on what he was seeing and the attitude the complaining witnesses were conveying. 

Should people act on how others look? Of course not. The essence of any "ism" (sexism, racism, etc) is making judgments on appearances.  But the fact is that not only are we humans with eyes, but the self defense jury instruction ALLOWS for the lawful  decisions to use force based on appearances (and not actual danger).  Florida criminal trial lawyers know that in Florida, the danger must not have been real, but must only have appeared to have been real to the individual who claims to have acted in self defense. 

Thus, Florida law allows for a defense based on evidence of how someone felt about another based on how they looked and acted. And in that regard the phrase "young hip hop punks" is lawful and proper in an opening statement.  Race inevitably rears its head when the witnesses and defendant are of different races. But that doesn't mean the lawyer "played the race card". 

Enjoy a beautiful South Florida spring weekend. 


Thursday, March 14, 2013

POPE DAY ONE-DELIBERATIONS DAY TWO

Thursday saw the first full day of the Papacy of Francis I and the second day of deliberations of Judge Firtel's jury in the case involving the re-trial of the homicide of City of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan.

The Pope started his day by celebrating a Mass at 8am and then foregoing his limousine and security detail and taking the bus first to his hotel where he stayed before the Conclave and checking out after settling his bill (no video on demand charges we assume) and then walking across the street to meet school children and tourists. 

Judge Firtel started his day with the read back of hours and hours of testimony from the trial. According to David Ovalle on his twitter feed (@davidovalle305) the day ended with the read back of testimony not complete. 

So who had a better day?

Certainly not defendant Luis  Gonzalez who was convicted of aggravated assault with prejudice (the hate crime enhancement) as a lesser of the charge of attempted second degree murder with prejudice. Ovalle's article in the Herald is here.  ASAs Breezye Telfair and Manolo Reboso notch the win while veteran Assistant Public Defender David Sisselman and APD Maria Della Guardia get the lesser.  Judge Rodriguez-Chomat gets to sentence the defendant after the PSI is completed. UPDATE: Several alert readers pointed out to us the difference the lesser included makes: the defendant's potential sentence drops from life with a 30 year minimum mandatory to 30 with a 10 year mm. A big difference. The PDs saved this man from life in prison. On a different but related note: is there any charge more over used (and over charged) then attempted murder? 

So goes another day and week in our REGJB. 

See you in court. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

HABEMUS PAPAM

We have a Pope!

He is Pope Francis I, formerly the archbishop of Argentina- Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Pope Francis is the first Pope from the western hemisphere, the first Pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit Pope,  and he seems to have been the  consensus alternate choice  after Cardinal Scola of Milan- the first choice of Cardinals looking for a radical outsider to shake things up and Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil - the archetypical Vatican insider who is a part of the Curia and would have represented a status quo pick.

With both the ultimate insider and ultimate outsider not acceptable to a majority of the Cardinals at the Conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio, who was rumored to have been runner up to Pope Benedict in the last conclave,  quickly became consensus alternate choice. 

Meanwhile as the Cardinals were arriving at their choice for a Pope,  ace Herald reporter @Davidovalle305 was live tweeting the closing arguments of both sides in the re-trial of the case involving the murder of City Of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan. The jury has been sent home for the day and deliberations resume tomorrow.  All in all it was a busy and fun day if you were monitoring twitter. 

See You In Court. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

GIDEON DEAD AT 50: AN OBITUARY




For those of you who are casual or non-esq readers of the blog, or for those of you who wear a black robe to work, the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright established the foundation for ensuring that every criminal defendant facing incarceration is provided competent counsel for his or her defense. In other words, Gideon breathed life into the 6th Amendment. 

Justice Hugo L. Black, wrote the opinion for the Court in Gideon. Black wrote  in another case that ''there can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.''


The petitioner in Gideon-Clarence Earl Gideon- was prosecuted in Florida. A Florida prosecution was the genesis for the case that set the standard for representation of the indigent. Which makes the situation in Florida all the more ironic and troubling. 

In 2003 the NY Times interviewed Bruce Jacob, the lawyer who represented Florida against Gideon and his right to counsel:
''I hoped that legislatures would meet the challenge,'' Jacob wrote. ''That was at a time in my life when I still believed that legislators want to do the right thing. . . . The record of the courts in fulfilling the hopes represented by Gideon is a dismal one.''

Little did Mr. Jacob know what the Florida Legislature had in store for indigent defendants. 

Last year Florida enacted, and Dade County implemented, the "Limited Registry" which represented the final death blow against the decision in Gideon and the 6th amendment right to counsel for indigent defendants. 

The Limited Registry capitalized on tough economic times for lawyers. Lawyers who signed up  had to sign a contract signing away their rights to ever ask for more money on a case. Once they accepted appointment, based on the level of the felony- no matter how complicated the facts of the individual case was- they agreed to a flat fee- NO MATTER WHAT. 

And just to give you an idea of the level of that flat fee- the fee for handling murder cases, which are usually the largest and most complicated cases in our criminal state court system, where the penalty upon conviction is  life without parole, is ....steady yourself......$2,000.00!

So pick a basic inner city/gun violence murder.  Generally you might have a prosecution witness list of two dozen officers, crime scene technicians, a medical examiner, a firearms/ballistics/gunshot residue expert,  and perhaps a few civilian eyewitnesses. Twenty five witnesses, assume the attorney deposes half for an hour each and spends another hour reading and notating each of the depos once they are transcribed. 

Figure  few hundred pages of police reports that will require another five to ten hours to read and notate, five hours of case law research and a minimum of twenty- one hour visits with the client. So far without stepping into court the attorney has spent 60 hours: 2000/60= $33.33 per hour. 
Court appearance, preparation for motions, and discussions with the prosecution would be a minimum of another 20 hours (more likely 40, but lets assume 20.) Now if the attorney is diligent and gets a witness list from his client and investigates it- or investigates an alternate theory of defense- diminished capacity, self defense, etc.,  the figure quickly reaches 100 hours or $20/hour- or less than a well qualified legal assistant the attorney might employ- and certainly less than the attorney pays his/her  plumber or car mechanic. 

Very successful attorneys who want to handle a murder case every few years as a semi-pro bono endeavor could afford such rates. But that is not the makeup of the Limited Registry. The Limited Registry is comprised of attorneys who have made an economic calculation that by quickly settling most of their cases before they do a lot of legal work, they can squeak out a profit. 

Let's say that again slowly: the Limited Registry provides an economic incentive for attorneys to 1) not fully investigate cases; 2) quickly settle those cases. 

Put aside a murder case and focus on an armed robbery case or an armed burglary or a sexual battery case (where the flat fee is less and $2,000.00)  where the plea offers can often start at 50 years. The attorney spends a few hours, takes one or two depos, the prosecution witnesses get a little edgy and the plea offer is reduced to 20 or even 15 years  and the defendant takes it. Except s/he is innocent, but so poor and perhaps of such limited intelligence that they cannot refute the logic that 15 is better than 50. 

Let the Florida legislators  waste 15 years of their life in prison for a crime they didn't commit. Let some Florida legislator try and deal with a Limited Registry attorney representing their mildly mentally impaired 19 year old son on a sexual battery charge he didn't commit- where all the attorney wants to do is close the case quickly. Then lets see how they feel about the Limited Registry. 

But since that won't happen, we are stuck with watching the corpse of Gideon rot in a stinking mess in our courtrooms every day. 

We are forced as Judges and Lawyers to turn away from the spectacle of the Sixth Amendment writhing on our dirty courtroom floors as it gasps for air. It's as if we are a pedestrian who sees someone hit by a car and rather than rendering aid we quickly duck into a Starbucks and pretend we didn't witness an accident.  

The Limited Registry turns what should be a great justice system into a Henry Ford assembly line, where the Limited Registry attorneys are semi-skilled line workers feeding their clients into the maw of assembly line "justice" (read: prison). 

Gideon is dead. And we helped killed it by our silence=complicity. 

RIP. 

Post Script:
The situation in Florida's misdemeanor courts are even worse. According to the recent  NY Times article on Gideon last week:
In 21 counties in Florida in 2010, 70 percent of misdemeanor defendants pleaded guilty or no contest — at arraignments that averaged less than three minutes.
Try getting a job these days with even a misdemeanor record, not to mention qualifying for a mortgage or a credit card. The American dream is being lost to an assembly line criminal justice system meting out fines, court costs, and criminal records to unrepresented defendants at a record pace. 




Friday, March 08, 2013

CONCLAVE SET

SUNDAY UPDATE: Don't forget to "spring ahead" or you will show up in court tomorrow an hour late (or just when your favourite robed reader ambles on the bench). 

The College of Cardinals in the Vatican have set next Tuesday to begin their conclave to select the new Pope. "Conclave" means "with key" and the Cardinals will be locked in the Sistine Chapel to begin deliberations for the new Pope. The Conclave will begin with the traditional words "Extra Omnes" ("everybody out!"). Prior to the Conclave the Cardinals will hear two sermons that are supposed to deal with the state of the Church.   On Tuesday morning the Cardinals will first gather in Saint Peter's Basilica to celebrate the Eucharist. In the afternoon the Cardinals will then gather in the Pauline Chapel in the Palace of the Vatican before  they move in procession to the Sistine Chapel while singing "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Miami has the Dolphins, the greatest football team....") 

The Cardinal Camerlengo (the Chamberlin) takes possession of the Pope's Ring of the Fisherman and the Papal seal and destroys both before the College Of Cardinals. In earlier times the Cardinal Camerlengo would gently strike the head of the dead pope three times with a silver hammer to prove to the College that the Pope was dead. 

More on procedure next Tuesday. 

Our predictions: If the next Pope is Italian, Angelo Scola (no relation to our federal judge Bob as far as we know) who is the Archibishop of Milan is a dynamic choice. Eight years ago he was one of the principal contenders. Con: he is 71 and the Cardinals are looking for a Pope in his early 60's. His time may have passed. 

The first black Pope could well be Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana. He is the perfect age at 63. He is considered a leader among the College of Cardinals and is an excellent communicator. Africa (along with South America) is quickly overtaking the Euro-Centric Catholic Church. Con: Africa is seen as more disconnected from the Church then South America. But Cardinal Turkson is a legitimate superstar among the Cardinals and is well liked and greatly admired. 

The first Pope from Latin America was almost Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio,  who was probably the runner up in 2005. But at age 75 he might well be viewed as having missed his chance. 

Cardinal Marc Ouellet from Canada is a strong choice. He is a humble man who speaks English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish fluently. Ouellet is the obvious choice of the new "Global" church. Con: There is no "hockey night" in the Vatican. 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines would be the first Asian Pope.  He is 55 years old and has over 123,000 "likes" on Facebook, making him the most active Papal Candidate on social media. Con: 55 is seen as a bit too young. 

Long shot: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has a radio show on the Sirius satellite network could be the first American Pope.  Pros: Dolan is a dyed in the wool conservative Catholic Cardinal cut from the same philosophical cloth as the former and now retired Pope. Cons: If the College is going to pick a Pope from North America, Dolan loses out to Canadian Ouellet every time. 

Beautiful weather "forced" us to take the day off Friday. Enjoy your spring weekend and don't forget to "spring ahead" your clocks on Sunday. Yup folks, we lose an hour of sleep this weekend. 



Thursday, March 07, 2013

WATCH THE SKIES

Bit of a slow blogging week for us. 

DOM reports that the Khan/Paki terrorist trial finally ended with a conviction against the single, albeit main defendant. 

Are you regularly checking Former 3rd DCA Chief Judge  (and former REGJB Judge) Juan Ramirez's appellate law update blog? You should. 

A divorce case with the following attorneys/law firms: Akerman, Senterfitt, Former Justice Gerald Cope, Maury Kutner and Cynthia Greene, and if that wasn't enough- throw in an appearance by Boies, Schiller. All over a measly 160 million. Really guys, you can't find anything more interesting to fight about? See the 3rd DCA opinion in Schecter v. Schecter here.  (H/t South Florida and his minions.) 

What's occupying DC these days? The possible use of drone strikes on US citizens on US soil. It's coming folks. One day it will happen. And should it occur somewhere in the neighborhood of 12th street and 12th avenue, so much the better. 

A former mukety muck emailed us about the quality of private attorney representation versus public defenders. Here's the ABA article with the headline that murder defendants fare better with PDs than private lawyers. And based on the quality of representation we see- the headline is correct.  (H/t Muckety-Muck).

See you in court, watching the skies as we amble on it. 

Trivia: "Watch the skies" was the original working title for the movie ET. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

BATMAN

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead.....however.....
Batman is alive and well in our beloved England:











From the BBC:
West Yorkshire Police have released stills of the man dressed as Batman

A man dressed as the caped crusader Batman has handed over a wanted man at a Bradford police station before disappearing into the night.
Police said the costumed crime-fighter marched the 27-year-old man into Trafalgar House Police Station, in the early hours of 25 February.
The man was charged with handling stolen goods and fraud offences.
Police said: "The person who brought the man in was dressed in a full Batman outfit. His identity remains unknown."
Rumpole says:  Holy Yorkshire pudding, Batman. 


Monday, March 04, 2013

JURY VERDICT SHMURY VERDICT

UPDATE: Monday afternoon Judge Firtel denied the  motion to suppress in the Escobar murder trial. The argument and decision was today. Ovalle with the Herald has all the details here. 

The College Of Cardinals officially meets today in Rome to get the ball rolling. We can't get enough of this. 

SANCHEZ-LLORENS/RYCE CONTROVERSY
Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens has waded right into a Jimmy Ryce sexual predator controversy by refusing to release an infamous convicted Miami Dade Rapist although the jury split 3-3 on the civil commitment trial. The jury is instructed that a 3-3 split will result in the release of the convict. But Judge Sanchez-Llorens has issued some sort of JNOV ruling committing the offender. Attorney Andrew Rier for the defense. The Herald article by Ovalle is here. 

Query: Is the judge's decision an example of the ends justify the means? Or is there precedent for her decision because the trial is a civil trial as we understand it? Having never tried one of these cases, we are not possessed of the expert advice our readers have come to expect of us on these legal issues. 

Cold day starts off a hot week in court. Lots of cases popping. See You in Court, we're wearing the Homburg and mufflers. 


Saturday, March 02, 2013

STATE ATTORNEY INVESTED

It's cold and getting colder. Temps will dip into the 40's tonight. Bundle up. 

INVESTITURE: Whoops! We missed blogging about the investiture of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle who is serving a record fifth term. KFR's investiture was Friday February 15, 2013. We're certain our invitation was lost in the mail. Still, we wish her the best. 

Here is the SAO's email about the event:


Katherine Fernandez Rundle was sworn in for a record fifth term as Miami-Dade County's State Attorney on Friday, February 15, 2013. Hundreds of friends, supporters, office staff, elected officials, and other dignitaries attended the Investiture ceremony.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente administered the oath to State Attorney Fernandez Rundle and newly elected Chief Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Bertila Soto swore in her 300 prosecutors. The investiture ceremony took place at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Auditorium.

Dignitaries who took center stage alongside the State Attorney includedUnited States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wilfredo Ferrer, Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón, Chief Judge Bertila Soto, former United States Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Harvard Law Professor and noted author Alan M. Dershowitz, Jorge Plasencia, Chairman of the Board of the National Council of La Raza, City of Miami Gardens Police Chief and current President of the Chiefs of Police Matthew Boyd, and Reverend Carl Johnson, Pastor of the 93rd Street Baptist Church.

Women of Tomorrow Founder and television personality Jennifer Valoppi moderated the event and State Attorney Fernandez Rundle's fiancé, well-known attorney David Efron, and her son Justin, accompanied her onstage during the event.

"I feel exceptionally proud and honored to be embarking on a new term as Dade's chief prosecutor," commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "The faith that the voters have overwhelmingly shown in me is surpassed only by my desire to make my community a safer place to live and raise our families. I am so happy that my family, friends, and law enforcement partners joined me for this very special occasion."

Immediately after the ceremony, the attendees joined State Attorney Fernandez Rundle at a reception in the college courtyard.

Friday, March 01, 2013

SEDE VACANTE

Long time and careful readers of the blog know that nothing fascinates us more than the Conclave of Cardinals and election of a new Pope.  The former Pope having stepped down officially yesterday, the Church entered what is formally known as "Sede Vacante": "vacant seat". In this case the seat vacant is the Holy See. When the Pope resigns or dies, much more than the loss of a Pope occurs. The Church is guided in the Pope's absence by the College Of Cardinals. The Roman Curia  resigns when a Pope leaves office, although Papal diplomats still continue to represent the Vatican overseas, and the Cardinal who manages the Vatican properties and collects the rents  (the Cardinal Camerlengo) does not resign either. The Major Penitentiary- who is the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary- is the another of the three Vatican officials who do not resign during the Sede Vacante.  The MP is the official that has jurisdiction over the absolution of excommunication; the dispensation of sacramental impediments and the issuance and governance of Church Indulgences. The other fascinating thing about the MP is that if he is a member of the College of Cardinal Electors he is only one of three electors allowed to communicate with the outside world so as to allow him to discharge his duties. The other two Cardinal Electors who can communicate with the outside world during a conclave to elect a Pope are the Vicar of Rome and the Vicar of Vatican City. 
The Vatican issues a special postage stamp during these times: sede vacante stamps,  and the Coat of Arms of the Holy See changes: instead of the Papal Tiara over the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, there is an "Umbraculum" or a little umbrella over the Keys. 

All in all, it's a fascinating time. 

GOODBYE STEPHEN HARPER:
One of the very best Assistant Public Defenders has left the PDs office for a new career of teaching. They don't come any better than Steve Harper and this community was lucky to have such a talented and dedicated lawyer serving the community for over two decades. Good luck Steve. 

DOM is monitoring the Khan- Pakistani - terror trial deliberations. His blog covered some fascinating jury questions including whether the doctrine of separation of Church and State applied to the arrest of the Imam. Almost thirty years in this business and we still never can figure out exactly what a jury is thinking. 

Cool weekend coming up. Read the blog and stay warm