A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there was a young circuit court judge who had ascended to the circuit bench by winning a run-off election against an attorney with the unfortunate (for electoral reasons) name of Fritz Mann.
A candidate with the first name of "Fritz" just didn't play well amongst Miami's Jewish voters, so a young man named Philip S. Davis, was elected to the bench. Davis was known around the courthouse. He handled some criminal cases. He wasn't anything special, but then again, this is a judicial election we are talking about. So Davis beat Fritz Mann.
So much for name recognition in judicial races.
This was a time before the wheel, when any judge could appoint any lawyer on any number of cases. And did.
Then a darkness descended on the REGJB. A cabal of Judges engaged in selling their robes, and judicial appointments, for cash. A rogue lawyer named Ray Takeff became a federal informant. And in 1992- a year that will in REGJB infamy- Judges Sepe, Gelber, Davis, and Shenberg and former Judge David Goodhart were indicted in what is infamously known as "CourtBroom". Shenberg, in a sting, sold what he thought was the name of an informant that would be killed for $50,000.00. He was on video stuffing the money the FBI handed him down his pants exclaiming that it was hard to send a child to college on a judge's salary.
A slew of lawyers were also indicted.
Gelber flipped and went to prison. Shenberg was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years for conspiracy to commit murder. Sepe had some acquittals and a hung jury and eventually pled out. All the lawyers either pled or were convicted and went to prison.
But Davis was acquitted although he admitted to taking over $30,000.00 in bribes. A stirring closing argument by former federal judge (He was impeached- don't ask- this is Miami) Alcee Hastings (who is now a congressman. Don't ask. This is Miami) resulted in Davis being acquitted based on an entrapment defense. (Don't ask....)
"And David came to Bar-perazm and David smote them there; and he said: The Lord hath broken mine enemies before me."
Davis's complete acquittal was biblical in nature. He was on tape and as guilty as could be. But he had a second chance.
(Cue Darth Vader Music).
Then in 2005 Davis was arrested and charged in Miami state court with an organized scheme to defraud, and grand theft involving a charity and government funds. He went to trial in front of Judge B. Butchko (Darth Vader music) and was sentenced to a whole lot of prison time; lets just say his probation starts in 2030. The death star destroyed Alderaan. And Davis was launched. Deservedly so. He sold his robes and then stole from a charity. Enough is enough.
Until a little item crossed our path. Davis is back, with an evidentiary hearing on a rule 3.850 motion before our own Judge Milton Hirsch, who as a prominent defense attorney at the time, must have watched the proceedings- as we all did- with a sense of abject horror and fascination. There is a reset date in early December on Davis's 3.850 motion.
Davis wrought havoc and dishonor in this courthouse and the judiciary. He was often impaired on the bench. He said and did outrageous things on the bench, and humiliated defense attorneys and prosecutors alike, subject to his warped whimsy.
This is in all likelihood it for Phil Davis. He lost at trial and appeal and now the next fifteen years of his life hang by the thinnest of threads- a 3.850 petition.
His name evokes a dark era in the REGJB; when Judges sold their robes and office, and his colleagues stuffed money down their pants not caring that an informant would be killed. His fall from grace was breathtaking in its scope. He had it all. A secure job. Respect. Dignity. And even when given a second chance, he blew it for some easy cash, a charity be dammed.
The story of Phil Davis is a modern Shakespeare tragedy, in all it's ugly, gory, glory.
"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in our selves...."
Julius Caesar, Shakespeare.
See You In Court.
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