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

Monday, March 28, 2016

FORMER JUDGE AL SEPE DEAD AT 88

He was a renowned prosecutor, handling difficult murder cases, the famous jewel thief "Murph the Surf", and the infamous Mobster Meyer Lansky. 

He was appointed to the bench- the old Criminal Court of Record, resigned amid an allegation he propositioned the wife of a defendant (although, as David Ovalle's article indicates, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute), regained the bench as first a county court judge, and then appointed a circuit court judge, only to lose it all again in the great Miami judicial scandal known as Courtbroom. 

He had, to repeat the quote local attorney and former Judge Ted Mastos gave Ovalle in the Herald "More lives than Richard Nixon. He kept coming back." 

He was a certifiable REGJB courthouse legend, the good, the bad and the ugly. 



He was Alfonso Sepe. 

As an experienced prosecutor and then a judge, Judge Sepe was a mentor to many young attorneys, your humble blogger included. 

There was a lot to like about him. He looked like a tough prosecutor when he was prowling the halls of the REGJB. When he was on the bench, he looked like he had been plucked from a Hollywood movie about a judge. He carried himself like a judge, and as the Herald article points out here , he was an innovator in sentencing. 

But Al Sepe was all too human as well. 

In the end, Judge Sepe will answer to a higher court. Judge Sepe is the proof that while there are second acts in public life, there are  rarely third acts. 

His legacy is what you want to make of it. For many, it is one of wonderful heights, and the depths of hurt and betrayal. It is a constant reminder that even those who appear to be the best of us can be all too human. There is a lesson in that, somewhere. 

As a friend, we hope that he rests in peace. 

See you in court. 




20 comments:

CAPTAIN JUSTICE said...


REPRINTED, with permission from THE CAPTAIN:

Our humble blogger, The Captain, beat the Miami Herald to this story by a mere two and one half days. And as Rumpole writes so eloquently about the legacy Judge Sepe left behind, and suggests that "his legacy is what you want to make of it", I think that his real legacy is expressed so clearly below and reminds us that, while a successful career may be important to some, and becoming fabulously wealthy may be the measure for others, it's really simple when you measure the man by the legacy he leaves behind with his family; his children and grandchildren, to carry on and be even better persons contributing to society and giving back to others.

May Judge Sepe's soul rest in peace.



THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

JUDGE ALFONSO SEPE HAS PASSED AWAY ...... We received this in our in box:

Our dearest father, Judge Alfonso Sepe, passed away last night while surrounded by the love of his 16 grandchildren, children Arvi, Cindy, Kevin and Sonny, and wife Phyllis, other family members and some of our closest friends. Our dad was a brilliant man who was full of stories and accomplishments that impacted our family and community as he served as a lead prosecutor and then criminal court judge for our state for decades. But for us, his greatest accomplishment was how he created a family that is now full of love and commitment toward being with one another in those good times and in those not so good times. We love how he taught us to have courage, to have a healthy competitive spirit, to love public speaking and to love to learn. We will miss you, dad, so much, but you will always be in our hearts.

Cap Out .....


Saturday, March 26, 2016 9:06:00 AM

Anonymous said...

Back when Sepe was a judge, we picked juries without the judge there. Sepe would walk in after about 1 hour and ask why we were not done yet.

Things changed.

Rumpole said...

I'm making a decision here. We all know the negatives. The man just died. Save the vitriolic comments for a later date or another blog. There are a lot of nice memories as well. The negative stuff has been well documented. It you don't have anything decent to say in his memory, get a life and move on.

Anonymous said...

I was an ASA in his courtroom. He ran me ragged. But he taught me a lot. I did have enormous arguments in chambers about him not being present for jury selection. But that being said, he wasn't the only one doing it. It became a fad for while in the courthouse.
In the average case I found he usually tried to do the right thing and the humane thing. He taught me perspective. I also remember he wanted us- PDs and ASAs to call the calendar. He used to say to us that one day we would be a judge and we needed to learn how to handle a whole courtroom.
I was terribly hurt by what he did. I felt he let me down and let us all down. But I remember the good times with him and his decency to the average person.

Fred Robbins said...

When I became a prosecutor in Miami, Judge Sepe was the first Judge I was assigned to. He was bigger than life, and yet he treated the people in his court with great respect and understanding. He made us want to be the best lawyer we could. Terry McWilliams and I were the prosecutors. Roy Black and Jack Denaro were the public defenders. It was an incredible experience practicing before him with such great lawyers. When arguing a case you would always look for his sign of approval. He was a wonderful man and my condolences go out to his family.
-Fred Robbins

Kenneth Weisman said...

I have very fond memories of Judge Sepe. He frequently used language or sayings that I heard growing up from my Father. I was arguing a Motion to Reduce Bond in a Trafficking case and I guess I pushed too hard and he accused me (smiling) of "trying to jackpot him". Classic Sepe.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is dropping like flies.

Anonymous said...

Twice, not once, Judge Al Milian was criticized for giving people the max of 180 days for contempt. Both defendants swore and immediately apologized. They used the word "shit."

Al has a history of having a bad temper. Looks like he hasn't learned shit. Funny, Al didn't get jail time when he punched a defense lawyer or when he called jurors zombies and morons for voting the other way.

Read the two 3rd DCA cases: Twine v. State, 3D15-2495 and Gem v. State, 3D15-2126.

By the way, Leslie Rothenberg wrote the opinion saying the sentence was not fair but, not reversible. You know you are one inch short of Hitler when Leslie says you're overdoing the sentence. The other opinion was written by Emas. He too, is no buddy of the defense side.

Al was also sure to make the sentences consecutive too.

Phil R said...

I was one of those young lawyers Judge Sepe went out of his way to train. I have several nice memories, but two stick out: First, he could never pronounce my last name and decided to call me Reizen-shine and he always said it with a smile.

Second- as a young prosecutor I had a defendant who had several probation violations. We started the first one, I asked the judge to swear in the defendant and have him admit he was the person placed on probation. The defense objected. Sepe asked me for a response. I was reduced to mumbling that I had a piece of paper the state attorneys office handed out on how to do PVHs and that's what it said. Objection sustained. PVH dismissed. Next one set for tomorrow. I came back the next day. We began. I made the same request. Same objection. Sepe asks me for a response and I cite case law allowing me to do it, where it turns out he was the prosecutor on the case. He smiled. Objection overruled and he said to me "Now you're thinking like a lawyer."

Lesson learned. Rest in peace Judge.

Roy Black said...

I spent the first three years of my legal career in Al Sepe's courtroom. I was an assistant public defender right out of law school with little to no experience defending clients in jury trials. However I soon had more than a lifetime's worth of experience. Sepe ran his courtroom like one of those Roman Triremes, the oar-driven galley slave ships last seen in Beh-Hur, with him liberally exercising the whip. I once tried three jury trials in a week. He would work to 11 to 12 to even 1 am, then start all over at 8 the next morning. It was exhausting but the experience made it all worth it. Al had been a great trial lawyer and was a fair judge despite his 15 years as an assistant state attorney. The five years I spent as a public defender are indelible in my psyche. It would be impossible to do today. I started a murder case my second day on the job. Somehow the client was acquitted but solely through beginner's luck. I just found out about his death from H.T. Smith another Sepe disciple who now heads the prestigious FIU trial advocacy program. I have to be in federal court at the same time as Al's funeral so I can't say a final goodbye. Sad but ironic. I wish for Al to RIP and his family be comforted by remembering the life he created.

Steven Bustamante said...

When I was an ASA I had jury duty in from of Judge Sepe. Rob Malove was the PD and Leslie Rothenberg was the prosecutor.

Malove wanted to keep me. Leslie said, correctly that I couldn't possibly be a juror. Judge Sepe excused me, very kindly saying that it wasn't because I couldn't be fair.

Leslie got a conviction and they tried to reverse it because Sepe had said that I, a prosecutor would be fair, thereby prejudicing the jury pool in favor of the state!

Anyway, I got mentioned in the opinion. I don't think that ever happened before or since. I can thank Al Sepe for that.

David S Markus said...

My condolences to the family of Judge Sepe. His son Kevin was my neighbor, and I know how much he must be hurting over the death of his father.
I met Judge Sepe when I was in 6th grade and he was Assistant State Attorney Sepe. He came to my school for career day and talked about what a privilege it was to serve the community as a prosecutor. He piqued my interest in the law and I knew then that one day I would be an ASA. His passion for the law and doing justice as a prosecutor inspired me. He said that the decisions a prosecutor made determined whether justice was served in a particular case, and that those decisions changed lives forever. I never forgot that day, and years later, when I was a prosecutor, I often reflected on the lesson he taught me that day.
Many years later, brought this same sentiment to the bench. Judge Sepe had a defendant who had thrown out a refrigerator without removing the door. Tragically, a child who was playing in the refrigerator got trapped inside and died. Everyone was screaming for blood.The defendant was a decent guy who had never been in trouble before. Judge Sepe recognized that he was a guy who used poor judgement that accidentally caused a death, not a criminal who needed to be sent to prison. He sentenced him to probation with the special condition that he find other refrigerators that had been similarly discarded, so that another tragedy could be averted. I thought his sentence showed courage, creativity and vision. Of course, this was pre-guidelines, when judges were allowed to be judges, think outside the box, and use their judgement and life experience to craft a sentence that fit the crime.
RIP, you will be missed.

the trialmaster said...

As a young lawyer I tried a number of cases before Judge Sepe in his courtroom on the 4th floor. He often tried to have a jury picked giving each side 15 minutes. When I needed a continuance I would tell him he "looked pale". He would grant the continuance and go over to then Cedars to see his cardiologist. I recall his calendars, Al Goodman would have a case and Sepe would stop the calendar and ask AL, a magician (and Warlock) to perform a magic trick, which he would. It was never dull in Sepe"s court. I recall a murder case in which the woman defendant hired some hit men to kill her husband. Her motive was " he was old, pale and didn't have sex with her anymore". Al called a sidebar and told us that if that was the motive "then all of the male judges on the floor were at risk of being a victim as well. She was acquitted by a jury. Despite his issues, (most of the judges then had similar issues) he mentored many young attorneys. When he returned to private practice he was dynamic as a defense attorney. I will miss him and am saddened by his death. Anyone who crossed his path certainly will never forget him. May he RIP and his fine family be proud of the overall man that he was......

Ric Margolius said...

Back in 1988 Al and I were both County Court Judges and together came out of the JNC as nominees for Circuit Court. I called REG, in whose office I had also worked, seeking his support. Mr. G and I had a good relationship. He always seemed to enjoy my sense of humor. He told me he was committed to Al but would support mr for the next one. I got up enough nerve to ask Mr. G how he could support someone who had previously resigned a judgeship in disgrace. He simply said, "I owe Al". Sure enough Al got the appointment from Gov. Bob Martinez. Mr. G. kept his word, supported me on the next go-around and I was appointed. When the facts were ultimately revealed in Operation Court Broom and Al's involvement, it broke Mr. G's heart. He died shortly thereafter. Notwithstanding R.I.P.

Rumpole said...

Roy Black, Retired Judge Ric Margolius, David Markus, Fred Robbins, Steve and Phil. These are all wonderful remembrances of a Judge who had a very significant impact on the legal careers of many many lawyers. This is what this blog is all about. Thank you one and all.

Anonymous said...

I can't help it. I've already posted but I just have so many memories of my time as new "C" ASA before Judge Sepe, Like Roy and Fred have said, it was trial by fire. Lots of work, lots of innovative sentences. He truly had a good heart. When I was transferred out of his division he pulled me aside and told me "If you ever have a problem, you come to me first." He made me feel like a part of his extended legal family. The people he cultivated and mentored at the courthouse. And indeed, I did screw up a case and went to him and he knew just what to do and the problem went away.

I was truly shaken over his downfall. I missed him not being around, I missed having him as someone I could turn to who had my back. Over these years I have thought about him often and always wanted to make contact with him.

I pray for him and his family. He was a big part of my formative years as a young lawyer during the drug cowboy days. Those were wild times.

Jeannie Evans said...

I was one of Judge Sepe's court reporters. I trained in his courtroom fresh out of court reporting school. He treated me as a seasoned veteran. He gave me and built my confidence, which is what you needed in a fast-paced courtroom like his in Miami. As a court reporter in his courtroom, you had to know, without his stating it, how and when you were to report. He made me love this career. Working with him was the best experience I could have ever encountered. I will never forget him and never forget how strong a woman I am today because of him and how he impacted me professionally as a young adult. We remained friends a short time after his leaving the bench. I was saddened to hear of his passing. I wish his family the best as they go through this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

But it's OK for Margolius to back-handedly dump on Sepe. You're something else, Rump.

Anonymous said...

Crazy Ric could not carry Sepe's robe. All Ric could do in the way of judicial temperament was to yell "SHUTUP" as loud as he could while he was on the bench.

Seth Sklarey said...

I had the privilege of being Al Sepe's campaign manager in his successful comeback bid to the court in 1984.
It was the most interesting, innovative and unusual campaigns I had ever participated in.
Despite having to overcome several overwhelmingly negative allegations against him, we managed to convince the voters that "Sepe was something Special" and that became the campaign slogan.
One time we were campaigning in Overtown and were surrounded by a non-smiling group of rough looking characters. Sepe introduced himself. First guy says, I know who you are, you put me in jail." Second guy says, "You put me in jail, too." Third guy says, "Me too."
Sepe, quick on his feet, as ever, asked "Did I treat you fairly?" All three acknowledged that he did, that they had been guilty and that they would support his campaign even though they couldn't vote. True story.