Where in the world was Rumpole on Thursday?
If you said "The Constitution Cafe" located in the Ferguson Federal Courthouse (and there is no motto "abandon hope all ye who enter here" above the entrance- you just need the proper counsel) you would be correct.
This is a story about communication. Or the lack thereof.
The federal government can send a spacecraft to Mars which is approximately 249 million miles away. They can send messages to the spacecraft telling it to stop or turn or dig or tweet to president elect Trump.
We've been to the moon. We saw Armstrong live as he stepped on the moon.
Any grade school child can text, tweet, email, facebook, snap, or use any other method of communication on their $99 dollar cell phone to speak to anyone, or everyone, in the world.
In short we live in the era of instantaneous digital communication. Some of it is truly miraculous. Doctors at John Hopkins can diagnose and treat a patient in Africa using facetime.
BUT- the federal court system- the judges, the prosecutors and the clerks, cannot coordinate the simple signature of a person on a piece of paper electronically. The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the indicted.
It was Thursday, December 29, 2016. The day broke warm and early in Miami. The cold front that has swept the country had not yet poked its icy fingers to the southern tip of Florida. Sweat glistened on our brow as we trudged from the garage to the King building at the start of our odyssey.
More than a week ago a Federal Magistrate Judge set a simple bond for a client. A few people sign as personal sureties, and a modest sum of cash is to be deposited into the registry of the court. A Nebbia requirement (literally in latin "make it take an extra day") was imposed.
First, let's play Find the AUSA. To be fair, the dedicated prosecutor was working, and a few phone calls and a quick review of some mortgages and bank statements and we had a Nebbia stipulation.
We call the Magistrate. "We don't do bonds" is the message we get (from the hopefully new) clerk. "Call the Mag section". Which we do. "Is the bond signed?"
R- "No". Clerk- "why are you calling us then?"
Back to the Magistrate. But we don't call. We walk to chambers. We get in and we get a signature. So far so good. But let's stop for a moment.
Why can't we file the paperwork? Have the AUSA approve it electronically. Have the Court approve it electronically. And then have the clerk's process it?
Oh, wait. This isn't an easy thing- like sending a super-sonic missile into a window of a building eleven thousand miles away with the navigation being done by satellite and from a submarine 800 feet under water. These are papers to be signed at various places all within a four square block area.
We loosen our tie and walk to the Atkins Building and go the Mag section. Clerk- "Have you deposited the money?" Rumpole- "right" and we leave.
We walk across the street to the Ferguson courthouse. We go to eight. We take a picture of the empty Constitution Cafe and then we walk into the Financial Section of the Clerk's office.
A rather severe woman scans our papers. She frowns. She makes several disturbing noises. She grumbles. She demands the funds, which we produce. "Oh no no no no no. This is not a bank's cashier's clerk check issued by the bank of South Dakota. Those are the only funds we receive."
No- she didn't say that- but almost.
She eyes us suspiciously. We fill out some IRS forms. Apparently the government will now will be deducting a "clerk's fee" from our Trust account from now on. Or something like that. We stopped reading at page 11.
Copies are made and handed back to us with a receipt that if read carefully also provides for 25% off all Kimberly-Clark paper products at Target on Tuesdays.
"Back to the Magistrate Section at Atkins" she says. We look over her shoulder. The courthouse and clerk's office is about three football fields away. Granted it would take the Dolphins several hours to cover the distance, but still.
"You can't send those documents to the Magistrate section?"
Remember that scene in Oliver when he is eating his gruel and says "Please, sir, may I have some more?"
You get the idea.
We trudge across the street, back to Atkins, back to the Mag section, and by 12:30, we accomplished the following- One signature of a nice AUSA; one signature of a bored Magistrate; one signature of a financial section clerk; about five pieces of paper signed and filed. And all it took about (according to our fit-bit) 7,655 steps, and four and one half hours- all within the confines of a half a square mile.
A few hours later a grateful family called to report the release and return of their loved one- never- since they have hired proper counsel- to return to FDC.
Happy New Years.
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