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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

There's so many scary things going on in the world today, sometimes it's nice to just take a break and have a piece of candy. 



Halloween comes from the Celtic festival Samhain. Which means that the holiday is an  Irish one.  

Coming tomorrow: a scary verdict for a lawyer in a Bar case. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

THE GREATEST LAWYER

In  speech earlier this month to a Chicago law school, Supreme Court Justice Kagan called Thurgood Marshall (for whom she clerked) "the greatest lawyer of the twentieth century...no one did more to advance justice."

High praise indeed. 

It's the "advance justice" portion of the quotation that has us wondering. 

Marshall was a top-notch appellate advocate and as Kagan stated, he was also a very good trial lawyer- a skill that is oft not considered when looking at Marshall's career. 


Lee Bailey and Edward Bennett Williams and Gerry Spence were  better trial lawyers in the 20th century than Marshall, but one cannot say they did more  to advance the cause of justice. And as Kagan pointed out, Marshall went into courts and trials in the south often under the threat of death. So Marshall faced obstacles Bailey and Williams and Spence never faced. 

And finally, we tend to look through the lense of "greatest lawyer" as "greatest trial lawyer" but that's like saying the greatest doctor must be a surgeon. 

So, query: Who was a "greater" lawyer than Marshall in the 20th century? 

From Occupied America, where the downfall of a president could have started with the indictments today (we can only hope), fight the power!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

KIDS ARE PEOPLE TOO

UPDATE: AND THE SIGNS ARE DOWN. Well done Judge, Well done indeed. 
While many who wear black robes may disagree, judges aren't perfect. But they need to strive to be. The measure of a judge is not that they may make an (innocent-pun intended) mistake, but whether they are intelligent and honest enough to admit it and correct it. 

Coming soon (maybe) (New Judge) bans defense attorneys from trials. Says they "just slow down the process."

----


There's something about new judges that causes them to lose common sense. 
Some new judges decide that by picking juries at 8pm and forcing attorneys to do opening statements at midnight will somehow give them a good reputation. 
For many new judges there is something irresistible about banning people from their courtroom. They just  love to do it. 
And for those judges who love to ban people from their courtroom, children are their top targets. Why these judges are so offended by a child entering a courtroom is beyond us. But as sure as fall follows summer, some new judge will take the bench and start littering the doors of their courtroom with signs banning all sorts of people. 
Of course, it's against the law. Florida courtrooms are open to all and can only be closed after following a specific procedure that requires, inter alia, notice to the media. 

So it comes as no surprise that some new judge has done it again. This time, it's the denizen of 2-10. 

Before we make a BIG BIG issue of this, we ask one of two things: either the judge explain to us via email why they feel they have the right to ban any particular class of people from a courtroom in the State of Florida and the United States of America? We promise to print the email unedited, including any curse words, if they send it. 

Or they can make life easy and take the stupid signs down. 

If anyone wants to take their children to any courtroom in the State of Florida and have them observe proceedings, they have an almost absolute right to do so. And of course, such a block-headed sign shows absolutely no understanding for the defendant who is a single parent of say a two month old infant and has no access to child care and has a notice to appear for an arraignment. 

Why punish children? Why punish parents of children? And why, when we already live in a society where the president attacks the rights of news media to question public officials,  does a judge turn a courtroom- a sacred place of liberty and justice- into a place of fear, where children are banned? 

At least once a month  we are approached by someone in a hallway who timidly asks us if they are allowed in a courtroom? We respond: "This is the United States of America- of course you can go into any courtroom you want."
Except now there is one judge who wants to make sure a child doesn't dare enter their little fiefdom. 

So, do you really want to be known as a judge who bans children? A judge who builds a proverbial wall excluding the best, the most innocent, and most precious parts of our society from a hallowed place of justice? 
Really Judge? You want to be known as the "child-banning" judge? 

We see so many judges take time to welcome children into their courtroom and make them feel at home. Former Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom lined the walls of her courtroom with pictures children had drawn of what justice meant to them. No wonder Judge Bloom is now a federal judge.  Perhaps you could speak to some of your colleagues, or a therapist, and identify where this anger (or fear) of a small child comes from?

Because the sign bespeaks of an authoritarian bent where the courtroom belongs to you and not the public. And we all know that is not true. 

From Occupied America, where we love children, Fight the Power. 

GRIECO: I DIDN'T DO NUTTIN




While the case of former and embattled Miami Beach commissioner Michael Grieco is closed, he is maintaining his innocence as this Miami Herald Article reveals:

After a court appearance in which he did not admit guilt, Grieco told the Miami Herald he had no idea that two of his friends — Coconut Grove real estate broker Tony Rodriguez-Tellaheche and Norwegian millionaire Petter Smedvig Hagland — were planning to worm foreign money into his secretive political fundraising group. Only people with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency can contribute to American elections. Hagland, scion of a wealthy oil family, is a Norwegian citizen.

The only thing missing from the plea/denial dance that went on yesterday was Grieco calling the plea, the allegations, and the prosecution "fake news". 

From Occupied America, where Floatopia is most certainly not fake news, Fight The Power. Never admit. Never talk. Never plead. Go to trial. 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

GRIECO CASE CLOSED







Observers reported that it was not that nearly dramatic, nor poignant, nor bittersweet, as Michael Grieco signed the rights waiver former and answered the plea colloquy questions from Judge Sam Slom in a clear and steady voice on Tuesday morning. Hours before arriving at court, Grieco, as required by his plea agreement, resigned as City Commissioner for Miami Beach, perhaps ending a promising political career. 
And perhaps not. 
Because adjudication was withheld, and all the plea agreement requires is that Grieco not run for office during the time he is on probation. 
Stranger things have happened. 

And perhaps with an eye to the future, Grieco sent out this email to his supporters. We just have one question: What is "Floatopia" and why did Grieco battle against it? 



Monday, October 23, 2017

GRIECO TO PLEAD TO MISDEMEANOR

Former ASA, current criminal defense attorney and Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Grieco will plead guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor count of a state campaign finance law. He will serve one year probation. 
The Herald went live with this story at about 9:45 pm:

One source with knowledge of the investigation said Grieco, a criminal defense attorney, will plead to one misdemeanor count of accepting a political donation disguised through a straw donor, a violation of state campaign finance law. As part of the plea deal, he will submit his resignation at City Hall on Tuesday morning before going to Miami-Dade criminal court. He will receive one year of probation during which time he will not be able to run for public office. Grieco will also pay the costs associated with the state attorney’s public corruption investigation.
Grieco, a former assistant state attorney, was investigated by the same office that once employed him. He resigned from the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office in 2006 after an ethical misstep — he was accused of using his position as the prosecutor on a high-profile case to promote his side job as a weekend nightclub disc jockey.


HIJACKED

For those of you bored enough to ponder civil law and who have recently checked out the South Florida Lawyers civil blog,  we have learned that the blog has been Hi-Jacked and is being held hostage. 

You see, if you give someone your log-on credentials, they can log on and change the password. And then you, as the owner, are locked out. 

Meanwhile, for our less gullible readers, we offer this business opportunity which involves the tragic death of a Nigerian business owner, and the offer of 50% of the proceeds of the recovery of 37 million dollars being held by the Bank of Canada in Nigeria. 

What Rumpole is Reading:
We were pleased to see the release of two wonderful biographies by two accomplished biographers this past week. Grant, by Ron Chernow, who has also written biographies of Alexander Hamilton and Geo. Washington. And Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, whose last subject was Steve Jobs. 

Fun fact: Grant's given name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. When Grant's father asked his congressman to nominate Grant for a spot at West Point, the application was inexplicably filled out for Ulysses S Grant. When Grant arrived at West Point, his name on the board was U. S. Grant, which caused his classmates to nickname him "Uncle Sam", shortened to Sam Grant, which is how he was known to his classmates forever more. 

From Occupied America, where Chief Justice Chase wrote in Texas v. White  that "the Constitution in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States", fight the power!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

SUNDAY DOLPHINS GAME

UPDATE: After a late Jets-McCown INT in Fins territory, the home team kicked a 35 YD FG, to win the game after the Dolphins came back to score the last 17 points after being 14 points down with Matt Moore, the back-up to the back-up leading the team. The view here is that Moore has won the starting QB Job. Cutler is a stiff who needs to retire.  

The real story here today however is the reprehensible condition of the field which saw innumerable players slip and fall.  The footing was akin to a December game in Chicago on a frozen field. Shameful. 


We will do  a little live blogging from todays game against the J...E...T...S Jets Jets Jets from the luxury suite where we are enjoying the game. Pardon us a moment while we try some of the lobster...

Currently the Fins are down 14-7 and it looks ugly. 

Query: When did football become synonymous with patriotism? Despite the kneeling controversy, the NFL works to make a connection between soldiers overseas and football. What if you're a football fan who is a pacifist?  It all has the feel of fake jingoism with a twist of xenophobia. It's not pleasant and it takes away from the game. We get the feeling that if some fan, sitting and sweating in the stands, didn't stand during the anthem or during some patriotic mini-event during a commercial, it would get ugly. And shouldn't politics be a refuge from sports and not a continuation thereof? 

Isn't it time to do away with the playing of the National Anthem before every sporting event? Maybe if we played it less, it wouldn't be taken for granted and would be given more respect. Just a thought. 

We highly recommend the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2015 reserve, with shellfish. 

With six minutes left, QB Matt Moore has hit WR Kenny Stills twice for tying TDs. The first was nullified by a flagrant offensive pass interference, but the second was good and props to Moore and the Fins for fighting back from two TDs down. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

BLACK TUESDAY

Tuesday of this week will forever be known henceforth as "Black Tuesday" judging (pun intended) from the moaning, groaning and shocking movement of judges in and out of the REGJB pending the New Year. 

For example, Judge Richard Hersch was said to be beside himself (and not in a good way) with his pending assignment to Juvenile in the new year. Ditto Judge Pooler. 

Some judges are calling it a massacre. Others could just be heard weeping softly into their cafe-con-leche's Wednesday morning. 
The loss of these judges along with De La O and Rudy Ruiz, along with the loss of Judge Colodny who already went to probate (Probate???) recently, means that the REGJB has suffered and will suffer a substantial talent drain. 

The list is below:
(btw that new judge "vacancy" listed as going to Juvie could well be the best of the bunch. Guaranteed not to screw anything up.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

YOUR NEW FEDERAL COURT JUDGE

Your new federal court judge may just come from the following Miami State court judges who have applied and think they have the right stuff for Federal Court (Motto:        " The benefits include: Really big chambers; the guidelines are advisory; no idiot can run against you") 

Antonio Arzola (Former Fred Moreno Clerk)

Mark Blumstein (Not been on bench long enough to find his parking spot)

Betty Butchko (Former ASA)

John Kastrenakis*

Peter Lopez (Well respected judge, often spoken of as Fed Material) 

Migna Sanchez-Llorens (Former Fed PD)

Orlando Prescott (Former ASA, distinguished himself as Administrative Judge in Juvenile Court)

Thomas Rebull

Rudy Ruiz (Making very positive impressions during his short time on the bench)

Rodney Smith (Former ASA, very compelling personal story and journey to becoming a Judge)

John Thornton (Not his first federal rodeo, Fred Moreno connection which is not something to be overlooked)

Daryl Trawick (Former AUSA)


*Judge Kastrenakis sits in West Palm Beach, but he is a former Dade ASA, Former Southern District AUSA, and rumored to be a reader of the blog, so we include him in the list. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

ROY GONZALEZ HAS PASSED AWAY

There's a new Hawaiian shirt in heaven today. 
We received some very sad news that long-time Assistant Public Defender Roy Gonzalez, who had retired, has passed away. 
Below is the obituary that we received from his wife.

Roy was a wonderful man and a great and dedicated attorney. And, as legions of young assistant public defenders learned, he was one of the go-to guys in the office when you needed help on a case. And if he wasn't in court, then he wasn't hard to find- just look for the guy wearing a brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt. 

Roy loved reading our blog.  His reading our blog and participation was a source of pleasure and pride  for us.  

None of these are easy, and these last two- George and Roy, have hit hard because they were good men, and their passing was so unexpected. 

Hang in there folks and make every day count. 


Roy Gonzalez, Jr., went to be with his Lord on October 14, 2017, after a short battle with cancer.  He was born July 10, 1944, to Rogelio (Roy) and Margarita (Casanueva) Gonzalez, in Miami Beach, Florida.  He attended Miami High, graduating Class of '62; the University of Florida (Go Gators), graduating Class of '66; and the charter class of the Florida State School of Law, graduating Class of '69.  He was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army like his father before him, serving at Camp Howze near the DMZ in South Korea as a 1st Lieutenant with the 2nd Infantry Division during the Vietnam Era.  He worked in the Florida legislature and practiced criminal defense law in Miami, both in private practice and with the Public Defenders Office of the 11th Judicial Circuit, where he was famous for wearing Hawaiian shirts when not in court. 

He is survived by his loving wife of 30 years, Robin (Ledee) Gonzalez, who he cherished and loved to spoil.

Luke 10:15 says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents, and what a party the angels had in 1994 when Roy found Jesus and was born again into the Christian faith. He lovingly served his Lord by becoming a choir member and moderator of the Key Biscayne Community Church from 1995 until 2006, when he moved to Highlands County, where he continued his service as deacon at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Placid and where he also continued to make a joyful noise to the Lord by singing in their choir.

A celebration of life will be at First Presbyterian Church, 118 N. Oak Avenue, Lake Placid, FL,  on Saturday, October 21, 2017.  Visitation with the family will be at 1 p.m. with the service at 2 p.m., with Rev. Raymond Cameron officiating.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Genesis Center Building Fund, P.O. Box 326, Lake Placid, FL, 33862, or Heartlandcatrescue.com in honor of the beloved cats Roy and Robin had adopted through their years together.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

NEW JUDGES

"No Judge writes on a wholly clean slate."
Felix Frankfurter, 1937. 

Judges Ivonne Cuesta and Laura Stuzin were elevated from county court to circuit court this week, replacing the vacancies that occurred with the retirement of Judge Cardonne-Ely, and elevation of Judge Lindsey to the 3rd District Court of PCA Appeals. 


Judges Altfield, Brinkley and Multack, along with ASA Luis Perez-Medina were among those whose names were sent to Tallahassee but were not given a seat when the music stopped. 


Judge Rosa Rodriguez, a former Dade Public Defender, resigned from the Circuit court after 18 1/2 years on the bench, effective Halloween, 2017. Boo!

Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverend than plausible, and more advised than confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue.
Francis Bacon, "Essay LVI: Of Judicature", Essays (1625).


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GEORGE CHOLAKIS FUNERAL DETAILS

There will be a visitation with family on Thursday evening at Van Orsdel Funeral Home at 4600 SW 8th street, Miami, Fl, from 6-9. 

The funeral services will be Friday morning at St. Sophia Church, 2401 SW 3rd Avenue at 10:00 AM.  

No more of these for a while please. This has been very very hard. 

He was a man. Take him all in all. 
I shall not look upon his like again.  Hamlet, Act I, Scene 2.  

Peace. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

BIZARRE CONNECTION BETWEEN POLICE SHOOTING AND DEATH OF GEORGE CHOLAKIS

Lots going on. It's either feast or famine in the blogging world.

Judge Rosa Rodriguez has called it quits. Hanging up the black robes, she resigned this week.

Judge Stuart Simons, a very well respected Dade Jurist passed away this week, his death in retirement overshadowed by the untimely death of our friend and colleague George Cholakis.
Our post referencing the election for the spot vacated by Judge Simons in 2008 is here

And then there is this...

Retired Miami-Dade homicide detective John Butchko was with George when he was stricken at the Dolphins game. Det. Butchko, an all around good guy and very good detective in his day, accompanied George from the game to the hospital where George tragically passed away.

On the way home, Det. Butchko was struck by an impaired driver who then fled the scene. It was the same driver who was stopped a few blocks away by the Miami Beach Police department. The driver attempted to flee, struck a  police officer, and then was shot and killed.

Channel Ten has been all over the story, along with video of the shooting here. 



Just an awful and bizarre Sunday, one best put behind us as soon a possible.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

GEORGE CHOLAKIS HAS PASSED AWAY

It is with a very deep and heavy heart that we report that our good friend and colleague George Cholakis has passed away. The details are still unclear, but it appears to have occurred at the Dolphins game on Sunday. And if you knew George, you know that Dolphin home games  and tail-gating with his friends were one of the things he looked forward to all year. 

This may be one of the last pictures of George. Taken at today's game. 
George was a good and dedicated lawyer. The highlight of his career was most likely the work he did as a prosecutor taking down a violent street gang. It was a case he dedicated his heart and soul to, and he often spoke about it, proud of the work he had done to make our community safer. 

George was also dedicated to his wife and his family as well as his church. 

George was the type of lawyer who always had a smile and time to sit down and talk with you. He was a good guy. A good friend. A dedicated lawyer, husband, and member of this community.

He will be greatly missed.  

Friday, October 06, 2017

GOVERNOR ...WHO????

POTUS 45 needs cabinet members. Department of Homeland Security for starters.  
Governor Rick Scott, a Trump fav, needs/wants to get out of Tallahassee. (Can you blame him?)

Which leaves a wide open race for Governor in 2018. 

Enter...steady now....

Katherine Fernandez-Rundle!!! ??

Yes, we have it on good authority that this is more than just water-cooler chatter. 

"Governor Kathy?" Has a ring to it. 

From Occupied America, Fight The Power. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

FIRST TUESDAY IN OCTOBER

Monday was the first Monday in October.
Some grow-up waiting for opening day in baseball. Others spend their childhood  waiting for the autumnal smells and sounds and the cooler weather that signals the start of football season. 
For legal beagles like our fellow federal blogger, it was the first Monday in October that heralded the start of the new Supreme Court season that was circled on his calendar. While friends traded Baseball cards, he read the NLRB opinions of Douglas and Fortas.

This season started, unlike last year, with a full contingent of Supreme Court Justices. You will remember that the court operated for some time with eight justices, because of the "McConnell Law" which states "No justice shall be confirmed if nominated by a democratic president beyond thirty days in office of the new president's first term"- the reason behind the law being that after 30 days in office, it's better to wait four or eight years so the will of the people in a new presidential election can determine who can serve on the court. 

Did you know? That when Chief Justice Fred Vinson  died, President Eisenhower,  made a "recess appointment" of new Chief Justice Earl Warren in September, 1953? Warren served on the court as the term began in October, and then was confirmed by the Senate in January, 1954.

Did you also know that Warren, governor of California, was Dewey's running mate against Truman in 1948?

Did you also know that at the Republican Convention in 1952, Warren was California's favourite son, and was angling for the Vice President's spot on the ticket with Ike, before Nixon- the senator from California outmaneuvered him? Warren never forgave Nixon, and in 1952 privately and presciently called him "a crook and a thief"?   

This year's first day of the new term saw the re-argument of Sessions v. Dimaya, which was argued last year and resulted in a 4-4 decision. The case involves the question of what is a violent felony that requires the deportation of an immigrant? 
Dimaya was convicted of a residential burglary. "Out you go!"  said the Department of Homeland Deportations.
But citing a Scalia opinion in a similar case where the late Justice held that the Armed Career Criminal Act was void for vagueness,  Dimaya challenged the law. 

All eyes were on the new kid on the bench. Justice Gorsuch seemed skeptical of the Government's case. Judge G felt the law, which set up "categories" of crimes, rather than using specific lists,  forced judges to do the work of legislators. 

And we all know that there is no better way to anger the Federalist Society, which oversees all opinions of the Supreme Court, than to say "a judge is legislating"!

From Occupied and bullet-ridden America, Fight the Power!



Sunday, October 01, 2017

GREGG TOUNG HAS PASSED AWAY

Gregg Toung, a very well liked and respected Assistant Public Defender has passed away. Gregg was a training attorney as well as a lawyer who handled some of the most difficult Jimmy Ryce cases.

We didn't know Gregg, but emails and comments have been flooding in talking about his life and passing from cancer at way too early an age. Some of the comments are below, and we will post more:

Gregg was my training atty when I started in the public defenders office. What a decent and caring man. May he Rest In Peace.

I will miss Gregg. He and I tried many Ryce cases against each other, took may depo trips and had tons of laughs. Gregg was a terrific lawyer but an even better person. His word was his bond. 
May his memory be a blessing. My most sincere condolences to his family. 
Audrey Frank-Aponte



Gregg Toung has passed away. Most PD's and ex-PD's in the last 15 to 20 years were trained at some point by Gregg. He was a classy, warm, genuine person and loved a good fight as a lawyer. The entire Miami Public Defender community is heartbroken by this news. He handled the hardest cases (Jimmy Ryce and Death Penalty) yet always maintained his gentlemanly demeanor. I really do not know anyone who has anything bad to say about Gregg. He will be truly missed.