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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

BILL SUROWIEC HAS PASSED AWAY

Please see the update below: 

Former long time assistant public defender Bill Surowiec, who had since retired, passed away this week.  This is sad news.

Bill was a part of the fabric of the REGJB for many many years. He was a fixture and a friendly face that we would see many mornings. And he was a very good defense attorney.

We are sure there a million great stories about him, so please post them in the comments section.

Update: Two former REGJB judges who went on to have their own uniquely successful careers have written wonderful memories about Bill and these should be read by everyone. 
First up, former county court judge, circuit judge, US District Court Judge, US Chief District Court Judge, and appellate court nominee (that was not acted on  when GHW Bush lost to WJ Clinton in 1992) Federico Moreno: 

Bill tried a death penalty case involving 6 first degree murders before me. The first time it was a hung jury; the second time the defendant was convicted of 4 murders, acquitted of 2, sentenced to death, but reversed by the Florida Supreme Court; the third time after I left to federal court, the defendant was acquitted of all counts. Bill was not only a great lawyer, but a wonderful human being, always adding humor at the appropriate time without demeaning anyone. He was loved by jurors, prosecutors, judges, judicial assistants, bailiffs and correction officers, an accomplishment that few can claim. My condolences to his widow Lynn, a former secretary for Judge Alan Gold and now to appellate judge Stanley Marcus. God rest his soul. Fred Moreno

Next up is former County Court Judge, Former Circuit Court Judge, and REGJB regular Ted Mastos:
Anonymous Theodore Mastos said...
I join in the comments made by Lennie Glick about Bill. He was always good for a laugh in an otherwise dreary building.

Back in the day when I was a circuit judge, Katie Pooler was my division chief and Bill was her boyfriend and later husband. Katie, always ready for a party, would get Bill to make his world famous chili. He made two types: regular and industrial strength. We would gather in my chambers and it was hysterical to see people breaking out in sweat with tears running down their cheeks while eating Bill's chili. Those were great times when things were a lot more casual than they are now. Bill was a friend and a great lawyer. God how I hate these years in my life when I am going to more funerals and wakes than I ever imagined. Rest in peace old buddy.
We think Ted Mastos has mentioned an important point: Bill and Ted were from an era when Miami was a smaller town. The courthouse was smaller. The community of lawyers was smaller. Everyone knew each other, and things were much more informal.  People worked hard and then gathered in chambers, or at the Marine Bar, or at someone's home, and socialized. There was a friendlier attitude in courtrooms and among the lawyers and judges. It's probably gone forever, and we are losing the generation of lawyers and judges who made the Miami criminal justice legal community special. It's an era that is gone, and the memories are fading- held by a select group of people who were lucky enough to experience it. 

Well said Judge Moreno and Ted Mastos. Thank you for contributing your memories. 







18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very sad. I think Bill was a former Trooper. Wasn’t he married to Judge Pooler in the past?

Anonymous said...

A gem of a guy. I remember in his last few years he was sooo looking forward to retirement. I sincerely hoped he enjoyed every day of it.

As to Judge Pooler- he was married to Judge KATIE Pooler, sister of Judge Tess Pooler.

Steve Kramer said...

Bill was a great guy and terrific lawyer. He was a Marine, State Trooper, ASA, private defense counsel, and APD. I spent many hours with Bill listening to his war stories from all of his careers. Absolutely hilarious. He was a mentor to many young lawyers in the PDO who sought his guidance. He was a legend and will be sorely missed. RIP my friend.

Anonymous said...

One of the funniest guys in the MJB, he was a joy to be around. Bill and Katie were like a comedy team when they were still married. It is sad to hear that he has passed.

Anonymous said...

What a very sad loss. Bill was a true gentleman, and a great lawyer. It was a privilege to practice law in the same courtroom as Bill - even if we were on opposite sides. He will truly be missed.

Lenny Glick said...

A great guy. Good lawyer, fun to be around and never full of himself.
He worked for me as an intern in the State Attorney's office when I was chief of county court.
He was the kind of guy you could depend on to do the job and do the right thing.
He will be missed.
Condolences to his family and friends.
Lenny Glick

Anonymous said...

Bill also made the best chili ever. He had mild, medium and unbelievably spicy. He had a name for it that I don’t recall but, I’d break out in a sweat and still couldn’t stop.

Sad news.

Anonymous said...

Bill was always a nice man to talk with. Always had time to answer my dumb questions. Yes, he was married to Katie Pooler. Sorry to hear this.

Anonymous said...

Great guy to be around. Tried lots of cases. Was a warrior. Funny too. This is terrible news.

Former pd.

Anonymous said...

He was a class act

Anonymous said...

Bill tried a death penalty case involving 6 first degree murders before me. The first time it was a hung jury; the second time the defendant was convicted of 4 murders, acquitted of 2, sentenced to death, but reversed by the Florida Supreme Court; the third time after I left to federal court, the defendant was acquitted of all counts. Bill was not only a great lawyer, but a wonderful human being, always adding humor at the appropriate time without demeaning anyone. He was loved by jurors, prosecutors, judges, judicial assistants, bailiffs and correction officers, an accomplishment that few can claim. My condolences to his widow Lynn, a former secretary for Judge Alan Gold and now to appellate judge Stanley Marcus. God rest his soul. Fred Moreno

Theodore Mastos said...

I join in the comments made by Lennie Glick about Bill. He was always good for a laugh in an otherwise dreary building.

Back in the day when I was a circuit judge, Katie Pooler was my division chief and Bill was her boyfriend and later husband. Katie, always ready for a party, would get Bill to make his world famous chili. He made two types: regular and industrial strength. We would gather in my chambers and it was hysterical to see people breaking out in sweat with tears running down their cheeks while eating Bill's chili. Those were great times when things were a lot more casual than they are now. Bill was a friend and a great lawyer. God how I hate these years in my life when I am going to more funerals and wakes than I ever imagined. Rest in peace old buddy.

Anonymous said...

Rump, you're spot on when you say that "It's an era that is gone, and the memories are fading-held by a select group of people who were lucky enough to experience it". In Bill's memory and also for other reasons, why don't you start a post about those days, and get the "memories" of that "select group"? I know I have plenty, and would love to hear others ...






Anonymous said...

Back in the day in the Public Defender’s office, Steve Kramer was the major crimes attorney, Bill was the “A”, Jim Hodes was the “B” and I was the “C” felony attorney before Carol Gersten. We tried a lot of cases in that courtroom in two years. Back to back to back to back. Murder to unoccupied curtilage burglary and all inbetween. Bill was always unflappable. And, as others have remembered here, had a way with knowing exactly the right time to inject levity to defuse tension. He taught me an awful lot about how to be a lawyer - how to win, how to lose, how to get up after losing and to always be myself. He would always mentor but never tell a young lawyer how to practice, unless they first asked. I can still see him looking at me with that sideways smerk, hear his uproarious laugh, and that booming voice - “Paulie, I know it’s a dog case. We have no choice but to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.” And the Marine and Trooper in him - “Paulie, go shine your fucking shoes. I’m not trying a case with you when your shoes look like that.” He was so happy when he and Lynn married. In the rare times I saw him years later he was always warm and genuine and glad to see me. And boy, did he love his FSU Seminoles.

RIP pal. You did good. Thanks for everything.

Paul Calli

Anonymous said...

TED ....You are one of the GREATS. We all are so busy in our lives, but we don’t take enough time to say kind thoughts of appreciation to others. Besides being one of the funniest people, you are a great lawyer. After going back into private practice after your time on the bench, you defended a defendant charged with murder. I was a young trial judge. I have never seen a more charismatic, connected and productive jury selection. You should be very proud of the accomplishments that you have made in your career and the admiration and affection that your peers have for you. You are one of the Legends.

David E. Troyer said...

Bill was a great guy and terrific lawyer. I met Bill when we were felony ASAs in the early 80's. He was older and had advice for all the 24-year-old knuckleheads like me. He always had a great story, usually from his FHP days (which you often hoped wasn't true but deep down, you knew it was). The pool parties and toxic chili at Bill and Katie's were epic, as were watching the FSU/UM games, with Bill being one of the few cheering for the Noles. It seemed like he could do anything in court, and he was constantly doodling. Once, at a sentencing before Judge Korvick, defense counsel presented an entire portfolio of artwork to showcase her client's talents. The judge then turned to Bill, who held up his legal pad, with a stick figure behind bars, and said, "Yeah Judge, I can draw, too." Judge Korvick responded, as she often did, "Oh Mr. Bill, you're so funny." Best of all, he was a genuine human being who truly cared about people. RIP my friend.

Anonymous said...



Knew Bill for the first 22/23 years of my ASA career, first through Katie and his chili cook-offs when I was a new felony ASA and he was a defense lawyer and they lived in Kendale Lakes. He had a motley crew of pets that he spoiled to death, he was so damn gruff and sweet at the same time and he would fawn over them like a Jewish grandmother.

Around 2005/06 I was handling very serious cases, all Life Felonies and he was APD in Drop. Had a couple of cases with him and there was no fooling around, he could have absolutely despised his client but would give him a million dollar representation. But......prior to trial, when we would be trying to figure out the direction of the case he would come back to me from talking to his in-custody client in the jury room and I asked him what was going to happen and he said: " I told him he had 4 choices----

1. he could escape, 2. he could kill himself, 3. he could go to trial or, 4. he could take the State plea -- it was up to him to decide which option.

Writing this, I recall another case where he was appointed in the mid-90's on a career criminal with a dropsy baggie case and we tried it in front of Amy Dean.
I remember him flinging that stupid little baggie of .00007 gram of cocaine around in front of the jury to disparage the officer's testimony of having eyeballed it throughout the incident in the dark of night in a vacant lot and how improbable it was to has seen it. He portrayed my earnest cop as so ridiculous and it really burned me up as I sat there---but, the facts were the facts.

He was a great guy, so old school, always a bright spot for me to run into him in the hallway, escalator or lobby. That throaty laugh (before he quit smoking)I still can hear it and see his eyes light up.

Steve Kramer said...

There is going to be a celebration of life in Bill's honor next Saturday, 11/25 from 2-5pm at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club. There is a post on FB about this.