When you see something that is not right, not fair, find a way to get in the way and cause trouble. Congressman John Lewis
JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SY
626 South Miami Avenue
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Food sponsored by FACDL-Miami.
Sunday's results: 1-2 on picks (Gave you the Colts)
1-0-2 on the Over/Under- 2 pushes. Still haven't had a losing day on Over/Under.
AND.....did you read the p.s yesterday? Who called it? Who went in print and went out on the line and predicted the biggest upset in the NFL this year? Who told you to forget the line and pick the Fins to win outright over the undefeated Bears? If you see that person at Tobacco Road tonight, why buy him a drink.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
PICKING UP THE BLITZ
Pressure is on.
Patriots -2 on MNF at Minnesota
Jets +2 at Cleveland.
And the big game of the day. Take the Colts +2 over the over rated Broncos.
And take the Over 39.
Under 45 Arizona at Green Bay.
Under 40 Jacksonville at Philadelphia.
Under 41 ½ Tampa Bay at NY Giants.
See You In Court Monday.
It’s a “Blitz” day in County Court.
Hope the lawyers do better against the blitz than the Dolphins or the Canes.
Friday, October 27, 2006
HELP FOR THE BLIND
the other day in response to another attorney’s
comments about everyone’s favourite federal blogger:
You stick up for Marcus because you too have traded fame-always seeking Herald and tv attention- for your sole. You would love to defend a Colombian drug lord who kills witnesses if the money was right.
Rumpole says- let us help you:
1) Careful readers of this blog know by now it's "Markus with a K."
2) The word is "soul" unless you seriously meant that the attorney would sell his fish or the bottom of his shoe.
3) We would love to defend the Colombian drug lord. We would love to defend any difficult serious case. So would any good criminal defense lawyer worth his or her salt.
You confuse the desire of a lawyer to do their work and do it well, with the crime.
No lawyer wants anyone, Colombian drug lord or common street thug, to kill anyone.
But if the Colombian drug lord is accused of a crime, then we want the case.
See how that works?
Because if we refuse to represent a client based on the facts, then the security guard who planted a bomb to be a hero doesn't get anyone to defend him because its a nasty infamous crime, except Richard Jewel was innocent as we now know.
There. Do you feel better now?
The only thing that sustains one through life
is the consciousness of the immense inferiority
of everybody else,
and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.
Rumpole says: Ditto for us.
See You In Court.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A CAPTAIN ELECTION UPDATE
T-14 DAYS and counting and Dade County will soon have another three new jurists on the bench, another three new judges for Rumpole to make fun of, (whenever they should deserve the friendly jabbing).
A very interesting contrast has developed with 3 of the 6 candidates (Fernandez, Schurr & Mendez) spending lots of money and the other 3 running campaigns on the cheap. Let's see if the money does matter?!
Here's what the numbers look like as early voting opened up this week:
COUNTY COURT - GROUP 43
JOE FERNANDEZ: Raised/Loans - $117,482
Expenses - $ 85,021
MICHAEL BIENSTOCK: Raised/Loans - $ 54,300
Expenses - $ 52,205
Bienstock's money comes almost entirely from his own pocket. He just recently loaned his campaign $19,000 and has put in a total of $51,000 of his own money, with only $3,300 coming from supporters.
CIRCUIT COURT - GROUP 78
Raised - $ 37,815 ; Loans - $ 250,100
Expenses - $ 230,658
JOSE SANCHEZ-GRONLIER: Raised - $ 8,850
Loans - $ 9,250; Expenses - $ 14,918
CIRCUIT COURT - GROUP 80
MARISA MENDEZ: Raised - $ 72,460
Loans - $ 135,005 ; Expenses - $ 156,416
CATHY PARKS: Raised - $ 9,350 Loans - $ 10,000
Expenses - $ 15,777
So, in the infamous words of none other than Al Capone, don't forget to "vote early and vote often". Of course, good old Al also said, "You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun."
Both quotes seem so appropriate for Miami-Dade County.
CAPTAIN OUT .............
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Former Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced yesterday to 24 years for his leading role in the Enron fraud that led to the energy firm's 2001 collapse
Here's what's on our mind:
1) The loss was enormous. Many ordinary people lost their savings and retirement money.
2) Mr. Skilling's life is ruined. He will be out of prison in his late 70's - a broken man. A life wasted by his crimes and mistakes, and a legal system bent on vengence.
Our legal system should be better and more wise then the people it punishes.
While Mr. Skilling has no one to blame but himself, we believe the sentence was way out of line.
3) What’s the difference between Mr. Skilling getting out of prison in 2017 as opposed to 2031? Would the punishment and the prison sentence’s deterrent effect be any less effective?
Enron was the product of more than one person. Yet Mr. Skilling has been sacrificed on the alter of vengeance demanded by politicians who flocked to the issue of corporate fraud to garner votes.
As criminal law practitioners, we have occasion to visit our clients in jail. No one likes it. The officers are difficult to deal with at best. Now imagine dealing with that for 3,654 days, 24 hours a day.
Isn't that enough? Can you think of any business executive, who seeing what Mr. Skilling has gone through, would not think that losing everything and being sent to prison for ten years, plus fines, restitution and supervised release would not be sufficient to be a deterrent to crime?
We understand that in the past stealing with a pen was treated leniently as opposed to stealing with a gun. But there is a qualitative difference.
We think even a casual review of the Enron mess would reveal that these people did not start out to bilk everyone out of their money. What happened is that when things went bad, the people in charge were not able to stand up and take the heat.
They saw their life's work going down the drain, and in a misguided effort to save it, they lied, which caused investors to lose money.
That is definitely a serious crime. The crime merits punishment.
But not a punishment that amounts to life in prison.
Prison sentences over 15 years should be reserved for violent or potentially violent individuals.
In our view, Mr. Skilling’s sentence is twice as harsh as we believe would be necessary to both punish and send a message to deter future conduct.
But what do we know?
However, our favourite Bard knew this:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
Tis mightiest in the mightiest:
it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.
The Merchant Of Venice.
Monday, October 23, 2006
this blog still gets visitors?
Rumpole replies: Apparently you, for one.
Currently, the blog's readership is at an all-time LOW.
Rumpole replies: Check the stats:
Average Per Day
Average Visit Length
125K + visits in less than one year. Not bad for an old hack.
Perhaps its the end of the blog? It wouldn't be too soon ... sorry, rump, but some rocks should not be turned over!
Rumpole replies: We have not yet begun to rake the muck!!!
why, why is the blog ending this way.
is there no more lies or rumors to be said. is there no more stupid jokes at the expense of some PD or ASA or Judge.oh why....
Rumpole replies: Buck up old chap. Things could be worse. You could be in a line for a status report and on the last page of the calendar before Judge Areces.
Not to toot our own horn, but the blog last week had truly one of it’s finest hours as two legends of the Miami criminal law community reminisced about one of the biggest cases in this city’s history. We’ll take Abe Laeser and Roy Black’s war stories any day of the week.
Plus, and we have said this before: This blog is founded upon the bedrock principle that when a lawyer puts on a black robe, (some of them) say and do things so dumb, that there will always be something to write about. True, we did not have our normal post up this Monday, but there were some “intervening factors” (Chateau Miami River) shall we say that affected our Sunday night and Monday morning.
Fear not, we are not going anywhere, especially since we don’t have much else to do.
See You In Court.
PS We were 4-1 for our football picks yesterday, including remaining undefeated for the season on our over/under picks. So if nothing else, this blog can make you a few bucks in the office pool. (oops. we forgot. We can't speak about the SAO's office pool.)
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Arizona -3 over Oakland.
Carolina +3.5 over the slumping Bengals
NE -5 over the Bills
Haven’t lost an over/under pick all year: two for you today:
Under 41 Houston at Jacksonville
Under 45 Cincinnati at Carolina.
BEST BET: Miami US Attorney's Office -$250,000.00 over Shohat and Lehr.
See You In Court Tomorrow (seems like it's time for a vacation.)
Friday, October 20, 2006
MONEY FOR NOTHING
The defense attorneys for the brothers convicted of masterminding the largest bank fraud in Miami history could have to pay back the $757,000 they were paid in legal fees.Federal prosecutors are claiming that money used to pay Ed Shohat and Bruce Lehr was tainted, coming from the sale of a Manhattan condominium that was part of the fraud. In court papers, the attorneys deny that the funds used to pay them were tainted. Shohat worked for Eduardo Orlansky for three years, while Lehr represented Hector Orlansky for 18 months. Both attorneys worked through a 4-month trial and four weeks of jury deliberations. They also paid for several medical experts to testify about the health of their clients.
The Orlanskys, who face 30 years in prison, were convicted in August of massive fraud in their operation of E.S. Bankest, a Miami factoring company. The Orlanskys created fictitious checks, invoices and companies to inflate the value of account receivables by hundreds of millions of dollars to support the fraud targeting Portugal’s Espirito Santo Bank. The nine-year scam allowed the Orlanskys to illegally obtain $167 million from the bank and its clients. E.S. Bankest was a joint venture of the bank and Bankest Capital, which was formed by the Orlanskys.
Experts say it’s highly unusual for the government to seek payback of attorney fees, particularly in nondrug cases, and this may be a first for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. “This is very rare,” said Miami attorney Scott Srebnick, who is also fighting forfeiture claims on behalf of his client, former Hamilton Bank Chairman Eduardo A. Masferrer.
Lehr declined to comment on the issue. Shohat did not return calls for comment.
Rumpole says: We'd be speechless too if we had to return a three quarters of a million bucks. Ouch.
READ THE WHOLE STORY HERE:
See You In Court firmly holding on to our disorderly intox fees.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
1982: THE CASE THAT MADE MIAMI BURN
now that abe has gotten active, maybe he can tell us his greatest victories and his worst losses and who were the opposing attorneys with whom he has had the most difficulty with in trial. his comments would be most interesting.
abe laeser said...
Reply to 9:47 blogger: To the best of my recollection, I have lost jury trials to Ellis Rubin, Bob Rosenblatt (2), Steve Rosen, and Roy Black. The last one was in 84' and it was my best case - and worst loss.
At the end of 1982 City of Miami Officer Luis Alvarez shot and killed Neville Johnson in a video arcade in Overtown. The city burned for days in response. Ms. Reno asked Benton Becker and Robert Beatty to work with Ed Cowart on the prosecution of the case. I will only describe their control over the witnesses as lax - or maybe non-existent would be more correct. Becker and Beatty quit the case - and left the office - within only months of the trial. The late Judge Cowart was not focused effectively on the case, and Janet asked me to take it over.
After interviewing the witnesses, I found out that nearly all had made contrary statements to the media, and it became a case of doing more with much less. It would not have taken Roy Black to cross-examine when there were videotape interviews that contradicted virtually all of the sworn statements and depositions. And believe me, Roy did a wonderful job. However, I truly believed that the officer had acted unlawfully, and shot because of his own fears.
The trial was very lengthy, and was given daily detailed coverage in the press.
Many community leaders came to watch - with a cadre of officers on the other side of the courtroom. Ms. Reno insisted that I have round-the-clock protection (I never quite understood which side she believed would like to have me killed - activists or police). The verdict went against me.The City of Miami gave the Johnson family $ 1 million to settle the civil suit.
Why do I consider it a win? The leaders and even many of the activists personally thanked me for putting forth the best effort that I could. The real reward was that the community response, although there was some unrest, was rather tempered.
I always believed that part of the reason was that even the opportunists understood that the government had stood up for their rights. This may be my rationalization, but I see the result as a great win for the community, and given the evidence presentable - Justice was served.
The case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Thanks for letting me spend lunchtime in story telling.
Roy Black saw fit to write a response to Mr. Laeser's post: Of course we put in on the front page. This just keeps getting better and better.
Roy Black said...
The Alvarez trial was also a turning point in my legal life. It goes without saying that it was a hard fought battle with supporters on each side crying for blood and some even drawing it. The specter of another riot hung over the trial like an ugly dark cloud.
I was also protected at the end of the trial by a City of Miami SWAT team abetted by bomb sniffing dogs. Of course that protection was somewhat dubious since a number of them, the cops not the dogs, were later indicted in the Miami River Cops scandal. (During that trial we defense lawyers joked that SWAT meant suspended while awaiting trial).
One point I can make without fear of contradiction is that no lawyer in the SAO works harder preparing a case than Abe Laeser. This man knows how to wield the formidable tools at his command. He turned the Miami Police Department inside out to get the evidence he needed. Nor did he stop there. It seemed every low life from Overtown miraculously appeared in the witness chair and had a clear view of the shooting despite it occuring behind a column inside a game arcade.
Laeser had the brilliant idea of having an architect draft a floor plan of the arcade and by using the geometric tiles on the floor tried to re-enact the dance which led up to the shooting. This caused me many sleepless nights. His chart and expert testimony on this point should be taught to all the in-coming ASAs.
Alvarez’s trial was the first chapter of my book Black’s Law (yes, this is a shameless plug so I don’t need any sarcasm here Rumpole) just because Laeser turned the case into WW3. I agree he was saddled with less than agressive predecessors and Former Chief Judge Cowart was assigned the case for political reasons (big surprise for our SAO), but Abe quickly shouldered poor Cowart into the background and made up for lost time.
You know if you have tried a case against Abe Laeser you have met their best lawyer.
Rumpole says: 1) This is what this blog is all about. A place for lawyers like Mr. Laeser and Mr. Black (legal giants both) to provide us with their unique insights about our building, our community, and their cases.
2) Why is Mr. Laeser so successful? Probably many reasons, but let us give you one.
Here are the penultimate words of his post:
Justice was served. The case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Who among us has not pointed the finger at anyone and everyone after a loss?
Mr. Laeser did not do that. If he had, this City would have burned.
He did (as his boss liked to say) his "level best", accepted the verdict, and moved on.
Some cases demand that the lawyer fight the good fight and accept the outcome as a product of our system. Mr. Laeser did just that, and a community that had been (and would be again) up in flames remained quiet.
Why is Mr. Black so successful? Blind dumb luck. Ha ha ha (we had to interject some sarcasm after being told not to do so by Mr. Black.) Actually that is a post for another day. And if Mr. Black ever wanted to grace our humble blog again, we would love to hear his view on what it takes to make it in our business AND win cases. Too often "making it" just means collecting big fees (which excludes us from "making it.")
What a great day for the blog.
See You In Court.
Tomorrow: Money For Nothing. What would you do if you were ordered to return three quarters of a million dollars after working on a case for three years and spending 5 months in trial and deliberations?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
LISTEN. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?
What occurs to us is how these cases are related in philosophy if not in fact.
Benjamin Disraeli said “Justice is truth in action.”
What can be more important to justice in a free society than to see it in action? The fact that any person could have walked in and taken a seat in Judge Pinero’s courtroom to watch a defendant ask a Judge to enforce the constitution is remarkable. The importance of this openness in safeguarding the Constitution cannot be overestimated.
While there may be legitimate reasons to keep a case secret, they should be few and far between.
Secret court cases are the thin edge of a larger wedge. First its just a few cases, then its all terrorist cases, and before you know it, the criminal docket is conducted in secret in the name of “national security.”
As a country we have a lot of dirty laundry to air. From the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong
(We don’t even want to think about the fact that we litigate against lawyers who were not born during the Vietnam War) to the shameful conduct at Abu Garef, the strength of our country comes from our public discussion of our shortcomings.
Just a word to the wise to our Judges the next time some lawyer has a great reason to make a case secret.
There may be even more important reasons to keep the case public.
See You In Court where all of our cases are public, and no one cares.
TOMORROW: THE CASE THAT MADE MIAMI BURN
PS: Anyone else have trouble seeing the blog today? Or did we just have too much to drink last night?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A CLEAN RECORD?
CLIENT: “So you’re sure my record will be expunged?”
LAWYER: “Absolutely. The law does not give the judge any discretion. Your 20 year old arrest for disorderly conduct, which was dismissed, will be expunged. The record will be destroyed, the arrest removed from the police computers, and by the way, once your record is expunged, Florida law allows you to legally deny ever having been arrested, except in certain situations.”
CLIENT: “Great. So no one will ever know about this?”
LAWYER: “Well, I didn’t exactly say that.”
For those of you who have helped a client in the last year or so by expunging a criminal history or getting a withhold of adjudication sealed, you have probably noticed a disturbing new trend: Private Databases that are not subject to the Florida law when the court orders a record sealed or expunged.
What this means is that even though your client can legally deny an arrest once the record is sealed or expunged, an employer, a condo association, basically anyone using a private database company, will still have access to that record, although the State Of Florida has ordered it destroyed.
Welcome to the age of Big Brother and Computers.
A second chance for someone who committed a small indiscretion in their youth?
A clean record for a law abiding citizen who was wrongfully arrested?
The NY Times reported on this problem today, and none other than our own Judge Stanford Blake was interviewed for the article, which contains several quotes from Judge Blake. And because of computers and the internet, you can access those quotes forevermore.
You can read the article and Judge Blake's comments here:
This seems like a problem that perhaps our legislature could step in and solve.
Oh. Wait a minute.
The Florida Legislature helping someone who has been arrested?
Sorry. Lost our mind there for a minute.
Anyway, as Governor Holly Go Lightly and his Brother and their crowd would say, maybe if we pray enough, the problem will go away.
See You In Court.
Monday, October 16, 2006
WHAT WE DO, II.
Can you really be surprised that no one described what they really do? Why would I let anyone into the recesses of my soul? Do I go about my tasks blithly oblivious to their effect, or do I live in a tortured purgatory of psychic pain?
Capital prosecution is not an unexamined life. It just cannot be shared.
People who know me (as me, no one knows me as Rumpole) know I am an intensely private person. The very hardest post I wrote was the post about what I did. I sat with it for a few days, feeling very uncomfortable, as I found it hard to lay my feelings bare for readers to see.
I am a big proponent of a life examined, although the prospect of examining it in front of my colleagues is more than a bit troubling. All the more reason I protect my identity like the confidences of my clients.
There are however, stories to be told and lessons to be learned.
The question is whether the possessor of those stories
chooses to be the teacher of those lessons.
Your insights would be most valuable. But they belong to you.
As a young lawyer, I watched in fascination as Judge Norman Gerstein struggled over the re-sentencing of defendant Manuel Valle, who stood convicted of murdering a police officer. Valle had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in less than a month after the murder, Judge Morphonios presiding. That conviction and death sentence was vacated. Valle was again convicted and sentenced to death, but the sentence was overturned, and thus ended up before Judge Gerstein, who was not a proponent of the death penalty.
Day after day Judge Gerstein’s courtroom was crowded with uniformed police officers, even on days that no hearing was scheduled. In the end Judge Gerstein sentenced Valle to death, closing his remarks with the quote from the Poet John Donne: Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
(My apologies to Judge Gerstein if I have got anything wrong. This is from memory, but the memory of those days appears pretty vivid.)
It would be fascinating to hear from Judge Gerstein on that case, or from any Judge who has struggled over a sentence, or from a defense attorney who has struggled to do their level best for a client they detest, or from a prosecutor involved in the decision to seek the death penalty.
These are the decisions that fascinate us. The struggle of an individual’s morality versus their intellect, versus their beliefs, versus the duty to uphold the law.
Where are the lines drawn? How are the decisions made?
In retrospect would they make the same decision again?
As a lawyer, I have contempt for Judges who make the popular decision rather than the correct decision.
But how do I feel when my client benefits from that decision?
Ah, there’s the rub- the deep dark place none of us wants to examine, where troubling outcomes turn to guilt, which festers until it erupts into a substance abuse problem, or troubles at home. How do we handle that aspect of our job without letting it affect our life?
What about the Judge who issues sentences or denies motions to avoid the wrath of prosecutors or the police? As the election fights over judicial seats reach unprecedented levels of rancor, Judges feel increasing pressure not to do anything that brings them into the limelight in a manner that the public may misunderstand. Are there any Judges who want to (anonymously) write about the decisions they have made? Wouldn't that be something to read?
[As an aside, the more we examine this issue, the more we are against Judges having to stand for election.]
The poet Robert Frost wrote:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
I think about those words often, and have come up with this:
There is a great benefit in the life examined.
The path each of us has chosen
And the sum of those choices
Is nothing less than who we are.
See You In Court.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
We went 3-0-1 last week. So riding our hot streak, we offer these select picks for your fun ( and profit).
Lots of home dogs this week make the picks a bit tough:
Jets -2 over the sinking Fins. Jet have the better coach, and are the better coached team.
Philly -3 visiting the Saints. Hate picking against a home dog, but Philly is the real deal.
Bengals -4 over Tampa Bay. Always pick against a rookie QB if you can.
Under 43 (haven't lost an over/under pick yet this year) Giants and Falcons.
Good Luck- but don't stop practicing law because of our success just yet.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Have a good idea for a poll? Email us.
Sorry to say no one took us up on our offer and emailed us a story about what they do.
Someone wants to know why there is no blog for North of the Border.
Probably a second degree felony up there.
Can’t have free speech or free expression of ideas.
Might upset the apple cart.
One year anniversary of the blog is coming up. Do we hear the call for another blog party at Tobacco Road?
See You In Court Monday.
( Have we upset the Pastelito cart?)
Thursday, October 12, 2006
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR NEW ASA's:
1. Talk to your supervisors and ask questions. Trust me, they'd rather spend their time avoiding mistakes than cleaning them up.
2. Talk to the Senior Trial Counsel, especially David Gilbert and Flora Seff. They can help you strategize and, gasp, are willing to try homicide cases with young ASA's (once you get a few felonies under your belt). David is even willing to try your "c" cases with you! Too bad there aren't more like them.
3. You are the only lawyers in the world fighting for truth and justice, rather than a client. Learn the special ethical rules that apply to you (like not making witnesses whom you know are telling the truth look like liars) and follow them. Once you cross the line, you can never go back.
4. Your job is to seek justice fairly and honestly. Don't be afraid to hammer the people who need it OR to cut slack to those who deserve it. Learn the distinction. It took me most of my first 10 years to gain perspective, but it made me a better prosecutor and, more importantly, a better person. Don't sweat the minor stuff; your caseload is too big to worry about every case. Focus on the real cases and dangerous defendants (you'll soon learn how to identify them; on suggestion: focus on your DUIs and cases with victims who have been or are likely to be injured).
5. Talk to the defense attorneys. Yes, many will mislead you. But, some won't. You need to identify who fits in which category. Regardless, it's difficult to determine a fair and appropriate sentence in most cases (cases without minimum mandatories) without learning about the defendant. You really can't do that unless you speak to the defense attorneys.
6. Trial is a blast. But, not every case needs to be tried. Don't take a case to trial just because you can. Remember, it's your job to do the right thing.
7. Love your job. It's the best job any of us will ever have (no, I'm no longer with the office). Don't let the naysayers get you down. No matter what anyone says, you're doing an incredible public service that borders on outright charity. The strong prosecutors can double or triple their incomes for going private. We owe a great deal to those who stay (same goes for the PD's).
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR NEW PD's
1. Not all of your clients are innocent (especially at the felony level). If you constantly tell the prosecutors they are, you'll lose credibility and no one will listen to you.
2. Not all of your clients will stop committing crimes if they get treatment. If you claim otherwise for all of your clients, no one will listen to you. That would be unfortunate because you all have some great social workers who can really make a difference in people's lives.
3. Talk to your supervisors. There are many good ones who can help you. Talk to private defense attorneys; there are many who care enough to give you some tips.
4. Talk to the prosecutors. Not every case should be tried. Remember, you're playing with your clients' liberty.
5. Not all prosecutors play by the rules. Don't be afraid to call them on it if they don't. You (and the judges) are the check on their power.
6. Love your job (see above).
FOR BOTH: Try settling the personal stuff in the hallway, rather than on the record. You'll get a lot further.
GOOD LUCK,Been there, done that, and loved almost every minute.
Rumpole says: Great post.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
WHAT WE DO
That is so Hollywood, and so misleading.
But perhaps it’s time for people to talk about what they do.
I am a lawyer. I work for myself. I like what I do.
When people are in trouble, they call me.
When people have made a mistake, they call me.
Families turn to me to help one of their own that they can’t help.
Parents place their children’s future in my hands.
Some of my clients have done very little wrong, and yet, their lives are consumed by an upcoming court date. My job is to put them at ease.
Some of my clients have been accused of horrible things and have not done what they are accused of. My job is to save their life and return their life to them. When I am successful, it is the greatest feeling in the world. When I am not…well thankfully, I can’t really think of a truly innocent client who’s case I have lost. Actually, there may be one. It was an economic crimes case. And even in that case, the client knew he was associating with people he should not have gotten into business with. But I lost the case in Federal court and he went to prison (he’s out now) and it still bothers me almost ten years later, even though we have stayed in touch and he has put his life back together.
Some of my clients have done horrible things and I can’t find one piece of common ground to communicate with them. They take their anger out on me. I pity them and curse myself when I can’t think of a way to help them.
Some of my clients have done horrible things, and are otherwise very nice. These are the most dangerous people, as these clients try and overwhelm me with their apparent decentness, thus obscuring the facts of the case. You can never lose sight of the facts, no matter how nice your client seems.
At the end of a rather long period of working for myself, this much I can say: Even though I do a decent amount of defense in serious and capital cases, the number of people I have met who were truly dangerous can be counted on one hand. In none of those cases was an “injustice done”. Take that for what you want it to mean.
Many clients who I have successfully helped were thrust into a truly amazing set of facts and circumstances that resulted in a serious criminal case. In most of those cases, my clients have never again been arrested and I am happy that I helped them resume a productive life.
What I find most troubling about my business is that I have a talent that I find difficult to use. I can try a case. I can plan a cross examination to last four hours or two days, and have every point hit home. I pick a good jury, and give a good closing argument. I win most of my cases. But I try between 2-10 cases in any given year.
The rest of the time is devoted to the worst part of my business-
the business end of being a lawyer.
I hate it. I'm probably not that good at it. Better than some, worse than others.
Maybe, just maybe, I will apply to the Public Defenders Office some day. If they will have an old grumpy lawyer like me.
See You In Court.
If a Judge or PD or ASA wants to email us a missive on what they do, we would love to post it up front. You can send it anonymously, or just ask us to keep it anonymous. We will do so.
NEW PROSECUTORS/ NEW PDS
Why do we see dozens of new ASA’s crowding into each courtroom, but not any new PD’s? Are we missing something?
You should try and spend some time in Au Bon Pair. If you see a private defense attorney that you saw in court, walk over, say hello and chat. It’s a wonderful way to find out about your new career.
If we could give you one piece and only one piece of advice, it is this: no one case is worth your career or reputation.
When we were a young lawyer, Fred Moreno, who is now a Federal Court Judge, and was a County Court judge at the time, used to tell us “you’ll lose bigger cases than this.” He was trying to give us perspective, which is something that normally takes time and experience to get.
The quicker you develop perspective on your cases, the better lawyer you will become.
Try and be the type of lawyer who is known as someone whose word is their bond.
Judge’s and lawyers talk to each other. If you develop the reputation of announcing ready on cases you are not ready on, the word will pass on you as you move though your office and the REGJB. Keep telling yourself that no one case is worth a lifetime of damage to your reputation.
Another story: When we were a young lawyer, we had a case with Manny Crespo. He was a defense attorney at the time and went on to become a much beloved Judge who recently passed away. We were talking about an upcoming case and I promised to do something and said I would send him a letter to confirm it. He smiled, grabbed my hand and looked me right in the eye and said something to the effect that I had been a lawyer in the building for two years and had a reputation for honesty. My word was good enough for him. It was one of the nicest things a lawyer with his experience could have ever said to me. I never forgot it.
Honesty and Perspective. Keep those two ideas in the forefront of your mind.
Perspective also means being gracious in winning. If you’re a defense attorney and lucky enough to get an acquittal, see it for what it is- a confluence of luck and facts more than superstar skill. Skill comes with experience and only with experience.
If you’re a prosecutor and you win a trial, that does not automatically mean you should ask for the maximum sentence. Have perspective. It may have been a hard fought battle, but don’t hold that against the Defendant. Rather celebrate the fact that you live in a country that allows the accused to give you a good fight and make you prove your case.
Prospective. Most people live week to week. Pay check to pay check. Many defendants have families. Try and not forget the devastating effect even a day in jail will have on them.
Remember that mistakes will happen. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them.
A loss at trial can be a very valuable tool. Do not pass it off on “the dumb jury.”
You picked them, its your responsibility.
Examine everything you did.
If you do not learn something from each and every case you try, you’re doing something wrong. We lost our first two jury trials, and won our next fifty or so.
But more importantly, we learned from everyone of them.
We are still learning every time we try a case.
If ever there comes a time when you don’t feel that tingle of excitement when you stand up in court to speak on behalf of your client ( a person or the state) then it’s time to move on. What we do is important. We affect people’s lives everyday.
If there ever comes a time when a loss does not hurt; when a loss does not sting you to your very core, then it’s time to go. You need to learn to let go of your losses, but you need to make sure you care about every case you handle.
This is a tricky business.
You need to care, but you need to have perspective.
Losses hurt, but it’s better to lose than to do something unethical.
When the system works and you lose, then…the system worked.
See You In Court.
Monday, October 09, 2006
GOD BLESS AMERICA
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
People seem to want to discuss Third District Court of Appeals Judge Leslie Rothenberg.
Have at it.
In the interest of equal time, we include the link to her Bio on the 3rd DCA’s website. BIO
Judge Rothenberg: Runner, black belt, supporter of Israel, signer of the Christian Family Coalition’s pledge to use the powers of her office to oppose gay marriage, abortion, and support religious displays on public property. Former Prosecutor; ran for State Attorney; former Circuit Court Judge. We think it behooves everyone to remember people are much more than their public persona. There are two sides to every story, and for every complaint about Judge Rothenberg being too State oriented, there are her positions that she advocated during her run for State Attorney about revamping the Juvenile Justice Courts, and not wasting resources on simple drug possession cases.
See the New Times Article
Here is part of what the New Times has to say when Judge Rothenberg was running for State Attorney in 2004:
This past August, during the Republican primary for Miami-Dade State Attorney, the Christian Family Coalition asked candidates to sign a form pledging that, if elected, they would use their powers as public officials to oppose gay marriage and support a religious agenda. "Running for a quasi-judicial office, I did not think it was appropriate," says one of those candidates, Al Milian, who declined to sign.
His Republican opponent, Leslie Rothenberg, enthusiastically put pen to paper. She vowed to oppose providing abortion coverage as part of local government's health-care package as well as any zoning laws restricting religious meetings. She supported religious displays on public property. And she promised to oppose gay marriage and domestic partnerships "with my votes, powers, and privileges of public office."
[Rumpole thinks this is a good place for another quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800. ]
Rothenberg's career as a jurist was baptized in controversy. In 1992 she quit after six years as a prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office to run for judge in the Eleventh Circuit here in Miami-Dade. She trumpeted her experience as a "tough prosecutor" and "crime fighter" so vociferously that local defense attorneys were convinced she was blatantly anti-defendant.
When she won, Robert Scola Jr., chairman of the Miami chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (now a circuit court judge himself), sent a letter to Leonard Rivkind, the Eleventh Circuit's chief judge, asking him to assign Rothenberg to the civil, not criminal, division: "Our directors unanimously expressed grave concerns about her ability to sit fairly and impartially as a criminal court judge," Scola wrote in the September 17, 1992, missive. This was not a knee-jerk reaction. More than twenty prosecutors had become judges before Rothenberg, and the lawyers association had never deemed it necessary to send a letter of concern.
What can we say?
We elected Holly-Go-Lightly as our Governor, and he and his brother are bound and determined to turn this country into the gay hating, cross worshiping, Christian Nation that their supporters so ferverently believe we are.
You guys on the comment board can have at it with Judge Rothenberg, but as Hyman Roth said of Frank ("Frankie Five Angels") Pentangeli in the Godfather,
“[s]he’s small potatoes.”
The larger issue is the election, appointment, and promotion of politicians and their minions who support the belief this is a Christian nation.
It is a nation where any and all beliefs about religion or against religion are welcome. But do not confuse a country that is a haven for any and all religious beliefs, as a religious country. That is the difference between America and Iran. Yet the CFC and other religious zealots want us to be Iran, just a Christian Iran not a Muslim one. Substitute priests and preachers for Mullahs, and you have the type of country the brothers Bush and their followers want.
“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
We could rail on about Judge Rothenberg’s pledge to the CFC.
But who are we as compared to Thomas Jefferson? So we will let him speak for us:
"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like (the purchase of a book) can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens?
Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched?
Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? ...
Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127
What Jefferson was saying (if we may be so bold, but it is our blog after all) is that once you let the Camel’s nose under the tent- Once you let religion become the standard of what is appropriate or legal conduct, then who is to judge what religion allows and disallows?
Who tells us what God wants? Who decides what religion says the law may allow and prohibit?
Over 230 years ago we choose to be a country of laws not religion.
We are governed by our laws and have chosen Judges to interpret those laws.
The irony is that when Judges surrender to the supremacy of religion; when they pledge to use the powers of their office to advance the goals of a particular religion, or religion in general as is the case with the CFC pledge, they are surrendering the power that we have entrusted in them.
Can anyone be that desperate to win an election?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
FOR FUN ONLY
Denver Broncos -4 over the Ravens.
Kansas City -3 over Arizona.
Giants -4 and under 42.5 versus the Washington Redskins.
Best of Luck.
In our continuing effort to keep our readers the best informed lawyers in Miami, we routinely scour all sorts of journals to find articles we believe are relevant. This one, which can be found on WEBMD caught our eye:
Oct. 6, 2006 :
THC, the key compound in marijuana, may also be the key to new drugs for Alzheimer's disease.
That's because the marijuana compound blocks the formation of brain-clogging Alzheimer's plaques better than current Alzheimer's drugs.
"While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer's drugs] currently available to patients," Janda says in a news release.
"Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer's disease."
The findings appear in the Aug. 9 online edition of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
L.A. FRAUD SUSPECT MAY BE IN MIAMI
A man charged with multiple counts of fraud related to a $150,000 Internet scheme may be in Miami, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported Friday.
The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for Teodor Manolache, who most recently lived in the Los Angeles area. He is suspected of deceiving buyers in online auctions on eBay, Yahoo! Auctions, and Autotrader.com.
The 29-year-old Romanian national and his alleged co-conspirator, Leontin Salageanu, often posed as Hurricane Katrina relief organizations holding online charity auctions.
Many of their victims believed their purchases supported Katrina survivors, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.
Rumpole says: Now why doesn't this surprise us? Our fair city is a veritable magnet for a rogues gallery of thieves, ruffians, suspicious characters, and we’re not just talking about the City Commission.
Well, if it wasn’t for them, we’d have to learn about subrogated insurance policies and such.
See You in Court Tuesday. Have a great long weekend.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
- Clarence Darrow
A Judge wrote:
As a circuit judge, I am interested in your opinions. As a lawyer, I liked to know whether I was going to trial. The purpose is to know if the case is ready or not. That way the lawyers don't have to prepare unnecessarily and the judge can plan his week. However, lately I have lawyers announcing they are ready only to change their minds when called.
Trials. On any given day there must be 250 lawyers in the REGJB. Probably a bare ten percent are qualified to handle a jury trial. What do we mean by that?
A lawyer qualified to handle a jury trial has been involved in dozens and dozens of jury trials while working as a prosecutor or public defender. They have made horrible mistakes and learned from them. They have seen other lawyers ask brilliant questions during voire dire, and incorporated those questions in their own voire dire. They have confronted the same situations over and over again until one day, as they are examining a witness, the witness does something un-expected, and suddenly the lawyer remembers when the exact same thing occurred a few years ago, and they remember how it played out in that trial, and they adjust their strategy in the current trial accordingly, all the while acting as if this was entirely expected.
The German’s have a word for this: Fingerspitzengeful- an instinctive sense and understanding.
In summary, a qualified trial lawyer has experience, which combined with solid preparation, trumps talent every time.
In cross-examination, as in fishing, nothing is more ungainly than a fisherman pulled into the water by his catch.
- Louis Nizer
You can be the best cross examiner there is, but if you haven’t been to the crime scene and know that the street is a narrow unlit street so the witness could not have seen what they say they did, and if you do not have the perfect picture ready to impeach them, then no matter how good you are at cross, the witness will eat your lunch.
A few weeks ago we engaged in a private email exchange with lawyer who claimed be very experienced former prosecutor, although we do no know who he is. His basic view was he had tried cases when he was a prosecutor and now was the time for him to just get as a good as deal as possible and then move on to the next case.
This is not a philosophy of law we adhere to.
On the other hand, trials can be zero sum games- you win – your client goes home, you lose, your client may not go home, perhaps ever again.
The answer then to the anonymous Judge’s observation that lawyers change their mind after announcing ready for trial, is that the decision to go to trial is a complex calculation with a myriad of influences that can affect the decision, even when the issue already appears decided. Money, risk, possible penalty, the health of a spouse, the confidence in the lawyer, the lawyer’s confidence in themselves, the Judge assigned to the case, the offer prior to trial, the experience and ability of the prosecutor, and a hundred other unnamed factors all influence the decision to go to trial.
So for those of us that announce ready for trial and actually go to trial (prosecutor and defense attorney alike) there is that final, awful, moment of judgment.
The work is done.
The decision is now out of your hands.
Then there is that knock on the door, followed by those awful moments of waiting.
The jury walks in, and you can hear your heat beating as the foreperson rustles the verdict forms while handing them to the bailiff.
The bailiff takes them to the Judge, and inside you are screaming “just get it over with already.”
Now the Judge knows and so does the clerk as they clear their voice and begin to read:
“In the Circuit court of the eleventh judicial circuit, in and for Dade County. Count one. We the jury on this the 5th Day of October 2006, find the defendant……………”
The urging of that word 'judgment' hath bred a kind of remorse in me.
- William Shakespeare,
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third
I love trials. I just hate the verdicts. They take too much out of me either way they go.
See You In Court.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Like a virus, it has spread, feeding off the host (us lawyers).
It has turned into the bane of our existence.
An endless exercise in standing in lines, getting little done, and having client’s getting warrants for no reason.
We are speaking of soundings.
This is a no-brainer. This ship has sunk. Soundings in Circuit Court work as well as the Dolphin Offensive line.
We can see no real advantage to the felony sounding system. Prosecutor’s witnesses on the Monday trial date are already on stand-by, and with very little discretion, no deals are offered at sounding that cannot be had at trial. Truth be told, the best deals come right before trial, if they are coming at all.
In exchange for this exercise in futility, what do we get in return? 1) The prosecutors spend valuable time and energy in the middle of the week getting ready for an enormous calendar. 2) The Judge has to take time away from their regular calendar, and from hearing evidentiary motions, and trying cases.
3) Defense attorneys stand in long lines for nothing.
And to top it all off, a certain percentage of clients who have not really absconded miss the blasted court hearing and get an AC. Then the defense attorney has to call the client. Then they have to write a motion saying the client missed the sounding inadvertently. Then they have to call the JA (available to answer the phone only on odd number days, and then only between 1:18 and 1:22 pm) and set the motion (“Is Friday March 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm convenient for you counsel?”) And then the case gets back on the merry-go-round only to have it happen all over again.
Things are not so bad down here.
There is an identifiable reason for having the soundings: to avoid paying over-time for police officers to show up in court for cases that will plead out.
The County Court Judges have wisely allowed clients to sign a waiver and not require their appearance in court, drastically cutting down on the needless warrants and cycle of filing motions to set aside the warrant. However their Circuit brethren (motto: “If we have to be here, you have to be here.”) have not seen the wisdom of their misdemeanor savvy colleagues.
It also seems that a significant number of pro se cases are settled at soundings, and many cases that are not ready are continued, making Mondays in County Court pleasant, if now a bit downright lonely.
However, to achieve this, we still have the endless lines on Wednesdays. It can’t be pleasant for an unrepresented defendant to appear in court for a 9:00 am sounding calendar, and sit through a seemingly endless line of attorneys calling their 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, and 11:00 am cases.
There must be a better way.
See You in court, standing in line.
Monday, October 02, 2006
The holy day is a time for atonement for sins; but according to the rules and tradition, atonement for sins by one person against another person cannot be made until one asks forgiveness.
I ask forgiveness.
For those of you who have been offended by words I have written, please forgive me. The intent of this blog was to amuse and to provide a place to generate thoughtful discussion of the issues that affect us.
I believe it was wrong to write about the criticism of Judge William Thomas when I had not seen it first hand. When I did see Judge Thomas in Court I realized I had made a grievous error. He has his own style for sure. But he is a good and hardworking Judge who clearly was called to this career by his desire to better his community. I truly regret the initial post (and no, I do not currently have any cases before him).
I also erred when I did not pay as much attention to the comments as I should have and missed several vicious comments about a Judicial candidate and allegations about his orientation. I am sorry that those comments were posted and I apologize.
I am sure there are many other mistakes I made, and for those who have been caused any pain or unwarranted discomfort by this blog please accept my apology.
I hope that as we approach the one year anniversary of this blog, that the readers will continue to contribute to interesting and humorous comments about our little world where so much happens.
I have tried to use the anonymity I have, responsibly, and endeavored to not use this blog for my own personal grievances or to take cheap shots at people for the fun of it (although so many of our robed readers present such a tempting and juicy target.)
I have tried to allow all comments to be posted, even those critical of me and this blog.
Overall, I think it was a very good first year.
See You In Court.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
We've tried poetry, ignorning them, and now cheering them. Go Fins.
To show we know more then blood spatter, objective entrapment, and conspiracy,
we give you our Sunday football picks:
New Orleans at Carolina: Saints + 7 and our best bet: Under 41 1/2.
Miami at Houston: Texans -3 1/2 (sorry guys).
NE at Cinncinatti: Bengals -5 1/2.
A few weeks of following our picks and you can retire from the practice of law.