Saturday, February 28, 2009


The comments to yesterday's post about Judge Cueto's actions at bond hearing are almost unanimous in support of Judge Cueto. 

After hearing that Judge Cueto refused to lower a bond, a fifteen year old girl cursed and stormed out of the courtroom. Cueto called for the police, hit the panic button,  had the family brought back into court and screamed at them and demanded they apologize. 

The comments applauded Judge Cueto for not putting up with the rude behavior, and for making the girl apologize. The comments support Judge Cueto for pondering whether life in prison would be appropriate for someone who sold cocaine.

Perhaps in light of these comments we need to re-evaluate our position.?
Perhaps WE should be the one apologizing to Judge Cueto?

Rumpole replies: NEVER!

What Judge Cueto did is what we all want to do.  And perhaps what Judge Cueto did is what needed to be done. Someone needs to grab this little ruffian and shake some common sense into her. 

But not a Judge, in court, during a first appearance. 

And this is where all the commentators are wrong. They are mistaking what someone should do, with what a Judge should do.

The Judge's primary responsibility is to review the arrest affidavit, determine probable cause, and set a fair bond. 

Judge Cueto did that. 

The Judge's secondary responsibility is to give an appearance of fairness to the public. When Judge Cueto reviewed the arrest affidavit and spoke with the Defendant's mother, he did that. 

Where Judge Cueto failed is in his response to the girl cursing.  Re-watch the video. Watch the Judge explode and shake with rage. Watch him lose all control to the extent he tries to use a panic button for a situation that does not call for all security hands to rush to the courtroom. 

Is this the type of person you want sentencing someone? 

What we see is the Judge's personal frustrations coming to the surface. 

Does he have an agenda against gang members who deal drugs, and against snotty teenagers that have no respect for anything? 
Then he needs to resign and join the state attorneys office, or go work for the SAO or the PDs in the Juvenile courts. 

His job is to remain in control of his temper and control the courtroom and rule fairly. 

Read the Florida Supreme Court decisions admonishing Judges who are disrespectful to the public. The Supreme Court takes very seriously how the public views the judiciary. And for good reason. When we lose respect for Judges, we have lost respect for those we have elected or appointed because we believed they were among the rare few of us to be trusted with decisions of life and death over our fellow citizens. 

Judge Cueto had a responsibility not to lose his temper and to control his courtroom, even assuming that what the girl needed was a good hard lesson in civics.  

In the end result what do you think would help this girl more: some middle aged guy in a robe screaming at her, or a contempt hearing in which she is ordered to perform community service at the courthouse? 

 If the Judge really wanted to help this girl, he would have required her to spend a week with him in bond hearings and then write a paper for school about it. 

There are a million ways this judge could have imposed order in his courtroom, and helped instill some respect in this girl for our legal system. 

And there was one way he could have failed in all respects, and that is the way he acted. 

I stand by my previous comment- until he demonstrates an ability to control his temper, Judge Cueto needs to apologize and he needs to be removed from criminal court. 



Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about the facts of the particular case, but is $90,000 bond a "fair bond" for the alleged sale of cocaine?

Anonymous said...

i agree. and he seems like a dork also. people who sell coke should go away for life? what a great guy!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with this post, Rumpole. I understand the judge's frustration and I feel that way many times with some of my clients, but, of course, I'm not going to explode in rage and make the client run to my competitor's office. The best option in cases like this girl's is good counseling and getting her interested in the criminal justice system in a positive way. Make her stick around bond hearings as you suggested, or make her visit a different courtroom each day plus a jail tour. Who knows, maybe even a program could be created that could be successful with very little, if any, funding.

To get positive results, we need to resist the temptation to give a "lesson-teaching" anger outburst. I remember years ago encountering a young prosecutor who did something stupid in one of my cases. I could have gotten him/her in trouble with the judge and bar but insted I took him/her aside and gave him/her a good counseling talk which resulted in a learning experience for the prosecutor and stopped the repetition of the same mistake in the future.

If Cueto really wanted to anger the girl, all he had to do was ignore her. Some defendants will say provocatory things to judges. Other will wear t-shirts with provocatory messages. The best judges ignore them and go about the courtroom business without batting an eyer and without giving the defendants the satisfaction of taking the bait.

Cuesto should call Henry Ferro to learn first hand why these type of outbursts are a no-no in the courtroom, even if meant to scare straight a young punk.

Batman said...

Rumpole you are incredibly correct. There is a difference between being stern and being abusive.

Cueto showed a total lack of judicial demeanor and a bias and prejudice which should call for his disqualification on all cocaine possession and sale cases. Eig showed a total lack of understanding of what his role in the judiciary is right now and an absence of sensitivity for the "victim" who stood before him.

A judge is supposed to be in control of not only his/her courtroom, but him/herself. How can the public learn that disputes are settled by the orderly presentation of evidence with proper respect for the court, when the judge shows such disrespect for the institution they represent and have sworn to uphold and by pumelling those those before them with the use of profanity and angry discourse?

In Cueto's case, a distraught mother, and in Eig's case, a runaway teen, were verbally abused and the subject of a judge's improper tirade which evidenced their lack of judicial temperament and incompetence to be on the bench. Neither deserve to be nor should they have ever been judicial officers.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree that there were alternative ways Judge Cueto could have dealt with this situation. I just don't agree that his actions were so outside the boundaries to require his removal. That seems to be an extremist position to me. I would hope that Rumpole would express just as much outrage when a judge like Rosa Rodriguez screams, yells, and chastises the State Attorneys in her courtroom for bringing a prosecution she disagrees with, or for pushing a probation violation that she doesn't like, as she has done many times. Judges from both sides of the aisle in their previous careers behave unprofessionally from time to time. It does not matter if they are mistreating a member of the public or a public servant. If you are going to go after Judges for unprofessional conduct, let's take on ALL judges who behave this way.

Anonymous said...

I stand by my previous opinion about you Rumpole: you are wrong about Cueto. And to call for him to be removed from criminal court really makes your hystrionics all the more obvious - one might think you are overreacting the same way you think Cueto was. Oh, you say, Cueto's a judge... so he can't have human feelings/emotions? BS. More judges need to take control of their courtrooms.

Anonymous said...

An adult should conduct himself or herself in a manner that is condusive to the behavior we expect from our children, teens or young adults.

Lets set an example by demonstrating unwavering patience by talking a young one through their anger.

There is a root cause, most likely insecurity, fear, regret, a bad past experience or no one in their life to teach them proper communication or conduct.

If we help a child realize what is driving their behavior, the impact will be long lasting, unlike; giving up on them and "teaching them a lesson".

There are limitations, however, can't we all give a little bit more patience, listening and understanding?

Its a judge's duty to set an example not only decide an outcome.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Batman's post 100%. Judge Cueto was not wrong in chastizing the girl. But he really went off the deep end.

Our dear friend "Fast" Gerry Klein--the master of bond hearings--would deal with this crap all the time. He would just ignore the perpetrator, and perhaps make a joking comment or two after he or she left the room. He would have also quickly explained to the mother what was going on, and then move on to the next defendant.

Anonymous said...

So i gather the criminal defense bar condones 15 year olds cursing at judges when they diagree with their ruling. Why are attorneys rated below used car salesmen? And criminal defense attorney's even lower? Allowing someone to curse at a sitting judge is a reflection of what society has become. We attorneys need to set the bar higher, improve our image and improve the administratin of justice. The judge handled it poorly. He should have institued direct contempt proceedings and sentenced accordingly. Attorneys who continually condone such conduct just to take a cheap shot at a judge simply demean the profession. Prior to the invent of blogs, when we disagreed with a judge we filed an appeal. Now we run home and post anonymously. We are not going to improve our image in my lifetime and that is sad. So many attorney do so many good things.

Anonymous said...

As a former ASA I'm amazed to say that I agree with Rumpole. This judge was not trying to teach the 15 year old a lesson or to retain order in his courtroom. He was satiating his offended, overblown ego.

The purpose of his diatribe was to insult and demean and to re-establish what he sees as the proper power hierarchy. "Apologoze to me or I will throw you in jail." I hope it makes him feel like a big man to berate a 15-year-old girl.

Should the family have been admonished? Yes, but not screamed at and threatened. Judges don't scream and threaten; they conduct orderly business. This matter should be referred to the JQC, as should the other judges who conduct tirades at prosecutors, witnesses, victims, defendants, and defense attorneys.

Anonymous said...

Cueto definitely lost it, revealing his biases. Can't see how this engenders much respect for the judiciary or the law, regardless of the cause.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the "crack whore" comment, did anyone else notice that Eig told the juvenile who was asking for help that she wasn't a "normal kid"?

Anonymous said...

judge, you are posting anonymously also.

just admit that you made a mistake and most of us will forgive you. you need to get a hold of your emotions.

Anonymous said...

4:40, that may be the negative image you have of yourself, but not the image I have of myself or of other highly competent criminal defense counsel. And frankly, many of the defendants (and their family members) who I and other good criminal defense counsel have gotten acquitted or dismissed or otherwise fairly treated by the system also don't have that image of us. Perhaps you are doing something wrong? Maybe it is your self-image that is the problem. And screaming at kids won't help your image either.

Anonymous said...

I hate comic books.



Judge Cueto came from the State Attorney's Office where he was assigned to the Public Corruption Unit, I believe.

Cap Out ...


Paul Harvey dead at 90

"I'm a professional parade watcher who can't wait to get out of bed every morning and rush down to the teletypes to pan for gold," he told CNN's Larry King in 1988."

... and now you know the rest of the story ...

Good day!

Anonymous said...

Sure let's remove him from criminal court and let's make Rumpole a judge. That way he can open the jails and release all the good guys. In fact, why don't we put all the judges and cops in jail and throw away the key. Let's see how long Rumpole will survive walking the streets of our safe and beautiful paradise county.

Rumpole said...

No, lets just have fair judges who don't freak out when a 15 year old acts up in court. See the difference?

Anonymous said...

Most in fact the majority of the judges try to make defendants and their families understand the court proceeding,and the reasons for nthe ruling.I trust that was what Judge Cueto did,and he was met with a tongue lashing,by whom a young 15 year old who was apparently brought up in a family with no values,no respect for anyone but her immediate family.Judges,have often times relinquished lucrative private practices to help the community.They are faced with disrespect on a daily basis,because they are taught to coddle defendants.They the judges,are no robotons,and suffer many of the infrailities of any human being and sometimes they to have an off moment.But candidly,perhaps Cueto should have help this young lady lady,15 years of age in direct criminal contemp:would those opposed of such a toungue lashing prefer that method.Apparently her family,sibling or relatives never taught this young lady the difference between right and wrong,and such was definately shown that day.No,I guess you feel the judge shouyld have let it go,and let thei"poor,innocent child"understand nothing of any consequence occurs when you do something wrong"Yes,that is often the way Miami Dade County exists.
I suggest we let "Freedom Ring"and have a totally free county with people being able to do whatever they wish to do.Instead of calling it Miami Dade,the Fun and Sun capital of the World we can refer to ourselves "Crime Freedom Land,the land to Learn a Skill from petit theft on up"

Anonymous said...

I think he lost his temper, but a judge simply cannot allow a disrespectful teenager to say "this is f*******g bull****" without doing something. This is unfortunate but kids are being raised to have no respect for anyone. Contempt may have been a better option but with her age, I'm just not so sure. Cueto was fine, even while the mother was inappropriately "fighting" with him. I think he should have stopped her before she went on and on about how she could guarantee her son's appearance (for heaven's sake) by saying "Listen, I've ruled. If the defensen has a problem, your son or his attorney should file a motion citing all of the reasons why I've ruled incorrectly. State, call your next case." End of story.

Andy said...

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