Thursday, January 31, 2013


UPDATE: An emotional Judge Thomas sentenced the defendant to death this morning.

This is Ana Maria Angel. 

Shortly after this picture was taken her life was ended by pure evil. 

Today (Thursday) Joel Lebron- the killer who raped her and shot and killed her on the side of I95 while her hands were clasped in prayer for her life will be sentenced by Judge Will Thomas to either life in prison or death by lethal injection. 
Today will mark for Ana Maria Angel's family the last of a decade of court appearances while the five men who tortured and killed her had court hearings and trials. 

Today, regardless of the sentence, justice finally and hopefully is concluded in this horrible crime. 

There really is no justice to ease the terror this poor girl went through in the final minutes of her life and there is nothing that can ever be done to ease the pain of her mother who knows all too well how her daughter was murdered. 
But today the world can stop thinking about her killer - because he is meaningless- and remember this young woman- because she is not. 

Perhaps this is a surprising post for this blog, ostensibly run by a defense attorney. But this blog is not a defense attorney blog. It is a blog about the Richard E Gerstein Justice Building and those who work here. Our thoughts about this heinous crime should neither be surprising nor misconstrued. There is a difference between a lawyer who represents a client and a person, who had no involvement in a case. We had no involvement in this case (so you can strike the defense attorneys off your "who is Rumpole?" list) and express our sadness at this tragedy and our shock and horror of the details of the crime as a citizen of Miami, and not as a defense attorney. 
The praise in this case is due to Prosecutors Abe Laeser, Reid Ruben, Laura Adams, and Christine Zahralban, who spoke up for justice for Ana Maria Angel. 

Don't forget about the Bench and Bar mixer tonight at Tobacco Road. Details on the prior post. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


You've often bent their ear, so now's your chance to bend an elbow with your favourite judge (if there really is such a thing) at a "Bench and Bar Mixer" at  famed Miami watering hole Tobacco Road on Thursday January 31, 2013.  If you can't think of any other reason to go, then celebrate the last day of the first month of 2013. One down, eleven to go.

Dcba bench and bar from Justicebuilding

will be from this group the JNC (Motto:"A little juice never hurts") just forwarded to Governor Scott. 
Robert Coppel; Jason Dimitris; Steve Lieberman, Jonathan Meltz; Michelle Delancy; Sandra Miller-Batiste.
Our vote: PD Rob Coppel. He ran a great campaign against Judge Verde last August and is a deserving and experienced choice. And a nice guy to boot. The pick replaces Judge Hendon who was elevated to Circuit Court recently.  

Dead? Nyet!
In having spent more  than a quarter century in courts, we've almost seen it all. But not this. Russia is about to prosecute a dead man. The NY Times reported here that  "Russia took the unusual step on Monday of attempting to put a dead man on trial, when it tried to open posthumous proceedings against Sergei L. Magnitsky, the whistle-blowing lawyer who died three years ago in a Moscow jail cell. The effort to prosecute Mr. Magnitsky, which was postponed when Mr. Magnitsky’s legal team refused to participate, stoked tensions in a case that has already damaged Russia’s image abroad and strained relations with the United States."

First Pussy Riot and now this. We gotta get to Russia

Dasvadaniya comrades. 

Monday, January 28, 2013


In the aftermath of the verdict in the case involving the disappearance of Rilya Wilson, the FACDL listserv was flooded over the weekend with emails congratulating the attorneys who defended Geralyn Graham. Graham was accused of abusing and then murdering Rilya- a young child in foster care. 
Certainly the defense attorneys had a very difficult job in defending someone accused of killing a child. Could any charge evoke more emotion? And in the best tradition of our noble profession, both attorneys who were appointed to represent Graham stepped up and tread where few are brave enough and skilled enough  to go. In the face of overwhelming emotion and sadness, the defense held the prosecution to their burden of proof. As to the murder count- at least one juror agreed. The mistrial on the murder count had the practical effect of saving the life of the defendant, who was otherwise facing the death penalty. So to the defense- job well done. 

But what disturbed us over the weekend was that lost in the chorus of congratulatory emails was the absence of any mourning for young Rilya Wilson, who is still missing, and most likely dead. She was a young child, born into difficult circumstances, and placed into a foster care system that horribly failed her. Children depend upon us to protect them and provide for them until they become adults. Children like Rilya Wilson are the most vulnerable, without permanent parents to provide a safe and nurturing  home. Rilya Wilson needed the State of Florida's foster care system to protect her, and instead it killed her.

A child is dead because of the incompetence and negligence of Florida's foster care system. And that tragedy should always remain foremost in our thoughts - beyond the natural urge to indulge in congratulating  two colleagues who did an outstanding job in a very difficult case. So our last words on this subject are on the memory of this young child- Rilya Wilson. Multitudes of State officials testified that in the wake of Rilya Wilson having gone missing, changes were made in the way the State monitors children in foster care homes. 

Rilya Wilson- hopefully your death will not be in vain. 

Sorry to start the week off on such a difficult note, but this was on our mind all weekend. 

BENCH AND BAR MIXER: This Thursday at Tobacco Road. 5:30-7:00 pm. More on this later in the week. 

Have a good week.

Friday, January 25, 2013


SATURDAY UPDATE: The Jury failed to reach a decision in the murder count and a mistrial was declared. The defendant was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, and child abuse as a lesser for another count of aggravated child abuse. 

SHADES OF KATHY WILLETS: The Sun Sentinel reports that a Boca Raton police officer's wife was arrested for running a prostitution ring. The big tip off to the officers investigating the case? Denise McCoy listing her employment at "Sara's Entertainment Escort Service." After some real brainstorming, the cops got suspicious. Nothing gets past those guys. 

Trivia answers below: except for the ones for which there has not been a correct answer. For those, the search continues. 

Rilya WIlson jury deadlocked 11-1 on murder count. Has reached verdicts on kidnapping and agg child abuse. Deliberations resume Friday. H/T David Ovalle/Miami Herald. 

We have a guest blogger! Sort of. The blogger put together a trivia quiz but didn't want to go through the misagosh of becoming a guest blogger so he/she emailed them to us and we have posted it. Answers Friday night/Saturday morning. Best part is you can't google the answers. 

1) This failed judicial candidate has the same name as a lighthouse and ran against Judge Dresnick and lost.  Marcus Ambrose.

2) This former county and retired circuit court judge was the public defender in a US protectorate. Name the Judge and the island where he served. The great Arthur Rothenberg- Yap. 

3) This late judge has a tennis court named after him. Arthur Snyder. 

4) This failed judicial candidate's mother was a clerk. Lenny Cooperman, whose mom was a great clerk. Last we heard, Mr. Cooperman was ensconced in Maine, successfully working as a Federal ALJ. All's well that ends well.

5) This judge issued a misdemeanor  bench warrant for a Miami Dolphin and then wrote on the warrant "Do not arrest on Sunday". Fred Moreno, way back when he was a county court judge.  

6) What courtroom was the televised bond hearings original set in? 2-4  

7) This late judge was a former paratrooper and started his calendar every day with the pledge of allegiance. Henry Oppenborn. A great american. 

8) This former Judge famously waved a gun in court at a defendant and asked him how it felt to have a gun pointed at him? Name the Judge and the Judge he beat in an election. Henry Ferro. Not. 

9) Who presided over the Ted Bundy trial? The best of the best- Ed Cowart. 

10) This current  member of the US House of Representatives was impeached from his prior office. Alcee Hastings. 

11) Name the only member of the current 3rd DCA promoted directly from County Court. Rick Suarez. 

12) Who did Jim Best run against for Judge? Ivan Hernandez was the winner. Judge Reginald Richardson, who had been arrested while on the bench came in second. Extra Credit- who successfully defended Judge Richardson at trial? 

13) This former chief judge became chief judge his second appointment to the bench, having voluntarily resigned from the bench the first time around. Joe Farina. 

14) This circuit court judge resigned from the bench in scandal twice. In between he was appointed to the county court. Al Sepe. 

Extra Credit: Who swore in Janet Reno for her last term as State Attorney? No one has come close on this one. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


The closing arguments in the disappearance over Rilya Wilson concluded on Wednesday. The jury will be charged on Thursday and begin deliberations. 

Long time ASA Sally Weintraub gave the rebuttal argument for the prosecution. As per Herald Ace David Ovalle, this could well be her last closing argument in a long and distinguished career:

Sally Weintraub up now for rebuttal. Can't help but think this could be her final closings as a prosecutor after long, accomplished career

Justice Thomas mystery solved! 
What did Justice Thomas say in court the other day? After lengthy and hi-tech evaluation of the tape, the experts agree on the following, regarding an issue of competent counsel: 
She was a graduate of Yale Law School?” Scalia asked.
Sigler responded, “She’s a very impressive attorney.”
Then Scalia talked about another lawyer, who was a graduate of Harvard Law School.
“Son of a gun!” joked Scalia, a Harvard Law graduate himself – class of 1960.
To which Thomas, a 1974 Yale law graduate, said into the microphone, “Well, there, see: He did not provide good counsel.”
Harvahard and Yalies populate the court. Time for someone from Suffolk Law to get on the court and shake things up. 
We're traveling, and still need some guest bloggers with boots on the ground in the REGJB. Shoot us an email from your personal or work email address. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Welcome back from your long weekend. Next up: President's weekend in February. 

Closing arguments today before Judge Tinkler-Mendez in the trial over the disappearance of young Rilya Wilson. 
David Ovalle will be covering the arguments of both sides, word for word, on twitter. @davidovalle305. 

We posted the answers to yesterday's presidential trivia on yesterday's post. 

Can you name one international terrorist that has ever been indicted for violating the 1993 International chemical weapons convention?  Not even Saddam Hussein, who gassed tens of thousands of his citizens was indicted for such a crime. But Carol Anne Bond, who poisoned her co-worker because she suspected she was pregnant via Bond's husband was. And now the US Supreme Court has accepted the case for the second time to clear the air, as it were, on the extent to which a treaty can be implemented by congress.  Used to be a good poisoning just got you a state murder rap. 

David Ovalle reports on the kerfuffle over QEEG. The State Attorney calls it "junk science". Judge Scola called it admissible. The US Army uses it, but Judges Thomas and Firtel do not. 

Short week. See You In Court. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


Good Monday morning. Today is: Martin Luther King Day and the second day of the second term of the 44th President of the United States.  Today is also the 1463rd day of the Obama presidency. 

Poet Richard Blanco is Miami's connection to the inaugural. He will be reading his poetry at the inaugural today, becoming (in no significant order) the first Hispanic to be the inaugural poet, the youngest inaugural poet, the first (openly) gay inaugural poet, and the first poet from Florida. 

Since court is closed, here's a little presidential trivia to keep you busy:
Lincoln's second inaugural address was 701 words. He used the word "I" once. 
1) This president was the first to: make a phone call, drive a car, and he had six Chiefs of Indian nations at his inaugural parade, including Chief Geronimo.  Teddy Roosevelt.
2) This presidential candidate was the last to get a cabinet position in the next administration.  Adlai Stevenson.
3) This president was the last to have a pony on the white house grounds. JFK- Caroline had a pony. 
4) This vice president was the first to become president through the death of a president. John Tyler. Harrison died a month after his inaugural. 
5) This president served the shortest term of any president. Harrison. 
6) What is Harry Truman's FULL middle name? Just "S", the explanation for which varies. 
7) Which two presidents died on the 4th of July? Jefferson and Adams. 
8) Which president is credited with first using the term "O.K."? Martin Van Buren. 
9) Who was the first president to live in the White House? John Adams. 
10) Who was the first president to receive votes from women? Warren Harding in 1920. Although since he was on the losing ticket as VP, Franklin Roosevelt would have been an acceptable choice as well. 
11) What president was the first to receive the oath of office from a former president? Taft first swore in Calvin Coolidge in 1925 before swearing in Herbert Hoover in 1929. 

Upcoming in the REGJB this week: Closing arguments Tuesday before Judge Tinkler-Mendez in the case involving the disappearance of Rilya Wilson. 

The 2013 Super Bowl is Ravens vs. 49'ers. Vegas has San Fran as 4 1/2 favourites. Take the Ravens and the points. Actually, the Ravens will win so take the Ravens and the money line. And as always, 100% guaranteed, we will tell you whether the coin toss will be heads or tails. 

Enjoy the day off. See you in court next week. 

We will be traveling quite a bit overseas in the next few months, if you want to be a guest blogger, shoot us an email. 

Friday, January 18, 2013


UPDATE:  A reader reports on the memorial for Jim Best:

Went to the party for Jim Best last night. I saw; His (now and past)partners, Joe, Chris Lyons, Rene Palamino, and others. Judge Richard Hersch Lasoyna Lacy Tom Risavy Mike Catalano Bob and Dad Louis Lesperance Judge Bill Altfield Judge Patty Marino Ted Mastos and wife Lt. Jeffrey Locke and wife Gina and many othes. We did a toast to Jim. I suggest all of us who knew and liked Jim Best, raise a glass tonight and say a toast to our old buddy. RIP Jim.

"For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed, as nobody is innocent. 

This is the city...Miami. Millions of residents. Twenty eight (or so) are Judges assigned to the criminal circuit court. This is the story of one of them: (cue Dragnet theme.. dum da dum dum. Dum da dum dum dum....)

Judge Milt Hirsch does not like fingerprints. He told the prosecutors he doesn't like fingerprints and then told them that in any fingerprint case to ask him to recuse himself. They did. He didn't. This appeal follows. 

"The affidavit further avers that, subsequent to this disclosure, in a separate conversation with another prosecutor, David Gilbert, Judge Hirsch suggested that the State file a motion to disqualify him because of his preconceived opinions on the subject of fingerprint evidence. When Mr. Gilbert suggested to Judge Hirsch that he should recuse himself based on his expressed feelings, Judge Hirsch stated he would prefer that the State file a motion to disqualify him, which he would grant. In addition to these statements, the affidavit states that Judge Hirsch told a third prosecutor, Christine Zahralban, that if the judge had a case in which the issue of the reliability of fingerprint evidence was raised prior to trial, he would recuse himself from hearing that case. Based on these statements made by Judge Hirsch and, in light of the defendant’s challenges to the fingerprint evidence and the defendant’s pending motions, the prosecutor in the instant cases took Judge Hirsch at his word and orally requested that he recuse himself. Judge Hirsch replied that he would not disqualify himself sua sponte, but he was expecting the State to file a motion to disqualify him..."

"However, despite the averments in these affidavits that Judge Hirsch acknowledged having preconceived opinions on the subject of fingerprints, urged two separate prosecutors on different occasions to file motions to disqualify him in cases where the reliability of fingerprint evidence was raised prior to trial, and told these prosecutors that if they filed such a motion he would grant it, Judge Hirsch denied the motion to disqualify filed by Mr. Ko. This was error." 

"Although Judge Hirsch’s disclosure of his writings on the issue of fingerprints most likely do not require his disqualification1, his invitations to file motions to disqualify him in cases where the reliability of fingerprint evidence becomes an issue, and his assurances that he would grant such motions if filed, certainly would cause a reasonable person to question the judge’s ability to fairly and impartially adjudicate the issues surrounding the reliability and admissibility of fingerprint evidence in a judicial proceeding."

An appeal in the form of a writ of prohibition was taken on Judge Hirsch's refusal to recuse himself on a fingerprint case in State v. Borrego.
In a moment....the results of that appeal. 
"Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest".  ( King Lear, Act I, Scene IV).

We therefore hold, as our sister courts and as we have previously held, that where a judge makes a disclosure, invites the parties to file a motion to disqualify him, and suggests that such a motion will be granted, the motion, if filed, must be 
Because we conclude the judge should have granted the motions to disqualify him, his subsequent rulings were without authority and are hereby vacated."

Milt for this blog is like a wet t-shirt reality TV show on Fox. Ratings go through the roof. We see a minimum 20% jump in unique hits and readers and a corresponding increase in comments. 

See you in court. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: DOM has all the details on the big rule 29 win in Federal Court in the Paki terror trial. Dore Louis, Kim Acevedo and Joe Rosenbaum did the job for their client. 

Meteorological update: Open the windows tonight and get out the warm comforter as a cold front moves in behind the rain. Temps will drop into the mid 50's tonight and we will struggle to reach 70 Friday. Finally a little respite from the warm spell. 

The rumour mill was in full swing Wednesday and our email in box was overflowing with information about  a lawyer and a police officer  who squared off in front of mild mannered Judge Louise Krieger-Martin. The bailiff intervened as the squabbling parties were ushered into the hallway where the officer made mention of calling the Florida Bar while the attorney continually taunted the cop to hit him. The affray ended without fisticuffs. 

OFFICER ANGEL MERCADO SUSPENDED. As per the Herald's Scott Hiaasen here. In the on going gambling investigation.  So don't expect him to show up for depos. 

Reminder: the memorial for Jim Best is tonight at "The Hole In The Wall" at 14421 South Dixie Highway, starting around 6pm. 

On Wednesday Judge Thomas sentenced Michele Traverso to 364 followed by two years house arrest for hit and run death of cyclist Aaron Cohen. Ramon dela Cabada for the defense. The state was seeking six years in prison. Should those who commit  traffic crimes, even those resulting in a tragic death- absent aggravating factors like impairment-be punished with six years in prison?  We mean, the word "accident" is part of the actus reus

Trivia: Which president asked congress for a complete ban on the manufacture of assault rifles? 
President Ronald Wilson Reagan did. 
So much for the NRA's second amendment hero. 

Trivia: This is a hard one. Which very very high ranking Obama Administration official's father had a middle name which was the last name of a long time REGJB Judge. 

See You In Court. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Good Wednesday morning. Today is the 16th day of the year. President Obama takes the oath of office this Sunday privately before a public inauguration on Monday. 

Reminder: the memorial for Jim Best is Thursday evening at "The Hole In The Wall" at 14421 South Dixie Highway, starting around 6pm. 

SUGAR: Is usually bad for you: 
According to the NY POST, female students in NYC, both  law students and college undergrads, are joining a website wherein they enter into companionship arrangements with older men who pay their tuition. There's something about that that just seems....creepy. 

Closing arguments in the long running case over the disappearance of foster child Rilya Wilson are set for next Tuesday before Judge Tinkler-Mendez. 

Don't fly 787's. 

Lance Armstrong told Oprah he was a cheat. 

In Lozman v. Riviera Beach, the US Supreme court just created a "reasonable observer" addition to Maritime Law. Congress didn't ever consider or pass such an addition to the law. Justice Bryer just created it by Judicial Fiat. The question surrounded whether Maritime law should apply to a docked houseboat. Up until the decision, if it floated, it was a boat. Now...maybe it is...maybe it isn't. And for our purposes, who was in the majority is what matters. Those strict constructionists- Alito, Thomas, and Scalia- those judges who rail against judges who act as legislators, and hold firm to the principle that judges must only interpret the law as it exists in a document-strict and original constructionists- those judges meekly joined the majority. It was left to Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor to hold firm to conservative principles of jurisprudence: 
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.  They described the “reasonable observer” test fashioned by the Breyer opinion as based upon notions that have “never appeared in any of our cases.”  The majority’s application of it here, the dissenters said, “effectively (and erroneously) introduces a subjective component into the vessel-status inquiry,” even while acting as it was creating an “objective” test.  The majority, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “works real damage to what has long been a settled area of maritime law….Numerous maritime industries rely heavily on clear and predictable legal rules for determining which ships are vessels.”  That will now be frustrated, the dissenting opinion said, by the majority’s “distorted application of our settled law.”

And finally this: In the inaugural day parade, there will be floats to honor Hawaii- Where President Obama grew up, Chicago Illinois, where President Obama lived after school, and Kenya- just to mess with Republican birthers. 

See You In Court. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


Corrections Officer Guillermo Olivares died this weekend in a motorcycle accident. He was assigned to the the jail division in Courtroom 6-7. 

By all accounts Officer Olivares was a wonderful person and a very professional corrections officer. His untimely death is a terrible tragedy. 

Attorney Joseph Vredevelt, Jim's partner, has asked us to post this:

I will be hosting a memorial for Jim this Thursday, January 17th at the Hole-In-The-Wall Pub located at 14421 S. Dixie HWY.  It will be from 6:00pm to 10:00 pm.  Everyone at the courthouse meant a lot to Jim and although he "didn't do funerals" and didn't want on for himself, he would have loved all the attorneys, judges, and court staff to come and raise a glass and tell some fishing stories in his honor.  

It's been a difficult few days. 




What do these seven men have in common? (Yes, I know they were all Presidents).

Only six times in our nation's history has the constitutionally mandated date for a Presidential Inauguration fallen on a Sunday.  This Sunday, January 20, 2013 will be the seventh time.  President Obama will take the oath of office in a private ceremony on Sunday.  He will follow that up with a public ceremony on Monday, January 21, 2013 at the Capitol.

Trivia Questions 1 and 2: Who was the first President to take the oath of office on January 20th?  And why did our country change the Inauguration date from March 4th to January 20th?  Bonus points if you can manage to answer either question without the use of Google or Bing.


50 years ago you could look around the classroom of any 1LW and what you would find were a lot of white males sitting behind their desks.  Fast forward to 2012 and 57% of our Circuit and County Court Judges (70 of the 122) in Miami-Dade County are female.  The current numbers are:

Circuit Female: 44
Circuit Male: 36
County Female: 26
County Male 16

On Friday, January 11, 2013, Judge Betila Soto became the Chief-Judge Elect.  Current Chief Judge Joel Brown, who took over in 2009 and was in his second two year term announced that he would not seek a third term.  Judge Soto was the only Judge who filed notice that she was running for the job.  Judge Scott Bernstein was considering a challenge, but chose not to run.  Judge Soto becomes the first female Chief Judge in our Circuit and will assume the job on July 1, 2013.

Judge Gerald Wetherington served as CJ from 1981-1991.
Judge Leonard Rivkind served for two terms from 91-95
Judge Joe Farina was our longest serving CJ; elected seven times, he served from 1995-2009.

Trivia Question #3: Who preceded Judge Wetherington as Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit?


Yes, you are correct.  And there is currently one open seat in the County Court.  Group 17 seat-holder Eric Hendon was elevated to the Circuit Court bench when Judge Joe Farina retired and a total of 22 attorneys have applied for the job including:

David Alschuler, Robert A.Coppel, Michelle Ashby Delancy, Norida Diaz, Jason Emilios Dimitris, Shahrzad Emami, Erica L. Gerstin, Julio Gomez, Pamela M. Gordon, Christopher Green, Scott Janowitz, Oscar Levin, Steve Lieberman, Shirlyon J.McWhorter, Jonathan Meltz, Sandra Miller-Batiste, Andrew A. Ostrow, Melba Pearson, Bruce S Reich, Leslie Sharpe, Joshua B. Spector, Julie Harris Terry

Our early favorite would have to be Jason Dimitris.  Who do you think deserves consideration and who does not belong on the list?  Be nice.


Speaking of appointments, Governor Rick Scott has made a total of 24 judicial appointments in Miami-Dade County in his first 24 months in office: (please post your ratings and reviews of our new judges in the comments section - 5 is our highest rating and 1 is our lowest; the DCBA has their rating system and we have ours; please consider judicial demeanor, legal acumen, etc.):

Fleur Lobree (County)
Victoria Brennan
Lisa Walsh
Michael Hanzman
Dawn Denaro
Specer Multack
William Altfield
Thomas Rebull
Rosa Figarola
Ivan Fernandez (3rd DCA)
Donald Cannava
Angelica Zayas
Norma Lindsey
Richard Hersch
Rodolfo Ruiz
Ariana Fajardo
Cristina Miranda
Rodney Smith
Thomas Logue (3rd DCA)
Eric Hendon
Betty Capote
Carlos Guzman
Alan Fine
Fleur Lobree (Circuit);(no, you are not reading double)

That's 13 males and 11 females in case you are keeping count.  The real question is whether they keep count up in Leon County.  Interesting to note that, it was only immediately after this BLOG posted an piece about the fact that there was an absence of blacks getting appointed by the Governor, that Governor Scott chose Rodney Smith (June 12, 2012) and Eric Hendon (December 1, 2012) to open Circuit Court seats.  Coincidence?  See The Captain's post of May 15, 2012.


And finally, the list that you have all been waiting for, courtesy of our friends at FACDL.  Our annual January rotation is taking place this month and there will be new faces on the bench at the Gerstein Justice Building.  Say hello to:

Judge Maria Verde - she takes over for Judge Arzola in Division 5.
Judge Teresa Pooler - she takes over for Judge Bloom in Division 13.
Judge Miguel de la O - he takes over for Judge Walsh in Division 15.
Judge Jeri Beth Cohen - she takes over Drug Court for Judge White-Labora.
Judge Fleur Lobree - she takes over for Judge Firtel in Division 62.

Other changes that you may notice throughout our criminal justice system include:

Judge Lindsey moves from Juvenile to Civil
Judge Maria de Jesus Santovenia moves into Juvenile
Judge Betty Capote has been assigned to Criminal at NDJC
Judge Michele Barakat has been assigned to Criminal at SDJC
Judge Tanya Brinkley has been assigned to Criminal at SDJC
Judge Ivonne Cuesta has been assigned to Criminal at Hialeah
Judge Diana Gonzalez has been assigned to Criminal at GJB
Judge Lawrence King moves from Criminal to Civil at SDJC

Finally, a special congratulations to Judge Deborah White -Labora who leaves her Drug Court assignment after five years.  Judge White-Labora took over Drug Court  from one of the best judges our Circuit has been blessed to ever have, Judge Jeffrey Rosinek.  Rosinek took the Drug Court program to new heights during his tenure and Judge White-Labora did a yeoman's job filing his shoes.  Judge White-Labora moves to Domestic Violence at the Lawson Building.

The Captain welcomes all our new judges to the GJB and to our branch courthouses.  I'm sure Rumpole will have more introductory comments for each of you.

Trivia Question #4 - DADE COUNTY’S MOST REMARKABLE JURIST, name him .....

UPDATE: Congrats to 2:20 pm who provided the correct answer with the name of Judge Vince Giblin.  To read a truly incredible story about one of Dade County's most "infamous" Judge, please see: http://www.browardbar.org/media/pdfs/JudgeGiblinArticle2010.pdf

In my days at college, I had a reputation as a successful skive. But I had nothing on this man. He was a well respected attorney with a brilliant legal mind who at one time represented Public Enemy Number One before serving as a Circuit Court Judge in Miami. While practicing law he was held in Contempt of Court no less than three times and he was acquitted each time. As a Judge he disbarred attorneys for being accused of their affiliation with the communist party. He actually served a term as Judge in a neighboring County earlier in his career despite the objections of the Ku Klux Klan. While on the bench, he was arrested for driving away from the scene of a traffic stop by a Coral Gables motorcycle officer. The Judge was on his way to the courthouse and was late for the bench. Name that Judge. (Judge Silverman is disqualified from answering this one as he is our most noted Historian of the Miami-Dade Historical Society).


Friday, January 11, 2013



Word has reached us this Friday morning that Jim Best, DUI lawyer extraordinaire, former PD, outdoorsman, and all around nice guy, passed away last night from a recently diagnosed brain tumor. 

  (photo courtesy of Jason Grey)

Jim was one of those guys who was down to earth, loved a good joke, and fought hard for his clients. In the realm of DUI, no one fought harder. In the 1990's Jim rode the wave of specialized law firms and became one of the top DUI lawyers in Florida. In recent years we would see Jim every now and then, and he would regale us with tales of semi-retirement: with bass fishing with his son in the morning before doing a little work in the afternoon.

Sometimes the message gets lost in the daily hustle, but remember, life is about the small special moments. 

Enjoy the upcoming weekend. Pop a cold one or a few in memory of Jim. He would like that. 

See you in court.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Our disdain, dislike, disgust, and detestation, for Broward County is taking hold publicly, as word reaches us that Broweird is considering changing its name to ......(drum roll please) 
"Ft. Lauderdale County". Ta da! 

But alas, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  
And that which we call Broward by any other name would still treat attorneys from Dade County like subhuman protoplasm. 

In our last post we summarized the interview Silent and Thin Charlie gave to the DBR. In this post, we re-print the oft anticipated New Year's letter sent out by the State Attorney. Notably absent is the SA's waist size or any dress code at the SAO. Perhaps next year. 

Dear Colleague,
As lawyers, we know that it is absolutely essential to have a State Attorney’s Office that operates with complete integrity, honesty and a true dedication to achieving justice for all members of our community. Ensuring my office continues to meet this standard will always be my commitment to you.
Today our community and our families enjoy a safer quality of life as a result of smart prosecutorial initiatives and diligent prosecutions. Many of us remember when Miami, then devastated by crime, was declared “Paradise Lost.” This is now a distant memory, in large part because of our efforts.
I am proud of our many accomplishments. Our conviction rates are almost 90%. We lead the State in the prosecution of career criminals and corrupt public officials. Our methods have been adopted as strategies to be followed by prosecutors throughout Florida. Since I became your State Attorney, crime in Miami has declined every year and juvenile crime has dropped by 50%. Crime prevention programs that I created, such as the Second Chance Outreach Program, help first time offenders put their mistakes behind them to begin anew.
As I begin my next term as your State Attorney it is my sincere promise to continue my work to maintain Miami as “Paradise Found,” never again to be devastated by fear and rampant crime and I am grateful to you for your continued support for these efforts. Together we can ensure that our community continues to be a wonderful place for us to live, work and raise our families.
My best wishes to you and your family for a happy, healthy, prosperous and safe New Year!

In the case concerning the disappearance of Rilya Wilson, the prosecution used convict Robin Lunceford to saw the defendant confessed to her. On Thursday, the defense called an ex-inmate to say Lunceford told her that the defendant didn't really confess. Got it? ASA Josh Weintruab called her story "cockamamie" on cross examination. Judge Tinkler-Mendez, keeping tight control of the trial, struck the word. And on it goes. 

ASA Weinstraub rips into McCloud's story. Judge Tinkler repeats his adjective: "Strike the word 'cockamamie! ' Chuckles abound

See You In Court. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


DUI/SUPREME COURT UPDATE: The US Supreme Court today heard arguments on whether police are required to get a warrant for a blood draw on a DUI case. According to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUS Blog, the question is no longer IF but HOW to implement the upcoming decision:
Even allowing for the reality that what is said at a Supreme Court hearing does not necessarily dictate the outcome, now and then a case comes along where the Justices join so obviously in a common pursuit of a compromise that little suspense remains.  That happened on Wednesday, in the case of Missouri v. McNeely (docket 11-1425), when it seemed quite predictable that the Court is not going to let police across the nation order — on their own authority — the taking of blood samples from those suspected of drunk driving.   Police, it would appear, are at least going to have to try to get a search warrant, even though they sometimes will be allowed to do without one.

UPDATE: Imagine our surprise when the great Julie Mason on Sirius radio on the POTUS channel mentions us today and discusses our twitter chat (@juliemason) on how to eat lobster without butter. (Julie had called lobster nothing but a "butter delivery system" and we challenged her.) There we were sitting in the office, working on trial prep, listening to Julie Mason on POTUS when we heard her mention how "Horace Rumpole" eats lobster. 

Carlos Martinez, the Dade County Public Defender famous on the pages of this blog for refusing to speak about how he spends the money appropriated by the Florida Legislature (thus the moniker "Silent Charlie") has given an interview to the DBR. Here are the highlights:

He has lost 100 pounds and is running a half marathon. 
The average tenure of an Assistant PD is down from 6 1/2 years to 2 1/2 years. 
The office has video conference/skype with incarcerated clients. 
He is proud of his new Felony Intake Unit. 
Not many liked the institution of an office dress code. 
He is a diet guru and others in the PD's office are following his lead. 
His waist size is now a 38- down from 52. 
His job is not glamourous. 

There you have it, everything you wanted to know about our Public pretender Defender (and a few things you probably didn't need to know.) 

See You In Court. 

Coming soon on the National Enquirer -REGJB Blog: The PD Diet! How you can lose 100 pounds while skyping in your office. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


UPDATE: Prosecution rests in prosecution over disappearance of Rilya Wilson. Defense case starts Wednesday. 

Welcome to Tuesday, January 8, 2013. Day 1449 of the Obama Presidency.  This is our 2,301st post. Today is the eighth day of 2013. Where did the time go?

Speaking of time, Texas inmate Jerry Hartfield was granted a new trial in his murder conviction in 1980.  Over 32 years and 11,800 days later, he's still waiting for that new trial. His story is here

The 11th Circuit loves deadlines in death penalty cases. In recent years, the US supreme court not so much. But still, the 11th circuit keeps trying. Here's the story of an inmate who made a timely filing-but didn't do it perfectly- and that was enough for the gotcha gang in Atlanta (motto "No mistakes tolerated") to close the doors to the courthouse to a death row inmate.  This inmate is on death row after an Alabama Judge (Motto: "Kill em all, let the good and merciful lord sort em out")  overrode a jury recommendation for life. Good thing that the death penalty is only sought  in serious cases where there are no real issues. 

Probably a good idea to avoid Judge Moreno for a few weeks and let him heal. And whatever you do, do not wear red inside his courtroom or mention "Roll" and "Tide" in the same conversation. But Judge   Cohn might just be the guy to give you that downward departure your client needs. 

Who's going to be our 400th follower on Twitter? Special recognition for the lucky tweeter. 

We're back! See You In Court. 

Monday, January 07, 2013


UPDATE: If you read nothing else today, go to SFL blog and read the story on Dan Gelber as a big brother and the success of the young man he mentored. 

Before we get down to business, the College Championship football game is tonight in Miami and we have two very interested spectators in our legal midsts: CJ Fred Moreno (Notre Dame) and Judge James Cohn (Alabama). The Herald portrays the rivalry here. Who knew Judge Zloch threw the rock for the Fighting Irish in the 60's? Our prediction below. 

The Sunday NY Times had the story of the case of Conor McBride, who at age 19, shot and killed his girlfriend Ann Grosmaire. McBride was indicted for first degree murder in Tallahassee. But Grosmaire's parents decided to engage in a "restorative justice" process, dragging a reluctant assistant state attorney along with them, because they did not want to see McBride sentenced to life in prison. 

The tragedy of minimum mandatory sentences is that there are hundreds of people serving lengthy mandatory sentences when there are otherwise alternative resolutions.  Human nature and human interrelations, and thus human actions-  have an infinite number of permutations. Who first thought that any one of those permutations could justly lend itself to a "one size fits all" mandatory sentence? Mandatory sentences,  created by legislators- may of whom have never stepped inside a courtroom- and enforced solely by prosecutors-most of whom have not reached their third decade of life, have no place in a system that misleadingly calls itself a "justice system". 

In Florida, only a prosecutor can waive a legislatively created minimum mandatory sentence. Thus we routinely have the scenario of a twenty- six or twenty-seven or twenty-eight  year old prosecutor making decisions about the entire future of a defendant, while fifty or sixty or seventy year old judges- many appointed by the governor- sit powerless to act. When did we decide that unelected young people with almost no life experience are more trustworthy in making decisions about a person's future than a judge? 

This is not about a defense attorney seeking a backdoor way to get leniency for a client  This is about returning the justice system to the people who work in it and restoring the players to their traditional roles. When the legislature took sentencing away from judges, they altered a carefully crafted system that had proper checks and balances. Minimum mandatory sentences altered that balance and the result is thousands if not tens of thousands of lives lost to the maw of the american prison gulag. 

Legislators make the laws. Prosecutors enforce them, defense attorneys defend their clients, and judges adjudicate the disputes, and where required, issue sentences. Unlike assistant state attorneys, Judges in the State of Florida are answerable to the electorate every six years. The public has little recourse against an overzealous prosecutor seeking lengthy sentences to advance a career. 

Conor McBride's story is an unusual one, punctuated by parents of a dead child who sought to understand and forgive their daughter's killer.  And yet the twenty year prison sentence McBride received amounts to likely a quarter of this young man's life. People who sneer at any sentence less than life in prison have never spent a day locked up, much less a decade or more. 

An enlightened society recognizes that even people who commit horrible criminal acts may someday be worthy of redemption. Of course, who said the United States circa 2013 was enlightened? 

Crime and Punishment. What a great topic for a novel. Somebody should write it. 

Be back soon  and then we'll see you in court any day now. 

NCAA: We're rooting for Notre Dame, but it looks like Roll Tide.
And despite the Chief's protestations to the contrary to the Herald, something tells us that one of these two respected jurists will be reaching for the check at Joes when the two sit down for lunch to discuss the game in the not to distant future.