Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building. For years, until the death of the former State Attorney, it was just known as The Metro Justice Building- MJB.

Some love it. 
Others, like film maker Billy Corben, come away from their first exposure to our humble abode shaken and a bit weak kneed. 

It's fashionable to trash our old courthouse. No longer the belle of the ball, she sits un-admired and scorned like a wizened southern deb wearing a hat a few decades out of fashion. Three new Federal Courts have risen in downtown Miami while the MJB plugged away; even Broweird has a new Courthouse, albeit one staffed by the same tired old Judges. West Palm has a magnificent edifice to justice. And the Orange Bowl has come and gone and been replaced by a new Marlins Stadium. All the while the MJB has taken in the expanding Miami justice system-squeezing in a new courtroom here- a small chamber for a judge there. For many years the PDs were on the eighth  floor while the State Attorney's had offices on six and nine. Who remembers the old fishbowl in front of the elevators on six? 

But our courthouse was not always an aging embarrassment. With a very big hat tip to the Random Pixels Blog we present to you "Taj Metro

Miami News Editor Bill Baggs presented a decidedly different view of the new criminal courthouse when construction was completed on the eight million dollar courthouse in 1962. 
Baggs raved about the 250 foot long pool gracing the front of the building: he speculated that then UM hotshot QB George Mira could not throw a football the length of the pool. The interior of the courthouse had a glass mosaic from Mexico and marble from Italy. The marble of the pool was "Etowah Pink Marble from Georgia." 

And the courthouse was roomy! Baggs speculated that the Green Bay Packers could safely scrimmage in the hallways. Why no reference to the hometown Dolphins? They weren't in existence when our courthouse opened. Don Shula was an unknown name, as was Bob Griese, Mercury Morris, and Larry Csonka. Dan Marino wasn't even a twinkle in the eyes of his parents who hadn't even met yet. 

Just how swank was our new courthouse? Not only did every county official want an office in the new place, but according to Baggs "The walls inside the White House are not nearly as elegant..."  And this was a White House being restored by Jackie Kennedy at the time. 

The courtrooms on the second floor were an awe inspiring "two stories high" inviting some infighting  among the various judges to secure a prestigious venue from which to adjudicate the day's calendar. Just how big was this amazing  courthouse? The ninth floor remained vacant when the courthouse opened. Baggs wondered whether a nine hole golf course would be installed?

The entire article is below for you to read. Just remember that she may be a bit tattered and aged, but this old gal has served our community well for fifty one years. 

See You In The Court we have loved more than any other. 

Monday, February 25, 2013


The Oscars were last night. Don't ask us who won. In an effort to re-adjust to EST, we were asleep before the curtain rose.  Our picks: Lincoln as best pic, Daniel Day Lewis as best actor. Argo over rated.  Silver Linings Playbook is our favourite. An underdog sleeper. Just like one of our all time favourites that was a surprise upset Oscar sleeper winner: Marty in 1955 with Ernest Borgnine. If you haven't read Paddy Chayefsky - who won the Oscar for best screenplay for Marty, well, shame on you. In fact, that would make us "mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore"  (Chayefsky also wrote the screen play for Network for which he won his third Oscar.)

SEQUESTER: What does it mean for you?
Less money in the economy just when the economy was recovering. 600,000 women and children cut off from nutritional aid by WIC. 800,000 civilian employees of the pentagon getting furloughs amounting to a 20% cut in their income. Perhaps a third of air traffic controllers furloughed. Long delays at airports. USDA food inspectors furloughed, meaning higher food prices since many food products cannot be shipped for sale until passing inspection and if there are less inspectors, there will be less meat and vegetables available for sale. It's all no good. 

The Escobar trial rolls on with fits and starts, with the Herald and David Ovalle reporting and tweeting on Friday that a putative plea deal hit the rocks when one of the two defendants wouldn't- or more likely couldn't- complete a plea colloquy. The case is before Judge Firtel. Rumour is that this is his last criminal trial. 

VOTING RIGHTS ACT: Up for oral argument before the Supreme Court this week, as Alabama and other southern States argue to the Supreme Court that we hardly need the protections of a 1964 law in an age where an African American is President. The SCOTUS Blog has the details of the constitutional challenges (amendments 10, 14, and a rare 15th amendment challenge as well as an Article IV analysis). 

The Pope steps down this week. What does a retired Pope do? Not really sure, but consider this strange fact: we commonly refer to "THE" Vatican and "THE" Bronx. Not many other places begin with "THE". Just a thought. 

See You In Court. It's nice to be back. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013


COMING MONDAY MORNING:  Our much anticipated, widely discussed, thoroughly non-plussed analysis of the Oscars. 

Padilla Not Retroactive: Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it's landmark decision in Padilla v. U.S was not retroactive. The ruling deals a severe blow to thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of aliens who had criminal convictions- many of them minor- that they now cannot reverse, even though they were never told of the immigration consequences of their plea. Here is the SCOTUS blog on the case. 

Moonoo to the rescue!
In South Africa, a criminal investigation drama is playing out on a world wide stage. The drama is worthy of a story line usually seen in South Florida. A defendant who is an olympian with no legs- was charged with killing his model girlfriend by shooting her through a closed bathroom door. The police detective- a Detective Botha- was reportedly torn up pretty good on cross the other day during a preliminary hearing. And that was before it was revealed he was being investigated for attempted murder!  
Now a senior police detective with over thirty years experience is taking over the case. Exit stage left Detective Botha. Enter stage right Lieutenant General Inspector Vineshkumar Moonoo. 

Detective Botha has a scheduled May court appearance for opening fire on a crowded taxi that committed some sort of traffic infraction. What with court appearances, an arraignment, bail discovery and such, it was decided Botha didn't have room in his schedule for investigating this new case. 

The Miami Herald is last to report the firing of the ASA for flashing his badge at a local strip club. The article is here. 

Note the fine writing, the meticulous attention to detail, and although our modesty makes us a bit shy to admit it, it certainly was swell to be recognized as the blog which broke this story. Those guys at the Herald are tops in our book. 

Now the injustice: reporter Andres Viglucci wrote this: The incident was first reported in a Miami New Times blog.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! The incident was first reported HERE! On the best damn blog in Miami. And we intend to let Mr. Viglucci know about it. 

Here is our blog post dated Tuesday February 12, 2013. 

The New Times Riptide blog post is here, dated February 20, 2013. 


See you in court, and yes, that might mean you Miami Herald. Fishwrap  drivel that can't even get who broke a story correct. 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/21/3246701/badge-flash-at-strip-club-gets.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


UPDATE: The NewTimes Riptide blog has all the dirty details involving the Dade ASA canned for flashing his badge at the Goldrush "Gentleman's" club. Included in the article are links to documents including the initial complaint from the club owner, the termination letter from the Dade SAO, and the young ASA's  mea culpa letter sent in a desperate attempt to save his job. 

Our take: This was not an isolated incident. By the former ASA's own words, he had been flashing his badge at the club to avoid the door charge for years. 

@Davidovalle305 has been tweeting all the details in the re-trial of the murder of Miami Officer Victor Estefan. Apparently there are issues galore in the slow moving trial. 

We're about to get some new neighbors. 

A developer is submitting plans to raze the Mahi Shrine (Motto: "Nobody knows what we do, and we like it like that") and create a 9 acre river walk area with 440 residential units a "big box retail building" with two towers and a lush waterscape with riverside restaurants. WOW! Table for two with a view of the freighter with the stolen bikes bound for Haiti please. 

From the earthshaking Herald article
River Landing, in a still-gritty location next to Miami-Dade County’s criminal justice center and the Jackson Memorial Hospital health district, does not aim to compete with the high-end retail and chic environs of the Design District and CityCentre projects. 

"Still Gritty"?  We prefer to think of it as 1970's holdover rustic charm.  Maybe the coffee in Au Bon Pain is gritty, and we know for a fact the water in the water fountains is gritty, but the neighborhood of our beloved REGJB is not gritty. It has a certain undeveloped charm of sorts.    Maybe.  


Defense attorneys lost half of the parking spots of the first row in an unprecedented power grab by the Dade Department of Health. 
No news on lawsuits, protests, or any response by the defense bar to this distressing turn of events.   

So reports the Random Pixels blog. And they have a video to prove it. 

See you in court. Hopefully there will be a parking spot for us when we return to the states

Monday, February 18, 2013


Over the weekend, very quietly and without announcement (at least no one told us) the Miami Dade Department of Health that boarders one part of the parking lot that attorneys and police officers use, broke down the fence line, and constructed a new fence line taking the entire first row out of parking lot 26. You can see in the pictures that an alert reader emailed us over the weekend, that workers were busy all weekend. By the time you arrive on Tuesday, your ability to park will have been reduced by approximately 33%. And in a parking lot that often runs out of spaces on Mondays and Tuesdays, the loss of spaces is a big deal. 

In this photo you can see the yellow tape where the workers were installing a fence. The entrance to the lot is on the left.  The parking spots lost would be everything above the tape- the first row as you enter the lot. 

In this photo- facing the entrance of the lot and the courthouse behind the photographer- you can see where the fence has already been installed on the right, taking away the first row. By Tuesday, the deed will probably already have been done. 

Another shot showing the fence installed on the far right of the photo and where the fence will be going. All of the spots above the fence in the photo- the first row- will be lost. 

Who did this? Who authorized this and why? Does Judge Soto- the hero of the initial (and infamous) parking lot crisis about a year ago- know about this? Where will we park? Where will young ASA's toting their carts from County Court while gripping their Starbucks latte's walk? 
Stay tuned for the answers to these and other questions. And for those of you following us over the long weekend on Twitter @justicebuilding and were expecting our story on the proposed new development of the "gritty" neighborhood around the  courthouse, it has been delayed a day based on these photos which were sent to us by a Rumpole spy. 

See You In Court, once we find parking. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


WEEKEND UPDATE:  Coming Tuesday: Is the REGJB and surrounding area "still gritty" as an article announcing an earth shaking bit of news has claimed?  Check it out this Tuesday on your favourite award winning Miami Legal blog. 

"If we manage to live a good life well, we create something more. We write a subscript to our mortality. We make our lives tiny diamonds in the cosmic sands."

Professor Ronald Dworkin of NYU law school and the University College of London died Thursday at the age of 81. Professor Dworkin was a philosopher and professor of law and wrote about the importance of integrity and morality in law.

You should read his book "Justice for Hedgehogs."

Calling her acts against an innocent child "inherently evil" Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez earlier this week on  Tuesday  sentenced  67 year old Geralyn Graham to a total of 55 years: 30 years for kidnapping  followed consecutively by twenty five years for aggravated child abuse.  

Thus ends the tragic tale of a young girl who never really had a chance at life. 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/14/3233930/us-legal-scholar-ronald-dworkin.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 14, 2013



Only Judge Andrea Wolfson - who got high praises from the putative juror here-  knows for sure. 

One thing is clear- unlike his client @billycorben  - Mr. Markus refrained from tweeting during his jury service. Wise move. 

See you in court- we would have taken him. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


UPDATED: We now have information from several sources confirming that an assistant state attorney was fired for flashing his badge in a dispute in a strip bar. What was the dispute over? The tab. What was the tab for? We're not sure. It might have been for liquor, or it might have been for "other services rendered." 


There are places of repute, ill and otherwise, where young people, mostly men, congregate to meet other people who are young and in various stages of undress -almost always women. These places,  where the Supreme Court has ruled that flashing- the act of showing various parts of the human body in states of dress and undress- is protected speech- are commonly called "strip clubs". Or so we've heard. 

And it is perfectly acceptable, indeed, it is expected that flashing occurs at a strip club. In fact, money is paid to induce nubile young women to more reverently express their artistic concepts. 

But not all flashing is the same. 

One can flash one's natural assets to the approval of groups of admirers. 
But one cannot flash a badge
And so it has come to pass that a young assistant state attorney, who frequented an aforementioned establishment,  ( one would expect in an attempt to satisfy some prurient interest, see, e.g, Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) ) has been fired by the Dade County State Attorneys Office. 
For flashing. 

For not all flashing is alike. Between badges and breasts, one will get you money, and one might cost you a career. 

Rumpole practice tip for prosecutors: Stay out of strip clubs. 

See You In ......Court, and no where else. 

Monday, February 11, 2013


Many years ago  we came to a decision to avoid cases out of town. (Of course within six months of carrying a trial bag we vowed to avoid Broward, but that's another kettle of cow dung altogether.) Having made that decision, we promptly began to be hired on cases in Boston, Washington D.C., NYC and Seattle, to name a few places. 

A review of those cases leads us to the conclusion that it is usually not advantageous to either the client or the attorney to handle cases in foreign places. We are speaking for the moment mostly about State court cases. In federal courts, cases, policies and procedures have become more uniform and it has become easier to handle those cases in other jurisdictions. But even in federal court, when it comes to criminal prosecutions, every jurisdiction has their own peccadilloes.  Often the client is best served by local counsel who can provide the inside tips on what it takes to get a safety-valve plea or how a judge conducts voire-dire. 

The only advantage we can think of in cases out of town is where the client is local, it is easier for both parties to meet, review discovery, and discuss strategy. But, as is the case lately, if the client is incarcerated, the burdens on the lawyer representing a client out of town become even more severe. In the best of circumstances none of us relish a Friday evening or Saturday morning trip to FDC or Metro West. Catching a Southwest Flight on a Thursday night to squeeze in a jail visit Friday and a return flight Friday night is hardly our idea of fun.  

So what are your best and worst experiences with cases out of town? And do you agree with our proposition that on average clients are better served with local counsel? 

Closer to home, the new judicial rotations have now been fully implemented. Judges Pooler, De la O and Verde, to name three, are now putting their personal imprimatur on cases in their divisions. What's the early reviews? 
Any obvious cases of "robe-itis" with any of the new Judges?

Meanwhile Judges Arzola, Bloom and Cueto (the ABC's?) are dipping their toes in summary judgement motions and complaints over interrogatories and other such foolishness from attorneys whose biggest litigation accomplishment is taking a depo by themselves.

Winter is in full swing in South Florida. Pool use is limited to those hours in the afternoon when the sun is strongest. Hang on Floridians, it will get better soon.

Pope To Resign!

The BBC broke this story here. Nothing we like better than a good Vatican mystery followed by a Conclave of Cardinals. Intrigue. Power. Back room deals. All followed by white smoke. 

Enjoy the week. See You In Court.  

Friday, February 08, 2013


BREAKING: "Finger-Girl" freed!!!
In a quiet hearing on Friday afternoon, the young girl who gave Judge Rodriguez-Chomat the finger the other day apologized, and the Judge in turn set aside the contempt and vacated the thirty day sentence and reduced the bond. 

The matter has been settled as it should have been.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


He was an automatic finalist for the Papa Hemmingway "look-a-like" contest. He presided over what used to be known as the security courtroom on the third floor, where bullet proof glass separated the participants in the courtroom from the spectators. He was considered one of the brightest and hardworking jurists to ever wear a robe in the REGJB. His case load was always the lowest, due in part to his habit of arriving at the courthouse at the break of dawn to review his calendar and read the pending motions. On most mornings he was in trial before 10:00 A.M., having finished his calendar before many of his colleagues had arrived for work. 

We are speaking of course of Judge Philip Knight, and we were surprised and gratified to recently receive and read the following comment from a person who had served as juror before Judge Knight and must have recently come across our prior post here  on November 9, 2011, which sadly and belatedly  announced the death of the judge who passed away on May 5, 2011. You can read his obit here . It's worth a moment to read and learn about this man who was a war hero, and who worked as a letter carrier during law school to support his family. 

I am sad to know that Judge Knight passed a way. Back in Jan. 1987, I served as a juror in his room I had just gotten my citizenship, I was so proud of it, I was also proud to serve as a juror and do what I was supposed to do as a citizen of our loved country. I am Gay and I was very impressed with his striking presence, and handsome look. He was very nice to us all and it seems that he liked me, (as a person), I saw him laughing a couple of time at my comments while we were been questioned and picked by the attorney's. At one point I lift up my hand, and asked him if they can adjust the air condition, we were freezing, he said to me very firmly, Mr. Bahna, this is my court room and I like it like that, I suggest to you to come dress accordingly tomorrow, I said, this is Miami, if you will get us valet parking perhaps we could do that. He laugh and ask the attorney to proceed. I still have (framed) a little diploma he gave us, as he thank us for serving as a juror I never forgotten.

A very nice remembrance. And a reminder to judges and lawyers that jurors see and hear and remember many things and that sometimes their brief visit to the world we work in has a lasting impact.  

Check out our new poll on Rodriguez-Chomat and "finger girl". 
See you in court. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Penelope Soto (what Soto did you think we meant?) gave Judge Rodriguez-Chomat "the finger" during a tete-a-tete over a bond hearing after the Judge made inquiry over the value of the jewelry she was wearing. Ms. Soto, age 18, said the jewelry was worth "Rick Ross" type money. Rodriguez-Chomat, who (and we're just guessing here) might not be partial to the SoBe hip-hop artist, then raised Soto's bond from $5,000 to $10,000. After the parties engaged in repeated and various salutations ending the unusual encounter, Soto raised her middle finger to the Judge and mentioned an act of human relations not normally encountered over a video bond hearing between an inmate who is partial to Rick Ross and a much older and distinguished jurist whose tastes might just possibly run to musical artists a few decades in the past. 

In any event, the episode (view the NBC6 video here) ended with Judge Rodriguez-Chomat making her an offer she couldn't refuse: thirty days in the jail while Ms. Soto contemplates her actions. 

We recently read a federal opinion in which the use of the middle finger as a salutation was heavily footnoted and in which the federal appeals court concluded was constitutionally protected speech. 

On the other hand, there is the well known adage that the first amendment (regrettably) does not cover .....

warning- while this is a family blog, the following may not be safe for young children or those who wear robes....

telling a judge something that almost every lawyer has wanted to say at one time or another in their career but has not. 

By all accounts Judge Rodriguez-Chomat is a gentleman and a judge not known for losing his temper on the bench. As to Penelope Soto, that little snot-snosed whipper-snapper got what she deserved. She was in a court of law after all, and unsolicited references to Rick Ross have no place in a temple of justice. 

See you in court, where we have never said such a thing....(but are not discussing whether we have ever thought about saying it). 

Monday, February 04, 2013


"Why Police Officers Lie Under Oath" was the illuminating if not surprising article in the NT Times On Sunday. 

"THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying....

 In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.
That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly.  Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America...
Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record.  “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.

Rumpole wonders: What do our robed readers think of this? Are they "shocked ...shocked ...to find that there is gambling going on in these premises..."  or do they just look the other way because it is easier? 

E-Filing comes to Miami State Court!
 Our feckless and fearless clerk, Harvey Ruvin (Motto: "Better late than never") has announced that e-filing will commence today in Family court. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013


BREAKING- POWER OUT AT SUPER BOWL!!!. Hi, I was asked by Rumpole to monitor the blog during the super bowl and clear the comments and stuff and he told me not to post anything on the front unless something really big happened. Well, half the lights are out at the super bowl and that's kinda big. 

There was a time in the not too distant past history of this blog where we were one of the top public prognosticators (touts) of NFL football. But the time required to remain at the pinnacle of that profession was such that we graciously decided to retire whilst on top. 

However, it remains in our blood, and the Super Bowl is the irresistible challenge. So, while we enjoy the game at the unusual hour late hour on this side of the Atlantic, we nevertheless present to you our annual Super Bowl picks. We will be releasing a few every few hours, so please check back.

As we have already tweeted @justicebuilding the coin toss will be....TAILS. 

Who will score first? The Ravens. 
A few thoughts. 52nd Street Irwin is now thankfully out, and although he can no longer be legally employed by the casinos in Las Vegas, he has had more than a passing participation in the setting of the lines, as he is one of the foremost experts on lines lo these last fifty years or so. 52nd Street informs us that all the early money has been on the Ravens and yet inexplicably the line has moved from 
49ers -3 1/2 to -4. The reason is that the books fully expect the late money to be on the 49ers and are in effect "betting" that they are right and want to stick it to the San Fran backers. That tells us something significant, but you'll have to read our later updates to see exactly what it is. But know this:  a very expensive game of chicken is being played right now  with close to a billion dollars, and whenever money reaches ten figures... well lets just say you had us at "hello". 

Fun/weird fact: the last two teams to beat the Matt Ryan led Falcons in the playoffs for the NFC have been super bowl winners. 

The Ravens Defense shut out- yes -shut out- pretty boy Tom Brady and his band of cheaters in the second half of the AFC championship game played in New England. Don't disrespect the Ravens D. 

Check back to find the answers to these and more proposition bets. 

Over/under at 47 1/2 - has remained steady all week. We like the OVER. Just barely: 27-24.

Will the 49ers cover the line at 4? NO RAVEN WIN 27-24.

Who will win? RAVENS!

Friday, February 01, 2013


We've been tweeting our Super Bowl picks. If you followed us on Twitter you'd be getting the mortal locks before anyone else. 

Good Friday  Saturday morning. Today is the first  second day of the second month of 2013. 

Super Bowl: The long awaited, much anticipated, guaranteed super bowl locks are coming soon. Stay tuned and check back often (because it increases our stats with Google.) 

Some of you are recovering from a hangover courtesy of the Bench and Bar mixer last  two nights ago at Tobacco Road. No, that was not the Chief Judge on a table doing the Macarena. 

If you don't know who US District Court Judge John Gleeson of the EDNY is, you need to go to DOM's blog and read Judge Gleeson's ruling and criticism on the application of the federal guidelines to run of the mill drug cases. 

Answer to last week's trivia question: "Who swore in Janet Reno for her last term as State Attorney"? was the question no one answered. According to the guest blogger who prepared the trivia challenge, the answer is none other than former Circuit Court Judge Herb Klein. 

What job would you rather have?
You're a circuit court judge (A rather large stretch for most of our readers including your humble blogger) and on the same day that the Governor calls and offers you an appointment to the 3rd DCA, the White House calls offering you an appointment as a United States District Court Judge. Which one do you accept? 

How about this: A seat on the Florida Supreme Court versus the 11th Circuit? 

A little winter weather has arrived in South Florida for the weekend. Enjoy.