Wednesday, July 31, 2013


We previously reported the sad news of the passing of Retired County Court Judge Robert Deehl, who at the age of 87 died on June 28.

There will be a celebration of the life of Judge Deehl tomorrow: Thursday August 1, 2013 at 1pm  (one comment said it is at 3pm, you should call and check: 305-667-3697) at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 7701 SW 76th Ave, Miami, FL, 33143. 
We've learned that Judge Deehl's family requests that Judges who attend wear their robes. 

Judge Deehl as a kind and decent man who devoted his life to our community and served his country in combat during WWII; the REGJB owes him a full turnout of judges and lawyers.

See You In Court.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


There are two things that will get you a guaranteed headline whilst serving as a public servant (prosecutor, Pd, judge) or just while being a famous attorney: being drunk in public, or getting caught having sex in your chambers (office), etc. And of course, all candidates for the office of Mayor of NYC should avoid, whenever possible, sexting their "junk". 

EXAMPLE ONE: The honorable Susan Flood of Polk county is in the midst of a storm of controversy (which in Polk county can erupt from something as mundane as not serving sweetened ice tea at a social on upwards to this) over allegations of another Judge's judicial assistant that she caught the judge in flagrante delicto (latin for "goin at it like a hot knife through judicial butter" ) with her bailiff on her desk.   The moral of the story being there's a reason they leave the light on for y'all at Motel Six. 
The story and video are here

EXAMPLE TWO: Some young poor schlub of an ASA got into it with a Beach cop the other night outside of the Purdy lounge and, as astonishing as this may seem to those of us in the criminal defense bar, ended up in cuffs and charged with disorderly intox. Ovalle and the Herald have the story here. 
The moral of this story is that alcohol fueled late nights outside the Purdy Lounge have derailed more legal careers in Miami than the hardest exam the Florida Bar ever gave.  That and looking at a Beach cop the wrong way (especially one off duty and looking for O/T) is the quickest way to see the inside of the bond hearings. 

So there are your lessons for today, learned by some the hard way. 

See You In Court. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Hot summer days and steamy summer nights require a large glass of iced tea, or a beer right out of the cooler with bits of ice running down the glass bottle, a comfortable chair or hammock in the shade, the sounds of the ocean lapping at the shore, and of course, a good book. Put a well played baseball game on the radio, and you have heaven. Or something close to it. 

Books we recommend:

1) "Whitey Bulger, America's most wanted gangster,  and the manhunt that brought him to justice. "
Bulger is much in the news these days as he grumbles and curses his way through his federal trial in Boston. Bulger has become for crime authors, a mini-industry, with volumes of work written by former associates, crime reporters, and wannabes of both genres. But the definitive work on Bulger was done by Kevin Cullen and Shelly Murphy, two Boston Globe reporters (Bulger hates the Globe, as you will see, he once attacked the building twice in two nights, shooting it up with glee over the Globe's support for mandatory school busing in 1974.) You can't really understand Bulger,  his pal- disgraced FBI agent John Connelly- convicted in our own REGIB for a hit on a witness- and their story without understanding "The Town"- as the locals call Southie Boston. The book is as much a fascinating history of Southie and the internecine fighting between the Italian Mafia, the various Irish gangs vying for power, the Boston Police, and the feds, as it is a history of James "Whitey" Bulger. This is a page turner that will have you dropping your "r"s in no time. 

2) "A Blaze of Glory" and "A Chain of Thunder" by Jeff Shaara.  Longtime and careful readers of the blog know that we are experts in, inter alia, the Civil War.  But don't even think of reading this book until you have read Michael Shaara's "Killer Angels" the Pulitzer prize winning novel of the four days of Gettysburg. Killer Angels is perhaps the best historical war novel ever written; it is certainly the best Civil War novel. Michael Sharra's is Jeff Shaara's father, and he died way too soon. But his son has done a fine job carrying on the tradition, and once you read Killer Angels, you can work your way through  "A Blaze of Glory" ( about the battle of Shiloh) and "A Chain of Thunder"  (about the siege of Vicksburg). 

3) "The Bookman's Tale- a Novel of obsession" by Charlie Lovett.  If you love books,  are interested in Victorian England, obsession, love, and mystery, then the story of a young bookseller who retires to the English countryside after the untimely death of his wife is for you.  After purchasing an 18th century book about Shakespeare forgeries, a watercolor of his wife- impossibly of his wife-comes tumbling out from between the pages, and the mystery is on. 

4) "The Yard" and "The Black Country" by Alex Grecian. The Yard is the first of Grecian's Scotland Yard Murder Squad mysteries. The Black Country is the second in the series. If you love England, and murder mysteries like we do, then you can't go wrong with these two books. 

5) "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene. A dense and at times thrilling explanation of the universe, and the physics and mathematics that explain it. For us, the challenge was reading it in German: "Das Elegante Universum", but only if you're really in need of a challenge. 

So there you have it. Load up your beach bag, or fill up your Kindle, find a shady area and a comfy chair and plop down with a cooler of your favourite beverage, and enjoy your summer. 

See You In Court. 

Friday, July 26, 2013


Spence-Jones Can't Run: In case you missed it, the 3rd DCA slammed the door shut on City Of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence- Jones ability to run for a third term. The decision is here. 
The precedent is this:  "When you are elected for a second term as a city of Miami Commissioner, suspended because you are facing criminal charges, then win a special election to fill your own seat, then suspended again, then acquitted of the criminal charges (Down goes Frazier! Down goes Richard Scruggs!)  and then re-instated, you have served as full a term as defined, and cannot run for a third term under the pretense that you did not get a full second term. "

It's easy if you take a deep breath before you say it. 
There's also this- you get your emoluments. Really. No fooling. The decision says so: 

"She received full back pay and the emoluments and allowances for the period of her suspension."

Who's In Trial? 
Thankfully not us. It's too damn hot to work. 
But ASA Gail Levine and defense attorney Charles White are battling over the case where defendant Michael Robertson is accused of attempting to kill Miami Dade Detective Carlos Castillo by hitting him with a cinder block thrown from a building and then running over his body with a car. It's a miracle that Detective Castillo survived. We often don't remember just how dangerous the job of police officer is. 

David Ovalle is happy to be back in Miami and covering trials after his Zimmerman experience. You can follow Ovalle's coverage of the trial on twitter @davidovalle305.

I missed local crim court. Only in does judge make sure jurors are comfy, ask if they need stretch break or a shot of Cuban coffee.

You can follow all of our witty thoughts @justicebuilding and speaking of secret twitterers (?) everybody wants to know who's behind the twitter handle  @draculawyer

In case you missed the beat-down of Scruggs by Spence-Jones, here is the forerunner to that knockout:

Down Goes Frazier! And suffice to say Frazier was beaten so bad he never got all his emoluments back. Foreman looked unbeatable. Until the Rumble in the Jungle....Kinshasa, Zaire, October 30, 1974, when the phrase "Ali boma ye" entered the sports lexicon for the ages.

See you in court.  Spence-Jones boma-ye!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Tropical Storm Dorian
Updated apocalyptic cone: Thursday at 3:40 pm.

We'll follow it for you, although there aren't many hurricanes in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Royal baby named....

The Florida Lobster mini-season opened at 12 midnight Wednesday. 

Here is what this means: 

People will forgo buying a lobster for about ten dollars a pound to harvest their own, at a cost of, considering fuel, boat, and all expenses....perhaps $500/pound. 

But it makes you feel good.  Like a caveperson providing food for your tribe. 

We like ours on the grill, a little key lime, butter and a dash of hot sauce. 

Add cold beer. 


Be safe. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Here is the NY Times article on the effect of the sequester on the Federal judiciary: $350 million in budget cuts:

The $350 million reduction in the federal judiciary’s budget for fiscal 2013 has resulted in a roughly 8 percent cut to the network of high-quality federal defender offices across the country. It has forced the layoffs of many experienced lawyers who have devoted their professional careers to the underappreciated and underpaid work of representing indigent federal defendants. And it has inflicted a pay cut on the defenders who remain on staff in the form of up to 20 unpaid furlough days.
These hits to the core legal staff have been accompanied by other blows, including reductions in lawyer training, research, investigation of cases and expert help, including interpreters. .. That things have reached this point is a deep embarrassment for a nation grounded on the rule of law. Yet it appears that the situation is about to get much worse. Federal defender offices have been told to prepare for another round of cuts of roughly 14 percent for the 2014 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Rumpole says: You pay for the justice you get. In state court we have always said that the pay for public defenders and private court appointed lawyers has not kept pace with the dramatic increase in sentences and minimum mandatories. And it's not just lawyer pay. A good lawyer is worth a warm bucket of spit without the aid of investigators and experts. You can't try a case without any ammo. 
If society wants to warehouse felons- violent and non-violent alike- then society should be prepared to pay for the privilege of incarcerating these people forever- and that means insuring they get a great (not an adequate) defense.  
See you when we get back. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Perhaps the greatest day in the history of humanity. And perhaps the greatest achievement from the greatest country the world has ever known. This is what free men and women, given the power and chance to achieve, can accomplish: 

"Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed." 

"That's one small step for man..."

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I like summer, but I don't like sweating. 

I like fall the best, which makes living in South Florida difficult. 

I like watching golf on television more than I like playing golf. Golf is too sedentary. 

There is nothing better for reading than a Kindle. I love books. I love book stores. But my Kindle is indispensable. 

There is a timeless beauty to a well played baseball game. The ebb and flow and strategy of a close game is uniquely American. 

The Dolphins will disappoint again this season. 

The news that increased consumption of fish oil increases your risk for prostate cancer has me flummoxed. 

But the secret to good cardiovascular health, besides daily exercise, is consuming garlic supplements. Trust me on that. 

I am not as excited with Miami's dinning scene as others. In fact, I'm downright bored with it. 

The more television channels there are, the less I watch T.V. 

Miami needs a vibrant independent film scene. That would be a rising tide that would lift all boats.  A few more independent bookstores would be nice as well. 

Every time I take a case out of town, I regret it. 

I am obsessed with England, Ireland, Scotland. 

I KNOW that I shall meet my fate 
Somewhere among the clouds above; 
Those that I fight I do not hate 
Those that I guard I do not love; 
My country is Kiltartan Cross,        
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, 
No likely end could bring them loss 
Or leave them happier than before. 
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, 
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds, 
A lonely impulse of delight 
Drove to this tumult in the clouds; 
I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath, 
A waste of breath the years behind  
In balance with this life, this death.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, Yeats. 

Friday, July 19, 2013


A couple of rules to live by: You don't tug on superman's cape; you don't spit into the wind; and when the 3rd DCA tells you TWICE not to sentence a defendant as a Violent Career Criminal, you better damn well listen. Unless you're judge Bronwyn Miller. The decision in  Hearns v. State,  lets all of us know what happens when you ignore the 3rd DCA and Judge Schwartz, because even in winter, the lion can roar.

In a nutshell, here's what keeps happening: Judge Bronwyn Miller keeps sentencing poor Mr Hearn  as a violent career criminal. And the 3rd DCA (and once the Supreme Court) keeps telling her she can't do it. Give her an A for tenacity, and an  F for fairness and common sense. 

"It is unnecessary to detail the depressing story of the lower court’s and the state’s failure to follow our, and the supreme court’s, repeated, express, and emphatic (1) holdings that, because one of the three offenses relied upon to establish Hearns’s status as a “violent career criminal” [VCC], as part of the substantive charge of possession of a firearm by such a person, that is battery on a law enforcement officer, did not qualify for that designation, Hearns could simply not be convicted and sentenced as one."

And here's what FN (1) is: "And we mean it this time."

For those of you scoring at home, follow the bouncing defendant/appellant as his case goes from circuit court, to the 3rd to the supreme court, and back all over again:

I) Hearns v. State 912 So. 2d 377, 379-80 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005) (“Hearns did not qualify for sentencing as a VCC.). The fun is just beginning. 

II) State v. Hearns, 961 So. 2d 211, 219 (Fla. 2007) (“[W]e approve the district court’s reversal of Respondent’s life sentence because BOLEO is not a forcible felony under section 776.08. . .”). Thus spaketh the Supremes.

III) Case goes back to Judge Miller, who just can't help herself and sentences Hearns as....A VCC.  Because one reversal is not enough. 

IV)  Hearns v. State, 54 So. 3d 500, 502 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) (“By our mandate, we foreclosed the possibility of resentencing as a violent career criminal. We thus reverse and remand with directions that Hearns be resentenced in case number 98-34265 without any violent career criminal enhancement.”). Because we mean what we say and we say what we mean, sentencing Hearns as a VCC is just plain mean. (A little Dr. Seuss in the midst of all this craziness can be a good thing.)

So the case goes back to judge Miller for re-sentencing. And by now you should be seeing a pattern:

V) And the 2013 "judicial cojones" award goes to the Judge who just doesn't care what the 3rd DCA does....the envelope please....Bronwyn Miller- who sentences Hearns as a .....VCC! Again!

Which brings  us to this gem of an opinion:  
 Hearns v. State   (2013):
Notwithstanding this history, we are now faced with an appeal from another life sentence imposed on Hearns “for possession of a firearm by a violent career criminal” [VCC] This has got to and will stop. We will not engage in another futile endeavor to give the lower court still another opportunity to follow the law...
Rehearing is dispensed with. The mandate shall issue immediately.

So, who is betting that upon re-sentencing, Judge Miller, just for kicks, re-sentences Hearns as a .....VCC? Wouldn't that be something? Wouldn't you love to write the brief on that one? Wouldn't you want a color chart to gauge just which degree of crimson Judge Schwartz would turn upon learning that "woops, she did it again"?

But alas, this is not the movies. 

We think. 

Chutzpah  is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word derives from the Hebrew word  meaning "insolence" or "audacity

See you in court, where the real fun is. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013


"When Prisoners Protest". An Op Ed Piece in the NY Times yesterday by Wilbert Rideau,  here. 

THERE aren’t many protests in prison. In a world where authorities exercise absolute power and demand abject obedience, prisoners are almost always going to be on the losing side, and they know it.

The typical inmate doesn’t want trouble. He has little to gain and too much to lose: his job, his visits, his recreation time, his phone privileges, his right to buy tuna, ramen and stale bread at inflated prices in the commissary. The ways even a bystander to the most peaceful protest can be punished are limited only by the imagination of the authorities. . .
And yet, sometimes things get so bad that prisoners feel compelled to protest, with work stoppages, riots or hunger strikes. On July 8, some 30,000 inmates in the custody of the California Department of Corrections went on a hunger strike to demand improvements in prison conditions. Their biggest complaint was the runaway use of solitary confinement, the fact that thousands of prisoners are consigned to this cruelty indefinitely, some for decades.
I know something about solitary confinement, because I’ve been there. I spent a total of 12 years in various solitary confinement cells. And I can tell you that isolating a human being for years in a barren cell the size of a small bathroom is the cruelest thing you can do to a person.
Deprived of all human contact, you lose your feeling of connectedness to the world. You lose your ability to make small talk, even with the guard who shoves your meal through the slot in the door. You live entirely in your head, for there is nothing else. You talk to yourself, answer yourself. You become paranoid, depressed, sleepless. To ward off madness, you must give your mind something to do. In 1970, I counted the 358 rivets that held my steel cell together, over and over. Every time the walls seemed to be closing in on me, I counted them again, to give my mind something to fasten on to.
Rumpole says: If you don't know about Wilbert Rideau, you should. He served 44 years at Angola (easily the worst prison in the US). He founded  The Angolite, an award winning inmate newspaper. He won a pulitzer prize as an inmate and in 2005 he won a retrial.  He was convicted of manslaughter and the max was 28 years, so he was released. He is the author of "In The Place of Justice, a Story of Punishment and Deliverance" which you can buy on Amazon. 
A 19 year old boy in 1961, sent to Angola, a hell hole in it's own right, and then sent to hell's own hell hole- solitary for 12 years. 
Yeah- we have the best, most enlightened justice and punishment system in the world. And there's no such thing as global warming either. 
See You In Court. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


In Geter v, State, 38 FLW D1405 (3rd DCA June 26, 2013) a remarkable thing occurred: the 3rd DCA denied, en banc (legally: the whole bunch), Geter's request to apply retroactively the US Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama,  132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012) holding that life in prison for juveniles is unconstitutional.  Geter filed a pro se petition. There was an opinion and then a motion to reconsider en banc, which the majority denied in a paragraph. 

Then Judge Emas wrote a dissent. 

The dissent is worth reading in its entirety. Judge Emas makes a powerful argument why the opinion in Miller is retroactive. Such a result would bring a bit of humanity and dare we say justice to a criminal justice system content for over two hundred years to incarcerate juveniles for life with no hope of parole. To paraphrase the new testament, let he who is same at age fifty as he was at seventeen throw the first stone. 

There is more here, however. Sometimes when judges dissent they reach heights that they never were shooting for. Such is the dissent of Judge Emas:

Before condemning a juvenile to a sentence he can complete only upon his death, our society and our criminal justice system has a compelling interest in ensuring that the defendant have the opportunity to present, and the trial judge the discretion to consider, individual circumstances that might warrant some lesser sentence. In doing so, we provide an accurate and reliable sentencing process that gives substance to the Eighth Amendment's concept of proportionate punishment. By applying such a rule to all juvenile defendants, including those whose conviction and sentence are already final, we surely enhance society's confidence in a system that is not merely efficient or uniform, but is also fair, accurate and reliable.
The ideals of fairness, accuracy and reliability often defy measurement, but no one can reasonably question the significance of both actual fairness and society's perception of fairness in the effective administration of justice and the accuracy, reliability and integrity of the criminal sentencing process.

There is more to Emas's penultimate paragraphs than the retroactive application of Miller. There is a subtle judicial strike at the heart of minimum mandatory sentences. Re-read the portion we highlighted in red. 

In Miller, the United States joined the enlightened nations of the 20th century by refusing to incarcerate juveniles for life without chance of parole. Perhaps in the second decade of the 21st century Florida can return sentencing to judges and take life crushing minimum mandatory sentences out of the hands of prosecutors half the age of judges who sit powerless. 

Until then, Florida's citizens continue to live under the tyranny of justice meted out by prosecutors who have unfettered discretion to file charges that invoke minimum mandatories. Judges and defense attorneys remain relegated by the legislature to powerless bystanders, the fate of the defendant entirely out of their hands. One could imagine a such a situation in the Soviet gulag- a conveyor belt of humanity shipped off to Siberia, justice a distant, laughable concept, mocked by the all powerful state prosecutors. 

See you in court, derailing the conveyor belt just a bit. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


No. Not this blog. 

The Broward Blog. 

Ana Gardiner. 

Bill Geilin. 

Mean, nasty comments, sexual innuendo, bar briefs, a recommendation for disbarment;  a total free for all. And throw in a whistle blower on a death penalty case, just for fun, in a county no defendant and no sane lawyer ever wants to find themselves in. 

Everything we strive not to be. Really. 

It's all here. 

See you in court. 


Did you ever wonder what your NCIC printout looks like? 
Now, courtesy of the Chief Of the City of South Miami Police Department, you can find out. 
The Miami New Times reported here that the good natured and ever helpful chief Orlando De Castro has been (illegally? es possible) running attorneys in NCIC. And not just any attorneys, but attorneys who apparently bug him. 

Here they come, fresh from the Zimmerman acquittal, the book deals. Juror #37 now has a book deal. No word on whether her husband, who is a member of our beloved Florida Bar, helped her land the deal. More book deals, we are sure, to come.  Juror #37 talked to the Washington Post and said "most if not all" of the jurors believed it was Zimmerman on the phone calling for help. That right there probably won the case for Zimmerman. 

If you're a county court practitioner, you have a quiet week, as most of your judges are labouring away at difficult judicial conference designed to iron out those wrinkles and return your favourite robed readers, renewed, refreshed, up on the law, and after many difficult hours of introspection, a better, more fair jurist. 
(Trying saying that with a straight face.)
Plus, there are those shrimp cocktails and mojitos. 
They never seem to hold these conferences in Hialeah, or Homestead, or at one  of those hotels right off of 441 near Dolphins stadium. Oh well, we're sure it's just an oversight. 

We sent this on our twitter account (@justicebuilding)

If I was african-amercian, I would be more outraged over the mass jailing of AF/men, then this tragic case, as tragic as it is.

It's hot. 
Keep cool. 
See you in court. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Here's what we know about America 2013: people are still not judged by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin. Race is still the lens through which Americans view events, the criminal justice system, the police, the courts, lawyers and judges. Anger by African-Americans for race based inequalities may have dissipated a bit with the election of an African-American president and advancement of other minorities in other professions, but it still bubbles hotly just beneath the surface of public consciousness and drives behavior. 

In our small corner of the world, what we are concerned with is justice and fair trials. For us, the possible tragic outcome of this case are future jury verdicts that do not reflect the facts of the case. Future defendants-black, white, hispanic, whatever, could pay with their freedom over anger about the verdict in this case. 

We've seen in media (social and standard) calls for the State to appeal the verdict, and criticism of the prosecution for not forcing the defendant to testify and explain his behavior. Shocking ignorance of basic constitutional rights to be sure, but we as legal practitioners ignore the feelings of the general public at our own peril. The burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt can be threatened by ignorant, populist politicians, and undermined by disgruntled jurors one case at a time. 

We've yet to reach a level of non race based thinking where a white man can kill a black man in self defense and not have the disgraceful tragedy of the killings of Medgar Evers be resurrected. 

Trayvon Martin was a boy. His life had barely begun. But Trayvon Martin was also  (in police parlance) a young black male, and his presence in neighborhood was deemed a threat to a man who had a gun. Neither Martin (who apparently beat up Zimmerman) nor Zimmerman who clearly escalated this encounter, are blameless. Trayvon Martin paid for the misjudgments that young men often make with his life. Zimmerman paid for the tragedies that guns often create with his life inexorably changed for the worst.

What's the tragedy here? Martin was scared by Zimmerman and responded by attacking him. Zimmerman was scared by Martin and responded by killing him.  The tragedy is that we need to stop being scared by each other. We need to stop shooting each other. We need to stop carrying guns wherever we go. We need to stop evaluating every encounter between two different colored people in 2013 based on their race, and most importantly, we need to stop screaming about throwing out cherished constitutional rights every time a case turns out differently than we wanted. White americans decried the justice system when OJ Simpson was acquitted and african-americans are now upset because Zimmerman was acquitted. 

These cases might well be the cost we pay so the thousand or so criminal trials that happen throughout our country every month- trials no one pays attention to or tweets about- resolve in a just and fair way. No defendant in the future should be convicted because Zimmerman was acquitted. That would be the real tragedy if that was the legacy of Trayvon Martin's tragic and untimely death. 

See you in court. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Now go to sleep. Peace out. 



Breaking. SA Angela Corey fires her IT DIRECTOR .....

State Attorney Angela Corey has fired her information technology director after he testified in a George Zimmerman trial hearing that he was concerned the state did not turn over information to Zimmerman's defense team.

According to Jacksonville.com, a state attorney investigator delivered a note to Ben Kruidbos' home at 7:30 a.m. Friday that said he “can never again be trusted to step foot in this office.”

Kruidbos, 42, was on paid administrative leave since May 28, according to the report.

Kruidbos told his attorney in April that he was concerned assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda had not turned over his report to the defense, which included photos of a person holding a gun, a photo of a marijuana plant and a text message about a gun transaction.

The report said Kruidbos initially received a pay raise for his work in the case.

CAP OUT .....

Saturday Morning Question: Will the jury reach a verdict today? We think yes. We rarely see a six member jury deliberate beyond ten or twelve hours. Twelve member juries are a different kettle of fish. The possible permutations for jurors to align with each other (expressed as 12! or 12 factorial or 6! is 6x5x4x3x2x1) is the multiple of the numbers within the set.  6! yields 720 possible juror alliances (not juror decisions, which is set as "Guilty", "Not Guilty" or "no decision") while 12! = 479,001,600 possible juror alliances.   The mathematics of this is a bit difficult for this blog, as the number of possible permutations is merely the starting point. That number is actually reduced (trust us) since their possible positions are limited to three: G, NG, undecided. We've done the math and the outcome is below. 

Juror alliances are what form verdicts. Juror #6 and juror#5 agree on a set of facts of a case. They form an alliance which may or may not lead to a decision. The more jurors that form an alliance towards a particular verdict, the more likely that verdict occurs. This is expressed as "The Rumpole Verdict Probability Factor (RVPF)"
RVPF=100% when Juror alliance (JA)=6 (or 12 for 12 person juries).  

2JA= RVPF 25%; 3JA= RVPF 65%; 4JA=RVPF 90%; 
5JA=RVPF 98%; 6JA= RVPF 100%.
The tipping point is when half the jury agrees. When 3 of six jurors form a unified opinion then the chance that opinion becomes the final verdict is 65%: more then just half the jury (50%). When a fourth juror joins the alliance, 9 out of ten times their opinion becomes the final verdict, and when a fifth juror joins the alliance, the possibility of a hung jury goes down to 2% or less. 

So the key analysis is where are the six jurors when they start? Have any formed an alliance, and if so, how many? 

We shall see. 

Friday night update: Jurors concluded deliberations for the evening. Will begin tomorrow at 9am. They are sequestered. 

It really galls us to even acknowledge that some simple second degree murder case is worthy of all this media attention/hysteria. But then again, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public. 

So here is your verdict watch post. Comment all you want on the case, the attorneys, the closings, etc. Just please, no one ask - as we overheard some commentator do- why the prosecution didn't call the defendant to the stand to admit or deny it was his voice on the 911 tape. Please. We just can't take it. 

Rainy weekend. Try and enjoy it. 
See you in court on Monday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Your City of Miami Police Department (Motto: "He fell down...a lot...that's how he broke his nose") "engaged in a pattern of excessive force that  led to a high number of shootings by officers...that resulted in the deaths of seven young black men over an eight-month period in 2011."  So found a Justice Department study according to the NY Times here. 

"The findings, released on Tuesday, came after a two-year investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and they identified “troubling” practices, including delays in completing investigations of officer-involved shootings, questionable police tactics and a lack of adequate supervision. From 2008 to 2011, officers intentionally fired their weapons at people 33 times, the investigation found."
"The Justice Department noted that its own investigation would have been completed sooner if not for the Police Department’s “frequent inability to produce necessary documents in a timely fashion.
Rumpole notes:  Sort of explains why we can never get a police report in discovery. 
But Miami doesn't have bragging rights all to itself. The JAA Broward blog reports that Broward PD Howard Finklestein called Broward SAO Mike Satz....(steady now) a racist, and the chief law enforcement officer overseeing racist police departments. Those accusations were based on this ACLU report.
Finklestein wrote this letter to Satz in which he noted that the ACLU report found that in 2010 Broward ranked 18th in the nation  for racial disparity in Marijuana Arrests (it is rumoured Satz immediately demanded to know why Broward was not ranked higher) and that African-Americans in Broward are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents of Broward. 
So there you have it. The City of Miami shoots people recklessly and then covers it up, and Broweird arrests and prosecutes  you for BWB (Breathing While Black).
For shame!
See You In Court. 

Next up: Judge Emas and minimum mandatory sentences: a hero emerges. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

F. U.

The First Amendment:
Do lawyers give up their first amendment rights when they become bloggers or post on a blog? We don't remember signing any waiver. The Sun Sentinel (Motto: "NOT the Herald") covers the issue here. 

The Third Amendment:
There have been NO supreme court cases dealing with the Third Amendment (Motto "Just look between the second and fourth amendment") , although Douglas cited it in his much maligned opinion in Griswald finding a right to privacy within the penumbra of the constitution.  Is it time to do away with the third amendment?
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. 

Rumpole offers a free lunch at The Capital Grille for any lawyer who emails us a transcript of a hearing in which the third amendment is cited. 


The scene: A parking lot of a School in Ramapo, Long Island. 
The Lawyer: Chris Kirby
The Firm: Minerva and D'Agostino.

A lawyer for the firm representing a school board loses it in a parking lot dealing with some parents. 

Our favourite line: "If I was married married to you I would blow my f'ing brains out."

Warning: Really Really NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR CHILDREN. 
There are F Bombs, C Bombs, and a continuing variation of every curse word you've ever heard.
It really is hot out there.  

Moral of the story: Don't go to school board meetings. But if you do, don't wait around in the parking lot and speak with people. 

KUDOS: To Judge Ortiz for smacking down a Broweird prosecutor who asked the judge to hold someone in contempt for failing to respond to a LETTER (not a subpoena) asking them to show up in their office. The Broward ASA was appointed by the governor to prosecute a former Dade ASA for an LSA. 

Welcome to Dade County where we follow the law. 

See you in court. 

Monday, July 08, 2013


It has been Ten years since we lost our son Gregg David Wenzel. We still have to deal with that loss on a daily basis. We have been fortunate to have had the love and support of so many friends – both ours and Gregg’s. We have been able to share annual memorial services at the CIA in Washington, D.C., with other families whom we share a similar loss. Gregg is remembered by the CIA with a Star #81 carved on the wall and his name written in the Book of Honor under the Stars.

One way in which we hope to keep Gregg’s memory and spirit a live is by the Gregg David Wenzel Scholarship Fund, if you wish to make a donation in his memory, go to the link below

Thanks for your support-Please share this with anyone else who might know Gregg.

Gladys and Mitch Wenzel


In case you missed it last week, Weil, Gotshal, Manages canned 60 lawyers, cut pay for many partners and basically bar-becued its entire Houston office.  While lawyers such as those at Weil who struggle to bill 2100 hours a year will never darken the security line at our humble REGJB, we can still pause a moment and feel sympathy with our brethren. It's never easy to lose your job. 

OK. On to things criminal. 

In the George Zimmerman prosecution on Friday. The consensus among the experts seems to be that the prosecution overreached with second degree murder charges. We don't watch such nonsense on TV.  But for those of who have indulged in America's favourite sport, what say you? 

The long hot summer is underway. Stay cool. 

See you in court. 

Friday, July 05, 2013



Better an extra "O" then dropping the "M". 

Here's the link for the Harald sroty- lets see how long it tkes them to fix it. 

The misspelling is in the link as well.


Ft. Lauderdale police boomb squad investigates ‘suspicious package’ at bus stop on Federal Highway


Police are diverting traffic around part of Federal Highway as a Fort Lauderdale Police bomb squad investigates a suspicious package left at a bus stop.
Police were called out to the bus stop at 1400 Federal Highway at around 9 p.m. after an anonymous caller reported seeing two metal boxes with wires sticking out of them sitting on top of one of the bus stop’s benches, said Fort Lauderdale Police spokeswoman DeAnna Greenlaw.
Police officers are diverting traffic around the area of Federal Highway from Northeast 13th Street to Northeast 19th Street.
They are still investigating, but at this point, they don’t believe the boxes are dangerous, said Greenlaw at about 10:15 p.m.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/06/3488542/ft-lauderdale-police-boomb-squad.html#storylink=cpy
(H/T- the man, the myth, the legend: @btannebaum)

Khalil Gibran

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
Ayn Rand

Thursday, July 04, 2013


"The last full measure of devotion" are words from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. It was the phrase Lincoln used to honor the dead: They gave the last full measure of devotion. Poetic words that ring true on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg battle.

But the words do not honor just the dead of Gettysburg. The phrase has come to be used to honor Americans who gave their life for their country, their community, their home.

Mike Barnacle, the Boston Globe columnist, used Lincoln's phrase to honor the 19 firefighters who dies fighting a fire in Arizona last week. The 4:23 video gives a short synopsis of each of the brave young men who died giving their last full measure of devotion.

We are thinking of those men on this Fourth of July.

The Declaration of Independence  famously states Jefferson's immortal phrase:  "We hold these truths to be self evident, That all men are created equal. . ."

But when it comes to bravery, not all men are equal.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


The much anticipated oral argument at the 3rd DCA occurred today in Alex Michaels contempt case. We watched the live video feed, and were much amused by Judge Schwartz almost stroking out and holding a litigant in contempt in a mortgage foreclosure case heard before Alex's case came before the court.  
But then it was time for Alex's case and the panel in courtroom left and Judge Wells (who was on the prior panel) led Judges Lagoa and Shepherd into the courtroom. 

Ken Speiller (counsel for Alex Michaels) was barely finished introducing himself when Judge Lagoa interrupted him and began a series of questions that must have made Alex and his lawyer thrilled. 

Lagoa started off by noting that Judge Miranda's contempt order found two separate and distinct actions by Alex Michaels contemptuous: first- by making what Judge Miranda characterized as a "violent gesture" and second, by muttering a Romanian curse word under his breath. 

Lagoa noted that nine witnesses testified at the contempt hearing. None testified that the gesture- Alex holding his hand out as if to say "stop" while Von Zamft was interrupting him- was a threatening gesture. Lagoa noted that Von Zamft's co-cousnel testified that when Von Zamft approached the podium it was his fist that was clenched. Before the first few minutes were over it was clear that one of the two counts of contempt against Alex Michaels had not withstood judicial scrutiny. 

Then came the bombshell: Judge Lagoa chastised Judge Miranda for holding Alex in contempt on a Friday, sentencing him to two days jail, and not allowing him to post an appeals bond. Her displeasure with Judge Miranda's actions was very clear. Lagoa followed that up with several comments about Von Zamft, noting the clenched fist and Von Zamft's repeated statements that he was going to seek to have Alex Michaels Baker Acted. It became very clear to us that Judge Lagoa was of the opinion the wrong lawyer was standing before the 3rd DCA. 

Judge Shepherd was willing to concede the now infamous "threatening gesture" count, but he was clearly troubled by the possible curse word. Judge Wells was just troubled. She opined several times that the entire hearing was out of control and she was greatly displeased by the behavior of both attorneys. 

Rumpole says: The panel clearly had trouble with proof of criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt. To us, the normal appellate court's  desire to defer to the trial judge was eradicated by what they perceived as the judge's completely improper sentence of two days jail without providing the lawyer the ability to appeal. Judges Shepherd and Wells are not thrilled with this case and the actions of both lawyers. However, Judge Lagoa's apparent strong belief that nothing in the record supports the finding of contempt against Alex Michaels appears to us to be sufficient to carry the day. 

Oscar Madison: I can't take it anymore, Felix, I'm cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you're not here, the things I know you're gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can't stand little notes on my pillow. "We're all out of cornflakes. F.U." Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!

We're trying to post the video of the oral argument, but it might take us some time, so check back. 

See You In Court.