Sunday, March 30, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014


This post is a day too late and for that we apologize. 

Friday March 28, 2014 was the last day at work for Assistant State Attorney Phil Maniatty. For thirty seven years he has hauled the mail, shown up to work and done his job and done it very well. Along the way he earned the well deserved reputation as a fair and honest prosecutor. Phil was the type of prosecutor you could sit down with before trial and explain your defense without worrying that he would try and change his witnesses testimony. 

When Phil started as an ASA the State Attorney was a tall, imposing, balding man with one good eye named Richard E Gerstein. For you ASA's born in the 1980's, the building you work in is named after him. When Phil started work at the Dade SAO they didn't have computers, much less cell phones and Al Gore had not yet invented the internet. A couple of guys named Gates and Allen were testing a program called DOS for their fledgling company called Microsoft. Apple was just a fruit and coffee cost maybe a quarter, but you could probably get a cup of joe for a dime at the S & S.  You dialed a phone with your finger in a rotary dial. The State Attorneys Office was on six, the PDs on  7 8, and MDPD was headquartered at what is now the PDs office. The SAO was called the Graham Building and housed various state agencies.  Judges were mostly male, almost uniformly white and non-hispanic. Lincoln road was desolate and Ocean drive was populated by retirees living out their days on small pensions in small apartments. Crack had not yet really hit Miami. Lawyers could take cash over $10,000.00 and not worry about getting indicted for money laundering. It was a different and simpler time. 

Phil Maniatty came from a time when lawyers made deals and shook hands and that was all you needed to know your case was settled. Especially if the prosecutor was Phil. A person's word was his/her bond and pleas and sentences in cases weren't governed by a slew of minimum mandatory sentences and they didn't have to be approved  by civilians who weren't lawyers.  Defendants did about a third of their sentences and lives weren't ruined by 40 year sentences on probation violations. Common sense and experience governed pleas and sentences. 

We wish Phil well in his well deserved retirement. More time for poker and handicapping and the small pleasures in life. 
Be well Phil Maniatty. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


UPDATE: Heat crumple to Pacers on road in Indiana. 

First of all we have never, ever, in over  dozen jury trials in Broward court, heard a clerk read a verdict that said anything other than "NOT guilty." 

But what really gets us is that the court officer just couldn't wait to get the cuffs on the defendant. No motion had been made, the judge hadn't said anything, the words guilty were barely out of the clerk's mouth and BOOM the defendant is cuffed. It's their mentality up there. Maybe it's something in the water. But they thrive on misery there. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


"Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19)



That's how many death sentenced prisoners have had their death sentences overturned in just the past decade. In case you had any doubt, Florida leads the nation in this category.

But that hasn't stopped current Florida Governor Rick Scott from his own goal of becoming Number One. That is first on the list in the category of most executions during a Governor's term in office. Currently, that honor goes to Jeb Bush, who oversaw the execution of 21 death row inmates during his EIGHT years in office.

Scott seeks to break that record, but he is valiantly attempting to do so in half that time.

In Scott's first two and one half years in office, he signed only eight warrants.  But as re-election time continues to get closer, Scott's pen has had an infusion of ink. Starting in April of last year and continuing through this February 2014, a period of roughly ten months, Scott has penned his name to no less than 10 Death Warrants. The tenth, Paul Howell, was executed three weeks ago.  On Friday, Scott signed yet another Death Warrant, this time for prisoner Robert E. Hendrix. Baring a delay, Hendrix will meet his maker on April 23rd at 6:00 PM.

Much of this most recent pace in executions might also have something to do with a bill that Scott signed into law last June. That new law,  dubbed "The Timely Justice Act" by its proponents, requires governors to sign death warrants 30 days after the Florida Supreme Court certifies that an inmate has exhausted all legal appeals. Once a death warrant is signed, the new law requires the state to execute the defendant within six months.

There’s less time for inmates to prove their innocence, making it easier for the state to kill them.

It’s already easier to put someone to death in Florida. It’s the only state that requires a simple jury majority to sentence someone to death. Every other state besides Alabama requires a unanimous vote.  And it keeps getting worse. According to Slate, State Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero has seen “some of the worst lawyering” in death penalty cases.

Washington Post writes about "Florida's Gruesome Execution Theatre" here:


The Tampa Tribune writes about Scott and Executions here:


With nine months remaining in Scott's first term, the record of 21 executions. is now within easy reach. Imagine what those numbers will look like if Scott is re-elected come November 2014.



Monday, March 24, 2014


Do corporations have religious rights? The Supreme Court will examine that issue Tuesday in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, which deals with the Affordable Care Act and contraception. Basically everything today deals with the affordable care act. It's sort of like the Marbury v Madison of the 21st Century. 

Russia may have designs on Moldavia. We have a lawyer of Moldavian descent in our own REGJB: Fred Moldovan.  Everything seems to return to the REGJB. Like six degrees of separation. 

Tennis: The Sony Open is open on Key Biscayne. 

Baseball: Opening day one week away!

NCAA: Gators reach sweet 16. 

Miami Heat:
  "We suck," Miami Heat center Chris Bosh said after Saturday night's 105-95 loss to theNew Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Arena. "We need to turn it around.

Truer words were never spoken.

Enjoy your week. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014



Slate has this article entitled "Female lawyers who dress too sexy are a HUGE problem in the courtroom." 

Loyola Law School would like to remind its female students to button up. “I really don't need to mention that cleavage and stiletto heels are not appropriate office wear (outside of ridiculous lawyer TV shows), do I? Yet I'm getting complaints from supervisors... Judge A. Benjamin  Goldgar of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois explained that female lawyers dressing too sexily is “a huge problem” and that “you don’t dress in court as if it’s Saturday night and you’re going out to a party.” 

Query: Is this a problem in Miami? Are lawyers dressing as strumpets on the prowl? 

At NCAA Basketball powerhouse Harvard, the students are complaining about something called "Racial Microaggressions" which are seemingly innocuous comments that have racial undertones, even if unintended. At Harvard, they put on a play:
In one scene, students recite phrases they have been told, presumably by nonblack students, including “You only got in because you’re black” and “The government feels bad for you.” In another scene, a black student dressed in a tuxedo and a red bow tie describes being at a formal university function and being confused for a waiter.

The NY Times article is here, and apparently there is a huge blogging scene about racial microaggressions. 

Rumpole says: there are, in general, two types of racist conduct:

1) The person who has been raised in a racist atmosphere and doesn't realize it. This person thinks Asians make good computer programmers, Jews are good business people, blacks are good athletes....etc, etc. 

2) People who are overtly racist and angry (fearful) about other races. This is pure ignorance and there's not a lot you can do about these people. Eventually their generational thoughts will age out as they die and society evolves. 

All of us make ignorant comments at one time or another.  You can't outlaw moments of stupidity. The best you can do is to limit the effects of racism as new generations of children grow up in a world with no tolerance for racism. In that regard we are on the right path. 

Towards the end of his life Dr. Martin King realized that the next great challenge for our country was economic racism. He was killed in Memphis while supporting a sanitation workers strike. He had an economic march on Washington planned for the future. It wasn't the color of a person's skin so much as the opportunity to earn a decent living that he was worried about. And he was right. 

Today the gap between the richest and poorest among us it enormous and growing. The determining factor for a good life, health and success is not so much the color of a person's skin as whether the child's mother got adequate pre-natal care, and whether the child had access to preschool, a good kindergarden, a home environment without violence and fear. Economics plays a role in all of this.  There's very few  teenagers from wealthy families  who get arrested for strong armed robbery, or dealing crack on a street corner. 

Meanwhile Russia is threatening Lichenstein. At some point we need to draw the line lest some world leader be labeled the next Neville Chamberlin. 

See You In Court. 

Friday, March 21, 2014


UPDATE: On Thursday Judge Brennan, who previously sentenced the head of crime stoppers to 14 days jail, changed her sentence to....court costs and a 300 word essay!
"I will not eat paper in court....I will not eat paper in court....I will not eat paper in court."

Long time and careful readers of the blog know that among our other varied pursuits, Cosmology holds a special interest for us. 

In the realm of Cosmology, the 64 dollar question is where did the Universe come from? While that might never be answered, the question of what was going on during the first trillionths of that first second of existence has now been answered: INFLATION. Not the kind President Gerald Ford grappled with in 1974-75, but the rapid (twice the speed of light) and uniform inflation of space/time. 

In 1979 a young physicist at Stanford spent a long evening wondering where some of the particles from that first very few moments of the Universe were. He posited that if the Universe rapidly expanded in a uniform manner at twice the speed of light, that would explain the regularity of the observable universe. What could be seen of space was not jagged but uniform. If the theory was correct, then there should be ripples in the fabric of space/time which would have occurred during those first trillionths of seconds when the Universe rapidly expanded. 

Harvard and Smithsonian Astronomers at the South Pole have recently discovered those ripples in the fabric of space/time. Inflation has now been preliminarily confirmed!

Lets take one step back: we've known for some time that everywhere we look the universe has a uniform background temperature.  We also know that the Universe is about 14 billion years old. We also know that the Universe is so large that it would take light 28 billion years to travel from one side to the other. So the Universe doesn't appear to be old enough to have scattered patches of hot and cold to mix and form a uniform temperature. But Inflation solves this conundrum. Think of looking at a hot cup of coffee from a telescope a mile away. Watching the steam rise you can estimate the temperature. Now assume everywhere you look there is a hot cup of coffee with the same amount of steam rising. How could this be if you didn't have enough time to fill the cups of coffee at the same time? This is illustrative of the paradox of the constant temperature of the universe relative to its size. 

But Inflation theory assumes that all the coffee cups were filled from one large pot of coffee almost instantaneously. This solves the paradox. 

The observations from the Harvard/ Smithsonian team need to be duplicated independently and verified. But if and when that occurs, Inflation becomes a fact not a theory with a significance equal to that of special relativity. This is a big deal. 

See you in the cosmos. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014



Judicial Elections 2014 .....

Incumbent Judge William "Bill" Altfield now has an opponent. As many of our loyal readers know, Judge Altfield was a career prosecutor, serving for 24 years as an ASA here in Miami Dade County. For several years, Judge Altfield applied, repeatedly, for an open seat with the JNC. Finally, in August of 2011, Governor Scott chose Bill and appointed him to the County Court bench. This is his first election to maintain that seat.

Filing in Group 13 of the County court this week is Assistant City Attorney Veronica Diaz. We can tell you the following about Ms. Diaz: She has been a member of The Florida Bar for 11 years. Prior to working for the City of Miami City Attorney’s Office, she was in private practice with two law firms where she specialized in commercial and real estate litigation.

Ms. Diaz joined the Office of the City Attorney in March 2007. Presently, she practices in the Transactional Division where she handles complex commercial transactions for the City, including construction and development, public-private partnerships and other general business matters. She also serves as counsel to various City boards.

We reached out to Ms. Diaz and asked her to respond to several questions we had, and our readers had; (emails that we have received). If and when we hear back from Ms. Diaz, we will share her responses with our readers.

Florida Legislature 2014 .....

For those of you that keep up with what’s going on in Tallahassee, you know that the 60 day annual legislative session began two weeks ago. The 160 elected representatives include our State House Representatives (120) and our State Senators (40).  They have filed hundreds and hundreds of bills for consideration.  Many of those bills directly affect the criminal justice system. Two in particular were discussed in Rumpole’s post yesterday.

Other bills that may be of interest to our readers include the following:

SB 94 (and companion HB 39) Relating to Jury Composition; Requiring a 12-member jury for life felony cases.

HB 99 (and companion SB 0360) Relating to Controlled Substances; Provides that person who engages in certain acts involving specified quantities of hydrocodone or oxycodone commit specified offenses; amends the quantity figures and minimum mandatory times thereby providing for some leniency as compared with the current numbers.

HB 101 (and companion SB 0652) Relating to Habitual Traffic Offender Designations; Provides for removal of habitual traffic offender designation upon proof of compliance with specified statutory provisions. This bill would put a big dent in the filing of HTO cases. Finally.
SB 102 (and companion HB 0055) Relating to Drivers Leaving the Scene of a Crash; one of many bills that would provide for harsher sanctions against those convicted in LSA/SBI cases.
HB 1093 (and companion SB 1004) Relating to Eyewitness Identification; requires state, county, municipal, & other law enforcement agencies that conduct lineups to follow specified procedures.
HB 1095 (and companion SB 0986) Relating to Custodial Interrogations; Requires that statements made during covered custodial interrogations be recorded; requires that electronic recordings be preserved for specified period; provides that failure to electronically record interrogation shall be factor for trial court & jury to consider when making certain decisions. Once again, the criminal defense bar tries to get law enforcement to do the right thing; something law enforcement has opposed for years.

Here is the link to read the entire list of HBs and SBs filed in 2014: (once you are at the link below, you can click on any bill to find out the current status of the bill and you can also read the exact language of the bill.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Bobby Reiff sent out this email. It's well worth a read:

Dear Friends:

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Previously, I have written to many of my friends and clients about abusive websites with names such as jailbase.combustedmugshots.comflorida.arrests.orgmugshots.comwhosarrested.com,mugme.orgarre.st/?Mugshots, and mugshotsonline.com which have popped up (some would say crawled out from under a rock) to shame those who have been arrested, even if the arrest was improper, illegal or incorrect. Particularly disturbing about these websites is that they were “data mining” information that is old and often incorrect. I had written about a client that had been arrested in 2008 but exonerated shortly thereafter. When he “Googled” his name (something he would do every few months), his old arrest suddenly appeared along with a not-too-flattering booking photo. Another client called me after she learned that she lost a job she had been hired to perform when the prospective client saw her booking photograph, even though the charges had been subsequently dismissed.

Back when I first wrote my letter of warning about these websites, I suggested that those who have been previously arrested (and even those who have not been arrested) should take the time to “Google” their name every month to ensure that a booking photograph or other unflattering information did not appear. I suggested that you take special care to click on the “images” section of Google to ensure that the picture does not appear in that section as well. While we routinely do this at the office upon being retained, since these photographs are now appearing long after the case has closed, vigilance in protecting your name and image should be carried on by you. For more information on this issue, you may want to read these articles:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/business/mugged-by-a-mug-shot-online.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hp andhttp://gigaom.com/2013/10/07/google-goes-after-mug-shot-sites/.

I am now writing again on this topic because there are two pending bills to prevent websites from charging to remove mugshot photographs from their sites. They are listed below:

Senate bill 298

House bill 265

Personally, I believe that these bills do not go far enough. In fact, in anticipation of such legislation, these website owners are now refusing to remove such photographs themselves, and instead, are now referring you to a “Law Firm” that is likely paying money back to the website owners for the business referral in the guise of advertising fees or membership dues.

Now is the time to call your local legislative representative and ask them to vote “yes” on these bills! I suggest that you recommend that they add a provision to the laws that these websites shall be precluded from receiving any revenue, from any source, for the removal of such entries, including for advertising by such law firms or record removal entities.

Thank you for your time and sorry for the interruption to your day. Please feel free to call me at the office if you have any questions about this or any other related issue.


Bobby Reiff
Robert S. Reiff, Esquire | Managing Attorney | Law Offices of Robert S. Reiff, P.A.

Monday, March 17, 2014



Today is the wearin-o-the green. 

No better way to celebrate than an ice cold Materva along with some Corned Beef and arroz con frijoles negros y maduros and cabbage. 

It's Miami after all. 

So a lot happened last week while we were soaking up rays on St Barts. 


Richard Masten the head of  Crime Stoppers (motto "A snitch in every household") refused Judge Brennan's order to turn over the informant who called crime stoppers in a case. Then he ate the evidence! See below.  Masten is a former law enforcement officer and former police chief. Then Judge Brennan gave him the bill for the meal: she held him in contempt. There will be a hearing and Masten will face jail. 

Defense Attorney JM D'Escoubet watched the circus he created by filing the motion. 

ASA Michael Von Zamft won a carjacking double murder case. Eric Ellington was convicted of most counts. The Herald article is here.  PD Herb Smith's winning streak in murder cases ends at one. But this was a difficult case for the defense. 

We're still away, so El Capitan has something on tap for y'all later in the week. 

See You On The Beach. 
(btw: On The Beach is a classic 1960's nuclear holocaust movie and novel. Just a thought as the cold war heats up.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

You Tube Videos; Lying Cops; and Autopsy Photos


Thanks Dan ..... Did I mention I'm Jewish? .....

In case you have been living on the Planet Mars, and not yet heard about Attorney Dan Muessig, he is all the rage and his YouTube Video has gone viral over his self-promotional ad as a criminal defense attorney in the State of Pennsylvania.

Here is the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KfACTAOPa0

And here is the recent interview Muessig gave to Slate.com about the video and the backlash it has been causing in the legal world:



Next time you are in Court appearing before one of your favorite "state oriented" Judges who have never met a lying cop, just tell them to read this post:

So your client is pulled over for running a red light.  A search is conducted and two grams of a green leafy substance is found along with ledgers indicating sales.  Your client is arrested and charged with Possession W/Intent To Sell, a third degree felony.  You interview your client and he insists he did not run the red light.  He also tells you that the officers, from BSO, actually stopped him in the City of Boca Raton.  What do you do?

Well, if you're top notch Broward criminal defense attorney Russell Williams, you go the extra mile. You pull police documents and police radio transmissions and you nail the lying scum (the cops) locking them in during a deposition.

From the radio transmissions:

In the recording, deputies can be heard saying they stopped Giunto "just south of Camino." Camino Real in Boca Raton is 1.7 miles away from 200 North Federal Highway; (the location the officers put on the "A" form).

"I'm gonna try to catch up to him," one deputy said. "I'm gonna say that's our infraction there is that he took the light. … Our only problem is, now, where we are," one of the deputies said. "What do you think?"

Here is the full article from the Sun Sentinel (HT JAABLOG):



The Third weighed in on the issue this week in the case of  Montes-Valentin v. Statehttp://www.3dca.flcourts.org/Opinions/3D12-2063.pdf

The case was a DUI/SBI before Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens.  Appellate Attorneys Richard Klugh, Jr and John Bergendahl argued two issues before the three Judge panel of Rothenberg, Emas, and Logue. 

First Issue: Admission of the Blood Test Results. In the case, the State may have failed to present evidence that the blood was drawn by a qualified person pursuant to the statute.  Only one problem; the defense attorney forgot to object.  Well, they did object, but when they did so, they raised a general objection; "Improper predicate" and "lack of foundation"  That's a NO NO; you must provide a specific argument, not a general objection, in order to preserve the issue.  When they did finally provide a specific objection, they did so too late - during the JOA argument, after the evidence had already been admitted.

Second Issue: Admission of the autopsy photos.  The defense argued that any Probative Value of admitting the photos was outweighed by the Prejudicial Effect.  Surprise, surprise, the 3rd DCA agreed.  But, they also concluded that "the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt".

What both the State Attorneys office, and our Robed Readers, need to learn from this opinion, though, is clear.  Think long and hard before you introduce those gory, bloody, photos of the body of the victim.  It is the rare occasion that the autopsy photos have much relevance to the elements of the crime; or at least those elements being challenged by the defense attorney.  Judges and Prosecutors need to remember that, long after they finish this trial and move on to their next big case, they are sending home 6 or 12 very dedicated civic minded jurors who will remember those photos every time their heads hit the pillow; for many years to come.  Those images are seared into their memories for eternity.

The court said, "We therefore agree with the defendant that the probative value of the photographs was outweighed by its prejudicial effect, and, thus, the trial court abused its discretion by introducing the photographs into evidence".

The weather is clear and cool, so enjoy our Magic City this weekend.  I'll be hanging out in South Beach, people watching whilst sipping on a cold mojito.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


UPDATE: Heat lose yet again, this time at home to the Brooklyn Nets who upped their record against the Heat this year to 3-0. 

So you've continually muttered to yourself as you've read our blog "what a putz. I could do such a better job." 
Now it's time to put your writing where your mouth is. 

Rumpole out:
We've decided to finally take up a client's  offer and use that house on St. Barts for a few weeks of well earned rest and relaxation. The problem is that the internet connection is spotty. 

So if you've ever wanted to be a legal blogger, or just look like one, send us an email and lets get you started in the exciting world of legal blogging!

Senator Marco Rubio, (R- Uranus) arrived at the REGJB on Wednesday all dressed up for jury duty. 
Anybody get him on a panel? 

Roy Black, a DUI lawyer of some renown, was in the REGJB Monday for jury duty. Anybody get him on a panel? 

Want to watch a real lawyer in action? Go to Judge Hendon's courtroom this week and watch Alex Michaels, a/k/a @draculawyer in action on a murder trial. 

Meanwhile, we're on a beach reading trashy paperbacks. 

See ya, just not in court for a while. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


There's an emerging and bourgeoning crime lab scandal in Broward. The JAA Blog has all the details. Since we don't go to Broward, we don't really give a darn. But for those poor souls that must trk from Miami to the netherworld, we provide you the information. 

BEST LAW SCHOOLS: as per US News and World Report:

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford (-1; tied for #2 last year with Harvard)
4. Columbia
4. Chicago
6. NYU
7. Penn
8. UVA (-1; tied for #7 last year with Penn)
9. Berkeley
10. Duke (+1; ranked #11 last year)
10. Michigan (-1; tied at #9 last year with Berkeley)
12. Northwestern
13. Cornell
13. GULC (+1; ranked #14 last year)
15. Texas
16. UCLA (+1; ranked #17 last year)
16. Vanderbilt (-1; tied at #15 last year with Texas)
18. Wash U (+1; tied at #19 last year with Minnesota)
19. Emory (+4; tied at #23 last year with Notre Dame)
20. GWU (+1; tied at #21 last year with Alabama)
20. Minnesota (-1; tied at #19 last year with Vanderbilt)
20. USC (-2; ranked #18 last year)

The Knicks have won four straight. The Heat? Don't ask.

If you're keeping track, Russia and Vladimir Putin ( if ever there was a guy who belonged in Broward, it's Putin) made threats against the Vatican City, Monaco, and Nauru. For those of you that care, Nauru is the smallest island nation (8 square miles) in the world. 
Putin and Russia should pick on someone their own size. Some foreign land that has traditionally repelled invaders. A place so unusual, complicated, and mysterious that armies would think twice before invading. Just how do you say "Hialeah" in Russian anyway?

Monday, March 10, 2014


"The political winds have changed" and with that, City of Miami Beach Chief of Police Ray Martinez notified the City Manager and the City Commission and the Mayor and the guy who hangs out at the Starbucks on Alton that he is leaving the department effective April 4. 

There's this old joke: "How many City of Miami Beach police officers does it take to throw a defendant down a flight of stairs?
None: He fell."

The Miami Beach police department has a well earned reputation for shoddy police work and brutality. As the Herald reported here, Chief Martinez's best achievement over the last two years may well be that none of his officers shot and killed any unarmed citizens during that time. 

Heat lose again....
This is getting redundant and old. but the Miami Heat, after building a double digit lead in the 4th quarter Saturday night saw it all slip away and lost in overtime to the Chicago Bulls. The Heats scored a scintillating two points in overtime.  

It's lonely at the bottom where basketballs echo over empty, cavernous arenas; empty seats bearing quiet witness to glory days long gone. 

Another week in beautiful springtime Miami. Enjoy. 
Russia may be annexing South Beach next, which means we might soon see cassocks patrolling Ocean Drive. Borscht anyone?

See You In Court. 

Saturday, March 08, 2014


The losses keep getting worse for the beleaguered Miami Heat. On Friday night they were soundly beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-87. It was almost as if with things not going their way, they quit.  Troubling, but not unexpected. 

James, who ditched the protective mask he was wearing early in the first half, was hounded by Leonard into shooting 6 for 18.

"I'm not making any excuses, but I'm not a big fan of the jerseys," James said. "So I have to figure something out next time I have to wear the short-sleeve jerseys. Every time I shoot, it feels like it's just pulling right up underneath my arm. I already don't have much room for error on my jump shot anyways, so it's definitely not a good thing."

One thing we've learned in our career: when people use stock phrases like "I'm not making any excuses..." they are making excuses. 

Joe Klock, a fixture around the REGJB for the last decade or so, after expanding from an exclusively civil practice, had a heart issue at the end of the week. After a scare, it appears he is improving.  

While you were asleep: 
Russia annexed Crimea and a small portion of Western Canada. 

We've pulled out our well read 1939 edition of  "While England Slept" by Winston Churchill for some weekend reading. 

Have a good weekend comrade. 


Thursday, March 06, 2014


(Good morning...the role of Rumpole will be played by an understudy today. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please turn off your cell phones and mobile devices and enjoy the show.)

What do you do as a judge when presented with evidence stipulated to by both the prosecution and defense that a defendant was convicted based, in part,  on false testimony? 

US District Court Judge Joan Leonard took a scalpel to the testimony, excised the diseased potion, and decided after the surgery that she was satisfied with the result and did not vacate the conviction. 
Jay Weaver and the Herald cover the story here. 

In a rare move, both defense attorneys and federal prosecutors urged a Miami judge to throw out the 24-year prison sentence of a West Palm Beach man convicted of crack-cocaine dealing based largely on the tainted testimony of a now-disgraced police officer.
But U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, while vacating a key drug offense in the case, refused on Tuesday to toss out the main conspiracy conviction that sent 47-year-old Elroy Phillips to prison in 2002.
Both sides agreed that fired West Palm Beach police officer Michael Ghent falsely testified that he was working undercover with an informant who allegedly bought crack from Phillips for $50 on April 6, 2001.
While the judge acknowledged that Ghent’s testimony in Phillips’ trail was tainted, she ruled that fact alone wasn’t enough to undermine the government’s entire drug conspiracy case. Lenard cited other co-conspirators accused of dealing who cooperated and testified against Phillips.

Talk about a troubling precedent. 
We get the Judge's logic- there's enough evidence to satisfy her that the defendant is guilty. 
But isn't there more to it? Don't we explicitly agree that the strength of our justice system is that guilty defendants go free when the evidence isn't trustworthy and doesn't provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt? This ensures* that an innocent defendant who appears guilty won't be convicted (like that has never happened in the United States before). 
Shouldn't a new jury have the chance to hear the case in toto without the prejudicial and false testimony?
And while we're at it, shouldn't federal courts be just a wee bit more defendant friendly? 

 Come back soon Rumpole.  This is muy harder than it appears. 

* For a good discussion of the battle between "insure" and "ensure" go here. 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/05/3976434/despite-false-trial-testimony.html#morer#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Your Miami Heat lost again last night to the Houston Rockets 106-103.

Just wondering how long until the front running Miami fans abandon the Heat like they  have the Marlins and the Dolphins?

Before you know it there will be a lone Miami Judge sitting all by her lonesome at home games.

DOM has all the inside scoop on the ABA White Collar Conference beginning at the Eden Roc today.

Rumpole's tip: the parties are better than the boring lectures.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


"The war outside still rages, but you say it ain't ours anymore to win"
Bruce Springsteen, No Retreat, No Surrender. 

Two of the very best lawyers this country has ever known faced off in an REGJB Miami courtroom thirty years ago. A few days ago we read Abe Laeser's recollections and reflections of what went right and wrong for the prosecution. Now the defense attorney, Mr. Roy Black, weighs in on his thoughts about the case, proving that the defense never rests, even after an acquittal:

Rumpole thank you for the invitation to submit a clarifying rebuttal to Abe’s faulty recall. As you know I love to write about trials and trial advocacy; it is a vocation and an avocation. Abe makes a good point about his truncated preparation time. He was the acknowledged master of case preparation. If he had been in the case from day one it would have been a tougher job.

However Abe has forgotten the phony confession testified to by detective and now assistant chief Buhrmaster. I won't address that further except to note it is hard to be taking a confession at the same time you are on the radio directing troops trying to quell the riot. For an in-depth discussion of that impossibility and how it was exposed I refer the interested reader to my book Black's Law (yes this is a shameless plug).

My point of view is somewhat different than Abe for obvious reasons. During the year or so leading up to the trial there was a drumbeat of agitation in the political and black communities. Alvarez was being offered up as the scapegoat for the racial problems that roiled the city for decades. Magically his conviction (like Obama’s election today) would solve Miami’s deep racial hatreds and make us all love each other. The elected politicians and police brass all condemned Alvarez and worked towards his inevitable conviction while many black leaders threatened riots if Alvarez should be acquitted. Today it is hard to imagine the palpable fear of violence in the streets and in the courthouse.

I try to gain some lesson from each trial. In the Alvarez case it was that trial lawyers should work their strong points not their weak ones. I was cross examining a police detective and I decided to make a point by asking him to demonstrate with me his opinion on how the police encounter occurred. He stood up and carefully and slowly took off his glasses and readied himself for combat. Right away I realized I was in trouble. I had no chance against a veteran of the streets who could easily take me apart. So I raised my hands in mock surrender and said whoa let’s not get to serious here. This allowed me to retreat with some dignity.

The lesson is stick to our strong points. In cross examination we are in control. Why give that up for some physical battle I could easily and would have lost? Let’s face it in the courtroom we are smarter than them and we have the weapons. On the street it is not a contest. Words are our weapons not physical combat. At least that day I didn’t have to learn from my mistakes!

Roy Black, Esq.
Well, there you have it. The thoughts of two of the very best lawyers around. Interesting that one of Abe Laeser's take aways was a criticism of his own cross examination of the defendant. Roy Black's lesson learned was to stick to the strong points of your case.

See You In Court applying the lessons learned.