Wednesday, April 30, 2014


We enter the final thirty six hours until the judicial races for 2014 are decided on Friday May 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM. 

On that date and time, the eyes of the free world (or at least a few hundred lawyers and judges) will be on this blog, as the Captain brings you up to date on the judicial races. 

Who has opposition? 
Who got a free ride?
We will have it all. 

The latest breaking news is that Judge Zabel drew opposition, supposedly from a lawyer with an agenda on a marriage case of some sort (gay marriage?). 

There have been a myriad of judicial receptions all over town this week, and your favourite robed readers who are up for re-election this year having been making the rounds, eating the brie, sipping a coke, and shaking hands.  

The constant contact with those who wear robes and those who want to was enough to send us to a long, hot shower, with  plenty of disinfectant soap. 

So stay tuned, as the news breaks, and some judges open the bubbly, while others roll up the sleeves of their robes and get to work campaigning. 

See you in court. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014



If you watched the news conference of the NBA Commissioner what you just saw was a gutless lynching to appease a public mob clamoring for Sterling's hide. 

What's that you say? That Sterling's comments were so awful he deserved what he got? Of course Sterling's  views on race are abhorrent. But you are missing the point, much like the comment of this misguided "professor" who left a comment:
Third, your "slippery slope" argument here lacks merit. You contend that if Sterling is punished, team owners could be subject to punishment for any political position they take, even those that are controversial in the public eye. The problem with your argument is that you ignore the fact that certain ideas or actions are so fundamentally and inherently wrong that they can be placed in a category extant from those you list (support for Obama care, etc.) For your position to be consistent logically, you would have to be saying that opposition to Obamacare is equally morally wrong as blatant racism. Are you intending to say that hatred on the basis of race is only as morally wrong as opposition to a healthcare program? Somehow, I suspect not.

Dear Professor: we assume you hold the Altruist/Statist chair of ethics at some local public school. 

"some ideas are so fundamentally and inherently wrong..." you write.
Oh really? According to who? You? According to the public? 

Like when the "public" incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII just because they were Asian and the Supreme Court upheld  concentration camps for Americans? See, Koreamatsu v. US. 323 U.S. 214 (1941). 

Like when the public passed laws for the forced sterilization of mentally challenged adults, and the Supreme Court upheld the law? See,  Buck v.Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), wherein Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for an 8-1 majority famously wrote "three generations of imbeciles are enough."

Like when the public clamored to prevent farmers from eating their own produce and the supreme court upheld that? See, Wickard v Fillburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942)

In YOUR view, professor, with YOUR ethics, and YOUR determination of what passes for some ideas that are so fundamentally wrong, the NBA was correct to ban Sterling. 

And while I happen to agree with your view on racism, what if I don't agree with your view that the US is a Christian country? Or your view that women should not wear skirts above their knees in public. Or YOUR view that creationism is the correct science to be taught in schools. 

The fact is that speech is speech and ideas are ideas and whenever you appoint anyone to determine that there are some generally accepted set of ideas that "everyone agrees with", well, get ready for concentration camps and forced sterilization  and the imposition of Christian/Muslim/Buddhist morals on society. 

When you punish people for ideas, no matter how stupid and repugnant those ideas are, you are putting you faith in people like our Statist professor that what they find offensive you find offensive. 

We're not willing to roll the dice. We would rather the market place vote on Sterling's racism. 

See You In Court, where ideas matter. 

Donald Sterling, the octogenarian billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers exploded across the news this past weekend as lurid details of his conversation with his (fifty some odd year) younger girlfriend were exposed in a tape of the phone call.

Now all NBA fans can be fully briefed on Sterling’s atavistic views on race and sex, which we will summarize for you thusly: his girlfriend can have black friends, she can even sleep with black men, she just cannot engage in the public disgrace of posting pictures of her with black men on her Instagram account, nor should she bring “those people” with her to Sterling’s Clipper’s home games.  Sterling’s comments harken back to an era when Americans of African descent were commonly referred to as “the blacks”. Think Archie Bunker, just with a billion in the bank.

We have a few thoughts. First, who would have bet that Sterling knew what Instagram was and could access it?

Second, make no mistake, Sterling’s views are repugnant and reprehensible.

Third: and the NBA should not do a damn thing about it. No fine. No press conference deploring his words. No suspension. Nothing.
Why? Glad you asked.

Sterling’s views fall clearly within the purview of the first amendment. Furthermore, these are his private views, expressed during an intimate (ughh, even the thought ruins our appetite) conversation with his half century younger girlfriend. If you want to publicly excoriate Sterling for being racist, why not also trash him as being a sexist? He is clearly paying for sex, or at least companionship, and last we heard, that might be illegal. Or not (www-date-a-millionaire- type websites abound).

Sterling has the right to his views. He has the right to play Deutschland Uber Alles before every Clipper’s home game and throw up a Nazi salute as well.  Sterling has the right to tell fans he loves Obama Care, or his has the right to say only rich white American men should get health care. And there’s the rub. Because the moment Sterling gets officially punished for his views on race, every other NBA owner runs the risk of having their support for Obama Care, or gay rights, or any other issue, punished for offending other league owners. And you don’t want to open that Pandora’s Box. It’s a mess.
The solution is simple. Let Sterling’s ideas meet the market place. Will fans now attend the games of an avowed racist team owner? What television station will offer a lucrative cable contract? What local businesses want to now be associated with the Clippers and buy luxury boxes from their moronic owner? Who wants to advertise on the Clipper’s radio broadcast of their home games? What business wants to buy advertising at the Clipper’s home games? What coach would agree to work for such an owner? What player would sign a free-agent contract with Donald Sterling?

Leave Sterling alone. Really. Leave him completely alone. He will be forced to sell the team within a few months as he loses his fan base, can't sign players or a coach, and can't sell advertising.  Then the NBA doesn’t have to wade into the morass of reviewing the political views of its owners and players.

See you in court.

Not to be sexist, but his GF does appear to be mucho exotic.  The benefits of being a billionaire.

Monday, April 28, 2014


We received the following: 

Judge Will Thomas made a simple, powerful statement Saturday night at the Hotel Intercontinental. 
Honored by the Miami Chapter of the FACDL with the Justice Kogan award, Thomas stood before a packed and hushed ballroom of lawyers and judges, and without direct reference to his failed nomination to the federal bench, simply, powerfully, and with dignity sated : "I AM WHO I AM."

Judge Kathy Williams, who was Judge Thomas's boss at the Federal Public Defenders Office, gave the introductory speech where she did directly address her disappointment at not being able to speak at his inauguration to the federal bench.  

The evening was a great success. Recognition of the behind the scene work necessary needed to get the FACDL banquet off the ground and a resounding success goes to the incoming president Margot Moss.  But make  no mistake, Will Thomas stole the show. 

Rumpole says: We've had our differences with Judge Thomas. But his life story is remarkable. When you look around and want to really find a "self-made" man, look no further than Will Thomas, who pulled himself up from poverty, a single parent home (his father was killed in an automobile accident when he was a young child), and all of the other obstacles a young man from poverty faces. 

Judge Thomas is sometimes impatient, he sometimes gets frustrated with lawyers, he does not tolerate fools or incompetence lightly. He has shown us, however, that he is a man of conviction. He exemplifies the true definition of a judge: he does what he thinks is right, regardless of the pressures against his decision. He is brave in his convictions, stalwart in the face of criticism and pressure, and handled the political fiasco of his nomination with the dignity befitting the position he was nominated for, and more importantly, the dignity with which he lives his life.  

He is, indeed, who he is. 
And that is a good thing for all of us. 

Have a good week.

See You In Court.  

Friday, April 25, 2014


Earl Morral, who came off the bench in 1972 when QB Bob Griese broke his ankle in the fifth game of the season and QB'd the dolphins to nine consecutive wins in the perfect season, has died. 

Morral personified the belief that there is no "I" in TEAM. 

FACDL BANQUET Saturday night. 
Alas, our invitation again failed to arrive this year. 

Some year....

Two of Scott Rothstein's BSO henchmen have been indicted. The Herald has the dirty details here. 

And Russia flexed it muscles at Papa New Guinea. The Russians have had it with the small country that speaks 848 different languages. Plus, Putin is crazy lately for Sabo grub. 

Enjoy your beautiful weekend. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014




On Tuesday, August 26, 2014, voters will go to the polls for the Primary Election of 2014.  Judges in contested elections will be on the ballot that day.  If a Run-Off is needed, that will take place on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

This election cycle, 47 judicial groups are up for election; 38 in the Circuit Court and 9 in the County Court.

The deadline to file your papers and run for office is Friday, May 2, 2014.

Currently, of the 38 Circuit Court Groups, there are four contested elections.  Of the other 34 Groups, all 34 Incumbents have filed to run and NONE have OPPOSTION to date.

In the County Court, all nine Incumbents have filed for re-election and TWO of those Incumbents currently face opposition.



Judge Leon Firtel is retiring.  TWO candidates have filed.  They include:

Thomas Cobitz
*24 years Florida Bar; criminal defense practice

Stephen Millan
*22 years FB; criminal defense practice; ran unsuccessfully in the past for Judge; 2006 lost to Karen Mills Francis in a County Court race; 2008 lost in a run-off to Yvonne Colodny in a three way race for a seat on the Circuit Court; (Pat Kopco was eliminated in the primary)

Renier Diaz de la Portilla
*6 years FB; Miami-Dade School Board 8 years; Florida House Legislator 2 years, 2000-2002; (ran again in 2012 and lost); Mediator; (HAS MOVED TO DIVISION 70 AS OF 4/21/14).


Judge Ronald Dresnick is retiring.  THREE candidates have NOW filed.  They include:

Mary Gomez
*18 years FB; marital & family practice

Albert Milian
*26 years FB; criminal defense practice; ran unsuccessfully for State Attorney in the past.  2000 lost to KF Rundle; 2004 lost to KF Rundle after defeating Leslie Rothenberg in the Republican primary; Gary Rosenberg also lost in the general election as he ran as an IND.

Joseph Perkins (UPDATED)

*Mr. Perkins has been a member of The Florida Bar for 6 years.  He graduated from Drexel with a degree in International Area Studies and while there interned for a US Senator and performed research for a US Representative.  He went to law school at Boston University and while there acted as a student attorney representing indigent clients in immigration proceedings. He currently works for the law firm of Garbett, Stiphany, Allen & Roza, practicing in the area of complex commercial litigation, with an emphasis on representing small and large businesses, banks and financial institutions, and governmental entities, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  We reached out to Mr. Perkins back in January, (as you may recall) and asked him why he was running for Judge.  To read his unedited response, please go to the Tuesday, January 21, 2014 Blog Post to read Mr. Perkins open letter to our readers on why he feels he is more than qualified to run for Judge.


Judge Marc "SHU" Schumacher is retiring.  Three candidates have filed.  They include:

Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts
*13 years FB; criminal defense & immigration practice

Mavel Ruiz
*17 years FB; criminal defense practice

Martin Zilber
*25 years FB; Mediator; Councilman in Coconut Grove; Public Health Trust Member; In House Counsel to transportation companies; insurance defense; corporate & real estate


Long time Judge Sandy Karlan has elected to retire.  Two candidates have filed.  They include:

Veronica Diaz (UPDATED)

*Ms. Diaz had previously filed to run in County Court against Incumbent Judge William Altfield.  On 4/17/14 she filed papers to run in this Circuit Court seat.  Four days later, de la Portilla joined her in the race. 

Ms. Diaz 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 have twice reached out to Ms. Diaz and asked her several questions about her qualifications.  We told her that her response would be posted, unedited.  We have not had the courtesy of a reply email.

Renier Diaz de la Portilla
*6 years FB; Miami-Dade School Board 8 years; Florida House Legislator 2 years, 2000-2002; (ran again in 2012 and lost); Mediator; (HAS MOVED TO DIVISION 70 AS OF 4/21/14).

*If we have made any errors in the bios, I am sure our fine readers will point them out and correct us.

The following Incumbent Judges have filed and currently have no opposition:

Jerald Bagley
Beatrice Butchko
Marcia Caballero
Jeri Beth Cohen
Yvonne Colodny
Jorge Cueto
Abby Cynamon
Reemberto Diaz
Spencer Eig
Ariana Fajardo
Rosa Figarola
Alan Fine
Stacy Glick
Eric Hendon
Richard Hersch
Jacqueline Hogan Scola
Norma Lindsey
Fleur Lobree
Peter Lopez
Cristina Miranda
Celeste Hardee Muir
Orlando Prescott
Thomas Rebull
Jose Rodriguez
Maria Sampedro-Iglesia
Migna Sanchez-Llorens
Bernard Shapiro
Victoria Sigler
Rodney Smith
Daryl Trawick
Dava Tunis
Diane Ward
Sarah Zabel
Angelica Zayas



William Altfield
*Judge Altfield initially drew opposition from attorney Veronica Diaz when she filed on March 14, 2014.  On April 17th she switched races and she is now running for an open seat on the Circuit Court.

If you drop by Judge Altfield's courtroom right about now, you may catch him humming his best impression of Pharrell's number one hit.


Incumbent Judge Jacqueline Schwartz NOW has TWO opponents.  Attorney Rachel Dooley has filed to run against her.  And now, attorney Frank Bocanegra has also filed to run against her.

*Ms. Dooley has been a member of The Florida Bar for 16 years and handles criminal defense and family matters.

*Mr. Bocanegra has been a member of The Florida Bar for 6 years.  After a career in law enforcement with the MDPD, he became an attorney in 2008.  He quickly closed his law practice, presumably unsuccessfully.  He then became the Town Manager of Miami Lakes.  And, last year he applied to become the Village Manager in North Bay Village.  Now he wants to be your County Court Judge.

Judge Nuria Saenz now has an opponent. On April 21, 2014, attorney Victoria Ferrer filed to run against her. 

Judge Nuria Saenz
*Judge Saenz has been a member of The Florida Bar for almost 17 years.  For at least the past eight (of those 17) years she has been on the bench.  We are checking our records and have been unable to confirm if she took the bench prior to 2006?

Victoria Ferrer
*Ms. Ferrer has been a member of The Florida Bar for 6 years.  She currently works for the Law Firm of Neil Gonzalez.  She handles PIP cases, PI cases, and real estate matters.

The following Incumbent Judges have filed and currently have no opposition:

William Altfield
Donald Cannava
Betty Capote
Jason Dimitris
Carlos Guzman
Spencer Multack
Rodolfo Ruiz II

CAPTAIN OUT .........

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The lunch time CLE Seminar "Lunch and Learn" will be held this Thursday in courtroom 4-6 at noon.

A Judge will be presenting the topic. We're not making this up: Incompetency. Make of it what you will.

Incompetency means never having to say "I plead guilty".


Thursday: The Captain reports on judicial elections. 

Friday: "Merciless" and "The Perversion of Justice"

Only on the best legal blog in the country. *

* In our opinion. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


"Be not deceived." 
That was the  concluding coda to Justice Scalia's first paragraph in his blistering dissent  in Navarette v. California to Justice Thomas's statist opinion upholding a traffic stop in California based solely on an anonymous and uncorroborated tip to 911 that a truck was driving erratically.

Scalia attacks the majority's recitation of the facts (that the tipster knew the truck was driving south on the highway) with a patented Scalia Sneer: "So what?"

The DUI practitioner will love this rant:

What proportion of the hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of careless, reckless, or intentional traffic violations committed each day is attributable to drunken drivers? I say 0.1 percent. I have no basis for that except my own guesswork. ...

Consistent with this view, I take it as a fundamental premise of our intoxicated-driving laws that a driver soused enough to swerve once can be expected to swerve again—and soon. If he does not, and if the only evidence of his first episode of irregular driving is a mere inference from an uncorroborated, vague, and nameless tip, then the Fourth Amendment requires that he be left alone.

(There's no doubt the good Justice missed an epic career as a DUI litigator).

To end his dissent, Justice Scalia just can't put down his cocktail:

The Court’s opinion serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail consisting of two parts patent falsity: (1) that anonymous 911 reports of traffic violations are reliable so long as they correctly identify a car and its location, and
(2) that a single instance of careless or reckless driving necessarily supports a reasonable suspicion of drunkenness. All the malevolent 911 caller need do is assert a traffic violation, and the targeted car will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, by the police. If the driver turns out not to be drunk (which will almost always be the case), the caller need fear no consequences, even if 911 knows his identity. After all, he never alleged drunkenness, but merely called in a traffic violation—and on that point his word is as good as his victim’s.

Drunken driving is a serious matter, but so is the loss of our freedom to come and go as we please without police interference. To prevent and detect murder we do not allow searches without probable cause or targeted Terry stops without reasonable suspicion. We should not do so for drunken driving either.

Mr. Markus and I are engaged in an on-going debate as to whether Justice Scalia is a "friend" to the criminal defense bar. We concede today (and today only) , point Markus.

Monday, April 21, 2014



The Perlam doctrine;  Fed Rule of Evidence 410; A criminal investigation for sex crimes, a civil lawsuit by the victim; Ipse Dixit, this case has it all!

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a decision by Judges Pryor and Martin with special guest judge Charlene Honeywell (MDFL) sitting by designation!

The upshot of lengthy (and pre$umably expensive) litigation is that plea negotiations between the prosecution and the defense are NOT privileged to third parties (the government cannot enter the negotiations into evidence in a criminal case). Read this case, and beware when corresponding with prosecutors, especially pre-indictment when the 6th amendment right to counsel does not attach:

Although plea negotiations are vital to the functioning of
the criminal justice system, a prosecutor and target of a criminal investigation do not enjoy a relationship of confidence and trust when they negotiate.  (Rumpole says: "trust"? Tell us something we don't know. Duh. ) Their adversarial relationship, unlike the confidential relationship of a doctor and patient or attorney and client, warrants no privilege beyond the terms of Rule 410.

You (defense) don't have a "cozy" relationship with the prosecutor. Whatever you discuss, send, email, text, or tweet them, they can disclose to other parties if requested (and approved by Judge Marra.) The only privilege you have is against them entering into evidence in their case in chief against your client. And we're sure government lawyers are hard at work on wiggling around that one. Perhaps the "if we don't admit it we'll lose" doctrine? 


We came across this opinion of Judge Roettger's in U.S. v. Sepe, 1 F. Supp.2d 1372 (S.D., Fla, 1998) and we thought part of it bears repeating:

This court is probably one of the few judges left who served as a U.S. District Judge more years before the sentencing guidelines than with the sentencing guidelines in full force and effect.
These problems frankly never occurred the court's first 15 years on the bench because the government didn't hold all the cards for people under sentence. Now the government holds the Rook Card: The Rule 35 Card. Only the government can file a Rule 35 motion. That Rule 35 option was snatched away from the defendant, and also removed from the jurisdiction of the trial judge.

In any event, in the 10 plus years since the sentencing guidelines went into full force and effect in the federal court system we have come to a situation where the institutions of  the Bureau of Prisons are basically anthills of snitches, each one trying to figure out how to work a deal whereby the government will bestow a “get out of jail early” card upon them in the form of a rule 35 motion.

Judge Roettger was old school. 

See You In Court. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Rubin Hurricane Carter, a boxer from Patterson, New Jersey who almost became the middle weight champion of the world, has died in Toronto at age 76. Carter spent 20 years in prison, framed for a triple murder in bar. He was twice tried an twice convicted and twice had the convictions overturned for prosecutorial misconduct. 

Bob Dylan's great song tells you almost all you need to know. 

Denzel Washington played Carter in the movie. There is a scene (which we could not find on You Tube) where the police pull Carter and his friend over and say there has been a murder and they were looking for two black men. And Carter responds something like "and any two black men will do?

Just another story of the "greatest" justice system in the world destroying lives.  Any surprise that as soon as Carter was released from prison he immediately moved out of the United States? 

See you in court tomorrow. Oh yeah: Happy Easter. 

Friday, April 18, 2014


Happy Good Friday this 4-18-14, which if you write today's date backwards, you get...4-18-14. 

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man....He drew over to him both many of the Jews and the Gentiles...and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross..."
Josephus, The Antiquity of the Jews (93 AD). 

State courts in Miami are closed. The Feds are open.
The Bronx is up. The battery is down. The people ride in a hole in the ground....

Enjoy your Easter Weekend. It's a fresh ham for us on Sunday, a bottle of wine, and watching the Ten Commandments on TV. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Happy belated birthday Nikita Khrushchev (born April 15, 1894).

NHL: You've waited all year for the hockey playoffs, and now they're here!


A quick perusal of the 3rd DCA website reveals that Alex Michaels has filed a motion for a re-hearing.  Alex has Faith in the legal system. He just loooooves Judge Lagoa's dissent. And why shouldn't he?

Mike Royko, the great Chicago columnist wrote:  "The Chicago Clubs, like life itself, are a losing cause. That's why we have cemeteries. And Wrigley Field."
In the last two seasons, the Cubs have lost 197 games.  And yet, something keeps making Judge Milt Hirsch watch, and root. Every spring Hope springs eternal for millions of Cub fans. Then reality sets in.  Like any good Cub fan, you have to admire the Judge's  faith and tenacity.

Faith and Hope. The tenets of our profession.

See You In Court.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Caesar Cantu plead guilty to marijuana trafficking and was sentenced to 11.5 years in federal court. Due solely to a scribbners error an additional 42 months was added to his sentence on the judgment and conviction. However, the district court judge was forced to deny his motion to correct his sentence because he filed it untimely. The Judge opined that Cantu's only option was to seek clemency from the President. 

What kind of legal system does this to its citizens? Where was Eric Holder's Justice Department? Why didn't the DOJ just agree to the reduction in sentence? 

As reported by The Hill here, the President did grant Cantu clemency and reduced his sentence to the original and correct time ordered by the Judge. 

But why don't we have a legal system that allows Judges to correct egregious errors? We are so wedded to form over substance and the great writ of Habeas Corpus has been so gutted by Congress that when it was truly needed, it was not available to Mr. Cantu. 

This is a warning sign. A persistent cough in a system that is broken and sick. We ignore it at our own individual peril. 

See you in court, and yes, in Florida, a Rule 3.800 motion to correct a sentence has no time limit. 

PS. Don't- under any circumstances- hire Imer Perez to represent you. Just don't. Herald article here. 

Monday, April 14, 2014


UPDATE: It's a familiar refrain, but Heat lose again, this time to the Washington Wizards, and now they are knocked out of the top spot in the East and may not have home court advantage in the conference finals,  if they make it that far. 

"Why is this night different from all other nights?"

For those of you who observe Passover in this season of miracles, Happy Pesach.  Good Friday and Easter Sunday and ABC's airing 
of the Ten Commandments coming up this weekend. 

Here is the dream scenario: three weeks ago your client is arrested and unreasonably denied bond by the evil (pharaoh) Judge. 

So you take a writ of habeas corpus to the 3rd DCA and late Friday the decision is handed down reversing the judge. 

You get to go into court and say "Thus sayeth the 3rd DCA...LET MY CLIENT GO."

Anyway, one can dream. 

See you in court. 


Courtesy of the second best blog in Miami, Random Pixels, we are reminded of a riot at the Dade County Jail 50 years ago in April. The Sheriff blamed it on "black muslims." It's not entirely clear about what caused the riot, but we took note of the first of two breakfasts served that infamous day: "sliced peaches, dry cereal with milk, coffee, two biscuits with apple butter." Pretty much what we eat today. 
The other day a client complained that the breakfast frittata's onions were not certified organic, but other than that he enjoyed it. 

A Tough Day At Work:
Last week Jorge Durand passed away. A longtime courthouse fixture as a corrections office and later Judge Joe Fernandez's bailiff, Mr. Durand's daughter Michelle works at MDPD Liason at the REGJB. It has been suggested to us that next week will be a tough one for her and even if you know her and knew her dad, it might be appropriate to refrain from expressing condolences while she works. Work can be a refuge and she might just need some time to do her job without constantly dealing with well wishers reminding her of her loss. 
Just a thought. 

What's the toughest part of a trial? Easy: the verdict. 
How do you deal with verdict stress? 

See You In Court. 

Friday, April 11, 2014


Miami Dade's Drug Court (Motto: "First in the nation") celebrated twenty five years today with a graduation ceremony attended by dignitaries and retired  Judges  Jeffrey Rosinek and Herb Klein, and former drug court judge Deborah White-Labora. 

Miami Dade did indeed launch the first drug court in the nation and that is something we all should be justly proud of. 

Treating the disease instead of criminalizing the addiction has saved literally tens of thousands of lives. 
Judges like Jeff Rosinek, the late Stanley Goldstein and Deborah White-Labora created and carried on a tradition of caring, concern, and successful treatment of drug addiction. The savings of costs to our community in lives saved, families restored, not to mention the return of productive citizens to our community is immeasurable. 

It's popular these days to say government doesn't work. 
Drug court proves that government works. 
Drug court works. 

Congratulations to all the clerks, bailiffs, prosecutors, PDs, support staff and judges who dedicated their  time and effort to make Miami's Drug court  an indispensable and life saving program. You are doing the work of saints.  Godspeed. 

Enjoy your wonderful Masters spring weekend. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Jorge Durand, Judge Joe Fernandez's bailiff, passed away suddenly over the weekend. 

Mr. Durand, a former corrections officer and then Bailiff, and proud father of two daughters who both became police officers, was a fixture at the courthouse ever since the late 1970's. Mr. Durand was one of the correction officers who transported Ted Bundy to the Justice Building (as it was simply known then) for trial. 

Besides his two daughters, Mr. Durand is also survived by his wife, who is also a bailiff. 
The well written Herald obit is here. 


Who polices the police who police the police? Apparently the FBI. 

David Ovalle and the Herald broke the story of Internal Affairs LT Ralph Mata getting arrested for acting as muscle for a drug gang running drugs and money through Miami and New York and New Jersey Some of the allegations include helping move money through a NY airport and helping to plot the murder of rival drug traffickers. 

The Herald article is here. 
Whenever we read something like this we always think that beyond the money that the prosecutors will say motivated the officer, there was the thrill of the crime. For a small segment of the population, the thrill of being the bad cop, the excitement of a  CIA agent turned double agent and leading a double life is what motivates the person.  There's just something wrong with people who do something like this (assuming the feds are correct) and it goes beyond the money. 

That's our thought anyway. 

Your Miami Heat lost to the Brooklyn Nets last night for the fourth time this year. This loss- at home- was punctuated by LeBaby being rejected as he attempted a game winning dunk with one second left.  The Nets swept your Heat for the season while you know who wailed at the refs. 

See you in court. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


As WWII was coming to a close, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during a meeting with Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, cautioned Stalin about considering the views of the Vatican during the post war division of Eastern Europe. 
"How many divisions does the Pope have?" Stalin sneered in reply. 

If trials are wars, then the events and time leading up to the trial are filled with the same angst, posturing, intelligence gathering, and diplomatic entreaties that nation-states engage in right up to the moment the guns begin to fire (or the jury walks into the room). 

In both instances fear plays a role in the outcome. Nations capitulate in the face of armies massed on a boarder. Defendants plea rather than face the enhanced consequences of a guilty verdict. 

The trial lawyer must manage his/her own fear as well as the fears of the client, much like the general before battle or the President/Prime Minister must mange both their personal fears and the fears of those they lead. 

It's a lonely position when a person or a nation places their lives in your hands. Success is partly achieved by facing your fears. Preparation is the key to success. Sun Tzu famously wrote that every battle is won before it begins.  So are most trials. 

The jury trial is under assault. Prosectors over charge cases, invoke decades of minimum mandatory penalties and then make generous plea offers. The consequences of going to trial, they solemnly warn you, are great. Judges punish defendants who lose. It starts in misdemeanor court with simple trials and escalates in felony courts where the penalties can be as high as life in prison. 

There is one and only one way to fight this attack. You must manage your fears, and you must ceaselessly and relentlessly prepare your case for trial.  The more cases we try, the more times we stand up to the threats of the prosecution, the more times we file appeals and cite judicial and prosecutorial vindictiveness in unconscionable sentences, the more we preserve our precious right to trial. 

Fight the good fight. And never never never surrender. 

See you in court. 

Monday, April 07, 2014


"There are only two things that are infinite: The Universe and human stupidity. And I'm not too sure about the Universe."
Albert Einstein. 

Well, we learned one thing from this weekend's caption contest, some of us have a sense of humor. And some of us don't. 

"Some cause happiness wherever they go. Some, whenever they go."
Oscar Wilde.  

Walter Ferguson, a true Miami original and legendary "River Rat" and father in law of ASA Chet Zerlin has passed away. Here is the Herald obit. 

The Volokh Conspiracy: A legal blog you should be reading. 

(H/T: the other legal blog you should be reading: Hercules and the Umpire.)

Enjoy this spring week. 

Coming next week: Who said "Let my people go!" ?

Friday, April 04, 2014


Submit your best caption and much like the New Yorker Magazine, we will pick a winner:

From @Davidovalle305"s twitter account, Ted Mastos with client Sara Zamora, arrested for creating sexual fetish videos of torturing chickens. A crime most fowl indeed. 

Ovalle's article in the Herald is here. 

Our submission:

"Tell me this again....You did what?"

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


There is nothing funny in the 3rd DCA's decision in Alex Michael's contempt case. While the decision is a partial vindication for Michaels, it leaves standing one contempt conviction for which Judge Miranda will surely seek her pound of flesh by insisting that Michaels finish serving the two day sentence she originally imposed.  Left unsaid in the opinion was the court's scathing commentary during oral argument about a judge that imposed a two day prison sentence on a Friday afternoon and did not allow Michaels to post an appellate bond. 

The more disturbing portion of the 2-1 decision is the court's traducingly gratuitous comment about referring Alex to the Florida Bar. The majority's comment further demeaned an opinion that was persuasively refuted by the dissent of Judge Lagoa. 

So here is the opinion and have at it, but be warned that we will not post vituperative and demeaning comments. 


Your Miami Marlins are 2-0.  

We have reprinted a few of the best comments about recently retired ASA Phil Maniatty:

 Steve Kramer said...
I first became acquainted with Phil when we were roommates at the UM Law School dorm in 1974. I was the New Yorker and Phil from Burlington, Vt. Two very different people who have been friends for 40 years. I won't bore you with the many stories that Phil loves to tell, but you should know that Phil is the same small town, unassuming, and pleasant guy he was all those years ago. He became one of the most effective and diligent prosecutors I have ever encountered, yet never losing his smile and common sense.
Enjoy your retirement my friend. You've earned it

 Anonymous said...
Phil was a great division chief. He was a great teacher and supervisor.

As the writer states, he was from a simpler time.

When I was assigned to his division he took all of us to the old Marine Bar for a couple of beers and a game or two of pool. Hell, once he even took the division to lunch at Joe's.

We had espirit de corps. There isn't too much of that anymore.

Phils's a gentleman.

Everyone knows that a condition of probation is that you cannot possess or carry a firearm. Unless you are also a law enforcement officer. Then you can carry your gun, even when you report to your PO:

Judge Ed Newman today allowed MDPD Ofc, Larry Laverde, on probation for reckless driving & leaving accident scene, to carry firearm for work
The herald article is here. Nice job by Arnie Trevilla getting the breakdown for his client. 

Pro Bono:
To: Members of the Southern District of Florida Bar
From: Chief Judge Federico A. Moreno
Re: Call for Assistance -- Pro Bono Panel

I am very pleased to announce that our District is embarking in a new direction that hopefully will result in more unrepresented litigants obtaining counsel than ever before. And we need your help!
You may have heard of the Courts decision last month to discontinue operations of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). In recent times the expenses of operating a program like the VLP simply have become disproportionately high when compared to the number of pro se cases it could service. Because the program was funded from funds collected through a portion of attorney admission fees from members of our Bar and pro hac vice fees, my colleagues and I felt a special responsibility to insure that those monies would be used as wisely as possible.
The decision to disband the VLP was not taken lightly, but rather after exploring various alternatives. In the end, our Judges determined that it would be a better use of resources for us to take a more active role in seeking out counsel for pro se litigants. This will permit much of the money used to fund the VLPs efforts to be shifted toward expense reimbursement for volunteer attorneys.
This is where each of you comes in. I urge all members of the Southern District to join us in a renewed commitment to assist the unrepresented in this District. How can you help? There are a number of ways, the easiest of which is to simply take a case! Pro Bono Opportunities can be found at the Courts websitewww.flsd.uscourts.gov and are regularly distributed by way of electronic email blast. In addition, I urge each of you to register via the website to be included in a Pro Bono Panel list of those attorneys have an interest in assisting with worthy cases in the future or who are in a position to help locate other attorneys, such as associates in their law firm, who may take cases. There is no commitment from registering, but rather this will simply help us build a database of first contacts when the need arises.
I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank those who have volunteered in the past through the VLP, and particularly its Director Randy Berg, for their important service to the Court. I am sure that their spirit of public service will carry on as we move forward with this new endeavor. My colleagues and I look forward to seeing each of you in Court.

Federico A. Moreno
Chief United States District Judge