WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM. Winner of the prestigious Cushing Left Anterior Descending Artery Award.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

LAW DAY AND MORE

Monday May 1, was Law Day.  Judge Hirsch celebrated by a short constitutonal calendar which follows: 

The great ideals of liberty and equality are preserved against the assaults of opportunism, the expediency of the passing hour, the erosion of small encroachments, the scorn and derision of those who have no patience with general principles, by enshrining them in constitutions, and consecrating to the task of their protection a body of defenders.
   – Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process
The following is cause for concern. 
The federal "justice" system has become a maw. A gulag swallowing defendants and digesting them through the bureau of prisons. Prosecutors grease the wheels, and  nameless, faceless gray bureaucrats skulk the hallways,  processing the defendants as grist for the mill. 
What we all have suspected, we now have evidence is true- the feds only give lip service to the constitution's guarantee that every defendant is presumed innocent.  And thus, one day recently as we passed by the office of federal probation and supervised release, we saw this message on a videoscreen:


We stopped in our tracks, and happened upon one of those aforementioned hapless bureaucrats:
Rumpole: "What are the rules for travel for pre-trial convictions?"
HB:  "Huh? (We point to the slide). Oh, defendants must receive permission from the court before traveling outside of the district."
Rumpole: "And this applies to people convicted pre-trial?"
HB: "Sure does"
Rumpole: "And what about defendants not convicted pre-trial?"
HB: "Huh? Hmmmm....never thought...huh...I dunno...wait! I can ask my supervisor..."
Rumpole: "Never mind. Thank you."

FACDL BANQUET THIS SATURDAY NIGHT 
It's that time of year when dues paying members of the FACDL get together and share mead and meat with members of the judiciary and everyone tells everyone what an important part of the justice process they are. 
And awards are bestowed. Here are this years winners:


The Honorable Gerald Kogan Judicial Distinction Award:
     Hon. Judge Nushin Sayfie 
The Daniel S. Pearson – Harry W. Prebish Founders Award:
               Gene Zenobi
The Rodney Thaxton “Against All Odds” Award:
      Team of   U.S. v. Estaban Santiago Ruiz case: Hector Dopico, Eric Cohen, Sowmya Bharathi, and Ayana Harris                                           
The Gregg Wenzel Young Lawyer’s Award:
            Kristen Kawass

We know the first two honorees and the awards are well deserved. Judge Sayfie has served with distinction in the criminal division, and Gene Zenobi, after a long and successful career as a criminal defense attorney took over the reins of a dispirited Regional Counsel Office and by all accounts turned it into a first class office providing indigent defendants with topflight legal talent. 

We don't know about the Santiago-Ruiz case or Ms. Kawass, but we congratulate them on receiving distinguished awards. Is there any better award for a criminal defense attorney than one named "Against All Odds"? Esepcially an award given in the name of the great Rodney Thaxton. And we hope there is a decent explanation for the hero that Greg Wenzel is to our country, and why it is an honor for any lawyer to receive an award in his hallowed name. 

Rumpole will continue a Cal Ripken-like streak and not attend the festivities, in lieu of which we will be attending Gotterdammerung at the Met saturday night in NYC, followed perhaps by a night-cap at Bemelman's bar. Tommy Rowles (RIP) who made the best Old Fashioned is no longer serving regulars, but it's still one of our favourite haunts in Gotham. 

9 comments:

Maureen Dowd said...

"Favorite haunts in Gotham"...Dude knows how to turn a phrase.

the trialmaster said...

The TRIALMASTER will not be attending either.

Anonymous said...

Actually I've seen you there. Stop posing.

Katie C said...

I was proud to nominate the Santiago team from the FPD's office. Rumpole, here's your synopsis of the case. It's an astounding victory.

On January 6, 2017, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz (“Santiago”) arrived in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport and proceeded to the baggage office. There, he retrieved a firearm case carrying his Walther 9mm Model PPS pistol and two magazines loaded with ammunition he had checked upon departure from Anchorage, Alaska. He proceeded to a men’s room stall where he removed the firearm from its case and loaded it.

Santiago exited the restroom and walked toward the baggage carousels. Santiago pulled out the pistol and emptied the first magazine, firing at those standing near the carousel. Santiago then ejected the first magazine and loaded the second. He resumed firing until he exhausted the second magazine, at which point he dropped the gun and was taken into custody by Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies. Santiago gave two separate confessions, the first of which was audio-taped and the second of which was captured on video.
Santiago shot and killed five people and seriously wounded another six. He was charged in a twenty-two count indictment with various federal charges that included offenses for which the penalty could be death.

Members of the Santiago defense team worked diligently to prepare for trial and to prepare a mitigation package. The investigation uncovered that Santiago, a decorated combat veteran with the Puerto Rican National Guard, had begun to exhibit signs of mental illness when he returned from Iraq. Team members spoke to dozens of witnesses including employers, mental health providers, teachers, fellow servicemen, merchants of local businesses in Anchorage, and family and friends in both Anchorage and Puerto Rico in order to trace Santiago’s slow descent into a severely psychotic state brought about by schizophrenia.
Their investigation showed that Santiago’s mental health had severely deteriorated in the summer of 2016 when he began experiencing symptoms of psychosis. He was hallucinating and having delusional thoughts that the government was following him and trying to entice him to commit a terrorist attack. He ultimately went to the FBI office in Anchorage to report the disturbing messages he believed he was receiving. Santiago presented in such a psychotic state that FBI agents contacted local police and had him committed to a state hospital for psychiatric observation.
The team faced an additional challenge that is often present in capital cases: building a relationship with a mentally ill client.
Ultimately the team presented a powerful mitigation package detailing Santiago’s severe mental illness, his military service and how it might have triggered or compounded his schizophrenia, and the fact that he had been prematurely released from a psychiatric hospital without anti-psychotic medication and told that he could retrieve his firearm. The team met with a committee from the Miami United States Attorney’s Office to advocate the acceptance of a life plea offer. The team was invited to Washington and once again laid out their mitigation to members of the Capital Review Committee. Their hard work was rewarded a few months later when AG Sessions agreed to accept the life offer and forego the death penalty.

This result was, without a doubt, against all odds.

Katie C said...

I was proud to nominate the Santiago team. Their victory was astounding. Rumpole and others-- here's their nomination. This team got former AG Jeff Sessions to waive death. I say, roll tide to that!

Nomination:

On January 6, 2017, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz (“Santiago”) arrived in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport and proceeded to the baggage office. There, he retrieved a firearm case carrying his Walther 9mm Model PPS pistol and two magazines loaded with ammunition he had checked upon departure from Anchorage, Alaska. He proceeded to a men’s room stall where he removed the firearm from its case and loaded it.

Santiago exited the restroom and walked toward the baggage carousels. Santiago pulled out the pistol and emptied the first magazine, firing at those standing near the carousel. Santiago then ejected the first magazine and loaded the second. He resumed firing until he exhausted the second magazine, at which point he dropped the gun and was taken into custody by Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies. Santiago gave two separate confessions, the first of which was audio-taped and the second of which was captured on video.

Santiago shot and killed five people and seriously wounded another six. He was charged in a twenty-two count indictment with various federal charges that included offenses for which the penalty could be death.

Members of the Santiago defense team worked diligently to prepare for trial and to prepare a mitigation package. The investigation uncovered that Santiago, a decorated combat veteran with the Puerto Rican National Guard, had begun to exhibit signs of mental illness when he returned from Iraq. Team members spoke to dozens of witnesses including employers, mental health providers, teachers, fellow servicemen, merchants of local businesses in Anchorage, and family and friends in both Anchorage and Puerto Rico in order to trace Santiago’s slow descent into a severely psychotic state brought about by schizophrenia.

Their investigation showed that Santiago’s mental health had severely deteriorated in the summer of 2016 when he began experiencing symptoms of psychosis. He was hallucinating and having delusional thoughts that the government was following him and trying to entice him to commit a terrorist attack. He ultimately went to the FBI office in Anchorage to report the disturbing messages he believed he was receiving. Santiago presented in such a psychotic state that FBI agents contacted local police and had him committed to a state hospital for psychiatric observation.

The team faced an additional challenge that is often present in capital cases: building a relationship with a mentally ill client.

Ultimately the team presented a powerful mitigation package detailing Santiago’s severe mental illness, his military service and how it might have triggered or compounded his schizophrenia, and the fact that he had been prematurely released from a psychiatric hospital without anti-psychotic medication and told that he could retrieve his firearm. The team met with a committee from the Miami United States Attorney’s Office to advocate the acceptance of a life plea offer. The team was invited to Washington and once again laid out their mitigation to members of the Capital Review Committee. Their hard work was rewarded a few months later when AG Sessions agreed to accept the life offer and forego the death penalty.

This result was, without a doubt, against all odds.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. This case was a slam dunk because of this guy's mental illness which was very well documented. If it had gone to trial is was a NG insanity verdict. If you want against all odds look at the ALexander DUI Manslaughter case killing a 9 year old girl. Defendant had a .32 blood. Only convicted of DUI and had served his 6 months awaiting trial. And the DUI got reversed on appeal by the 4th. Defendant got off with not even a citation for running a stop sign. And he was a "snowbird" from Canada.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow is Cinco de Shumie.
Going to celebrate at the REN A Venue Pop-up in Wynwood at a closed club. For one night only, kobe beef sliders, "roasted" avocado guacamole, Long Island Bay Fluke fritters, Grass Fed New Zealand Baby Lamb Chops, Duck picadillo, and I'm sure a selection of small batch hand crafted beers.

Anonymous said...

3:43 - you're a complete moron. If you're challenging the work of others put your name on it. Otherwise shut the fuck up.

Anonymous said...


Completely agree about 3:43. Total moron …