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Monday, June 29, 2020

JUDGE MATTE BELLE DAVIS

Judge Matte Belle Davis was the first woman to preside in the REGJB, but very little is remembered about her by our Starbucks swilling millennial readers. 



We asked former Judge Ted Mastos to write something, and this is what he remembered: 

I believe Mattie Bell Davis was a lawyer, Ruth Sutton was the woman who succeeded her husband who was a Justice of the Peace. When he died she replaced him. When the Florida Constitution did away with the Justice of the Peace system all those who had been Justices of the Peace were grandfathered in as County Court judges. That is how Ruth Sutton became a County Court Judge. She had the best Mango tree in South Florida.

Mattie Bell Davis was a champion for the County Court judiciary. She somehow had the ear of Governor Ruben Askew and worked tirelessly for improved salaries for the judges. County judges were making $32,000 back in the 70's. She was a great lady and an early pioneer for women in the law. Back in that era there were only a few woman lawyers working in the State Attorney's Office. One of them was the mother of David Markus who looked at me as some green kid from Wisconsin who needed a Jewish mother. She was my mentor in those early years.


Because he is a long time and careful Blog Reader, David S Markus* responded: 
Anonymous David S. Markus said...
Ted's mention of my mom brought a smile to my face. She was an ASA in 1973. There were only 3 women in the office at that time-mom, Barbara Schwartz (who became an AUSA for many years) and one other who I cannot recall. Janet Reno was my mother's intern.
I was in high school, but I already wanted to be a prosecutor. I thought it was the coolest job on earth. She taught me how a prosecutor could make a difference in someone's life (both victim and defendant) and how important it was to exercise that power wisely. Mom would bring the files home and I would look through them and we would discuss the cases and argue about them. Mom would talk about the lawyers she interacted with and it was interesting to meet them years later when I became a prosecutor, and to see if my view of them matched hers. She always talked about "Ted" with a big smile on her face.
I also learned how difficult it was for women in the legal profession not so long ago. Mom graduated UM law school in 1955 at the top of her class and was on law review, but could not find a job because she was a woman. She pursued other interests and returned to the law in 1973 to work in the State Attorney's Office. Life had gotten better for women in the law, but they were not treated as equals. Male lawyers would ask her why she was working at all since she had a husband. Judges and lawyers who did not know her personally assumed she was a secretary. She was once held in contempt for wearing pants to court. But mom loved the job, and she passed on that love to me. Mom was so proud that I chose to follow in her footsteps. I have been on the defense side for 39 years, but I still think of myself as a ex-prosecutor more than a defense attorney.
Well said David. Thank you for that. 

Judge Davis was born in 1910 and died in 2004. According to her Wikipedia page, she was admitted to the Bar in 1939, although at the time women could not sit on juries in Florida. She was instrumental in the formation of FAWL- the Florida Association of Women Lawyers which has an award named after her.  which, if they were smart, would name an award after her to be presented to a female member of the bench for outstanding work of some sort or another. She was president of FAWL from 1957-1958. 

Judge Davis was the first woman to sit on the Metropolitan Court of Dade County,  in which old timers like former Judges Lenny Glick and Ted Mastos actually practiced in. Judge Davis started on the bench in 1959. It is not clear how long she served.  

Prior to becoming a Judge, Matte Belle Davis was in practice with her husband Troy Davis. After he died in 1948, she became a single parent to two step-daughters. During her time in private practice she successfully argued two cases before the Florida Supreme Court.  We have researched the issue  and found those two cases: 

Abercrombie v. Eidschun, 66 So. 2d 875, 876 (Fla. 1953):
Petition for writ of certiorari be and the same is hereby granted, and the order dated the 7th day of May, 1953, denying petitioners' motion for a summary final decree be and the same is hereby quashed, with directions to proceed further in accordance within this opinion.

Spark v. Canny, 88 So. 2d 307, 311–12 (Fla. 1956):
We hold, therefore, that where a joint bank account with right of survivorship is established with funds of one person, as here, a gift of the funds remaining in the account at the death of the creator of the joint account is presumed; but such presumption is rebuttable and may be overcome by clear and convincing evidence to  the contrary. 

In 1987 Miami Dade County designated March 3 as Judge Matte Belle Davis day. 

There are a lot of female judges serving in Miami-Dade County. Two new ones were just appointed. They enjoy the shade of Oak Trees, whose acorns were planted by those who came before them. Every now and then, it is appropriate to remember who blazed the path we trod on. 

* Miami is blessed with TWO superstar attorneys named David Markus. David O runs the federal blog and can be found downtown tying federal prosecutors up in knots. He also works on top of a garage across from the courthouse. 
David S, who spent decades sharing space with the great Sy Gaer, can be found in the REGJB, walking clients out the door and leaving state prosecutors in his dust. He currently concentrates on Death Penalty cases. 

While David O has won cases in state court, and David S has kicked some federal butt from time to time, each is known primarily for his sphere of battle- State for S, Feds for O. 
What would have been nice is if, a long time ago, in a court far far away, Judge Stanley Marcus (with a C)  presided over a trial in which co-defendants were represented by Mr. Markus and Mr. Markus. 

23 comments:

CAPTAIN JUSTICE said...


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

David:

I believe the female ASA whose name escapes you was Judge Adele Segall Faske. She was born on December 9, 1915 and passed away on November 25, 2009 at the age of 93. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Miami. After graduation from law school, she joined her brother, Judge Sidney Segall, in his law practice. In 1953 she was appointed by Governor Dan McCarty as the first woman Assistant State Attorney in the history of Florida. She served loyally in the Dade County State Attorney's office for more than two decades. She was Chief of the Nonsupport Division and the author of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), which due to her lobbying, was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1967. This landmark legislation prevents delinquent parents from evading their child support duties by moving to another state. URESA has been adopted by every state in the nation. In 1976, the people of Dade County elected her a Circuit Judge.

Her brother was Judge Sidney Segall. He served on the bench in Miami from 1955 - 1981. Adele Faske had three children including Garry who was an attorney here in Miami and also a Traffic Hearing Officer. Garry passed away in 2005 from complications following a kidney transplant.

CAPTAIN OUT .......
Captain4Justice@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

http://www.flappeal.com/articles/FAWLChroniclesFall2003.pdf

Phil Maniatty said...

I once inherited an old file cabinet at the SAO. One day a yellowed piece of paper fell out of it when I had one of the drawers open. It was a request from ASA Adele Segall Faske to have the sheriff serve a subpoena. The request was from 1957.

Jack Blumenfeld said...

I believe that the office of State Attorney wasn't created in 1953. The first State Attorney in Dade County was Richard E Gerstein, who was elected in 1957. Prior to that, we had a County Solicitor and perhaps Judge Faske was an Asst. County Solicitor. I believe that Mr. Gerstein appointed the first woman ASA- Ellen Morphonious.

In 1973, my last year as an ASA, in addition to David S's mom and Barbara Schwartz, Eve Wagner Kemper and Judge Maria Korvick were in the office. Additionally, in that year, I recall a female beginning as Administrative Asst. State Attorney. Her name was Janet Reno!!!

REAL FORMER JUDGE said...

Moreover - I believe it was Judge Segall’s grandson Robert Segall - whom I swore in as a brand new lawyer and Assistant State Attorney in 1990.

He was part of a crew along with Jim Greenfield, Joe Cinney, Vivianne Delrio and Azim ____? Adam Neijna and Roy Barquet were also in the group of young ASA’s. Caleb Freedman too.

Judge Lisa Walsh and Rebecca Nachlas were brand new Assistant Public Defenders. Jim Best was their boss!

Great people - and we had fun. Sadly, Robert Segall and Caleb Freedman died in their 30’s I believe. What a tragedy. God bless their memory and spirit.

Rumpole said...

MR. Blumenfeld. Can you post or email us more on the start of the SAO. and what it was like before Gerstein. Fascinating stuff.
Mr Former Judge. I knew Caleb Freeman. His death hit me hard. I still think about him Heart issue if I recall. Great guy. I think he had just been married with a young child. Post more about him if you wish.

the trialmaster. said...

In my youth I tried a couple of DUI's before Mattie Belle. In Government service, often before trying a murder case I would go to County Court to try a DUI to get ready for a murder trial. Sounds odd but it worked for me. Mattie Belle, with her blue hair was a kind lady out of court and didn't do a bad job on the bench considering she never went to law school. In fact, she is a lot better than several of the bottom feeders who run and become judges because they can not make a living in private practice.

CAPTAIN JUSTICE said...

From St. Thomas Law School web site:

Caleb R. Freedman Trial Advocacy Award
This award was established in memory of Caleb Freedman, a committed lawyer and educator in South Florida, who died of heart failure in October 1998 at the age of 33. Caleb, who exemplified professionalism and integrity, served as an adjunct faculty member in the Trial Advocacy Program. He worked in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office prior to going into private practice. This award is presented to students who distinguish themselves in the annual Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Chester Bedell Competition.

Anonymous said...

Caselaw reflects that George Brautigam was Dade SA before Gerstein

Rumpole said...

Trialmaster can you read? Judge Davis went to law school. She graduated in 1939.

Phil Maniatty said...

Richard Gerstein was not the first State Attorney. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit was established in 1911. The office of State Attorney has existed ever since then. It was during Gerstein's tenure that the office of county Solicitor was merged into the State Attorney's Office. The State Attorney before Gerstein was George Brautigam. Gerstein defeated Brautigam in his 1956 reelection bid due largely to unfavorable media coverage regarding Brautigam's attempt to suppress a grand jury report and his refusal to seek an indictment against a suspect in the murder of a little girl.

Rumpole said...

It is nice to know Caleb is remembered. He was a very nice guy. If I recall he had a congenital heart issue. Very sad and tragic death.

Rumpole said...

Mr Maniatty. I hope you saved that.

The other Phil. said...

Phil. When I was in the office I once received an NCIC for a defendant with a long history. One disposition for what I remember to be an L&L the reported disposition was “ Drvn to cty lmts “. The prior was some time in the 1950s or 60s if I recall.

CAPTAIN JUSTICE said...


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

I REFER YOU TO A REPORT OF THE GRAND JURY, NOVEMBER 8, 1955

https://www.miamisao.com/publications/grand_jury/1950s/gj1955s4.pdf

FILED BY: State Attorney George A. Brautigam. Listed within the Report are the names of his eight ASAs including one named Adele Faske.

Dick Gerstein ran against the incumbent Brautigam in 1956 at the age of 33 and defeated him. He was reelected six times before moving into private practice. (Brautigam passed away in 1957).

Captain Out .......

Unknown said...

Phil 3:33, are you referring to the old NCICs that had three columns and bore J. Edgar Hoover's signature? Those often had dispositions like that. It was sort of like the old TV westerns...,"Be out of Dodge by sundown!"

Anonymous said...

If u do a little more research, you will find out that there was another female Dade County circuit court judge appointed in the late 1950s. Her name was Dixie Herlong Chastain. She may have beat Davis to the bench. This is a great history lesson here.

Anonymous said...

As we all Know there has been a significant spike in covid cases in the past week here in South FL. The REG building clerks office criminal division on the 9th floor has reported 4 or 5 clerks that have tested positive for Covid 19 in the past week alone. And that number is expected to increase due to poor management in the clerks office. Being an employee for the clerks office, I just wanted to inform the REG Blog for the safety of others. And for any attorneys that happen to be in the building please be careful and stay safe and healthy.

Court clerk,
Pray for me!

Anonymous

BR said...

Robert and Caleb were great guys. Caleb’s father was the esteemed Monroe Friedman, a nationally respected author on legal ethics and professor of law at Hofstra Law School. I was fortunate to have been friendly with all three of them. Thank you for the memories. I had not thought of them and their untimely passing for too long.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ted and David for the wonderful historical perspectives. We have a rich history that needs to be remembered. Lets share more of it.

9:34 You and all our friends who "toil in the vineyards of the law" are in my prayers.

P.S. 5 cents to anyone who remembers the name of the Federal Judge who would always use that phrase when thanking a jury for their service. His secretary would roll her eyes when he said that if she happened to be in the courtroom.

As he got older, he often absentmindedly said when summoning lawyers to the courtroom after a knock from the jury room indicating a verdict, "Come, I believe we have another guilty verdict".
Hint: He had a name with an

Anonymous said...

For discussion:

http://forums.leoaffairs.com/showthread.php?795542-Guys-for-your-own-sake-please-only-do-the-bare-minimum

Anonymous said...

Rump' I believe the trialmaster is correct that Mattie Belle never went to law school. If you have information that differs, what law school did she attend. I always heard she got in because she interned in her husbands law office.

Rumpole said...

You may be right

Mattie Belle Edwards Davis, a founding and active member of the NAWJ, was born in Georgia but spent most of her life in Florida. Having begun the study of law while working as a secretary in a Miami law office, she qualified for the Florida bar in 1936. She married Troy Davis in 1937 and practiced law with her husband until his death in 1948. She continued in private law practice until 1959, when she was appointed a judge in the metropolitan court of Dade County, the only woman on a court of thirteen judges.
One of the few senior women judges in 1979, Judge Davis presided over one session of the business meeting at the 1979 NAWJ founding conference in Los Angeles. After her retirement in 1981, she served as chair of the Retired Judges Committee of the NAWJ, and became a NAWJ life member