Sunday, December 06, 2020


 Another Justice Building fixture has passed away this past week. Harvey Watnick, who recently retired to California to be with his wife and children who work in Hollywood, passed away from complications of kidney disease. 

The comments on the FACDL listserv that were forwarded to us were universally the same: he was a gentleman. Two comments stand out- the first from Attorney Juan Gonzalez: 

A friend for close to 40 years. Let me tell you all you need to know about Harvey. A couple of years ago I’m sitting in the Au bon Pain with Harvey, a senior judge doing a once a year week substituting for a vacationing county court judge and a pretty prominent, high paid lawyer. The judge asked how the practice was nowadays and the high priced guy spent 5 minutes complaining about clients and judges and how much he was looking forward to hanging it up and leaving the area. The judge turned to Harvey and asked him, Harvey told all of us that he never enjoyed his work more than now. He said he had a wonderful secretary who loved to help people and that his work on behalf of others was a blessing. That was the way he approached his work and his life. A lot of people who never even met him will find their lives affected by his absence. Rest In Peace my friend.

The second comments come Judge Richard Hersch who had a 50 year friendship with Harvey.  Those types of friendship do not come along often and they are to be treasured. The photos are also courtesy of Richard Hersch. 

Here's Harvey Watnick when I met him in 1972, teaching Government at Miami Central High School.  He was attending UM Law at night.  He was just about the coolest teacher you could ever imagine.

By Fall of 1978, Harvey had graduated and opened an office at 3300 Rice, upstairs and across from the fire station in Coconut Grove.   He managed a suite of offices, providing receptionist services to several lawyers of the day including, at one time or another Jerry Burford, Barry Siegel, Mort Greenwald, Ted Zelman, and ....the more notorious: Rex Ryland, Jr., H. Lee Bauman, and Raymond J. Takiff.  Ryland and Bauman did some prison time, and Takiff should have but, skated due to his work as the main rat in the CourtBroom cases.

Here's Harvey in the Rice office 1980.

When I was unable to find a clerking position after the first year of law school, Harvey tried to sell me to the PD and SAO.  They offered an internship but no money.  I already had no money, so Harvey hired me as a receptionist.    The experience was amazing and the next summer Ryland took me on as a law clerk, which continued long-distance from Gainesville.  Harvey gave me space upon graduation in 1980.

 Harvey worked on a multitude of drug cases back then as we were in the middle of the Miami Vice drug wars.  I vaguely remember that Roy Kahn suffered his only prosecutorial homicide defeat in a case against Harvey.  He cared about his clients and he worked hard on their behalf.

Harvey's strength as a lawyer was his honesty, humility, humor, and an understanding that what we were doing was important, both in the larger picture of defending rights and keeping the system honest, and that what we did directly impacted individual's lives. 


Rumpole said...

If asked about the biggest surprise of running this blog, I would say it was the duty that we somehow voluntarily assumed of writing obituaries for REJGB lawyers, judge and court personnel. It is important work. I take the responsibility seriously. But it is sad work, especially when friends die.

Anonymous said...

I did not know Harvey well. I liked him. I was fascinated by the second person that you posted his memories of Harvey from the time he was a teacher. Harvey was clearly a miami lawyer right in the middle of the drug wars- from the fashionable offices in the Grove, to the drug lawyers who rented space from him. I wish I had spent more time talking with him about those days. RIP friend.

Anonymous said...

Harvey was a kind person and a good soul. His clients were lucky to have him as their lawyer.

DS said...

In the mid 1980s I was of counsel with DuFresne & Bradley in the Grove. Harvey shared office space with us. He was a good lawyer, a fun guy, but more importantly he loved his wife and adored his kids. RIP old friend

Kafka said...

What a loss. Great man with a great life attitude. Always enjoyed talking to him at the building. RIP my friend.

Anonymous said...

He sure was in the thick of it and should have written a book. He had such gentle, precious personality and will be missed. I can still hear his soft voice. May he RIP.

Thanks Rump for taking on this sad task.

Anonymous said...

Harvey was from the era when the drug lawyers ruled the courthouse.
Weiner Robbins Tunkey and Ross. Goldstein & Mechanic. Bill Clay. Stephen "the ice man" Bronis. Mishkin & Golembe. Black & Furci. Gelber & Glass.

Dave Troyer was chief of Narcotics for the Miami SAO. Bob Waters was in there. Roger Powell. Phil Reizenstein and Bob Pardo. Reid Ruben came in later.

The feds didn't even take cases under five kilos. I see prosecutors now freaking out over 20 grams of coke. It was an unwritten rule to get about 100K bond per kilo.

Harvey definitely had his share of those cases.

And of course Friday afternoons at the Mutiny that somehow in the blink of an eye and a few lines turned into Sunday morning and you hadn't slept (but had some action between the sheets for sure).
We (defense attorneys in general- not talking about anyone other than me in particular) paid our bar tabs with a few 100 dollar bills and a c-note tip for the maitre'd that made sure you were taken care of. The Moet flowed and the bars didn't charge us a grand for a bottle of vodka. With a little bit of luck you could spend a G on yourself and a smokin hot court reporter, a room, some meals and liquor and a client would introduce you to a friend who had a little problem and by Saturday afternoon you were putting 25-50 K in the hotel safe and leaving a message on your secretary's answering machine to file a notice of appearance (unless she was with you, and then you just gave her a note so neither of you would forget Monday),

Those my friends, were the days. I'd pull up with my 911 Targa Friday around 6 and give the valet $20 and it would be there when I was ready to leave after brunch Sunday, hung over and nursing a blood mary to get me home so I could read a file and get ready for a motion to suppress before Snyder or Morphonious or Sepe or Harold Solomon or Tom Scott.
I had a beeper so bondsmen could stay in touch with me on new cases. Eventually I got a brick cell phone and paid like a dollar a minute for cell time.

The only virus I worried about was AIDs, and we socialized. We met and talked and listened to music when together. There were no phones with screens to bury our faces in. All in all I'd take those days over these days. I'm glad I was alive for that. I lived. I loved. I tried cases and traveled and ate great food and went on amazing adventures that my drug clients paid for. Colombia. Travels down the Amazon. The Great Wall of China. Soviet Russia. Tokyo, Japan. Long weekends in Paris via the Concorde with the right girlfriend.

I have no regrets. But I miss some old friends.
RIP Harvey. We had it all buddy.

Anonymous said...

OMG don't forget Jack Blumenfeld; Mel Kessler- as a young asa I went to see Mel and he said "want to see something cool? And reached behind him and on the shelf brought down a box and there was a million in cash. Way before the CTR regs.
Ron Guaralnick- the best dressed drug lawyer of them all.
Not just Roy Black, but Mel Black was a hell of a lawyer.
Michael Tarre.
I've forgotten more names than I can remember.
Willie Castro.
Ray Takiff. Slimebag rat.
Diamond Joel Hirschorn.

Those days are gone forever

Anonymous said...

When I was a prosecutor in juvenile Harvey once had a case with me and being that he was a much older attorney I never cut him off when he was telling me a story about the old days of being an attorney in Miami. Those conversations would sometimes last over an hour.

I was just telling my wife today about one of the stories he told me when he was paid like 30k in cash that was given to him in a lunch box and when he came home that night he dumped it on the bed to laugh with his family about it. Then I check this website and learn the news of his passing. What a universe...

. Harvey was a classy guy with me in our brief interactions and the comments being shared about him reveal thats the type of guy he was all the time.


Anonymous said...

I called Stu Mishkin Cincinnati Stu because he was an riverboat gambler with his cases. I was in the SAO and a much older narcotics prosecutor asked me if I wanted to jump on a drug case. Mishkin was the def atty and the prosecutor said something like Mishkin tried to take some depos but the cops didn't show I guess he just got frustrated. We pick a jury. Mishkin doesn't do much. I give the opening. My spidersense is tingling. Mishkin is up to something. Snyder is the judge.

My co counsel calls the first cop. Mishkin stands up and objects. Snyder growls at him to explain and Mishkin, delicately with his thumb and forefinger- I can still see it today- picks up a piece of paper by the top corner and says "you excluded him". Snyder turns red and sends the jury out. Mishkin explains he filed a rule to show cause when the cops didn't show and Snyder flamed out and told the ASA to have them give a depo by five the next day or they are all excluded. Nothing happened so later that week Mishkin sent an order to chambers which Snyder signed probably not reading it. Common in those days. To make matters worse- or better for Stu- he had the transcript of Snyder threatening the state to exclude all the witnesses.
This was back before all of the bad case law that you can't exclude a witness.

State announces a nolle prosee.

Those were indeed the days. The REGJB was a wild wild west and we all had a great time practicing law. You young ASAs might be surprised to read this, But Janet Reno wanted us to act as lawyers. So we made decisions without 16 layers of supervisors to clear things with and the office ran just fine.

Anonymous said...

You also forgot to mention Don Spain and Roy Gonzalez, who was in private practice baxk then. Also, Jack Denaro. When Harvey first got out of law school, he was sharing space with a lawyer named Murray Z. Klein in the old Seybold Building downtown. Klein later became a County Court Judge and Harvey went on to a great career. Great memories. RIP Harvey.

E a said...

He was a great guy and able lawyer he will be missed

Scotty Saul said...

I was able to get acquainted with Harvey when he became my tenant. He was a gentleman yet also had a bit of a bohemian streak to him (which I liked). What was very obvious was the significant empathy that Harvey had towards his clientele. Rest in Peace to a very nice man.

Anonymous said...

How could you not like Harvey? He was always kind and courteous. He quietly did his work and never offended anyone, even horrible prosecutors who enjoyed hiding evidence.

Sorry to hear this news.

Anonymous said...

Great guy. Loved seeing him around the courthouse. Always seemed happy. RIP

The Trialmaster said...

Harvey was the epitome of a coconut grove attorney in the 70s and 80s when the Grove was a sleepy bohemian village. I would see Harvey on the weekends at the old Tom Thumb restaurant which was appropriately named. I would often run into Harvey at the Justice Building. He was always upbeat and happy. He would brag about his wife (Woody) about her tennis game with "The Frog". It is very sad to hear of his passing. He had a lot of history in the years of cash, the mutiny and dealing with drug lords and their assistants. He was unique and clearly one of a kind. It seems like I talked to him just a few months ago. May his family treasure his memory and may he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely memorial and tribute to a dead lawyer. A bunch of jerks bragging about felonious drug possession and use, participants in fraud and ethical breaches. A model for young attorneys and evincing a lot. Great editing Rumpole.

Anonymous said...

Harvey and Pat Trese were two of the nicest lawyers I knew at the REG. Big loses. Will miss them both.

Anonymous said...

... what about ANDREW BOROS.

One of the greats?

Anonymous said...

Hey 2:55- grow up. We are talking about a time in this community unique to US legal history. Movies were made about it. Harvey was a part of it and people are honoring his memory by remembering the era that we all shared. Well not you of course. But the rest of us.

Keep it up Rumpole. Doing a great job.

BR said...

Andy Boros is alive and very well in New Mexico, playing golf and enjoying life. He misses the MJB crowd and he me calls often to “get the gossip“ on what is happening with our criminal defense community.

Anonymous said...

Harvey was a great guy. Met him when I was a prosecutor. He was always a straight shooter and had a laid back demeanor. When I went into private practice, I would run into him and he always greeted me with his signature smile. Sad to hear he passed.

Oh and 2:55, STFU.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget , Joe Kershaw, Peter Barraban, Joel Magazine , Carl Lida and Jack Denaro.

Katherine Giannamore said...

Harvey was a mentor and friend to me, and I can credit him for many legal and life lessons. When I met Harvey, I had been on something like 20 interviews and was desperate to find a paying internship. The interview was as expected if you knew Harvey. He told me he would pay me $12.50 an hour plus lunch and asked me if I could start that day. From that day forward, we spent a lot of time talking about the practice of law and life. He taught me that whatever you give to the world, the universe will give back when you need it the most. He also taught me about sock money. His wisdom (like his stories) was virtually endless.

When things didn't work out at the firm that I was working for and I was desperately unhappy, Harvey helped give me the push of confidence that I needed to set up my first solo office in his shared space. I didn't have any business owners in my family, and I would never have had the confidence to take that first step if it weren't for Harvey.

He changed my life in many ways but most of all as a friend. Harvey was one of a kind and will be forever missed.

beryl.watnick@mail.waldenu.edu said...

The Watnick family appreciates the comments about our beloved Harvey. He was deeply committed to the practice of law, seeking justice for his clients and having deep conversation with his colleagues. A happy and grateful guy, he shared the secrets to inner peace with all those who touched his life. Harvey was treasured by many who had the good fortune to know him.

He leaves behind his wife of 35 years Beryl, his 3 devoted sons, Andrew Watnick, Noah and Jesse Tannenbaum, his grandson Micah and his sister Iris.My sons could not have a better role model. His beloved bull dog Buford was his greatest comfort. He also leaves behind lifelong friends who he loved dearly and spoke to regularly throughout his last months. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Harvey’s name to Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer (flipcause.com), a cause near and dear to his heart. Services will be private.

Unknown said...

This is such sad news about Harvey's passing, and my heart and condolences go out to Beryl, "the boys," his grandson, and the rest of his family. Harvey was an exceptional human being and these comments from his friends over the years really bear it out. I met Harvey over a decade ago and we'd sometimes chat on the phone to/from our respective commutes to work about the practice of law. His calm demeanor and approach was always such an inspiration to me-even after decades of practice, he loved being a lawyer. And Katherine... I appreciate being reminded again of Harvey's generosity... he never failed as a friend and that was his gift to the world.

Anonymous said...

I met Mr. Watnick thru my brother who committed suicide a few years ago. My brother was a troubled soul but that did not stop Mr. Watnick from helping him so many times. I remember Mr. Watnick gave my brother his cell phone and of course, received many calls from him at all hours. His calls were always answered and he was always there to assist. I myself went thru a rough time 20 years ago with an abusive ex and called Mr. Watnick on the advice of my brother. I can honestly say he was the kindest attorney I ever met. I thought of him today and my husband and I decided to look him up and send him a note, when we came across his obituary. We were both saddened to hear of his passing and know the world lost a good man. Our prayers and condolences are with his family. I know he will be missed by many.

Unknown said...

I had not seen Harv in a few years. I met him playing football in peacock park in the 1970's I did not know he was anattorney till we ran into each other at the courthouse - me as a defendent. He was a great guy, always llooking at the postive part of whatever was happening.
There are naby memories I coulkd share of about him, but it is best just to say - he was a treasure to all he knew. May all remember him as such. Condolences to his woderful wife Beryl and his 3 sons

Karen Patterson said...

I met Harvey when I was fresh out of college in the office of Murray Z. Klein, an intolerable gasbag. I worked as his secretary while he was working with Steven Hess, also an intolerable gasbag. Harvey and I were friends until around 1980 when I moved away and became a mom. I remember going to the soccer field at MDCC to watch him play. He was always like a little kid. That was his biggest charm. RIP, Harvey.

Anonymous said...

I knew Harvey in the mid 70s. I was a secretary in his office with Murray Z Klein ( a horrible man to work for) Harvey took me with him to the Grove office. Let sleeping dogs lie. Too many secrets. I used to hang out and watch him play soccer at Miami Dade south campus. Good times.