Tuesday, April 06, 2021


 Alcee Hastings, an iconic and lightening-rod figure in South Florida for over fifty years has passed away. The legal community in Miami remembers Mr. Hastings as the Federal Judge arrested and charged with bribery. He was acquitted (trivia- who was his defense counsel?) and then impeached and removed from office. The Senate did not bar Mr. Hastings from holding other office and in a fitting coda to his life and career he was elected to congress, becoming the dean of the Florida congressional congregation. 

After his removal from the bench, and before he ran for congress Alcee Hastings was the defense attorney in one high-profile Miami corruption case. Name the nickname of the case, and who he represented. The verdict in that multi-defendant case was mixed, but Mr. Hastings walked his client with a closing argument that was labeled brilliant by all who saw it. 

From Mr. Markus comes a picture of Jeff Weiner, Alcee Hastings, Mr. Markus's father, and future Judge Milt Hirsch 

The full career of Representative Hastings is in this NY Times Obit which includes this wonderful fact: 

Gov. Reuben Askew appointed Mr. Hastings to the circuit court of Broward County in 1977; the swearing-in ceremony was held at a high school he had helped desegregate. Two years later, President Carter named him to the federal bench.


Anonymous said...

Was the most courteous, considerate and nicest Federal judge that I practiced in front of. Bright. Kind. Good natured. Even tempered. My heartfelt condolences to his family. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

The attorney for Alcee Hastings for his criminal case and acquittal was Terrence Anderson. Rumpole, what do I win? 😉

Evan crawford said...

Yes may he rest in peace i met federal judge alcee hastings in 1983 as a second year law student i admired his humility an wise counsel he went on to become a senior representative in congress he will be missed

Anonymous said...

Alcee Hastings represented Phil Davis in the Court Broom case and secured an acquittal. Ironically Hastings was later charged with the same core offense of taking a bribe to fix a case as a judge and also acquitted. Davis was later prosecuted for stealing from a charity and despite pretty minor alleged gains sentenced to 20 years. In my opinion as an attorney who became quite familiar with the case, Davis was punished for being “wrongfully” acquitted in Court Broom. Hastings also got punished for being “wrongfully” acquitted, with removal from the federal bench. He then of course became a long serving congressman.

Stephen Bronis said...

No Judge in the Southern District ever did voir dire or jury instructions better than Alcee. He was a friend and true band of brother lawyers. May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Alcee Hastings was one of the most pleasant people I ever knew. Always greeted everyone with a smile on his face. The case u referenced was the infamous Courtbroom Scandal in Miami. He represented now-imprisonec former judge Phillip Davis. Got him off with an outstanding closing in which he quoted Shakespeare and the Bible. Then Phil went and got himself in trouble again. He used government grant funds meant for kids on himself and his girlfriend. Judge Bwatrice Butchko sentenced him to 20 years. May Alcee Hadtings rest in peace.

the trialmaster said...

Alcee represented himself in the criminal case.

Robert Kuntz said...

Court Broom.

Phil Davis.

I covered every day of that trial for The Miami Review (later the DBR).

It was the trial -- of all the trials i ever covered -- that made me want to be a lawyer.

The stories and personalities from that one trial alone. I still credit Judge Jose Gonzalez as one of the greatest trial judges ever, for managing -- with grace -- a courtroom where seemingly everyone -- defendants, witnesses, and all the counsel -- was some sort of legal celebrity, star or prima donna.

[The most memorable thing I've ever witnessed in a courtroom, after 13 years as a newsman and 25 years as lawyer, is still Ray Takiff coming apart on the stand during a the most brilliant cross I ever saw, by Jay Hogan. Hogan got Takiff to say that Takiff had had to skip the "case of lifetime" (defending Manuel Noriega, whom Takiff declared HE would have gotten acquitted) because Takiff was then working for the feds as the main catspaw on Court Broom: "Yes, I couldn't take the case. Yes, it was the case of a lifetime. Yes, I chose to become a snitch instead. I'm a snitch, OK?! Is that what you want to hear!? I'm just a snitch!" I don't know that the testimony really had much impact on the outcome -- Jay's client, Harvey Shenberg was convicted, as well he might have been. There was video of him stuffing a cash bribe down the front of his pants, money taken in exchange for what Shenberg believed was the revalidation of a confidential informant's name, whom Shenberg thought was then marked for death. But for pure courtroom drama, there was nothing I ever saw to beat it.]

To be honest, I cannot recall much from Alcee Hastings day-to-day in-court performance for much of the trial because, in fact, he was often not present on trial days, leaving much of the work to his colleagues. I recall writing about that, too, and critically. But he showed up for closing arguments. Man oh man, did he show up for closing arguments.

I wrote at the time that the prosecution, failed -- in my view -- to hear their case the way some members of the jury were clearly hearing it. One example:

You could see two older church ladies (I mean that literally. They'd described themselves as deeply involved in their respective churches, including an AME church.) on the jury scowling and shaking their heads when the prosecutor (Larry LeVecchio, I think, on assignment to the USAO from the ASA) went after Davis's wife after she said Phil's judicial campaign manager was "Jesus Christ our Lord." I thought the prosecution's rough handling of Davis's wife really bothered some of the jurors.

Then, into that context, stepped Hastings with a tremendous closing that managed effectively to paint Davis as not just *A* victim -- but, indeed, as the stand in for all the victims of a system designed and maintained to deprive certain of its members of power and opportunity.

Hasting walked Davis out of the Central Courtroom with acquittal -- and, I'll say it, an acquittal DESPITE the weight of the evidence. It was a literally shocking result. Judges Alfonso Sepe, David Goodhart and Shenberg were all convicted.

Sadly, saving Phil Davis that day wasn't enough to save Phil Davis for good. But in a trial filled with amazing criminal defense lawyers, Alcee Hastings distinguished himself.

Anonymous said...

Great score by Chauvin defense lawyer on cross right now. He had a video of Floyd talking on the ground and needed to get two things out of it: 1. That Floyd said, "I ate too much drugs", and that the statement could have been misheard in the moment.

Getting in "I ate too much drugs" is obviously of tremendous benefit, even reasonable doubt and victory. It shows that Floyd, like he did in previous arrests, ingested drugs just as the police arrived, which could certainly lead to his death, especially combined with the Covid he had and the panic attack he underwent.

Getting in the fact that it was hard to make this statement out excuses Chauvin from not rendering medical aid.

But how do you get in a statement AND the fact that it's hard to understand the statement? Tightrope to walk.

And this defense lawyer just accomplished it. Great lawyering.

Anonymous said...

Court Broom, representing the (dis)Honorable Phil Davis whom, I believe, may still be serving time on an unrelated fraud matter after being acquitted at trial in the Court Broom case on, if I recall correctly, an entrapment defense claiming that he was taken advantage of due to his cocaine addiction.

Anonymous said...

Was he guilty of bribery? Absolutely. But America is the land of second chances and he proved the adage with grace. Give the man credit. It was Operation Court Broom and he represented former circuit court judge Phil Davis who later went to prison for stealing money.

anonymous said...

Alcee was a wonderful Federal Judge. I still have doubts he was guilty-if the Feds were so sure he was guilty-why didn't they wait until Borders passed the funds to Alcee before arresting Borders? BTW: his girlfriend, Patricia Williams, represented him in his federal trial. I remember she had all things pink, pink files, pink business cards, pink suits.

I had the great pleasure of spending six months with Alcee Hastings in Federal court trying the Yahweh Ben Yahweh case. I remember he gave each of the three woman in the trial a box of chocolates for Valentines Day. He was incredibly charismatic with a wicked sense of humor and oh boy, could he deliver at closing. Utterly spell binding. Never saw or heard a better closing argument than Alcee gave in the Yahweh trial. Three hours and you didn't want him to stop. Made us laugh and cry all at the same time. One of my most memorable trial experiences.

One of a kind, he will be missed. RIP

Robert Kuntz said...

Aargh *revelation*, not revalidation.

Anonymous said...

Jeff and uncle Milton at bookends . . . Both had no clue how to try case !!

Alcee was a brilliant trial lawyer.