Thursday, December 18, 2014

11th Circuit rules for Cheney Mason

This is a pretty interesting case:

This case involves a law student’s efforts to form a contract by accepting a “million-dollar challenge” that a lawyer extended on national television while representing a client accused of murder. Since we find that the challenge did not give rise to an enforceable unilateral contract, we hold that the district court properly entered summary judgment for the lawyer and his law firm, Defendants-Appellees James Cheney Mason (Mason) and J. Cheney Mason, P.A., with regard to the breach-of-contract claim brought by the law student, Plaintiff-Appellant Dustin S. Kolodziej.
The district court granted summary judgment on two grounds: first, Kolodziej was unaware of the unedited Mason interview at the time he attempted to perform the challenge, and thus he could not accept an offer he did not know existed; second, the challenge in the unedited interview was unambiguously directed to the prosecution only, and thus Kolodziej could not accept an offer not open to him. The district court declined to address the arguments that Mason’s challenge was not a serious offer and that, in any event, Kolodziej did not adequately perform the challenge. This appeal ensued.

The conclusion:

Just as people are free to contract, they are also free from contract, and we find it neither prudent nor permissible to impose contractual liability for offhand remarks or grandstanding. Nor would it be advisable to scrutinize a defense attorney’s hyperbolic commentary for a hidden contractual agenda, particularly when that commentary concerns the substantial protections in place for criminal defendants. Having considered the content of Mason’s statements, the context in which they were made, and the conduct of the parties, we do not find it reasonable to conclude that Mason assented to enter into a contract with anyone for one million dollars. We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of Mason and J. Cheney Mason, P.A.

Lots of SDFLA news

Acquittals, spies being returned, and all sorts of other fun. One story that was under the radar yesterday was President Obama's stingy list of pardons (only 12!) and commutations. There was one SDFLA case:

-- Bernard Bryan Bulcourf – McIntosh, FL Offense: Counterfeiting Federal Reserve notes (Southern District of Florida) Sentence: 90 days’ confinement in a community treatment center, followed by three years’ probation (Nov. 18, 1988)

Re the spies, our own Richard Klugh was quoted in the N.Y. Times:

Richard C. Klugh, a Miami lawyer who represented the five spies, said that two of his clients, Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Guerrero, were suddenly transferred last week.

“Gerardo was moved from an extremely violent, terrible prison to Butner, N.C., so there was some hope that was something going on,” Mr. Klugh said. “Gerardo is the one for whom this is the most emotional. He and his wife were essentially newlyweds and have been separated for 16 years, and it’s extremely emotional.”

Re the ICE Agent from the Herald:

Juan F. Martinez, a U.S. agent accused of using his badge to extort millions of dollars in Colombia’s underworld of drug trafficking, hugged his lawyers and burst into tears Wednesday when a jury found him not guilty of a dozen criminal charges in Miami federal court.

His wife, Gabriela, sitting a couple of rows behind him, closed her eyes and then cried as the acquittal verdicts were read in court.

Martinez, who was indicted a year ago and suspended as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in 2011, broke down emotionally because of the strain of being on trial, his lawyers said outside the courthouse.

“He stood up to the federal government and made them prove their case,” said defense attorney Silvia Piñera-Vazquez, who rejoiced over Martinez’s acquittals with co-counsel, Jane and Martin Raskin. “They never proved he received any money.”

Jurors, who began deliberations Tuesday morning, were reluctant to talk after their verdicts outside the courthouse, but one suggested there was a “lack of evidence.” Another said, “We applied the law,” without elaboration.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Breaking -- ICE agent found Not Guilty across the board

Congrats to Silvia Piñera-Vazquez and the Raskins for their across the board Not Guilty verdict for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Juan F. Martinez before Judge Altonaga.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"I’m going to treat her like somebody who is what she is — a common criminal.

That was Judge Scola after "North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau was found guilty by a federal jury Tuesday of using her 'celebrity' as a Haitian-American community leader to lure 'straw buyers' into an $11 million mortgage fraud scheme during the past real estate boom." (Via the Miami Herald).  More:

The 12-person jury, which deliberated for only two hours, convicted Tondreau of conspiracy and wire-fraud charges after a two-week trial. Tondreau, who was elected as North Miami’s first Haitian-American female mayor in 2013, now faces up to 30 years in prison at her sentencing March 20.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola refused to grant a request by her defense attorney, Ben Kuehne, to remain free on bond while she awaited sentencing. Scola said she used her “celebrity” and “hoodwinked” buyers into allowing their names to be placed on bogus loan applications in exchange for kickbacks in a “massive” fraud against various banks.
The judge, noting the fraud was committed before Tondreau was elected as mayor, said she was no different than any other convicted defendant and ordered her to surrender to U.S. Marshals in the courtroom while about 50 supporters watched in silence.
“I’m going to treat her like somebody who is what she is — a common criminal,” Scola said.
Kuehne, who represented Tondreau along with attorney Michael Davis, said the jury’s verdict “is as disappointing as it is unexpected.”
Tondreau, who was suspended from office after her arrest in May, stood trial in Miami federal court since early December on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud with her ex-business partner and fiancé, Karl Oreste, and two other defendants, who are fugitives. She was accused of plotting with Oreste to bamboozle banks into loaning them a total of $11million between 2005 and 2008.
The prosecution decided not to call the trial’s potential star witness, Oreste, 57, who pleaded guilty in July and was expected to detail the 20 crooked real estate loan deals that he and Tondreau were accused of putting together.
Prosecutors Lois Foster-Steers and Gera Peoples did not say why. But they may have had concerns about Oreste’s potential vulnerability on cross-examination. Tondreau’s defense team had planned to portray him as the consummate con man who duped her into playing an unwitting supporting role to fleece the banks.

Calling all Judge Davis clerks

Judge Davis' family is going to be having a gathering to remember Judge and Mrs. Davis on January 3 from 2-6pm.  If you are an old Judge Davis clerk or are a close friend interested in attending, please email Judge Davis' son, Ned at

Ned asked me to post this to get the word out as there is no old roster of Judge Davis clerks.