Thursday, March 23, 2017

How would you answer this question?

While Gorsuch is being grilled on these important questions, Labor nominee Alex Acosta is quietly having his hearings.  From the Miami Herald:
“Why cut a non-prosecution deal despite your staff saying you shouldn’t?” Kaine asked. “That is not accurate,” Acosta responded, disputing reports that in cutting the plea deal with Epstein, he rejected the advice of his senior lawyers when he served as U.S. attorney for Southern Florida. “It was a broadly held decision,” Acosta said. The exchange was one of the more feisty moments in an otherwise relatively smooth hearing that Democrats and Republicans alike say will lead to easy confirmation for Trump’s second choice to lead the Labor Department. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, a fellow Cuban-American, introduced Acosta to the Senate Labor Committee. “He is a brilliant legal mind, someone with deep knowledge of labor issues, and a proven leader,” Rubio said. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, like Rubio a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said he and Acosta had bonded over the years as the sons of Cuban-American refugees. “Alex is a surprisingly good poker player and not nearly as good of a squash player,” Cruz said to laughter. The Senate in bipartisan votes previously confirmed Acosta for three positions: the prosecutor’s post in Miami, a senior Justice Department job and what became an eight-month stint on the National Labor Relations Board. And labor unions have already told their allies on the Hill that Acosta is a better choice than Trump’s first pick California fast food executive Andy Puzder.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shaniek Maynard is your new Ft. Pierce Magistrate

It's not official yet because she is undergoing her FBI background check.  But that should happen soon.  She grew up in Ft. Pierce and went to Yale Law School.  Seems like an excellent choice.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Respectfully, and reluctantly, I dissent."

That was Judge Jordan, dissenting in a death penalty case (Madison vs. Alabama DOC) in which Judge Martin writes for the majority (Wilson joined) that Vernon Madison is incompetent and therefore cannot be executed. Jordan says that's not the place of a federal court on a habeas petition to make that determination (even though he agrees with the majority that Madison is incompetent).

From the majority:

Because the Alabama trial court unreasonably determined the facts relevant to Mr. Madison’s claim and unreasonably applied controlling federal law, we do not owe the state court’s finding that Mr. Madison is competent to be executed deference under AEDPA.

From the dissent:

After reviewing the record, I believe that Vernon Madison is currently incompetent. I therefore do not think that Alabama can, consistent with the Constitution, execute him at this time for his murder of a police officer three decades ago. See generally Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 958 (2007) (explaining that a state cannot put to death a prisoner who “cannot reach a rational understanding of the reason for the execution”). But Congress has chosen to generally prohibit federal courts from adjudicating constitutional claims anew on habeas review, so Mr. Madison’s competency (or lack thereof) is not our initial call to make. Under the restrictive standards we are required to apply, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), and given the way we interpreted Panetti in Ferguson v. Secretary, 716 F.3d 1315 (11th Cir. 2013), I do not think Mr. Madison can obtain habeas relief.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Baseball case ends in convictions

It was a very long trial and today the jury found both Bart Hernandez and Julio Estrada guilty. From the AP:

MIAMI (AP) — A Miami jury on Wednesday convicted a Florida sports agent and a baseball trainer on charges they smuggled Cuban baseball players to the U.S. in search of big profits from professional free agent contracts.

The verdict came after jurors heard about six weeks of testimony in the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who were indicted on conspiracy and alien smuggling charges for an operation that began in 2009 and involved a number of high-profile Major League Baseball players.

Trial evidence showed an existing Cuban smuggling operation that brought people from the communist-run island to Mexico became the platform in 2009 for the much more lucrative trade in elite ballplayers. People involved in that operation testified it was ultimately overseen by Hernandez and Estrada.

The players would be whisked from Cuba to Mexico or Haiti in a speedboat, sign papers claiming residency in their new country and eventually be cleared to sign with MLB teams. Prosecutors showed jurors how many of those documents contained false information, such as made-up jobs for players, and some travel documents were forged.

In one of the trial's memorable moments, Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu testified that he ate a piece of his phony Haitian passport while flying to the U.S. in 2013 because he feared repercussions if he landed in Miami with a fake document. Abreu soon after signed a $68 million deal with Chicago.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Prosecutors behaving badly

This time it's in the Salomon Melgen trial in WPB, where the prosecutors elicited false testimony about uncharged conduct.  Although Judge Marra struck the testimony and instructed the jury, the defense's motion for mistrial was denied.  From the PBP:

The judge in Palm Beach County eye doctor Salomon Melgen’s Medicare fraud trial on Monday threw out the testimony of a witness who wrongfully claimed the doctor had billed her for a surgery he never performed.

Attorneys for Melgen had asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to declare a mistrial over the testimony that came up Thursday during the first day of testimony in a trial that is expected to last through next month.

Also Monday, federal jurors heard testimony from one of the FBI agents who pored over thousands of patient records and photographs from Melgen’s practice going back to the 1990s, and began hearing from an expert on macular degeneration — an eye illness that federal prosecutors say Melgen falsely diagnosed and treated in scores of patients at his offices in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie to collect Medicare payouts of more than $108 million.

Before testimony began for the day, however, defense attorney Matthew Menchel told Marra that he and other defense attorneys for the 62-year-old doctor were completely blindsided by accusations from witnesses Thursday that Melgen had never performed an operation on patient Delores Griffiths for which he billed Medicare.

Menchel said that records showed that Melgen had done the procedure. But even if the allegations were true, Menchel said, federal prosecutors have never claimed in indictments against Melgen that he billed Medicare for procedures he never performed. Menchel said prosecutors were reckless and irresponsible for bringing up the allegations during the trial without prior notice.

“This was completely new, completely different, and completely out of left field,” Menchel said. “That’s like charging someone with robbery and then coming to trial and accusing them of rape.”

Menchel had asked Marra to either declare a mistrial in the case or to throw out the witness testimony. The judge chose the latter, telling jurors that records show the procedure had been done and instructing them to disregard the witness testimony.