Thursday, August 31, 2006

Another new gossip blog

There's a new legal gossip blog out there -- Above the law -- written by David Lat, the original anonymous blogger (apologies to Rumpole -- Miami's anonymous legal blogger).

Lat plans on doing all kinds of funny stuff. Here's a good example: "Lawyer of the Day" -- showing the court proceeding of a defense lawyer who shows up drunk to court. You can watch the video below:


Drunk Vegas Lawyer causes mistrial Part 2!




Lat also plans on following lawyer weddings, lawyer houses, lawyer hotties, and so on. Here's his latest on weddings, tracking announcements in the NY Times. There was nothing like this when my wedding announcement came out.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Courts closed

All Southern District courthouses are closed tomorrow and Wednesday. Good luck.

Ernesto


Chief Judge Zloch has closed the Key West couthouse today. All other courthouses are open. More updates on the District courthouses here. And you can track the storm here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

News and Notes

The weekend is almost over... some news and notes to begin the week while we wait to see what Ernesto is going to do.

1. The Padilla prosecutors have filed a motion to reconsider with Judge Cooke, asking the judge to reverse herself on the dismissal of count I and on the decision to force the government to elect on count II. Initial coverage of the order here. Nine times out of ten, these sorts of motions are denied. Still no notice of appeal filed.

2. Julie Kay has a very negative article coming out on Monday about how Judge Highsmith handled a situation in which one of his employee's daughters was (apparently) being scammed by some downtown store. It's very difficult to figure out from the article exactly what happened to the daughter, but it's hard to really blame Judge Highsmith for trying to help her if he thought she was really in danger. Still, Professor Jarvis -- without knowing the facts -- jumps all over the Judge and the Marshal.

Friday, August 25, 2006

DBR on Brian Andrews

Julie Kay covers the Brian Andrews story in today's DBR. Here's a snippet:

Prosecutors asked a Miami federal judge Thursday to investigate how a South Florida television station obtained a government video of an alleged ringleader of the “Miami Seven” discussing possible terrorist attacks on high-profile buildings. The government made its request one day after U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard refused a defense attorney’s attempt to block WFOR-TV from broadcasting portions of the video for a news story late Wednesday. In court papers, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacqueline M. Arango and Richard E. Getchell said the videos were supposed to be part of a sealed record. They asked the judge to conduct a hearing to determine whether a sealing violation had occurred. ***

After learning of the television station’s plans to air portions of the videos Wednesday night, Batiste’s attorney, Ana Jhones of Miami, filed a request for a temporary injunction to prevent the broadcast.
“The extent of the discovery obtained is unknown; however, undersigned counsel learned that CBS News obtained all of the video and perhaps some of the audio that have been generated by the government in this case,” Jhones said in her motion. “Undersigned counsel is unsure as to how CBS News obtained this discovery, which is not a matter of public record.” Jhones did not return calls seeking comment before deadline Thursday. None of the other defense attorneys joined in Jhones’ request. Miami criminal defense attorney Gregory Prebish declined to say whether Jhones asked him to join the request to keep the video off the air. Prebish, who represents Augustin, said he is angry that the TV station aired the tapes, particularly since he says the defense attorneys haven’t received all the tapes and discovery yet. The reason: The lawyers, all government-appointed, have not gotten approval to buy the tapes and cannot afford them. “We don’t even have these tapes yet, due to budgetary problems,” said Prebish. “The costs of the tapes are exorbitant.” He declined to state the exact cost. Brian Andrews, a reporter for the station, obtained dozens of discs which contain surveillance video made by federal undercover agents during their investigations.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Leaking...

Narseal Batiste's new appointed lawyer, Ana Jones, came out swinging today -- filing an emergency motion to keep Channel 4 from running a story about the video and audio clips from the discovery in the Miami 7 "terrorism" case. Reporter Brian Andrews, during the story, says that Channel 4 obtained over 20 CDs containing the video, audio, and still pictures. The story doesn't say how he got this material, but this (copying numerous CDs) is usually the way the Government discloses discovery to the defense. I can't imagine the defense gave these materials to the press, so I leave it to you to figure out who did.

I haven't seen Jones' motion, so I don't know the grounds she alleged to keep the news from running a story, but Judge Lenard denied the motion from the bench and the story ran tonight on Channel 4. Here it is. The video is on the right side of the page. Or click here.

UPDATE -- perhaps I spoke too soon. After this report aired, the Government filed a motion asking Judge Lenard to conduct an inquiry as to who on the defense leaked the discovery. The motion says that it did not leak and that the copy service has only released the discovery to the defense lawyers... I still say no way the defense leaked. So based on the Government motion, I predict the copy service, despite its protestations, made a mistake and distributed it.

No appeal yet

As far as I can tell, the Government has not yet filed an appeal from the Padilla order. I thought that it would happen immediately, as happened in the NSA case where the Government filed a notice of appeal the very next day.

Nothing really new to report in the District. If you have any news or topics you want discussed, please email me.

In the meantime, back to a sentencing memo I have to write...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Count I dismissed in the Jose Padilla case

BREAKING NEWS:

Judge Marcia Cooke has dismissed Count I of the indictment against Jose Padilla because it is multiplicitous. In other words, Count I represents the same offense that is also charged in Counts II and III. An indictment is multiplicitous when it charges a single offense multiple times, in separate counts. There are 2 reasons that multiplicitous counts may be prejudicial to a defendant: 1) the defendant may be sentenced twice for only one crime; and 2) multiplicitous counts may improperly prejudice a jury be suggesting that a defendant has committed several crimes, not one. Judge Cooke explained that because "in Counts I, II, and III, the government alleged one and only one conspiracy, with one and only one purpose and object for each of the conspiracy counts," Count I is multiplicitous and must be dismissed. (emphasis in original).

The government, of course, is still free to proceed with its case on Counts II and III. I would guess, however, that the government is going to appeal -- and quickly. Count I -- conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim persons in a foreign county, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956(a)(1) -- is by far the most serious count, carrying a life maximum. Counts II and III carry far less serious maximum penalties (I believe each has a 10 year max on each, although I will check this). An appeal will delay indefinitely the current trial setting in January, so Mr. Padilla will have to spend more time in solitary confinement.

This was a very courageous order by Judge Cooke. The government for far too long has been charging the same crime many different ways for tactical reasons. The more counts in an indictment, the greater the chance a jury will find a defendant guilty of one of the counts. And under the sentencing guidelines, even if there is only a conviction of a single count, the judge can then consider all of the counts and allegations (even acquitted conduct) in calculating a guideline range. Perhaps this order, if affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit, will begin pushing back against this tactic.

In addition to dismissing Count I, Judge Cooke also found that Count II was duplicitious. A charge is duplicitous if it alleges two or more separate and distinct crimes in a single count. The dangers posed by a duplicitous counts in an indictment are three-fold: 1) a jury may convict a defendant without unanimously agreeing on the same offense; 2) a defendant may be prejudiced in a subsequent double jeopardy defense; and 3) a court may have difficult determining the admissibility of evidence. Although the Court made this finding on Count II, it was not dismissed. Instead, the government has until Friday to decide which of the two crimes charged (either the general conspiracy statute under section 371 or the terrorism statute, section 2339) to pursue. Obviously, the government will elect the more serious terrorism section. This decision will also, I'm sure, be appealed.

Most people will announce surprise at these rulings for one of two reasons -- first that Judge Cooke is a Bush appointee or second that counts are almost never dismissed on these grounds. As I have explained before, Judge Cooke is as fair a judge as there is. Judges cannot comment on their opinions. They cannot defend their opinions in the press. I hope that the bar stands up for Judge Cooke and explains these technical aspects of the law to the press. As for the second ground, simply because it does not happen a lot doesn't mean that it shouldn't or that it wasn't correct in this case. It would have been very easy to deny the motion. Judge Cooke should be applauded for doing what she believes is just and right, and compelled by the law, in a very difficult case with lots of political and media pressures. Now we'll get a definitive answer from the 11th as to whether prosecutors will be able to charge one crime as many ways as they can come up with...

UPDATE -- first article on the board goes to Jay Weaver, here.

Here is the Order.

Here is the CNN article.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bankest Verdicts

After almost a half a year in trial and 4 weeks of deliberations, the Bankest jury returned guilty verdicts against all defendants, who were taken into custody after the verdicts were read. Now the question is whether the Orlanskys will be punished more harshly for exercising their right to trial. This particular bank fraud trial has been dubbed the biggest in Miami's history. Here's the intro to the Herald article:
Eduardo and Hector Orlansky, the top officers of E.S. Bankest, each face up
to a maximum of 30 years in prison and substantial restitution for conspiring to defraud Espirito Santo Bank of Florida of some $170 million. The Orlanskys and E.S. Bankest manager R. Peter Stanham were taken into federal custody following the verdict Wednesday. The government argued they were potential flight risks because of their ties to other countries. The Orlanskys are from Argentina. Ariadna Puerto, another E.S. Bankest officer, was given home detention. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan set sentencing for Nov. 17. Eduardo Orlansky stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the jury foreman read the verdict before a packed courtroom. Hector Orlansky shook his head as the guilty counts against his brother were recited. Puerto cried as the counts against her were read. Stanham also teared up as he said his goodbyes to family members before being taken into custody.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Snow White's dwarfs more famous than US judges: poll

Here's a great article that I came across (hat tip: ScotusBlog) about Americans' knowledge of the Supreme Court and government in general. Here are some tidbits:
  • Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices, according to a poll on pop culture released on Monday.
  • Twice as many people (23 percent) were able to identify the most recent winner of the television talent show "American Idol," Taylor Hicks, as were able to name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006, Samuel Alito (11 percent).
  • Respondents were far more familiar with the Three Stooges — Larry, Curly and Moe — than the three branches of the U.S. government — judicial, executive and legislative. Seventy-four percent identified the former, 42 percent the latter.

What do you think the results in Miami would be if we asked about local judges? I'm afraid to ask...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Janet Reno's speech at NACDL

The National Assocation of Criminal Defense Lawyers recently had its annual meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. Janet Reno spoke. Here is her speech, with an intro from Neal Sonnett.

NG NOTB

Not Guilty North of the Border. What a relief! I'm still convinced there is no better feeling than hearing those two words...

I'll be back in the office today trying to get the computer back in order, catching up on stuff, and then finally getting back to the blog.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Profiling Prosecutors and Public Defenders

This morning's Daily Business Review profiles prosecutors and PDs. AUSAs Ed Nucci, Caroline Heck Miller, and Richard Gregorie are discussed as well as AFPD Faith Mesnekoff. There is also a long story about why public servants join these offices and why many must leave.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Crash

So we didn't finish the North of the Border Trial today as I had hoped. Summations will be Monday, which means a stressful weekend. Even worse, my Microsoft Exchange Server crashed at the office today, and my tech guy tells me that I've probably lost all my data. I thought this stuff never disappears... So do I start from scratch, hire a data recovery team, or try to recreate what I can from different places? UGH!!!!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Still North of the Border

I'm still in trial and plan on catching up this weekend with SDFLA news. In the meantime, I did notice that the en banc 11th Circuit affirmed Judge Lenard in the Cuban Spy case (USA v. Ruben Campa), in which a panel of the 11th Circuit originally reversed on venue grounds. The original panel (Judges Birch and Kravitch) dissented. And the en banc court remanded to the panel to consider the other issues raised on the appeal. I haven't had a chance to read the opinions which run over 120 pages, but when I do this weekend, I'll post some thoughts. If any of you have read it, please post your comments.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A stranger in a strange land...

Sorry for the slow blogging... I'm in trial in Broward State Court (or as Rumpole would say: North of the Border). Here's an article about the trial if you are interested.

Big news in federal court -- drum roll please -- attorneys are now permitted to bring camera phones into the courthouse. I commend Chief Judge Zloch for amending the old rule prohibiting such phones. Pictures, of coures, are still prohibited..

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

J. Middlebrooks rules against Sharapova in documentary suit


The AP reports: "A federal judge ruled Wednesday against tennis star Maria Sharapova, saying a Florida production company was entitled to market a documentary on the athlete despite her agents' attempts to halt distribution.U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks said Byzantium Productions Inc. was lawful in its production of two films, 'Anna's Army' and `Russian Women's Tennis.' The documentaries did not violate trademark laws, the judge found."

Padilla trial continued...

... until January 22, 2007. "No further continuances will be granted," according to Judge Marcia Cooke. Here's the AP report.

To be noticed or not to be noticed - that is the question

by Marc David Seitles
For anyone who was wondering whether a defendant and his counsel had to be notified if the district court was going to grant a variance above the advisory guidelines range - the answer is no. Today, in US v. Irizzary, No. 05-11718 (11th Cir. Aug. 1, 2006), the Eleventh Circuit held that "the district court was not required to give Defendant advance notice before imposing a sentence above the advisory guidelines range based on the court's determination that sentences within the advisory guidelines range did not adequately address section 3553(a) sentencing factors."

On a sidenote, who created the term "variance"? A district court shall impose a sentence sufficent but not greater than necessary after considering all the factors set forth 18 USC 3553(a) - and that's it. The sentencing court renders its decision after considering the required statuory language. Therefore, should any decision post Booker truly be called a "variance"? Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Judge William Thomas

Former Federal Defender and current State Circuit Judge William Thomas issued a big ruling today in a highly publicized murder case. Rumpole has the scoop here. (And to avoid any confusion, that's not me who was quoted in the article. That's another lawyer with the same first and last name -- different middle names.) UPDATE -- here's Judge Thomas' Order. Worth a read.