Thursday, May 31, 2007

News and Notes

1. Mario Claiborne has died, via Scotusblog. This is big news for judges, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers around the country who have been waiting for the Supreme Court to decide United States v. Claiborne, which was to give us all more guidance on how sentencing hearings should be conducted post-Booker.

UPDATE -- the Supreme Court dismissed the case on June 4.

2. The DBR follows up on the Happy Meal comment to Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff that we covered earlier. Now that we are the DBR affiliate blog, we thought that we might get some props along with Abovethelaw, who broke the story...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Classic Miami posts

The boys over at Rakontur (Alfred Spellman and Billy Corbin) have started a series of posts titled Classic Miami. They are fun reading. Here's the latest re Jim Morrison. These are the guys who made the great documentary Cocaine Cowboys. If you want to watch a really interesting, well-done, and thought-provoking film, you have to check out Raw Deal, which is a documentary that Spellman and Corbin did on the "rape" case at the University of Florida. I highly highly recommend it.

Wilk jury out till next week!

I'm sure the prosecutors are not happy about this -- the Kenneth Wilk jury deliberated all day yesterday and then asked to be excused until next week because of various conflicts. They may very well convict, but the prosecutors must be asking themselves what is taking so long...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shaq sighting


So I was in the federal courthouse this morning when I saw Shaq in an elevator surrounded by a bunch of Marshals. Before I could get my card out, a court security officer told me that he was there to be sworn in as a deputy marshal... Here is a picture of him being sworn in as a police officer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weekend reading...

Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.


The Wilk jury continues its deliberations tomorrow. The prosecution cannot be happy that they are still out and that they didn't come back quickly. The defense can't be happy that they were home over a long weekend where they would be pressured by family and friends to get it over with and convict. Ahhh, the stresses of having a jury out deliberating. There is nothing worse...

The Christian Science Monitor has been doing a very nice job covering the Padilla trial. Here's an article about the other two defendants in the case, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi. And the article covers this fun exchange:


In testimony last week, FBI translator Majed Sam acknowledged that it was up to him to decide which conversations to translate. But he said he pursued no FBI agenda. "My goal is to translate everything in as accurate English as I can," he told the jury.
During cross-examination, Jayyousi defense lawyer Marshall Dore Louis asked Mr. Sam whether he was familiar with the American term "to cherry-pick."
"It means selecting what you want to select," Mr. Louis said.



Yes," Sam agreed.
At the conclusion of his cross-examination, Louis returned to that theme. He asked if Sam was familiar with other American terms: paint with a broad brush, stereotype, prejudice, bigotry.
Sam answered that he was familiar with each term.
The move appeared to be an effort to encourage the jury – made up of three African-Americans, four whites, and five Latinos – to closely scrutinize whether the government was using stereotypes and prejudice against Muslims to try to win convictions.
Later when the jury was excused for the day, Assistant US Attorney Russell Killinger complained to the judge about Louis's questions. "They were totally improper and uncalled for," he told US District Judge Marcia Cooke.
"I was a little surprised myself," the judge said.
Louis said he didn't mean to imply the translator was himself bigoted. His questions were intended to highlight the way the government is presenting its case.
"That's [an] argument" that can be presented later in the trial, the judge told Louis. "This witness didn't deserve those kinds of questions," she said.
Jeanne Baker, a lawyer for Hassoun, disagreed. "There is a right we have to advance our themes," she said.
Judge Cooke said the questions crossed the line into impermissible argument. "Everyone is on notice," she said.

Dore Louis has been no shrinking violet in this trial....

And here's the AP covering Judge Cooke, with only nice things to say of course...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"[You are] a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal."

That's what a lawyer (a partner from McDermott Will & Emery -- Chicago) said to bankruptcy Judge Isicoff here in the SDFLA. Here's the whole story and the transcript from Abovethelaw.com.

Wilk jury deliberating...


The Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel have stories about the Kenneth Wilk trial going to the jury. Closing arguments were heated... From the Herald:
Wilk's home had been targeted in the past by gay bashers and Wilk had been threatened over the Internet, [Defense lawyer Bill] Matthewman said.
''They're busting into a man's house, his castle, and they know he has hearing loss,'' Matthewman said.
But prosecutors contend Wilk ambushed the officers that morning, saying he was obsessed with police officers and stockpiled guns for just such a day.
Prosecutors have said Wilk repeatedly indicated he wanted to harm police officers for what he saw as unfair child-pornography charges against his partner, Jones.
''No, the defendant didn't know the day they'd come,'' prosecutor Neil Karadbil said during closing arguments. ``No, he didn't know the time, but he was ready when they did.''
Wilk has simply made up excuses for his actions, Karadbil said, criticizing the defense's contention that Wilk suffered from severe hearing loss and AIDS-related dementia.
Wilk suggested Jones use the same defense after Jones' was arrested, Karadbil said.
''He thinks he can explain away everything in the case,'' Karadbil said. ``He thinks he's the smartest man in the room, but what he is, more than anything, is a liar.''
If convicted of the murder charge, Wilk could receive the death penalty.
The panel of eight women and four men began deliberations just after 3:30 p.m. Shortly after, the jurors asked U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn for a transcript of Wilk's testimony. Cohn told jurors there was not a copy of the transcript available for them and to rely on their recollection. The jury will resume deliberations today.
The prosecution got so upset, it made a completely inappropriate remark that will be looked at very carefully by the 11th Circuit if there is a conviction. From the Sun-Sentinel:
One comment the prosecutor made caused the defense to ask for a mistrial.Kastrenakes had ridiculed the defense's experts and remarked about how they were being paid by taxpayers."Where's our tax dollars going -- to pay them?" Kastrenakes asked the jury.The defense objected. Later, when the jury was out of the courtroom, U.S. District Judge James Cohn said jurors could interpret the comment to mean that the defense was wasting jurors' money on Wilk's defense.Kastrenakes said his comment was about the "value we are getting as citizens." The defense noted that taxpayers pay for prosecution witnesses too.The judge said he had to tell jurors to ignore the comment."That is a totally improper argument and you are to disregard it," Cohn told the jury.Wilk has a constitutional right to have the court pay for expert witnesses and the way the money was spent was not an issue in the case, Cohn explained.

Exciting news!


I am excited to announce that we are the new affiliate blog of the Daily Business Review. The look and feel of the blog will remain the same (although they are planning on spiffing it up in the near future). More about this soon...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to catch the bad guys...

Laurie Stein interviews Dan Fridman (here's the video and the print version), who will be returning shortly to this District as an AUSA, about a new training seminar on how to catch internet pornographers:

"Project Safe Childhood", based in South Florida, is the he first conference of its kind. It brought local, state and federal agents together to track and catch online predators.

Another SDFLA connection here -- Stein is married to Mike Tein of Lewis and Tein.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Louis Robles plea deal rejected

Judge Alan Gold refused to accept the deal agreed to by prosecutors and defense lawyers which would have resulted in Louis Robles, the 59 year old asbestos lawyer, serving 10 years in federal prison (previous coverage here). The deal also had the blessing of Tom Tew, the receiver in charge of getting victims paid.

Query -- does a federal judge have the power to reject this sort of deal? Because this is a charge bargain deal, can't the government just dismiss the other counts on its own, leaving only the ten year maximum count? I think the real question is whether the government will have the heart to do this after Judge Gold has said he will not approve the deal. If in our adversarial system of justice the prosecution believes that a deal is fair, should a judge step in? Please give your thoughts in the comments.

This is just another odd turn in this very odd case. Just last week, Judge Gold took Robles into custody because Robles' girlfriend said he was hiring a pilot to flee overseas. The government stated that they did not believe that the girlfriend was being truthful.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Round (week) one goes to...

... the prosecution or the defense?

You would expect that the first week of the Jose Padilla trial would be an overwhelming victory for the prosecution, but there has been a lot of debate about who has taken week one. The Chicago Tribune called the prosecutors "frustrated" with some of the inroads defense lawyers have made with their witnesses, most notably the training camp witness.

The Miami Herald today has two separate articles -- one by Jay Weaver saying: "Like savvy Hollywood directors, federal prosecutors opened the Jose Padilla terrorism trial in Miami with a grabber -- his alleged application to join al Qaeda."

The other by Ana Menedez, concluding: "Now the government must persuade jurors that the man who filled out his al Qaeda application as its No. 1 Slacker was really a dangerous terrorist. What emerged in week one was a slightly different picture: that of a former gang member adrift in the world. 'The Immigrant' admitted he hadn't worked in the military field and couldn't list any combat experience. From the application, he seems not so much a terrorist as the ultimate underachiever, the kind of guy who'd admit to carpentry skills, but would modestly leave blank the question asking him to list his 'intellectual abilities.' Maybe he just didn't want the job."

To get back to my theme for this trial -- This is why we need cameras in federal court. It's impossible to form your own opinion about what's really going on because we can't see it. We have to rely on newspapers which have all sorts of different opinions. Why no cameras?

And just for your enjoyment -- Slate now has this Padilla quiz. Take it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More compelling testimony in Padilla trial

Today, a member of the "Lackawanna Six'' terrorist group testified in general about al-Qaida training camps and how one could get admitted to such a camp. Prosecutors will argue that Jose Padilla followed those procedures. This witness, however, could not link Padilla to the camps.

From the AP: Prosecutors say Goba's testimony is critical because it describes for the jury what went on at the al-Farooq camp, which the government claims Padilla attended in summer 2000. It also links the defendants to the al-Qaida terrorist group, even if indirectly.``Is it possible to just show up at one of the camps?'' asked prosecutor Brian Frazier.``No,'' Goba replied.``You had someone to help you _ someone known and trusted by al-Qaida,'' Frazier continued.``Yes,'' Goba said.But Goba said under questioning by defense lawyers that his intent was only to prepare to defend Muslims in areas where they were oppressed and persecuted, not to commit murder or other crimes. He said he never became a member of al-Qaida.``Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?'' asked Padilla attorney Michael Caruso.``No,'' Goba replied.

Louis Robles taken into custody

Julie Kay breaks this story:

A federal judge has thrown disbarred Miami attorney Louis Robles back in jail after Robles' girlfriend told the court he was planning to flee the country before finalizing a criminal plea deal on charges that he stole millions from his clients. Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold in Miami issued an arrest warrant and ordered Robles’ $1 million bond revoked, calling him a flight risk. Robles, a nationally known Miami mass torts lawyer, was placed in federal prison May 11, days before Gold was set to decide whether to accept a plea deal for a 10-year sentence that was worked out between Robles and prosecutors.

The big question now is whether Judge Gold will accept the 10 year plea...

"Wilk ends testimony about why he killed Broward deputy"

Kenneth Wilk testified for seven days! The Sun-Sentinel reports: "At times during his testimony, the 14 jurors -- 10 women and four men -- looked intrigued. At other times, they looked bored. They are expected to start deliberating early next week."

Padilla's prints

Yesterday, the government and defense debated the significance of Jose Padilla's fingerprints on an al-Qaida training camp application. His prints are found only on the first and last pages, so the defense was able to establish that it was consistent with Padilla being handed the form. To add to their theory, the prints weren't tested until August 2006, after he was already in the brig for quite some time. If he was asked about the form in the brig, he may have handled it. Of course, the government will argue that the prints demonstrate that it was Padilla who filled out the form. Here's the AP coverage of the testimony.

Today, one of the New York men who pleaded guilty to terrorism support charges is expected to testify. Yahya Goba has said he filled out an identical form for the same al-Qaida training camp Padilla is accused of filling out a form for. Goba is serving a 10-year prison sentence and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Civil trial

A helpful reader has sent me the following email:

You're missing out on the big civil trial going on right now in front of Judge Altonaga. In 2005, the M/V Norwegian Dawn sailed into a storm off the coast of South Carolina while en-route from the Bahamas to NYC. A class action was brought against NCL, but Judge Altonaga denied certification. The case has proceeded with 400 named plaintiffs. After initially granting plaintiffs' motion for bifurcation, then reversing herself, Judge Altonaga ordered that all 400 cases be tried, five plaintiffs at a time.

The first trial commenced today, and it's expected to last at least three weeks.

The attorneys are Curtis Mase and Richard Lara for NCL; Brett Rivkind and Nicolas Sakellis for the plaintiffs.


Yikes. 400 plaintiffs, 5 at a time is 80 trials. 80 trials at 3 weeks a piece is 240 weeks or 4 1/2 years. I'm sure Judge Altonaga goes home every night and prays to the settlement gods.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Robin Rosenbaum in the DBR

Julie Kay follows up on our scoop here that Robin Rosenbaum in the new Ft. Lauderdale Magistrate.

Tom Langston?

That's the name used by the CIA agent who testified in disguise during yesterday's proceedings in Jose Padilla's trial. Jay Weaver reports:

The man who appeared in Miami federal court on Tuesday hid his identity as a CIA officer by using the alias ''Tom Langston'' and wearing a discreet disguise -- black-rimmed glasses along with a closely cropped beard.
Testifying as a witness in Jose Padilla's terror trial, he told jurors that only three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, an unnamed man in Afghanistan gave him a blue binder with dozens of documents.
Among them: a five-page form written in Arabic that would eventually lead federal investigators to conclude that Padilla had applied to join the al Qaeda terror network.


Here's the AP and the Sun-Sentinel report on the bizarre beginning to the trial.

They let this guy testify in disguise and I can't even bring my phone into the courtroom (it has a camera and is allowed in the building and in every other courtroom) or my briefcase (because it had a newspaper in it). I understand we need security but the lawyers are officers of the court.

My prior coverage of the disguise ruling can be read here. Judge Cooke has had another run-in with a witness wanting to wear an odd item to court. I loved how she handled that one!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Padilla trial day 2

Lots of good Jose Padilla coverage from opening statements yesterday.

But what caught my eye was this reporter's comments about the rules for press coverage:

But court security officers are enforcing an unusual rule for the trial, which is set to get under way with opening statements Monday. They are prepared to prevent members of the media from asking questions of defense lawyers or federal prosecutors at the trial.
In effect, newspaper, radio, and television reporters are being granted observer status – they may sit quietly, watch the trial, and take notes. But if during a court recess they approach a defense lawyer or prosecutor in the courtroom with a question, they risk being whisked away by security officials.
The ban on media questions also extends to the lobby outside US District Judge Marcia Cooke's courtroom and chambers.
If reporters need to ask questions for clarification or routine housekeeping matters during the trial, they must ask their questions somewhere else.


The reporter, Warren Richey, for Christian Science Monitor, then explains what happened to him:

I learned about this rule the hard way. During a recent five-minute recess during jury selection, I approached one of the prosecutors and asked who at the US Attorney's Office was handling questions from the press.
He gave me the name of a spokesperson and a telephone number. When I lifted my notebook to jot these down, a court security officer confronted me. He accused me of conducting an interview and asked me to step out of the courtroom.
I told him that I'd merely asked a question, but added that I'd never heard of a rule barring news reporters from asking questions, or even from conducting brief interviews in a courtroom at a public trial at a time when both the judge and jury were not in the courtroom.
Having covered scores of hearings and trials in the federal courts as a journalist, I am well acquainted with courtroom etiquette. But I have never heard of courtroom officials barring reporters from asking routine questions.


Other reporters spoke with Richey:

Neither has Associated Press correspondent Curt Anderson, who has covered the Padilla case closer than any other reporter. "I don't know of such a rule," he said in an e-mail. "I haven't had any problem talking with the various lawyers anywhere in the courthouse or outside, even in the courtroom itself during breaks."
Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald also says he is unaware of such a rule against journalist questions. "I would like to know what the ground rules are. It is going to come up," he says.


It will be interesting to see exactly what this rule is and how it's enforced. I'm all for protecting the rights of the defendant, and being especially careful in a trial like this is important. That said, the public has a right to see and understand this trial. I really believe we should have cameras in federal court. The Padilla trial should be watched in classrooms and studied. Instead, our country is left with images of OJ as how our justice system works.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"The politics of fear"

That was Anthony Natale's theme in opening for Jose Padilla.

"Political crises can cause parts of our government to overreach. This is one of those times," he said. Natale said Padilla wanted to become an imam — an Islamic religious leader — and asked him to stand for the jury to see. "He's a young man who has been wrongly accused," Natale said.

Again, Curt Anderson got on the board first with this coverage. I'm sure there will be a lot more.....

"Jose Padilla was an al-Qaida terrorist trainee providing the ultimate form of material support - himself,"

That was Brian Frazier in opening statement. Frazier continued: "Padilla was serious, he was focused, he was secretive. Padilla had cut himself off from most things in his life that did not concern his radical view of the Islamic religion."

Curt Anderson, for the AP, has the first report from today's proceedings...

Padilla's lawyers haven't countered yet. More to follow.

Congrats to our new Magistrate

A (reliable) little birdie told me that Robin Rosenbaum is our new Ft. Lauderdale Magistrate Judge. Congratulations!

Computer issues

My computer at the office is down as is my server.

This will teach me to go away for the weekend (even if it was for a conference!).

I did manage to get up two posts this morning before everything crashed. Now I'm on the computer of someone down the hall who hasn't made it in to work yet. You know who you are...

In any event, there is a bunch of weekend stuff to catch up on, but it will have to wait until the afternoon. Plus, I'm going to try and make it over to see some openings in Padilla. Will check in later.

Jose Padilla opening statements

Jose Padilla opening statements are today. There is a buzz in the legal community over the case, but I wonder if the general public has the same interest. You would think everyone would be following this trial, but I get the sense that it's a case of a lot of interest to us, but only of moderate interest to everyone else...

In any event, there are a zillion articles about the start of the case. Here's one by Vanessa Blum about Judge Marcia Cooke. (And here's a brief bio) Here's our initial coverage of Judge Cooke.

Good luck to the lawyers today. I'm sure everyone has those trial jitters, especially in this case.

My new favorite reporter...

... is Tonya Alanez from the Sun-Sentinel (whom I've never met or spoken to) because she had this to say about our blog in this article about the Broward Blog controversy:

South Florida has two other court-oriented blogs.On the Southern District of Florida Blog, Miami-based attorney David Oscar Markus strikes an even-handed, statesman-like tone and tends toward observation rather than critique. The Justice Building Blog, authored by another Miami-based attorney who posts anonymously, cloaks its jabs with humor.

COOL!

UPDATE -- The Miami Herald also did a report on the Broward Blog (by Jennifer Lebovich) and mentioned us.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Padilla and Wilk

What a fun time to be a trial lawyer in the Southern District of Florida. I know I sound like a broken record, but we have the best trials and cases in the country.

Jay Weaver has a great article about the jury selection in the Jose Padilla case. Rising star Dore Louis took on the Government: "Early in the process, one of Jayyousi's attorneys, Marshall Dore Louis, accused the prosecution of striking four candidates with Muslim connections and one who was Muslim herself. I believe they have shown a pattern of bias against people who know Muslims or are Muslims." John Shipley responded, "It is completely untrue. There is no pattern whatsoever."

The Government then complained that the defense was striking Hispanic jurors. At the end of the day, Judge Cooke found that neither side was using their strikes in a discriminatory fashion. Everyone in the courtroom applauded when the jury was finally seated. On to trial!

Kenneth Wilk took the stand in his own defense! "He didn't discuss AIDS dementia, a key part of his defense. He immediately admitted he fired his gun but said he thought the people in his Fort Lauderdale home, Deputy Todd Fatta and Lt. Angelo CedeƱo, were intruders, not police. He also said he tried to perform first aid on Fatta, the man he is accused of murdering."

Who's call was it to testify:

Outside of court, Wilk's attorneys, Matthewman and J. Rafael Rodriguez, wouldn't comment on Wilk's desire to testify. "We're just honoring his request," Rodriguez said.When U.S. District Judge James Cohn asked Wilk if he discussed the decision with his lawyers, Wilk replied: "There's been tremendous conversation back and forth. ... And this is something I have to do and, uh, it's my decision and mine alone and I stand by it."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jose Padilla update

1. A jury has been selected!
2. Opening statements are to begin Monday.
3. The jury consists of five blacks, four whites and three Hispanics; seven men and five women.
4. On the panel are an executive in a software firm, a makeup artist, and the manager of several gas stations.
5. The CBS reporter was not held in contempt.
6. The judge has yet to rule on a severance motion that could impact whether Padilla is tried with the other two defendants. It was still being argued today.

AP coverage by Curt Anderson here and here.
Vanessa Blum here.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh dies at 71

Here's the obit from the Herald:

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, the South Florida sect leader whose brand of black supremacist preachings drew his followers into a brotherhood of murder and terror in the 1980s, has died in Miami, his lawyers said.
Lawyer Ben Kuehne said Ben Yahweh, 71, died in his sleep overnight. ''Cancer is the cause,'' Kuehne said. Ben Yahweh had been ill with prostate cancer.
The self-proclaimed ''Black Messiah,'' Yahweh based his operation in the bunker-like Temple of Love in Liberty City, once telling his followers that white people were terrorists and that unbelievers were devils.
Federal prosecutors, however, branded him the most notorious criminal in South Florida. Convicted of conspiracy, he served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence.
Born Hulon Mitchell Jr. in Oklahoma, the preacher and activist moved to South Florida in 1978 and changed his name to the Hebrew words for ``God, son of God.''
A charismatic leader, he founded the Nation of Yahweh, boasting thousands of followers who often dressed in white and who once won praise for rehabilitating blighted Miami neighborhoods.
According to a book on Yahweh written by former Miami Herald reporter Sydney P. Freedberg, Yahweh was the oldest child of a minister. He joined the Nation of Islam before turning up in Orlando as Brother Love and eventually finding fertile ground among the poor and black in Miami.
Yahweh, who called himself a prophet and wore a turban and flowing white robes, preached racial and religious separatism for blacks.
At the same time, he amassed a real estate and business empire worth at least $8 million. He won favor with prominent local politicians, who considered him a positive force for inner city neighborhoods. Yahweh and his followers opened grocery stores, hotels and apartment complexes.
Just a month before Yahweh's indictment in 1990, then-Mayor Xavier Suarez declared Oct. 7 as Yahweh Ben Yahweh Day.
Federal prosecutors, however, accused him of plotting 14 Miami-Dade County murders, two other attempted murders and of ordering the firebombing of a Delray Beach neighborhood in 1986 to further his religious empire.
Federal and state investigators spent millions of dollars and more than a decade tracking 20 homicides they believed were connected to the Miami-based religious sect. Yahweh's only conviction came on the conspiracy charge.
In October 2006, after Yahweh completed five years of parole, two of his lawyers, Jayne Weintraub and Steven Potolsky, went to federal court in an attempt to end his parole. They said the prostate cancer had metastasized and he was dying.
The attempt to free him from parole ultimately succeeded, Weintraub said Tuesday.
Yahweh had been living alone in Miami after his release from prison, his lawyers said, and he had kept away from his former followers.
In court papers, they wrote that Yahweh was ``greatly desirous of the simple dignity of being permitted to die a free man, not a parolee.''

"Witness: Tests indicate murder suspect has AIDS dementia"

Paula McMahon, who has been covering the Kenneth Wilk trial for the Sun-Sentinel, has this interesting article in today's paper re the defense witnesses in the case. From the intro:

A second medical expert says there is objective evidence that Kenneth Wilk has AIDS-related dementia and likely had the condition when he fatally shot Broward Sheriff's Deputy Todd Fatta more than 21/2 years ago.Medical testing of Wilk's brain shows damage consistent with dementia, said Dr. Jeff Gelblum, a Miami Beach and Aventura neurologist, in two days of testimony that ended Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

(As an aside, who is the anonymous person who keeps emailing me these articles?)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Broward Blog controversy...

Broward judges have been taking some heat lately. Check out this article in which the Chief Judge of Broward Circuit Court, Dale Ross, blames the JAABLAW blog for the court's woes.

[Chief Judge] Ross on Friday repeatedly referred to the blog and its "undermining" effect."I am disturbed honestly and truly that there are folks that want us to fail," he said.Attorney Bill Gelin, who helped establish the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward blog, said the postings are geared toward "positive change and proactivity.""There's been a desperate need for some kind of communication medium like this," Gelin said. "Nepotism, cronyism and cynicism have set in here and we're talking about fixing the real problems."

Bill Gelin responds on the blog:

I just wanted to add to my previous statements about Judge Ross saying we are "undermining" the judiciary. I've been fielding calls and questions all day on this issue, and I've gone from bemusement to anger. The bottom line, in my mind, is that this type of judicial behavior is nothing new in Broward, and that these judges don't need my help, or this blog's help, in undermining the 17th Judiciary. They are doing a great job all by themselves.

Ouch. I think Judge Carney's letter to the Miami Herald is a much stronger argument than Ross' complaint about the blog. Here's Carney:

Re the May 3 editorial Intemperate judges tarnish judicial system: The Broward County bench is made up of 90 judges -- 58 circuit judges and 32 county judges. The editorial and recent articles unfairly lump the entire Broward bench under an umbrella based on the actions of a few judges.

This does a disservice to most of the judges who have dedicated their careers to public service. Most important, however, it does a disservice to the residents of Broward County by undermining confidence in their courts.

Judicial polls routinely show that the vast majority of Broward judges are viewed as qualified or extremely qualified to hold their positions. These ratings are independently made by the attorneys of Broward County who practice in front of them.

The problem, of course, is that in the last couple of months, we've had pot, crying, and NHI -- in high profile proceedings. Yikes...

Hat tip on the JAABLAW blog: Rumpole.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Weekend reading...

The Herald had a bunch of stuff this weekend:

1. "The former Monroe County attorney wound up with probation for his role in a bribery and corruption case dating back nearly a decade." Judge Highsmith sentenced James Hendrick, former Magistrate Judge Hugh Morgan's partner, to probation and said: ''An awful lot of people came forward on your behalf. Do not disappoint us.''

2. "Feds cast wide net in Pepe Diaz probe: A federal investigation into a Miami-Dade commissioner revolves around a law that has been a boon to prosecutors, but that a defense lawyer rips as a `toxic waste dump.'" That's Richard Sharpstein, our local quote master.

3. "Lesser sentences sought for two Posada associates: The U.S. attorney's office in Miami agreed to lower the prison sentences of two Cuban exiles with ties to anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles."

More Awards

Last night the Miami Chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had its annual banquet (this year's was at the JW Marriot on Brickell). Great turnout to honor Kathy Williams, Scott Fingerhut, Paul Rashkind, and Judge Joseph Farina. Each of the honorees gave incredible speeches. (I was president of FACDL-Miami this year; Barry Wax is taking over.)

It's been a very difficult couple of weeks for the criminal defense lawyer and criminal defendant in state court. No more rebuttal close for the defense, and court appointed funding for conflict cases (their equivalent to CJA lawyers) is no more. Instead, there will be an underfunded second public defender's office to handle conflicts. It's a total disaster. Most of the speakers discussed these recent events.

Federal sightings: Judge Moreno, Judge Brown, U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, and lots of federal PDs.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Lawyer for alleged madam seen as quite a case himself"

Because this guy has South Florida ties, I post this really strange article about Montgomery Blair Sibley, the lawyer for the DC Madam. (thanks for the comment -- the link is fixed).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Congrats to Judge Federico Moreno


He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Judges Steve Leifman and Gerald Wetherington also received awards.
Lots of funny moments in the speech, but I particularly liked when he thanked his clerks and said that it was the best part of the job because he added to his family every year. Really nice...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wilk defense

Kenneth Wilk's turn...

The Government rested and painted a pretty awful picture of Wilk.

Now Wilk is putting on evidence that he had AIDS dementia (via Sun-Sentinel), which is why he did what he did:

An expert witness testified for the defense that Kenneth Wilk had AIDS dementia on the day he fatally shot a Broward sheriff's deputy, and said there was independent medical evidence, which could not be faked, to support the diagnosis.Symptoms of the condition are not easily observed and that could explain why Wilk was not previously diagnosed, said Dr. Michael Maher, a Tampa physician and psychiatrist, in two days of testimony that ended Monday in federal court.

"I am very confident that he ... suffers from AIDS dementia," Maher said last week.Another defense medical expert is expected to testify that MRI and other scans of Wilk's brain show evidence of dementia.