Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday news and notes

1. UBS got pushed one more week, till August 10. Looks like it might settle. From the WSJ blog:

In a major break in a massive tax-evasion investigation, UBS AG and the governments of Switzerland and the U.S. have reached a settlement that could force UBS to turn over identities of thousands of account holders, a Justice Department attorney told a U.S. District Court judge Friday morning. ...
Stuart Gibson, a Justice Department tax division attorney, didn’t detail the settlement in a conference call with Judge Alan Gold that included lawyers for UBS and the Swiss government.
A hearing scheduled for Monday in Miami was postponed until Aug. 10, at which point more details are expected to be released. The judge scheduled another conference call with parties in the case for next Friday.
The Internal Revenue Service has demanded the identities of 52,000 U.S. account holders at UBS. UBS and the Swiss government have claimed that turning over those names would violate Swiss bank secrecy provisions.

2. Julie Kay special for the Herald on law firms cutting pay:

As law firms continue to lose money in a tough economy, their cost-cutting has moved from layoffs to a new strategy -- slashing lawyers' salaries.
Several firms in South Florida have instituted across-the-board salary cuts for lawyers in recent weeks -- the latest being Holland & Knight, one of South Florida's largest firms, which announced cuts of up to 10 percent Wednesday.
``Law firms have been forced to manage more carefully all of their expenses,'' Holland & Knight Managing Partner Steve Sonberg said in a statement. ``Like many other firms, Holland & Knight is reducing the base salaries of its associates, with limited exceptions.''
The reductions, Sonberg said, would range up to 10 percent. The firm is also chopping salaries of some non-lawyer ``senior counsel and other professionals,'' with an average overall reduction of 7 percent, he said.
Other firms to reduce lawyer salaries in recent weeks include Akerman Senterfitt, Squire Sanders and Ruden McClosky. Carl Schuster, managing partner at Ruden McClosky, said the across-the-board measure was in place until the end of the year when the firm hopes
to reinstate the original salaries.
He wouldn't disclose percentage cuts at the Fort Lauderdale firm.
Becker & Poliakoff cut lawyers' salaries 12 percent in 2008, but reinstated the original salaries three months later and repaid lawyers the difference, according to managing partner Alan Becker.

3. Next week I won't be able to blog, so we will be very very lucky to have the wonderful Vanessa Blum as our guest blogger. If anyone else wants to pitch in, let me know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're second...

... to Rhode Island?!!

I demand a recount.

Well, we're trying to be first, with 41 arrests today. Here's the Herald coverage of all the mortgage fraud stuff going on.

So, will UBS settle? Trial is "looming" Monday. Judge Gold will have one last status conference this Friday.

BLT has a number of interesting posts, including this one on 11th Circuit nominee Beverly Martin. Looks like she will be confirmed...

Effective closing or a lemon in the Representative Jefferson case? We'll find out shortly. Here's the BLT coverage:

Lemons have an odd way of sprouting in the legal lexicon. Lemon laws protect car buyers. The Lemon test helps govern the separation of church and state. And today, lawyers for ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) introduced what might be called "the lemon defense."
In closing arguments this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Washington defense attorney Robert Trout told the jury that the FBI had targeted Jefferson in a sting operation, in which the bureau tried to catch him paying bribe money to the vice president of Nigeria. But when the money turned up in Jefferson’s freezer instead of the vice president’s house, Trout said, investigators realized they had "a lemon of a case."
"They decided they wanted to make lemonade out of lemons," the Trout Cacheris name partner continued on. “And before you can do that, you’ve got to squeeze a lot of lemons. And so they squeezed some lemons."
The "lemons" squeezed by the FBI, Trout said, were the witnesses who would eventually testify that they bribed Jefferson to use his congressional connections to set up business deals in Africa.

SDFLA Fantasy Football League?

Miguel de la O wants to start a fantasy football league for the Southern District of Florida. Winner gets bragging rights. If there is enough interest, the league will start. Email Miguel at if you are interested. Spots are reserved for Rumpole and SFLawyers if they are interested.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great piece on the Chief

John Pacenti covers Judge Moreno here

From the intro:

When socialite Paris Hilton came to town for a civil trial, she was upstaged by none other than Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno.

Pragmatic, smart and funny, the Miami jurist stopped seasoned attorneys who were litigating the question of whether Hilton adequately promoted her film box office bomb "Pledge This!," to ask incisive questions. Since it was a bench trial, Moreno was serving as a jury of one and had no need for rote legal arguments.

Despite his good humor, Moreno is a stickler for proper courtroom decorum. He gently chastised an out-of-town attorney representing Hilton repeatedly for failing to stand up when addressing him. He prompted an out-of-town attorney in another case to borrow a tie before speaking at the courtroom lectern. Given the judge's jocularity and ready smile, the attorney asked if he was kidding.

The judge wasn't.

Moreno said his insistence on decorum is based on respect for the institution.

"I think a federal courthouse, or any courthouse for that matter, is a secular temple," he said. "We dress in robes because it's a secular temple. People dress in suits, and I think people behave better when they are dressed better."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Poll numbers

A week of voting has produced the following unscientific numbers:

Who should be our next U.S. Attorney?
405 votes total
David Buckner 56% 227 votes
Willy Ferrer 24% 99 votes
Daryl Trawick 20% 79 votes

Who should be our next judge?
262 votes total
Jerald Bagley 24% 64 votes
Bob Scola 29% 77 votes
Kathy Williams 46% 121 votes

Why were there so many more votes for U.S. Attorney. Do you think the results would be different if I asked who the Senators will actually pick?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


For just the 18th time in baseball history, a pitcher was perfect today. Mark Buehrle was literally perfect. 27 batters. 27 outs. No one reaches first. Unbelievably remarkable.

Is there an equivalent for lawyers?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More on JNC picks

Between Paris Hilton and the JNC posts, the blog has been on fire lately. Thanks to everyone for stopping by. I have been stuck in trial the last two weeks (if you are in the courthouse, come by Judge Jordan's courtroom and say hello), so I apologize for the slower than usual posts. John Pacenti over at the DBR has been covering the JNC process. Here's a nice article about what's going to happen now:

What happens next? Not all 20 members of the region’s Judicial Nominating Commission are sure. Some members thought that traditionally Florida’s U.S. senators — Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Mel Martinez — would pick just one name for each position to forward to the White House. But that’s not the case. The rules state that if the senators voice no reservations, all of the JNC’s picks will be forwarded to President Obama so he can narrow the field to one selection for each office.. “As long as Sen. Nelson has been in office, it’s been that way,” said Matt Nosanchuk, Nelson’s legislative counsel in Washington. ... The commission process itself is ever-evolving. “The process has changed back and forth over the years,” said Guy Lewis, who served as an acting U.S. Attorney based in Miami. “It’s almost like making a sausage. I used to love Tennessee Pride Sausage, but I’d never want to know what goes into making it.”

Gotta love Guy. I guess he's trying to keep up with his partner Mike Tein, who is the most quotable guy in the district.

We didn't get to cover the Marshal interviews, but the JNC narrowed the list to William Berger, David C. Nieland and Glen M. Wilner. Unfortunately, the current Marshal -- Christina Pharo -- withdrew her name from consideration before the interview process. Pharo was a great Marshal...

The polls are up below. Vote!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Polls

Who should be our next judge?
Jerald Bagley
Bob Scola
Kathy Williams free polls

Who should be our next U.S. Attorney?
David Buckner
Willy Ferrer
Daryl Trawick free polls

Friday, July 17, 2009

BREAKING -- U.S. Attorney finalists announced

Willy Ferrer
David Buckner
Daryl Trawick

Congrats to the finalists!

(And thanks to the many tipsters who emailed me with the names!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Paris Hilton update

So I still don't know who made the final 3 for U.S. Attorney. Where are you tipsters? In the meantime, here's more on Paris from Above The Law.

Thanks to Dore for Guest Blogging!

He gave us some great insight below to the interviews of both potential judges and U.S. Attorneys. I will post the final list as soon as I hear it.

UPDATE -- Vanessa Blum has added to Dore's post below with her coverage of the last three interviews. I am very grateful to have such great guest bloggers... Thanks to both Vanessa and Dore.

One other tidbit about the interviews. Apparently, too many law clerks and interns attended the first day of interviews, so the Chief Judge sent this memo around yesterday afternoon:

I have been informed that many law clerks, interns and other employees have been coming in and out of the Judges' Conference Room in the Ferguson Courthouse where the Judicial Nominating Commission is conducting interviews. The Commission' s interviews are open, while their deliberations are not. However the room with 21 Commissioners and the applicant is extremely crowded to the point of possibly violating fire marshal regulations. Chairs had to be added for the public.The constant movement of observers detracts from the seriousness of the task and is somewhat disruptive. Although the Commision desires for an open process, an admirable goal, the large number of employees in one building is yielding heavy traffic. I would ask all employees, including interns and law clerks, as a courtesy , to take this into consideration and not attend this afternoon for the remaining judicial interviews or tomorrow for the US Attorney interviews. In the Summer many judges have a large number of interns and their interest in the process is understandable. The media covers it and we can all read about it the next day. However the comfort of the Commissioners and those being interviewed is also important. I thank you for your consideration. FAM

The US Attorney Interviews

This post has been updated at the bottom with Vanessa Blum's coverage of the last few interviews.
By Dore Louis:
The day started off with Mark Schnapp. He has a tremendous amount of experience over a very broad career.

Mr. Schnapp immediately noted that the role of a prosecutor should be to strike tough but fair blows. This ended up being a reoccurring theme throughout the day. As it turns out, Judge Gold's Order in the Shaygan case had a large impact on the proceedings -- every candidate was questioned on it, most more than once.

He noted his priorities as USA would be to prosecute 1) National Security matters, 2) Fraud and 3) Political Corruption cases.

A question that was asked of every candidate by the statewide chair was the following:

If you had to issue a letter grade to the office based on integrity and performance what would it be and 2) what are the three biggest problems with the office and how would you correct them?

Mr. Schnapp gave the office an A-, but later reduced it to a B after some tough questioning by Chairman Coffey. He listed the office problems as: 1) Training, 2) Supervision is lacking because the supervisors are spending too much time with large case loads and 3) Recruiting. I am not sure what he meant with 3, like em or not, our US Atty's office gets the top candidates in the country.

Justin Sayfie, who proved to be one of the more aggressive questioners yesterday, kept up the trend by asking a rather pointed question of all of the applicants. He referred to the Gold Order and asked each person if those facts are true, and a AUSA intentionally misled the court or violated a court order, would you do everything in your power to dismiss that person?

Mr. Schnapp first tried to side step the question by saying that he would first conduct an investigation - Sayfie countered by asking him to assume the facts are true and Schnapp finally said that if the investigation revealed the facts to be as given, he would terminate the prosecutors.

Jeff Sloman came next

Interestingly, Mr. Sloman said that one of the first things he would do would be to do away with the Ashcroft memo. I think the point was missed on a number of the committee members who do civil work and don't understand the significance of that policy. Fortunately, Mr. Coffey took a moment to stop and explain its impact to the committee.

Mr. Sloman gave the office a A. He noted that the most serious problem the office has is getting through the "Judge Gold matter" and that the whole thing has been tough on the prosecutors in the office. It was a tough position for him to be in. Clearly, Mr. Sloman has a different take on the Gold Order than many of the committee members do, and he was forced into a lose-lose situation. It was clear he is supportive of all of the prosecutors in the office and at the same time he was being asked to identify problems with the office and give a stance on what discipline may be appropriate given a hypothetical scenario that was being presented to him in terms of "assume the prosecutors did this or that." He did a good job of handling the questions and did not back down from his support of the office as a whole. Mr. Sloman flat out said that integrity and prosecutorial misconduct are not a problem in the office.

I think this may have hurt him with the committee. At one point the chairman asked another candidate a question premised on the statement: "If we think this office needs a shakeup...." To me it seemed clear that many on the committee did have that belief, at least their questions seemed to suggest they do.

Judge Ilona Homes was interesting to watch.

She was very thoughtful in her responses and had a distinct air of authority about her. She gave the office an "incomplete" on the grade question because she is an outsider and didn't feel it was fair to do without knowing more. She was the only candidate that did that.

In response to the "Sayfie Question" she said that if true, the prosecutors should not be in the office, but only after a full investigation has been completed -- in other words, not solely on the basis of the Gold Order.

Judge Holmes was questioned rather bluntly on a couple cases she has handled in Broward that involve accusations of heavy handedness by her from the bench. She did a great job handling the questions and after hearing her explain what happened, I would not expect those issues to play a role in the committee decision. The only caveat would be that there were so many qualified people before the committee that it may be easy for them to hold something against her that they should not otherwise, to make their decision easier.

Judge Trawick was great.

One of the things that really stood out to me was his clear love of our community. Along those lines, his focus would be on public corruption cases, gangs and violent crimes and medicare fraud.

The Judge gave the office a B, and said that he would improve 1) training, 2) the fulfilment of discovery obligations and 3) community relations. Without hesitation, the Judge responded to the Sayfie question by saying he would "absolutely" terminate an AUSA who willfully or intentionally mislead the court or violated a court order.

In my view, Richard Scruggs was one of the most impressive people that was interviewed.

I worked in the same office as the man and didn't have a clue as to any of his qualifications. The were extensive, including a ton of D.C. experience at main justice under the Reno administration.

Mr. Scruggs was strictly business and commanding. He said that under Stanley Marcus the office was an "A," but now it is a "C." he said he would 1) improve training, 2) instill the idea that being a prosecutor is a calling and is about being part of something bigger than winning or loosing, and 3) that he would reverse the "dumbing down" of cases that has gone on over the past 10 years and bring back a focus on big important matters rather than "low hanging" fruit. In response to the Sayfie question, Mr. Scruggs said "absolutely."

He said that he had no political goals in seeking the office and that he thought long and hard about it. He told a funny story about how he consulted with Judge Marcus prior to going forward with his application. The Judge asked him if he remembered the worst case of his career -- he said yes, Yahweh; the Judge then told him that it would be like that every night and day for four years.

Curtis Miner showed himself to be extremely likable and smart as a whip.

He gave the office a B+ and listed its biggest problems as being 1) bottom heavy, 2) that it needs more quality prosecutions and 3) -- I don't think he gave a third.

In response to Charmian Coffey's "shakeup" question, Mr. Miner said that if he concluded there is a problem with the culture or chain of supervision, he would shakeup the office, but that he believed it could be done without using a heavy hand.

It seemed to me that some of the committee members took issue with his lack of management experience. But the guy showed himself to be so capable, I would not count him out.

I came in about half way through Tom Mulvihill's interview.

He fought Mr. Sayfie on his question and refused to concede the facts in the order, but also said that a person who intentionally misleads a court or violates an order should not be an AUSA.

One thing he said that stood out was that the easiest thing to do as an AUSA is to sign an indictment, but that it is much harder to look at the agent on the other side and tell them to shut down their investigation. He seemed to be suggesting that with his experience and the respect he has from law enforcement agencies in the district, he could do that, and bring better more productive cases.

Another thing that he said that kind of made me laugh was that the Federal Rules provide for "extremely broad" discovery in criminal cases. Sorry, but I gotta disagree with you on that one. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery -- the criminal rules do not.

Lilian Sanchez

She did a good job handling the interview and held her ground on the questioning. She gave the office a B- and said that it could use some improved intelligent training -- not just CLE type stuff, but mentoring.

Ms. Sanchez felt that the past few years as a criminal defense lawyer have given her some perspective that she could bring to help the office improve in terms of its relationship with the defense bar and its discovery obligations.

She was also the only person to flat out say "no" to the Sayfie question. She said that she would find out where the breakdown in the office occurred and put policies in place to ensure that it did not happen again. She did note that if an AUSA intentionally violates DOJ policy, she would fire them, but it seemed clear to me that she did not view the hypo offered as that type of situation.

Dick Greggorie

He gave the office a B- and said the problems are 1) too many young prosecutors (they are very bright, but not enough experience), 2) Not enough focus on bringing larger cases, and 3) that there are leadership issues that could be addressed.

He suggested that he saw a problem with the manner in which the Gold Order was handled in the prior administration and said that as US Atty, he would be responsible for the conduct of his AUSAs. If that order had come down during his tenure as US Atty, he would not have "punted" the ball on the decision to appeal, but would have looked at the law and made the decision himself.

Unfortunately I missed the last two interviews of the day.

Overall, it was a very interesting process and removed some of the misgivings I have had in the past when I thought the process might be purely political. It was very apparent that the committee members took their jobs extremely seriously and asked tough and thoughtful questions. You could really tell that they are making a huge effort to put forth the best candidates.

I realize that much of this post focuses on negative points from the interviews -- all I can say is that that is the way the interviews went from my perspective. It seemed to me that the hypothetical idea that the committee might think the office needs a shakeup is not so hypothetical, and many of their questions, and the focus of the interviews were on that point.

On the positive side -- every candidate made clear how much they loved the job as AUSA and the people they worked with. Anybody who has worked with these people in the past should be proud of that fact, because they were given ample opportunity to criticize, and to a person they choose only to discuss how to improve the office.

Hi all, Vanessa Blum here with some brief notes on the final three interviews of the day, starting with former AUSA David Buckner.

Mr. Buckner showed himself to be an incredibly poised and intelligent interviewee. If appointed, it seemed he would take a more hands-on approach than some other candidates. For instance, he said he would try at least one case in his first year. At the same time, he said his experience in private practice at Miami’s Kozyak Tropin and Throckmorton would give him fresh perspective if named U.S. attorney. Of interest, Mr. Buckner revealed that he prepared for appellate arguments in the Cuban spy case, even as his then infant daughter hospitalized. He scored the office at a B+ and said he would emphasize training, white collar prosecutions and public corruption investigations.

Next up, Wilfredo Ferrer, an assistant Dade County attorney and former federal prosecutor. Mr. Ferrer, who spent five years as counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, told the panel his experience at Main Justice would help him navigate the department’s vast bureaucracy and secure resources for the U.S. attorney’s office. Mr. Ferrer graded the office a “solid B+”, citing high turnover, leadership breakdowns related to the Gold Opinion, and resource shortages as major challenges. With just eight trials under his belt, he addressed concerns about his relative lack of courtroom experience and listed terrorism, fraud, violent crime and public corruption as his top priorities for the office.

The interviews concluded with James Swaim, executive asst. U.S. attorney and a 15-year veteran of the office. In his current post, Mr. Swaim manages administrative functions for the office and oversees community-based initiatives like Weed and Seed and Project Safe Neighborhoods. Mr. Swaim described himself as a low-key leader, “not a ranter and a raver.” “I don’t think that conveys strength,” he said. But outside the office, he said, he would be a forceful advocate for his troops. Mr. Swaim gave the office an A for integrity and a B for performance. When questioned further on the high mark for integrity, James said the actions of three lawyers out of nearly 300 shouldn’t bring down the score for the office as a whole. Though vague regarding his goals, he said he would seek to strengthen mentoring programs and give the U.S. attorney’s office a greater sense of mission.

US Atty Interveiws

Sorry I didn't do the lunch postings, but I did not have time. I am typing it up now. Overall, the interviews had a very different feel than the judicial interviews. Where those were extremely polite but not overly probing, the US Atty interviews were in depth and at times confrontational. More in a few minutes.

One great thing that happened was the Chief Judge showing up with a small plate full of small cups and fresh cup of CUBAN COFFEE for the committee. It was nice to see him bring it in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


That was fast -- the list is out:

Kathy Williams
Jerald Bagley
Robert Scola

Congrats to those three.

Tomorrow, we'll find out who makes the U.S. Attorney short list.

JNC interviews & Guest Blogging

Just wanted to give a shout out to Dore Louis for guest-blogging the interviews today. His posts are below. Thank you Dore. The DBR is also covering the interviews on its blog.

I'm hoping Dore can give us more insightful coverage tomorrow of the U.S. Attorney interviews. We may also get Vanessa Blum to guest blog tomorrow...

Thanks all. --dom

Afternoon Interviews

I missed Robert Lee's interview and came in about half way through Judge Barzee's.

Judge Barzee was on top of the interview, pure and simple. She was asked a couple tough questions and did a great job fielding them. One in particular was how she would prioritize the following three traits in determining who is a great judge: Temperament, Fairness and Courage. At first Judge Barzee said that she would list all three under the category of Humility, and that humility is the most important trait. Justin Sayfie (who has proven to be one of the more vocal and aggressive questioners) felt that she had not answered the question and pushed for a ranking -- the Judge ranked them (1) Fairness, (2) Temperament and (3) Courage. Who can disagree with that?

More so than any applicant I saw interviewed, Judge Barzee appeared to have a conversation with the committee members, rather than an interview.

Judge Gayles came next,

It seemed to me that Judge Gayles faced a bit of an uphill battle with the committee because of his youth and his position as a County Court Judge. Many questions focused on his readiness to become a district court judge. His response was to point out that Judges Huck, Jordan, Seitz, Middlebrooks and Martinez had never been on the bench before being appointed.

Patricia Lowry:

If Judge Gayle's obstacle with the committee was his youth, Ms. Lowery's appeared to be the fact she is not on the bench (not to suggest she looked old -- she did not). Here is a eminently qualified individual, who is at the top of her profession, and I felt the like the committee honed in on the fact that she is not a judge. I wish they would have asked her some questions that brought out her qualifications based on her big law experience.

Another issue that was raised, was something relating to 28 U.S.C. s. 458. Apparently Ms. Lowry is married to a magistrate judge and one of the committee members seemed to suggest the above referenced statute somehow disqualified her from appointment. Were that really the case, one has to wonder why they would have interviewed her.

Kathy Williams:

Equally, or possibly more so then Judge Rosenbaum, Kathy Williams' opening remarks were thoughtful, prepared and on point. To understand Ms. Williams' interview, you have to have a bit of an appreciation for the setting --

The interviews are being conducted in the judge's conference room in the new courthouse. The room is triangularly shaped and there are huge windows on the longer walls. The room has an enormous conference table in the middle with all the members scrunched in, and the interviewee sits on one end by herself. There is some limited spectator seating, perhaps 15 - 20 seats in total, which for much of the day was adequate. When Kathy Williams was interviewed, the place was overflowing with clerks from what seemed like every chamber in the building.

The committee didn't seem to me to be interested whatsoever in whether or not Kathy Williams is qualified to be a district judge, the answer was clearly known by all of them, they seemed only to want to assure themselves that if given the spot, Ms. Williams would be fair to all sides.

One of the funnier points came when Ms. Williams was asked which judge's in the Southern District she admires -- looking up at the room stacked with law clerks, she smiled and said 'hello clerks' and proceeded to identify Judges Markus, Barkett and Dan Pearson. Seeing the way that committee treated Ms. Williams and the way she fielded their questions would make anybody who has any connection to her, even if it is like me by simply being on the CJA panel, proud as hell to have seen her interview.

It was clear that many people contacted the committee members on behalf of Kathy Williams, and had glowing things to say. Ms. Williams took the time during her closing remarks to give what was clearly a very heartfelt thanks to all of them.

Judge Lopez:

Not much to say about the Judge's interview, nobody was questioning his qualifications to sit as a district judge; he carried a genuine air of effortless authority throughout the interview.

Judge Scola:

The committee seemed in awe of Kathy Williams, the committee had a great conversation with Judge Barzee, but with Judge Scola, the committee was completely at ease and relaxed.

Judge Scola was self effacing and demonstrated his quick wit. One of the funniest points was when one of the committee members pointed out that he was on the JNC that sent Judge Scola's name to the governor when the Judge was appointed to circuit court. The judge immediately responded that he is not a superstitious person, but that for some reason he is wearing the same tie today that he did during that interview in 1995! At another point, Georgina Angones said that she had heard so many good things from people about Judge Scola, and asked what Judge Scola thought about the fact that they all ended by saying they would hate to lose him as a circuit judge. Steve Zack quickly said, I'll answer that for you, turned to Ms. Angones and said "get another circuit judge!" Another committee member said he played on the same baseball team as Judge Scola at some point and asked the Judge to confirm that he was a really good player...the Judge smiled, rolled his eyes, looked up and said, 'of course, you were incredible.'

On judicial philosophy, the Judge echoed the sentiment that was expressed by others who are or were trial lawyers like Judge Barzee, and Kathy Williams, that a judge should not inject themselves into a trial, but should allow the lawyers to do their jobs.

Overall, I must say that the process was intense, and very interesting to watch. I encourage you all to go watch the US Atty interviews tomorrow, if you cannot, I will be there and will do my best to let you know what happens.

Morning Interviews

The morning interviews got off to a fast start. Judge Rosenbaum's opening remarks were extremely well thought out and prepared. She clearly captured the committee during her initial presentation.

Some of the committee member's questions were in depth, and others were not very deep. In all, during the course of the 20 minutes or so of questioning, there were good exchanges and you certainly got a feel for the interviewee.

One of the more interesting questions that has come up with a number of the interviewees has been asked by Justin Sayfie -- essentially, the question is whether the interviewee has seen a situation where the law dictates a result that the candidate deems to be unjust and morally wrong. Most of the canidates I saw (I missed Caroline Heck Miller and Judith Korchin's interveiws) stressed the importance of stare decisis and adhearance to the rule of law. Personally, I think there may have been a bit of a missed oportunity to recall the building that they are being interviewed in, and a quote attributed to that great judge who has been cited has having said that "in the Moral Universe, One Is A Majority If Your're Right." Judge Bagley had the most interesting response to it when he noted that he has come upon that situation in his career as a jurist and he tried to frame the issue for the appeallate court -- he was reversed.

Here are some highlights from the interviews I saw:

Judge Rosenbaum:

Judge Roesnbaum stressed the role of a prosecutor is not to obtain convictions, but rather "to do the right thing." I appreciated that, having come from the State Attorney's Office.

Judge Seltzer:

Judge Seltzer was asked by the committee members how the Chief Magistrate Judge is picked (he is next up and Judge Brown is the current Chief). The Judge told the committee that it is by seniority and that he and Judge Brown were sworn in on the same day, but at their judicial swearing in, he said 'Steve, you go first,' and here we are. Judge Seltzer also affirmed his respect for the role of voir dire and said that he beleives the sides should get thirty mintues in selecting a jury.

Judge Bagley:

Unfortunately I missed Judge Bagley's opening remarks, but sitting in the room, you cannot miss that which is obvious to anybody who has appeared in his courtroom -- a calmness and demanor that commands the attention of all present. He was in absolute control of the entire interveiw and it was impressive to watch. When asked what his weakness was, the Judge directly addressed his lack of federal experiance and assured the committee that that fact would not effect his ability to be a federal judge. Nobody present would have doubted him. Judge Bagley also tipped the committee off to what motivated him to enter the law:

The Judge was a student in New York and recieved a summons to appear through the mail for a marijuana charge -- the summons was issued in his legal name, but he was not the right guy...somebody had apparently used his name. When he appeared in court, he was intimidated and frightened. He explained to the presiding judge that he was not right defendant. Luckily for Judge Bagley the police officer who had issued the summons was there and affirmed that he was not the proper defendant. This experiance, more than any other showed Judge Bagley the fairness in the law and led to the launch of his legal career.

Judge White:

By the time Judge White appeared, the committee room was rather full of spectators and I could not hear him very well. I did catch his emphasis on judicial temperment and patience as qualities that he believes are extemely important. Judge White also made a statement that I loved - he said that because of the power that a prosecutor holds, a good prosecutor is the best public defender. Absolutely true.

Well, back to the interveiws, I will post more later.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest Blogger Here

David is in trial before Judge Jordan and is unable to cover the District Court interviews tomorrow. I will be guest blogging for David. Unfortunately, I will have to miss several of the morning interviews and am hoping somebody else will provide information on the ones I cannot attend.

Here is the list of the interviewees and their timeslots:
  1. Robin S. Rosenbaum 9:00
  2. Barry S. Seltzer 9:30
  3. Judith M. Korchin 10:00
  4. Caroline Heck Miller 10:30
  5. Jerald Bagley 11:00
  6. Patrick A. White 11:30
  7. Robert W. Lee 12:30
  8. Mary Barzee Flores 1:00
  9. Darrin P. Gayles 1:30
  10. Patricia E. Lowry 2:00
  11. Kathleen M. Williams 2:30
  12. Peter R. Lopez 3:00
  13. Robert N. Scola, Jr. 3:30
  14. Gerald B. Cope, Jr. 4:00
  15. Ana Maria Martinez 4:30

I cannot help but wonder whether to not a 25-minute interview, even with the huge written application involved, is sufficient to determine which of these 15 individuals should get the job. It will be interesting to hear the committee’s questions and the remarks by the applicants.

Monday, July 13, 2009

UBS trial continued till August 3

Prior coverage here. Judge Gold agreed to the parties' request to let them try and work it out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Looking for blogger to cover interviews

I was planning on covering the interviews for judge and U.S. Attorney this week, but it turns out that I will have to do some real work and will be in court. Any volunteers to go to the interviews and blog 'em? Shoot me an email.

Maybe not on the UBS trial

According to the New York Times, the parties filed a joint motion to continue the case over the weekend in the hopes they can settle:

The Swiss bank UBS and United States federal prosecutors sought Sunday to delay a hearing scheduled for Monday so the two sides could try to settle their closely watched dispute over the release of names of wealthy American clients of the bank who are suspected of offshore tax evasion.

But the postponement request, made in a joint legal filing in a federal court in Florida, came amid fresh threats by the Justice Department that it might impose financial sanctions on UBS and possibly indict the bank should it ultimately refuse to disclose the names if required to do so by a judge.

Judge Gold will hear the motion to continue first thing Monday morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Best blog post forever

Paris Hilton is on the stand. And Judge Moreno is getting in on the act. In one exchange, Moreno was puzzled by the title of Hilton's current reality show, "My New BFF." "What does that mean?" he said. After Hilton gave the full title "Paris Hilton's My New Best Friend Forever" the judge remarked "This will be my best case forever." Without missing a beat, Hilton replied "You're my best judge forever."

Hat Tip: Curt Anderson

The trial is being heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who reacted with surprise when Hilton gave him a little wave before testifying. "I've never had a witness wave at me before," the judge cracked.
At one point, Hilton was testifying about how full her schedule was during rehearsals for her next film, 2008's "The Hottie & The Nottie," when Moreno interrupted.
"Was it better than this one?" the judge said, referring to "Pledge This!".
"It was really good," Hilton answered with a giggle. Along with the heels, Hilton wore an all-black sleeveless dress tied at the back and sported diamond rings and a bracelet.

UBS trial to start Monday

Lots of press coverage on the case to start Monday here.

I liked this Reuters piece on Judge Alan Gold, who is presiding over the case:

The judge presiding over a high-stakes legal showdown between the U.S. government and Swiss bank UBS AG is seen as a straight-shooter who has not shied away from taking aim at big corporate interests.
Some see Judge Alan Gold of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida emerging as an international mediator as he deals with issues loaded with important foreign policy and financial ramifications, led by U.S. demands for a lifting of Switzerland's treasured bank secrecy laws.
But U.S. attorneys and prosecutors who know him say Gold, a 65-year-old native New Yorker, will studiously avoid doing anything inconsistent with his role as a judge as he handles his biggest and most publicized case since he came to the federal bench in Miami nearly 13 years ago.
"He's about as straight-shooter as they come," said Charles Intriago, a former U.S. federal prosecutor and money laundering expert, who publishes a website for law enforcement officials about asset forfeiture.
"He's the perfect judge for this," he added, referring to the hearing Gold is set to preside over Monday in a suit in which the Justice Department is seeking to force UBS to disclose information on 52,000 secret accounts suspected of being used by wealthy Americans to avoid paying their taxes.
There is little in Gold's record to indicate how he might rule in the case, which experts say could set an important legal precedent since it marks the biggest test ever of Swiss bank secrecy.
Gold grabbed the media spotlight in a business law case once before, when he presided over a class-action lawsuit against Exxon Corp that resulted in a settlement costing more than $1 billion.

Gene Stearns won that case against Exxon. This time around, he's representing UBS.

Paris Hilton to tesify Friday

She'll testify today, most likely after lunch. Here's how she looked this morning.

Don't worry; there's nothing wrong in looking, right Mr. President? (Here's Professor Althouse's take on the picture)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I heart Paris

I had another matter in the courthouse this afternoon, so I snuck over to Judge Moreno's courtroom to see the Paris Hilton trial.

I watched a bit of both opening statements. Judge Moreno was on his A-game, asking lots of questions in his engaging and witty way. He even asked a funny question about the rule against perpetuities. Another exchange -- Lawyer: I'm here to make your life easier judge. Moreno: You are failing so far. Moreno wondered out loud why the case had not settled and asked whether Paris could simply promote the movie this weekend to settle the matter.

Paris was laughing at Judge Moreno's jokes and nodding her head in agreement during much of the proceeding. She wore a black and white sleeveless dress, a black headband, and pig-tails. UPDATE -- I added a picture of her (with one of her lawyers) walking into the courthouse so you could see for yourselves.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Paris, oh Paris

The Paris Hilton trial starts tomorrow. Our prior coverage is here. I imagine it's going to be a circus (as far as circuses go in federal court; remember no tweeting or blogging!) in the Chief Judge's courtroom tomorrow. I'm hoping to get an exclusive blog interview with Paris... if I do, what questions should I ask her, my dear readers?

Here's Curt Anderson's preview of the case:

In an odd intersection of showbiz and securities fraud, proving a claim that Paris Hilton was a lousy pitchwoman would benefit investors jilted by a Ponzi scheme she had no part in.
A federal lawsuit set to go to trial Thursday against Hilton contends she didn't do enough to promote the 2006 sorority hijinks movie "Pledge This!" and seeks about $8 million in damages from Hilton and her company, Paris Hilton Entertainment Inc.
One of the main investors in the box-office bomb was once a high-flying concert and theater promoter from Miami named Jack Utsick, who was listed as one of the movie's producers. When the admittedly bad movie lost money, his now-defunct Worldwide Entertainment Group took a financial hit.
But it's not Utsick who's suing Hilton. Rather, the lawsuit stems from an effort to repay people ripped off in what federal securities investigators say was a $300 million Ponzi scheme hatched by Utsick. Hilton's work on the film had nothing to do with the scheme.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Worldwide Entertainment was a multimillion-dollar fraud and won a civil judgment earlier this year against Utsick and several associates. A federal judge appointed attorney Michael Goldberg as receiver to collect as much money as possible for some 3,300 wronged investors.
It was Goldberg who filed the lawsuit against Hilton. He claims she failed to adequately promote the DVD release for "Pledge This!" and that she deprived the film's investors of $8.3 million in profits by not cooperating.

What about the defense:

Hilton and her attorneys claim she went the extra mile to plug the movie, which played in just 25 theaters and made only about $2.9 million worldwide, according to court documents. Hilton, 28, is expected to testify in the three-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno.
In a deposition, Hilton said she did promotion events at the Cannes Film Festival in France, appeared at the movie's Chicago premiere and generally mentioned it publicly whenever possible.
"Any chance I got, any red carpet, any press, if I was doing something for another product, even if I wasn't asked about it, I would just bring it up," she said.

Quick Hits

Sorry about the slow blogging this week. It's summer and I'm swamped... What up with that?

Okay, to the news:

1. General Noriega has filed a cert petition.
2. Paris Hilton starts trial tomorrow in front of Judge Moreno. Steven Binhak and Michael Weinstein represent her.
3. UBS trial next week.
4. Federal JNC interviews for judge and U.S. atty coming up.
5. Palm Beach is moving firearms cases to federal court. (The State Attorney there says it's because the min-mans in federal court are higher than in state court. But there is no min-man for being a felon in possession of a firearm in the federal system.)
6. More on SexyLexus and White & Case.
7. There's lots of mortgage fraud.
8. Boeis tops Wells.
9. AUSA Scott Ray is leaving the office. Going away party next Thurday at Tobacco Road. Good luck to Scott.
10. The Marshals are busy.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Obama nominates Beverly Martin to Eleventh Circuit

President Obama has nominated District Judge Beverly Martin to fill Lanier Anderson's seat on the Eleventh Circuit. She's been a district judge in the Northern District of Georgia since 2000 and before that was the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia for three years. She has sat by designation a couple of times on the Eleventh Circuit, the most noted case being Buckley v. Haddock, the taser case in which she dissented. (She wanted the video appended to the opinion, but the Court refused. After that, someone uploaded it to YouTube). She has a sense of humor -- check out this footnote (via "Essentially, in the spirit of an old Woody Allen joke, Southern requests more time to finish a deposition that it apparently believes has not been very helpful." Then, invoking the joke from the 1977 movie "Annie Hall," she goes on, "Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, 'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.' The other one says, 'Yeah, I know; and such small portions.'" A Macon native, Martin graduated from Stetson University and the University of Georgia School of Law.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

SDFLA turns 4

Four years ago on Fourth of July weekend I started this blog with no expectations and no idea if the blog would last a month, let alone four years. Since then, there have been 1,275 posts (there is a post almost every business day) and almost 500,000 hits (it took us a while, but the blog now averages around 600 hits a day). Here is our first month of posts, and our first one -- suggesting that former President Bush appoint a Floridian to the Supreme Court. I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July and thank you all for stopping by over the past four years. I hope I can keep it going for another four. --David Markus

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sealed Mutual Benefits stuff starts to leak

Jay Weaver has the lengthy front page story here. Our prior coverage is here. The bombshell from the article is that Paul Huck Jr. was one of the reasons a number of documents were sealed and a number of judges recused (including Judge Huck). Of course Huck Jr. has been cleared of all wrongdoing -- he is a stand-up and ethical lawyer. But for him to have to go through this is terrible. From the intro to the Herald article:

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating corruption allegations made by an indicted Fort Lauderdale insurance executive who, in a bid for a favorable plea deal, has named lawyers, lobbyists and fundraisers he claims plotted with him to thwart a state crackdown on him and his industry.

Justice officials have convened a federal grand jury to pursue the claims of former Mutual Benefits Corp. chief Joel Steinger. The wealthy businessman contends that he orchestrated a campaign to stifle a 1999-2000 statewide grand jury probe by attempting to improperly influence public officials, three knowledgeable sources have told The Miami Herald.

One of the officials Steinger named was lawyer Paul Huck Jr., a former deputy to state Attorney General Charlie Crist. But Huck confirmed that he was one of six public officials already cleared of any wrongdoing by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. Huck said authorities have told him that he was "a reputational victim of statements made by a third party.''

Others who remain under scrutiny: several prosecutors and officials who worked under Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and his successor, Crist.

Judge Jordan had this to say:

''Disclosure of those names, and the matters being investigated, could have devastating consequences for those persons who have been cleared of any misconduct, as well as for those still under investigation,'' Jordan wrote, adding that the grand jury probe was ancillary to the Mutual Benefits fraud investigation.

Jordan stressed that, according to the Public Integrity Section, the six exonerated officials "had no knowledge of, or participation in, any of the alleged wrongdoing.''

More on Huck Jr. and his comment about having to go through such an ordeal:

Among them: Huck Jr., who was a deputy attorney general in Fort Lauderdale when Mutual Benefits was being prosecuted in Broward by the statewide prosecutor. The post is part of the attorney general's office. Mutual Benefits pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2007. Huck was not the prosecutor on that case.

Huck, who later became Gov. Crist's general counsel and now is in private practice in Miami, confirmed that he is one of the public officials the judge referred to as being cleared. Huck declined to comment further, saying he does not want to interfere with the probe.

''It's a real shame when folks in public service have to deal with that, and it makes it that much harder to attract people to go into public service in the first place,'' Huck told The Miami Herald.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Alex Kozinski and Porn

We've posted about the whole dust-up with Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and his personal website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Well, the Third Circuit's judicial council, tasked with investigating the case, wrote a 41 page opinion admonishing Kozinski, but clearing him of any wrongdoing. It's just about the holiday weekend, so I haven't slogged through the whole opinion yet. But here's the bottom line:

We find that the Judge's possession of sexually explicit offensive material combined with his carelessness in failing to safeguard his sphere of privacy was judicially imprudent. Moreover, once the Judge became aware in 2007 that offensive material could be accessed by members of the public, his inattention to the need for prompt corrective action amounted to a disregard of a serious risk of public embarrassment. We join with the Special Committee in admonishing the Judge that his conduct exhibiting poor judgment with respect to this material created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the institution of the federal judiciary. We determine that the Judge's acknowledgment of responsibility together with other corrective action, his apology, and our admonishment, combined with the public dissemination of this opinion, properly conclude this proceeding.
The Judge explained and admitted his error; apologized for it, recognizing its impact on the judiciary; and committed to changing his conduct to avoid any recurrence of the error. The offending material has been removed and will be destroyed. The Judge’s acknowledgment of responsibility combined with the corrective actions he has already completed or has committed to pursue and his apology, along with our admonishment, made public in this opinion, properly “remed[y] the problems raised by the complaint.” Rule 11(d)(2). Accordingly, this proceeding is properly concluded. We find that “all of the purposes of the judicial misconduct provisions are fully served” by this result.

In my opinion, this has been a huge waste of time. Kozinski issued the following statement to the WSJ Law Blog:

I asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to thoroughly review this matter, and I am pleased that today’s unanimous decision reaffirms what I have said all along about my private files: They were kept on a private server and were not intended to be shared publicly. Our Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has much important work to do, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to accomplish our goals.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Interviews (and times) made public

After the list has been floating around the past couple of days, the JNC finally posted it here. You can see the times of the public interviews. I wonder if anyone will show up.

Some interesting notes:

  • The order of the interviews is random. (Which is the best slot? Robin Rosenbaum is first up and Ana Martinez is last. Robert Lee is first up after a short 30 minute lunch. For USA, Mark Schnapp is first up and James Swaim is last.)
  • The interviews last 25 minutes.
  • Each applicant gets an opening (3 minutes) and closing statement (2 minutes). (Those should be interesting...)
  • The JNC recommends that applicants show up 30 minutes ahead of time. (Can you imagine an applicant being late?)
  • "The Rule" has been invoked. "No applicant will be allowed to attend the interview of another applicant or to discuss an interview with a member of the public who has attended other interviews." (So can I live blog?)
  • AUSA Marcus Christian got an interview for the U.S. Attorney slot in the Middle District of Florida. And B.J. Throne got one in the Northern District...

Wardrobe Malfunction


You may be wondering what this has to do with the SDFLA. The answer is nothing.

New UM Dean starts with a bang

Apparently, incoming 1Ls are being asked to defer a year because UM accepted too many students. Here's the incoming Dean's memo to the incoming 1Ls, courtesy of AboveTheLaw:


Every year our Admissions Office uses our past experience with acceptance rates to decide how many students to admit. In these economically troubled times past experience has turned out to be a poor guide. An unprecedented percentage of applicants admitted to the University of Miami Law School have accepted our offer. This will give us a larger than optimal first-year class.

Accordingly we are offering an incentive to defer admission until Fall 2010. If you wish to take advantage of this offer you must notify us by e-mail [Redacted] or facsimile [Redacted] by July 10, 2009.

While I would like to believe that this year's elevated acceptance rate reflects the great sense of excitement about the Law School and its future that led me to become its new Dean, I fear that some of it may be related to the shortage of jobs in the current economy. Perhaps many of you are looking to law school as a safe harbor in which you can wait out the current economic storm.
If this describes your motivation for going to law school I urge you to think hard about your plans and to consider deferring enrollment. Law school requires an enormous investment of work, energy, time, and money. It is very demanding intellectually and emotionally. Beyond this, in these uncertain and challenging times the nature of the legal profession is in great flux. It is very difficult to predict what the employment landscape for young lawyers will be in May 2012 and thereafter.

If you are choosing to join us this Fall because you are strongly committed to the study of law we welcome you with open arms and promise to do our best to provide you with an exceptional and challenging educational experience. But if you are approaching law school with ambivalence or the thought that it will be a safe haven, perhaps you should take a year to decide whether it is the best choice for you.

To encourage this we are offering incentives to admitted students to defer admission until Fall 2010. The basic idea is that we will give you a $5000 Public Interest Deferral Scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year if you defer starting law school until August 2010. There is one additional condition: performing and documenting 120 hours of public service by June 1, 2010.

This requirement reflects the commitment to public service we try to instill in all our students.
The following are the benefits of taking advantage of this unique offer and deferring your enrollment to Fall 2010:

* Guaranteed $5,000 Public Interest Deferral Scholarship when completing 120 hours of public service. This scholarship would be in addition to any other scholarship award you may receive (not to exceed the cost of tuition).

* Increase your likelihood of selection for a $75,000 Miami Scholars Scholarship award ($25,000 each year for 3 years). This is a scholarship designed to encourage and reward public service.

* If qualified, be among the first group considered for all 2010 scholarships (see offer details).

* Apply your entire $300 seat deposit to Fall 2010, rather than receiving only a partial refund and forfeiting the balance.

For further important details about this offer, click here.
If you would like to defer your admission to Fall 2010, please contact us by e-mail or facsimile

[Redacted] by July 10th. If you have questions, please contact the Office of Admissions [Redacted].

I am delighted that the University of Miami is your law school of choice. I am very excited about its future and hope to welcome you either this August or next.

Warm regards,
Trish White Dean Designate