Monday, January 03, 2011

Back to work...

Hope everyone had a nice new year. It's good to be back. A quick look at what was missed the last week:

1. The Cuban Spies strike back... against their lawyers. From the Miami Herald:

In his appeal, Hernandez, 45, contends that his trial attorney, Paul McKenna, mishandled his defense at a 2001 Miami federal trial by focusing so much on the shoot-down location.

That strategy overshadowed evidence that Hernandez purportedly did not know in advance about the deadly Cuban plot over the Florida Straits, the appeal asserts. Evidence of his advance knowledge was crucial to proving his role in the murder conspiracy.

"In short, Hernandez's lawyer was his worst enemy in the courtroom," his appellate attorneys wrote in a habeas corpus petition filed in Miami federal court.

2. Judge Carnes vs. Judge Tjoflat in Floride Norelus v. Denny's Inc.

Both SFL and Kosher Meatball cover this 2-1 case about sanctions against the Amlongs for a 63-page errata sheet. From Judge Carnes' intro:

No one’s memory is perfect. People forget things or get confused, and anyone can make an innocent misstatement or two. Or maybe even three or four. But not 868 of them. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorneys, William and Karen Amlong, filed a sixty-three page errata sheet containing 868 attempted changes to their client’s deposition testimony, which was the sole source of evidentiary support for their client’s claims. The district court exercised its authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 to sanction the Amlongs. This is their appeal, or more specifically their second appeal.

But what struck me was not so much Judge Carnes' colorful way of writing about the case (agree with his decisions or not, he makes reading them fun), but instead how he engages Judge Tjoflat (the concurring judge, District Judge Bowen, did not join in any of these remarks):

  • As the magistrate judge found and no one (with the possible exception of the
    dissenting judge on this panel)
    seriously contests, the improper submission of the
    massive errata document rendered the eight days spent on Norelus’ deposition a
    waste of time and money to say nothing of the time the attorneys were forced to
    spend on the issues created by the document itself.
  • Up to this point, we have addressed the issues related to the errata document
    and the award of sanctions as those issues have been raised and defined since that
    document was submitted fourteen years ago. Our dissenting colleague, by contrast, has hatched a brand new theory—a theory that was never raised by the parties, never considered by the district court, and never argued to this Court. The theory
    that he has conjured up
    is that the errata sheet was really nothing more than a
    “letter” from Karen Amlong to defense counsel. It was not, he insists, an errata
    sheet because he thinks it was never presented to the court reporter or affixed to
    Norelus’ deposition as, he thinks, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 requires. Dissenting Op. at 1. He is wrong on his premises and wrong in his conclusion.
  • Instead of recognizing the obvious import of Norelus’ own certification or following our precedent about who has the burden on appeal where there are any ambiguities, the dissenting judge would remake the case entirely along different factual lines, lines that only he sees.
  • From its inception, the errata document has been understood by all, except our dissenting colleague, to be a Rule 30 errata sheet.
  • That certification itself and its use to assert “exceptions” to the deposition belies the dissent’s far-fetched assertion that the errata sheet was nothing more than a letter from one attorney to another. And there is more.
  • The Amlongs, the defendants, the magistrate judge, the district court judge, all three judges of this Court in Amlong I, everyone in the district court after the remand, and both parties in briefing and arguing the present appeal have understood that. Everyone has understood it—except for our dissenting colleague.
  • Now, after almost a decade-and-a-half of litigation, he has been able to discern what everyone else has overlooked: that the Rule 30 errata sheet is not really a Rule 30 errata sheet, but it is instead “a document, although entitled ‘errata sheet,’ [which] had no more legal efficacy than a letter.” Dissenting Op. at 22. During a period of almost fifteen years of looking at the document, no one else has ever thought it was just a letter. And no wonder. Treating the errata sheet as nothing more than a letter is like arguing after Gettysburg that the warring sides had been mistaken all along about the bombardment of Fort Sumter, that it was actually nothing more than a diplomatic overture.
  • And the dissenting judge’s extraordinary perception does not end there. He
    is even able to perceive that everyone else’s inability to see that the errata sheet isnot really an errata sheet is not the fault of the Amlongs, who designated it an
    errata sheet and have been arguing for almost a decade and a half that is what it is, and not the fault of all the judges who have consistently treated it as an errata sheet, but instead is the fault of—who else is left? Defense counsel, of course. See Dissenting Op. at 2, 19–20, 22–23.
  • Even beyond the facts, there is another problem with the dissent’s attempt to inject the not-an-errata-sheet-but-just-a-letter issue into the case at this point. The issue has been defaulted about as many times and in about as many ways as any issue can be.
Sorry for all the bullets, but wow. Is it me, or was that opinion something more than a "diplomatic overture"?

3. SFL won the blog fantasy football league this year. Well done!

4. Mona and I won the Above the Law fantasy football league.

5. I beat Rumpole in the regular season head-to-head football challenge, but we will continue it into the playoffs. It was a fun battle, especially because watching the Dolphins was torture.

6. Tom Goldstein of ScotusBlog is leaving Akin Gump and is going back out on his own. (Via ATL)


Rumpole said...

It took you like ..what...2 1/2 seconds to start bragging? anyway-well done, except both of us really sucked in the last month. Lets see if we can do better in the playoffs.

About this post- let me get this straight- there is some case that has been going on 15 years??? How is that possible? When this case started, circa 1996 did the attorneys say "well based on our view, this should be wrapping up around 2011."

That's why our civil law system really stinks. Because these things go on and on and there's no finality and only the lawyers who are billing get anything out of it.

Anonymous said...

Football, football, football. Who gives a shit! (unless of course you have a foot fetish)Go Jets!

Anonymous said...

Tjoflat is a big boy, he can handle anything Carnes can dish out. In fact, my $$ is on Tjoflat in a bare-knuckles, loser leave the circuit fist-fight. I would even pay to see that.