Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"As Kim Kardashian is with her husband, I'm not going to keep you long."

That was Chief Judge Ed Carnes today at Robin Rosenbaum's investiture. It was a great event with lots of good speeches.  Judge Carnes also invoked the song "Don't Rock the Boat Baby" in describing the importance of collegiality on the 11th Circuit.

Judge Stanley Marcus (who has known Judge Rosenbaum since she was his law clerk) gave a very funny talk, telling numerous jokes, which had the audience laughing out loud.  He started out by saying that since this was the third investiture that he was speaking at for Judge Rosenbaum, he felt a little like Zsa Zsa Gabor's 8th husband: he knew what was expected of him, but he wasn't sure how to make it different.

In response, Judge Rosenbaum said: "If you've enjoyed the entertainment, they'll be playing again next week in Las Vegas."  Then she invoked Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime."

Very fun event.

Here are some pictures:

Here is Judge Marcus swearing in Judge Rosenbaum.

How would you like this jury:

And here are 11 of the 12 active judges on the 11th Circuit, plus two senior judges:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Big unpublished opinion from the 11th Circuit reversing because of a judge's refusal to ask voir dire questions related to sexual preference prejudices

Judge Martin issued this 2-1 opinion in United States v. Bates, holding that it was reversible error not to ask potential jurors about their biases against "men who have sex with men." Northern District of Florida Judge Robert Hinkle dissented while Judge Richard Eaton from the Court of International Trade joined Judge Martin.  Even though the emergency order allowing two visiting judges has been lifted, its revocation only applies going forward, so it does not affect this opinion.

From the intro:
Cameron Dean Bates is a federal prisoner serving a 240-month sentence after being convicted of eighteen counts of receiving, accessing, distributing, and possessing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A. He is also a man who has had sexual relationships with other adult men, a fact that came to be a central issue during his criminal trial. He challenges his convictions on several grounds. But we need only consider his argument that he should have been permitted to inquire of potential jurors whether they might harbor prejudice against men who have sex with men. Specifically, Mr. Bates argues that the District Court abused its discretion when it refused his request to ask prospective jurors during voir dire about any prejudice they might harbor against him on the basis of his sexual activity with other men. After careful review, and with the benefit of oral argument, we agree with Mr. Bates that the District Court should have examined whether the jurors might bear prejudices against him. While it is true that Mr. Bates stands charged and convicted of disturbing acts of receiving and distributing child pornography, we cannot condone the manner in which his convictions were obtained. As a result, we vacate the convictions.

From the end of the opinion:
The government cannot carry its burden to show that this error was harmless. If Mr. Bates is to be convicted, we must have sufficient assurances that it is done by a fair and impartial jury of his peers. Here, the risk that Mr. Bates was convicted by jurors who cared less about the charged criminal conduct than about his perfectly legal sexual activity, is intolerably high. His convictions must therefore be vacated, and we remand this case for further proceedings.

 The court was also concerned with the amount of time the defense was given to prepare:

Although we do not decide Mr. Bates’s argument that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motions to continue trial, on remand the District Court must assure itself that Mr. Bates has adequate resources to permit his expert to review the evidence, and enough time to pursue the evidence necessary to aid in his defense. Two circumstances of this case raise concern that Mr. Bates was not afforded the time or resources necessary to prepare an adequate defense during his first trial. First, there was a delay of several months in getting approval for funds for an expert. ...
Second, we are concerned that Mr. Bates did not have enough time to prepare his defense, given that the focus of his prosecution shifted abruptly before trial. Mr. Bates was originally charged on August 23, 2012 in a two count indictment that included only one specific date on which child pornography was allegedly distributed, and gave a range of dates spanning sixteen months over which child pornography was allegedly downloaded or accessed. On February 14, 2013, just two weeks before trial, the government superseded on the indictment, increasing the number of counts to eighteen and highlighting much more detailed information about the dates and times child pornography was downloaded, accessed, and distributed. One week after that, the government disclosed a lengthy supplementary expert report, which was also more detailed than anything Mr. Bates had gotten from the government to that point. Given these late shifts in the focus of Mr. Bates’s prosecution, and the technical nature of the evidence the government presented, we are concerned that he did not have enough time to adequately defend himself during his first trial. See United States v. Verderame, 51 F.3d 249, 250–52 (11th Cir. 1995). If Mr. Bates is retried on remand, we hope and expect that the District Court will be mindful of his need for expert assistance and adequate time to prepare for trial.

"Never dance with a Cuban."

That was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking at an event at Yale with Justices Thomas and Alito (see post below for more on the event and Alito getting turned away from brunch).  The Washington Post covers Justice Sotomayor's dance preferences:

The justice, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, said that as an appeals court judge, she was often invited to Hispanic events where salsa was being played. But she was a “potted plant” who never learned the steps.
So around age 50, Sotomayor took lessons and made a discovery: “I cannot keep a beat to save my life. But I have a facility that some of my colleagues would find very strange: I can follow.”
Amid the laughter, Sotomayor said that what she needs is a partner who can lead.
“Among Hispanic men, the best dancers in terms of keeping a beat are Dominicans, the worst are Cubans,” Sotomayor continued. “Dominicans have big, big steps--”
A doubled-over and guffawing Thomas interrupted: “That’s profiling!”
“It is, but it proves itself right a lot,” Sotomayor continued. “Cubans have these very tight little steps. Never dance with a Cuban. And Puerto Ricans I can dance with, too.”
It was the perfect set-up for the conservative Alito, with whom liberal Sotomayor frequently disagrees.
“It’s a revelation to know that Sonia likes to follow,” Alito said. “I think we’re going to start dancing in the conference room.”

“Well, he should have made a reservation. We get very busy for brunch.” -- hostess after turning Justice Alito away for brunch

Above the Law has a cute story about Justice Alito being turned away for brunch yesterday and how he handled it graciously.  This shouldn't be a big deal obviously, but when you have judges yelling at store clerks to take down signs, it's nice to hear that some judges have manners.

Anyway, three Justices were in New Haven giving a talk.  Per the NY Times:
Justice Thomas, 66, has apparently mellowed the most. He acknowledged being a “cynical and negative” law student, blaming immaturity and the unsettled political climate of the early 1970s. “I cannot say we were thinking straight about a lot of things, even if we were not using illegal substances,” he said.
“I wish I came here at a time when I could have been more positive,” he added. “There is so much here that I walked right by.”
For years, Justice Thomas had refused to return to Yale. In his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” he wrote that his law degree had been tainted by affirmative action. He had, he wrote, “learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much anyone denied it.”
He added that he had “peeled a 15-cent price sticker off a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of my law degree to remind myself of the mistake I’d made by going to Yale.”
Justice Sotomayor, 60, has written that she was admitted to the law school with the help of affirmative action and that she found her time here intimidating and inspiring. She has been a frequent visitor and honoree, often drawing huge crowds, particularly after the publication of her own memoir, “My Beloved World.”
On Saturday, she said she is a poor dancer but loves salsa and does well with a strong partner. “I have a facility that some of my colleagues would find very strange,” she said. “I can follow.”
Justice Alito looked shocked. “It’s a revelation to me that Sonia likes to follow,” he said. “I think we’re going to start dancing at conference.”
The justices were questioned by Kate Stith, a law professor at Yale. She asked Justice Alito what he had been reading.
“I have two books that are inspirational,” he responded. “I keep them on a table by my bed, and I try to read a little bit of them every night. It’s ‘My Grandfather’s Son’ and ‘My Beloved World.’ ”
The six other justices all attended Harvard Law School, though Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg transferred to and graduated from Columbia Law School.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who has two Harvard degrees, was once asked whether it is healthy for the Supreme Court to consist of only justices with degrees from elite institutions.
“First of all, I disagree with your premise,” he responded. “Not all of the justices went to elite institutions. Some went to Yale.”

Speaking of judges having manners, Chief Judge Michael Moore says that Judge Cooke does not need to recuse in the Miccosukee case.  Judge Moore really did a solid for his colleague.  From the DBR:
Cooke was critical of Bernardo Roman III, the tribe's attorney who filed the federal litigation against his predecessors. Cooke said at one point that Roman "probably never read the rule of ethics."
"The court finds that these statements, while indicative of Judge Cooke's understandable frustration with the parties and proceedings, in no way demonstrate a bias or partiality," Moore wrote.
Cooke dismissed with prejudice the tribe's lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds against its former Miami attorneys: Guy Lewis and Michael Tein of Lewis Tein and Dexter Lehtinen of Lehtinen Schultz Riedi Catalano de la Fuente.
 Here's the whole order.

Friday, October 24, 2014

11th Circuit "emergency" over

On October 17, the 11th Circuit, per Chief Judge Carnes, issued an order putting an end to the emergency order that allowed cases to be decided by panels with only one active 11th Circuit judge.  Now we are back to at least 2 11th Circuit judges per panel.

Aly Palmer of the Daily Report has this story:
With his court back to nearly full strength, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has announced the end of a court emergency.
In December, Chief Judge Edward Carnes declared an emergency, saying that cases could be decided by three-judge panels composed of only one of the court's judges plus two visiting judges. At the time, four of the court's 12 slots were vacant.
Since then, three vacancies have been filled. Most recently, Judge Jill Pryor of Atlanta started work two weeks ago. On Friday, Carnes signed a new order declaring the emergency over.
Friday's order suggested that the public will continue to see decisions from panels that include only one member of the court. Carnes explained that panels composed of fewer than two Eleventh Circuit judges that have had any appeals either orally argued or submitted to them for decision before Friday remain authorized to decide the cases.
Federal law says that when federal appeals courts decide cases by three-judge panels, at least two of the judges must be members of that particular appeals court. An exception includes the chief judge's ability to certify an "emergency."
Meantime, the big federal bar shindig tonight is at the JW Marriott.  Who is in?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Judge Gold formally retires

The blog reported back in August the sad news that Judge Gold was formally retiring this month and that he would close his chambers and take inactive status.  John Pacenti of the Daily Business Review covered the story last week and reports that Judge Gold is happy about moving on to the next phase of his life:

But for now, he is focused on his baby granddaughter in New York. His wife, Susan F. Gold, retired last year as an associate professor of pediatrics and education at the University of Miami, and they want to focus on family and travel.
"It's about at this phase in my life, reprioritizing while I'm healthy," he told the Daily Business Review. "We wanted to explore really other interests in our lives together and independently."
Gold was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 after serving as a state circuit judge, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig and a Miami-Dade County attorney. He took senior status in 2011.
"This is a tough week because there is a sense of sweet sorrow in retrospect, but also an excitement about living a mindful phase of my life," the 70-year-old judge said. "At this stage, it's time to ask your next question: Who are you now, and what is it you want to do with the time you have left?"
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said Gold was one of the hardest-working judges in the district."He always has been one of our more scholarly judges," Moreno said. "We are going to miss him because he was such a hard worker, but I'm delighted he wants to spend more time with his family. He certainly deserves a break." 
Judge Gold was at Judge Bloom's investiture last week and looked great. 

He handled some of the biggest cases in this district -- Exxon, UBS, Shaygan...  But more importantly than the brilliant way he handled those cases was that he was a great person and made everyone feel like they were getting a fair shake.  He'll be missed on the bench.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Akerman lawyer Ryan Roman opens Mignonette

It's a fantastic restaurant. If oysters are your thing, there's no better place.  And it's the best lobster roll in town.  I highly recommend it. 

Plus, for better or worse, you'll likely see a bunch of judges and lawyers.  After all, owner Ryan Roman is a lawyer himself at Akerman:

Ryan Roman is an associate in the Litigation Practice Group. His commercial litigation practice includes a focus on securities litigation matters, including SEC enforcement proceedings and securities class-action defense. He has also represented portfolio companies in private equity litigation matters. In addition, Ryan is also experienced servicing clients in the hospitality industry, having defended restaurant shareholders in various business disputes. He has defended various businesses in consumer class actions, and represented companies in the enforcement of money judgments.

But he has a passion for food, running the popular food blog, MiamiRankings.

Ryan opened the joint with Blue Collar's Danny Serfer.  From the review:
"We're both into oysters and classic raw bar ... and of course prime rib," Roman says. "So we're excited to share all that at Mignonette. Oysters are an aphrodisiac, the more you eat them, the more you love to eat them. We just want to have a place to eat cold seafood that's fun, casual and has curse words on the radio."
PS: Evoking sort of an ethical husband/wife privilege, Roman says that Blue Collar will no longer be eligible for his restaurant rankings.
 The Miami New Times review is great:

The idea for Mignonette came to the pals a year and a half ago over a bowl of ramen at Momi Ramen in Brickell. Roman was at first hesitant. What swayed him to risk pouring his life savings into the business? "I'd rather live in a restaurant than a house," he explains.
So a little more than a month ago, they decided to open Mignonette with a fairly expansive menu of simple, classic preparations. To execute their vision, they plucked Mignonette's chef de cuisine, Bobby Frank, from Blue Collar, where he was Serfer's protégé. Then they decorated the place in an "Old Florida meets New Orleans" style that includes tan leather banquettes, a marble raw bar, and hanging constellations festooned from copper pipes. There's also an intimate back room with original wall art consisting of life-size fish rendered in gold leaf by artist Reed van Brunschot.
I like the story of the two owners on the Mignonette website:
Following the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, Ryan Roman cuts all of his steaks with a pen.  A Miami native, Roman began writing about food and restaurants in 2009, with the launch of his blog, Miami’s Restaurant Power Rankings.  Roman also contributes as a columnist for Edible South Florida.  When he is not writing about food, he is a practicing attorney with the law firm Akerman LLP.
Roman first met chef Daniel Serfer after becoming a regular at Blue Collar, but perhaps the more compelling story is when the two didn’t meet.  Unbeknownst to Roman, Serfer would read Roman’s blog while laboring away in a kitchen in New York City, during a short absence from the Miami culinary scene.  Operating under the misimpression that the namesake “power rankings” on the blog were the result of some scientific algorithm, as opposed to one person’s arbitrary opinion, Serfer dreamed of opening his own restaurant back in Miami and achieving a spot on the rankings.  When Blue Collar opened, Serfer invited Roman to a media preview, having pushed his public relations company to free up one extra seat.  The stars were aligned for the two to meet and for their friendship to begin.
Roman declined the invitation.  Unaware of the backstory that Serfer had created in his head, and generally preferring to avoid what he perceived as freebie meals, Roman saw the invitation as just another piece of PR material for the circular filing cabinet.
But unlike Sharknado, this story has a happy ending.  Roman discovered Blue Collar in due time, falling for its emphasis on comfort food, its homey vibe, and its friendly staff.
After developing a friendship during which time Roman served as best man at Serfer’s wedding and godfather to Serfer’s firstborn child (who is affectionately referred to as Steak), and during which time Roman’s fear of commitment made it impossible for him to return such favors to Serfer, the two conspired to open Mignonette.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Anthony Bosch pleads guilty

Here's the AP:

The former owner of a South Florida anti-aging clinic pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of illegally providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes including high-profile Major League Baseball players, most notably New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
Anthony Bosch, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles. Bosch, who called himself "Dr. T," faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence but is likely to get far less because of cooperation with prosecutors and with MLB's investigation into player drug use.
Defense attorney Guy Lewis said Bosch, 51, provided key information to MLB investigators that led to suspensions of 14 players, including the record season-long suspension handed to Rodriguez for this past year. Bosch also met numerous times with federal prosecutors and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Lewis said.
"He was faithful in terms of appearing each and every time he was requested to," Lewis said. "Each and every time he appeared, answered questions and was available."
...In a plea agreement, Bosch admitted to providing testosterone to baseball players, from professionals to high school athletes. Six other people are charged in the case, and Bosch has agreed to testify against them if they go to trial.

He was also reinstated on bond:
Earlier this month, Gayles revoked Bosch's $100,000 bail because he twice tested positive after his August arrest for cocaine use and had missed appointments at drug treatment programs. On Thursday, Gayles agreed to release Bosch on bail with several new conditions, including a requirement that Bosch attended a 24-hour inpatient drug treatment program.Prosecutors did not object, and Lewis said Bosch needs the treatment badly.
"You have before you an individual who does need counseling. We recognize that. He's begging for it," Lewis said.
When Bosch is not in the treatment program, he will remain on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Gayles said. Sentencing for Bosch is set for Dec. 18.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Deputy U.S. Marshal from Miami arrested on drug ripoff charge in California

From News10 ABC in Yuba City, California:

One of three men arrested following a suspected marijuana theft is a deputy US Marshal.
Clorenzo Mack Griffin, 37, works out of the US Marshal's Service office in Miami and has been a deputy marshal since April 2010, said Drew Wade, a spokesman for the US Marshal's Service in Washington.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Griffin and two other men were in a Jeep that ran a red light around the corner from the CHP's Yuba City office on Saturday afternoon.
Following a short chase, the three occupants abandoned the vehicle near the Sutter County Jail and fled on foot.
A Sutter County sheriff's deputy saw one of the men, identified as Griffin, run into a secure area of the jail property and draw a handgun from his waistband.
The CHP says the deputy fired at Griffin, who wasn't hit, and was taken into custody along with the other two suspects without further incident.
Investigators found a large amount of marijuana in the Jeep and said their subsequent investigation determined the pot had been stolen at gunpoint from an individual in Yuba City.

Federal Bar invites pro bono participation

The Federal Bar Association had a nice luncheon at the Hyatt today asking lawyers to become more involved in pro bono cases at both the state and federal level.  Judge Salter from the 3rd DCA and Judge Jordan from the 11th Circuit spoke.  Good peeps.  Here's a picture from the event:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scalia says no to sentencing on acquitted conduct

Unfortunately, he only got Justices Thomas and Ginsburg to agree with him, so the Court denied cert in Jones v. U.S.  From Scalia's dissent on the cert denial:
This has gone on long enough. The present petition
presents the nonhypothetical case the Court claimed to
have been waiting for. And it is a particularly appealing
case, because not only did no jury convict these defendants
of the offense the sentencing judge thought them guilty of,
but a jury acquitted them of that offense. Petitioners were
convicted of distributing drugs, but acquitted of conspiring
to distribute drugs. The sentencing judge found that
petitioners had engaged in the conspiracy of which the
jury acquitted them. The Guidelines, petitioners claim,
recommend sentences of between 27 and 71 months for
their distribution convictions. But in light of the conspiracy
finding, the court calculated much higher Guidelines
ranges, and sentenced Jones, Thurston, and Ball to 180,
194, and 225 months’ imprisonment.
On petitioners’ appeal, the D. C. Circuit held that even if
their sentences would have been substantively unreasonable
but for judge-found facts, their Sixth Amendment
rights were not violated. 744 F. 3d 1362, 1369 (2014). We
should grant certiorari to put an end to the unbroken
string of cases disregarding the Sixth Amendment—or to
eliminate the Sixth Amendment difficulty by acknowledging
that all sentences below the statutory maximum are
substantively reasonable.
It's terrible to me that in a free society an individual can be sentenced to conduct for which he was found not guilty.  How is this acceptable?

Monday, October 13, 2014


Well, the federal courthouse is closed today.  It's one of those weird days, though, when schools are still open.  I wonder what most law firms are doing today?  Please post in the comments whether your firm is open or closed.

If you are working, and are looking for some interesting reading, check out this article in the Washington Post about Supreme Court reasoning:

Twice this past week readers wondered why I had forgotten a key element of one of the most basic aspects of journalism: the old who-what-where-when-and-how.
It was clear what the Supreme Court had done, they said, but where’s the why? There’s a pretty good defense for that, though it is frustrating for all: The justices never gave their reasons.
In an in­cred­ibly consequential first week of the term, the court allowed same-sex marriages to proliferate around the nation, temporarily put on hold and then gave the green light to rulings ending the bans in Idaho and Nevada, and refereed state laws governing voting in next month’s midterm elections.
All without explanation.
 Judge Kopf believes Judge Arnold would have been excellent on the Supreme Court.  President Clinton was close to nominating him instead of Breyer.  As I've said before Justice Breyer is one of the most conservative Justices on the Supreme Court as it relates to criminal justice issues, so things would have been quite different had Arnold made it instead.

With all this Supreme Court talk, you should check in with ScotusBlog tomorrow for new Court orders and cert grants.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tick Tock

The statute is about to run on the Scott Rothstein case.  And a big indictment came out today against Former regional vice president of TD Bank Frank Spinosa, who is represented by Sam Rabin. Judge Bloom got the case. The new judges have all the fun...

From the Sun-Sentinel article:
Spinosa, 53, was released on $250,000 bond after a brief appearance in federal court. He was placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring and is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 24, court records show.

His lawyer, Samuel Rabin, said Spinosa will plead not guilty and plans to go to trial on the allegations.

"He's innocent and he wants his day in court," Rabin said.

Spinosa has known for years that he was under criminal investigation and had offered to surrender if the government filed charges against him, Rabin said. He called the arrest at Spinosa's home "totally unnecessary" and "one of those typical Rothstein case flourishes."

The grand jury indictment, unsealed Friday morning, charges Spinosa with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and five counts of wire fraud. Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison and hefty fines.

Spinosa is accused of facilitating Rothstein's fraud by giving investors a "false sense of security" and inducing them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars with Rothstein by lying about how much money was in Rothstein's bank accounts and who could withdraw it.

Spinosa signed off on fraudulent so-called "lock letters" that led Rothstein's investors to believe that money in some of Rothstein's bank accounts was being held only for them, according to the charges.

Prosecutors also say Spinosa lied and used a script containing "talking points" prepared by Rothstein when he met with some investors and participated in conference calls with others to help reassure them their investments were safe.

Rothstein's fraud involved fooling investors into thinking they were making huge profits by investing in confidential legal settlements. He told investors they were making a lot of money by fronting smaller lump sums to plaintiffs who had won settlements or judgments and wanted quick access to cash. The investors would supposedly reap huge profits by later collecting the full amount of the settlements.

Rothstein later admitted it was all a lie and he used the money to pay for what he liked to call his "rock star lifestyle." Cash from new investors was used to pay out "profits" to older investors and keep the fraud alive.

"While defendant Spinosa and Rothstein did not discuss the fraudulent nature of the confidential settlements, they did agree to the preparation of the false and fraudulent 'lock letters' and the making of false statements to investors," according to the indictment.

Change (UPDATED)

The local rules committee has proposed new rules here. Chief Judge Moore ordered:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Court will conduct an en banc public hearing on the proposed rule amendments on November 14, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. at the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 701 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401. Those who desire to appear and offer oral comments on the proposed rule amendments at this hearing shall file written notice to that effect with the Clerk of the Court no later than five days prior to the hearing. Those who desire to offer only written comments on the proposed rule amendments should do so in accordance with the mechanism provided on the Court’s website in connection the publication of the proposed rule amendments.

En banc in West Palm on a Friday afternoon... I'm sure the Miami judges are thrilled! (UPDATE -- A commenter informs me that Judge Rosenberg's investiture is that day in West Palm Beach, so the judges will be there anyway.) But hey we are a courteous bunch. From the intro to the proposed rules:

Members of the bar and the Court are proud of the long tradition of courteous practice in the Southern District of Florida. Indeed, it is a fundamental tenet of this Court that attorneys in this District be governed at all times by a spirit of cooperation, professionalism, and civility. For example, and without limiting the foregoing, it remains the Court's expectation that counsel will seek to accommodate their fellow practitioners, including in matters of scheduling, whenever reasonably possible and that counsel will work to eliminate disputes by reasonable agreement to the fullest extent permitted by the bounds of zealous representation and ethical practice.

I wonder if someone is going to propose that the Rule say: "that counsel AND THE COURT..."

Meantime, there is a new holiday schedule.  

Peace and Love!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Lawyers heart adverbs

The WSJ has a whole article about the love affair:

No part of speech has had to put up with so much adversity as the adverb. The grammatical equivalent of cheap cologne or trans fat, the adverb is supposed to be used sparingly, if at all, to modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. As Stephen King succinctly put it: “The adverb is not your friend.”
Not everybody, however, looks askance at the part of speech. Indeed, there is at least one place where the adverb not only flourishes but wields power—the American legal system.
Adverbs in recent years have taken on an increasingly important—and often contentious—role in courthouses. Their influence has spread with the help of lawmakers churning out new laws packed with them.
A U.S. appellate court, for example, this past summer wrestled with the question of whether a defendant could have “knowingly” aimed a laser pointer at a helicopter if he mistakenly assumed the beam wouldn’t reach the aircraft.
Words such as “knowingly,” “intentionally” and “recklessly,” which deal with criminal intent, pop up most frequently, but plenty of other adverbs have enjoyed the spotlight. When the U.S. Supreme Court in June recognized religious protections of closely held companies, justices pondered the significance of an adverb in a 1993 federal statute that guards against laws that “substantially burden” the exercise of religion.
“Indiscriminately” was pivotal in a federal appeals court ruling in January striking down the “net neutrality” rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission. Preventing broadband providers from charging sites like Netflix more money for faster speeds would effectively treat them like common carriers, which are required by law to “serve the public indiscriminately,” the court said.
In a tax case from the summer, lawyers for the Internal Revenue Service defended their decision to freeze the bank accounts of a former Pennsylvania state senator, only to see their arguments founder on the word “quickly.” Tax law allows the government to immediately freeze the assets of a suspected tax cheat who “appears to be designing quickly” to hide his wealth. But the judge said there was nothing quick about the defendant’s cash and real-estate transactions, which spanned several years.
“Contrary to the ordinary view that adverbs are superfluous, law generally, and criminal law especially, emerges through its adverbs,” James M. Donovan, a legal anthropology professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, recently wrote in a paper on the subject.
Mr. Donovan, who runs the school’s law library, said that he was immediately drawn to the subject after encountering Mr. King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” in a faculty reading group. “His blanket dismissal of the importance of adverbs got me uncomfortable,” said Mr. Donovan, “but it took a while to articulate why.”
The number of adverb-dense disputes over how to properly construe a criminal statute has surged since the 1980s, according to a case-law search conducted by Brooklyn Law School professor Lawrence Solan, author of “The Language of Judges.” On the federal level, he said, the criminalization of white-collar and regulatory offenses in the past 30 years has been especially good for adverbs. So has a trend in courts toward painstakingly precise textual analysis, the professor said.
In point of fact, an adverb once got a hearing before the nation’s most eminent jurists.
A U.S. Supreme Court case in 2009, Flores-Figueroa v. U.S., ultimately turned on the modifying reach of the word “knowingly,” tucked into a federal statute defining the crime of aggravated identity theft.
The petitioner was a Mexican citizen arrested for giving his employer counterfeit Social Security and alien registration cards that displayed his name but other people’s identification numbers. He convincingly argued that the presence of “knowingly” in the law required the government to prove that he knew the IDs were fake.
The justices unanimously agreed with him. “As a matter of ordinary English grammar, ’knowingly’ is naturally read as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.
Bryan Garner, editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, is regarded by scholars as the dean of legal prose. He says legislators and adverbs need one another.
Statutes “have to be hyper-literal and generic,” he said. “A fiction writer might say he barreled down the street. There is no way a statute can say, ‘If you barrel your car.’ ”
Says Mr. Garner: “No legislative drafter ever says: Did I pull my readers in? That’s something Stephen King has to ask.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Congratulations to Judge Federico Moreno

He was just appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to serve as a member of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference. This is a big honor for our former chief.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Anthony Bosch tests positive for cocaine...

...and Judge Darrin Gayles revoked his bond. From Curt Anderson:

The former owner of the clinic at the center of Major League Baseball's recent performance-enhancing drug scandal had his bail revoked Monday because of recent positive tests for cocaine use.

U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles ordered Anthony Bosch jailed immediately. Bosch tested positive twice in August for cocaine use, after he was released on $100,000 bail under conditions including no use of illegal drugs and random urine testing. Gayles also found Bosch wasn't regularly attending voluntary drug treatment.

"I simply have no confidence in his ability to appear as required," Gayles said at a hearing.

Prosecutors say Bosch's Coral Gables clinic, Biogenesis of America, was involved in a conspiracy to provide performance-enhancing drugs to MLB players and even high school athletes. Fourteen MLB players were suspended following the probe, including a season-long suspension this year for New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Bosch, 51, is scheduled to plead guilty next week and has been cooperating in the investigation against others who were charged, including possibly testifying in those cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael "Pat" Sullivan, however, said authorities were well aware of Bosch's chronic drug problem and fondness for South Beach nightclubs.

"We knew from our investigation that Mr. Bosch was one who liked to party," Sullivan said.

Bosch attorney Guy Lewis, himself a former Miami U.S. attorney, pointed out that Bosch had not tested positive for cocaine since Aug. 18 and was doing his best to attend a drug treatment program. Lewis denied that Bosch has been frequenting nightclubs and said that he is living up to his cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

"I can tell you he's not out on South Beach," Lewis said. "The last thing he's doing is out being notorious in South Florida. He has a drug problem, though. He is addressing it."

Although Sullivan did not ask for Bosch's bail to be revoked, Gayles refused to simply place Bosch under a curfew or order more frequent urine testing. Gayles also was unmoved by Lewis' comment that Bosch was under a great deal of pressure and was the subject of death threats.

"The pressure on the defendant, I don't find a mitigating factor," the judge said. "I don't find that he's a good candidate to remain out on bond."

Look who is all new and fancy on First Monday in October

Yup, the Supreme Court of the United States is back in business and it has rolled out a new website.

The October 2014 Term starts out with an interesting argument this morning in Heien v. North Carolina, in which the Justices will consider whether a police officer’s mistake of law provides the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to stop a car. Here's the preview from ScotusBlog:
The Supreme Court will open the October 2014 Term on Monday morning by hearing arguments that may bring back bad memories of convoluted law school discussions: may an officer’s reasonable “mistake of law” provide reasonable suspicion to stop a car under the Fourth Amendment? The Court has previously ruled that a reasonable mistake of fact will not violate the Fourth Amendment. Although Jeff Fisher, an experienced Supreme Court litigator, has presented some formidable arguments to rule for Heien, he may face an uphill battle persuading a majority of Justices that a reasonable, but mistaken, interpretation of state law should receive different constitutional treatment.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Another monster sentence

This time it's 27 years for mortgage fraud. 27 YEARS! And that's less than the prosecutor was asking for...

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Florida developer Domenic Rabuffo was sentenced Tuesday to more than 27 years in federal prison for a North Carolina mortgage fraud scheme that bilked four major banks out of more than $50 million in loans made to dozens of Floridians who posed as straw buyers.

The Miami man, now 78, is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Since he was jailed without bail after his indictment in January, Rabuffo has been hospitalized several times and had carotid surgery to restore the flow of blood to his brain. His lawyers say he also has diabetes and a degenerative spinal disc problem that has in a wheelchair.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore noted that the mortgage fraud scheme contributed to the country’s economic decline and indicated his sentence was partially designed to deter others.

Rabuffo is appealing the jury verdict that found him and several others guilty of conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud and multiple counts of bank fraud.

Rabuffo’s lawyer at sentencing Tuesday in Miami said a 60 month sentence would be appropriate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwayne Williams asked for the 327 month sentence, slightly more than 27 years and at the top of the sentencing guidelines for a defendant with his record.

UPDATE -- Meantime, Scott Rothstein's ex-partner Stuart Rosenfeldt was sentenced this morning by Judge Cooke to a 33-month prison term on conspiracy conviction.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Irfan Khan Strikes Back

You remember Irfan Khan, the supposedly big terrorism case that was dismissed a few summers ago. Well, Khan is seeking revenge. From the AP:

Irfan Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan with a wife and two children, worked hard to realize the American dream after arriving in this country in 1994. He held jobs in South Florida as a taxi driver, service technician and operated a limousine company. He was an avid cricket player. Then he stepped up to a California computer industry job in 2011 that promised a good living.

A short time later, Khan was indicted along with his father and brother - both Muslim imams at South Florida mosques - with conspiring to provide up to $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban terror group. Khan spent 319 days in solitary confinement before federal prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges in June 2012.

"It was very, very hard," Khan said of his days spent praying and reading in that lonely cell.

Later, a federal judge ordered the acquittal of Khan's brother for lack of evidence, although their elderly father, Hafiz Khan, was convicted at trial and sentenced to 25 years behind bars. He's serving that time at a federal prison in North Carolina.

Now, Irfan Khan is suing the U.S. government for malicious prosecution, accusing authorities of essentially manufacturing a non-existent case against him. He is seeking potentially tens of millions of dollars in damages. A Miami federal judge refused the Justice Department's attempt to get the case dismissed, and it's headed for a June 2015 trial date.

I simply look at this as another opportunity to post one of my favorite clips:

Poll on Judge Fuller

The Daily Report is running a poll on what should happen to Judge Fuller.  Here's the poll, and here's the latest from Alyson Palmer of the DR on what's going on:

The Associated Press reported that it obtained a recording of the 911 call made by the woman, identifying herself as Kelli Fuller. According to the AP, the woman said she needed paramedics, saying, "He's beating on me. Please help me."
Fuller agreed to spend up to 24 weeks in a domestic violence intervention program and undergo an alcohol and substance abuse assessment to resolve the resulting misdemeanor battery case against him. His criminal defense lawyer has said that Fuller made no admission of guilt and that if Fuller completes the program, the case against him will be dismissed and his arrest record expunged.
Fuller said in a statement issued then that he regretted the incident, calling it embarrassing. He said he agreed to pre-trial diversion "after consulting with my family, and deciding that it was in everyone's best interests to put this incident behind us. While I regret that my decision means that the full and complete facts regarding this incident will likely not come out, I have no doubt that it is what is best for all involved."
Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has initiated an investigation into the matter. Although only Congress can remove a judge from office through the rarely-used power of impeachment, the federal courts by statute have some power to discipline their own judges.
Each federal appeals court's Judicial Council, made up of appellate and district court judges, can impose a range of punishments that include censure and asking a judge to retire voluntarily. If a Judicial Council concludes that a judge may have engaged in conduct that might constitute grounds for impeachment, the council must refer the matter to the national Judicial Conference, which in turn can send the matter to the U.S. House of Representatives for possible impeachment proceedings.