Friday, July 17, 2015
Last night’s Judicial Luminaries reception and dinner at the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove—put on by the Spellman-Hoeveler American Inn of Court and Legal Services of Greater Miami—was a fun, informative event that featured a panel of six of our federal and state judges: Judge Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; Judge Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Judge Bronwyn Miller of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit; Chief Judge Moore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Judge Thornton of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit; and Judge Walsh of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. Judge Salter of the Third District Court of Appeal moderated.
Chief Judge Moore talked about the importance of continuing efforts to secure adequate and safe space for the judges, the lawyers, and the public. The Chief also mentioned that the bench could be changing soon—Judges Zloch, Middlebrooks, and Martinez are now eligible for senior status and (if my notes are correct) six others will be eligible over the next few years. Wow.
Judge Jordan said that the workload on the Eleventh Circuit has lessened a bit since he joined, though one vacancy still exists (Alabama), two judges have left the court (Judges Barkett and Birch), and Judge Hill retired and another may retire soon. The Eleventh Circuit, he said, is still among the top three circuits in the country with cases per judges. Each judge has about 12 to 15 death-penalty cases per year.
Judge Jordan also said that pro se appeals make up about a quarter of the Eleventh Circuit’s docket, and mentioned opportunities for lawyers to take these cases on.
Judge Jordan said it’s “not easy” to obtain oral argument, citing, among other things, the Eleventh Circuit’s tradition in granting it sparingly. Judge Huck—who frequently sits by designation on the courts of appeals—also said this about getting oral argument: “It helps if your appeal has some merit.”
Finally, Judge Huck gave good, practical advice, saying that judges don’t like surprises and that lawyers shouldn’t try to duck judges’ questions. He also encouraged lawyers to take on pro bono cases, mentioning the court’s volunteer-lawyer program. He called this a win-win-win situation—a win for the client, for the court, and for the lawyer.