Friday, April 20, 2018

Jane and Marty Raskin join President Trump's legal team

There is always a Miami connection.

From McClatchy:
A husband-and-wife legal team from Miami is joining President Donald Trump’s personal legal team in the special counsel's Russia investigation.

Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, two former federal prosecutors and veteran defense lawyers who have a private practice in Coral Gables, are joining Trump’s team along with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“Jane and Marty are highly respected former federal prosecutors with decades of experience. They have a nationwide practice and reputation for excellence and integrity,” Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement Thursday.
The big debate among criminal lawyers for the past few months has been — would you take that case if he called... the Raskins have said yes. They are well-respected lawyers down here, who are apparently Trump supporters.  Their website is here. And they are joining Rudy Guliani.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Congrats to Judge Lauren Louis

The investiture of Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis was wonderful. She gave a heartfelt speech that was one of the best investiture talks I have seen. It's easy to see that she will be a great judge. Congrats!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

News & Notes

1.  Gorsuch is channeling his inner-Scalia.  The opinion is Dimaya v. Sessions.  District judges should get ready for the ensuing litigation.  It shows again that the trial and appellate courts are so law-and-rder conservative with its rulings that it takes a slightly less conservative Supreme Court to stop the get-away conviction train every now and then. This time it took Justice Gorsuch. From SCOTUSBlog:
Gorsuch concurred in part and concurred in the judgment. He emphasized at the outset that “[v]ague laws invite arbitrary power.” He defended the originalist foundations for vagueness challenges that Justice Clarence Thomas questioned at length in his dissent, tracing the history of those challenges back to Blackstone’s condemnation of vague statutes and the “tradition of courts refusing to apply vague statutes.” He further noted that the concern with vague statutes was not “confined to the most serious offenses like capital crimes.” Addressing the government’s argument that a more lenient standard of review should apply in civil cases, Gorsuch would have gone even further than the plurality. He suggested that provisions of civil laws should be scrutinized closely for vagueness even outside the deportation context: “Why, for example, would due process require Congress to speak more clearly when it seeks to deport a lawfully resident alien than when it wishes to subject a citizen to indefinite civil commitment, strip him of a business license essential to his family’s living, or confiscate his home?”

2.  Sotomayor broke her shoulder.

3.  RIP Harry Anderson.  When I was growing up, I thought that every judge should be like him (with a little Judge Wapner).  He was the best.  From the LA Times:
"Night Court" and "Dave's World" star Harry Anderson received a tip of the hat from costars and fellow magicians sending out heartfelt tributes to the late sitcom star.

The actor, who died on Monday at age 65, began his lengthy career in stand-up and magic, then notably played judge Harry T. Stone on the Emmy-winning NBC sitcom "Night Court."

Costar John B. Larroquette and several others fondly remembered the actor — and his iconic fedora — with messages honoring Anderson's memory.

"He was wicked smart. He was wicked funny. He had a big laugh. He had a big heart. He delighted in legerdemain especially when he caused someone to scratch their head and proclaim; How the hell did you do that? And he could eat a hamster like no one I ever knew," the actor tweeted late Monday, describing their work on the show as "a carnival fun ride with Harry."

Monday, April 16, 2018

How should we handle attorney-client privilege?

Alan Dershowitz has this proposal:
There is a better and safer way to deal with this issue than the current approach of using prosecutors and FBI agents to do the sifting. A law should be enacted under which anytime the government is seeking to search an office or home that may contain confidential and privileged information, the search team must be accompanied by a judicial officer – a judge, a magistrate or someone appointed to fulfill that function.
That judicial officer should be the only one ever to read material that is eventually deemed to be confidential. A judge can be trusted not to leak far better than FBI agents or prosecutors. And if a judge were to leak, it would be easy to identify the source of the unlawful disclosure, since the single judge would be the only one to have access to the confidential material.
And Trump's lawyers have filed papers this weekend asking to do an initial review before the government gets a chance.  Here's the WSJ coverage:
Lawyers for President Donald Trump say they should be allowed to review the material seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week from Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen before government investigators begin their ​own, according to a court filing late Sunday.
The filing asks​ a Manhattan federal judge to stop the government from using a “taint team” of prosecutors to review the evidence for documents protected by attorney-client privilege and to issue an order allowing Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump and their legal teams to comb through it first for “materials over which the President asserts privilege.”
After Mr. Trump identifies which communications he believes are privileged, the government taint team can make objections, the filing said, and the court can make the final determination about which materials investigators are allowed to see.
 Trump won't be at the hearing today.  He's in Miami.  Here's how to avoid the traffic.

Friday, April 13, 2018

SDFLA Judges appoint Ben Greenberg as U.S. Attorney

Attorney General Sessions appointed Ben Greenberg as U.S. Attorney, but that appointment expires on April 28.  The President still has not nominated a U.S. Attorney for this District.  So under 28 U.S.C. 546(d), the judges appointed Greenberg "until further Order of th[e] Court."

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Two federal judges nominated in Florida, but not the SDFLA

But we did get a Marshal:
 If confirmed, Gadyaces S. Serralta of Florida will serve as the United States Marshal for the Southern District of Florida.  Gadyaces Serralta is currently a Major with the Miami-Dade Police Department, a position he has held since 2015.  In this capacity, he also serves as the Commander of the Palmetto Bay Policing Unit. Mr. Serralta began his law enforcement career with the Miami-Dade Police Department in 1990.  He served as a patrol officer and sergeant, working primarily with the Criminal Street Gangs Unit and Organized Crime Section, and then served as lieutenant in charge of the Robbery Intervention and Narcotics Detail before assuming his current position as Major. Mr. Serralta earned a B.S. in Criminal Justice Studies from Florida International University and a M.S. in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Here are the two judicial nominees from the Middle and Northern Districts:

If confirmed, Wendy Williams Berger of Florida will serve as a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  Wendy Berger serves as a District Judge on the Fifth District Court of Appeal, where she has served since her appointment by the Governor in 2012. Prior to her elevation to the Court of Appeal, Judge Berger served for seven years as a Circuit Court Judge on the Seventh Judicial Circuit, where she handled the full range of civil, criminal, and death penalty cases. Before ascending to the bench, Judge Berger served for four years as Assistant General Counsel in the Executive Office of the Governor. Prior to joining the Governor's Office, Judge Berger spent seven years prosecuting criminal cases as an Assistant State Attorney. Judge Berger earned her B.S., cum laude, from Florida State University and her J.D. from the Florida State University College of Law, where she was a member of the Florida State University Law Review.
If confirmed, Allen C. Winsor of Florida will serve as a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  Allen Winsor serves as a Judge on the First District Court of Appeal. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Mr. Winsor served for nearly three years as the Solicitor General of the State of Florida, where he represented Florida's interests in State and Federal courts and argued two cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. Before joining the Florida Attorney General's Office, Mr. Winsor was a partner in the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, P.A., where he practiced civil, constitutional, and appellate litigation. Upon graduation from law school, Mr. Winsor served as a law clerk to Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Mr. Winsor earned his B.S.B.A. from Auburn University and his J.D., with high honors, from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif and served as editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Trump nominates Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant to 11th Circuit

This nomination is for Julie Carnes' seat.  From the AJC:
President Donald Trump on Tuesday will nominate Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant to fill an upcoming vacancy on the federal appeals court in Atlanta, according to an administration official familiar with the nomination.
If approved by the Senate, Grant, 40, would succeed Judge Julie Carnes, who will become a senior judge in June. She was appointed to the state appellate court bench by Gov. Nathan Deal in January 2017.
Savannah attorney Pat O’Connor, former president of the State Bar of Georgia, said the nomination comes as no surprise to him.
“Through her service on the Georgia Supreme Court, Justice Grant has proven herself to be a bright star, both intellectually and in terms of judicial philosophy,” O’Connor said. “She’s thoughtful, articulate and thorough.”

“All of his comments have involved braggadocio and zero remorse."

That was Judge Robert Scola in sentencing Cocaine Cowboy Mickey Monday to an above-guideline sentence. From Curt Anderson at the AP:
A smuggler who flew loads of drugs for Colombian cartels during Miami’s “cocaine cowboys” era in the 1980s was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday for using his old talents in a sophisticated auto theft ring.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola imposed the relatively harsh sentence — more than four years higher than prosecutors recommended — because of the intricacy of the theft scheme, a total loss of about $1.8 million and because 72-year-old Mickey Munday boasted and bragged constantly for years about his cocaine smuggling past.

“All of his comments have involved braggadocio and zero remorse,” Scola said at a hearing.

Munday spent most of the 1990s in prison after pleading guilty to drug smuggling charges involving tons of cocaine from Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel and also the Cali cartel during the 1980s. He frequently talked about his exploits in media interviews, social media posts, and in a starring role in the 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein said Munday transferred his abilities to evade law enforcement to the auto theft ring because he couldn’t resist getting back into the criminal game.

“It wasn’t enough to talk about the past. He couldn’t resist the urge to get back in the criminal action,” Rothstein said. “He traded his wings for wheels.”

But at the hearing, Munday said much of what he said over the years was enhanced or fictional and that he was hoping to land a movie deal for his life story’s rights.

“I write about what I know. I combine stories,” he said, adding that he had no arrests after his original release from prison until 2017 for the car theft ring. “I have done everything I could to stay on the straight and narrow.”

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Slowwwwwwww pace

The Supreme Court has decided only 18 cases this Term. That's very slow compared to other Terms. Some have said the new dynamics with Justice Gorsuch are causing the slow down. Others have said it's because there are huge and divisive cases, like gerrymandering and cell-site data. Here's a Reuters article about the lag in decisions:
Supreme Court experts expect the justices to issue a larger-than-normal number of 5-4 rulings in the coming months. That would increase the chances of conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes sides with the court’s four liberals in major cases, casting the deciding votes.

“It’s reasonable to suggest there are going to be fewer unanimous decisions and more division,” said Nicole Saharsky, a lawyer who often has argued cases before the court.

Meantime, I love that this guy went to trial over videotaping a local and public meeting, which was held in the secretive federal courthouse (that doesn't allow photography). The locals should not be able to avoid the openness that usually attach to those types of meetings simply by going to a federal courthouse. I hope he appeals.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Kerri Ruttenberg to speak at Federal Bar Association meeting

I usually don't post about local events because there are just too many to keep up with, but this one is worth mentioning. Kerri Ruttenberg, a partner at Jones Day in DC, will be speaking at the local Federal Bar Association's lunch meeting next Wednesday, April 11. She is a wonderful speaker and will be discussing graphics for lawyers. You've seen all of the bad graphics lawyers use these days... Kerri gives a great talk about how to make them better. Sign up here.

In other news, Judge Mark Walker absolutely crushed Rick Scott and Pam Bondi in this order yesterday. It starts out this way:
Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, Defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards. They ask this Court to stay its prior orders. ECF No. 163.


Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of Politico's Playbook summarize the order:

It was a little challenging putting together Florida Playbook because it took extra time to pull the choicest quotes from federal Judge Mark E. Walker's order on Wednesday torching Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi's legal arguments as the state defends its "arbitrary" clemency process. It might have been easier to just reprint the entire order. Wrote the judge: "this court does not play games." Indeed. Nor did he pull punches in noting that the Republican politicians' have "personal stakes in shaping the electorate" in the way they restore felons' voting rights. It's a pretty direct shot at Scott as he plans to announce next week whether he'll run for Senate.
DRIPPING WITH SARCASM, Walker said Scott, Bondi and the rest of the clemency board should get to work respecting the First and Fourteenth Amendments by drafting a constitutionally sound clemency scheme by April 26. "Bitter pills are clearly too hard to swallow," Walker snarked, saying they "fall woefully short" in some areas and "regurgitate" arguments that are "unpersuasive ... disingenuous ... astounding" or are "rooted in neither common sense nor reality."
'SCREAM INTO THE WIND' - Walker even compared them to toddlers: "Defendants stamp their feet and wail that 30 days is 'not [a] reasonably calculated' time to create a constitutional system of executive clemency. This Court again declines to act as a fifth Board member. But drafting new rules need not be complicated or time-consuming. Defendants could simply identify those rules that run afoul of the Constitution and rewrite them with specific and neutral standards. Instead, Defendants scream into the wind various questions it might consider in crafting constitutional rules. Answering those questions may be a better use of time."

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Justice Sotomayor is fighting for criminal defendants

In two opinions this week, she explained how the Supreme Court was giving short shrift to criminal defendants.  SCOTUSblog has more:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from today’s summary reversal, in a 15-page opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sotomayor recounted the facts of the case, positing that if the story “sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet,” she complained, “the Court today insulates that conduct from liability,” “effectively treating qualified immunity as an absolute shield.” In particular, she lamented, the court’s ruling “ultimately rests on a faulty premise”: that the cases on which the 9th Circuit relied “are not identical to this one.” But the Supreme Court, she argued, has never ruled that the “clearly established law” standard is met only when the plaintiff can point to a case with identical facts. “It is enough,” Sotomayor contended, “that governing law places the constitutionality of the officer’s conduct beyond debate” – as Kisela’s was here. But at a minimum, Sotomayor added, there is enough dispute about the facts and the law in Kisela’s case that the court should not have reversed without the benefit of briefing or oral argument on the merits.

The majority opinion may have contained a strong rebuke of the 9th Circuit, but Sotomayor’s dissent concluded with an equally forceful reprimand for her colleagues. She asserted that today’s ruling “is not just wrong on the law; it also sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public” that officers “can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”

Sotomayor had more strong words in her solo dissent from the court’s denial of review in two Florida capital cases. The inmates in the cases, Jesse Guardado and Steven Cozzie, had argued that their death sentences were unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court declined to step in. Sotomayor complained that the Florida Supreme Court had – as it had in two earlier cases – “failed to address an important and substantial Eighth Amendment challenge to capital defendants’ sentences” after the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision holding that the state’s death-penalty-sentencing scheme violates the Constitution. In a somewhat unusual footnote, Sotomayor quoted from a 19th-century essay by the French author AndrĂ© Gide: “’Everything has been said already; but as no one listens, we must always begin again.’”

Good for her.

Meantime, there is a legal dispute in the 9th Circuit about anal clefts and what bikinis are too small for coffee baristas. From Reason:

So, what part of the butt is the ass crack, really? As a legal matter.

You see, a fight over scantily clad baristas in one Washington State community hinges partly on whether the average person can objectively tell which part of the bottom counts as the "anal cleft" and whether police could (or would) objectively be able to measure whether one is exposed or not.

The city of Everett, Washington, is trying to get rid of its "bikini barista" stands with an ordinance that forces the ladies there to wear more coverage. The city claims that these tiny stands where scantily clad women serve coffee are incubators of prostitution, public lewdness, and crime. They're trying to shut them down by forcing the women to button up.

The stands are fighting back and won an initial injunction against the ordinance's enforcement in December. A U.S. district judge determined that Everett's ordinance was too vague in its description of what needed to be covered and thereby risked arbitrary enforcement issues. And the judge further determined that the law likely violated the First Amendment free expression rights of the women who worked there.

Everett is now fighting back itself against the injunction, submitting a legal brief arguing that the judge erred on both counts. Its appeal calls for the judge to be overruled and the injunction dissolved.

You'll never read a more boring 66-page document about butts. It includes four pages listing all the federal court cases used to bolster its claim that there's no real confusion about what counts as an "anal cleft" and that there's no evidence that the women are actually expressing anything in particular in their clothing choices.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Cert grant for Miami FPD

The grant in Stokeling v. US involves whether a state robbery offense that includes "overcoming victim resistance" as an element is a "violent felony" under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  Here is the 11th Circuit per curium opinion, with a concurrence by Judge Martin.  Congrats to the Federal Public Defender's Office for getting cert in this case. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

There is no better job than clerking for a judge.

To prove the point, here's an essay by a former clerk about her judge, Stephen Reinhardt, who passed away last week.

Of course, there are always exceptions.  See, e.g., this horrible judge (confessing to stealing his former intern's dirty panties). 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ft. Lauderdale federal courthouse progress

Good news for federal practitioners in Ft. Lauderdale... we are a step closer to a new federal courthouse.  Here’s the Sun-Sentinel coverage, which also mentions that Sen. Nelson is now aiming to get a new one built in West Palm Beach as well:

Celebrating the award of $190 million to replace the aging Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has set his sights on getting money for a new one for West Palm Beach, too.

Nelson requested U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas ask Chief Judge Michael Moore to form a task force to spearhead the effort for a new West Palm Beach district courthouse. Dimitrouleas is chairman of the task force created about a decade ago for Fort Lauderdale’s effort.

“We’re going to have to do the same for West Palm Beach because it has an old federal courthouse as well,” Nelson said during his Fort Lauderdale courthouse appearance Wednesday with Mayor Dean Trantalis and court officials. The West Palm Beach courthouse, built in 1973, is at 701 Clematis St.

Nelson said a site decision for the new downtown Fort Lauderdale courthouse could come from the General Services Administration as early as June and “then let’s get this project going.” He took a tour of the courthouse while officials pointed out many of the leaks that have plagued the building.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reuben Cahn goes to DC

Reuben Cahn—the Defender in San Diego, the former first assistant here in the SDFLA, and all around good guy—argued in the Supreme Court today.  It looks like it was an interesting argument and that Reuben did very well.  Here’s the review from SCOTUSBlog:
The first case for argument in the Supreme Court this morning has a very interesting underlying issue: whether a policy of shackling all criminal defendants at pretrial appearances in a federal district court is constitutional.
But as United States v. Sanchez-Gomez comes before the justices, the questions presented are more procedural in nature, including whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had the authority to review the “interlocutory” appeal of a group of detainees after the federal district court upheld the U.S. Marshals Service restraint policy in the Southern District of California, which is based in San Diego.
If Kedem comes across as the strait-laced, able Washington lawyer for the prosecution, Cahn has a bit of a Southern California vibe in his voice and manner.
“We believe the courtroom really is a sacred space,” he says, sometimes sticking his hand in his pocket and swaying back slightly from the lectern. “We believe judges control that space and assure that individuals come before the court with dignity and with autonomy and with their liberty interest protected, and that there was a well-established right at common law that, under this court’s precedent, is incorporated in the Due Process Clause to appear before courts free of bonds.”
Cahn mentions the notorious Newgate prison in London, where for centuries detainees faced “terrible conditions, shackled hand and foot, and without question, their bonds would be struck off for their arraignments.”

ICYMI CA11 Judge Julie Carnes to retire on June 18

Pretty surprising news announced late Friday afternoon — Julie Carnes, appointed by President Obama in 2014, is retiring.  This will give President Trump his third appointment to the 11th Circuit (Newsom, Branch) and a real opportunity to shape the small court.

It also shows a big difference between Obama and Trump.  If the measure is quickly filling openings with young judges who share your judicial philosophy on courts, Obama was slow and ineffective with his judicial appointments, while Trump  has been very successful. He has been aggressive, appointing young Federalist Society members in a relatively quick manner.  The Julie Carnes seat, for example, was open for quite some time before Obama cut a deal to put a right-leaning judge on the court, who only stayed for a few years.  Say what you will about Trump, he has been much more effective for his party on judicial appointments.

Carnes says she is going to “render substantial judicial service as a senior judge.”  That’s very nice, but she is also giving Trump an opportunity to replace her with a judge who will sit on the court for a long long time.

Friday, March 23, 2018

News and notes, Ultra Spring Break edition

It's Ultra time in downtown Miami, which means the lawyers will be fleeing around lunchtime today. And then it's spring break next week.

Scott Rothstein is writing his own motions. Paula McMahon has the interesting story here:

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein is imprisoned and disbarred from practicing as an attorney but it hasn’t stopped him from flexing his jailhouse lawyer muscles – on his own behalf.

Rothstein, 55, personally filed court documents on Thursday in his bid to try to force the feds to reduce his 50-year prison sentence.

Rothstein, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, first had to obtain permission from Senior U.S. District Judge James Cohn to file his own court pleadings.

The judge consented and Rothstein, who is being held in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ secretive witness protection program for inmates, typed up a 13-page legal argument and submitted it Thursday.

In other news, Colbert asked RGB whether a hotdog is a sandwich. This is pretty funny.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New Ft. Lauderdale federal courthouse is in the works

From the Sun-Sentinel:
A new federal courthouse for Fort Lauderdale is included in a massive $1.3 trillion federal spending agreement that has bipartisan support and is expected to be approved in the next few days.

News that the $190 million downtown project was part of the package reached the city Wednesday from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who phoned the city’s current and former mayors with the good news.
The 39-year-old current courthouse at Broward Boulevard and Northeast Third Avenue has had a leaking roof and mold problems, doesn’t have sufficient office space and wasn’t designed for current federal security requirements. The courthouse has been No. 3 on the priority list for new courthouses since 2016.

The General Services Administration is conducting a feasibility study for the new courthouse that should be completed by June. It will then be up to the GSA to pick a site for the new courthouse.

In other news, the 11th Circuit held today that possession of a round of ammunition is not sufficient to conduct a search for a firearm. The suppression motion should have been granted. The case is United States v. Johnson. The court framed the issue this way:

This appeal requires us to consider whether the pat down of a burglary suspect and the identification of a round of ammunition in the suspect’s pocket constitutionally allowed the officer to retrieve the round and another item from the suspect’s pocket.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Newest 11th Circuit Judge Lisa Branch sworn in

Here are the cool pictures posted by Judge Stephen Dillard, who did the swearing in:

Imagine how prosecutors would react if your client gave this story

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Federal Prosecutors take note

This blog often criticizes prosecutors and judges, but it's also important to highlight the good stuff going on as well.  Here's Philadelphia's new District Attorney trying to make change.  From Slate:
On Tuesday, [Larry] Krasner issued a memo to his staff making official a wave of new policies he had announced his attorneys last month. The memo starts: “These policies are an effort to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing.”
“These policies are an effort to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing,” Larry Krasner said in an announcement on Tuesday.
The most significant and groundbreaking reform is how he has instructed assistant district attorneys to wield their most powerful tool: plea offers. Over 90 percent of criminal cases nationwide are decided in plea bargains, a system which has been broken beyond repair by mandatory minimum sentences and standardized prosecutorial excess. In an about-face from how these transactions typically work, Krasner’s 300 lawyers are to start many plea offers at the low end of sentencing guidelines. For most nonviolent and nonsexual crimes, or economic crimes below a $50,000 threshold, Krasner’s lawyers are now to offer defendants sentences below the bottom end of the state’s guidelines. So, for example, if a person with no prior convictions is accused of breaking into a store at night and emptying the cash register, he would normally face up to 14 months in jail. Under Krasner’s paradigm, he’ll be offered probation. If prosecutors want to use their discretion to deviate from these guidelines, say if a person has a particularly troubling rap sheet, Krasner must personally sign off.
“It’s the mirror of a lot of offices saying, ‘If you don’t ask for the max you’ve got to get my permission,’ ” says David Rudovsky, a prominent Philadelphia civil rights attorney. For longtime career prosecutors, this will take some getting used to. “You want to be sure your assistants are actually doing it,” Rudovsky says.
Krasner’s lawyers are also now to decline charges for marijuana possession, no matter the weight, effectively decriminalizing possession of the drug in the city for all nonfederal cases. Sex workers will not be charged with prostitution unless they have more than two priors, in which case they’ll be diverted to a specialized court. Retail theft under $500 is no longer a misdemeanor in the eyes of Philly prosecutors, but a summary offense—the lowest possible criminal charge. And when ADAs give probation charges they are to opt for the lower end of the possible spectrum. “Criminological studies show that most violations of probation occur within the first 12 months,” the memo reads, “Assuming that a defendant is violation free for 12 months, any remaining probation is simply excess baggage requiring unnecessary expenditure of funds for supervision.” When a person does break the rules of probation, minor infractions such as missing a PO meeting are not to be punished with jail time or probation revocation, and more serious infractions are to be disciplined with no more than two years in jail.
In a move that may have less impact on the lives of defendants, but is very on-brand for Kranser, prosecutors must now calculate the amount of money a sentence would cost before recommending it to a judge, and argue why the cost is justified. He estimates that it costs $115 a day, or $42,000 a year, to incarcerate one person. So, if a prosecutor seeks a three-year sentence, she must state, on the record, that it would cost taxpayers $126,000 and explain why she thinks this cost is justified. Krasner reminds his attorneys that the cost of one year of unnecessary incarceration “is in the range of the cost of one year’s salary for a beginning teacher, police officer, fire fighter, social worker, Assistant District Attorney, or addiction counselor.”
 Unfortunately, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are doing the exact opposite.  Sessions is pushing for more min/mans.  And Trump is now calling for the death penalty in drug prosecutions.  Here's Krasner's memo.  It's worth a read.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

NY Times covers “Testilying”

The NY Times has a nice piece about testilying — police officers lying under oath — in New York courts.  It’s been a problem for a long time across the county.
Officer Nector Martinez took the witness stand in a Bronx courtroom on Oct. 10, 2017, and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God.

There had been a shooting, Officer Martinez testified, and he wanted to search a nearby apartment for evidence. A woman stood in the doorway, carrying a laundry bag. Officer Martinez said she set the bag down “in the middle of the doorway” — directly in his path. “I picked it up to move it out of the way so we could get in.”

The laundry bag felt heavy. When he put it down, he said, he heard a “clunk, a thud.”

What might be inside?

Officer Martinez tapped the bag with his foot and felt something hard, he testified. He opened the bag, leading to the discovery of a Ruger 9-millimeter handgun and the arrest of the woman.

But a hallway surveillance camera captured the true story: There’s no laundry bag or gun in sight as Officer Martinez and other investigators question the woman in the doorway and then stride into the apartment. Inside, they did find a gun, but little to link it to the woman, Kimberly Thomas. Still, had the camera not captured the hallway scene, Officer Martinez’s testimony might well have sent her to prison.

When Ms. Thomas’s lawyer sought to play the video in court, prosecutors in the Bronx dropped the case. Then the court sealed the case file, hiding from view a problem so old and persistent that the criminal justice system sometimes responds with little more than a shrug: false testimony by the police.
Here’s an old post from this blog about the problem:

Professor Dershowitz has been writing about lying police officers for a long time, and here are some of his rules of the "justice game" from The Best Defense: 
Those are interesting concepts, but the following 4 statements will encourage more discussion: 

So what is to be done about lying police officers?  We need to change rules 8 and 9.  Judges need to start calling them on it.  And of course, lying officers aren't the only problem with the criminal justice system that people have been writing about for years. 
There has been a lot said about prosecutors overcharging, the trial tax, and the Sentencing Guidelines just to name a few of the problems.
What can be done?  Article III judges, with life-time appointments, need to start speaking up and checking the executive branch with more vigor.  
--Dismiss more cases.  (See, e.g., Judge Scola in the "Pakistan terror" case by granting a judgment of acquittal; Judge Cooke in Ben Kuehne's case).    
--Grant more and longer variances. Judges are starting to grant more and more variances, but they are of the 6-12 month variety.  There are too many people in jail for too long because of the Sentencing Guidelines.  A federal conviction ruins people's lives.  Not every case necessitates lengthy sentences and many don't require jail at all.  The Guidelines are made up numbers without any real data to back them up.  I trust judges more than I do the grid.  
--Don't punish defendants for going to trial.  There are too few trials, mostly because the consequences of going to trial versus pleading are way too severe.  Going to trial doesn't mean that every enhancement applies or that variances are off the table.       
--Grant some pretrial motions and require prosecutors to turn over evidence.  I know that judges hate dealing with pretrial motions, especially those dealing with discovery.  But instead of denying them all, it's time to hold prosecutors' feet to the fire a little more.  The feeling out there right now is that each prosecutor decides for him or herself what to turn over and when and that judges aren't going to get involved.  It's also OK to throw out counts (yes, prosecutors overcharge) or to sever a case or to give teeth to any of the other Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Congrats to Bruce Reinhart and Carolyn Bell

Bruce Reinhart was sworn in as our newest magistrate this week.
And Gov. Scott named Carolyn Bell to the circuit bench in Palm Beach County.
When is the last time a married couple both became judges in one week?
Here are some pictures from Reinhart's swearing-in:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CA11: No right to privacy in cell phones at border

A battle of the Pryors.

The 11th Circuit held today in a short 7 page opinion, per Judge William Pryor and joined by a visiting judge, that there is no expectation of privacy to a cell phone searched at the border:
This appeal presents the issue whether warrantless forensic searches of two cell phones at the border violated the Fourth Amendment. U.S. Const. amend IV. Hernando Javier Vergara appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence found on two cell phones that he carried on a cruise from Cozumel, Mexico to Tampa, Florida. He argues that the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014)—that the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement does not apply to searches of cell phones—should govern this appeal. But we disagree. The forensic searches of Vergara’s cell phones occurred at the border, not as searches incident to arrest, and border searches never require a warrant or probable cause. At most, border searches require reasonable suspicion, but Vergara has not argued that the agents lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a forensic search of his phones. We affirm.
  Judge Jill Pryor dissented:
In this case we decide for the first time whether a warrantless forensic search of a cell phone at the United States border comports with the Fourth Amendment. To determine whether a law enforcement practice is constitutional, courts must balance its promotion of legitimate government interests against its intrusion on an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 537 (1985). Here, we weigh the government’s interest in conducting warrantless forensic cell phone searches at the border with Hernando Vergara’s privacy interest in his cellular devices and the data they contain.
The majority opinion concludes that this balance weighs heavily in the government’s favor because the searches occurred at the border. I agree with the majority that the government’s interest in protecting the nation is at its peak at the border, but I disagree with the majority’s dismissal of the significant privacy interests implicated in cell phone searches, as articulated by the Supreme Court in Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014). Because Riley did not involve a border search, I acknowledge that I can, at best, attempt to predict how the Supreme Court would balance the interests here. But my weighing of the government’s heightened interest at the border with Vergara’s privacy interest in his cell phones leads me to a result different than the majority’s. I respectfully dissent because, in my view, a forensic search of a cell phone at the border requires a warrant supported by probable cause.

News & Notes

1.  It's tourney time.  So lots of "sick" lawyers will be staying home today and tomorrow.

2.  Notorious RBG is 85.  Happy birthday.

3.  RIP Stephen Hawking.  "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

4.  RIP Toys R Us.
I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid
they got a million toys at Toys R us that I can play with
I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid
they got the best for so much less, it'll really flip your lid
From bikes to trains to video games
it's the biggest toy store there is (gee whiz!)
I don't wanna grow up, cause maybe if I did
I couldn't be a Toys R Us kid
more games, more toys, oh boy!
I wanna be a Toys R Us kid

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Should prosecutors be guided or unguided in their pursuit of a defendant?

Should prosecutors be “guided” or “unguided” in their pursuit of a defendant?

I thought it was interesting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Special Counsel Robert Mueller by saying he was a “guided missile.”  One criticism of a “special counsel” is that they are “guided” to investigate a particular person.  That was the criticism of Ken Starr when he was guided into the Clintons.  And that may be the criticism of Mueller, especially now that he is questioning witnesses about Stormy Daniels.

Meantime, here in Florida, what will happen with the Florida Supreme Court if Rick Scott runs against Bill Nelson for that Senate seat.  Here’s the AP:
Here’s the problem: If Scott, a Republican, is elected to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, he could be forced to step down nearly a week before his term is scheduled to end. That’s because Congress — at least for now — is scheduled to start its 2019 term on Jan. 3 — before a new governor is sworn into office on Jan. 8.

On paper, and looking back at history, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. Three decades ago, then-Gov. Bob Graham left office early because he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

But an early departure by Scott could complicate a brewing legal fight over the makeup of Florida’s Supreme Court. Scott plans to appoint three new justices on his final day in office. If he leaves early, he could lose his window to do that — although his immediate replacement, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, also a Republican, could appoint similar candidates.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

John Grisham on wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system

This is a good op-ed by Grisham outlining why we have so many wrongful convictions:
It is too easy to convict an innocent person.

The rate of wrongful convictions in the United States is estimated to be somewhere between 2% to 10%. That may sound low, but when applied to a prison population of 2.3 million, the numbers become staggering. Can there really be 46,000 to 230,000 innocent people locked away? Those of us who are involved in exoneration work firmly believe so.

Millions of defendants are processed through our courts each year. It's nearly impossible to determine how many of them are actually innocent once they've been convicted. There are few resources for examining the cases and backgrounds of those claiming to be wrongfully convicted.

Once an innocent person is convicted, it is next to impossible to get them out of prison. Over the past 25 years, the Innocence Project, where I serve on the board of directors, has secured through DNA testing the release of 349 innocent men and women, 20 of whom had been sent to death row. All told, there have been more than 2,000 exonerations, including 200 from death row, in the U.S. during that same period. But we've only scratched the surface.

In the federal system many innocent people are forced to plead guilty because of the risks of going to trial. Go to trial in the federal system and often times you are looking at more than 10 years in prison, at best. Plead and you get cut that exposure way way down. Other districts are starting to lessen the trial penalty. Martin Shkreli was just sentenced to 7 years even though prosecutors said his guidelines after trial were 15+ years. Many will say that 7 years was too low. Others will say that 7 years is a lot for a first-time non-violent offender. Regardless of what side you come out on, we should all agree that going to trial should not result in a upward risk of 3 or 4 times or more the sentence you'd receive for pleading guilty.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

News and notes

1. High school students are making change. They beat the NRA in the Florida Legislature with these gun control measures now on Gov. Scott's desk.  It's really incredible and inspiring to watch these energized kids do their thing.  I'm hoping some of them become criminal defense lawyers.

2.  Justice Kagan discusses her time clerking for Justice Marshall.  Here's one story: Kagan recalled how Marshall judged the fairness of death penalty trials. “I remember once he said to us that when a jury brought back a sentence of life imprisonment, that’s when he absolutely knew that the guy was innocent.”

3. It's a stormy time in the White House.  Stormy will be in the Southern District of Florida this weekend.  Not for her lawsuit.  Just a performance.  And no, she won't be auctioning off the dress...

4. RBG, the movie, is coming out soon.  Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Good luck to Judge Jerald Bagley

Judge Jerald Bagley was a state circuit judge for many years in Miami and was a finalist to be a federal judge on 3 different occasions.  I wish he would have gotten it.  He's a great person and would have been an excellent federal judge.  He will be a great mediator in his new business.  The DBR covers his new gig here:

His new venture, J. Bagley Mediation Services, launches April 1 in Miami.


“I’m trying to go out with very little fanfare,” Bagley said Monday in a telephone interview. “I just tried to do my job — the good work that many of my colleagues do. … Serving the public is good enough for me, and I’m proud to have spent the last 35 years doing so.”

The longtime prosecutor served in the juvenile and felony divisions of the state attorney’s office before rising to the circuit bench in 1995. His ran unopposed in 2014, winning a six-year term that was set to expire in January 2021.

“I am very thankful for the privilege and honor of serving 23 years as a circuit judge, working alongside so many excellent colleagues and support and administrative staff,” he wrote in a Jan. 29 retirement letter to Gov. Rick Scott. “I retire knowing that I have given much but received more from so many opportunities gained from my previous position as an assistant state attorney and currently as a circuit judge.”

Monday, March 05, 2018

Jeffrey Toobin covers Fane Lozman

Fane Lozman, of SDFLA fame, has become the stuff of Supreme Court legend...  Jeffrey Toobin covers him and his cases here:
Lozman had an unusual problem before the Justices: his case was too good. Every Justice who spoke seemed to acknowledge that Lozman’s rights had been violated. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it, “I found the video pretty chilling. I mean, the fellow is up there for about fifteen seconds, and the next thing he knows he’s being led off in handcuffs, speaking in a very calm voice the whole time. Now, the Council may not have liked what he was talking about, but that doesn’t mean they get to cuff him and lead him out.” Still, several Justices worried that the egregious facts of Lozman’s case might lead them to create a standard that would subject many communities to similar lawsuits. They needed to figure out how to create a standard that would not discourage law enforcement from keeping order in public meetings, while preventing the kind of abuse that Lozman suffered. “I’m very concerned about police officers in difficult situations,” Justice Anthony Kennedy told Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law professor who was representing Lozman. “In this case, there’s a very serious contention that people in elected office deliberately wanted to intimidate this person, and it seems to me that maybe in this case we should cordon off or box off what happened here from the ordinary conduct of police officers."

Here's the video of the arrest:

Friday, March 02, 2018

West Palm Beach State Courthouse dedicated to Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley (Guest Post by Ron Herman)

Judge Hurley Courthouse Dedication, Guest blog by Ron Herman of

Congratulations to District Court Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley on having the main Palm Beach County courthouse dedicated in his honor! More details on the event here.

Judge Hurley has just recently retired after a distinguished career, spanning service in state and federal courts. To dedicate the courthouse in his honor, the County had to waive its policy prohibiting naming buildings after people. Well deserved honor to one of the most respected jurists!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Senate confirms Lisa Branch to the 11th Circuit

From the Daily Report:

After five months of waiting, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch will be moving to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Branch’s appointment Tuesday by a vote of 73-23.
President Donald Trump nominated Branch to the federal bench in September 2017. When the year closed without a vote, Branch’s nomination was returned to the president at the end of 2017. She was re-nominated in early January. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her appointment on a bipartisan vote of 19-2 on Jan. 18.

Branch has served as the 77th judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals since Sept. 4, 2012. Previously, she was a partner in the commercial litigation practice group at Smith, Gambrell & Russell in Atlanta, where she began her legal career. Branch served as a senior official in the administration of President George W. Bush as counselor to the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the U. S. Office of Management and Budget and as an associate general counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Branch graduated from Davidson College and received her law degree from Emory University.

Congratulations to Judge Branch.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis sworn in

Congrats to our newest Magistrate Judge, Lauren Louis, who was officially sworn in last Friday. Here's the link to the information on the court's brand new website, which looks much nicer and more streamlined.

The blog first reported on Louis back in November.

Congrats to Judge Louis!  She is a super nice person and will be a great magistrate. 

Fane Lozman back to the Supreme Court — again

Most lawyers dream of getting a shot to argue in front of the Supreme Court.  Non-lawyer Fane Lozman has convinced the Supreme Court to hear him twice.  The second one has oral argument tomorrow.  From the Washington Post:
The many descriptions bestowed on Fane Lozman over the years include political gadfly, relentless opponent of public corruption, and bored rich guy always spoiling for a fight.

If every town has a you-can’t-shut-me-up activist who second-guesses council members and dominates the public comments portions of meetings, few have elevated the art like Lozman. He has offered a $50,000 reward for dirt on local politicians and taunted them at a ribbon-cutting with an airplane flying overhead. “Adios,” said the banner that called the council corrupt.

So remarkable are his battles with the political leaders of this town of 35,000 people that they have drawn the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not once, but twice.

The latest rendition of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach has grown from a ham-handed attempt to cut him off at a city council meeting into a major free-speech showdown that will have nationwide implications for citizens arrested — as Lozman was — by government officials they criticize. The court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday.
The first time Lozman and the city met at the Supreme Court, the justices reviewed Lozman’s claim that Riviera Beach had improperly used federal admiralty law to seize (and later destroy) his two-story, plywood-and-French-doors houseboat, moored at the city marina. The court ruled 7-to-2 against the city, saying Lozman’s houseboat was more house than boat.

At issue is Lozman’s arrest at a city council meeting in November 2006.

Fane Lozman’s home floating in the waters near North Bay Village, Fla., in 2014. (J Pat Carter/Associated Press)
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Lozman began to use his three minutes to talk about his favorite subject: corruption in Palm Beach County, where Riviera Beach is located.

Wade, who was presiding at the meeting, immediately stopped him. If he continued to rant about a county official at the meeting of the city council, she warned, he would be arrested.
He refused, adding: “I have a right to make my public comment.”

“Carry him out,” Wade told a police officer. Lozman was led away in handcuffs and spent hours in jail. The episode can be seen on YouTube.

More than 11 years later, there have been dropped charges and court hearings, a 19-day federal trial in which Lozman served as his own attorney and a return trip to the appeals court in Atlanta that ruled against him in the houseboat case.

This time at the Supreme Court, Lozman is supported by First Amendment organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of media organizations who say Lozman’s fight is especially important at a time when protests of government policies are on the rise and government officials are geared up to shut them down.

The city of Riviera Beach, meanwhile, is backed by the Trump administration, the District of Columbia and 10 states who say that showing there was probable cause for an arrest — as a jury found in Lozman’s case — should be the end of a retaliatory arrest claim.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Should judges be armed?

Should judges be armed?

The big debate of the day is whether teachers should be armed.  Rumpole discusses it over at his blog today.  Sheriff Israel's answer during the town hall was the best one I've heard: "Teachers should teach" and not be armed.

What about judges?  Former Chief Judge Norman Roettger (1930-2003) used to carry on the bench even though guns were not permitted in the federal courthouses.  He also allowed his court reporter to carry.  Judge Roettger was quite a character.  He had a huge handle-bar mustache.  He was a maverick. 

One of my first hearings was in front of Judge Roettger.  I was a federal public defender and it was a change of plea.  And the government had just started trying to get appellate waivers in agreements.  I couldn't get this new prosecutor to take it out and I was very frustrated.  My supervisor at the time told me to leave the waiver in the agreement and watch what happened when Roettger saw it.  Roettger BLASTED the prosecutor.  He asked him whether he worked for the Department of Justice or the Department of INJustice.  Why would they want the defendant to waive appeal.  What if the judge made a mistake.  Roettger took out a big sharpie and crossed it out in a very dramatic fashion and told the prosecutor to come sign the cross out.  It was quite a show.

Who has some good Judge Roettger stories? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Is Customs asking people for their papers in the courthouse?

Is Customs asking people for their papers in the courthouse?

I have heard it from reliable sources that agents from Customs and Border Protection have been seen in the Wilkie Ferguson Courthouse asking people for identification.  Has anyone else seen this?

Are people going to federal court now to worry that they are going to be confronted by federal agents?

Don’t our federal agents have better things to be doing?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Raising money for the victims in Parkland

This is a personal post, so forgive me in advance.

My15-year old daughter’s nonprofit organization is trying to raise money for the victims’ families in Parkland.  She is a high-school freshman and wants to help.

Her nonprofit,, sponsors a new charity each month and donates all profits to worthy causes.  She has designed a special shirt devoted to the Parkland victims.  100% of the profits will go to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund.

These kids, who are trying to make change, are really inspiring.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Being "a little defensive" is not enough for a Terry Stop.

Jill Pryor wrote this unpublished opinion (United States v. Heard) last week, holding that the motion to suppress should have been granted because being "a little defensive" in response to questioning isn't enough to conduct a Terry stop:
Patrick Heard appeals his conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2). After careful review, with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that the officers who arrested Heard lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry1 stop. Because his motion to suppress should have been granted, we vacate Heard’s conviction and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Bisker parked his car and approached Heard. Bisker asked Heard whether he had heard gunshots; Heard said that he had and indicated that the gunshots came from the woods behind him. Bisker asked Heard for identification, and Heard provided him with ID. Heard’s identification did not confirm that he lived within the apartment complex,4 so Bisker asked where Heard lived. Heard said that his mother lived there and pointed to the apartment building closest to where he was standing with his small dog. Bisker believed this response to be “a little defensive” and an indirect answer to his question. Doc. 69 at 20. Bisker then asked Heard for his mother’s apartment number, and Heard did not provide a number.5 Bisker observed that Heard was swaying slightly. Based on his swaying and “overall demeanor,” Bisker thought “possibly [Heard] . . . wasn’t supposed to be there.” Id. at 20-21. At some point during the brief conversation Heard told Bisker he was there to walk his dog.

Why is this opinion unpublished?

Friday, February 16, 2018

You're invited

 Please RSVP to: and seating in the ceremonial courtroom will be on a first-come first-served basis.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Respected blog"

"Respected blog"

That's how awesome Sun-Sentinel reporter Paula McMahon described the blog, giving this site credit for breaking the news about Trump's 3 judicial picks, Rudy Ruiz, Rodney Smith, and Roy Altman:
All three have strong links to Miami-Dade County: They are Circuit Judges Rodolfo “Rudy” Ruiz and Rodney Smith, who are serving state judges in Miami-Dade County, and former federal prosecutor Roy Altman, who is now in private practice.
This is the president’s first opportunity to shape the bench in South Florida for decades to come. But none of the three men, or the other seven candidates, are considered controversial selections, local judges and attorneys said.
White House officials have indicated the president wants to schedule Senate confirmation hearings for the trio. They are not technically nominees yet and will have to pass an extensive background check before they could be formally nominated. All three received official phone calls notifying them they had made the cut, several sources said.

The president had been expected to name all of his choices for five vacancies but has not done so yet. It is unclear why.
It's definitely a changing of the guard here in South Florida, where the new wave of judges, both from Obama and now from Trump, are changing the feel of this Court.  Lee Stapleton talks about this a little bit in her beautiful tribute to Magistrate Judge Bill Turnoff:
From 1982 to 1986, Bill Turnoff presided over the major crimes unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida — the busiest section in the busiest office in the country. Every day, full-tilt boogie.

In 1984, after few years as an associate at a big firm, I decided I needed more adventure and more experience — after all, that’s why I’d come to Miami in the first place despite dire warnings from classmates and others that Miami was a dangerous place. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, then just Kathy Williams, and I started at “The Office” in June 1984.

After a mandatory stint in appeals, I went to major crimes. My chief, Bill Turnoff, was from Philadelphia. You only need to hear one sentence out of his mouth to pick up the accent. A Cornell law school grad, he sat in a smallish corner office on the seventh floor. Mr. Potato Head sat on his desk. The air was redolent of pipe tobacco, and his door was always open.

BT ran his crew with military precision. He had to — every day brought new waves of events and new waves of arrests. There weren’t many of us, and the Department of Justice had to send extra pairs of hands, known as “Bucket Brigaders.”

Despite the chaos outside our doors, major crimes was run as a quality operation, with standards as exacting as any white-shoe law firm. Bill worked long hours, reading our indictments, affidavits for search warrants, pleadings, sentencing memos — most pieces of paper that were filed with the court. He was exacting. No editor at a national newspaper or magazine could have had higher standards than Bill. If he found a comma out of place, a typo or a grammatical error, he circled it in red and brought it back to the assistant U.S. attorney who had presented the defective document to him. No comment, just handed back to the person for as many drafts as necessary for perfection. I was a former newspaper reporter used to editors and editing, but because I so adored the guy and didn’t want to disappoint him, I proofed everything multiple times before presenting it to Bill.

Federal prosecutors go to court. In those days, pretty much every day we made the trek from 155 S. Miami Ave. to the federal courthouse. It was a bitch to do that in the summer, especially in a suit and panty hose. Bill expected his prosecutors, even rookies, to be TV-quality lawyers. It was up to the more senior AUSAs to keep an eye on the newbies. That being said, with so many cases, there was only so much time to babysit junior AUSAs. There was a strong on-the-job-training element to learning how to try a case. We were supposed to have a senior person with us for our first two trials. I got through my first one thanks to Mark Schnapp, But an hour into my second trial, the senior AUSA had to leave to go to another courtroom. I have come to believe that “training” is no substitute for “doing.”

Monday, February 12, 2018



Multiple sources have confirmed that Rudy Ruiz has been informed that he will be nominated by President Trump for one of the 5 open district court seats for the Southern District of Florida. Congrats to Judge Ruiz, who currently sits as a state trial judge in Miami-Dade County. Ruiz went to Georgetown Law and then clerked for Judge Moreno. Like Moreno, Ruiz started as a County Court judge, then became a Circuit Court Judge and now moves over to the federal bench.

UPDATE — I have heard that Trump has also informed two others that they will be nominated and that he will “hold over” the last two spots. I do not know whether that means that 2 people from the current list will get those slots or whether they will be opened back up.

SECOND UPDATE — I have heard that the other two names are Roy Altman and Rodney Smith. This is not confirmed yet. If you have any information on this, please email me. dmarkus at markuslaw dot coM

THIRD UPDATE — Two sources have confirmed these other two names. I feel pretty good that these are the three names.

Tick Tock...

President Trump unveiled another wave of judicial selections today, but still nothing for the 5 open slots here in the Southern District of Florida.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Who was Justice Ginsburg talking about here?

Who was Justice Ginsburg talking about here?

"I respect all my colleagues and genuinely like most of them."

Hahaha. That was her speaking at Columbia this weekend.

In a very different Colombia, the Miami Herald had this news about the prison barring American lawyers from entering:

In effect, all foreign lawyers, including U.S. attorneys, cannot enter La Picota anymore as lawyers — only as social visitors. After the [Joaquin] Perez scandal, it’s probably going to get worse. Colombia’s prison spokesman insisted no foreign lawyers were being barred from La Picota.

What prompted the change in La Picota’s policy? About a year ago, a scandal erupted when an American attorney entered the prison, bribed guards and negotiated a huge payment to have a client put on a list that gives amnesty to members of a left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC, as part of its peace accord with the government.

Other Miami lawyers who compete with Perez for high-profile drug trafficking clients said Colombian prison officials have made visiting their clients intolerable.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Great American William Turnoff to be honored

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is hosting a reception honoring Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff for his 32 years of distinguished judicial service. The reception will be held at the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse, Miami, on Thursday, February 8, 2018, from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Judge Turnoff is a great American.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Judicial candidates being interviewed this week in DC

A number of sources have told me that all 10 judicial candidates for the 5 slots will be interviewed by the White House this week.  Hopefully we will have an answer shortly on who will be selected.  As a reminder, the 10 candidates are:
Miami-Dade Circuit Judges Antonio Arzola, Peter Lopez, Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Ruiz, Rodney Smith and John Thornton;
Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg;
Broward Circuit Judges David Haimes and Raag Singhal; and
private attorneys Roy Altman and Melissa Visconti.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Author of Nunes memo has ties to SDFLA

The author of the Nunes memo, Kash Patel, has ties to SDFLA.  He was an assistant state public defender in Miami.  Then, an assistant federal defender.  Then he moved to Washington, DC to become a DOJ terrorism prosecutor. 

The attacks on the FBI, though, don't seem to be getting a lot of traction from the memo.  This seems like a much stronger issue for those who would attack the FBI.  From the NY Times:
For more than a year, an F.B.I. inquiry into allegations that Lawrence G. Nassar, a respected sports doctor, had molested three elite teenage gymnasts followed a plodding pace as it moved back and forth among agents in three cities. The accumulating information included instructional videos of the doctor’s unusual treatment methods, showing his ungloved hands working about the private areas of girls lying facedown on tables.
But as the inquiry moved with little evident urgency, a cost was being paid. The New York Times has identified at least 40 girls and women who say that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first fell under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when he was exposed by an Indianapolis Star investigation. Some are among the youngest of the now-convicted predator’s many accusers — 265, and counting.
The three alleged victims then at the center of the F.B.I.’s inquiry were world-class athletes; two were Olympic gold medalists. Nearly a year passed before agents interviewed two of the young women.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Reality Winner's detention upheld

Reality Winner's detention upheld by the 11th Circuit.  From the Washington Times:
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday a district court’s order keeping accused National Security Agency leaker Reality Winner behind bars pending trial.
A federal appellate panel ruled 3-0 to uphold a lower court’s ruling detaining Ms. Winner, 26, effectively seeing she remains jailed until her leak case is heard likely later this year.
Ms. Winner was arrested in June 2017 in Augusta, Georgia, and subsequently charged in connection with sharing classified material obtained while employed at Pluribus, an Atlanta-based contracting firm, and ordered held until trial.
Defense attorneys had sought to secure Ms. Winner’s release from jail prior to court proceedings starting, but the 11th Circuit quashed that bid by upholding a lower court’s pretrial detention order, citing the likelihood of the accused fleeing the country.
“[T]he district court did not err in finding by a preponderance that Ms. Winner is a flight risk and that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure her appearance,” the appellate panel wrote in the 5-page ruling affirming the detention order.

Here's the opinion.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Falcon pleads

Gustavo Falcon, on the run for 26 years, pleaded guilty today before Judge Moreno.  He's looking at 11-13 years under his plea agreement and prosecutors won’t charge him (for being a fugitive) or his wife and their two grown children (for hiding him).

Meantime, a naked bank robber was found not guilty yesterday in a bench trial before Chief Judge Michael Moore.  You are probably reading that last sentence a few times... okay, okay -- it wasn't a straight not guilty.  It was a not guilty by reason of insanity.  And the parties agreed.  Here's the Sun-Sentinel coverage by Paula McMahon. I've never seen that before in this District.  Anyone else?

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


From the yikes department, here's the introductory paragraph from Chief Judge Carnes in Winn-Dixie v. Dolgencorp:
After we have remanded a case with specific instructions, attorneys rarely attempt to have the district court defy our mandate. And even if they try it, a district court is seldom misled into that kind of error by them. This is one of those rare cases where the attorneys representing one side successfully urged the district court to act contrary to our mandate. Of course, we reverse that part of its judgment.


Needless to say (or maybe not), a district court cannot amend, alter, or refuse to apply an appellate court’s mandate simply because an attorney persuades the court that the decision giving rise to the mandate is wrong, misguided, or unjust. A district court can, of course, wax eloquent about how wrong the appellate court is, but after the waxing wanes the mandate must be followed.
There is no imprecision in those instructions, no room for evasive interpretation, in short, there is no legitimate basis for applying what we said only to a subset of the 41 Florida stores. We don’t know what else we could have said other than, perhaps, “and we really mean it.” Well, we really did mean it. And we still do.

The district court did not do what we instructed it to do because it was led astray by the defendants’ attorneys.

Rant: Bond pending appeal

Rant: Bond pending appeal

Everyone knows the dirty little secret in federal criminal cases -- everything is stacked against the criminal defendant.  That's why so many defendants plead.  Even innocent defendants.  It takes a ton of courage to fight the government because the stakes are impossibly high.

One tactic the government uses against criminal defendants is opposing reasonable bail.  In many cases, the government tries to keep defendants behind bars during pretrial litigation.  But lately, judges have been much better about releasing white collar defendants on bond during pretrial litigation.  This trend has not reached appellate bonds though.

If a defendant is convicted at trial, it is nearly impossible to get an appellate bond -- even for white collar defendants who are not a risk of flight or danger to the community.  This is maddening because defendants who end up prevailing in the court of appeals end up serving time unnecessarily.  And it's not because the law is bad... it's just because there is a culture of denying such motions. 

Yesterday, our firm had a sweet appellate win in the 5th Circuit (we were not the trial lawyers) for a 68-year old doctor who was improperly and unjustly convicted of medicare fraud (here's the opinion).  The conservative court of appeals found that the evidence against her was insufficient.  But her motion for bond pending appeal was denied, so the doctor sat in prison for almost 10 months waiting for the appeal to be decided.  Even though that is relatively quick, she will never get those 10 months back.  In a recent 11th Circuit case, the poor client had to spend 3 years in prison before being vindicated in a published order saying that she was actually innocent. Now, that woman is seeking to be compensated for her time in prison.

There is nothing more sacred than our liberty.  If a person has the courage to stand up to the government and fight the charges, and if they are not a danger to the community or a risk of flight, then courts should be willing to say that they have "close" issues on appeal (which is a pretty low standard) and grant them bond pending appeal.  I'm sure that there are a handful of cases over time where someone has fled on an appellate bond, but I have never seen such a case. The harm in denying such a bond is irreversible if the defendant wins on appeal.  If she loses, then the government has lost nothing.

I'm happy to debate any prosecutor or judge on this issue.  Let me know and we will set up a back and forth on the blog.