Monday, October 31, 2005

Nominee Alito

So the President has nominated Judge Sam Alito to fill O'Connor's seat.

It's an interesting choice, especially when compared to Bush's other two nominations. Roberts was an unknown, but a very smart unknown. It was difficult for either side to really attack him because he was so qualified. Miers was viewed as a not-so-smart unknown. And it was easy for both sides to attack her because she was seen as unqualified. Now we get Alito, a known and smart commodity. He's been a judge for fifteen years and has a long track record, even on issues like abortion. See Planned Parenthood v. Casey (Alito supported abortion restrictions). His record will certainly make the hearings more exciting to watch.

For all the news, background, and gossip I would check out ScotusBlog, How Appealing, Professor Berman's site, and Underneath Their Robes.

Latest press release from court website

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Operations on Monday, October 31, 2005
Due to the ongoing community recovery efforts and supply shortages in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, Chief United States District Judge William J. Zloch announced that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida will be open on Monday, October 31, 2005 subject to the following restrictions: The Clerk's Office will be open in Miami only, and its hours of operation will be reduced to 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. The Clerk's Offices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce will remain closed.
All Southern District of Florida Courthouse facilities will remain generally closed to the public. The Miami Clerk's Office will be available during reduced hours to receive emergency filings. No jury trials or hearings will be held or commenced until further notice.
A further announcement about the status of the District Court’s operations will be made by 4:00 P.M. on Monday, October 31. Information concerning the status of the Court’s operations will be posted here on the Court’s web site.
Last Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2005, at 1:00 p.m.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wilma Updates

No decisions yet on the opening of the Broward county courthouse. The decision about federal courthouses will be made today at 3PM and can be found on the district's website. For those without power, I'm not sure how they will find out... I'm not sure they care.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wilma, Meirs, and Easter

So Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination today. I couldn't think of a better time for President Bush to appoint a Floridian for the post. I mean, with Wilma and everything, I think it's the least we can expect! Come on, W, it's time for the first Justice from Florida!

I hope my fellow South Floridians are doing okay. Most of us are still without power, hot water, gas, etc. They say we may get these things by Easter...

The DBR reports the following on courts:

Hurricane Wilma shut down state and federal courts in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Most said they would remain closed through Friday. Officials at most of the courts said they would reopen for business on Monday though that is tentative. The lone exception is the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which covers Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, which will be open Thursday. Hearings Wednesday were canceled at state and federal courts and filings deadlines were expected to be extended. The Florida Supreme Court was expected to issue deadline-extension orders for state courts sometime Thursday. Wilma damaged several Miami-Dade County courthouses, forcing their closure for several days while authorities assess the damage. But the damage was not nearly as severe as that to the main Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Most trials and court proceedings at the main Broward courthouse will be postponed until Nov. 7 as workers make massive repairs to the facility in downtown Fort Lauderdale. About 175 windows were shattered and blown inside the building, water pipes burst, and wind and rain inundated judges’ chambers, court administration offices and the jury room. In the north wing of the building, an inch of water covered the floor. Nevertheless, magistrates are holding first-appearance criminal proceedings at the Broward County Jail In Palm Beach, all Circuit Court business has been suspended through Friday, except for first appearances, shelter hearings, and domestic violence-related matters, according to the court’s Web site. Those proceedings are taking place at the Criminal Justice Complex in West Palm Beach. A court epresentative was not available for comment Wednesday about any damage at court buildings. The four federal courthouses in downtown Miami appeared to have suffered no exterior damage, but did have some interior damage. The court’s Internet site reported that federal courthouses would be closed until further notice. A recorded message at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court said the bankruptcy offices in Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach are also closed until further notice. The recording said bankruptcy hearings and creditors’ meetings would be rescheduled. Criminal court judges in Miami-Dade were handling first appearances at the county jail in downtown Miami Tuesday afternoon, and were working on emergency domestic violence intervention requests. Miami-Dade Circuit Court spokeswoman Jill Beach said it was too early to tell when the courts might reopen, although officials were hoping it would be next Monday. “We’re doing everything we can to get safely prepared for reopening for the public and the employees,” Beach said. “There’s no assurances what’s going to happen right now.” The 11th U.S. Circuit ourt of Appeals in Miami canceled oral arguments in Miami for the week. An 11th Circuit court clerk in Atlanta said attorneys should call their case manager to
arrange for deadline extensions, but extensions would be granted on a case-by-case basis. Officials at the 4th DCA in West Palm Beach, which includes Broward and Palm Beach counties, could not be reached Wednesday. The court’s Web site said it would be closed Wednesday and Thursday. No further information has been posted about when the court might reopen. No details of any damage were immediately available. Carl Jones can be reached at or at (305) 347-6648.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wilma update (UPDATED)

None of us thought it was going to be this bad...

I have no internet access at home or work, so I'll do the best I can to get updates to this site. Thanks to Stearns Weaver for lending me an office.

The state courthouses in Miami and Broward are closed the rest of the week.

The federal courthouses are going day by day. Their website has more info. Hopefully they will just close for the rest of the week. **UPDATE -- They listened -- all federal courts in this District are closed the rest of the week.

FDC-Miami is closed to visitors. **UPDATE -- You can call 305-982-1211 to find out when it is re-opening.

Many many offices on Brickell, including Greenberg Traurig, have been blown out.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cuban Spy panel discussion

The panel discussion Thursday evening regarding the Cuban Spy opinion was very interesting. The panelists -- Judge Edward Davis, Judge Stan Blake, Federal Defender Kathy Williams, and former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis -- were engaging and lively. The most contentious issue seemed to focus around the last paragraph of the opinion. Even the audience seemed vocally upset about it. This is what the Court said:

The court is aware that, for many of the same reasons
discussed above, the reversal of these convictions will
be unpopular and even offensive to many citizens.
However, the court is equally mindful that those same
citizens cherish and support the freedoms they enjoy
in this country that are unavailable to residents of
Cuba. One of our most sacred freedoms is the right to
be tried fairly in a noncoercive atmosphere. The court
is cognizant that its judgment today will be received
by those citizens with grave disappointment, but is
equally confident of our shared commitment to
scrupulously protect our freedoms. The Cuban-
American community is a bastion of the traditional
values that make America great. Included in those
values are the rights of the accused criminal that
insure a fair trial. Thus, in the final analysis, we trust
that any disappointment with our judgment in this
case will be tempered and balanced by the recognition
that we are a nation of laws in which every defendant,
no matter how unpopular, must be treated fairly. Our
Constitution requires no less.

The sentiment was that this language was offensive and that there was no reason to include it. Kathy defended the court's language (as I think she had to -- she is representing one of the defendants in the on-going litigation), arguing that each sentence in that paragraph was true and complimentary.

It does seem to me strange that it was included in the opinion. Query as to whether it would have been included if the defendants were African-American or Jewish. I doubt it. So why include it here? Thoughts?


Federal courts are closed Monday due to Wilma. Here is the press release:

Federal District Court Operations and Hurricane Wilma
Chief United States District Judge William J. Zloch announced that United States District Court operations in all divisions be closed Monday, October 24, 2005 due to wind and rain conditions anticipated to develop with the approach of Hurricane Wilma. These closures affect the District Court’s operations in Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce. The District Court in these locations will be closed to the public, and jurors have been or soon will be instructed to call in for further reporting instructions. The United States Bankruptcy Court will also be closed.
Federal court operations will resume at the regular time in all Divisions on Tuesday, October 25th. Please consult the Court’s website at for changes to these instructions.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

11th Circuit decides USA v. Fabio Ochoa

Today, in a 2-1 decision, the 11th Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence of Fabio Ochoa, who is said to be one of the high ranking members of the Medellin drug cartel in the 1980s. I haven't had a chance to digest the 83 page opinon, but it looks like it packs a lot in. District Judge Avant Edenfield, sitting by designation, wrote the opinion (which was joined by Judge Hull) and Judge Barkett dissented, arguing that the jury selection process was unconstitutional. More to follow after I've had a chance to read the whole decision.

State of the Blog

Just an update -- this is our 100th post and we have been averaging over 50 visitors a day.

A reminder -- tonight at Greenberg Traurig's office is the American Constitution Society event discussing the Cuban Spy opinion by the 11th Circuit. It should be a great and lively discussion. Will write about it tonight...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Sorry for the slow blogging lately -- very very busy... But here is some news from the Miami Herald about Christopher John Clarkson, aka Stephen Duffy, who has been on the lam for 30 years, using a dead child's identity. Unbelievable story.

Monday, October 17, 2005

First Roberts' Court opinion

Paul Rashkind at the U.S. Supreme Court blog posts this interesting bit of trivia regarding the first opinion of the Roberts' Court. Here's a taste:

A bit of trivia: For whom did the Roberts' Court rule in its historic first published opinion? It ruled in favor of convicted murderer Paul Allen Dye, who sought a writ of habeas corpus based on prosecutorial misconduct. Check out Dye v. Hofbauer, 526 U.S. ___ (2005) (per curiam) here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cuban spy panel discussion

The American Constitution Society has put together a panel discussion regarding the Eleventh Circuit's opinion in the Cuban Spy case. Panelists are Judge Stan Blake (11th Judicial Circuit), Former Chief Judge Edward B. Davis (Southern District of Florida) , Former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis (Southern District of Florida), and Federal Defender Kathleen Williams (Southern District of Florida). I'll be moderating what is sure to be a very lively debate. Any suggestions for questions?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

News and notes

The Federal Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division had a luncheon today. Judge Ursula Ungaro was the featured speaker. Very nice turnout. We learned that the new federal courthouse isn't going to open until June 2006. Also, the Southern District is going to implement the all e-filing system, i.e., no paper, in the near future. More on that to follow when I get info.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bond for alleged Katrina scammer

Magistrate Judge Patrick White set bail at $125,000 (the Sun-Sentinel article, which is otherwise good, does not mention whether this is a corporate surety bond, 10% bond, or personal surety bond) for the supposed Katrina scammer, Gary S. Kraser. Defense lawyer is Alvin Entin. Prosecutor is Joan Silverstein.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Love That Was Benched by Their Careers

For those of you interested more in gossip than in jurisprudence, here is a interesting story from the Los Angeles Times concerning the relationship between nominee Harriet Miers and Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court. Justice Hecht you might remember offered several quotes regarding his friend's nomination. Here is one: When the conservatives ''find out what this president knows about Harriet,'' he said, ''they are going to be happy as clams.'' Hecht also offered this quote about Ms. Miers in an article published last year: ''She always remembers everybody's birthday and has a present for them,'' he said. 'She'll be finding a present for them in the middle of the night. `Can't it wait until next week?' 'No,' she'd say. 'It has to be done now.' '' This is important. I don't have to tell you what happened at the Court last year when everyone forgot Justice Scalia's birthday.

Increase in criminal case filings

Julie Kay of the Daily Business Review has an interesting article (pass through link required) today summarizing her interview with Michael Clemens, special agent in charge of the Miami FBI office. Trying to deflect all the criticism regarding the "porn wars" Clemens says that they are continuing to focus on terrorism and have also devoted more resources to fraud. “We really had a spike in investigations after 2001. Most divisions did,” he said. “If we had a terrorist attack here, believe me, I would move 100 percent of our agents to counterterrorism. But it’s not necessary now.” I am also quoted in the article agreeing that filings are up. Kay refers to the blogosphere: "Since the Review first reported [about the priority on porn], agents and prosecutors are aghast at the notion, the issue has become fodder for comedians, late-night talk show hosts and bloggers around the world who questioned why law enforcement should devote limited resources to something that may be perfectly legal." The Daily Business Review is doing a good job following the blogs.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Brillant acquittal

Evnitz Brillant was acquitted today in front of Judge Marcia Cooke, the Herald reported here. What a huge win for the defense. The buzz at the courthouse was that this guy had no chance. Props to Howard Schumacher, Brillant's lawyer. Interesting moments in the trial: 1) the star witness picked out a DOJ lawyer as the defendant; and 2) the court excluded a polygraph test that the defendant passed.

Bush taps SDFLA for state bench

Congratulations to Marty Bidwell, Chief Assistant Federal Defender from the Southern District of Florida on his appointment to the Circuit bench. Bush also elevated Jeffrey Levenson, former AUSA from the Southern District of Florida, to the Circuit bench. Having litigated with Marty and against Jeff, I can say without hesitation that both are fantastic appointments. Congrats to both of you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More Judges?

Hat tip to Brian Tannebaum:

BILL CALLS FOR MORE FEDERAL JUDGES FOR FLORIDA-- Ft. Myers News-Press,, October 6, 2005.
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris today [Oct. 6] joined U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to announce legislation to authorize additional federal judgeships for Florida. Harris and Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Judgeships for Justice Act, H.R. 3953, to provide resources to address a growing need for additional judicial representation. Currently, weighted case filings per judgeship in Florida's Middle District are 47.7% above the standard set by The Judicial Conference of the United States; and in the Southern District, 19.3% above the standard. Prosecutions of fraud, drugs, firearms and immigration are putting a strain on the administration of justice in
Florida. Based on this workload data, in its most recent report the conference recommended the creation of seven permanent, and one temporary federal judgeships for Florida.

Applicants for U.S. Attorney

Julie Kay and the Business Review detail the applicants for U.S. Attorney in the District: "Six current or former federal prosecutors, including two women, have applied for the position of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, one of the largest and highest-profile districts in the nation. Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission chair Michael Grindstaff said he had received applications by Wednesday from interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta; Thomas Mulvihill, Acosta’s first assistant; Cynthia Hawkins, an assistant U.S. attorney in Orlando; and Edward Nucci, a West Palm Beach-based senior litigation counsel for the U.S. attorney’s office. In addition, Susan Tarbe, a former assistant U.S. attorney and current partner at Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, told the Daily Business Review that she had applied."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hurry up and wait!

Ya’ll want my spot?! Hurry up and wait!
Ya’ll want me to stop?! Hurry up and wait!
Ya’ll want me shot?! Hurry up and wait!
Ya’ll hurry up and wait! Ya’ll hurry up and wait!
I’ve been brought up,
By street cats who didn’t get caught up
Like that New Jack Nino Brown at da Carter
I’m da new Tony Montana, only I’m just aLittle bit smarter!
-- Pitbull, Hurry up and Wait

Well, if you haven't gotten your fill of Pitbull, read this Herald article, which details:
Pitbull fans may have a new CD to put on their Dear Santa list this upcoming holiday season. A Miami judge has found that Slip-N-Slide Records can release an album of the Cuban-American rapper's old tracks that his current label, TVT Records, sought to block. In a 26-page opinion, U.S. District Court Magistrate Stephen Brown said Miami-based Slip-N-Slide has the right to issue the LP Welcome to the 305 as long as it affixes a sticker to it stating ``contains previously unreleased material.'' ''We couldn't be happier,'' said Slip-N-Slide attorney Richard C. Wolfe. "We think the
judge absolutely understood this case.''

In other news, the U.S. Attorney's Office is fighting internet fraud re Hurricane Katrina. Gary Kraser has been arrested for his website,

And the office filed its petition asking for rehearing in the 11th on the Cuban Spy Case.

Monday, October 03, 2005

No Floridian

Well, we didn't get a Floridian. We got Harriet Miers. No one knows much about her yet. She's Bush's lawyer at the White House. She's never been a judge. She was charged with finding O'Connor's replacement. I guess she said PICK ME!

UPDATE -- Some, like Tom Goldstein, are already predicting that she will not be confirmed. I tend to agree, especially because she will be compared to the super-smart, well-qualified Roberts, who was a no-brainer.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Justice and New Term

Tomorrow starts the Roberts Court. It should be interesting. And the good money is on Bush nominating a new Justice this week for O'Connor's seat. How about a Floridian already! This may be your last chance to vote in our Floridian poll...