The SDFLA Blog is dedicated to providing news and notes regarding federal practice in the Southern District of Florida. The New Times calls the blog "the definitive source on South Florida's federal court system." All tips on court happenings are welcome and will remain anonymous. Please email David Markus at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Welcome Justice (sc)Alito
We have a new Associate Justice, Sam Alito. This means we still don't have a Justice from Florida -- EVER. I still think it's time we get one.
My favorite picture from all the coverage is the one at the upper left, with his family in front of the Clinton potrait.
BTW, lots of comments lately. Although we're not debating who the better PD is or whether a lawyer has ever slept with a juror, the debate is interesting. Check it out.
UPDATE -- someone doctored the Clinton picture. See here.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
New Abramoff Prosecutor...
A couple questions:
1. What's the story on Lourie?
2. Why isn't the local media covering the Abramoff story more closely? Is it me or does it seem like no one down here really cares about this stuff? Abramoff is front page news around the country...
Friday, January 27, 2006
Representatives of a Chicago law firm posed as American Red Cross grief counselors to gain access to relatives of the victims of a Chalk’s Ocean Airways crash in Miami, according to complaints filed with the Florida and Illinois bars.As a result of the complaints, The Florida Bar is also investigating a West Palm Beach-based law firm for possible violations of Bar rules in its solicitation of the Bahamian relatives of passengers who were killed in the Chalk’s seaplane crash.The alleged misconduct also could violate a federal law intended to protect the families of plane crash victims from being approached by lawyers immediately after the death of their relatives.The Bar complaints were filed on Jan. 3 by Miami lawyer John Ruiz, who represents relatives of one of the crash victims. He contends that lawyers for the Rose Law Firm of West Palm Beach and the Chicago-based Nolan Law Group used improper client solicitation tactics. According to the complaint, lawyers from the firms posed as psychiatrists and Red Cross volunteers, and knocked on the doors of the grieving families in Bimini as early as the day of the crash.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The fake botox cases...
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The role of judge
The question is an interesting one. If, as Chief Justice Roberts has suggested, judges are merely umpires who are supposed to call balls and strikes, then why should the umpire call what the parties have deemed a strike as a ball. In other words, it is the government (who represents the people) and defense (who represents the defendant) who know the case the best and who have fought -- under our adversary system -- to reach a result that both sides could live with. Why shouldn't the judge enforce that agreement? Thoughts? Here's the AP story on it.
UPDATE -- The first comment lays out the case for the judge taking such action. Interestingly, according to Jay Weaver, AUSA Dana Washington explained to the judge that the sentence was reasonable and that the sentencing guidelines took into account the death. He cited to a previous case in which Judge King was reversed for departing upward to life. If the prosecutor, who represents the people, believes the sentence is enough, should the judge (umpire) take a different position?
(Disclosure -- I represented a co-defendant in that King case in which we also secured a reversal in the 11th Circuit on another issue. My client ended up with about 4 year sentence because the 11th Circuit concluded that the events on the boat were not foreseeable to my client)...
Monday, January 23, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
More Jack Abramoff
Thursday, January 19, 2006
FIU prof/wife plead NG and Herald writer pleads guilty
In other news, Herald writer Ana Veciana-Suarez pleaded guilty to a contempt of court charge for not disclosing her father's criminal history during jury selection in a 2003 civil trial .
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
2 votes for dumping peremptory challenges
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
What is the future of federal sentencing?
Friday, January 13, 2006
State of the blog and Poll update
An update on the funniest Southern District of Florida judge -- Judge Moreno is leading in the polls by a lot. He currently has better than a 2-1 advantage over Judge Ungaro. A close third is Judge Palermo.
Blogging from me will be slow this weekend as I'm on vacation (the last time I'll be able to get away before baby #2 is born and before I start a six week trial in Savannah Georgia). Thanks again.
Padilla's Application to Join al Qaeda?
Prosecutors made public for the first time at Padilla's detention hearing that they have located his application to join al Qaeda. The U.S. military recovered the application, with more than eighty others, when it invaded Afghanistan. The Government stated that the application by Padilla was "authenticated" by a "cooperating witness" who was also previously convicted in an unrelated criminal matter. Padilla's lawyer, Michael Caruso, argued that there was no direct evidence that Padilla filled out the form, and questioned its authenticity. Click here to see the full story. UPDATE
"As American as Apple Pie"
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Jose Padilla's bond hearing
I attended most of the bail hearing for Jose Padilla this morning in front of Magistrate Barry Garber. Although I didn't stay for the stunning conclusion, after you read my summary, I'm sure you'll be able to surmise whether Mr. Padilla will be serving the next nine months at liberty or in the special housing unit of the Detention Center.
The hearing started out with the arraignment of Padilla. Chief Assistant Federal Defender Michael Caruso said Padilla is "absolutely not guilty." Caruso was flanked by Tony Natale, Orlando do Campo, and Andy Patel.
Although the courtroom was packed, it seemed that less press attended the hearing and the security (although more than for any other defendant) was not as thick as it was for the previous two hearings. I counted around 10 marshals and court security officers. Padilla's mom and other family members were also in attendance.
Garber asked Padilla whether he pronounced his name padiYa or padiLLa and Padilla responded with the hard L -- Padilla.
AUSA Stephanie Pell was the government lawyer who handled the proffer to the Court. She went through the indictment, explaining that Padilla was recruited to travel overseas to participate in a violent Jihad. They even have what they believe to be his application to be a member of Al Queda and numerous intercepts from FISA. She also explained that they had cooperating witnesses. Her proffer lasted about an hour and is too long to reproduce here. Pell was joined by AUSA Russ Killinger and an agent.
Michael Caruso, who referred to his client as Jose, then asked the Court if he could question the agent on the case. He specifically wanted to ask about translations and the application. He also wanted to ask the agents about the "methods of interrogation" of the cooperating witnesses. He said that he needed to question the agent because "weak is not even the right word to describe the evidence against Jose."
Garber denied the request to question an agent saying that Caruso wanted to conduct a minitrial. Caruso tried again, and a funny exchange ensued with Caruso saying that they had plenty of time because Garber kept the case instead of putting it on the regular calendar and Caruso was thankful that Garber did so. Garber responded: "You're thankful even after I ruled against you?" Caruso: "I'm trying to butter you up." Garber: "Nice try. But denied."
Caruso then went into the history of confinement with Padilla -- how he was in total isolation without a lawyer, family or anything for 2 years. Then he got a lawyer, but he still was in a military prison with 10 cells and he was the only prisoner. "It is far beyond what any other American citizen has had to endure," said Caruso.
Both sides then went back and forth over the risk of flight and danger to the community and I had to leave. But based on Garber's refusal to allow the agent to be questioned, I have to assume that he will grant the government's request for pre-trial detention. More when I can confirm it.
UPDATE -- confirmed. Here's the AP article. And here's the drawing of Padilla and AUSA Pell. I'm usually a fan of Shirley Henderson's work, but I don't think this picture does Pell justice and I think it makes Padilla look older and thicker than he looked in court.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
News and notes
1. Padilla's bond hearing is tomorrow at 10AM in front of J. Garber. I am going to try and attend if work permits.
2. Congrats to AUSA Daniel Fridman (from this District). He has accepted a special assignment to work with the Acting Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty (the #2 guy at DOJ in DC) on shaping the administration's criminal and civil rights policy. Those that know Dan, know that he is a good and fair prosecutor and I hope he uses the time in DC to promote his even-tempered philosophy.
3. Way off topic -- for those interested in a high profile exciting murder case involving allegations that you wouldn't believe if you read about them in a book, check out http://www.probodybuildingweekly.com/ and click on the replay of the telecast in which I serve as a legal analyst (I come on at around the 12 minute mark, after the break). For all the information on the case, you can check out www.titusandryan.com or www.getbig.com.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
New SDFLA blogger
Starting the year with a bang...
Padilla, Abramoff, and now FIU professors accused of spying for Cuba... Only in the Southern District of Florida.
Here's Jay Weaver's and Noah Bierman's article about the spy proceedings yesterday.
Monday, January 09, 2006
More terror defendants in the Southern District? (UPDATED)
Please be advised that two defendants involved in a national security matter are scheduled to make their Initial Appearances in federal court today, January 9, 2006, at 1:30 p.m., before Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton, at 300 N.E. First Avenue, Miami, Florida. A press conference will follow at the U.S. Attorney's Office, 99 N.E. 4th Street, Miami, at 2:30 p.m. The United States Attorney and representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service will be available to the media.
UPDATE -- Nope, not terror. More spies -- according to the Associated Press. Here's the intro to the article: "A college professor and his wife have been charged with being longtime illegal agents of Cuban President Fidel Castro, The Associated Press has learned.Documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court show that Carlos Alvarez, a psychology professor at Florida International University, and his wife, Elsa Alvarez, have been charged with acting as agents of Cuba without registering with the U.S. government as required."
SECOND UPDATE -- They were denied bond.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Jose Padilla, part II
Magistrate Judge Barry Garber presided over the proceedings and asked Jose Padilla if he had an attorney. Mr. Padilla responded that "Andy Patel" was his lawyer. Judge Garber then proceeded to ask Patel about whether he was going to represent Padilla in this case. Patel said that he wasn't a member of the Florida Bar and thought it would be best if the Federal Defender's Office in Miami was lead counsel. Judge Garber thought that was a great idea and asked Chief Assistant Federal Defender Michael Caruso if his office would accept appointment, to which Caruso responded that he would "gladly accept" the appointment.
Judge Garber said he was going to appoint dual counsel, with the Miami Defender's office taking the lead and Patel to serve as co-counsel because he has been in the case since June 2002.
AUSA Stephanie Pell then told the Judge that there was a potential conflict with the Miami office accepting the appointment. Caruso said that his office has reviewed everything and that he could say "without equivocation" that there was no conflict. Garber took the matter up at sidebar and after conferring, he kept the Miami Defenders as lead counsel. While at sidebar, another Public Defender Tony Natale went up to Padilla and explained what was going on. Another defender, Orlando do Campo, was also present for the defense.
Judge Garber then asked the government what its position was on bail. AUSA Pell said that the government was asking for pretrial detention based on risk of flight and danger to the community, to which Judge Garber quipped: "Why am I not surprised?"*
Michael Caruso explained that they would need a continuance to prepare for the hearing, and Judge Garber rescheduled it for January 12th at 10AM. Garber also -- at Caruso's request -- moved the arraignment to that date. Garber said that because of the amount of time he has invested in the case that he would retain it for next week's hearing instead of transferring it to the duty magistrate judge. Judge Garber concluded the hearing by commending the parties for acting in the spirit of cooperation.
*Maybe I should've included J. Garber on the funniest SDFLA judge...
FDC-Miami closed until further notice
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Miami Venue Amicus
Bond for Padilla's co-defendant
BTW, I wonder what Prof. Froomkin thinks now about Judge Cooke.
Jose Padilla's First Appearance
I attended Jose Padilla's first appearance today in the Southern District of Florida. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber presided. The lead Miami prosecutor on the case is Russell Killinger, a well-respected veteran in the Southern District of Florida. In court, Judge Garber told Padilla that his lawyers, Andrew Patel and Donna Newman, called chambers and said they wanted to appear, so the Judge postponed the hearing until tomorrow at 4PM. Just in case, the Miami Federal Public Defender's office was present in court.
Padilla appeared calm in court, answering the Judge politely with short yes-or-no responses. Garber explained to Padilla his rights, which was interesting as Padilla has been held for the past three years while lawyers wrangled over what sorts of rights he has.
Padilla had a short haircut. He was wearing glasses, black sneakers and an orange jumpsuit. The amount of security was amazing. Helicopters were flying over the courthouse. There were numerous marshals and court security officers in the courtroom. And there was lots of press. I'm sure they were disappointed by the three minute hearing.
Nevertheless, there was a certain electricity in the courtroom. The Southern District is a very exciting place to practice law right now, especially with Padilla and Abramoff fighting for above-the-fold coverage.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Jack Abramoff's hats
So everyone can see what the comment below was referring to, here are the two hats Abramoff wore for the DC plea and the Miami plea.
And the Justice Building Blog calls us too law based...
Bigger than Abramoff?
Abramoff plea and other items...
On a lighter note, a commenter points out:
What's the deal with Abramoff's hats? In D.C. he wore an old school fedora and down here he had a baseball cap on. I know his lawyers are giving him excellent legal advice, but who is giving him fashion advice?
Biggest case in the country?
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Cuban Five and Abramoff news
In other news, Julie Kay has written about the government's opposition to the amicus briefs filed in the Cuban Spy case. I previously posted about the fight here. Here's some of the article:
The latest twist in the high-profile case came last week when the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami filed a motion seeking to block the 11th Circuit’s acceptance of two amicus briefs filed by state and national legal organizations that oppose the government’s position. The motion sharply urged the 11th Circuit not to accept the briefs. Two days later, Ricardo Bascuas, a University of Miami law professor who authored one of the amicus briefs, filed a strongly worded reply opposing the government’s position and reiterating why amicus briefs should be allowed. “The important civil rights precedents discussed by amici curiae hold that the Sixth Amendment protects us all from convictions tainted by racial, ideological, religious, ethnic, or other irrational prejudice,” states the brief. “As distinguished criminal defense organizations, amici offer to assist the court by presenting the cases most pertinent to the fair treatment of unpopular defendants.” The amicus briefs were filed by the National Lawyers Guild, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Association of Federal Public Defenders and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.... “Everyone plays to win, I guess,” Federal Assistant Public Defender Richard Klugh, who likely will be arguing the case before the 11th Circuit, said in an interview. “But to not allow anyone except the Cuban defendants to argue is not right. These are respected American legal organizations and they should be allowed to participate in the process.” Markus angrily called the prosecutors “crybabies.” “Only insecure bullies cry and complain like this,” he said. “I’m really surprised that the [U.S. attorney’s office] would take this position.” ... The brief by Assistant U.S.Attorney Caroline Heck Miller calls the amici “surrogates for appellants.” The purpose of such a move, she suggests, would be to allow the defense to circumvent page limitations in their own briefs. Klugh angrily denies the allegation. He and other defense lawyers argue that they see no reason why the court shouldn’t allow the two amicus briefs. All parties should be allowed to express their views in the case, Klugh said. “I have never seen the government argue this before,” Klugh said. “I can see if there were 10 briefs filed, but there were just two, from respected legal organizations.” ... Richard B. Rosenthal, a Miami appellate lawyer, said the South Florida legal community was flabbergasted by the government’s move. “We were all surprised,” he said. “Those briefs are routinely allowed and the government’s decision to challenge the amicus brief smacks either of desperation or of sheer pettiness.” ...