Sunday, September 30, 2007
I saw Hugo recently and he appeared to be in good health and good spirits; this is a shock.
As the person who emailed me with this sad news said, "Hugo was one of the good ones. He was thoughtful, hardworking, fair, and a complete gentleman. He never spoke ill of anyone, was diligent in his work, and a good friend to his colleagues. Those who had the pleasure of working with him in the District I suspect came away with the same impression."
I couldn't say it better myself. I've worked with Hugo on a number of cases and he was exactly what a prosecutor should be -- fair and open-minded. He was always quick to say hello and ask how you were doing. He liked talking about his cases and he really loved the camaraderie in the U.S. Attorney's office.
Hugo was the grandson of the great Justice with the same name.
This is really sad news. I am going to open up the comments section to allow you to post your memories of Hugo, and I will post the funeral arrangements as soon as I hear of them.
UPDATED -- here is the obit, written by Jay Weaver, which includes the funeral arrangements:
Hugo L. Black III, a highly regarded Miami federal prosecutor and grandson of a former U.S. Supreme Court justice, died Saturday. He was 54.
Black died unexpectedly from gastrointestinal bleeding at his home in Coconut Grove, according to colleagues at the U.S. Attorney's Office.
''One of our dearest colleagues passed away on Saturday,'' said Eric Bustillo, chief of the office's economic and environmental crimes section.
``We're all very saddened by Hugo's death. He was an outstanding lawyer and an incredible guy.''
Black grew up in Miami, graduating from Palmetto High School and Yale University.
He obtained his law degree from Stanford University and clerked for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
He later became a partner with a Los Angeles firm that specialized in entertainment law.
But he yearned to return home to Miami and in 1995 joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Florida, Bustillo said. He prosecuted major white collar fraud cases in the healthcare, banking and securities industries.
''He was one of our most valued lawyers,'' said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman.
Black is survived by his wife, Jeannine Black; his father, lawyer Hugo L. Black Jr. of Miami; his sisters, Elizabeth Black of Australia and Margaret Black of California.
The family is holding a memorial service at Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Friday, September 28, 2007
And here's the complaint for Guillermo Zarabozo. He's charged with making false statements about pirates and not recognizing the Joe Cool.
We'll find out more about the case at the bond hearing on Tuesday.
Opening statements start Tuesday.
Also Tuesday is the bond hearing in the ghost ship Joe Cool case. We'll find out a lot more about the government's case then. Federal defender's office represents one. The other - Allan Kaiser, former AUSA who was appointed.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
According to GamePolitics (hat tip: Above the Law):
Jack Thompson criticized the Bar for allegedly collaborating with Norm Kent, a criminal defense attorney from Fort Lauderdale. Thompson and Kent have a contentious legal history dating back nearly two decades. From Thompson’s motion:
The Bar’s demonstrable mindset is that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as indicated by The Bar’s enthusiastic, recidivist collaboration with Mr. Kent, over a twenty year period, at Thompson’s expense. Lunacy proceedings have been sought and secured, Bar complaints have recently been maintained for nearly three years.
Kent, who publishes the National Gay News website, was criticized by Thompson in last week’s court filing for “distribution of hardcore porn to anyone of any age.” Not content to make that alleged point in writing, Thompson attached several gay porn pictures to his motion with Judge Jordan. The pictures apparently do not come directly from the National Gay News site, but rather are contained on sites linked from NGN’s adult links section.
In any case, His Honor was not amused.
In an order issued on Monday, Judge Jordan directed Thompson to show cause as to why he should not face sanctions, including possible contempt charges. Judge Jordan wrote:
The attached exhibit, which includes several graphic images of oral and genital sex between adult males, was filed electronically in the docket in this case, without prior permission from the court…
To the extent that the other attorney’s alleged conduct is in any way relevant… there was no need for Mr. Thompson to file these graphic images in the public record. A simple reference to the website and its alleged links would have sufficed…
Through his actions, Mr. Thompson made available for unlimited public viewing, on the court’s docketing system, these graphic images.
For this reason, by October 5, 2007, Mr. Thompson shall show cause why this incident should not be referred to the court’s Ad Hoc Committee on Attorney Admissions, Peer Review, and Attorney Grievance for appropriate action.
Thompson has filed a bunch of responses (right now the number is up to 4) to Jordan. Here's a classic, referring to himself in the third person no less:
To hold Thompson in contempt for alerting the federal court system to the criminal activity… is akin to arresting Paul Revere, in 1775, for “disturbing the peace” with his midnight ride…
Ah, the midnight ride of Jack Thompson.... There is so much material here, I'm not sure where to begin.........
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
On Tuesday, Kirby Archer, 35, and Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, were charged, respectively, with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and making a false statement to a federal agent, according to FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela. The men had been questioned by agents since they were plucked from a life raft Monday morning.
Here's the AP article, which details some of the criminal complaint:
According to an FBI affidavit, Zarabozo initially claimed to his Coast Guard rescuers that "unknown subjects" had hijacked the boat, shot and killed the four crew members and then ordered Zarabozo to throw the bodies into the sea. Zarabozo later told the FBI he had never been on the "Joe Cool," even though his state identification card was found on the boat.
The affidavit also says that a substance appearing to be blood was found on the stern of the boat, along with six marijuana cigarettes, a laptop computer, luggage, clothes and a cell phone.
Archer, the affidavit said, admitted that he was a fugitive and knew that he could not travel by air.
Both men were being held without bail at a federal detention center in Miami.
And the Herald article here.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
1. John Paul Stevens is interviewed. (NY Times; Hat tip Rumpole). This is a fantastic article. One quote from the Justice who spends a ton of time in this District: “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all. I think as part of my general politics, I’m pretty darn conservative.” He also explained this funny story:
Stevens also distinguished himself as the only justice to spend a substantial part of each Supreme Court term away from Washington. He and his wife have a condominium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and they spend two weeks a month there from November through April. ...“I do much more work in Florida than I do here,” Stevens told me, looking contented. He sometimes reads briefs on the beach. “One of my favorite memories is the time I was sitting” on the Supreme Court bench in Washington just after returning from Florida, he recalled. “I shook the sand out of the brief!”
2 . The job market isn't so great for law grads (WSJ; Hat tip WSJ blog)
3. District Judge Paul Cassell has resigned. (Sentencing Law & Policy)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
During the past week, a number of comments (on this blog and others) and posts on other blogs have made it not so fun. I can't control other blogs and their comments, although I have tried to get the offending blogger to delete his inappropriate post. I even deleted the post about which he was commenting, but he now is linking to the cached page from Google, which I cannot control.
But I can control this blog's comments. I have changed the blog so that you cannot post anonymously anymore. I will delete any mean comment or any comment which I feel is inappropriate.
Anyway, sorry for this post -- but I feel strongly that the blog shouldn't be used to make people feel bad.
Friday, September 21, 2007
hat tips -- Wall Street Journal Blog and Above the Law.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
2. The Liberty City 7 case is underway. Again, lots of news stories about the jury selection and the start of the trial. Props to Judge Lenard for conducting a thorough voir dire. It looks like it will take a couple weeks to pick the jury in this case. That is appropriate considering the type of case it is and the press that has come with the case.
3. Last night Milton Hirsch had a constitution day party at his office. Here's the Joan Fleischman column about it. The office was packed with lawyers and judges. Federal judge sighting -- Judge Ungaro read the 15th Amendment, which states:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
I read the Fourth Amendment. Does anyone remember that one?
Monday, September 17, 2007
This is the trial involving seven guys from Liberty City who spoke to undercover officers about blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago and other buildings in Miami. The government has described that group as "more aspirational than operational." Will their words and actions in this case be enough for conviction? How will the Jose Padilla trial sit in jurors' minds? Stay tuned -- same bat time, same bat channel.
If the government believes 10 years is just, how can it agree to this deal?
Sorry for the short and sloppy post. On the road today.
--David Oscar Markus
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I'm sure both sides (defense -- Hector Flores; government -- Mike Davis and Luis Perez) were working hard this weekend, even though they had settled the case months ago. The problem is that the judge wouldn't accept the 10 year deal agreed on by the parties because he believed that the deal was too sweet for Robles, who turns 60 next year.
We've discussed this issue a number of times and we asked whether the government would simply dismiss the indictment and permit Robles to plead guilty to a 10 year count (or two five year counts). Well, it appears that the answer is no. So if Robles loses this trial, he will certainly appeal on this issue, and it looks like a good one.
So SDFLA readers, is this trial worth it? The government doesn't want it. The victims don't want it. The defense doesn't want it. The receiver doesn't want it. The trial will last about a month, costing the system six figures.
By the way, can you imagine if Robles walks?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Several weeks ago Chief Judge Moreno informed the District Judges of my interest in and pursuit of the Circuit Executive position in the Sixth Circuit. Earlier this week, following an interview with the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council, I was selected to succeed Jim Higgins as Circuit Executive upon his retirement later this year.
I discussed my interest in pursuing this position with Judges Moreno and Zloch last May, in the earliest stages in the application process, and I have kept Chief Judge Moreno apprised of my status in the selection process on a regular basis. This morning I informed Chief Judge Moreno of my selection and he wished me well, we had a brief discussion about planning for the transition process, and I assured him that I would work with the Court to provide for as seamless a transition as possible. In that regard, I may work closely with the committee chaired by Judge Lenard as a process for identifying a successor to the Clerk's position is outlined and implemented. I have not yet confirmed my start date with the Sixth Circuit, but I anticipate that I will commence my new duties in mid-November. Between now and then, I will likely have some limited travel to locations in the Sixth Circuit to participate in meetings with future implications for the Circuit.
My experiences these past eight years with the Southern District of Florida have enriched me personally and professionally, and I believe that we have accomplished a great deal together. I am grateful to you all for your support, understanding, and friendship, and it has been my privilege to have served and been a part of this great organization.
My most sincere thanks to you all for your support as well as my best wishes for your continuing success! cm
Court Administrator - Clerk of Court
United States District Court for the
Southern District of Florida
301 N. Miami Avenue, Room 321
Miami, Florida 33128
Thanks to a close friend of the blog for the tip. So, who should be the next clerk?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Two studies performed at the historic David W. Dyer federal courthouse in downtown Miami show there are significant mold and air safety issues at one of Miami-Dade County’s oldest courthouses and suggest parts of the building are beyond repair.
The studies, which were obtained by the Daily Business Review, were commissioned by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida after U.S. Magistrate Judge Ted Klein became ill and died last year of a mysterious respiratory illness, and his fellow magistrate judges raised concerns about the building’s environment.
Employees believe that Judge Klein became sick and died because of the problem:
A healthy man who skied and jogged, Klein contracted a respiratory infection and died in September 2006. At the time, his family worried that something in the courthouse caused his illness. Shortly after Klein became ill, the court commissioned the first fungal contamination assessment, which was never made public. According to the report dated July 2006, “Magistrate Judge Theodore Klein has recently developed adverse health effects that could be attributed to exposure to molds. The assessment was performed to determine if fungal contamination was present in areas that he frequently occupies including his courtroom and his office areas.” The study showed fungal spores were present “in significant numbers” in samples. However, the study concluded these spores were not likely to cause health problems unless someone was in an immuno-compromised state. Still, the study recommended fungus on the plaster walls and courtroom wallpaper be removed. After Klein’s death, his courtroom was closed off and remains unused. His chambers are occupied by Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, who recently transferred from Fort Lauderdale. “Why would they close off his courtroom if it’s not dangerous?” asked one employee who did not want to be identified. It is still not known what caused Klein’s illness because, in keeping with Jewish law, his body was not autopsied.
Chief Judge Moreno has taken steps to make sure employees are safe:
In an Aug. 27 memo, Chief Judge Federico A. Moreno said a new study is being commissioned by a company that performed mold remediation at the West Palm Beach federal courthouse. That courthouse, damaged by Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, was closed for a year and a half while mold was removed.
“Our intention is to have the consultant review prior testing results, conduct additional on-site testing and then render conclusions about whether occupancy in limited areas of the building is likely to cause adverse health effects in occupants to a more serious degree than exposure to fungal levels,” Moreno said. “Please understand that I, who began his federal judicial service in the East Courtroom of the Old Courthouse, share your concern about your work environment in the Dyer Building.” Through a clerk, Moreno declined comment and said he preferred to let his memo speak for itself. In the memo, he encouraged any employees who have been in the “sealed document vault” — a basement area heavy with mold — to consult their doctors. Additionally, he mandated that no new sealed documents be taken to the basement, which is being “air-scrubbed,” and that anyone handling records coated with what appears to be mold use masks and gloves.
Read the whole memo from the Chief here.
The employees are understandably scared:
Klein is not the only federal employee in the building to fall sick. According to several courthouse sources, the law clerk for Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber is very ill and has received permission to work at home. Garber declined to discuss the issue until the new study is completed. Another courtroom deputy who recently retired said she is very ill and recently had double pneumonia. “I’m scared to even go to my doctor to see what the heck is wrong,” she said. “They are keeping everything hush-hush,” said a judicial assistant who did not want to be identified. ”Everyone is scared. You don’t know how much your immune system can handle.” Another judicial assistant said she had no idea her chair was mold-infested until she saw a photo of it in the report, which labeled it “mold-infested.” She quickly found another chair in the office to use. Magistrate Judge Peter R. Palermo, who has worked in the Dyer Building for 37 years, is not sick but is concerned about his employees. “Who knows if there are health problems because of the mold,” he said. “We just want to know if it’s safe.” Palermo attended the Aug. 9 meeting held by representatives from Clerk of the Courts Clarence Maddox’s office to discuss the report. Neither Maddox nor Moreno or any other federal judge was present. However, Moreno has met with every employee to discuss the situation and is getting high marks for his concern. “He’s here in Miami and seems to care about us, whereas the previous chief judge was in Fort Lauderdale,” said one clerk.
Chief Judge Moreno is a people person and is a very practical judge -- he will do everything he can to fix this problem and make sure no one is subject to unhealthy conditions. I'm sure of that.
But I'm also sure that courthouse staff is wondering what the deal is with the brand new courthouse just sitting there. Why do they have to work in what they believe is an unsafe courthouse when a sparkling new one is built across the street. We need to sue those jokers who can't get the building ready to open. It's a bad joke already. The over/under is still January 1, 2008, but the smart money is on the over.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
The Hurricanes lost. Badly.
Plus, my fantasy team is losing -- I need Chad Johnson, A. Boldin, and Todd Heap to have big games tonight.
If you aren't too depressed on this Monday morning and want to surf a bit before starting your day, here's Julie Kay's Justice Watch column wherein she reports that our new chief of criminal is Bob Senior, which is an excellent choice.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
From the AP:
A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the extradition of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, giving his lawyers time to present "credible evidence" that he would not receive Geneva Conventions protections if sent to France.
Noriega's lawyers had asked Senior U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler to stop the extradition to France, where he will face money laundering charges after his scheduled release from U.S. prison this weekend.
Defense attorneys have argued that Noriega should be sent back to Panama because he is a prisoner of war due the protections of the Geneva Conventions. They claim that there is "substantial reason" to believe that France instead intends to treat Noriega as a "common criminal."
Noriega's attorneys have until 9 a.m. Thursday to make their case, Hoeveler said. Federal prosecutors will then have until noon that day to respond, the judge ruled.
From the Sun-Sentinel:
Sentencing for Jenne was set for Nov. 16 before U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Until then, he remains free on $100,000 bond.
Sentencing guidelines in Jenne's plea agreement call for a prison term of 18-24 months, but prosecutors could ask for more, and Jenne's defense could ask for less.``If I give you a higher sentence, that's a chance you take. You understand that, don't you?'' Dimitrouleas asked.``Yes, your honor,'' Jenne replied.
This passage struck me:
Ever the politician, Jenne, 60, chatted amiably with the chief prosecutor, Michael "Pat" Sullivan, minutes before his morning court appearance."Good seeing you," Jenne told Sullivan, patting him on the arm. Jenne appeared stoic, dressed in a navy blue pinstripe suit.
High-profile defendants always bring with them the question of whether they should get more time because of deterrence and because they owed a greater duty to society and so on. Or should they get a lower sentence because of all the good work they have done for society? Should the court take into account that the time in prison will be more difficult for a high profile defendant? These questions seem particularly relevant when it's a police officer defendant.
So what say you SDFLA readers? If you were judge, what would your sentence be for Jenne. A guideline sentence of 18-24 months? More? Less?
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
A couple interesting facts:
1. The case drew Judge William Dimitrouleas, a Clinton (corrected from original post) appointee. Before getting appointed, Judge D (as he is known in this District) was a state public defender (for two years), a state prosecutor (for 12 years), and a state judge (for ten years). In other words, he knows Jenne well. How this will cut is anyone's guess.
2. The plea agreement calls for an advisory guideline range of 18-24 months. Many plea agreements do not set forth how the guidelines are calculated, but this one does in (complicated) detail.
3. Former U.S. Attorney Tom Scott, along with David Bogenschutz, signed the plea agreement as Jenne's lawyers.
4. Both sides reserved the right to argue for sentences different than the guidelines. Sometimes defendants and prosecutors will agree that the guidelines will apply and sometimes the defense reserves the right to argue for a lower sentence. In this case, the defense reserved its right to argue for a lower sentence and the prosecution reserved the right to argue for a higher sentence.
Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne -- at one time the county's most powerful politician -- has resigned and agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges involving tens of thousands of dollars he allegedly received from sheriff's office contractors and employees, sources said Tuesday.
After months of personal anguish, Jenne decided Monday to cut the plea deal on tax evasion and other felony charges to limit his prison time because he also was staring at an imminent grand jury indictment on more serious fraud and money-laundering offenses, sources said.
The U.S. attorney's office plans to file the charges, plea agreement and proffer statement involving the allegations against Jenne on Tuesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. The plea agreement means Jenne, who earned $169,800 a year as sheriff, will surrender to authorities to face tax-evasion related charges as early as Tuesday afternoon.
Jenne will likely serve some prison time -- possibly between one and two years -- and have to pay back taxes and fines to the Internal Revenue Service, sources said.
Jenne, a lawyer who spent most of his life in public service, also will likely lose his Florida Bar license and sheriff's pension because of the felony conviction. His pension is estimated to be about $125,000 a year. In the plea, Jenne is expected to admit to abusing the public trust, sources said, a concession that will hurt his post-conviction effort to save his pension.
More commentary to follow once we see the plea agreement and the information. For now, here's his resignation letter to the Governor.