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 email@example.com
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
News and Notes
1. Liberty City seven: The expert (Raymond Tanter) is testifying. If the defendants are convicted, this will be issue #1 on appeal. Reports from the Sun-Sentinel & Herald. (I've been told that the expert plans on writing a book about his trial experience in this case -- cross examination is today, so we'll find out more.)
2. Joe Cool: Although the government has yet to decide if it will seek the death penalty, defense lawyers have asked that Bill Matthewman be appointed for his expertise in death cases. (Via Sun-Sentinel). And despite the comments to previous posts, Judge Huck has indicated that he will probably set the trial in about six months -- plenty of time for both sides to prepare.
3. Julie Kay's NLJ column: Her first is here (Florida leads states in wage suits; clogging fed courts).
4. Coverage of US v. Williams oral argument, via HowAppealing:
"An anti-porn law that will survive?" Lyle Denniston has this post at "SCOTUSblog."
"Justices Hear Arguments on Internet Pornography Law": Linda Greenhouse has this article today in The New York Times.
Today in The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that "High Court Surveys Child Pornography Law's Scope."
David G. Savage of The Los Angeles Times reports that "High court weighs child porn law; Justices seek to establish whether a tool to punish online purveyors of illegal pictures infringes on the 1st Amendment."
In USA Today, Joan Biskupic reports that "Court puts child porn law to test; Justices appear skeptical of challengers' arguments."
And The Miami Herald reports that "Child-porn law debated; The attorney for a former Miami-Dade officer argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that a law to curb child pornography is too broad."
"Supreme Court hears arguments over child-pornography law": McClatchy Newspapers provide this report.
"Supreme Court Takes Up Child Porn Case": This audio segment (RealPlayer required) featuring Dahlia Lithwick appeared on today's broadcast of NPR's "Day to Day."
And at "The Volokh Conspiracy," Orin Kerr has a post titled "Oral Argument in United States v. Williams."
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Oral argument transcript from the Supreme Court
Rick Diaz and Lou Guerra to Washington
Initially Judge Middlebrooks denied Diaz & Guerra's motion to dismiss. The 11th Circuit reversed. And the High Court granted cert.
Go get em Rick and Lou.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Should Liberty City 7 jury hear from "radicalization" expert?
The federal government's leading expert witness in its terrorism case against seven Miami men will take the stand this week to answer what may be the most pressing question facing law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: How do ordinary individuals become terrorists?
In what will be the first testimony of its kind in a U.S. terrorism trial, Raymond Tanter is expected to tell jurors that most would-be terrorists start off as unremarkable individuals seeking a sense of belonging and purpose within an extremist group.Prosecutors want Tanter, a political science professor at Georgetown University, to tell jurors the seven defendants accused of plotting to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago fit that profile and were on a path likely to end in violence.
Tanter's testimony is based on a theory called the radicalization process. It is important to the government's case because the defendants — who have no Middle Eastern roots, mostly grew up in South Florida and practiced a blend of religions — may not fit jurors' notions about terrorists.Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to block Tanter from testifying, describing his theories as unscientific and too new to be considered reliable.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Joe Cool case to Judge Huck
Say hello to my little friend
"It's possible not everything is accurate," Assad said.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Broward state court
To his credit, the prosecutor said the comments were inappropriate. And to the judge's credit, he immediately (and repeatedly) apologized.**
This is the great benefit of blogs -- and the big trouble with them. Stupid comments like this have been going on for a very long time. They obviously aren't right, but blogs make the reaction angrier and more volatile than probably necessary.
I agree with Rumpole that Levenson should be forgiven. (I took out my comment about the PD because it wasn't his client that he was talking about. Obviously still inappropriate, but not in the same way.)
*I have to justify the post on the "federal blog" or Rumpole gets all upset.
**We previously have commented on Judge Levenson's good acts as judge here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
No bond for the Joe Cool defendants
"In this courtroom sketch, Kirby Logan Archer, 35, of Strawberry, Ark., left, and Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, of Hialeah, right, appear in federal court in Miami. The men, who were picked up in a life raft after hiring a charter boat to take them to the Bahamas, have been charged with murder in the incident. The boat's four crew members are still missing. (AP/Shirley Henderson / September 26, 2007) "
Restaveks in Federal Court
Federal court documents paint a grim picture of a slave-like life for Simone Celestin -- 15-hour work days, seven days a week, no schooling and no freedom. An orphan smuggled into Miami from Haiti at age 14, she lived in a Southwest Miami home for almost six years, fearful of being deported, under conditions that amounted to involuntary servitude, prosecutors say.
Looks like an interesting case, which is headed to trial:
Four people -- a mother, two daughters and one ex-husband of a daughter -- were indicted in connection with the case in April. Charges include human trafficking and forced labor.
The indictment said Evelyn Theodore and her daughters, Maude Paulin and Claire Telasco, hit the girl with hands, fists and ''other objects'' to force her to work as a servant in their house in South Miami-Dade and in other houses.
''The prosecution of individuals involved in human trafficking is a top priority of the Justice Department,'' a U.S attorney's office statement said at the time of indictment.
The defense responds:
''These were well-intentioned people who had high hopes for improving Simone's future lifestyle,'' said Richard Dansoh, the Coral Gables lawyer defending Maude Paulin. ``They did not put any restrictions on her. They did try to advise her that, as she came of age, she needed to be careful about running around with men.''
As further proof, he cited a Miami-Dade police report showing that an anonymous abuse complaint lodged in 2000 was investigated at the home -- and determined to be unfounded.
The police report noted that the complaint involved the 14-year-old girl who reportedly had been ``smuggled into the country from Haiti and was being forced to work in the home as a maid.''
The report said a state investigator found the child to be in good health, that she spoke only Creole and there were ''no signs of child abuse/neglect.'' The report also noted that police had notified immigration officials about a ``possible illegal immigrant.''
"Lawyers for Liberty City 7 having tough time"
A couple of exchanges from the article between Ana Jhones (the lawyer for the lead defendant) and the informant:
"It's all about the money, isn't it?" Jhones asked aggressively.
"No, ma'am," Assad answered calmly. "There is a list, too."
"If I remember, I never promised him anything," he continued. "I only promised I would give the list to my big brother."
The FBI informant then lost touch with Batiste for one month.
Batiste and his followers in the local branch of the Moorish Science Temple -- a religion that combines Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths -- began to suspect that Assad was working undercover for law enforcement. They also had their doubts about the other FBI informant, al-Saidi.
In late January 2006, a few of Batiste's men met the two informants at the group's warehouse in Liberty City, changed their clothes and drove them to Islamorada.
There, inside a tent, Assad and al-Saidi met with Batiste in a tense confrontation. Assad salvaged the FBI's undercover probe when he blurted out to Batiste that he was a representative of al Qaeda, winning his trust again. Assad was allowed to keep his cellphone, which recorded the conversation.
"You're doing all the talking," Jhones told Assad on the witness stand.
The lawyer reiterated that Batiste said his group was "suffering" because it lacked money, suggesting he was only trying to con the informant for big bucks.
"He doesn't say he needs the money because he hates the United States," Jhones said on cross-examination.
But Assad fired back: "He says he needs the money to destroy the United States."
The informant only gave Batiste and his followers boots, supplied by the FBI. Assad later offered to provide them with a second warehouse in Miami, where they could plan their alleged terror mission.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Monday Morning Blogging
But the Hurricanes beat FSU. That makes it all feel a little bit better, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, the Fins are the worst they have been in my lifetime. It's tough to watch. Rumpole has a funny post about them over at his blog.
As for SDFLA news, the Liberty City 7 trial is still going... Joe Cool arraignments should occur this week.
And it looks like we have a new Justice Watch columnist -- Alana Roberts. Welcome. She writes today about Jack Thompson, which we have covered in detail in prior posts.
Finally, a couple of you have asked about how to join the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Go to this site, pay by credit card, and make sue you pick the South Florida Chapter. You'll want to join soon -- our first speakers in November are Judges Barkett and Marcus. Should be fun.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Federal Bar Association dinner
Our first luncheon will be in mid-November. Judges Barkett and Marcus will be speaking. More info to follow...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Three Liberty City 7 jurors dismissed
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruled after spending hours questioning jurors about a pamphlet on terrorism found in the jury room Monday. Miami police officers handed out the pamphlets last week at Metrorail stations, and the jurors who were dismissed said they had read or skimmed it.
One of the dismissed jurors said he considered it an "interesting coincidence" that he was handed a pamphlet about terrorism at the Government Center Metrorail Station as he made his way to court for a terrorism trial. The man said he brought the flier into the jury room after receiving it.
The pamphlet's cover features a police shield and the word "terrorism" in bold, capital letters. A police representative said the distribution, part of a program to alert the public to terrorist threats, was unrelated to the trial.
All but two of the 12 jurors and six alternates said they had seen a copy in the jury room and noticed it pertained to terrorism. To defense lawyers, that alone was enough to warrant a mistrial.
"To have that in the jury room in this type of trial, I think it's outrageous," said Roderick Vereen, who represents Stanley Phanor, 32.
Other defense lawyers weren't so happy with the jurors being dismissed:
Lawyers for every defendant but Batiste requested a mistrial based on the pamphlet, which includes a watch list of seven "signs of terrorism" and descriptions of deadly materials that could be used by terrorists.
Lenard denied the mistrial motions. However, she excused the three members of the jury panel who said they had read the brochure, explaining she was acting in "an abundance of caution."
Ana Jhones, who represents Batiste, protested Lenard's decision, saying her client had never complained about the pamphlet. "He is now faced with the consequences that he is not going to have the jury he has selected," she said.
Albert Levin, Abraham's attorney, and Joel DeFabio, Lemorin's attorney, also opposed dismissing the jurors.
Ah, the joys of trial. Crazy things always happen, don't they?
You go Judge Milian
Monday, October 15, 2007
Jeff Sloman -- new Broward Sheriff?
There's a new applicant to be interim Broward County sheriff -- a high-ranking federal prosecutor who was involved in the investigation that ousted former Sheriff Ken Jenne.
Jeff Sloman, the No. 2 official in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, was interviewed by Gov. Charlie Crist at 1 p.m. Monday in Tallahassee.Sloman's application for the job was received on Saturday, said Anthony De Luise, a spokesman for the Governor's Office.
That was quick -- application gets in on Saturday, interview on Monday. Looks like Mr. Sloman will be Sheriff Sloman. He would be great...
Mold and explosions
He has inherited two big problems -- he has to deal with mold in the old Dyer Building and a recent explosion in the new Ferguson Building. The over on the January 1, 2008 opening is looking pretty good right now.
Julie Kay details in the DBR today (yes, I thought she had left too) that Ervin Gonzalez is investigating the mold issue in the Dyer Building that we covered previously here. And she goes through some of the issues with the new building, including a recent explosion that has disabled the electrical system. (It was supposed to open in July 2005 and is $78 million over budget!) The good news is that a certificate of occupancy has been issued for the building.
Friday, October 12, 2007
"Nothing short of brilliant"
Analysis of the opinion here by new (and anonymous) blogger, "South Florida Lawyers".
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Joe Cool charges -- First Degree Murder
Here's the Sun-Sentinel coverage, the AP, the Miami Herald.
U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta on the case: "We believe the evidence is strong. We shouldn't shy away from a case just because it's not an easy one." He said Kirby Archer, 35, of Strawberry, Ark., and Guillermo Zarabozo, 20, of Hialeah, murdered the crew "in cold blood."
From the Herald article:
Archer's attorney, former federal prosecutor Allan Kaiser, said the charges were hollow.
''They're under the gun,'' Kaiser said. 'The magistrate judge said last week, `You better come up with more evidence.' This is the evidence? I don't see a first-degree, premeditated murder case predicated on alleged inconsistent statements.''
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I work at Hunton & Williams Miami; hear me roar
Because the picture is of Hunton lawyers and because of the caption, I read the article looking for the creative ways the firm is appealing to its women lawyers. But this is the only mention in the article:
Firms are trying to reverse the trend as clients demand diverse legal teams. Most big firms offer part-time options, flex scheduling and women's retention/advancement programs aimed at keeping their young female lawyers.
Grace Mora, a Miami labor lawyer, participates in Hunton & Williams' Women's Networking Forum. She believes her firm is moving in the right direction. ''I think it takes time to get the word out there. '' She also believes flex scheduling is evolving from a perk to becoming part of the firm's culture. ''We're not 100 percent there, but we are moving in that direction.'' But Mora says it's not just women who want it, ``men are demanding it too.''
Ah well.... At least the picture is cool.
The article does detail the drop of women applicants to law schools:
Since 2002, the percentage of women in law schools has declined each year, a new study shows. While the number of applicants overall has dropped in the past two years, the percentage decline in the number of women has been even greater, according to the American Bar Association.
What say you, Miami readers -- are there any firms doing cool things to keep women lawyers?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Jack Thompson hearing (by Jack Thompson)
Well, all I have on the Jack Thompson hearing today in front of Judge Jordan is (what purports to be) Jack Thompson's summary of the hearing posted on GamePolitics here:
I’m delighted to announce that Judge Jordan vacated his order regarding referring me to the disciplinary committee, and he decided to forego all disciplinary remedies.
The judge started out by suggesting that he did not feel comfortable doing so unless I admitted I had done something wrong. I said I did nothing wrong and would not admit that I did. He asked, “Then how do I know you won’t do it again.”
I pointed out to him that Christ said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God’s.” Christ, then, was making it clear that people of faith are not free to disobey civil authority, and if he now entered a court order for me not to do this, then I would not, as Christians are not free to disobey the law without consequences. But I told him he could not order me to say I did something wrong, because as a matter of conscience I could not do so.
That obviously satisfied him, and he voided out the entire disciplinary matter. Norm Kent was there, which was hilarious, having moved the court last night at 10:30 pm to let him “intervene” and appear before the disciplinary committee against me. Poor Norm, he went away from the hearing sad.
As to the Bar’s motion to dismiss, the judge will rule in two weeks. I expect to receive from the court certain federal relief against this Bar. You all don’t know the case, and I do. Norm Kent, who is now unofficial legal consultatnt to Dennis McCauley as to all things “Jack” smugly predicted here and elsewhere that this disciplinary blow by Judge Jordan was sure to unravel everything for me.’
Now the disciplinary matter does not even exist. How did that prediction turn out for Norm and Dennis?
Kids, leave the lawyering to lawyers. I’ll leave the mind numbing games to you all.
I had a great day, standing before a federal judge for a 2 hour and 45 minute hearing, and I did just fine. Even Norm Kent would have to admit that.
Besides, Norm is a Yankee fan, and grew up in Cleveland. I’m having a very good 24 hours. Jack Thompson, Attorney and You’re Not
UPDATED -- GamePolitics has more on the hearing here.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Paul Rashkind goes to Guantanamo
Friday, October 05, 2007
Good luck to Julie Kay
Good luck Julie.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Judge Jordan and Jack Thompson
In an order issued late yesterday, Judge Jordan wrote:
In my opinion, the content of the numerous filings submitted by Mr. Thompson
indicate that he has difficulty separating the legal issues in this case from
broader social issues on which he has strongly-held beliefs. Mr. Thompson
unfortunately appears to believe that every act taken against him, and any
judicial ruling adverse to him, are part of a vast conspiracy designed to
silence him and destroy him.
Judge Jordan has scheduled a hearing for October 9th at 9:30 AM on motions by the defendants (the Florida Bar and Judge Dava Tunis, the referee in Thompson’s Bar disciplinary trial) to dismiss the case.
The judge will also hear from Thompson on a motion regarding the “show cause” order issued from the bench following Thompson’s inclusion of gay porn in a docket filing.
And if you can't get enough of this craziness, here's what happened in Thompson's other lawsuit in front of Judge Huck.Whew.
Hugo Black funeral
A memorial service for Hugo L. Black III will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church on Sunday, October 7, beginning at 2:00 p.m. A reception will follow in Davis Hall, also located on Plymouth's campus.
Plymouth Congregational Church
3400 Devon Road
There are some very nice comments about Hugo here.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Opening statements in Liberty City 7 case
''These defendants wanted to wage a jihad against the United States,'' Gregorie said. ''They tell us so in unique detail,'' he said, citing wiretaps, videotapes and other FBI surveillances.
''This agreement is clear, ladies and gentlemen,'' he said. ``It's taped recorded and you are there.''
Ana Jhones for the lead defendant countered (from the AP):
Batiste attorney Ana M. Jhones countered that the purported plot was driven mainly by two paid FBI informants, including one known as Mohammed who posed as a representative of al-Qaida. She said Batiste's group was coerced into going along with the violent plan by "this great con man," who was paid about $80,000 by the FBI.
"This case is about an orchestrated event, a play," Jhones said. "These two informants knew how to work the system. They wrote the script."
"He never had any intent to do any of these things the government is accusing him of. He never had the ability," Jhones said. "Narseal Batiste was talking the talk and walking the walk."
And Rod Vereen for defendant Stanley Phanor (from the Sun-Sentinel):
"[Vereen] said the only possible outcome for his client should be a not guilty vote. 'This is a case where nonsense meets common sense,' Vereen said.