Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

What an awesome line by Bill Clinton at the DNC tonight.

Live blogging the fire alarm

So we were in a hearing with Judge Seitz when the fire alarm went off. And we only had 60 seconds until the hearing was over. Ahh, the new courthouse gremlins at work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Two words, your honor,Not guilty."

That was Charles Kuck said in his opening statement to Immigration Judge Kenneth Hurewitz for his client Lyglenson Lemorin. You remember Lemorin -- he was the one defendant who was acquitted from the Liberty City 7 trial (Joel DeFabio was his lawyer). The others have had two hung juries. But no matter for the government -- it is seeking to deport Lemorin saying he was actually guilty.

I'm sorry, but this is outrageous. Why have a jury system if the government can just say it doesn't matter? While the other defendants from the case are out on bond, Lemorin has been in an immigration cell waiting to yet again prove his innocence.

Here's Vanessa Blum's article on the case. It's time for Lemorin, a 20-year resident with no prior convictions, to go home to his family.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Election Day

Tuesday is election day for state judges in Miami. As I look through the information available about most of the candidates, I become more convinced that the federal appointment system is superior.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cracking the guidelines

Last year the Sentencing Commission retroactively amended the crack guidelines. But what happens when a defendant was sentenced as a career offender? Here's the article discussing how the 11th Circuit oral argument from the 5 consolidated cases (4 from Judge Hurley, 1 from Judge Middlebrooks) went in Atlanta today:

Today, two of the most controversial issues in sentencing law -- the length of sentences for crack cocaine offenders and judges' ability to go outside the federal sentencing guidelines -- will intersect in arguments at a federal appeals court panel sitting in Atlanta.
The five cases from the Southern District of Florida, consolidated for oral argument at the 11th Circuit, have the potential to affect many other cases throughout Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The appellate chief at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta, Amy L. Weil, said she'd seen about a dozen motions by defendants in the Northern District of Georgia alone that raise the same issue.
In each case before the court today the defendant was convicted of a federal crack cocaine offense and sentenced before more lenient crack cocaine sentencing guidelines went into effect in November. Each is trying to get a new sentence based on the change in the guidelines but has been stymied because prosecutors argue they were sentenced as career offenders. (see below for related case briefs.)
Crack cocaine sentencing guidelines have been criticized because the sale, manufacture or possession of crack carries a much harsher sentence than that for a similar amount of powder cocaine. The disparity has been described as a 1-100 ratio, meaning a small amount of crack is equivalent under the sentencing guidelines to a large amount of cocaine. Defenders of the disparity in sentencing have said that crack is more likely to be linked with crimes of violence, while critics note that the harsher crack guideline disproportionately affects African- Americans.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"A rising legal star in Miami agrees to plea bargain involving mail fraud, laundering charges "

That's the headline from the National Law Journal article about Richard Simring. Here's the intro:

A rising Miami legal star and community activist has quietly agreed to a plea deal in which he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering in connection with his role as in-house counsel to an indicted billionaire businessman. Few in Miami have known that Richard Simring, a former partner at Stroock Stroock & Lavan and Jorden Burt, plead guilty in July in the Eastern District of Virginia and is facing possible suspension of his Florida Bar license. Simring took the plea deal, in which he faces a possible five years in prison and must testify against his former boss, before a grand jury could indict him, according to his lawyer, Brian Tannebaum of Miami's Tannebaum Weiss. "He's taking responsibility for what the government says he did," Tannebaum said. "He didn't want to roll the dice and face…a jury." Simring was charged in connection with his role as chief legal counsel to Ed Okun, a Carmel, Ca., billionaire who operated the "1031 Tax Group." The company was one that specialized in 1031 tax exchanges, a way to defer capital gains taxes by exchanging one investment property for another. U.S. v. Richard Simring, No. 3:08cr00321-REP (E.D. Va.).

Very sad.

UPDATE -- I re-read the article and this struck me:

Simring, according to the information, told Okun that he must stop transferring client funds and that he risked going to jail. In 2007, Simring became aware that Okun was continuing to misappropriate millions from clients and was on the verge of insolvency, according to the information. That's when the Okun resigned and Simring was appointed interim chief executive officer. According to the information, Simring complied with Okun's orders to continue transferring millions of dollars of client money. Simring resigned three days after assuming the role of CEO. Okun's company soon after filed for bankruptcy.

Three days!

Tough times

From AboveTheLaw (which has a new editor):

* It looks like 2008 will be the worst year for law firms since 2001. The American Lawyer says the "silver lining" is that firms can "winnow out unproductive lawyers and apply greater discipline to expense control." In other words: more layoffs, less perks. [American Lawyer]

* Law firms are not the only ones suffering. Florida courts will cut 250 positions by October 1. [Daily Business Review]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Random questions from the last two days

Did you work on Monday and Tuesday this week?
Yes, I went to the office both days
Yes, I worked from home
No, I played Guitar Hero at home
Free polls from

And for the comments:

How many billable hours were lost in the rain?

Did BigLaw make their secretaries work?

Should the federal courts track the school closures?

If the court is closed, should you be able to e-file motions?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Federal court in Miami closed Monday & Tuesday

UPDATE -- because the SDFLA tracks Dade County Schools, Miami federal court will be closed Tuesday.

Here's the notice from the court website:

AUGUST 17, 2008, 7:30 p.m.Federal District Court Operations and Tropical Storm Fay
The U.S. District Courthouses in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties will be closed on Monday, August 18, in accordance with Administrative Order 2007-44. This administrative order mandates that, in the event of hazardous weather that causes the local public schools in a particular county to close, the U.S. District Courthouse in that county will also close. The U.S. District Court closures include the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts.
Jurors have been instructed to call in for further reporting instructions.
At this time, the U.S. District Courthouses in West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce will remain open on August 18 unless the public schools in those locations also close.
Any change to the scheduled closures will be made via media announcements. Changes will also be posted on the Court's website at

Thursday, August 14, 2008


That was some storm this afternoon, no?

It wasn't this bad:

But apparently there was an F-1 tornado. Pics here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"I didn't want to go in the life raft. He made me go. He had my gun."

That was Joe Cool defendant Guillermo Zarabozo talking about co-defendant Kirby Archer, who has already pleaded guilty. Zarabozo was testifying today at a motion to suppress.

More from Curt Anderon's AP article:

"What was going through your mind?" asked defense attorney Anthony Natale.
"That I would get shot. He had just shot four people," Zarabozo said.
The hearing Tuesday concerned whether statements Zarabozo made to the Coast Guard and FBI after he and Archer were rescued from the life raft will be allowed at trial. U.S. District Judge Paul Huck ruled those statements could be used because Zarabozo was not under arrest or being interrogated, but simply answering routine search-and-rescue questions.
"That would be a normal Coast Guard procedure and not a nefarious, underhanded attempt by the Coast Guard to obtain criminal information," Huck said.

His trial is scheduled for September.

Juror research

Julie Kay examines the new trend of investigating jurors here.

In last year's federal terrorism case against once-suspected "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, a team of defense lawyers were sitting at a back table in the Miami federal courtroom with their laptops searching online all the jurors when they discovered one had lied on her jury questionnaire.
The woman, a Miami-area government employee who has not been identified, said she had no personal experience in the criminal system.
It turned out she was currently under investigation for malfeasance, according to Linda Moreno, a Tampa, Fla., solo trial lawyer who served as a jury consultant for one of Padilla's co-defendants. After the judge was informed, she dismissed the juror. See U.S. v. Hassoun, No. 0:04cr60001 (S.D. Fla.).
The Miami case was not unusual. As more and more information on people becomes available on the Internet, through posting on personal blogs, MySpace, Facebook and other social networking Web sites, the Internet has, in the last few years, become an important tool for jury consultants and trial lawyers.
Jury consultants say such sites are a treasure trove of information about potential and seated jurors that can be used in picking the right jurors, bouncing potential jurors and even influencing jurors through the trial and in closing arguments.
To mine the gold, jury consultants have begun turning to private investigators, some of whom have started niche businesses offering Internet jury research and "personality profiling" of jurors.
"If it's within the law, with peoples' lives at stake and millions and millions of dollars at stake, people will do whatever it takes to win a case," said Marshall Hennington, a Beverly Hills, Calif., jury consultant at
Hennington & Associates. "The stakes are getting higher and higher, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to persuade jurors that have strong biases ... so we need information ahead of time. Everything is fair game."

One lawyer suggests it may be unethical to research jurors on the internet. I don't see the argument at all. Thoughts?

Paris in Miami

Paris Hilton has been sued in Miami federal court for not promoting a movie she was in, National Lampoon's Pledge This . The case, available here, landed before Judge Martinez. Here's the Herald article on the case. From the intro:

As if starring in the flop flick National Lampoon's PledgeThis wasn't bad enough, socialite Paris Hilton now has been sued for refusing to promote the film when it was released.
Hilton's breach of contract cost the producers of the film ''lost revenue and profits,'' according to the suit, filed in Miami federal court Tuesday.
A call to Hilton's Los Angeles attorney wasn't immediately returned.
Fort Lauderdale lawyer Michael I. Goldberg, a court-appointed receiver of the film's production company -- The Entertainment Group Fund -- filed the suit against Hilton and her company, Paris Hilton Entertainment.
The Entertainment Group Fund is an affiliate of Worldwide Entertainment Group, a one-time concert promoter that now stands accused of fleecing $300 million from investors.
Entertainment Group paid Hilton $1 million to star in Pledge This, filmed in South Florida.

This should be fun.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Terrible news

Anyone who has tried a case in Ft. Lauderdale knows Creolina's and Rosie. It closed. TERRIBLE NEWS. From the Sun-Sentinel:
Creolina’s, the New Orleans-style restaurant in Fort Lauderdale’s Himmarshee district, will reopen in Davie by September.
After 17 years, owner Mark Sulzinski closed the doors on Southwest Second Street on June 28th. His new restaurant, Creolina’s Dixie Take Out, will be located at 13150 W. State Rd. 84 in the Randal Plaza. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts and a McDonald's in the same plaza.
“The owner of the building on Second owns the bar next door and he wanted my space to expand,” explains Sulzinski. “So he didn’t renew my lease.”
Creolina’s was on Second since 1996. It first opened in 1991 on Seventh Avenue between Sistrunk and Sunrise.
The house specialties—étouffée, jambalaya, beans and rice—will remain. But prices will be lower. Jambalaya was $8.95 a lunch and $12.95 at dinner. It will be $6.95 all day at the new Creolina’s.
The chef will also add classic Southern dishes, many of which he’s offered as specials. Look for country fried steak, chicken and dumplings, pulled pork and country-style ribs. Sides will includes corn bread, greens, black-eyed peas as well macaroni and cheese.
Fans of Creolina's can rest easy. Waitress Rosemary “Rosie” O’Neal, who has been at restaurant since it opened, will make the move to Davie.
“She’s having a nice vacation,” says Sulzinski. “ This is the longest we haven’t worked in 17 years. We’ve never taken more than a week at a time.”
Sulzinski doesn’t yet have phone service at the new location, but says the old number — 954-524-2003—will soon transfer callers.
If September can't come soon enough, Sulzinski teaches a class at
Chef Jean-Pierre's Cooking School in Fort Lauderdale on August 25.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Enjoy it while it lasts...

One more week of good traffic.

Then school starts.

And people forget how to drive.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Agent Donald Pettit, RIP

More sad news today. Customs Agent Donald Pettit was shot to death in front of his daughter. The cause of the shooting looks like road rage. Herald article here.

Prosecutors seek protection

Julie Kay reports here on the government's desire to get prosecutors more protection:

In the wake of three murders and the recent attack on a federal prosecutor in a New York courtroom, a group representing the nation's federal prosecutors is calling for stepped-up security, including home alarms, self-defense training and the right to carry firearms.Additionally, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, which represents the country's 5,400 federal prosecutors, wants secure parking for prosecutors, particularly those who handle dangerous criminal cases."Statistically, we are threatened more than judges," said Steve Cook, chairman of the NAAUSA security committee and a Tennessee federal prosecutor. "Security is a very important issue for us."

Hmmmm. Self-defense training? My advice -- let the Marshals do the defending for you guys. That's all we need -- [INSERT NAME HERE] going toe to toe with an armed career criminal...

According to the article, prosecutors also want to be able to carry firearms without having to wait two weeks to get approval. Oh boy.... How long till a defense lawyer gets shot?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Steve Chaykin funeral

I just got back from Steven Chaykin's funeral, which was very emotional and extremely well-attended.

I only knew Steve professionally, having worked with him on a couple of cases. But after the funeral, I felt like I've known the guy for a long long time. His brother Robert Chaykin and his sister Robin Chaykin spoke beautifully. Donna Shalala from UM spoke, as did his friends Sam Rabin, David Mandel, Dan Gelber, and Bruce Udolf.

Rumpole wrote a very nice tribute on his blog about Steve. I echo the sentiment.

Here's more from SFlaLawyer:

Steve's younger brother Robert shared tearful remembrances of growing up in North Miami Beach, and running away at age 9 to the nearby Royal Castle and 163rd Street Mall, playing in a local band, and even getting into a sibling squabble or two.Steve's younger sister Robin perhaps is a secret Dylan ranter, as she quoted the lyrics from "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go":
But I'll see you in the sky above,In the tall grass, in the ones I love,Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

UM President Donna Shalala ended her eloquent tribute to a huge UM booster with an invitation to Steve's ten-year old daughter Sydney -- the door is always open for you at the University of Miami.Sam Rabin -- still shocked as are we all -- told old stories, funny stories, and gave us a picture of a man that he described as a total "mensch."David Mandel choked back tears as he quietly remembered a dear friend and mentor.Dan Gelber was funny, quick, and to the point as usual, and ended with some beautiful words to Steve's daughter about a man that he said "took him under his wing and never left."Bruce Udolf shared several remarkable stories of "Diamond Steve" Chaykin and the heyday of the US Attorney's Office in the 80s and early 90s. He even said that Steve and Bruce were perhaps planning to assist in restoring public trust in the US Attorney's office, and of course everyone in Steve's orbit shared his passion for politics and for a change in the direction of the country.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I'm backkkkkk

Who was the little rat who lied and told Google we were a spam blog, huh? (A couple of days ago we received a msg from Google saying that we were under suspicion of being a spam blog. Google therefore blocked us and said that until it could investigate, we were shut down... This happened to Rumpole a while back too. He was gracious enough to agree to post anything important while we were blocked, but I figured I could use a day or two without blogging.)

Well, your dirty tricks didn't work...

We're back baby.

And now we know what Jay Weaver has been holed up doing the last couple of weeks.... writing about Medicaid fraud. Lots of words to read here.

Cliff's Notes version -- There is a great deal of Medicaid fraud in Florida.