Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It’s only too hard for you.

Even though I actually went downtown today and even had lunch at La Loggia, I didn’t come across anything weird or strange. So, chew on this:

The Supreme Court decided today by a 5-4 vote that José Padilla’s lawyer could and should have advised him regarding the immigration consequences of pleading guilty. This José Padilla was not born in the United States. He pled guilty to a drug crime but claimed his lawyer told him that the plea would not affect his permanent residency. (Ha!) Justice Stevens lets you know how this is going to turn out in his opening lines:
Petitioner Jose Padilla, a native of Honduras, has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for more than 40 years. Padilla served this Nation with honor as a member of the U. S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War.
OK, got it, he wins. navy.jpg(J.P.S., by the way, served in the Pacific from the time he was 22 to the time he was 25. It freaks out the law students when I tell them, “When Stevens was your age, he was fighting the Japanese.” I think they have trouble comprehending that anyone who fought in WWII is still alive, much less holding down a job, much less writing opinions.)

Skipping ahead, we find that four Justices of the Supreme Court do not believe that a defendant’s counsel should try to explain the immigration consequences of pleading guilty because it’s too hard. Alito and Roberts say in their concurrence that defense lawyers would be better off saying nothing more than that adverse immigration consequences may result: “Because many criminal defense attorneys have little understanding of immigration law, it should follow that a criminal defense attorney who refrains from providing immigration advice does not violate prevailing professional norms.” And Scalia and Thomas go even further and say that anything other than the sentence is beside the point:
In the best of all possible worlds, criminal defendants contemplating a guilty plea ought to be advised of all serious collateral consequences of conviction, and surely ought not to be misadvised. The Constitution, however, is not an all-purpose tool for judicial construction of a perfect world ... .
How this was not 9-0 entirely escapes me. How is banishment not a criminal penalty? Wasn’t exile to Siberia a favored punishment of the czars or am I misremembering something? Is this supposedly not punishment because it’s specified in Title 8 rather than Title 18? The more offensive part of this is that the Justices never disclaim expertise over any corner of the law comprised by their vast general jurisdiction. They have no trouble grasping the finer points of criminal law and immigration law as well as patent law, military law, antitrust, bankruptcy, labor, tax, admiralty, whatever. But that’s Alito, Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas—not you.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How the ball bounces

Judge Marra just dealt a blow to the successor to the investors in the failed restaurant and memorabilia emporium, D. Wade’s Place, something I had no idea had ever existed. It seems, according to the order dismissing the complaint, that there is no legal basis for their contention that Dwyane (that’s how that’s apparently spelled) was monopolizing memorabilia by failing to perform on a contract that gave the investors
the right to use his name, fame, nickname, initials, autograph, voice, video or film portrayals, facsimile or original signature, photograph, likeness, and image or facsimile image without Wade’s consent to create personalized memorabilia featuring Wade which could be sold at the restaurants.
I know, I know. You’ve just experienced a certain loss of innocence. Basketball’s all just about making money. Let’s move on.
Plaintiff alleges that the relevant product market in this case is Dwyane Wade personalized sports memorabilia. Plaintiff contends that “[t]here is no substitute for Wade-personalized sports memorabilia (‘Wade Memorabilia’), especially in southern Florida, where the Miami Heat plays."
Quoting heavily from a series of antitrust decisions, Judge Marra observed, and I’m paraphrasing here, that things that are cool—e.g., a Yale education, the make-up from Cats, tickets to Phantom, Pepsi, NBC Must See TV—do not constitute their own relevant markets just because they’re cool.

Bilzen Sumberg &c. and the Tampa outpost of DLA Piper filed the motion.

(Having come to the end of this post, I have to confess that I’m a little surprised D.O.M. doesn’t have Blog tags for the Heat or Wade.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

It’s quiet ... too quiet

I didn’t mention this when D.O.M. called and said he needed to focus on work for a while, but I have no idea what’s going on in the SDFla. Judge Jordan dropped by my JV-FPD class last week to explain what goes on behind the curtain at the Eleventh Circuit—which went so well I could have sold tickets. But other than that I’ve pretty much been buried by work without contact with the outside world. Skimming over the Blog, it seems like all I missed was that Justice O’Connor came to town to cut the ribbon on the new courthouse cafeteria. Or something. Anyway, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing going on. The DBR’s web site reports that the deal between UBS and the U.S. may be unraveling. Whatever. That impasse was in the news the last time I was pinch-hitting in this space. Look, people, the whole reason why this district merits its own blog is that weird and bizarre stuff happens here. If you’re all just going to behave normally, then what’s the point?

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I'm taking Spring Break off from blogging. You'll be happy to know that Professor Rick Bascuas has agreed to step in for the week. Rick can usually be found blogging over here. See you guys soon.
UPDATED -- Well, just before I got off the grid, I got a tip that the new magistrate position went to Jonathan Goodman. I have no idea whether this is correct or not as I have not been able to confirm it. But since I'm not a real journalist, I figured I would post it. If it is JG, I congratulate him and believe he will be great! If I'm wrong, please let me know so I can fix this...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So who is the new Magistrate?

The judges interviewed and then picked the new magistrate today. But the choice isn't public yet. When asked who was selected, Chief Judge Moreno said this:

"The most qualified applicant was chosen pending an FBI investigation. Consistent with the rules of the Judicial Conference it remains confidential until finalized."

But once the FBI calls start, it will be all over town.... If you all hear anything, send me an email and I will keep it confidential. Thanks!

Previous coverage here.

All quiet in the District?

Talk to me people. Anyone in trial?

In the meantime, here's Breyer and Scalia squaring off again. From the BLT:

Breyer and Scalia challenged each other the most over statutory construction, with Scalia insisting that looking to the words of the law and nothing else is the best way to discern its meaning. That's because members of Congress actually vote for -- and can be held accountable for -- the actual text of the law, unlike committee reports and other documents drafted by "teenagers," to support their own views of the law, as Scalia put it with disdain. The legislators don't read those documents anyway, Scalia said. "Congress passes laws, not conference reports."
By that standard, Breyer replied, the words of the statute don't mean much either, because members of Congress don't read every word of the statute. A onetime Senate staffer, Breyer was far more willing to put his trust in a legislator and his or her staff to know a law's purpose as well as its words. Breyer seeks out evidence of a law's intent and context, he said, as the way to resolve disputes over its meaning. That approach, Breyer added, is more understandable to the public.
Scalia responded with exaggerated dismay. "I never heard that one before," he said. "Judging is best when it is most accessible to the public?" Scalia then launched into his oft-heard refrain about the public's lack of understanding of the work of courts, which he attributed to the news media's penchant for only reporting who won or lost, not the reasoning of a decision. "Was it the poor old widow, or the terrible insurance company?" Scalia said. "The stuff we have to decide is difficult, arcance ... not in the reach of everyone."
Breyer then suggested that Scalia had misinterpreted what he had said, though it was not entirely clear. If it was an argument Scalia had never heard before, Breyer said, "I wish you would think about it."
If one was listening to the debate for hints of the justices' views about current events, the pickings were slim. Scalia said, as he has before, that he will "never understand" how the text of the Contitution confers a right to an abortion.
And Scalia repeatedly spoke of the anti-democratic tendency of people nowadays to ask the courts, not legislators, to resolve issues. It's anti-democratic, he said, because "once something is declared unconstitutional, it is off the stage of democracy," whereas getting legislators to change laws or even amend the Constitution is the better way to go. "Once it is a right, we cannot vote about it."

In other out-of-district news, how funny is this lawsuit:

An official in the South Carolina House says Showtime Networks and HBO defamed him when they advertised the broadcast of an independent film he produced and co-starred in - "The Hills Have Thighs" - then showed a soft-core porn flick instead. James "Bubba" Cromer Jr. sued the media companies in Los Angeles Superior Court. Cromer, "elected Reading Clerk for the South Carolina House of Representatives," and a sometime filmmaker, said he was channel surfing on March 1, when, "to his delight," he saw that his second film, "The Hills have Thighs," was scheduled to debut on Showtime's The Movie Channel in the early morning on March 2. It would have been the first time one of Cromer's films had been shown on television. His first, "The Long Way Home: A Bigfoot Story," was shown at South Carolina's inaugural Indie Grits Film Festival in 2007, and was later named Best Narrative Feature at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. "The Hills Have Thighs" was completed the following year. Cromer, who wrote, directed and co-starred in the "Appalachian comedy," says the plot involves the mysterious disappearance of a "local hillbilly icon." Cromer claims he assumed the putative broadcast was the work of his newly hired talent agent. He says he tried to call the agent, but couldn't reach him. He claims his flick also was advertised for subsequent showing on HBO and pay per view. "Celebrating what they believed to be an exciting and wonderful event," Cromer says he and his father called family, friends, fellow lawmakers and members of the cast to make sure they watched or recorded the show. Cromer said he "also invited several thousand other friends and associates to watch via Twitter and Facebook."
To Cromer's horror, however, "the film which was announced to be his work, 'The Hills Have Thighs,' was in fact soft core pornography" that he had "nothing whatsoever to do with." Cromer said he had to spend a long, sleepless night, fielding emails, phone calls and text messages about the porn flick and its association with his name.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Congrats to Judge Huck

Our very own Judge Paul C. Huck received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jewish Federation tonight at the Hilton. Also honored: Judge Scott J. Silverman (Community Service Award) and Donald I. Bierman (Ted Klein Award).

My concern is that there are a few in the defense bar who see blood in the water...

...and are determined to attack the department’s prosecutors indiscriminately — and without any factual basis."

That was Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the criminal division. John Pacenti covered the story in this week's Justice Watch column. Guy Lewis countered Mr. Breuer:

Former interim U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, now a partner with Lewis Tein in Miami, said the pressures can be enormous. Telling an investigating agency that a completed investigation must be dropped without charges is the hardest part of the job for any prosecutor, he said. “There are going to be instances where prosecutors make mistakes. I did,” Lewis conceded. “What is important is for the prosecutor to own up to it.” He said the aggressiveness that is leading to some of the misconduct cases may stem from the war on terror. “The terrorism issue has spilled in a bad way into other more conventional-type cases,” he said. “I’m not saying aggressiveness is bad. But what I am saying is when you start throwing 95, 96, 97 mph fastballs, you got to be real careful about that.” Breuer said the Justice Department is addressing the discovery issue at the heart of the current misconduct allegations. Federal prosecutors must turn over any exculpatory evidence and evidence that could be used to impeach government witnesses. Holder is requiring all prosecutors, no matter how experienced, to take new discovery training. “We are confident that, through this comprehensive approach, we are equipped to meet our discovery obligations and minimize prosecutorial error,” Breuer said.

What do you guys think? Is there a problem out there with prosecutors and discovery? Or are defense attorneys filing motions without any factual basis? Or both?

New snack bar/cafeteria finally opened!

Go check it out on the 5th floor of the Ferguson courthouse!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Public corruption trial begins for former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman

Here's the preview article by the Sun-Sentinel. Should be interesting:

The defense's case is more unpredictable. Salesman's attorney, Jamie Benjamin, said his client denies that he did anything criminal. One possible argument floated by the defense is that Salesman can't be accused of abusing his office because he was suspended at the time of some of the alleged offenses, due to unrelated legal problems.Benjamin also planned to put on a defense of entrapment."The government turned a casual friendship with Mr. Salesman, where he was more than happy to do favors for people who had befriended him, into one where, like any organized crime ring, they got their tentacles around him," Benjamin wrote in court documents.But U.S. District Judge James Cohn's rulings last week left the defense concerned that if they go too far in accusing the FBI of entrapment, misconduct or racist motivations, it could open the door for prosecutors to tell the jury more unflattering information about Salesman.Cohn ruled Friday there was no evidence of racial hostility, as the defense alleged, in the federal investigation of Salesman, who is black."In addition, the court finds no evidence of governmental misconduct, much less outrageous governmental misconduct," the judge said, rejecting a defense request to dismiss some of the charges.

Bracket busting...

What a great first round of the tourney. Here is your top ten after Rounds 1 & 2:

1. ND in ND Jacob
2. Fake Ed Williams fakeedwilliams
3. Male Bondage II 3boysathome
4. Fake Bill Barzee Fake
5. Well Hung Jury Micah
6. SDFLA Blog * David
7. Male Bondage 3boysathome
8. EDCAjohn jpb95816
9. SJ Scott
10. Dan Dan

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick Day News & Notes

1. Suspended Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher pleaded guilty today. She'll do about three years in federal prison. (via Miami Herald)

2. "Wachovia Bank charged with violating anti-money laundering law" (via Miami Herald). Wachovia has agreed to pay $160 million in the deferred prosecution agreement:
Federal authorities in Miami have filed criminal charges against Wachovia Bank, alleging it failed to block Mexican currency exchange houses from laundering $110 million in drug proceeds through the bank, officials said Wednesday.
Wachovia Bank, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co., will avoid criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay a $50 million fine and forfeit the $110 million, officials said.
The bank must also implement stronger anti-money laundering systems.
Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office, along with officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, plan to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon on the allegations.
Wachovia, charged with violating the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, got out of the foreign money-transfer business two years ago.
In a statement published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Wells Fargo said: ``We look forward to resolving this issue and are committed to maintaining compliant and effective anti-money laundering policies and practices, and a strong compliance and risk management culture across the integrated organization."

One of lawyers representing the bank is Nick Bourtin of Sullivan & Cromwell. Bourtin clerked for Judge Moreno.

3. It's not too late to fill out your brackets! Click here at the free blog pool. The password is sdflablog

Justice O'Connor's reception

Justice O'Connor's reception last night was a success. Lots of judges, lawyers, and law clerks came by to see the legal legend who is in town this week as a visiting judge in the 11th Circuit court of appeals. Here she is with incoming U.S. Attorney Willy Ferrer, Jackie Becerra (Greenberg Traurig), and Bill Roppolo (president of the Federal Bar Association; Baker McKenzie). Willy wore his green tie a day too early! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is in the house

Tonight from 5:30-7:30 at the Federal Courthouse, the Federal Bar Association will be honoring her. Stop by and say hello.
Pretending he was being dogged by the FBI and needed help, Rothstein allegedly talked Settineri into tearing up two boxes of documents and laundering $79,000 from Rothstein's massive investment racket, according to sources familiar with the case.
"He knew Settineri,'' a source said. ``He was able to chat up Settineri.''
For helping bring down Settineri, Rothstein could end up in the federal Witness Protection Program -- with a new identity, but inside a prison with special protection. Rothstein, 47, faces up to 100 years at his sentencing May 6.
Jeff Weiner (not Jeff Sloman) represents Settineri. Weiner must be salivating at the chance to cross Rothstein...

Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness is here

Fill out your brackets here at the free blog pool. The password is sdflablog

And yes judges, you can play too!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Attorney lounge dedicated to Judge Eugene Spellman

There was a really nice luncheon today at the federal courthouse, naming the attorney lounge on the 14th floor the Eugene Spellman Attorney Lounge. Judge John O'Sullivan gave a great speech about Spellman -- telling stories about how Spellman judged cases and taught young lawyers. It was very funny and one got a sense of why everyone loved Spellman. Judge Spellman's wife and son were present. Harry Solomon was also honored for his work on the CJA panel.

The lounge itself is very nice, with a big flat-screen TV, couches and places to plug-in for computers.

The NY Times wrote this obit about Spellman back in 1991:

Judge Eugene P. Spellman, an 11-year veteran of Federal District Court who was known for innovative sentences and supporting social causes, died of cancer today at Mercy Hospital. He was 60 years old.
Judge Spellman was absent from the bench only a week before his death.
He crafted a novel sentence that withstood a challenge in the tax-evasion case of the industrialist Victor Posner, a millionaire who was ordered to give $3 million to the homeless and to serve meals in a shelter.
In other cases, the judge decried "underhanded tactics" used by Federal immigration officials against Haitian immigrants and released on bond a prisoner with AIDS after ruling that the Bureau of Prisons did not offer the prisoner adequate medical treatment.
In a case involving religious freedom, Judge Spellman ruled that public health and needs outweighed the tenets of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion and upheld ordinances banning animal sacrifices in the Miami suburb of Hialeah.
He presided over the 1985 trial of Hernan Botero, a Colombian financier who was convicted of laundering $57 million in drug money, as well as drug cases involving former Government ministers of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean and a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Judge Spellman, who was nominated to the Federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, was to be honored Wednesday as an outstanding jurist by the Dade County Bar Association.
He is survived by his wife, Robin, and sons Michael and James.

The Broward Bar Association has nothing better to do...

... than ask whether the JAABlog is acting professionally. From this morning's DBR:

A Broward County Bar Association committee will meet to determine whether the legal blog JAABlog — the premiere place for courthouse gossip — meets its professional standards. The professionalism committee plans to hold a closed-door meeting April 1 at the behest of association president Carlos Llorente.

Closed door? Really? I guess that they can regulate the internet or punish lawyers, right?

But the Broward County Bar Association does not have any authority to regulate or punish lawyers. Judges may have themselves to blame for some of the blog activity. Two Broward judges were charged by the state judicial watchdog with ethics violations in the past two weeks. Llorente said he has received a number of recent complaints after someone posted racial slurs on JAABlog. The comments have been removed, and the blog states the poster has been banned. “When I see lawyers in Broward County acting unprofessionally or complaints of lawyers acting unprofessionally, my obligation as president of the Broward County Bar Association is to act upon that,” Llorente said. “We’re all trying to figure out if there’s something that can or should be done. … We have no agenda, no plan. We’re just investigating it.” He said the committee will examine the blog as a whole, not just the derogatory comments. Gelin’s response? “Bring it on.” “I frankly welcome it as an opportunity to gain more exposure for the blog and our message,” he said. “This seems to be hugely ironic that they seem to have a problem with a communication medium that, despite the fact there’s a lot of negativity on there, has done more to reform this county than their organization has done since day one.” Gelin is not concerned about violating Florida Bar rules, saying he is cognizant about not crossing the line. The Florida Bar told the Review that Gelin does not face any complaints.

The Broward Blog has done an excellent job exposing serious problems in the justice system. So what's the problem?

Llorente insists the issue lies with Gelin’s extracurricular activities. “I have no problem with him being a journalist,” Llorente said. “If he wants to be an expose-type journalist, so be it. But do it as a journalist. Don’t pose as a lawyer with an inside knowledge.” When asked what is specifically offensive about the blog, Llorente said he would withhold comment until he hears from the professionalism committee.

Huh? Does that make any sense to anyone? Maybe the Broward Bar Association should be asking whether the judges and lawyers that the blog continues to expose are acting professionally....

UPDATE -- SFL weighs in here: "Let me offer a prediction: by convening such a panel the BCBA likely will do more to discredit and denigrate their own organization than anything some goofball could ever post anonymously on a blog."

Thursday, March 11, 2010


This Herald article about the arrest of alleged mobster Roberto Settineri had the following picture in this morning's paper:

The caption under the picture referred to the U.S. Attorney, Jeff Sloman, as Settineri's lawyer.
The online version now has it fixed...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Judge Cooke & Kendall Coffey address federal bar association

They discussed the high-profile case and how to deal with the media and jurors wanting more information. It was entertaining.

This blog was mentioned a couple of times and even called "informal media" and was distinguished from the good ol' days when a newspaper article couldn't be written until it had 2-3 sources. This certainly isn't your grandmother's newspaper.

We're Popular!

Joan Fleischman covers the Legal Services event in this Herald article, and the blog gets some ink!

Quince on Thursday at the Margulies Collection in Miami's Wynwood Arts District. Not a quince to celebrate a young lady's 15th birthday. This is about Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince -- pronounced ``kwince'' -- of the Florida Supreme Court. Quince, 62, is a guest speaker at a Legal Services of Greater Miami shindig.
The nonprofit provides legal assistance -- in civil cases such as foreclosures and IRS disputes -- for low-income folks in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Last year, Legal Services helped 18,352 clients and recovered more than $1.3 million in disability, unemployment compensation and other government benefits as well as child support, says executive director Marcia Cypen.
The agency operates on a $7.4 million budget with 33 lawyers. Funding comes from sources including The Florida Bar Foundation, Dade Community Foundation, University of Miami's law school and other private donors.

Quince will share the podium with Michael Putney, WPLG-ABC 10's senior political reporter. Putney admires Cypen and the agency: ``They provide indispensable services to people who desperately need legal advice and help.''
The 285-plus expected guests include: former Florida Supreme Court Justices Kogan and Raoul Cantero; U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz; Third District Court of Appeal Judges Gerald Cope and Vance Salter; Miami-Dade Chief Judge Joel Brown and fellow jurists Maxine Cohen Lando, Jennifer Bailey, Flora Seff, Don Cohn, Myriam Lehr, Linda Singer Stein and Nushin Sayfie; Alex Acosta, dean of Florida International University's law school; Dean Robertson, senior corporate counsel for Vitas Healthcare Corp.; Derek Jackson, Florida Marlins VP and general counsel; and attorneys Marlon Hill, Gabrielle D'Alemberte, Tomas Gamba, Norman Moscowitz, H.T. Smith, Michael Moore and Leslie Lott, and David O. Markus, who writes the popular Southern District of Florida Blog.

The Stearns Weaver Miller law firm, Harke & Clasby and Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton are among donors that will be recognized.
Reception is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, 591 NW 27th St. (The 45,000-square-foot space showcases the private collection of arts patron Martin Z. Margulies. He has more than 800 works on display, and opens the facility to the public through April.)
The Legal Services event is open to the public, too -- tickets are $75.

In other news, Lewis Freeman will plead guilty today, and it won't be in front of Judge Ungaro, who recused. Judge Huck drew the case. Any thoughts as to what an appropriate sentence is in this case?

Monday, March 08, 2010

RIP Judge James Paine

Sad news to report -- Judge Paine has passed away. Here's the PBP obit:

The flag outside the federal courthouse flies at half-mast this morning following the death Sunday of one of Palm Beach County's longest serving, hardest working federal jurists, Sr. U.S. District Judge James C. Paine.
Paine, 85, died after spending his final few days in hospice care. Funeral services are preliminarily planned for Thursday, his son, Jim Paine said.
Paine was appointed a federal judge by President Carter in 1979, retiring 28 years later in 2007.
He worked so much there was a joke around the federal courthouse: How did you know Judge Paine was on vacation? He wore a plaid shirt to work.
If you ask a passel of South Florida lawyers about Paine — winners or losers in cases from all quarters — many will mention his impartiality and demeanor. That he was the perfect persona of a federal judge, yet still a humble human being.
Paine, of Palm Beach, spoke at his retirement reception in 2007 saying he was flabbergasted by the number of people who came out on that rainy day.
"You folks are awfully nice to be here," he said in his hallmark genteel way.

And here's his Wiki entry:

Paine was born in 1924 in Valdosta, Georgia. His family moved to Palm Beach County in his childhood. Paine graduated from Palm Beach High School in 1941. He received an Associate of Arts degree from the University of Florida in 1943.
Paine joined the United States Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1946 and served in the Aleutian Islands on a fleet tugboat, taking part in salvage, diving, target towing, and combat actions during the bombardment of the Kurile Islands. After returning to the United States, Paine received a Bachelor of Science from Columbia Business School in 1947 and an LL.B. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1950.
Paine was in private practice in West Palm Beach from 1950 to 1979. President Jimmy Carter nominated Paine to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on July 12, 1979, to the new seat created by 92 Stat. 1629. Confirmed by the Senate on October 4, 1979, he received commission on October 5, 1979.
While a judge on the district court, Paine presided over several notable cases, including
The trial of the Seminole leader James E. Billie on charges of killing an endangered Florida panther, [1]
The trial of John Piazza for NFL match-fixing [2]
The revocation of U.S. citizenship proceedings of Bohdan Koziy. [3]
The trial of stockbroker Leslie Roberts on mail fraud and conspiracy charges. [4]
Paine assumed senior status on May 20, 1992.

"Any accurate depiction of the criminal justice microcosm must include the vital role of the coffee shop."

That's Milton Hirsch on the absence of a coffee shop in the new federal courthouse. John Pacenti covers the issue here:

Three years after the Ferguson courthouse was dedicated, the chief judge is fed up with the General Services Administration and is demanding to know when the planned cafeteria will materialize. Sustenance is available. Two vending machines are the only options right now. The delay in what some say is a necessary amenity prompted U.S. District Chief Judge Federico Moreno to fire off a letter Feb. 19 to the landlord, acting regional GSA commissioner James S. Weller. “I have absolutely no confidence that the restaurant is in reality to open soon,” Moreno wrote. His account of his dealings with the agency on the cafeteria reads like a classic bureaucratic nightmare. Moreno first asked when the restaurant would be opening Sept. 5, 2008, and was advised an exhaust hood, electrical wiring and fire suppression equipment would be installed shortly thereafter. The GSA said the hood vendor was on site that month. But dates came and went. The agency has said work on the cafeteria would be completed by last June, last November and then this past January. The exhaust hood has been particularly troublesome. Moreno said he was told last April 14 that hood work still needed to be completed. Moreno and Weller met in his chambers last July 21, and the judge was told the next day the “work is progressing.” In September, the GSA advised the vent hood contract had just been awarded, and fabrication would take five weeks. An electrical contractor was “standing by.” The GSA advised Moreno in January that “the remaining electrical work came to halt when it was learned that certain electrical components were missing.” Now, Moreno has been informed a “soft opening” is tentatively set for this month. “GSA’s most recent response concerning a hopeful soft opening in March is the same sort of response we have been receiving to our inquiries for the past year and half — a list of excuses or reasons for delay,” the judge’s letter said.

And you can always count on Judge Palermo for a good quote:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Palermo, whose courtroom is in another building, refers to the courthouse as the “Vegas building.” “I just think there is a lost of wasted space,” he said. U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, a Ferguson tenant, said the building is just going through some growing pains. “It’s going to be a signature building in downtown for years to come,” he said. Still, he said it’s a little roomy, and there has been some tweaking here and there, particularly on the sound system. “It has some nice features that are good for lawyers and jurors in the presentation of evidence. That is a major improvement,” Huck said.

The Chief isn't happy:

Moreno, though, has thrown down the gauntlet, saying he is embarrassed by the lack of a cafeteria at the courthouse due to the GSA’s failure to deliver. “Our government is at its best when we see our armed forces in action,” the chief judge wrote. “Unfortunately, it is perceived at its worst by the thousands of jurors, lawyers, staff, litigants, etc., when they see GSA’s promises on such a simple task end in delay after delay.”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Wanted: Guest Blogger

It's been a hectic week for your favorite federal blogger. Yesterday in Tampa; today in Ft. Pierce. I promise to be better next week. In

the meantime, here's a picture of the federal courthouse in Ft. Pierce. They are building a new one up here so this old relic doesn't have much time left. Have a nice weekend everyone.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More on Scalia vs. Alito

I've often said that Justice Scalia is the most criminal-defense friendly Justice, while Justice Alito is the least. More support for this argument from yesterday's opinion in USA v. Curtis Johnson. The Court ruled 7-2 that a “violent felony” under federal law requires the use of physical violence, thereby reversing and remanding the lower court which found that a misdemeanor battery counted. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, while Justice Alito dissented, joined by Justice Thomas. The full opinion is here. The case came out of the Middle District of Florida, and I was lucky enough to attend the Supreme Court argument. (Here are my comments from after the argument).

It's always fun reading a Scalia opinion. Here's a taste from one footnote:

Even further afield is the dissent’s argument, post, at 2–3, that since §924(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires conduct that "presents a serious potential riskof physical injury to another," §924(e)(2)(B)(i) must not. That is rather like saying a provision which includes (i) apples and (ii) overripe oranges must exclude overripe apples. It does not follow.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Is 5 hours enough time to conduct voir dire?

That's the question before the Supreme Court in the Jeff Skilling case. Here's the summary from ScotusBlog:

With Justice Stephen G. Breyer leading the way, the Court probed deeply into the questioning of potential jurors at Skilling’s trial in Houston, examining whether District Judge Sim Lake took too little time to ferret out potential prejudice or stopped short of following up to test jurors’ pre-trial intimations — or outright conclusions — that the accused Enron brass deserved to be convicted. Several of the other Justices questioned the brevity of that probing, but there was no evident consensus about what the Court should now do about it. Even Justice Breyer, who was the most troubled about Judge Lake’s performance (“I’m genuinely concern about a fair trial”), repeatedly stressed that he did not want the Court to go too far to second-guess such performances. “I’m worried about controlling too much,” he said on the second point.

And the NYTimes:

Mr. Srinivasan disputed that, and several justices appeared sympathetic to his argument. The lawyer said Judge Lake had spent only five hours on the task, posing cursory questions to jurors and taking them at their word that they would be fair despite evidence to the contrary.
By contrast, Mr. Srinivasan said, questioning in the trial of
Timothy McVeigh for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, took 18 days after a motion for change of venue from Oklahoma City to Denver was granted.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the two cases were very different. In Mr. Skilling’s case, she said, “what’s involved is money rather than life or limb.”
Mr. Srinivasan said that extended questioning was not unusual in less serious cases, saying it had taken six days to select jurors in
Martha Stewart’s trial for lying to federal investigators.
Anthony M. Kennedy indicated that the questioning in Mr. Skilling’s case had been too brief. “It’s hard for me to think,” he said, that the questioning “would have been much shorter even if there had been no showing of pervasive prejudice.”

Here in the SDFLA, most judges give about 10 minutes a side for lawyers to question jurors. Some do all the questioning and do not allow any attorney voir dire. Most juries are selected in a day or less. Can fair juries really be picked so quickly? Let's see what the Court says in Skilling...

Monday, March 01, 2010

THIS is American Idol!

Or, rather, Inmate Idol...

On a faded green basketball court surrounded by a tall fence topped with barbed wire, a small platform stood elevated just inches from the ground.
Frederick Davis walked to it, took the mike and grabbed at his orange baggy pants. ``Before what you see on my pants -- INMATE DCJ -- I'm a man,'' he said.
Davis, 21, then launched into a rap in front of the 14 other inmates sitting in rows of plastic chairs. He was taking part in the second annual Corrections Idol contest -- a singing, rapping and poetry competition meant to showcase Miami-Dade Corrections inmates' talents while building their self-image.
``When they come here, they feel like they belong,'' said Chief of Operations Manny Fernandez. ``They're part of the solution, not the problem.''
Sunday's competition at the Metro West Detention Center west of Doral is an annual event planned by the Inmate Special Events Committee. Created three years ago by Fernandez, the committee includes recreation officers from all of the Miami-Dade County Corrections facilities, who also organize basketball, volleyball and Ping-Pong tournaments.

Other quick hits this morning:

1. South Florida Lawyers is hosting the Blawg Review this week.

2. John Pacenti covers the FCPA. Paul Calli is fired up:

But it was the Las Vegas roundup that received all the attention. Some defense attorneys for those arrested are accusing the government of entrapment. They point to an informant as the real culprit. Richard T. Bistrong is a former vice president for military equipment manufacturer Armor Holdings in Jacksonville. He has been charged in Washington with FCPA violations for trying to bribe officials in Nigeria and the Netherlands. He also introduced the indicted executives to the undercover FBI agents. “Mr. Bistrong’s venality, greed and deception, I think, will be an important part of this trial,” said Paul Calli, an attorney for Stephen Giordanella, the only defendant captured in the sting who wasn’t at the Las Vegas trade show.

The DBR is still trying its hand at video. Enjoy.