Thursday, April 28, 2011

76ers beat Heat in Game 4!!

The Ministry of Truth U.S. Attorney's Office issued this press release about the cops trial:


Really?! How about, after a 9-week trial, 4 of the 6 defendants were found not guilty of all counts?

Nope. The press release says: "Mortgage fraud is a virus that has spread through our community and to all levels of the mortgage industry. We will continue our efforts to combat mortgage fraud at all levels, from straw buyers to complicit lenders."

The USAO isn't supposed to care if it wins or loses. It's supposed to care about Justice. But in recent years, DOJ has really ramped up its spin to the press. I understand wanting to get your side of the story out there, but this seems a bit over the top. No?

Breaking -- Verdict in cops mortgage fraud case

I am hearing from a reliable source that 4 of the police officers (including the FBI agent) were acquitted of all counts. One was found guilty of all counts, and one defendant had a mixed verdict. More to follow as it comes in.

Jon Burstein from the Sun-Sentinel sums up what happened:

A Fort Lauderdale federal jury acquitted three police officers and a FBI agent of all counts, while convicting a Plantation police officer and a former police officer of fraud charges.

The verdict came after a two-month trial in which the accused were charged with lying about their incomes and places of residence so they could obtain mortgages that otherwise would have been out of reach on their salaries.

Jurors acquitted FBI agent Robert DePriest, Plantation police officers Casey Mittauer and Daryl Radziwon and Lauderhill police officer Joseph LaGrasta.

Convicted were Plantation police officer Joseph DeRosa and former Plantation police officer John Velez.

Agent under investigation for accepting bribes from CI

Jay Weaver has the details here:

Authorities are investigating a Miami federal agent suspected of accepting more than $100,000 in bribes from a confidential government informant, according to several sources familiar with the probe.

The informant allegedly paid the bribes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Juan Martinez in exchange for his providing temporary parole allowing Colombians and others into the United States who were not entitled to the benefit, the sources said.

Martinez, who has been suspended without pay, is at the center of the federal investigation into his confidential informant’s alleged bribery payments, the sources said. Martinez, a former Miami police officer, has investigated Colombian cartels, paramilitary groups and other drug traffickers.

His attorney, Marty Raskin, declined to comment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not guilty verdicts in huge security fraud case before Judge Jordan

The case was United States v. Michael Lauer and Martin Garvey. It was a two month trial in a very large securities case that has been in litigation (either before the SEC, civil court, criminal court) for about a decade. Most of the other defendants pled guilty and testified in this trial.
This has gotta sting for the U.S. Attorney's office, who just had a bunch of lawyers leave the economic crimes division...

Congrats to my good friends Michael Caruso at the Federal Public Defender's office who was the lead lawyer for Lauer, and Hector Flores who represented Garvey. Caruso tried the case with D'Arsey Houlihan and Vanessa Chen. This is a great win for them. Congrats.

2:45 pm UPDATED -- Curt Anderson has a story up already for the AP:

The former chief of a multimillion-dollar hedge fund accused of fleecing investors out of $200 million was acquitted Wednesday by a federal jury of securities fraud and related charges.

Michael Lauer, who ran the Lancer Management Group and affiliated companies in New York and elsewhere, raised his clenched fists in the air when the verdict was read and tightly hugged his attorney, assistant public defender Michael Caruso. Lauer had faced up to 25 years in prison and hefty fines if convicted.

"There was nothing illegal here," Lauer said in an interview after the verdict. "The outcome, I believe, was inevitable."


One of the 12 jurors, 61-year-old Charles E. Floyd of Miami, said prosecutors simply failed to prove criminal wrongdoing in the complicated financial case.

"There just wasn't enough proof. That's the way I saw it," Floyd said. "He was guilty of surrounding himself with a bunch of jerks."

Monday, April 25, 2011

BREAKING -- Judge Ungaro throws out Bank Atlantic verdict

Big big news at the close of a busy Monday -- Judge Ungaro has issued this well-written and researched 112-page order (also below) granting Bank Atlantic's post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law. [HT:RR]

A jury back in November found Bank Atlantic officials misled shareholders on conference calls and awarded $2.41 a share to investors who bought the company's stock in 2007. If the verdict was permitted to stand, it would have been a tough hit for the bank, so this was a biggie.

Huge win for Gene Stearns and his team -- Adam Schachter, Cecilia Simmons, Grey Mead, and Andrea Nathan. I'm still digesting it, but the principal basis of the order was insufficient proof of loss causation and damages. In the event the order is vacated or reversed, the motion for a new trial was denied. I predict that the plaintiff's lawyer Mark Arisohn won't be getting much sleep tonight.

Judge Ungaro Throws Out Bank Atlantic Verdict

New boss, same as the old boss? (UPDATED)

So, Eric Holder has been saying all the right things about criminal discovery issues and has even issued guidelines to line AUSAs about more liberal disclosure, but there is increased grumbling amongst defense lawyers and judges that nothing has really changed (and in many cases, has gotten worse). In fact, DOJ is lobbying hard against changing Rule 16 to allow for more liberal disclosure of Brady/Giglio material.

I don't typically blog about my cases, but here's my most recent experience with this issue (without naming names): I was in court last week where DOJ was taking the position that even though their two critical witnesses lied to the grand jury, they did not need to disclose the grand jury testimony because Jencks trumped Brady. I kid you not. Needless to say, the district judge disagreed. But is this really the sorts of positions that DOJ should be taking?

Here's an op-ed by Jim E. Lavine and Ellen S. Podgor about DOJ not practicing what it preaches:

The practice of prosecutors failing to abide by constitutional and ethical
standards in providing important materials to the defense is not unique to
these cases, but it is particularly problematic to see when prosecutors are
then turning around and charging crimes against others who allegedly do the
same thing -- fail to give the other side materials they believe are
important to their investigation.

That’s exactly what they did when they decided to indict a former vice-president and associate general counsel of Glaxo-Smith Kline. Prosecutors charged her with crimes that included obstruction of justice and concealment of documents from an FDA inquiry, arguing that the counsel failed to provide materials to the federal agency.

The problem here is clear. The three new policies of the Department of
Justice are all internally controlled, provide for no external monitoring
and allow each local United States Attorneys’ Office to set up their own
discovery policies for their individual office. There is no real

In fact, the Department of Justice has opposed making any rule changes that
would include some outside scrutiny. How many chances should they get?

Update -- Here is the proposed amendment to Rule 16 that DOJ opposes. Someone explain to me why this is controversial:

Rule 16. Discovery and Inspection
* * * *
(H) Exculpatory or Impeaching Information. Upon a defendant’s request, the government
must make available all information that is known to the attorney for the government or agents of law enforcement involved in the investigation of the case that is either exculpatory or impeaching. The court may not order disclosure of impeachment information earlier than 14 days before trial.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"There was a negotiated plea agreement. There was a scoresheet. There was an oral pronouncement. There was a written judgment and sentence. ...

... There was confusion. We remand for clarification."

That first paragraph about sums it up this opinion from the 5th DCA. [HT:CC]

Speaking of state court opinions, thank goodness for the Florida Supreme Court. Two big criminal procedure opinions from that court dealing big blows to the use of drug sniffing dogs. The court said that 1) prosecutors must show that drug dogs are reliable before they can be used to obtain evidence from a car (Harris v. Florida) and 2) police must get a warrant before using drug sniffing dogs at the front door of someone's house (Jardines v. Florida).

The Fourth Amendment is not dead, at least in Florida.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mortgage fraud not guilty

Kudos to Russ Koonin and Allan Kaiser for their across-the-board not guilty verdicts today before Judge Martinez. They represented a lawyer charged with many counts of mortgage fraud.

UPDATE -- Here's the Herald article:

A Plantation attorney was acquitted of 13 counts of bank fraud Thursday, after a federal jury found that she did not knowingly participate in a mortgage loan scam that cost three banks $7.9 million.

Eve Rosen, 55, was implicated in a scheme in which Broward County developer Jeffrey Phillips recruited South Florida straw buyers to create fraudulent loan applications in order to buy vacant lots in North Florida. Between 2006 and 2008, Rosen was the closing agent on all of the transactions, which featured artificially inflated prices, fake income statements and falsified down payment information. In addition to the 13 counts of bank fraud, Rosen was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The case was part of Operation Stolen Dreams, the federal government’s largest-ever mortgage fraud takedown effort. Others involved in the case, including Phillips, the straw buyers and those who recruited them to falsify their information, have pleaded guilty in the scheme.

Reuben Cahn goes to DC

Friend of the District Reuben Cahn argued before the Supreme Court this week in Tapia v. United States. Reuben is the former Chief Assistant Federal Defender of this District, and the current Defender in San Diego.

The issue in the case is: May a court give a defendant a longer prison sentence to promote the defendant’s rehabilitation?

Here's the transcript of the oral argument.

ScotusBlog has a summary of the argument. Here's a section on Reuben:

On appeal, Tapia argued unsuccessfully that Section 3582 of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 prohibited a judge from basing the length of her sentence on a rehabilitative goal. That provision provides: “The court, in determining whether to impose a term of imprisonment, and, if a term of imprisonment is to be imposed, in determining the length of the term, shall consider the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, recognizing that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation.”

Appearing on behalf of Alejandra Tapia, attorney Reuben Cahn relied on the text of Section 3582 to argue that the plain meaning and structure of the Act clearly prohibited a judge from lengthening a sentence to promote rehabilitation. Cahn noted that the Act stripped federal judges of their power to require federal prisoners take part in specific prison programs, such as the drug treatment program. “That structure makes sense only because Congress intended that defendants should no longer be sent to prison for purposes of rehabilitation,” Cahn said.

Several Justices asked Cahn how a reviewing court can tell whether a judge merely lengthened the sentence that he would have otherwise given based solely on rehabilitation, or whether the judge instead simply mentioned rehabilitation but in fact sentenced the defendant based on factors such as deterrence, incapacitation, and punishment. For example, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the district court’s comments in sentencing Tapia could be interpreted in this light; Cahn countered, however, that the judge’s comments were clear. Sotomayor also asked whether Tapia’s rule was tantamount to requiring a judge to use “talismanic words” to make clear the court would have imposed the same sentence without regard to rehabilitation.

Reuben has a couple things going for him -- He is arguing that the 9th Circuit should get reversed and the SG agrees with his position.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


That's the license plate I saw on the way to work. There's gotta be a good back story to that one.

I wonder if that guy got a spot in Lot 26.

Justice Scalia is in fine form today. From footnote 9: The dissent compares VOPA’s lawsuit to such indignities as “cannibalism” and “patricide,” since it is a greater “affront to someone’s dignity to be sued by a brother than to be sued by a stranger.” Post, at 9. We think the dissent’s principle of familial affront less than universally applicable, even with respect to real families, never mind governmental siblings. Most of us would probably prefer contesting a testamentary disposition with a relative to contesting it with a stranger. And confining one’s child to his room is called grounding, while confining a stranger’s child is called kidnaping. Jurisdiction over this case does not depend on which is the most apt comparison. [HT:CC]

Some sentencing news: Some judges want to give longer sentences in the name of rehabilitation. Even DOJ has told the High Court that you can't do that. On the other hand, judges aren't happy with the crack sentences: The federal judiciary is in something like open rebellion over a new law addressing the sentences to be meted out to people convicted of selling crack cocaine.

A couple of weeks ago, for instance, a judge in Massachusetts said he found it “unendurable” to have to impose sentences that are “both unjust and racist.”

The new law, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, narrowed the vast gap between penalties for crimes involving crack and powder cocaine, a development many judges welcomed.

But it turns out that the law may have been misnamed. “The Not Quite as Fair as it could be Sentencing Act of 2010 (NQFSA) would be a bit more descriptive,” a federal appeals court judge in Chicago wrote last month.

Who's voting for Uncle Luke? Here's one campaign promise -- decriminalize pot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover news and notes

1. FAWL not happy with the JNC makeup (via DBR/John Pacenti). Lisa Lehner: "When the white male establishment decides it wants to respond and deal with this issue, what they do is take a nickel-and-dime approach, and they will put one woman on and say, 'OK, we did it, we solved the problem,' " Lehner said. "And then they think we will go away like nice girls and be quiet. We took a baby step, but women aren't babies."

2. Forget about the JNC; how about getting some judges? Via Daily Record: “We presently have a crisis in the federal judiciary in our country,” said Chief Judge Joel Dubina of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Dubina told Jacksonville lawyers that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently spoke to members of Congress about the crisis.

”At the time I prepared my remarks for you today, there were 104 vacancies pending in the federal judiciary in the United States. That includes District Court positions and Court of Appeals positions,” said Dubina.
“I think there is much blame to go around for this crisis. In my lifetime, President Obama has been the slowest president to make nominations,” said Dubina.

“However, blame also lies with Congress. The Congress has been slow to approve judges, even those who were not controversial,” he said.

3. A loyal reader tells me that Paul Pelletier (former AUSA down here and current DOJ fraud prosecutor) is retiring and that the going away party in DC on May 5 is called "Paul-apalooza".

4. The WSJ Law Blog asks whether the feds need a warrant to track someone with GPS. I'm not sure how we can allow tracking of people with GPS without requiring a warrant, but what do I know.

5. A couple of law professors have written an op-ed in the NYT that we should basically get rid of habeas corpus because it's too costly and doesn't really help anything. I say we leave habeas and start by getting rid of the grand jury, which is a complete waste.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Federal JNC named

From John Pacenti's column:

The Judicial Nominating Commission that recommends candidates for federal judicial openings and other key federal positions in Florida has been overhauled.

Seven new members have been named to the Southern District panel, and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey remains chair. The commission's makeup was criticized in 2009 by some black and women attorneys for its lack of diversity. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have addressed some of those concerns.

Of the six members who left the commission, only one is a woman. And of the seven new members, three are women. At least one of the newcomers is black: Miami-Dade prosecutor Cynthia Johnson-Stacks.

Other new members include Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, apartnerat Broad and Cassel in Miami; Coral Gables attorney Eduardo Lacasa; plaintiff attorney Ira Leesfield, founder of Leesfield & Partners in Miami; Dexter Lehtinen, partner at Tew Cardenas in Miami; and Jon A. Sale, a partner in Sale & Weintraub in Miami.

The panel also will include lay member Carey Goodman, who is blind and a key player for the Monroe County Republican Party.

Departing members are Coral Gables litigator Gonzalo Dorta; political strategist Jillian Hasner; Luis J. Perez, a partner at Hogan Lovells in Miami; S. Danny Ponce, partner at Holland & Knight in Miami; Fort Lauderdale lawyer Justin Sayfie; and Stephen Zack, president of the American Bar Association and Miami administrative partner with Boies Schiller & Flexner.

They have some work to do -- Judge Gold's seat is still open and applications haven't even been asked for yet...

UPDATE -- Cynthia Johnson-Stacks isn't a prosecutor; she's a county attorney. And S. Danny Ponce is a partner at Legon, Ponce, and Foodman.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bonds should not be retried on 3 perjury counts

Yes, he was convicted on obstruction, but the jury hung on three perjury counts. Enough already.

I'm not sure why a prosecutor should be able to retry a case after he couldn't convince a jury to convict. Isn't that reasonable doubt? To force someone to defend against two federal trials is impossible in every way -- financially and emotionally. The government had its shot in what was a controversial prosecution. Now time to go after a real criminal.

Quick hits

1. En banc 11th Circuit, per Judge Pryor, rules that Orlando can place limits on feeding homeless without violating First Amendment. CSM coverage of the case here:

In a decision announced Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled against the group, Orlando Food Not Bombs, and gave a green light to city officials to enforce an ordinance restricting weekly feeding of the homeless in downtown parks.

“The city is in a far better position than this court to determine how best to manage the burden that large group feedings place on neighborhoods in the city,” Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote for the unanimous decision of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

2. Still no Bonds verdict. Day 4 of deliberations today.

3. Via Jay Weaver, ICE chief on paid administrative leave. AOL snitched him out:
The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for South Florida has been placed on paid administrative leave, as federal agents investigate four images of child pornography he allegedly received on his home computer via an AOL e-mail account, according to sources familiar with the probe.

4. Front page story about my friend Alfred Spellman and his partner Billy Corben, who are just tearing it up at age 32! Their latest flick, Square Grouper, looks great:

He and Alfred Spellman, both 32, started filming documentaries with their friend David Cypkin when they were in high school, Corben at New World School of the Arts and Spellman and Cypkin at North Miami Beach Senior High School. Now their formerly self-staffed group rakontur employs six full-timers in their Miami Beach house-cum-office.

Even with that growing staff, it’s hard to believe they’ve produced half a dozen award-winning feature-length documentaries, including The U, part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. Or that the Miami premiere of their new documentary Square Grouper on Thursday is the first of five premieres set for 2011. Another five full-length features are planned for 2012. Up until now, the group had released about one a year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Looking for guest blogger for Judge Cohn talk

I'm bummed I won't get to see Judge Cohn speak tomorrow at the Federal Bar luncheon. He gives a very entertaining speech and it is a sold out event. If anyone is there and would like to guest blog about the talk, please email me at

Monday, April 11, 2011


Jay Weaver just broke a big story -- "FBI agents searched the home and office of Anthony V. Mangione, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in South Florida, over the weekend in a criminal investigation focusing on child pornography allegedly stored on his computer, according to federal sources familiar with the case."


Mangione, 50, has headed ICE’s regional office since 2007. The agency has aggressively targeted child pornography, with Mangione frequently speaking out against “predators’’ who illegally share images through their computers. ICE also investigates migrant smuggling, illegal weapons exports, counterterrorism and drug trafficking.

As special agent in charge of ICE’s South Florida office, Mangione’s name often graced press releases lauding the agency’s efforts to fight child pornography, in both the cyber and real worlds. In statements, he talked about using technology to combat child pornography and his agency’s resolve to combat the crime.

“Too many children are victimized by predators that target the most vulnerable among us -- our children," Mangione said in a 2009 press release announcing that a 20-year-old Palm Beach County man was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on child porn charges.

Barry Bonds verdict today? UPDATE -- nope

I hate waiting for a verdict over the weekend. It's just torture. I'm reminded of this great opinion by Judge Kozinski about human nature and lying:

Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying. We lie to protect our privacy (“No, I don’t live around here”); to avoid hurt feelings (“Friday is my study night”); to make others feel better (“Gee you’ve gotten skinny”); to avoid recriminations (“I only lost $10 at poker”); to prevent grief (“The doc says you’re getting better”); to maintain domestic tranquility (“She’s just a friend”); to avoid social stigma (“I just haven’t met the right woman”); for
career advancement (“I’m sooo lucky to have a smart boss like you”); to avoid being lonely (“I love opera”); to eliminate a rival (“He has a boyfriend”); to achieve an objective (“But I love you so much”); to defeat an objective (“I’m allergic to latex”); to make an exit (“It’s not you, it’s me”); to delay the inevitable (“The check is in the mail”); to communicate displeasure (“There’s nothing wrong”); to get someone off your back (“I’ll call you about lunch”); to escape a nudnik (“My mother’s on the other line”); to namedrop (“We go way back”); to set up a surprise party (“I need help moving the piano”); to buy time (“I’m on my way”); to keep up appearances (“We’re not talking divorce”); to avoid taking out the trash (“My back hurts”); to duck an obligation (“I’ve got a headache”); to maintain a public image (“I go to church every Sunday”); to make a point (“Ich bin ein Berliner”); to save face (“I had too much to drink”); to humor (“Correct as usual, King Friday”); to avoid embarrassment (“That wasn’t me”); to curry favor (“I’ve read all your books”); to get a clerkship (“You’re the greatest living jurist”); to save a dollar (“I gave at the office”); or to maintain innocence (“There are eight tiny reindeer on the rooftop”).

And we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk, as reflected by the popularity of plastic surgery, elevator shoes, wood veneer paneling, cubic zirconia, toupees, artificial turf and cross-dressing. Last year, Americans spent $40 billion on cosmetics—an industry devoted almost entirely to helping people deceive each other about their appearance. It doesn’t matter whether we think that such lies are despicable or cause more harm than good. An important aspect of personal autonomy
is the right to shape one’s public and private persona by choosing when to tell the truth about oneself, when to conceal and when to deceive. Of course, lies are often disbelieved or discovered, and that too is part of the pull and tug of social
intercourse. But it’s critical to leave such interactions in private hands, so that we can make choices about who we are. How can you develop a reputation as a straight shooter if lying is not an option?

UPDATE -- no verdict today. Interesting. Will it hang?

What else is going on today?

The government is still "operating".

Awesome op-ed by John Thompson in the NY Times.

In Kansas, judges live to 103.

I don't think Justice O'Connor has crossed any ethical lines, but she is taking some heat.

Friday, April 08, 2011

11th Circuit to remain open if government shuts down

From their website:

Notice to Parties and Counsel
In the event of a government shutdown, the Court of Appeals will continue to conduct business during its normal hours of operations. Counsel are expected to appear at oral argument as usual and parties are expected to meet all filing deadlines.

So what exactly will close? From CNN:

In the short term, a shutdown -- the first since 1996 -- would frustrate anyone who wants to go camping in a national park, get a passport to leave the country or receive a visa to come in.


Should the government shut down, operations from national parks to veterans' clinics would close. The White House visitor center would go dark. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs.

But not everything would close.

Essential services such as defense, air traffic control and law enforcement would continue largely unabated, as would Social Security enrollments and payments. The Social Security Administration said a backlog of applications would be crippling.

Medicare payments would also continue, as would health benefits for government employees. Electronically filed tax returns would be processed. And although paper returns wouldn't be reviewed, a shutdown wouldn't equal a tax holiday -- returns would still be due April 18.


The Supreme Court will remain open as well:

In the event of a lapse of appropriations, the Court will continue to conduct its normal operations through the week of April 11. The Court building will be open to the public during its usual hours

Steve Chaykin event

I'm told that there are still tickets left for this event. If you are interested in going, call David Mandel's office, 305-374-7771.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Vacation for civil division!

Everyone around the courthouse -- AUSAs, AFPDs, CSOs, Marshals, courtroom deputies, FDC guards, everyone -- seems to be asking whether they will be working if the government shuts down next week.

Most of DOJ will continue to operate:

All FBI personnel will continue to work, and all 116 federal prisons will remain open, according to the department. In addition, criminal litigation will continue uninterrupted. But the department will be forced to stop or curtail activities including most civil litigation, community outreach to victims of crime and the processing of grants.

Sorry Judges, you'll have to show up too:

As most of the federal government and those who depend on it brace for a possible partial shutdown, the federal judiciary says there should be no visible disruption in its operations for two weeks.

The judiciary pays its bills in part with fees, which are outside the regular appropriations process, and it says it has enough in reserves to keep its doors open even if Congress does not agree on a budget.
If a shutdown were to last more than two weeks, then individual districts and judges would need to make decisions about which services are essential. Some work, such as that of probation officers, is considered essential under federal law, Carelli said. Jury trials could go forward, but payments to jurors would be deferred, according to a separate statement from the administrative office.

Probation officers essential?? Even after Booker?

The 11th Circuit can't afford to take any time off -- it's got the highest caseload in the country, but partisan bickering is already taking aim at Daisy Floyd, and she hasn't even been nominated yet.

Will we get a Bonds verdict before the shutdown?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Feds bust B-girl crew

Don't know what a B-girl is, do you? Well, the USAO just busted a bunch of them in a fascinating case. Here's the complaint.

The New Times summarizes it:

The FBI today has busted an Eastern European ring that set up a half dozen fake clubs in South Beach that existed solely to steal thousands of dollars from wealthy tourists lured there by a team of beautiful "B-Girl" scam artists. Really!

Federal prosecutors charged seventeen people today in the scam, which hinged on lovely Eastern European "Bar Girls" -- or "B-Girls" -- luring out-of-town businessmen and tourists from legit clubs to the gang's "private establishments."

Here's how the incredible scheme worked, the feds say.

The gang set up at least six fake clubs: Caviar Beach and Stars Lounge, both at 643 Washington Ave.; a room inside Club Moreno at 1341 Washington Ave.; Nowhere Bar at 643 Washington Ave.; Steel Toast at 758 Washington Ave.; and the Tangia Club at 841 Washington Ave.

They also shipped in numerous B-Girls from Eastern Europe and rented them apartments around South Beach. The gang's bouncers, meanwhile, prevented anyone from entering the clubs except for marks accompanied by B-Girls.

Once inside, bartenders working for the gang would rack up tens of thousands of dollars on the men's credit cards and sometimes forge their signatures.

Here's my question -- does this case belong in federal court or state court? Talk to me.

Magistrate Judge Goodman quotes Robert Zimmerman

Judge Goodman has some fun in this entertaining (and long -- 63 pages) order on spoliation of evidence. The whole order is below. Here are two fun passages in which Judge Goodman cites to Wikipedia and Brainyquote:

Although it may seem obvious now, in 2011, that a party is required to implement a litigation hold to preserve e-discovery, the Court recognizes that, to paraphrase famous singer-songwriter Robert Zimmerman, “the times they were a-changin’” -- and in the world of e-discovery the times of 7 and 8 years ago were significantly different than now. [Footnote -- Robert Zimmerman is more-widely known as Bob Dylan. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” is a well-known song which Mr. Dylan released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name. The song was ranked #59 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” (last visited Apr. 4, 2011) (citing]


Well known politician Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. (1912 – 1994), sometimes known as “Tip” O’Neill, famously said that “all politics is local.”* Judicial decisions are also local -- because federal district courts must follow their “local” circuit courts of appeals in the absence of a contrary U.S. Supreme Court decision. This maxim of jurisprudence arises here as an initial matter because some circuit and district courts in other “local” circuits apply differing rules for analyzing electronic discovery spoliation claims.

* (last visited Mar. 18, 2011). Tip O’Neill was the “gregarious and irrepressibly liberal Bostonian who symbolized the Democratic Party through much of the 1980’s as Speaker of the House.” While a senior at Boston College, he ran for the Cambridge City Council, finishing ninth in a field of 60 candidates, of whom the top eight were elected. Mr. O’Neill had not campaigned in his own neighborhood, which he taken for granted and where he made a poor showing. He lost the critical eighth spot by 150 votes. In a post-mortem on the campaign, Mr. O’Neill’s father told him what he had learned in a lifetime of politics and what “Tip” would later use as his own political commentary: “All politics is local.” (last visited Mar. 18, 2011).

Judge Goodman's Order on Motion to Determine Spoliation of Evidence and Appropriate Sanctions [4!5!11]

Apologies to SFL for intruding on his turf. But it seems like orders like these rarely come out in criminal cases in this District. Judges rarely write lengthy orders regarding sentencing, criminal evidentiary issues, motions to suppress, etc.

P.S. Thank you to a tipster for this order. I appreciate it.

UPDATE -- Perhaps Judge Goodman should attend this conference on Bob Dylan and the law. (HT: SFL twitter)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Please raise your hand if you'd like to speak

Sheesh, the Supreme Court Justices are getting annoying, no?

Here's Adam Liptak about how oral argument has turned into sniping among the Justices:

If you didn’t know it was a Supreme Court argument, you might think you were seeing a catastrophically overbooked cable television show.

The justices of late have been jostling for judicial airtime in a sort of verbal roller derby. Consider an argument last month about the right to counsel. About 15 minutes in, Justice Stephen G. Breyer tried to ask a question. The effort failed, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped in. A half-hour passed before Justice Breyer had another chance, and now his attempt was interrupted by Justice Antonin Scalia, who said Justice Breyer was asking irrelevant questions. Then Justice Scalia pressed a point that did not interest Justice Breyer. As the lawyer tried to answer Justice Scalia, Justice Breyer stopped him. “Skip that one,” Justice Breyer said of Justice Scalia’s question.

Earlier, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was trying to get a word in edgewise, Justice Scalia succeeded in handing off the ball to a frequent ally, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “Maybe Justice Alito can ask his question,” Justice Scalia said as he finished making his own point.

Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general, was caught in the cross-fire. He was answering a question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor when Chief Justice John G. Roberts tried to interrupt. “Counsel,” the chief justice said. Mr. Waxman kept talking, which seemed to irritate the chief justice. “Counsel!” the chief justice repeated, now in a raised voice. (The exclamation point is in the official transcript.) Mr. Waxman was contrite. “Mr. Chief Justice, I’m sorry,” he said.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"I didn’t sense a hostility about being Cuban-American...

...but I sensed a distrust from the committee about being a young mother who wanted to be a judge.”

That was Judge Altonaga responding to a question from a student at her former school. The Herald has the nice story about her return to the school here:

The first Cuban-American woman ever appointed to a U.S. federal court bench said studying at Notre Dame Academy in Miami taught her the meaning of tolerance. It was the end of 1970s, one of the most tumultuous periods of racial discontent in Miami’s history. Her all-girls high school was one of the most racially integrated in the city. “I remember in my last year, coming back from a graduation night,” said Cecilia MarĂ­a Altonaga, who graduated in 1980.

“Our parents had to pick us up from the school, and the riots were going on at the same time. The school was closed. It was dangerous.” There were no final exams that year, due to the violence. But inside the school, a different story about race was unfolding. “This was a place that exhibited all these different racial/ethnic groups coexisting, working together, overcoming differences,” said Altonaga. “There is this perception that all Catholic girls schools are elitist or homogenous or they exclude people. This was quite the opposite, one of the most diverse groups of young women working together.”

She returned to her alma mater — which soon after she graduated merged with Archbishop Curley High School — on Saturday to talk about her career in the law to about two dozen current students. The forum followed a special Mass at the Archbiship Curley-Notre Dame High School, which each year honors an alum who now serves the community as an attorney or judge.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

How much does it cost to retrofit a courtroom?

Judge Jordan is in a long securities fraud trial right now. But that's nothing compared to what he has coming up with the Mutual Benefits case, which is expected to last 8 months. Now, the government has asked to retrofit a courtroom to allow for two juries to preside at the same time because of severance issues. I feel for Judge Jordan on this case.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Reading Administrative Orders on Friday Afternoon

Yes, the exciting life of a federal blogger. (Rumpole, on the other hand, is posting April Fools jokes).

Well, I'm sure you've been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out about the new magistrate pairings. Here they are!

And Judge Torres is up for re-appointment.

Need to have more .... Click here.