Monday, January 30, 2012

Go Dore Go!

Nice win today for friend of blog Dore Louis (as well as Joe Rosenbaum and Marcia Silvers) before Judge Cooke. Jay Weaver has the details on this crazy case:
In October, his criminal case on cigarette smuggling charges ended in a mistrial when the FBI arrested a juror who tried to extort money from the defendant’s family in exchange for the promise of a “not guilty’’ verdict. On Monday, a federal judge threw out the charges altogether, saying prosecutors failed to make their case against the Davie construction executive at his second jury trial. Marrero’s two-step journey rarely, if ever, happens in Miami federal court. “They were prosecuting an alleged fraud that occurred in Europe in a U.S. court,” said Marrero’s attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum. “They never should have charged him in the first place.” A year ago, Marrero, 48, was charged with conspiracy and money laundering. The indictment accused him of trying to “enrich himself” by buying cigarettes overseas, hiding the cartons inside cargo containers at the Port of Miami and shipping them to Portugal, Ireland and Germany — without attaching proper documents or paying customs duties. But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke granted Rosenbaum’s motion for acquittal after the prosecution rested its case, saying the statute of limitation in the conspiracy case dating back to 2001 had expired. Cooke’s judgment of acquittal followed a guilty plea earlier this month by one-time juror Italo Campagna, just as Marrero’s second trial was getting underway. Campagna, 55, of Miami, was charged with soliciting a bribe after demanding between $50,000 and $100,000 from Marrero’s relatives to sway the 12-person jury during the first trial in October. Marrero and his family immediately contacted authorities.


I wish I had some SDFLA news for you, but I don't, so here are your Monday morning videos:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ugly fight over federal judges

Jill A. Pryor and Mark H. Cohen should be federal judges, but they want Cohen to go to the 11th and Pryor to the district court even though President Obama is vetting them for the opposite positions:

Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson on Tuesday sent a letter to the White House saying they would support Cohen, a partner at Troutman Sanders, for the 11th Circuit vacancy, and back Pryor, a Bondurant Mixson & Elmore partner, for a vacant post on the district court.
In an eight-line letter to the White House counsel, the senators also resurrected the name of a third candidate, U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker, whose nomination for another district court vacancy was returned to the White House in December at the apparent request of the president's staff. The letter, on Isakson's stationery but signed by both senators, notified White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler that the senators would return "blue slips" to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Cohen for the 11th Circuit and Pryor and Walker for the district court. A blue slip is the Senate's traditional indication that a nominee has received the approval of his or her home state senator. But the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has been vetting Pryor for the 11th Circuit post, according to Fulton County Superior Court Senior Judge Melvin K. Westmoreland. 

Meantime, Senators are threatening to stall all appellate appointments over the recess appointment dispute with the President.  Even though Judge Jordan has support from both sides of the aisle, such a move would hurt his chances.  Apparently, Senator Rubio has said that he is not going to support an across the board rejection of Obama's nominees.  For Judge Jordan's sake, I hope that politics don't jam him up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FIU hosts Justice Alito at moot court finals

Dean Alex Acosta was rightfully beaming tonight, as his law school had its final round of moot court with a bench of Justice Alito, Judge Marcus, and Judge Barkett.  Here is Acosta introducing the final round with the judges in the background:

Lots of judges in town came to the festivities.  Here's a picture of Judges Huck and Altonaga with the panel:

The participants were Sherman Davis, Matthew Rogoff, Nicholas Greene, and Jeremy Chevres; and the issues hit close to home -- the GPS/4th Amendment issue (couldn't Justice Alito have convinced the Court to release Jones next week?!) and the Padilla retroactivity issue. Everyone did a nice job.

73-year old man pleads guilty in large fraud case

Via Curt Anderson:

A prominent businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud in a $135 million real estate scheme that fleeced hundreds of investors, including the Roman Catholic prep school he once attended.
Gaston Cantens, 73, faces up to five years behind bars after pleading guilty to a single count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams set sentencing for April 4.
Cantens also lured investors from Miami's close-knit Cuban-American community, many of them elderly and some Roman Catholic priests.
One victim, 80-year-old Eduardo Arango, said he lost about $800,000 investing with Cantens. He called the plea agreement "a sweet deal" because Cantens could have faced more charges and a longer prison sentence.
"Most of the victims were people who are very aged. They lost whatever their resources were. They have suffered," Arango said.

Another GOP debate tonight.  Too bad Ali-G isn't the moderator:

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why blogs are awesome

Legal blogs are buzzing over yesterday's GPS ruling in Jones.  Before we had blogs, we would have to wait for law professors to write law review articles that no one would read.  But now, we have instant access to tons of great commentary about the decision. 

Orin Kerr over at Volokh has a number of really interesting posts on the opinion, including this one which discusses Scalia's trespass ruling in Jones and this one which raises three questions to think about after Jones.  I also found interesting Tom Goldstein's reaction about how the government didn't really lose as badly as everyone says it did. 

The beauty of all of this is that there is some really great, high powered opinions and commentary available to everyone right away.

And here is your moment of zen for the day:

Monday, January 23, 2012

SCOTUS decides GPS monitoring is a search

Per Justice Scalia: "The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment."

Here's the opinion. This is a biggie, and a huge loss for the feds who were fighting hard. Scalia backs away from the traditional Katz test:
This conclusion is consistent with this Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, which until the latter half of the 20th centurywas tied to common-law trespass. Later cases, which have deviated from that exclusively property-based approach, have applied the analysis of Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, which said that the Fourth Amendment protects a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” id., at 360. Here, the Court need not address the Government’s contention that Jones had no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” because Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights do not rise or fall with the Katz formulation. At bottom, the Court must “assur[e] preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 34. Katz did not repudiate the understanding that the Fourth Amendment embodies a particularconcern for government trespass upon the areas it enumerates. The Katz reasonable-expectation-of-privacy test has been added to, butnot substituted for, the common-law trespassory test. See Alderman v. United States, 394 U. S. 165, 176; Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U. S. 56, 64. United States v. Knotts, 460 U. S. 276, and United States v. Karo, 468 U. S. 705—post-Katz cases rejecting Fourth Amendment challenges to “beepers,” electronic tracking devices representing another form of electronic monitoring—do not foreclose the conclusion that a search occurred here. New York v. Class, 475 U. S. 106, and Oliver v. United States, 466 U. S. 170, also do not support the Government’s position. Pp. 4–12.
Justice Sotomayor doesn't like this analysis and concurs to explain that all this old stuff may need to be re-examined in light of evolving technology:
More fundamentally, it may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties. E.g., Smith, 442 U. S., at 742; United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435, 443 (1976). This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a greatdeal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks. People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellu- lar providers; the URLs that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers; and the books, groceries, and medi- cations they purchase to online retailers. Perhaps, asJUSTICE ALITO notes, some people may find the “tradeoff” of privacy for convenience “worthwhile,” or come to acceptthis “diminution of privacy” as “inevitable,” post, at 10, and perhaps not. I for one doubt that people would accept without complaint the warrantless disclosure to the Government of a list of every Web site they had visited in the last week, or month, or year. But whatever the societal expectations, they can attain constitutionally protectedstatus only if our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence ceases to treat secrecy as a prerequisite for privacy. I would not assume that all information voluntarily disclosed to some member of the public for a limited purpose is, for that reason alone, disentitled to Fourth Amendment protection. See Smith, 442 U. S., at 749 (Marshall, J., dissenting) (“Privacy is not a discrete commodity, possessed absolutely or not at all. Those who disclose certain facts to a bank or phone company for a limited business purpose need not assume that this information will be released to other persons for other purposes”); see also Katz, 389 U. S., at 351–352 (“[W]hat [a person] seeks to preserve as private,even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected”).
Justices Alito, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan also concur, but disagree with Scalia's property analysis, and would stick to the Katz reasonable expectation of privacy test.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Big win for Roy Black in the 11th Circuit

The case is USA v. Ignasiak, and the 11th Circuit per Judge Martin vacates the convictions of this doctor in a pill mill prosecution:
After carefully reviewing the record and having the benefit of oral argument, we reverse Ignasiak’s convictions because the admission of autopsy reports and testimony about those reports, without live in-court testimony from the medical examiners who actually performed the autopsies (and where no evidence was presented to show that the coroners who performed the autopsies were unavailable and the accused had a prior opportunity to cross examine that witness), violated the Confrontation Clause under the facts of this case. Because we conclude that the fourth issue is dispositive, we decline to address the other issues raised in Ignasiak’s merits appeal, except for the sufficiency 2 of the evidence claim.3 While we ultimately conclude that the evidence was sufficient, the degree to which we view the government’s case as less than overwhelming compels our conclusion that the Confrontation Clause violation was not harmless in this case. To give our harmful error determination sufficient context, it is necessary to describe the evidence in some detail.
The Court also has a very interesting discussion of the government's expert witness at pgs. 43-48 in which the government claims that it was not Brady material that its expert had previously committed federal crimes and that the information should remain under seal:

The Notice revealed for the first time that Dr. Jordan engaged in criminal conduct beginning at an unspecified time up to and continuing until 2006. Specifically, Dr. Jordan had, on nine separate occasions, used a counterfeit badge and his United States Marshal credentials to pose as an on-duty U.S. Marshal in order to carry firearms on commercial airplanes while on personal travel. On the ninth flight, a Transportation and Security Administration (“TSA”) agent discovered Dr. Jordan’s ploy, and seized the weapons, counterfeit badge, and Marshal Service credentials. The South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office opened an investigation of Dr. Jordan. Although Dr. Jordan had engaged in similar criminal conduct at least eight times before, thereby committing multiple violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 912 and 1001 and 49 U.S.C. § 46505, the South Dakota U.S. Attorney allowed Dr. Jordan to enter into a “pre-trial diversion agreement” in which Dr. Jordan paid $2,000 and agreed not to carry any concealed weapons except while on official business. 

The government filed this information under seal and asked for it not to be made public because of the expert's right to privacy.  I kid you not:
Thus, while it is true that Dr. Jordan’s privacy interests sit on one side of the balance, it is “the interest of the public in accessing the information” that rests on the other. Id. And, in this case, the public has a great interest in learning the contents of the Notice—namely, learning the highly material fact that Dr. Jordan, a repeat government expert witness, abused his government authority and committed acts which could have been charged as felonies. To say that the defense would have preferred to use this information to discredit Dr. Jordan’s testimony is almost certainly an understatement. Perhaps ironically, by arguing that there was no Brady violation in this case because the AUSA prosecuting Ignasiak was unaware of Dr. Jordan’s history, it is actually the government that most persuasively highlights the value in unsealing the Notice. Indeed, should the Notice remain sealed, the significant likelihood is that in the next CSA prosecution in which Dr. Jordan testifies as an expert, both the prosecuting AUSA and the defense counsel will again be unaware of the highly relevant impeachment evidence contained in the Notice. And in that case, as in this one, should the truth ever come to light, the government could again point to its own ignorance and claim immunity from Brady error. Stated this way, we would have expected the government to condemn, rather than condone, such a problematic outcome. But instead the government asserts that Dr. Jordan’s privacy interest outweighs the public’s right to know the extent of Dr. Jordan’s involvement with the government. To be sure, in some cases a party may overcome the presumption of openness if it can show “an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501, 510, 104 S. Ct. 819, 824 (1984). Indeed, the government correctly points to two categories of witnesses whose privacy interests are understandably paramount: victims in sex crime cases and criminal informants. Dr. Jordan is neither. Rather, he is an expert witness who, at a rate of $300/hour, voluntarily accepted employment which required him to testify against Ignasiak. Indeed, Dr. Jordan testified that he has been paid “around” $30,000 for his service as the government’s expert in this and other cases. While the fact of his paid status does not make him amenable to any sort of unfair or immaterial character attack, it does greatly reduce, if not altogether eviscerate, his expectation to keep impeachment evidence private. The government is thus right that courts should protect witnesses like Dr. Jordan from “unwarranted invasion” into their privacy. But we cannot agree that impeachment evidence concerning a highly compensated and voluntarily appearing expert witness is either “unwarranted” or an “invasion” into that witness’s privacy.
 Congrats to Roy Black, Richard Strafer, Jackie Perzcek and the whole team over there for this great win.

Colbert is awesome

This is too good to pass up:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Mandels score...

... to the tune of $67 million. Here's Curt Anderson on what happened:

A federal jury decided Wednesday that Toronto-based TD Bank owes an investment group $67 million for its role in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that was operated by a now disbarred attorney, Scott Rothstein.

The verdict came in a lawsuit filed by Coquina Investments, based in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was the first to go to trial of several pending lawsuits filed by wronged investors against the bank and others. Coquina attorney David S. Mandel said the jury "sent exactly the right message to TD Bank."

Congrats to David and Nina Mandel who have been working very hard on this case.  Judge Cooke presided over the first of what will be many Scott Rothstein-related civil trials.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Times honors blog

Thanks to the New Times and Francisco Alvarado for the honorable mention and saying that the blog is "the definitive source on South Florida's federal court system, reporting and opining on judicial appointments to high-profile cases."  Pretty cool!

So, in that vein, the latest news on the WPB magistrate is that AUSA Kim Abel has withdrawn her name from consideration.  I've been told that the slot has now been offered to Bill Matthewman, but I haven't been able to confirm it yet.  As soon as I do, I will post.

Streets around federal courthouse closed (UPDATED)

Apparently there is a suspicious package.

UPDATE -- they just blew it up.  See picture below:

A fool for a client...

1.  So, I got a ticket and I'll be representing myself in the Justice Building this afternoon because Rumpole refuses to represent me.  Should I channel Woody Allen from Bananas?

2.  My favorite scene from the debate last night:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feds indict one of their own

Yikes.  From the Sun-Sentinel:

A member of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami and eight other South Floridians have been arrested in an alleged cocaine and oxycodone trafficking ring, federal authorities said Friday.

Tamika Jasper-Barbary, 36, a legal assistant in the Grand Jury Suite of the United States Attorney's Office in Miami, is accused of participating in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts cocaine and oxycodone, the U. S. Department of Justice said. ...

Jasper-Barbary also was charged with obstructing justice during a federal grand jury proceeding, officials said. ...

Because the allegations involve a member of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, the U.S. Department of Justice recused the Southern District of Florida, at that office's request, from investigating and prosecuting the case, the Justice Department said.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"He's tried to rule the state like Boss Hogg and he didn't think the law applied to him."

Oh no he didn't!  Even though this deals with the Mississippi justice system, any Boss Hog reference will be posted here (you rarely hear an Uncle Jesse reference...).  Plus, there's nothing like a good fight between two branches of government.  From CNN:

Mississippi's attorney general chastised former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour after a judge issued a temporary injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners Barbour pardoned or gave clemency to before leaving office this week.
State Attorney General Jim Hood said Barbour violated the state's constitution because the pardon requests for many inmates were not published 30 days before they were granted, as required.
Mississippi is one of the few states that requires advance notice.

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green issued the injunction Wednesday, saying it appeared some pardons, including those for four murderers, did not meet the 30-day requirement. Any inmates released in the future must meet the standard, Green ruled.
On his way out the door, the governor approved full pardons for nearly 200 people, including 14 convicted murderers, according to documents the Mississippi secretary of state's office released Tuesday.
The four murderers who received full pardons last week -- David Gatlin, Joseph Ozment, Charles Hooker and Anthony McCray -- were cited in Green's order.
They were all serving life sentences and worked as inmate trusties at the governor's mansion, said Suzanne Singletary, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Trusties are inmates who can receive additional rights through good behavior.
Hood told "AC360" that it's possible that those who didn't meet the 30-day requirement may have to return to prison and complete their sentences.
Barbour said Wednesday that some people misunderstand the clemency process and believe that most of the individuals were still jailed.
"Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years," he said in a statement.
"The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases," Barbour wrote. "The 26 people released from custody due to clemency is just slightly more than one-tenth of 1 percent of those incarcerated."
 Sounds like Barbour was well-intentioned.  The clemency process was traditionally a check on prosecutors and was used as a way for the government to show mercy, a quality we hear discussed all the time but that is rarely practiced.  Unfortunately, politics have really gutted the process and it's rarely used anymore.  And then when it is, like in this case, everyone gets nuts and starts referencing Dukes of Hazzard.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Judge Scola speaks to Federal Bar Association

It was a fun and entertaining talk in which he answered questions from the audience.  Lots of interesting answers, including that his current favorite Supreme Court Justice is Justice Kennedy because of his objectivity and because you don't know which way he is going to rule.  He also mentioned reading the South Florida Lawyers Blog.  I think Rumpole and I should feel offended!

What a day at the Federal Public Defender's Office

The office won two appeals and a trial today.

1.  Bernardo Lopez won United States v. Spriggs, which created a circuit split with the 8th Circuit:

Appellant Timothy Spriggs pled guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2).  At sentencing, over Spriggs’s objection, the district court applied a five-level enhancement for distribution of illicit images for the receipt, or expectation of receipt, of a non-pecuniary thing of value. See U.S. SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) (2010).  Spriggs argues that no evidence supports application of the enhancement. We vacate the sentence and remand because, although we find evidence that Spriggs distributed illicit images, there is insufficient evidence to support the other elements of the five-level enhancement....
The Eighth Circuit applies the five-level enhancement if the defendant “expected to receive a thing of value — child pornography — when he used the file-sharing network to distribute and access child pornography files.”  United States v. Stultz, 575 F.3d 834, 849 (8th Cir. 2009).  Because file-sharing programs enable users to swap files, the court reasoned that no additional evidence is needed to establish the type of transaction contemplated in the Guidelines.
We have a different view, however, of the function and operation of filesharing programs than that of the Eighth Circuit.  File-sharing programs exist to promote free access to information. Generally, they do not operate as a forum for bartering.  For example, file-sharing programs permit a person to access shared files on peer computers regardless of whether the person in turn shares his files.  The files are free.  Because the transaction contemplated in the Guidelines is one that is conducted for “valuable consideration,” the mere use of a program that enables free access to files does not, by itself, establish a transaction that will support the five-level enhancement.  Accordingly, we disagree with the approach taken by the Eighth Circuit.

2.  Sam Randall and Vince Farina won United States v. Grajales, in which the 11th Circuit reversed a conviction, holding that the trial court should have given an entrapment instruction.  Interestingly, the court also found two other appellate arguments raised by the dynamic duo had merit.  Three reversible errors in one appeal is not common.  I'm not sure why the court didn't publish the opinion.  From the intro:

After a jury trial, Alberto Grajales appeals his convictions for conspiring and attempting to interfere with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); conspiring and attempting to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Grajales raises three issues on appeal. First, he argues that the district court erred when it refused to instruct the jury on his entrapment defense. Second, Grajales argues that the district court erred when it instructed the jury that his honestly held belief that he was helping law enforcement also had to be objectively reasonable in order to negate his specific intent. Finally, Grajales argues that the district court erred when it prevented him from testifying regarding non-hearsay statements that were crucial to his defense. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

3.  Aimee Ferrer and Helaine Batoff obtained a not guilty verdict before Judge Graham.  I'm working on getting the details of that case.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Romney: "I don't know whether a state has a right to ban contrapception."

This is a pretty amazing exchange that I don't think has been really covered in the news.  Is it possible that Mitt Romney doesn't know Griswold v. Connecticut?  Yikes.  (And why were there debates on Saturday night and then 10 hours later on Sunday morning?) 

In news closer to home, the Rothstein mess won't go away.  Jay Weaver writes an in-depth piece about the case here.  From the conclusion to the story:

One major mystery still hangs over the Rothstein case: During the deposition he was confronted by attorney Mary Barzee-Flores about whether he had “conned” and “fooled” a bunch of national politicians during the course of his Ponzi scheme.
Barzee-Flores, who is representing Gibraltar Bank, where Rothstein had also kept his firm’s trust accounts, rattled off a series of big names: former President George W. Bush; GOP presidential candidate John McCain; his running mate, Sarah Palin; U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut; and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rothstein, who served as a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention and also served on a Florida commission that recommends judges to the governor for appointment, admitted he “fooled” them all.
Rothstein was also asked whether he “fooled” Crist, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, or Martinez, the former U.S. senator from Orlando who resigned his seat before finishing his term, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
But Rothstein was not allowed to answer the questions about the two Florida politicians because of objections raised by the lead federal prosecutor in the criminal case, Lawrence LaVecchio, who cited “investigatory privilege.” Legal experts said LaVecchio objected because his team is still investigating political donations that Rothstein and other members of his firm made to their campaigns.
Neither Crist nor Martinez returned phone messages seeking comment.

Read more here:

Friday, January 06, 2012

Franky the drug dog goes to Washington

The Florida Supreme Court held earlier this year that police couldn't use dogs to sniff a person's house.  Now the Supreme Court will decide the issue.  From Curt Anderson:

In a case closely watched by law enforcement nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether a Florida police dog's sniff outside the front door of a house with a marijuana growing operation is an illegal search.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants the justices to reverse a state Supreme Court decision that the K-9's sniff runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. Eighteen states and the territory of Guam have filed a brief in support of Bondi's position, concerned that other state courts might start issuing similar decisions.
"If the Florida Supreme Court's decision stands, it could have a profound chilling effect on law enforcement efforts to combat illegal drugs," the states' filing says. "The Florida Supreme Court's decision jeopardizes the states' ability to use this crucial tool to discover illegal drugs prior to their distribution."

I'm not sure what the chilling effect would be...  And the last quote -- that the decision impacts the states' ability to nab criminals -- is true of the 4th Amendment in every case.  But, I'm not sure the Florida Supreme Court's opinion will have much of a shot with this Court...

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Pryor times two

Looks like we may get another Judge Pryor (Jill) on the 11th Circuit (no relation to Judge Bill Pryor).  It's Alyson Palmer day at the SDFLA Blog.  From her article:

It appears the White House has landed on Atlanta litigator Jill A. Pryor as its new choice for Georgia's vacant seat on a federal appeals court.
Fulton County Superior Court Senior Judge Melvin K. Westmoreland told the Daily Report that he recently received an inquiry about Pryor from the American Bar Association committee that rates White House nominees for the federal bench. He said the ABA committee's representative wrote to say the committee was evaluating Pryor because she is being considered for a position on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.The administration of President Barack Obama has struggled to fill a Georgia-based spot on the 11th Circuit vacated in August 2010 by Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., who retired.A year ago, the ABA committee vetted Mercer University law professor Daisy Hurst Floyd for the opening, but Obama didn't nominate her. Now the administration finds itself without a nominee at the start of an election year, historically a tricky time for getting a judicial pick through the Senate.Pryor, 48, is a partner at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, a politically connected litigation boutique. She declined to comment for this story.Born in Harrisburg, Pa., Pryor received her undergraduate degree from the College of William & Mary before going to Yale Law School, where she was senior editor on the Yale Law Journal. A paper she wrote there on an obscure topic—the meaning of the constitutional provision that only a "natural-born citizen" can become president—received some attention during the 2008 campaign, when questions surfaced about whether Republican nominee John McCain, born on a military installation in the Panama Canal Zone, was ineligible for the office. "If I were on the Supreme Court, I would decide for John McCain," Pryor told The New York Times, adding that the question wasn't frivolous.After graduating from Yale in 1988, Pryor served a term as a law clerk to a relatively new, conservative 11th Circuit judge from north Georgia, J.L. Edmondson. She went on to work at Bondurant, where she has handled complex business cases both at trial and on appeal.

Anders briefs

I never understood why criminal defense lawyers file Anders briefs in the 11th Circuit.  An Anders brief is where an appointed lawyer tells the court of appeals that there are no issues worth briefing and then asks the court for permission to withdraw.  But there are almost always issues to raise... 

Alyson Palmer has a good example of one in today's DBR, where a lawyer filed an Anders brief, and the court of appeals denied it, saying that the lawyer should examine the plea colloquy:
A federal appeals court has granted a tax fraud defendant a new chance for a trial after one of its judges flagged an issue that prevailed on appeal.

The court's unusual intervention in the case of Anthony Davila set up an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that an Augusta, Georgia, federal magistrate judge erred by getting too involved in the plea bargaining process.

The 11th Circuit panel concluded comments by U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Leon Barfield violated the rule against judges' involvement in plea negotiations.

The comments came at a hearing addressing Davila's request to fire his court-appointed attorney. Barfield told Davila that "there may not be viable defenses to these charges" and that the only thing at his disposal was accepting responsibility for his crimes as a way to get a reduced sentence, according to the transcript.

Accepting responsibility, Barfield told Davila, would require Davila to "go to the cross" and tell the probation officer preparing his sentencing report everything he had done.
At the 11th Circuit, prosecutors acknowledged Barfield's comments crossed the line but argued the remarks didn't merit a reversal.

Davila's attorney, Michael N. Loebl of Fulcher Hagler in Augusta, initially didn't raise any appellate claim based on the comments, at first filing a brief saying Davila didn't have any basis to appeal his conviction or sentence.

But the 11th Circuit rejected Loebl's brief and pointed him to the idea that the magistrate judge made a mistake that could win Davila a new trial.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

"Scott, relax"

That was Scott Rothstein's lawyer during the two-week long depo after Mary Barzee Flores was able to really get under his skin

I love reading transcripts of great cross-examinations, and Mary really devastates Rothstein (her cross starts at page 2393 and the whole thing is definitely worth reading). The blogs are abuzz about this exchange (at page 2427):

Q At some point Debra Villegas' best friend and then your former lover was murdered?

A That's correct. She was.

Q She was murdered because she knew too much, right?

A Excuse me? Are you attempting to insinuate that I had something to do with that poor girl's death? Have you lost your mind?

Q You would deny that?

A I would deny it? You're disgusting. Everyone knows that I wasn't involved in it. That's disgusting.

Q How about Julie Timmerman?

A No. No. That is disgusting. Okay. I was a criminal involved in white-collar crime, involved in fraud and the like, involved with the mob and corrupt politicians and corrupt law enforcement. I'm paying for that. Melissa Lewis was a good person. She didn't know too much. She was killed by a psychopath. And you're disgusting for doing that.

Q You gave Debra Villegas a house, right?

A Why drag her family through that? They're going to have to read this, for your purposes, to defend John Harris, who's guilty.

Q You gave Debra Villegas a house --

A You should be ashamed.

Q -- right?

THE WITNESS: I want five minutes. You should be ashamed of yourself. You think I should be in jail. You should be ashamed.

MS. BARZEE FLORES: We'll talk about Julie Timmerman when you come back.

THE WITNESS: You're a disgusting human being. You're the only one out of this entire group of lawyers. You are truly, truly a disgusting human being.

MR. NURIK: Scott, relax. (Thereupon, a recess was taken.)

This exchange made me laugh:

Q You've violated oaths before, though, haven't

you, sir?

A In my prior incarnation, I certainly did.

Q You violated your oath as an attorney?

A I did.

Q You lied to judges?

A I did.

Q You put money, filthy lucre, ahead of your

clients' interests?

A Filthy lucre?

Q Yes. Money?

A Yes. I know what "lucre" is. I've just never

heard anyone use that in a question before.

Q It's in the oath, sir.

A I know it is. I remember the oath. I just --

"for lucre or malice," I remember that. Yes, I violated

that oath.

Welcome Back!

Happy new year everyone!

A quick morning roundup:

1. Justice Roberts is defending Justices Thomas and Kagan on the recusal issue:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defended his colleagues as “jurists of exceptional integrity and experience” and said Saturday that it was a misconception that Supreme Court justices do not follow the same set of ethical principles as other judges.

In his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, Roberts for the first time addressed a growing controversy about when justices should recuse themselves from cases and whether a code of conduct that covers lower-court judges should apply to the justices as well.

Roberts said the public should keep in mind a key difference between lower-court judges and Supreme Court justices: While lower-court judges can be replaced when they recuse themselves from cases, that is not the case at the “court of last resort.”

“A justice accordingly cannot withdraw from a case as a matter of convenience or simply to avoid controversy,” Roberts wrote. “Rather, each justice has an obligation to the court to be sure of the need to recuse before deciding to withdraw from a case.”

Allowing the court itself to decide whether justices should recuse, Roberts said, “would create an undesirable situation in which the court could affect the outcome of a case by selecting who among its members may participate.”

2.  In the NY Times, Peter Henning discussed white-collar prosecutions in 2011 and what to expect in 2012, but no mention of Scott Rothstein.  Blasphemy!

3.  Ellen Podgor gives out her "White Collar Crime Awards" here.  My favorite, of course: The award for "Sentencing Sanity - To Hon. Ellen Huevelle for consistently rejecting DOJ's draconian sentencing recommendations ."

4.  I also enjoyed reading this article about a big firm lawyer who spent a year as a prosecutor.  Her take on how she handled so many cases:

"Controlling a room, or at least giving the impression you're in control, is absolutely fundamental," she says. "When people came to that room, I was gracious, but I treated them like a guest." That meant police officers, victims, defendants, bailiffs, court clerks, defense attorneys, and even "the judge, frankly, was a guest."