Thursday, June 27, 2013

Snitching ain't easy

Paula McMahon from the Sun-Sentinel has been covering an interesting "pill-mill" prosecution before Judge Marra. There have been a series of articles (here, here, and here) covering one cooperating witness in particular -- a Christopher George. Apparently, Mr. George discussed some of the prior testimony with his father, which was recorded on a jail phone:
Christopher George is hoping to get his prison term reduced, provided that federal prosecutors think his anticipated testimony against two South Florida doctors is worth a reward. But a recorded call the 32-year-old inmate made to his father from the Palm Beach County Jail may have put a kink in his plans.
Despite a message that plays at the start of every jail inmate call warning all parties that they are being recorded, the two men had a phone conversation that went on for about 15 minutes last week — with dad John George giving a play-by-play of how another witness testified in court and coaching his son on what questions might come up and what might sound good on the witness stand.
On the recorded call, George, his father and a woman who accompanied the dad to court last week, were heard hashing out the details of the first trial witness's testimony and what appeared to be playing well to the jury and what wasn't working.
"We took a lot of notes …. we took pages of notes," John George, 62, told his son during the call, explaining that it didn't look good when a witness downplayed any benefit he might receive for his testimony. "The defense attorneys … jump on that. They will say, 'How much time to do you expect to get off.'"
After detailing the highlights of the defense's strategy and line of questioning, John George threw in a critique of attorney Michael D. Weinstein's cross-examination of the witness: "This guy … really can slice things up … He was pretty good."

Although the defense moved to exclude George's testimony entirely based on these recordings, he has been permitted to testify.  Sounds like the stuff of movies:

The businesses brought in so much cash that his staff quickly stopped using cash registers because they filled up too quickly, he said. They tried cash drawers for a while but George said that slowed down business too much and eventually they settled on dropping the cash into two-gallon trash bins by their desks.
Hassled by police and reporters, George said he moved from the first clinic to locations on Cypress Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale, then Boca Raton and Palm Beach County.
As the business evolved, he realized that a prior criminal conviction for illegally importing and selling steroids was bringing more unwanted attention and he put the clinics in a friend's name, though he still ran them.
George testified he saved some money, stashing $5 million in safes in his mom's attic and bedroom, but he also blew a lot of it. He bought three homes, some boats and so many luxury cars that he struggled to recall the details.
"I went through a lot, I don't remember all of them," George testified, listing off Range Rovers, BMWs, a Mercedes, a Lamborghini, a Bentley, and a freightliner truck that cost more than $200,000.

Some great in-depth coverage by Ms. McMahon. 

-- Meantime, another court is fed up with discovery/Brady violations.  This time the 6th Circuit.

-- Finally, a big congrats to Robert Luck, who was named Circuit Court Judge by Governor Scott.  Luck is a good guy, and smart.  A nice addition to the bench.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday News & Notes

1.  Although Dore Louis withdrew his request for NSA records and although the judge denied his motion based on that withdrawal, the feds filed another classified pleading to "clarify" what it said in the earlier classified filing.  Of course that clarification is redacted, so we have no idea what needed to be explained.

2.  The Federal JNC has been reconstituted.  Finally. Now can we get William Thomas confirmed? Here are the Southern District's members:
 UPDATED -- THIS LIST BELOW IS INCORRECT.  The correct list is here.

John M. Fitzgibbons, Statewide Chair
Kendall B. Coffey, Conference Chair
Georgina A. Angones
Reginald J. Clyne
Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz
Albert E. Dotson, Jr.
Philip Freidin
John H. Genovese
Carey Goodman
Evelyn Langlieb Greer
Cynthia Johnson-Stacks
Manuel Kadre
Eduardo R. Lacasa
Ira Leesfield
Dexter W. Lehtinen
Charles H. Lichtman
Richard J. Lydecker
Thomas F. Panza
David C. Prather
Dennis Alan Richard
Jon A. Sale
Stephen N. Zack

3.  Tom Almon received the Eugene Spellman Criminal Justice Act Award.*  I'm really happy to post about Tom Almon, who has been a CJA lawyer for a long time and has really provided a wonderful service to indigent defense.  Here's a picture:

Chief Judge Federico Moreno, me, Tom Almon, Judge Bob Scola (picture by Cathy Wade)

I never met Judge Spellman, but he was very close with Judge Davis who told lots of great stories about him.  Here's the NY Times obituary for Judge Spellman:

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.
I pulled up an old administrative order when Judge King was Chief, appointing Judge Spellman to the CJA committee.  Lots of heavy hitters also on the committee...

*I also received the award this year.  I have a policy about not posting about me or my cases, but I wanted to post about Tom.  Also, Judge Scola ordered me to put this up.  It is a real honor for me to have received this award.

4.  The 9th Circuit really gives meaning to Rule 16 and Brady.  Check out the latest, from Judge Kozinski, here. Another conservative judge is frustrated with how our criminal justice system is operating.  But when is the last time you saw an 11th Circuit opinion like this?

We vacate the conviction and remand for an evidentiary
hearing into whether the prosecution’s failure to disclose the
certificate in discovery or at any point before the proofs had
closed was willful. If it was willful, the district court shall
impose appropriate sanctions. The district court shall, in any
event, dismiss the illegal reentry count of the indictment on
account of the STA violation, with or without prejudice,
depending on its weighing of the relevant factors. See
18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2); United States v. Lewis, 349 F.3d
1116, 1121–22 (9th Cir. 2003).
We are perturbed by the district court’s handling of the
reopening issue. The court persisted in giving a reason for
allowing the government to reopen that was contradicted by
the record, despite defense counsel’s repeated attempts to
point out the error. The court also ignored defendant’s twiceraised
Rule 16 objection and made a questionable ruling
regarding defendant’s Speedy Trial Act claim.
“Whether or not [the district judge] would reasonably be
expected to put out of his mind” his previous rulings, and
“without ourselves reaching any determination as to his
ability to proceed impartially, to preserve the appearance of
justice, . . . we conclude reassignment is appropriate,” and we
so order. See Ellis v. U.S. Dist. Court (In re Ellis), 356 F.3d
1198, 1211 (9th Cir. 2004) (en banc).
5.  Everyone is focused on the blockbuster cases before the Supreme Court.  But how about the debate about Clue:

[Jusice Kagan] resorted to the game Clue—or the plot line of the musical version of Clue, to be exact—to illustrate her point. Kagan wrote: "(Think: Professor Plum, in the ballroom, with the candlestick?; Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with the rope, on a snowy day, to cover up his affair with Mrs. Peacock?)"
It was an example of the vivid writing, aimed at making complex concepts understandable that Kagan has adopted in her first years on the high court.
But Alito, the sole dissenting justice, was apparently not impressed. Making the point that different ways of committing a crime do not make them different crimes, Alito wrote a footnote responding to Kagan’s reference.
“The board game Clue, to which the Court refers… does not provide sound legal guidance. In that game, it matters whether Colonel Mustard bashed in the victim’s head with a candlestick, wrench, or lead pipe. But in real life, the colonel would almost certainly not escape conviction simply because the jury was unable to agree on the particular type of blunt instrument that he used to commit the murder.”

A nice comeback by Alito, but why is he making faces at Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor:

The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.

The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.
Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.

Days earlier, I watched as he demonstrated his disdain for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the two other women on the court. Kagan, the newest justice, prefaced her reading of an opinion in a low-profile case by joking that it was “possibly not” the case the audience had come to hear. The audience responded with laughter, a few justices smiled — and Alito, seated at Kagan’s right elbow, glowered.

Another time, Sotomayor, reading a little-watched case about water rights, joked that “every student in the audience is going to look up the word ‘preemption’ today.” Alito rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Details for Holly Skolnick's memorial

Please join her family and friends in a

Celebration of Life

Holly Skolnick

May 7, 1954 - June 23, 2013


Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.

Gusman Concert Hall at the University of Miami

(Across from the law school)

1314 Miller Drive

Coral Gables, FL 33146


Reception to immediately follow at the University of Miami Law School


In lieu of flowers and in honor of Holly, please consider a donation to

Americans for Immigrant Justice

Donations will fund the Holly Skolnick Human Rights Fellowship.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Openings in Zimmerman case

Check out the difference in opening statements between the prosecutor (strong and dramatic) and defense (flat footed joke that bombs):

Now the defense:


Sunday, June 23, 2013

RIP Holly Skolnick

Very very sad news...  Holly Skolnick has passed away.  I really liked Holly -- she was a great person.  Smart, energetic, and fun to be around. She's the second from the left in the picture below (with Ellen Roth, Cheryl Little, and Jane Moscowitz):,%20Holly%20Skolnick,%20Cheryl%20Little%20and%20Jane%20Moscowitz.jpg

 Here's the into from the Herald's obit:

Holly R. Skolnick, a veteran attorney at the Miami-based firm Greenberg Traurig, died on Saturday of melanoma. She was 59.
In an email to firm personnel, co-President Hilarie Bass, said that Skolnick “will be remembered as a close friend to so many of us. A brilliant lawyer, a wonderful friend, and someone who was always committed to finding justice for those who needed her help.
“ Whether as the leader of [the firm’s] pro bono efforts, the chair of the country's most important organization for providing legal assistance to immigrants, or her involvement with Equal Justice Works Fellows, Holly will be remembered for her passion for our legal system and helping all of us to try to fulfill it's promise for everyone.’’
Skolnick held degrees from the University of Wisconsin/Madison, 1976, and Harvard University Law School, 1980.
Skolnick is survived by her husband, federal appellate attorney Richard Strafer, daughter Jordan Strafer, and her parents.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Government files two responses to Dore Louis' NSA motion

One is classified and one is public.

 Here's the public one, which was posted by Paula McMahon from the Sun-Sentinel.

She writes:

Federal prosecutors filed two versions of their response in federal court in Fort Lauderdale late Wednesday. The unclassified, publicly filed version was 21 pages long and included several lines that stated "CLASSIFIED INFORMATION REDACTED."
Prosecutors filed a longer, classified version of their response with supporting information under seal with U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum — so even the defense attorneys cannot see it — saying the judge would need additional information to make her ruling.
Prosecutors claimed in court records that the secretive NSA program did not capture "information about where a cellular telephone was geographically located at the time a call was made."
"Thus, the government does not possess the records the defendant seeks," they wrote.
The defense will have an opportunity to respond before the judge issues her ruling, which the prosecution asked should be sealed if it contains any classified information.
If the government does not have the data, then so be it.  But 20 pages seems like a lot of words to say we don't have it.  I found the argument heading on page 17 interesting: "Neither Brady nor Rule 16 permit the defendant to conduct a fishing expedition of highly classified NSA Data." 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Government responds to Dore Louis' motion for NSA records

Last week, the blog broke the story of Dore Louis' motion seeking NSA phone records, and Judge Rosenbaum's order requiring the government to respond.  The story got a lot of attention, which was pretty neat.

The government filed a short motion this morning, asking the Court to appoint a CIPA (Classified Information Security Officer) to watch over the classified information that it will be disclosing to the defense and the Court in its response.  Here's a link to the government's motion, which is unopposed. And here is the most interesting part of it:

As a result of the filing of Brown’s Motion to Compel Production (DE:778) and CIPA Section 5 Notice (DE:779), the government’s response will require the discussion of classified material. Pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”), 18 U.S.C. App. 3, and Section 2 of the Security Procedures established under Pub. L. 96-456, 94 Stat. 2025 by the Chief Justice of the United States and promulgated pursuant to Section 9 of CIPA the Court shall designate a CISO in any proceeding in a criminal case in which classified information is reasonably expected to be within.
 To assist the Court and court personnel in handling any motions, pleadings and implementing any orders relating to the CIPA proceedings, the government requests that the Court designate Daniel O. Hartenstein as the CISO for this case, to perform the duties and responsibilities prescribed for CISO’s in the Security Procedures promulgated by the Chief Justice.
All of this means that the government's response is likely to be deemed classified, so the public will not get a chance to see it.  What a shame...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Justice Kagan dials Jenny at 867-5309

Gotta love this -- Justice Kagan cited the famous 1982 Tommy Tutone song in American Trucking Association v. City of Los Angeles:

Under th[e] contract, a company may transport cargo at the Port in exchange for complying with various requirements. The two directly at issue here compel the company to (1) affix a placard on each truck with a phone number for reporting environmental or safety concerns (You’ve seen the type: ‘How am I driving? 213–867–5309‘) and (2) submit a plan listing off-street parking locations for each truck when not in service.

Lots of big decisions coming out this week, and SCOTUSBlog has all of the action. Unless there is some big SDFLA news, there will be very little blogging this week...

Meantime, you can listen to the classic 8675309/Jenny right here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Supreme Court reverses 11th in Davila v. United States

Apropos of the previous post dealing with the 11th Circuit, the Supreme Court decided Davila today, 9-0:
This case concerns Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Crim- inal Procedure, which governs guilty pleas. Two provi- sions of that rule are key here. The first, Rule 11(c)(1), instructs that “[t]he court must not participate in [plea] discussions.” The second, Rule 11(h), states: “A variance from the requirements of th[e] rule is harmless error if it does not affect substantial rights.” Rule 52(a), which covers trial court errors generally, similarly prescribes: “Any error . . . that does not affect substantial rights must be disregarded.”
Anthony Davila, respondent here, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to defraud the United States by filing false income tax returns. He maintains that he did so because a U. S. Magistrate Judge, at a pre-plea in camera hearing and in flagrant violation of Rule 11(c)(1), told him his best course, given the strength of the Government’s case, was to plead guilty. Three months later, Davila entered a plea on advice of counsel. The hearing on Davila’s plea, con- ducted by a U. S. District Judge, complied in all respects with Rule 11.
The question presented is whether, as the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held, the violation of Rule 11(c)(1) by the Magistrate Judge warranted automatic vacatur of Davila’s guilty plea. We hold that Rule 11(h) controls. Under the inquiry that Rule instructs, vacatur of the plea is not in order if the record shows no prejudice to Davila’s decision to plead guilty.

Interesting opinions from the 11th Circuit

1.  Judge Pryor doesn't like dissentals, which I know all too well.  His latest concurral is in Michael Morgan's case.  He starts this way:

I write to respond to the dissents filed by three of my colleagues about the
denial of a rehearing en banc. I continue to adhere to the view expressed by Judges Henry Friendly and Raymond Randolph that dissents from the denial of rehearing en banc, particularly where one did not participate in the decision, are “of dubious policy,” United States v. Shaygan, 676 F.3d 1237, 1238 (11th Cir. 2012) (Pryor, J., respecting the denial of rehearing en banc) (quoting United States v. N.Y., New Haven & Hartford R.R. Co., 276 F.2d 525, 553 (2d Cir. 1960) (Friendly, J., concurring in the denial of reh’g en banc, joined by Lumbard, C.J.), and that “denials of rehearing en banc are best followed by silence,” id. (alteration omitted) (quoting Indep. Ins. Agents of Am. v. Clarke, 965 F.2d 1077, 1080 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (Randolph, J.)). But my colleagues do not share that view, and their dissents should not go unanswered. Lest anyone doubt the correctness of our decision in this matter, I must respond to five misunderstandings in the dissents that follow. 
I disagree with Judge Pryor and think Judge Kozinski has it right:

“Cases arguably warranting en banc review are those in which the stakes are unusually high or the law is especially unclear.”64 It does honor to the law, promotes justice, and serves the interests of an informed public when citizens learn that appellate judges have given difficult and important cases exacting scrutiny—not just one judge or even the three-judge panel, but an entire court of appeals.As Judge Clark put it in the case that started out this essay, “I do believe the court gains standing by encouraging free and thorough canvassing of these issues without the deadening influence of constraining restrictions.”65Dissentals are here to stay. Get over it.

2.  The Court of Appeals also addressed some forfeiture issues in the Rothstein matter.  Judge Tjoflat starts off this interesting issue like this:

A number of criminal statutes within the Federal Code mandate that a
defendant, when convicted, forfeit to the United States as part of his sentence the lucre he acquired as a result of his criminal activity. In this case, the defendant, a lawyer, deposited the lucre in his law firm’s bank accounts, where it was commingled with the firm’s receipts from legitimate clients. The question this appeal presents is whether the money in the bank accounts at the time the defendant was charged is subject to forfeiture. We hold that it is not.

3.   OK, this isn't the 11th Circuit, but you gotta love how this Second Circuit opinion starts out:


In addition to the awesome cover art, Judge Chin has a cool intro:

In 1972, the Marvel Comics Group published a comic book featuring the "Ghost Rider" -- a motorcycle-riding superhero with supernatural powers and a flaming skull for a head. The issue -- which sold for twenty cents -- told the story of Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stunt rider who promised his soul to the devil to save his adoptive father from cancer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Go, Dore, Go!

There's a lengthy multi-defendant trial before Judge Rosenbaum right now. I've been hearing lots of interesting (and sometimes funny -- including Marc Seitles putting on a dress during a cross!) stories from the trial, and this one is worth sharing. Dore Louis filed a motion for phone records, which the government claims it doesn't have. But -- according to recent reports -- doesn't the government have all of our phone records? Judge Rosenbaum wants to hear from the government on this point:

Defendant Brown urges that the records are important to his defense because cell-site records could be used to show that Brown was not in the vicinity of the attempted robbery that allegedly occurred in July 2010. And, relying on a June 5, 2013, Guardian newspaper article that published a FISA Court order relating to cellular telephone data collected by Verizon,1 Defendant Brown now suggests that the Government likely actually does possess the metadata relating to telephone calls made in July 2010 from the two numbers attributed to Defendant Brown.

Under 50 U.S.C. § 1806(f), when an “aggrieved person”2 moves “to discover, obtain, or suppress evidence or information obtained or derived from electronic surveillance[3] under [FISA],” the Court must provide the Attorney General of the United States with an opportunity to file an affidavit under oath indicating whether disclosure or an adversary hearing on the defendant’s request would harm the national security of the United States. If the Attorney General files such an affidavit, the Court must conduct an in camera and ex parte review of the application, order, and other materials to determine whether the surveillance of the movant was lawfully authorized and conducted. If the Attorney General declines to file such an affidavit, however, the Court may conduct this inquiry in open court.

Upon review of the application, order, and other materials, if the Court concludes that Defendant Brown was an “aggrieved person” and that the surveillance was not lawfully authorized or conducted, it must grant Defendant’s Motion and preclude the Government from using the evidence. See 50 U.S.C. § 1806(g). And, even if the Court determines that the surveillance was lawfully authorized or conducted, it must order discovery or disclosure to the extent that due process requires it, although the Court must otherwise deny the motion. Id. Here, Defendant asserts that, under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), due process requires the production of the July 2010 telephone records because they are anticipated to be exculpatory in that they are expected to show that Defendant Brown was not physically located at the scene of the alleged attempted Brink’s truck robbery in July 2010.

In view of Defendant Brown’s Motion and the requirements of FISA, it is hereby ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Government shall respond to Defendant Brown’s Motion and, if desired, shall file an affidavit of the Attorney General of the United States, as contemplated by Section 1806(f), by Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The Court regrets the short deadline for compliance but notes that the evidence that Defendant Brown seeks pertains to a trial that has been underway since May 31, 2013,4 and any order requiring the production of any materials sought would become meaningless if such items were not produced in sufficient time for the defense to use them in its case.5

Fascinating. The rest of the order, including the footnotes, are also worth reading.

Any predictions on how the government will respond?  Will we get an affidavit from General Holder?

Is sentencing out of whack?

A number of people sent me interesting emails about sentencing philosophy after reading yesterday's post. One reader sent me this link to Judge Laurie Smith Camp's posted philosophy on sentencing, which ends this way:

As a judge, I do not consider my role to be that of an instrument of public vengeance. In the words of Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven,” – “We all have it coming.” In the words of Dustin Hoffman in “Papillon” – “Blame is for God and small children.”

Meantime, another judge found that the meth guidelines make no sense:

Sioux City-based U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett on Friday became one of a handful of U.S. judges to declare public opposition to federal sentencing guidelines for methamphetamine dealers.

He wrote that he considers them to be “fundamentally flawed,” not based on empirical data and too harsh for lower-level drug figures.

Bennett — declaring in a 44-page ruling that he has a “fundamental policy disagreement” with the methamphetamine portion of guidelines that federal judges are supposed to consider in sentencing criminals — cut the sentence of Sioux City drug dealer Willie Hayes to six years and three months from a possible 15 years, eight months.

And yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that applying a new version of a guideline violated the ex post facto clause if that guideline called for a higher sentence, even though the guidelines are now advisory.

What a mess.

The guidelines, and sentencing in general, has become a lot like the tax code.  No one likes them, but no one has any really good ideas on how to fix them.

Sometimes, I think the solution is the state system, but then I see that Chad Ochocinco was sentenced to 30 days today even though the plea agreement called for no jail time because he congratulated his lawyer for the result by slapping his behind.

Maybe it's the Texas system where the jury issues the sentence...

Monday, June 10, 2013

A wonderful essay by Judge Kopf.


The whole thing is really worth a read.  But here is the intro:

If, over a long career, you sentence a lot of people to prison, several things can happen to you.   Most of them are bad.  Here’s a short list of some of the bad things:
*  You can begin to see offenders only in numerical terms.  ”What’s the base offense level, criminal history score and sentencing range?  Next!”
*  Unless you are very careful, you may become inured to the horrific impact that prison sentences have on offenders and their families.  ”You say your parental rights will be terminated if you go to prison, well, they’ll be better off anyway.”
*  You begin to suppress the anger that naturally flows from the horrific crimes you are forced to study.  Unless you struggle mightily to resist, you will then allow that anger to boil up to the point of an inner rage.  That rage in turn fuels a righteous indignation that, metaphorically speaking, permits you to sentence Satan while thinking of yourself as the Archangel Michael.
*  With a despair akin to that found in the best of Richard Pryor’s stand-up routines, you may find yourself making jokes with punch lines about the futility of rehabilitation.   “Say, did you hear about the guy who went to prison, was rehabilitated and came out an even better monster?”
All of these things are unconscious. If they weren’t, you would be one sick puppy.
Now, this must not become a pity party.  I have a hell of good gig.  I get paid decently, and the pension is great. People call me “judge” and the bowing and scraping I get with a snap of my fingers is a nice extra perk.  That said, if you care about doing a good job when you sentence people, you better try to find an antidote for the creepy things I have just described.
For my (partial) antidote, I realized that I needed a mental image of a physical object that would evoke a sense of balance.  The image that I settled on derives from a gift given to me by a fellow named David Tommy Gene Suggett.

The better portion of the essay, in my opinion, is the story that follows about Suggett.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday news and notes

1.  People were worried about DNA collection....  now our government is mining our telephone calls with secret court orders.  James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, responds here.

2.  In lighter news, AUSA Mike Garofola is still on the Bachelorette. Reality Steve has this summary of him from the first episode:

Michael: He takes her back to the fountain to try and retrieve the coin she threw in with Sean since it’s defective now cuz’ he didn’t choose her. Which she said 5 months ago was the biggest mistake he’s ever made, but now she’s over it. I don’t think I’d be dipping my hand in that fountain water anytime soon. I’m sure drunk PA’s probably use that as their toilet during the late night hours. So in addition to his diabetes, I’m guessing we can expect Michael to contract Hep C this season.

And in the second episode, the gang raps. Mike G. comes in at the 1:43 mark:

3. While you are watching video, apparently this hearing on kosher meals in the prisons will be posted at this link soon.  In the meantime, Curt Anderson has this:

Florida is moving ahead with a plan to offer kosher meals in all state prisons by the end of the year, a corrections official testified at a hearing Tuesday on a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit demanding such a program.
James Upchurch, assistant Department of Corrections secretary for institutions, said food following the strict Jewish dietary rules would be served beginning in July at the 2,000-inmate Union Correctional Institution in north Florida and then would expand through the fall to 60 facilities across the state.
"We will make the policy work," Upchurch told U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz at the hearing. "When you run a prison, there are security problems with everything you do. We don't see any that are insurmountable at this point."
Florida previously offered kosher meals at selected prisons for three years until 2007, then began a pilot program at a South Florida prison in 2010. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division filed a federal lawsuit last year demanding that the state be required to offer kosher food at all prisons.
A Justice Department lawyer, Michael Songer, said that despite the state's assurances, the U.S. wants the judge to issue a kosher food order so that the policy couldn't simply be changed in the future. Kosher diets and other tenets of religious faith are protected for prisoners by the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, he said.
"The state is not willing to make an enduring commitment to providing kosher meals," Songer said. "We believe Florida has been refusing to provide kosher meals in violation of the law for years."
The judge did not immediately issue a ruling, nor did she decide on a motion by attorneys for Muslim inmates seeking to join the case so they can get halal or kosher meals in prison. Seitz said Florida and the U.S. should be permitted to respond to that motion in writing before she rules.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Iowa judge to prosecutors: "You won't like me when I'm angry." this Obama appointee is angry because prosecutors weren't arguing for a high enough sentence:

One of Iowa's most prominent federal judges is accused of improperly playing the role of "prosecutor-in-chief" in criminal cases by ordering the U.S. Attorney's Office to provide evidence that can result in longer prison sentences, court records show.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose has complained to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa Nicholas Klinefeldt that his prosecutors aren't providing her with information that can be used to extend prison sentences, according to a Des Moines Register review of emails that are part of a court case and were recently unsealed.
Court transcripts show Rose, a former prosecutor who is now in her first year on the bench, has clashed with prosecutors over that issue in at least three criminal cases this year.
In a case involving convicted drug dealer Bryan Holm, Rose ordered prosecutors to provide evidence that could extend Holm's prison sentence on a weapons charge. When they refused, citing a plea agreement they had signed, Rose called a police officer to the stand, questioned the officer herself and imposed a sentence that was two to three years longer than what prosecutors had contemplated.
Rose then sent prosecutors an email comparing herself to the comic book superhero the Hulk, saying there was "a lesson" there for attorneys: "You won't like me when I'm angry."
Holm's attorney, Dean Stowers, says in court papers his client was "caught in the crossfire" between Rose and federal prosecutors who refused to do her bidding. Stowers, who is appealing Holm's sentence, says the Hulk email "tends to support the view that there is a price to be paid" if prosecutors don't take her advice.
"Any defendant, including Mr. Holm, would be particularly alarmed by such judicial advocacy in seeking to enhance his sentence," Stowers wrote in court filings.
"Most defendants have a hard enough time defending against the prosecuting attorney. … They at least should expect the judge will not be assuming the role of prosecutor-in-chief," wrote.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Judge Scola says no to unsafe courthouse

Thanks to a great tipster, I am able to report that Judge Scola said in a recent scheduling order that he will not be holding trials or hearings in the flooded courthouse.

From the order: "Until the unacceptable, unsafe, and unaddressed flooding and water-intrusion issues affecting the Fort Lauderdale courtroom assigned to this Judge are remedied, no trials or hearings will be held in Ft. Lauderdale.  Trials of Fort-Lauderdale-Division cases will be held in the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Federal Courthouse in Miami, Florida."

Trial lawyers will love the use of the trilogy.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Fun writing today in the 11th Circuit

It's Judge Pryor vs. Judge Jordan in this bank robbery case (USA v. Lonnie Whatley), and Judge Pryor starts off this way:

When asked why he robbed banks, legend has it that famed American bank robber Willie Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Bryan Burrough, Books: The Robber’s Last Ride, Wall St. J., Sept. 29, 2012, at C6. Lonnie Whatley may have taken this advice to heart when he robbed four banks in the greater Atlanta area during 2003 to 2006 and attempted to rob another in 2007. In this appeal of his convictions for the robberies, Whatley asks us to resolve four
issues: (1) whether the admission of 14 in-court identifications of Whatley by bank employees violated his right to due process; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence of Whatley’s conviction for the attempted bank robbery as evidence of a modus operandi; (3) whether the district court abused its discretion when it declined to grant Whatley a new trial after the parties discovered that the jurors had considered extrinsic evidence during their deliberations; and (4) whether the district court erred when it applied a four-level sentencing enhancement for abduction of the bank employees because Whatley ordered the bank employees to move around to different areas within the banks. 

We conclude that, based on the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Perry v. New Hampshire, __ U.S. __, 132 S. Ct. 716 (2012), which requires no preliminary examination for an identification not arranged by law enforcement officers, the admission of the in-court identifications of Whatley did not violate his right to due process. We also conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of Whatley’s conviction for the attempted bank robbery and that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Whatley a new trial. But we also conclude that the district court erred when it applied the enhancement for abduction. We affirm Whatley’s convictions, vacate his sentence, and remand for resentencing with instructions to apply the two-level enhancement for physical restraint of the employees instead of the four-level enhancement for abduction.

Judge Jordan concurs in part and dissents in part, and has some great quotes and references in his opinion:

Procrastination is not generally seen as a good character trait, but in constitutional adjudication it can often be a virtue. In my opinion, we need not and should not decide the effect of Perry here because Mr. Whatley cannot prevail on his due process claim even under our pre-Perry precedent.
Nor does the evidence on Count 1 allow the government to discharge its burden. It is true, as the majority writes, that three bank employees identified Mr. Whatley as the perpetrator of the June 2003 robbery at trial. But these in-court identifications cannot be considered in a vacuum. To begin with, the identifications were made in 2010, seven years after the bank robbery in question, and it does not take a Nobel laureate in medicine to understand that “[t]ime’s the thief of memory.” STEPHEN KING, THE GUNSLINGER 161 (Signet rev. & exp. ed. 2003).

Maryland v. King decided 5-4, allowing DNA swabs on arrest

The Court, per Kennedy, says it's like fingerprinting and photographing.

Justice Scalia authors the dissent, joined by Kagan, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.

The opinion is here.

The issue presented to the Court was: "Whether the Fourth Amendment allows the states to collect and analyze DNA from people arrested and charged with serious crimes."

More to follow.

 In the meantime, check out SCOTOSBlog

UPDATE -- the intro of Scalia's dissent:

The Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incrimi nating evidence. That prohibition is categorical and with out exception; it lies at the very heart of the Fourth Amendment. Whenever this Court has allowed a suspicionless search, it has insisted upon a justifying motive apart from the investigation of crime.

It is obvious that no such noninvestigative motive exists in this case. The Court’s assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the State’s custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous. And the Court’s comparison of Maryland’s DNA searches to other techniques, such as fingerprinting, can seem apt only to those who know no more than today’s opinion has chosen to tell them about how those DNA searches actually work. 

And from the conclusion:

Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; 
then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane 
(surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), 
applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic 
panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our
liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.