Friday, January 31, 2014

More blue slip shenanigans

It seemed like President Obama had worked out a deal with the Georgia Senators to move 6 judges forward, but not so fast.  From Robin McDonald's report:

More than a month after President Obama nominated six candidates to federal judicial posts in Georgia, the state's two Republican senators have yet to return "blue slips" signaling their approval to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee aide said.
As a result, the judiciary committee—which began holding hearings Jan. 8 on nominees from other states whose names the president submitted at the same time as the Georgia nominees—has not yet scheduled confirmation hearings for two nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and four nominees to the Northern District of Georgia trial court bench, according to the aide.
On Tuesday, the judiciary committee was holding confirmation hearings for six Arizona nominees to fill judicial posts that have been designated by the U.S. Administrative Office of Courts as emergency vacancies. Two of Georgia's district court seats have been designated as emergency vacancies.
U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have not signaled their approval of the list of Georgia judicial nominees even though the slate of six names was part of a compromise deal that the White House struck with them late last year.
On Tuesday, Isakson spokeswoman Lauren Culbertson said, "Senator Isakson believes that it is appropriate to allow the chairman and the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee to review the background investigation paperwork of the six nominees before he returns all six blue slips." Aides to Chambliss declined to comment Tuesday on the lack of action.
That package deal presumably was to have lifted a longtime hold the senators had placed on the president's nomination of Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor, a partner at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, to the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor was first nominated in February 2012 and renominated last year despite the senators' opposition.

Oy.  Meantime, the Black Caucus isn't happy about the lack of diversity for nominees in Alabama:

Nationally, 106 of the 874 federal judges are black, including those on senior status.
In Alabama, the letter said, “Sixty-four judges have served on Alabama’s district court bench since districts were first established in 1824. Of this number, only three have been African-American.”
There are district court vacancies in Montgomery and Huntsville as well as a vacancy on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Caucus members said Obama should nominate black candidates to fill the district court vacancies, which would make the federal bench in Alabama 21.4 percent black.
The letter’s focus on Alabama was especially noteworthy for Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Our record of black judicial appointments in Alabama is particularly appalling, given that African-Americans make up 26 percent of the population,” Sewell said Wednesday.
The state’s only black federal judge, Abdul Kallon of Birmingham, is considered a likely candidate for Obama to nominate to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which would create a third district court vacancy.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

BREAKING -- Robin Rosenberg being vetted for Ft. Pierce slot

This was the seat that was slated for William Thomas, but now the White House is vetting Robin Rosenberg.  She was one of the three finalists for this seat back in 2012.  One of the comments about Judge Rosenberg back then was:

Rosenberg is a Princeton grad and Duke Law grad. She clerked for the late S.D. Fla. District Judge James C. Paine and worked at DOJ in the Civil Rights Division. She was General Counsel at Slim Fast before the company sold and a partner at H&K. She's received strong evaluations in the bar poll in PBC since taking the bench 6 years ago. She is highly qualified to serve on the federal bench and within driving distance to Fort Pierce. Kudos to the JNC.

This piece, by Grier Pressly, gives a little more background:

Judge Robin Rosenberg brought her local roots and a uniquely diverse legal career to the bench when she was sworn in as one of our newest circuit judges on January 2, 2007. Government practice at the national and local level. Private practice in a big firm and a small firm. Corporate general counsel and executive leadership. Judge Rosenberg has done it all in a remarkably short period of time.
Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Judge Rosenberg attended the Palm Beach Day School and was a state-ranked junior tennis player before attending Andover for high school. Following her graduation from Princeton University, where she captained the women’s tennis team, Judge Rosenberg headed to Washington, D.C. where she worked for the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, Princeton’s Office of University Affairs, and as a legislative correspondent to Senator Bill Bradley.
After three years in Washington, Judge Rosenberg decided that a career in law and public service was her calling. In 1989 Judge Rosenberg graduated with a law degree from Duke University’s School of Law and a M.A. degree in public policy from Duke’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. Judge Rosenberg’s first job out of law school was an enjoyable one- year clerkship with Judge James Paine of the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. Judge Rosenberg returned to Washington in 1990 to go to work for the U.S. Department of Justice.
It was at the Department of Justice that Judge Rosenberg gained her employment law background, serving as a trial attorney for the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, and met her future husband. Michael McAuliffe was also working as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice (in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division) in the early 1990′s.
Newly married in 1993, Judge Rosenberg and Michael moved to Pilsen, Czech Republic to support the Civic Education Project jointly sponsored by Yale University and Central European University. In Pilsen, Judge Rosenberg helped set up the graduate school of public administration at West Bohemia University while Michael helped establish only the country’s fourth law school at the same university.
After spending a rewarding, busy year in the Czech Republic, Judge Rosenberg and Michael returned to West Palm Beach to continue their legal careers and to raise their family.
Judge Rosenberg served as Assistant City Attorney for West Palm Beach for two years before going into private practice in the litigation department at Holland & Knight. Judge Rosenberg’s tenure as Vice President and General Counsel at Slim·Fast Foods Company provided the opportunity of executive experience and managing corporate issues involving virtually every area of the law.
In 2001, Judge Rosenberg and Michael went into practice together. At Rosenberg & McAuliffe, Judge Rosenberg focused her practice on employment litigation while also concentrating on her roles as a certified mediator and arbitrator with ARC Mediation, a business she co-founded. However, the tug to return to public service was too strong to ignore. Judge Rosenberg feels fortunate to have loved every step of her career, a career that she feels has prepared her well for the challenges that serving as a judge will bring. Judge Rosenberg wants the community to know that she is honored to serve as a judge of our circuit.
When Judge Rosenberg is not working, she can be found spending time with her parents and grandmother (who all still reside locally) and doing any number of outdoor activities with her husband and three children – Sydney (11), Madison (8) and Adin (6). Tennis, swimming, jogging, and biking, Judge Rosenberg tries to find time for outdoor activities seven days a week. While Judge Rosenberg enjoys hiking in the mountains with her family during summer vacations in Colorado, she is happy to leave the extreme climbing to Michael who has recently summitted Denali (Alaska) and Aconcagua (Chile).
Luckily, there won't be any confusion on the district bench with Judge Robin Rosenbaum as she is moving up to the Eleventh Circuit.

Congrats to Judge Rosenberg!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The SOTU Bear Hug

That was Justice Ginsburg and President Obama:

How nice.

Meantime, Obama let the Justices know (in a nicer way this time) that he wasn't pleased with the Voting Rights decision.  From the WSJ:

Chastened after his 2010 State of the Union address, when his explicit criticism of a Supreme Court decision sparked a rebuke from several justices, President Barack Obama took a more subtle approach Tuesday regarding a ruling he considers misguided. The reference in Tuesday’s address to Congress was so subtle, in fact, that television camera operators apparently didn’t realize what he was referring to, and failed to cut to attending justices for a reaction shot.
“Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened,” Mr. Obama said, invoking the passive voice to avoid mention of the entity that did the weakening: the Supreme Court. The high court voted 5-4 along conservative-liberal lines to free states with a history of discrimination from their obligation to obtain federal approval before changing election procedures.
Five justices were in the audience. Two, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that the formula for identifying states requiring federal oversight no longer was constitutional. Three dissented from the ruling, Shelby County v. Holder—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Their facial expressions couldn’t be seen.
“But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working to strengthen it,” Mr. Obama continued, referring to a bill co-sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R., Wis.), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.). The bill would create a new formula for determining which jurisdictions had violated voting rights so egregiously in recent years to justify federal oversight.
Mr. Obama added a comment perhaps inspired by a case now pending before the justices, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which would lift limits on aggregate campaign contributions a single individual can make, which current law caps at about $125,000 over a two-year cycle.
“It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy,” the president said, but again the justices’ reaction was not displayed to television viewers.
Four justices skipped Tuesday’s event. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have avoided it for years. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in California. And Justice Samuel Alito—who visibly mouthed “not so” when President Obama in 2010 criticized the decision called Citizens United, which lifted limits on corporate and political spending—hasn’t been seen in the House chamber since.

Bryan Garner, is an expert on how lawyers write and talk, and he's also the editor of Black's Law Dictionary.  He's added these new terms to the book, which he picked up from ATL founder David Lat.  From Garner's twitter account:

Three neologisms by that I've defined for Black's Law Dictionary (10/e): "bench-slap," "judicial diva," and "litigatrix."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Justice Alito visiting the District

Info here:

Joint Luncheon with the Palm Beach County Bar Association and the Forum Club with Guest Speaker U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

Monday, February 3, 2014
11:15 AM-1:15 PM
Registration Closes 
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 11:00 PM
Palm Beach County Convention Center
Event Cost
  • Guest of a Member ($55.00)
  • Judges ($0.00)
  • Members ($45.00)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Are you a Belieber?

You should be in the CJA panel.  A bunch of favorable verdicts last week for them... A NG across the board for Al Levin in a felon in possession case.  A hung jury for Rick DoCobo, and a NG on the 7-year 924(c)s for Marty Feigenbaum.  

--UM Law Review is putting on a pretty cool program called Leading from Below on February 14-15. The two-day Symposium will examine the discretion and role of the Federal District Court Judge. The keynote speaker is the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein. One of our own, Judge Kathleen Williams, will also be speaking. And the price is right -- it's free and you'll get 9 CLE credits. Click here for more information and to register.

--If you were trying to file something or log onto PACER on Friday, it was a no go.  But it wasn't a cyber-attack as initially reported.  From the WSJ:

A shutdown of numerous federal court websites on Friday, initially attributed to a cyberattack, was actually the result of technical problems, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

The service disruption prevented some attorneys from filing documents electronically and others from reading court records.

At first, a spokeswoman for the federal court system said the shutdowns were the result of a denial of service attack—a kind of blunt force assault that overwhelms a website's ability to handle regular users by inundating the site with meaningless traffic. She said the incident "affected an unknown number of courts around the country," as well as the systems for reading and filing court documents.

Later Friday night, however, an FBI spokeswoman said the service interruption was because of technical problems in the federal court computer system and not a cyber attack.

--Finally, Judge Kozinski is the best.  He said this in an opinion concurring in part last week: "As best the record showed, Enmund was a schmo hired to drive the getaway car for a robbery gone wrong" 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Justin Bieber Arrested! Justin Bieber Arrested!

The other blogs this morning might be talking about the Bieber arrest on SoBe, but state court doesn't have the stranglehold on interesting cases.  Check out this one -- the sex tape defense! -- from our federal court in Ft. Lauderdale:

Jurors may have to see some stuff they might never be able to unsee if a defendant who's acting as his own attorney gets his way.
The South Florida man wants to introduce sex tapes and intimate photographs of himself and his wife as evidence in his criminal trial to try to prove that his marriage was real and not just undertaken for immigration purposes.
The trial of Rogerio Scotton — which starts Thursday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale — has nothing to do with sex.
The Brazilian-born former professional racecar driver, who lived in Boca Raton and Margate before his arrest in March 2012, is charged with 27 counts of mail fraud and two counts of lying to immigration authorities.
The 43-year-old businessman is accused of operating a multimillion dollar mail fraud involving shipping companies FedEx, UPS and DHL. Prosecutors say he stole millions of dollars from the shippers by creating phony accounts that fraudulently billed major companies like Target, WalMart and Apple between 2007 and 2012.

To top it off, Scotton is pro-se.  Judge Rosenbaum is presiding.  She is such a good egg that she didn't just continue this until she was confirmed so some other judge would have to deal.  And she is trying so hard to give this guy a fair trial:

He wants U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum to let him show what she called videos and photographs of "you and your wife engaged, I guess, in some very intimate acts" to the jurors who will decide his innocence or guilt.
Scotton hopes to undermine the prosecution's allegation that he lied about details of his marriage to a Cuban woman to get permanent resident status here. The 25-year U.S. resident said he has visible proof that the couple had a genuine marriage.
Scotton's desire to show jurors visual depictions of the more intimate side of the couple's relationship caused the judge to schedule a court hearing Wednesday to view the footage and photos and decide if it would be legally appropriate.
The judge told Scotton she wasn't going to just "play that stuff in front of the jury and see what's on there" without vetting it.
"I don't think that it would be fair to your wife," Rosenbaum told Scotton, explaining she needs to ensure that he gets a fair trial without unnecessarily violating his wife's privacy or introducing irrelevant matters.
"Why is the privacy of my wife important at this point?" Scotton asked the judge. "I'm facing jail time."
"[Let's] see if we can figure out a less intrusive way to prove the same thing," Rosenbaum told him.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How much joking is too much in the Supreme Court?

There was a bunch of it in this week's really interesting argument regarding anonymous tips.  From the AP:
There were no sound effects and certainly no cameras on hand when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia turned an already entertaining argument over a traffic stop on a two-lane road in northern California into drama worthy of Hollywood.
Not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source, Scalia suggested Tuesday, using an extreme example to urge a lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm.
"I want you to say, 'Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'" Scalia said, drawing laughter from the audience as well as some colleagues.
While the rest of Washington stayed home in the snow, the Supreme Court was in session Tuesday and the justices had what, for them, seemed a rollicking good time.
The legal issue before the court is whether an anonymous tip about reckless driving is enough under the Fourth Amendment for police to pull over a car, without an officer's corroboration of dangerous driving.
Two brothers pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana after California Highway Patrol officers pulled over their silver Ford 150 pickup based on a report of reckless driving.
The officers did not observe erratic driving, but acted after dispatchers received a 911 call saying the vehicle had run the caller off the road and identifying it by its model, color and license plate. A subsequent search revealed four large bags of marijuana. The brothers argue in their appeal that the traffic stop violated their constitutional rights, based on an earlier high court ruling that anonymous tips by themselves ordinarily are not sufficient for police to detain or search someone.
The justices often try to test the arguments of the lawyers before them by hypothesizing about extreme positions. In this debate, Chief Justice John Roberts came up with a tip about a girl being tossed in the trunk of a car and kidnapped. Not enough, lawyer Paul Kleven said on behalf of the brothers.
"You get an A for consistency. I'm not sure about common sense," Justice Anthony Kennedy said.
But Scalia proved a stricter grader, after Kleven hesitated to agree that the car with the nuclear weapon couldn't be stopped. "That may be a situation, again, where the court decides that he risk is so great," Kleven began before Scalia cut in.
"So you see, he's not consistent," the justice said.
Lawyers for California and the Obama administration, defending the traffic stop based on the anonymous tip, said keeping the public safe from drunken drivers outweighs the intrusion of a traffic stop. They said a tip about someone driving recklessly would be enough because reckless driving often follows having had too much to drink.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said people use the term "reckless" differently, suggesting she might not accept the governments' argument.
Sotomayor gave as an example her mother, who doesn't like it when the justice tops 50 miles per hour behind the wheel. "She thinks that when I'm going 51, I'm speeding and reckless," Sotomayor said.
 Meanwhile, the New York Times had a good read about kosher meals in prisons:

Captive diners know that a good meal is hard to find.
Airplane passengers, for instance, have been known to order kosher meals, even if they are not Jewish, in the hope of getting a fresher, tastier, more tolerable tray of food. It turns out that prison inmates are no different.
Florida is now under a court order to begin serving kosher food to eligible inmates, a routine and court-tested practice in most states. But state prison officials expressed alarm recently over the surge in prisoners, many of them gentiles, who have stated an interest in going kosher.
Their concern: The cost of religious meals is four times as much as the standard fare, said Michael D. Crews, who is expected to be confirmed as secretary of the Department of Corrections in March.
“The last number I saw Monday was 4,417,” Mr. Crews said of inmate requests at his recent confirmation hearing before a State Senate committee. “Once they start having the meals, we could see the number balloon.”
To which, Senator Greg Evers, the Republican chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee remarked: “Is bread and water considered kosher? Just a thought. Just a thought.”
Scalia's joke was much better than Evers'.....

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Should the police be able to search your phone without a warrant?

The Supreme Court is finally going to look at whether you have an expectation of privacy in your phone.  I think if you asked 100 people on the street what they thought, more than 90 would say that their phones should be off limits to the police without a warrant. But our government is taking the position that searching a phone should be permitted incident to arrest.  From Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a pair of cases about whether the police need a warrant to search the cellphones of people they arrest, presenting a major test of the meaning of the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.
The court has long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to find weapons and to prevent the destruction of evidence. The question for the justices in the new cases is whether the potentially vast amounts of data held on smartphones warrant a different approach under the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches.
The lower courts are divided. In one of the cases the court agreed to hear, the federal appeals court in Boston in May threw out evidence gathered after the police there inspected the call log of a drug dealer’s rudimentary flip phone. “Today, many Americans store their most personal ‘papers’ and ‘effects’ in electronic format, on a cellphone, carried on the person,” Judge Norman H. Stahl wrote for a divided three-judge panel of the court.
“That information is, by and large, of a highly personal nature: photographs, videos, written and audio messages (text, email, and voice mail), contacts, calendar appointments, web search and browsing history, purchases, and financial and medical records,” he added.
When the full appeals court declined to rehear the case, Chief Judge Sandra L. Lynch said she hoped the justices would soon address the “very important and very complex” questions presented by it. “Only the Supreme Court can finally resolve these issues, and I hope it will,” she wrote.
In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said courts have long endorsed inspection of anything carried by the people they arrest, including wallets, calendars, pocket diaries, address books and pagers.
In February, a state appeals court in California applied the principles established in those cases to allow a search of a smartphone containing much more information than the one seized in Boston. That case arose from the arrest of David L. Riley, who was pulled over for having an expired auto registration. The police found loaded guns in the car and, on inspecting Mr. Riley’s smartphone, entries they associated with a street gang.
A more comprehensive search of the phone led to information that linked Mr. Riley to a shooting. He was later convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years to life.
His lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, Riley v. California, No. 13-132, to determine how the Fourth Amendment applies to a device “that happens to include a phone” but is in essence a computer “capable of storing a virtually limitless amount of information.” They argued that a warrant should be required “before allowing the police to rummage through the digital contents of such a device.”
In agreeing Friday to hear that case, the justices said they would decide a narrower question than the one proposed by Mr. Riley’s lawyers, that of whether evidence admitted at Mr. Riley’s trial was obtained by a search that violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
In other news, two judges got in trouble last week, and it took quite a bit for it to become public.  Here's the story about Boyce F. Martin Jr. and Richard Cebull:
Lifetime appointments to the bench, the legitimate need to keep judges apart from the political hurly burly, and their own institutional insularity combine to make the conduct of the federal judiciary extremely opaque and difficult to hold to account. So it's worth noting that on Friday, the Judicial Conference's Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, which reviews cases of misconduct by federal judges, published two different decisions involving judicial misconduct where the essential issue before the panel was whether to make public the alleged misconduct or keep it cloaked behind the judicial trappings of secrecy and confidentiality.
In both cases, the committee opted in favor of openness. How it got there -- and the backstory on both cases -- is fascinating.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dean Alex

Alex Acosta, the excellent Dean of the FIU Law School, has applied to be the Dean at the University of Florida.  From the DBR:

Alex Acosta, law dean of the Florida International, has applied to become dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Acosta, who has led FIU's law school for four years, is one of 24 semifinalists to head the Gainesville school. The list will be narrowed down to finalists today for future interviews.
Other semifinalists include Ileana Porras, associate law dean of academic affairs at the University of Miami, and Martha Barnett, a partner and lobbyist at Holland & Knight's Tallahassee office.
UF law dean Robert Jerry announced in August that he would step down after completing his 11th year in June.
Acosta, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, was recently appointed to another five-year term. Founded in 2000, the FIU law school is South Florida's newest and its only public one.
Acosta, 45, is credited with its rapid rise in the U.S. News & World Report's ranking from unranked—below 160 out of 184 schools—to 105 and increasing median LSAT scores, grade point averages and Florida Bar passage rates.
In his letter to the UF search committee, Acosta noted he has helped boost female enrollment from 46.2 percent to 51.6 percent and minority enrollment from 53.2 percent to 59.6 percent. He also boasts of raising $1.55 million, saying, "My fundraising has been outstanding."
"I previously served in three presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed positions in federal government," Acosta said of his time with the Justice Department and the National Labor Relations Board. "I offer an unusual combination of experience in the academy, government and law practice."
When he applied to be the FIU dean, Acosta acknowledged his one failing was his lack of teaching experience.
Leonard Strickman, FIU's first law dean, said he thinks Acosta would do a good job at UF and does not begrudge his applying.

Good luck to Alex!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Here's what's going on:

1.  Justice Scalia doesn't like advocated who read from their notes:
What an awkward exchange in the opening of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, between Justice Scalia and Steven Lechner, who was making his first appearance before the Nine.
Lechner began with the customary, “Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court,” and continued on for about a page in the transcript, when he was interrupted by Justice Scalia.
MR. LECHNER: It is axiomatic that the highest evidence of title in this country is a patent from the government. When the government issues a patent, it divests itself of title except for those interests expressly reserved. Here, the patent did not reserve any interest in the 1875 Act -­
JUSTICE SCALIA: Counsel, you are not reading this, are you?
Oh isn’t that uncomfortable.
A moment later, Justice Breyer kindly intervened:
JUSTICE BREYER: It’s all right.
What do you all think -- jerk move by Scalia or not?

2.  We're #1 in ID Theft cases.  From Curt Anderson:

Florida has the nation’s highest rate of identity theft, led by the fraud-wracked Miami area, and thieves are increasingly using the ill-gotten personal information to rip off the government through fraudulent tax refunds, a top federal prosecutor said Wednesday.
The identity theft rate in Florida in 2012 was more than 361 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission data. Georgia was next at 194 complaints per 100,000 residents, followed by California and Michigan at about 122 complaints each and New York at 110. The 2012 figures are the most recent.
Among metropolitan areas, the Miami region topped the identity theft charts — just as it has previously for Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud — at more than 645 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the FTC. Florida has all five top identity theft regions: Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fort Myers-Cape Coral and Tallahassee round out the national top five.

3.  We aren't #1 in Health Care Fraud though.  That goes to the Southern District of Illinois.  From TRAC:

The Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) led the nation with 10.1
prosecutions of this statute per one million people, over eight times the
national average of 1.2 prosecutions per million. In second place was the
Southern District of Florida (Miami) with 8.8 prosecutions per million,
followed by South Carolina with 7.2 prosecutions per million.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Judge Carnes strikes back...

... with the threat of more visiting judges.  From the Daily Report:

Lawyers appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit may soon see more unfamiliar faces when they look up at the bench.
The court's chief judge has declared an emergency, such that cases may be decided by three-judge panels composed of only one of the court's judges, plus two visiting judges.
"We've got eight judges on a 12-judge court," said Chief Judge Edward Carnes, explaining the order he issued on Dec. 30.
The four vacancies on the court occurred when judges decided to leave the court or take senior status. President Barack Obama has made nominations for three of the four openings, but there is no guarantee if or when they'll be confirmed by the Senate. Two Georgia-based vacancies date to 2010 and 2012, while openings arose in Florida and Alabama last fall.
Federal law says that when federal appeals courts decide cases by three-judge panels, at least two of the judges must be members of that particular appeals court. Although the Eleventh Circuit generally does not use judges from outside of its membership to decide the cases it decides without oral argument—about 80 percent of the court's decisions, Carnes said—it liberally uses visiting judges for its oral argument calendar. Sometimes an oral argument panel might even comprise a fully active member of the Eleventh Circuit, one of the court's senior judges on a reduced caseload and a visiting judge from outside the court. Usually, visiting judges are district court judges from within the Eleventh Circuit's territory or senior federal judges from outside the circuit.
But the federal rule requiring a majority of a three-judge panel to come from the circuit's membership has exceptions, including that the chief judge can certify that there is an "emergency." The statute, 28 U.S.C. § 46(b), says such emergencies include, but are not limited to, the unavailability of a judge of the court because of illness.

In other news, John Pacenti covers this crazy case of identity theft:

When Carlos Gomez's identity was stolen, his bank account wasn't drained. But the Miami man went to jail and nearly ended up in prison for a crime organized by an employee at his former bank.
An employee at Wachovia Bank, which was bought by Wells Fargo, admitted stealing Gomez's personal information from an account he closed in 2002 and using it to open up another account in a $1.1 million embezzlement.
Wells Fargo & Co. discovered the fraud and implicated Gomez, among other suspects. Gomez was arrested at gunpoint in his home in front of his three young daughters, jailed without bond for two weeks and spent another seven months on house arrest.
Now that charges have been dropped, the UPS driver wants the bank to pay for destroying his life. His federal lawsuit recently withstood a motion to dismiss by the bank.
"I want to let the world know my story, to see how these banks can be," Gomez said. "At the end of the day, they don't care about you. You are just a number. They didn't care if I rotted in jail for 20 years."

 Finally, Chewbacca has posted some behind the scenes pictures from back in the day.  I liked this one:

 Taking in the desert rays: In her famous metal bikini during some down time on 1983's Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Federal judges get cost of living increases

From Bloomberg:

All federal court judges -- from U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts down to bankruptcy court judges -- got five-figure raises because of a court ruling that erased pay freezes going back to 1995.
Their salaries rose by 14 percent on Jan. 1, as years of catch-up cost-of-living adjustments were added to their paychecks.
“The law had promised them they would get these adjustments in the years all federal employees got them and Congress blocked them,” Washington lawyer Christopher Landau said in a telephone interview. Landau represented six judges who filed a 2009 lawsuit challenging the denial of pay raises.
During the 1990s, as the size of congressional paychecks became a political issue, lawmakers canceled four automatic cost-of-living bumps for themselves and the judiciary. That led to lawsuits, including a class action that the judges won.
The Court of Federal Claims in Washington issued the final order last month.
In letters to Congress on Oct. 29, 2013 and Dec. 4, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder informed lawmakers that the Justice Department was no longer contesting the court cases and would consent to applying pay adjustments to all members of the federal judiciary.
There are 781 members of the federal judiciary and 93 vacant judgeships, according to the U.S. Courts website. That figure doesn’t include senior judges -- who take a reduced work load and continue working part time.
New Salaries The chief justice is being paid $255,500, up from $223,500, according to court documents and data compiled by Bloomberg. Associate Supreme Court justices now have a $244,400 salary, up from $213,900. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges are getting $211,200 a year, up from $184,500. The annual salary of a U.S. District Court judge increased to $199,100 from $174,000.

Monday, January 13, 2014

ABA says Jill Pryor and Julie Carnes are well-qualified

Robin McDonald has more:

The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has given its highest rating to two of six candidates nominated by President Barack Obama to federal judicial posts in Georgia.
The 15-member ABA committee unanimously gave Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor and Chief Judge Julie Carnes of the Northern District of Georgia "well-qualified" ratings for their nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
But the committee gave the four nominees for seats on the Northern District of Georgia bench more mixed ratings, with a minority of the panel deeming Judge Eleanor Ross of DeKalb County State Court unqualified for the federal post.
The ABA committee includes two members from the Ninth Circuit, one member for each of the other 12 federal judicial circuits and a chairman. The members are appointed by the ABA president and serve staggered, three-year terms.
The Eleventh Circuit's representative is Miami lawyer Francisco "Frank" Angones of Angones McClure & Garcia in Miami. Angones is a former president of the Cuban-American Bar Association, the Dade County Bar Association and the Florida Bar.
 UPDATE -- the current ABA rep is Peter Prieto.

Better Call Saul!

This looks like a lot of websites in Miami.

Here's a testimonial:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Juror fraud


From the Court's webpage:

Recently, attempted jury scams have begun to be reported in the Southern District of Florida. Individuals have reported being contacted over the telephone and requested to pay fines for missing jury duty. Our Court never makes requests for payment of fines from jurors over the telephone. Rather, jurors who miss jury duty may be requested to provide an explanation, or directed to appear at court, but they will not be solicited for payment of fines over the telephone. Although jurors may be held in contempt for failing to appear, that sanction is only imposed by a judge in open court with an opportunity for the summoned juror to explain the failure to appear. If anyone is contacted by someone requesting such payments on behalf of the Court, please do not make the payment, and instead immediately contact the Southern District of Florida Jury section at (800) 865-1775 or (305) 523-5190.

These jury scams are occurring with increasing frequency across the country. According to the U.S. Courts web page and video, federal courts never ask prospective jurors to provide sensitive information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, over the telephone. It also is a crime to falsely represent oneself as a federal court employee. Anyone suspecting a fraudulent call should contact the clerk's office at their nearest district court.

Examples of juror scams:
• Victims are falsely being told they missed jury duty and must pay a fine or face arrest. The scams have occurred most frequently in the District of New Mexico, but federal court officials in Utah and Colorado said they recently received similar complaints. In the New Mexico scam, callers posing as court employees are demanding payment of a $400 fine, even though victims never received a jury summons. Victims are being advised to purchase a MoneyPak prepaid credit card, call a designated phone number, and read off the card number.

• In the Western District of New York, victims are being sent a fictitious arrest warrant on a criminal charge and offering a chance to avoid arrest through the payment of a specific amount.

In other news, Justice Sotomayor doesn't wear dentures

But she's best friends with a dentist.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wednesday News & Notes -- judicial nomination edition

1.  Lots of media coverage about the White House leaving Will Thomas' name off of the list of renominated judges.  Here's the HuffPost:

The White House has thrown in the towel in trying to confirm William Thomas to a federal court seat in Florida, signaling an end to a puzzling case of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) blocking his own judicial nominee.
In a pile of about 200 nominees President Barack Obama resubmitted to the Senate at the start of the year, Thomas was noticeably absent. An administration official confirmed Tuesday that his resubmission isn't coming.
"The nomination of Judge William Thomas was returned by the Senate and Senator Rubio has made his objection clear, so the President chose not to renominate him," the official told The Huffington Post.
Thomas would have made history, if confirmed, as the first openly gay black man to serve as a federal judge.
Rubio has been single-handedly blocking Thomas for months, despite recommending him to Obama in 2012 as a nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Rubio indicated in September he would not submit his "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- a courtesy, but not a hard rule, honored in the committee that allows a home-state senator to advance or hold up a nominee. Florida's other senator, Bill Nelson (D), submitted his blue slip months ago.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has hinted in the past that he would revisit the blue slip process if Republicans abuse it. Asked for his thoughts on the White House sinking Thomas' nomination after Rubio used the blue slip rule to block him, Leahy said only, "Let me find out about that one."
There's a particular urgency to filling this Florida judgeship, which has been vacant for more than 20 months. The court backlog is so bad that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has deemed it a “judicial emergency."
Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said Tuesday she had nothing new to say regarding why Rubio became so adamant about blocking Thomas. She pointed to a past comment on the senator's concerns with the nominee.
"The nomination of Judge Thomas has also been thoroughly reviewed, and Senator Rubio has determined that Thomas’s record on the state court raises serious concerns about his fitness for a lifetime federal appointment. Those concerns include questions about his judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences, particularly in the two high-profile cases of Michele Traverso and Joel Lebron last year. After reviewing Thomas’s record, Senator Rubio cannot support moving forward with the nomination," Sammon said.
HuffPost previously reviewed materials provided by Rubio's office that outlined the senator's justification for sinking Thomas' nomination, and nothing egregious stood out in either of the two cases. Instead, Rubio appears to be critical of Thomas for being too lenient in one case and too emotional in the other.
Florida Democratic lawmakers say Rubio's opposition is political as he tries to win back support from tea party members after angering them by advocating comprehensive immigration reform in 2012. Rubio's name has also been floated as a potential 2016 presidential contender.
"Judge Thomas is a well-qualified jurist," Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) told HuffPost in the fall. "There is a serious underrepresentation of minorities on the bench and partisan obstructionism isn’t making it any better."
I'm not sure how the process works now.  Will the JNC reopen the interview process for that slot or will it send up the names it sent previously?

2.  Meantime, the Dems are not too happy with the President about the nominees in Georgia:

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has asked to testify against President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees for Georgia, another twist in a public dispute that pits Georgia’s Democratic members of Congress and civil rights community against the first black president’s White House.
Scott wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Friday to request an appearance at a yet-to-be scheduled hearing on a slate of six Georgia nominees.
Democrats have complained of being shut out of negotiations between White House officials and Georgia’s Republican senators, who have the power to block committee consideration for home-state judicial nominees by “blue slip” custom enforced by Leahy. Democrats are upset that only one of the six nominees is a minority, that Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs voted to keep the 1956 version state flag – with its Confederate battle emblem -- when he was in the state Senate and that attorney Mark Cohen defended the state’s voter ID law (even though he did so on behalf of then Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat).
Wrote Scott:
“If confirmed, the federal bench in Georgia will not reflect the current demographics of the state for at least another generation.  There will soon be only one active African-American district court judge in Georgia.  In addition, the views of some of these nominees reflect the regressive politics of the past.  I want to share some very important and critical background information with the Committee before these nominations are considered.
“It is an abomination that these nominees for lifetime appointment were drafted in secret, not vetted by any legal groups among the President’s supporters, and announced on a holiday weekend. We must not allow lifetime appointed judges to be rammed through the hearing process without sufficient input from the people who will be affected by their future judicial actions.”
 3.  There's also an opening in Alabama:

Civil rights advocates are encouraging President Barack Obama to nominate an African-American to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which would be a first from Alabama.
The high-level court, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, has had only two black judges in its history, both from Florida.
The latest opening — created when Judge Joel Dubina of Montgomery took semi-retirement in October — will be the first chance a Democratic president has had to appoint someone from Alabama to the 11th Circuit, which was created in 1981.
Race is a significant issue for the Deep South circuit, which has a combined black population of about 7.2 million. The 11th Circuit hears appeals from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and is a source of many high-profile discrimination cases involving voting, employment and redistricting.
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, is the lone black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation and said diversity should be a priority.
“I think now is not the time to falter on the president’s commitment to diversifying the bench, and that is especially true on the 11th Circuit,” Sewell said Tuesday. “Alabama has some very talented African-American lawyers who should be considered.”
And U.W. Clemon, Alabama’s first black federal judge who is now in private practice in Birmingham, is also hoping for a black nominee.
“It would be historic,” Clemon said.
The Alabama Democratic Party and an advisory committee to Sewell have interviewed several black candidates for the 11th Circuit job, and many of their names have been forwarded to the White House for consideration.