Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Respected blog"

"Respected blog"

That's how awesome Sun-Sentinel reporter Paula McMahon described the blog, giving this site credit for breaking the news about Trump's 3 judicial picks, Rudy Ruiz, Rodney Smith, and Roy Altman:
All three have strong links to Miami-Dade County: They are Circuit Judges Rodolfo “Rudy” Ruiz and Rodney Smith, who are serving state judges in Miami-Dade County, and former federal prosecutor Roy Altman, who is now in private practice.
This is the president’s first opportunity to shape the bench in South Florida for decades to come. But none of the three men, or the other seven candidates, are considered controversial selections, local judges and attorneys said.
White House officials have indicated the president wants to schedule Senate confirmation hearings for the trio. They are not technically nominees yet and will have to pass an extensive background check before they could be formally nominated. All three received official phone calls notifying them they had made the cut, several sources said.

The president had been expected to name all of his choices for five vacancies but has not done so yet. It is unclear why.
It's definitely a changing of the guard here in South Florida, where the new wave of judges, both from Obama and now from Trump, are changing the feel of this Court.  Lee Stapleton talks about this a little bit in her beautiful tribute to Magistrate Judge Bill Turnoff:
From 1982 to 1986, Bill Turnoff presided over the major crimes unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida — the busiest section in the busiest office in the country. Every day, full-tilt boogie.

In 1984, after few years as an associate at a big firm, I decided I needed more adventure and more experience — after all, that’s why I’d come to Miami in the first place despite dire warnings from classmates and others that Miami was a dangerous place. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, then just Kathy Williams, and I started at “The Office” in June 1984.

After a mandatory stint in appeals, I went to major crimes. My chief, Bill Turnoff, was from Philadelphia. You only need to hear one sentence out of his mouth to pick up the accent. A Cornell law school grad, he sat in a smallish corner office on the seventh floor. Mr. Potato Head sat on his desk. The air was redolent of pipe tobacco, and his door was always open.

BT ran his crew with military precision. He had to — every day brought new waves of events and new waves of arrests. There weren’t many of us, and the Department of Justice had to send extra pairs of hands, known as “Bucket Brigaders.”

Despite the chaos outside our doors, major crimes was run as a quality operation, with standards as exacting as any white-shoe law firm. Bill worked long hours, reading our indictments, affidavits for search warrants, pleadings, sentencing memos — most pieces of paper that were filed with the court. He was exacting. No editor at a national newspaper or magazine could have had higher standards than Bill. If he found a comma out of place, a typo or a grammatical error, he circled it in red and brought it back to the assistant U.S. attorney who had presented the defective document to him. No comment, just handed back to the person for as many drafts as necessary for perfection. I was a former newspaper reporter used to editors and editing, but because I so adored the guy and didn’t want to disappoint him, I proofed everything multiple times before presenting it to Bill.

Federal prosecutors go to court. In those days, pretty much every day we made the trek from 155 S. Miami Ave. to the federal courthouse. It was a bitch to do that in the summer, especially in a suit and panty hose. Bill expected his prosecutors, even rookies, to be TV-quality lawyers. It was up to the more senior AUSAs to keep an eye on the newbies. That being said, with so many cases, there was only so much time to babysit junior AUSAs. There was a strong on-the-job-training element to learning how to try a case. We were supposed to have a senior person with us for our first two trials. I got through my first one thanks to Mark Schnapp, But an hour into my second trial, the senior AUSA had to leave to go to another courtroom. I have come to believe that “training” is no substitute for “doing.”

Monday, February 12, 2018



Multiple sources have confirmed that Rudy Ruiz has been informed that he will be nominated by President Trump for one of the 5 open district court seats for the Southern District of Florida. Congrats to Judge Ruiz, who currently sits as a state trial judge in Miami-Dade County. Ruiz went to Georgetown Law and then clerked for Judge Moreno. Like Moreno, Ruiz started as a County Court judge, then became a Circuit Court Judge and now moves over to the federal bench.

UPDATE — I have heard that Trump has also informed two others that they will be nominated and that he will “hold over” the last two spots. I do not know whether that means that 2 people from the current list will get those slots or whether they will be opened back up.

SECOND UPDATE — I have heard that the other two names are Roy Altman and Rodney Smith. This is not confirmed yet. If you have any information on this, please email me. dmarkus at markuslaw dot coM

THIRD UPDATE — Two sources have confirmed these other two names. I feel pretty good that these are the three names.

Tick Tock...

President Trump unveiled another wave of judicial selections today, but still nothing for the 5 open slots here in the Southern District of Florida.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Who was Justice Ginsburg talking about here?

Who was Justice Ginsburg talking about here?

"I respect all my colleagues and genuinely like most of them."

Hahaha. That was her speaking at Columbia this weekend.

In a very different Colombia, the Miami Herald had this news about the prison barring American lawyers from entering:

In effect, all foreign lawyers, including U.S. attorneys, cannot enter La Picota anymore as lawyers — only as social visitors. After the [Joaquin] Perez scandal, it’s probably going to get worse. Colombia’s prison spokesman insisted no foreign lawyers were being barred from La Picota.

What prompted the change in La Picota’s policy? About a year ago, a scandal erupted when an American attorney entered the prison, bribed guards and negotiated a huge payment to have a client put on a list that gives amnesty to members of a left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC, as part of its peace accord with the government.

Other Miami lawyers who compete with Perez for high-profile drug trafficking clients said Colombian prison officials have made visiting their clients intolerable.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Great American William Turnoff to be honored

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is hosting a reception honoring Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff for his 32 years of distinguished judicial service. The reception will be held at the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse, Miami, on Thursday, February 8, 2018, from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Judge Turnoff is a great American.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Judicial candidates being interviewed this week in DC

A number of sources have told me that all 10 judicial candidates for the 5 slots will be interviewed by the White House this week.  Hopefully we will have an answer shortly on who will be selected.  As a reminder, the 10 candidates are:
Miami-Dade Circuit Judges Antonio Arzola, Peter Lopez, Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Ruiz, Rodney Smith and John Thornton;
Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg;
Broward Circuit Judges David Haimes and Raag Singhal; and
private attorneys Roy Altman and Melissa Visconti.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Author of Nunes memo has ties to SDFLA

The author of the Nunes memo, Kash Patel, has ties to SDFLA.  He was an assistant state public defender in Miami.  Then, an assistant federal defender.  Then he moved to Washington, DC to become a DOJ terrorism prosecutor. 

The attacks on the FBI, though, don't seem to be getting a lot of traction from the memo.  This seems like a much stronger issue for those who would attack the FBI.  From the NY Times:
For more than a year, an F.B.I. inquiry into allegations that Lawrence G. Nassar, a respected sports doctor, had molested three elite teenage gymnasts followed a plodding pace as it moved back and forth among agents in three cities. The accumulating information included instructional videos of the doctor’s unusual treatment methods, showing his ungloved hands working about the private areas of girls lying facedown on tables.
But as the inquiry moved with little evident urgency, a cost was being paid. The New York Times has identified at least 40 girls and women who say that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first fell under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when he was exposed by an Indianapolis Star investigation. Some are among the youngest of the now-convicted predator’s many accusers — 265, and counting.
The three alleged victims then at the center of the F.B.I.’s inquiry were world-class athletes; two were Olympic gold medalists. Nearly a year passed before agents interviewed two of the young women.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Reality Winner's detention upheld

Reality Winner's detention upheld by the 11th Circuit.  From the Washington Times:
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday a district court’s order keeping accused National Security Agency leaker Reality Winner behind bars pending trial.
A federal appellate panel ruled 3-0 to uphold a lower court’s ruling detaining Ms. Winner, 26, effectively seeing she remains jailed until her leak case is heard likely later this year.
Ms. Winner was arrested in June 2017 in Augusta, Georgia, and subsequently charged in connection with sharing classified material obtained while employed at Pluribus, an Atlanta-based contracting firm, and ordered held until trial.
Defense attorneys had sought to secure Ms. Winner’s release from jail prior to court proceedings starting, but the 11th Circuit quashed that bid by upholding a lower court’s pretrial detention order, citing the likelihood of the accused fleeing the country.
“[T]he district court did not err in finding by a preponderance that Ms. Winner is a flight risk and that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure her appearance,” the appellate panel wrote in the 5-page ruling affirming the detention order.

Here's the opinion.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Falcon pleads

Gustavo Falcon, on the run for 26 years, pleaded guilty today before Judge Moreno.  He's looking at 11-13 years under his plea agreement and prosecutors won’t charge him (for being a fugitive) or his wife and their two grown children (for hiding him).

Meantime, a naked bank robber was found not guilty yesterday in a bench trial before Chief Judge Michael Moore.  You are probably reading that last sentence a few times... okay, okay -- it wasn't a straight not guilty.  It was a not guilty by reason of insanity.  And the parties agreed.  Here's the Sun-Sentinel coverage by Paula McMahon. I've never seen that before in this District.  Anyone else?

Read more here: