Friday, October 30, 2020

A day off to vote

What a cool concept from Adam Rabin.  He explains it on his FB page:

A Day Off to Vote is set up to encourage law firms, professional practices, and businesses of all types to support their employees with time off to vote on or before Election Day.
Some firms and businesses are accommodating their employees by giving them the whole day off on Election Day so their employees can volunteer as poll workers or in other ways. Others are giving their employees an extra hour or two to cast their ballots in person or drop off their mail ballots to an approved drop box.
As of this week, we have 58 firms and businesses participating. We also had our first commercial real estate brokerage and management firm, our first statewide law firm, and our first law firms in Miami-Dade and Broward counties join the cause.

The Daily Business Review covers it here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


 I am very excited to announce my new podcast, For the Defense, which is being produced by rakontur.  Here's the release.  Please let me know what you think:


Hosted by David Oscar Markus and produced by rakontur

OCTOBER 27, 2020 -- David Oscar Markus, a Miami trial attorney who has been called “a reincarnation of the old school criminal defense lawyer” and has represented clients from the head of the Cali Cartel to Fortune 500 companies and their CEOs, has partnered with rakontur, the lauded storytellers behind Cocaine Cowboys, The U and 537 Votes, to launch a new podcast series called For the Defense. 

The podcast focuses on the work of the least-respected but perhaps the most important profession in America: the criminal defense attorney.  In each episode, Markus will interview a top criminal defense lawyer about one of their most gripping trials.

Sadly, the criminal defense trial lawyer is a dying breed. The Feds have manipulated the system -- which was founded on the idea of trial by jury -- to force almost everyone (occasionally including the innocent) into pleading guilty to avoid trial. If you dare to go to trial, you risk going to prison for decades longer than had you surrendered and pleaded guilty. The system has shifted from valuing and encouraging trials to punishing those who dare exercise their constitutional right to have a jury decide their guilt.  In the 1980s, over 20% of cases went to trial -- now less than 3% do so.

Having tried cases all over the United States, Markus is well-positioned to speak to other leading criminal defense lawyers in the country and explore with them the decision they made in a high-profile case to proceed to trial, including their trial strategy, the risks involved, and the clients themselves.  

In the premiere episode, available now on all podcast platforms including Apple, Spotify and Google, Markus discusses the Harvey Weinstein case with his lawyer Donna Rotunno and what it was like for her to represent the most hated man in America against an entire movement.

New episodes will be available on Tuesdays. Among the highlights of Season One:
  • How did Roy Black flip the prosecution witnesses in his favor during the trial of a police officer charged with killing a black man during an altercation in an arcade?
  • Why did Tom Messereau initially want to call Michael Jackson to the stand but ultimately decide against it? 
  • What was going through Marty Weinberg’s head when his client, a lawyer, decided he wanted to give part of the closing argument? 
  • How did H.T. Smith deal with a judge who was wearing handcuffs as his tie-tack?
  • How did F. Lee Bailey, just a year out of law school, land the most followed trial of the day, Sam Sheppard (the defendant who ended up being the inspiration for The Fugitive)?  

Monday, October 26, 2020

RIP Alvin Entin

 Heard some really sad news this morning... Alvin Entin passed away yesterday.  He was recovering from COVID-19 and had a stroke.  He was such a good guy.  I had the good fortune of having tried a couple of cases with him.  I'll never forget one closing he did -- he started out by saying: I'm so sorry ladies and gentlemen... that closing by the prosecution was such a snoozer!  It nearly put me to sleep. Well, I'm here to wake you up with the truth -- Mr. X is not guilty!

The jury loved it and loved him.

He was also a theater guy, performing in lots of shows and on the board of a theater company in Broward.  Folks on his FB page on talking more about his theater career and his love of theater than the law, which is how we all know him.

Alvin's brother passed away a few weeks ago... what an awful time for their family.  He was married to Lois for almost 50 years.  They have 6 children.  RIP Alvin.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

ACB to be confirmed Monday

 The WaPo has the story here:

Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination broke through one more hurdle ahead of her all-but-assured installation to the Supreme Court as the coronavirus pandemic — which has inextricably been intertwined with the story of her nomination — once again intersected with her confirmation fight.

Senators voted around 1:30 p.m. in a rare Sunday session, 51 to 48, to advance her nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The final confirmation vote for Barrett is expected Monday night, putting her in position for a first full day as a justice as early as Tuesday and as the court continues to hear election-related legal challenges ahead of Nov. 3.

“We made an important contribution to the future of this country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday, praising Barrett as a “stellar nominee” in every respect. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

That last quote is interesting...

Meantime, ACB was asked about the Supreme Court's "shadow docket." If you are interested, you should read this entire post from SCOTUSblog.  Here's the intro:

Near the end of two meandering days of questions at last week’s Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked a question that probably has never been asked at any other Supreme Court nomination hearing.

“Are you aware of the Supreme Court’s – as it’s called – shadow docket?” he asked.

Barrett, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, said she was. “The shadow docket has become a hot topic in the last couple of years,” she added.

Barrett is right. In fact, in just the last few months, the court has issued emergency rulings on coronavirus policies, immigration restrictions, capital punishment, access to abortion, the U.S. census and procedures for the upcoming election. All of those rulings have been part of the court’s shadow docket.

The court itself would never use that term. Law professor William Baude coined it in 2015 to refer unofficially to the body of orders issued by the Supreme Court outside the formal opinions in the 70 or so cases in which it hears oral argument each term. Some of those orders are peripheral and procedural. But others resolve, at least temporarily, contentious policy disputes or matters of life and death. And this year, the shadow docket is taking on more significance – and getting more attention – than it ever has before.

Concerns about the shadow docket relate primarily to a special system that allows litigants to seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court in the middle of ongoing litigation. Under normal procedures, a case reaches the justices only after full consideration and final decisions by a trial court and an appeals court – a process that usually takes months, if not years. But the shadow docket gives litigants a potential shortcut: When a lower court issues a ruling (even a preliminary ruling that does not decide the full case), the losing side can ask the Supreme Court to order an emergency “stay” of that ruling. A stay, if the justices issue one, freezes the lower court’s ruling, stripping it of force while the litigation proceeds. By preserving the status quo as it existed before the lower court’s ruling, emergency stays can favor litigants who hope to run out the clock.

Traditionally, litigants must satisfy a high legal standard to earn an emergency stay. Among other things, they must show that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the lower court’s ruling were left in place. That onerous standard is meant to reserve this form of relief for circumstances in which the court’s immediate intervention is needed to prevent extraordinary consequences. Emergency stays, everyone agrees, should not be a way to short-circuit the normal appeals process. But as the number of these requests has grown in recent years (including a flurry of such requests from the Trump administration), Justice Sonia Sotomayor has argued that the court itself has tacitly lowered the bar for litigants to receive emergency stays on the shadow docket.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

News & Notes

1.    Another debate tonight.  This time with a mute button.  Fun times.

2.     Obama goes after Trump.

3.    ACB takes next step to confirmation.

4.    Wear a mask, even Chris Christie says so.

5.    Jury trials are off till April, but we're making grand juries come in starting in mid-November. Instead of 11 GJs, there will be 2.  And they will meet two days a week.  

 6.    Transitions is holding its annual fundraiser today, virtually.  They are a good group who needs your help.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Attorney Aaron Honaker arrested for bank robbery

Another Miami story.

Here's the Herald:

A Coral Gables attorney was called a “serial bank robber” by the FBI, which believes he robbed five banks since Sept. 30 before his Tuesday night arrest.

The agency said Miami resident Aaron Honaker, 41, was headed into a bank when Coral Gables police arrested him. Honaker’s first appearance in Miami federal court is set for Wednesday afternoon.


Honaker’s Florida Bar entry says he’s with the firm of Martinez Morales and has no Bar discipline cases in the last 10 years. Court documents say he previously worked at Greenberg Traurig. He joined the Bar in 2008, two years after graduating from Duke University School of Law.

Court packing

 There's been a lot of debate about packing the Supreme Court.  Most Americans are against it, and according to a recent poll, 51% of Americans want ACB confirmed. That said, here's an interesting essay from Charles Fried about why Biden should do it if SCOTUS goes too far.  It ends this way:

But before going forth on any enlargement plan, a Biden administration would do well to see if the Supreme Court might not heed the lesson of history. Consider the well-known episode indelibly judged as President Franklin Roosevelt’s “failed” court packing plan. Mr. Roosevelt waited to propose his “Judicial Procedures Reform” legislation until 1937, after his first four years in office during which the reactionary Supreme Court majority relentlessly obstructed desperately needed experiments to combat the Great Depression.

President Roosevelt’s move is viewed as a rare failure by a master politician. But was it? Immediately after his proposal was unveiled, the court ruled 5 to 4 that the Wagner Act, restructuring American labor law and relations, was constitutional, and a spate of pro-New Deal decisions followed. The very threat of court packing and the passage of time made this “nuclear option” unnecessary.

Let’s see whether the current Supreme Court majority overplays its hand. If it does, then Mr. Biden’s nuclear option might not only be necessary but it will be seen to be necessary.

In local news, if you are looking for Chief Judge Moore's Order postponing jury trials until April 2021, here ya go.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Who is left on SCOTUS from Bush v. Gore?

Billy Corben's and Alfred Spellman's new documentary 537 Votes has me thinking Bush v. Gore...

Only Justices Thomas and Breyer remain on the Court from that time.  But two current Justices (Roberts and Kavanaugh) and one soon to be Justice (Barrett) all worked for the Bush team.  From CNN on ACB:

Barrett wrote on the questionnaire she submitted to the Senate for her Supreme Court confirmation review, "One significant case on which I provided research and briefing assistance was Bush v. Gore." She said the law firm where she was working at the time represented Bush and that she had gone down to Florida "for about a week at the outset of the litigation" when the dispute was in the Florida courts. She said she had not continued on the case after she returned to Washington.

During her hearings this week, she told senators she could not recall specifics of her involvement.

"I did work on Bush v. Gore," she said on Wednesday. "I did work on behalf of the Republican side. To be totally honest, I can't remember exactly what piece of the case it was. There were a number of challenges."

Friday, October 16, 2020

SDFLA trials suspended until April 2021

 But grand juries are coming back in November instead of January as originally planned. That’s the word out of the judges’ meeting today but no official order yet. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

District Judge in L.A. dismisses case with prejudice for speedy trial violation

 Oh wow, this Order is worth a read.

I consider the trial by jury as the only anchor, ever yet imagined by man, by which a
government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
–Thomas Jefferson1
The United States Constitution protects our fundamental freedoms and liberties. One of the most important rights guaranteed by the Constitution is the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to a public and speedy trial. It protects against undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial and it allows the accused the ability to defend himself against the criminal charges before evidence becomes lost or destroyed and witnesses’ memories fade. But the Sixth Amendment protects much more than just the rights of the accused. It also protects the rights of all of us. It gives each of us called for jury service a voice in our justice system. And it holds the government  accountable to the principles of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson and the other Framers of the Constitution wisely recognized that without jury trials, power is abused and liberty gives way to tyranny. Given the constitutional importance of a jury trial to our democracy, a court cannot deny an accused his right to a jury trial unless conducting one would be impossible. This is true whether the United States is suffering through a national disaster, a terrorist attack, civil unrest, or the coronavirus pandemic that the country and the world are currently facing. Nowhere in the Constitution is there an exception for times of emergency or crisis. There are no ifs or buts about it. Sadly, the United States District Court for the Central District of California has denied Defendant Jeffery Olsen his Sixth Amendment right to a public and speedy trial on the criminal charges that were filed against him in this case. Specifically, the Chief Judge for the Central District refused to summon the jurors necessary to conduct Mr. Olsen’s trial that was scheduled for October 13th of this year, believing it was too unsafe to conduct the trial during the coronavirus pandemic even if significant safety precautions were in place. Most troubling, the Chief Judge refused to summon jurors for Mr. Olsen’s trial even though grand juries have been convening for months in the same federal courthouse in Orange County where his trial would take place and state courts just across the street from that federal courthouse are conducting criminal jury trials. Clearly, conducting a jury trial during this coronavirus pandemic is possible. Yet the Central District prevented the Court from even trying to do so for Mr. Olsen. Because the Central District denied Mr. Olsen a public and speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment, this Court now must dismiss the indictment against him.
 The L.A. Times covers it here:

A federal judge in Santa Ana on Wednesday dismissed an indictment against a Newport Beach physician accused in a drug distribution case, ruling that his constitutional rights to a jury trial were denied due to an order barring trials in the federal courthouse in the Central District of California during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney dismissed the indictment against Jeffrey Dove Olsen with prejudice, so prosecutors could not just file another case against him or seek another indictment from a grand jury. Prosecutors could appeal the ruling with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Olsen was indicted in July 2017 on 35 counts that alleged he prescribed and distributed “large amounts of oxycodone, amphetamine salts, alprazolam and hydrocodone to confidential sources, an undercover agent and numerous addicts without a legitimate medical purpose over the course of three years,” according to federal prosecutors who said two of the doctor’s patients died from overdoses of pain medication.

The issue came to a head this week when Olsen refused to waive any more time for his trial, but U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, the chief judge of the Central District, refused to budge on the prohibition of jury trials at this time.

“Quite frankly, the court is at a loss to understand how the Central District continues to refuse to resume jury trials in the Orange County federal courthouse,” Carney wrote in his ruling as he noted various other federal agencies have offices that are open and that first responders still report to work, as well as employees in essential businesses.

“Orange County restaurants are open for outdoor dining and reduced-capacity indoor dining,” Carney added. “Nail salons, hair salons, body waxing studios, massage therapy studios, tattoo parlors and pet groomers in Orange County are open, even indoors, with protective modifications.”


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Judge like a champion today

Apparently, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was given a sign for her chambers from judge Don Willett that says, Judge Like A Champion Today (which is a play on the sign that Notre Dame players hit on the way onto the football field).  There's another judge that has that same sign -- Judge Like A Champion Today -- in his chambers and has had it since his law clerks got it for him in 1998: Judge Moreno.


Friday, October 09, 2020

SDFLA Grand Juries to return sooner than planned

 Chief Judge Moore previously ordered the suspension of grand juries until January 4.  But there has been an effort to get a grand jury up and running before then, and now multiple sources have confirmed that the goal is to have one by mid-November.  We have schools, restaurants, and even open stadiums, so it's no wonder that we will have grand juries soon enough.  Let's see if they actually show up!

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Rakontur's new doc coming out soon.

 And it's going to be a doozy.  It's called 537 Votes and is about the 2000 presidential recount in Florida or what Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman call a heist.  It's premiering on HBO Max on October 21.

Here's the trailer:


Here's a more detailed description from rakontur's website:

In early 2000, the international custody battle over a six-year-old Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, triggered a political earthquake in the swing state of Florida, ultimately swaying the outcome of the presidential election. With Miami’s largely conservative Cuban American population outraged at the Clinton administration’s handling of the repatriation of Gonzalez, many called for “el voto castigo:” the punishment vote, to harm Vice President Al Gore’s chances at the ballot box. Miami-Dade County mayor, Democrat Alex Penelas, dubbed People magazine’s “Sexiest Politician,” is surprisingly absent from Gore’s side as election fever mounts. After election day, with the margin of victory hinged on Florida, weeks of chaotic ballot recounts, lawsuits, counter lawsuits and public protests ultimately ended with George W. Bush winning the presidency by a mere 537 votes. 

With humor, verve and new insights, 537 VOTES exposes the key players who contributed to the chaos in the contested Florida county, featuring interviews and archival footage of insiders and political operatives at the time, including Roger Stone; Joe Geller, Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party; Al Cardenas, Chairman of the Florida Republican Party; Cuban American anchorman Rick Sanchez; political consultant Armando Gutierrez; Bush campaign operative Brad Blakeman; Democratic Mayor Alex Penelas; author of Cuba Confidential, Ann Louise Bardach; Democratic political operative Jeff Garcia; Miami political reporter Michael Putney; Gore attorney Mitchell Berger; and Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi.

On election day, November 7, 2000, in one of the narrowest election margins in history, it all came down to Florida, where the state’s 25 electoral votes would decide the next president of the United States. The press called Florida for Gore and then retracted it, and Fox News called it for Bush. Gore called Bush to concede, and then all networks deemed Florida “too close to call.” Gore then retracted his concession and the recount began.

Both parties braced for a bitter and lengthy legal battle. Bush’s campaign mobilized its troops, rallying local Cuban Americans and national GOP figures such as former Secretary of State, James Baker. In turn, Gore’s side hired former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and called for a manual recount in four Florida counties, including Miami-Dade. Under heavy scrutiny were 10,750 “no vote” ballots, where “dimpled,” “pregnant” or “hanging” chads were not counted by the tabulating machines. After 36 days of legal maneuvering and appeals on both sides, the U.S. Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, ruled to stop the manual recounts, thereby granting the presidency to George W. Bush on December 12, 2000.

The best documentarians have another classic on their hands.  And another only-in-Miami story.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

First Monday in October

 It's been an insane 2020.  The Supreme Court is no different, and we open the Term with 8 Justices.  A ninth may be on the way. And it looks like there will be election litigation that will make Bush v. Gore look like playtime in comparison. Fun times. The WaPo covers the beginning of the Term:

The Supreme Court opens its new term Monday at the forefront of the national political conversation, but with its future uncertain and the unwelcome prospect of deciding a divisive presidential election on the horizon.
With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the bench still draped in black crepe, the eight remaining justices will gather via teleconference to tackle a docket that, for now, is not nearly as controversial as the last.
That term saw the court strike a restrictive state abortion law, decide LGBTQ workers are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, grant temporary relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and reject President Trump’s insistence he was above investigation from Congress and local prosecutors while in office.
“The court in this term may be looking for ways to avoid partisan controversy, to delay deciding cases that are of deep ideological division as much as it can,” David Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said last week in a briefing for reporters.
There is a foreboding, but “the biggest possible partisan controversy that it might face is a dispute about the election,” Cole continued. “I’m sure that all of the justices are saying the election officials’ Election Day prayer, which is: ‘Dear Lord, let this election not be close.’ ”
The court already is inundated with emergency lawsuits regarding the voting process, such as what accommodations must be made for voters during the coronavirus pandemic and whether the time frames for receiving mail-in ballots should be extended.
But President Trump has made it clear he believes there will likely be litigation over the results.
“I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely,” Trump said during Tuesday’s debate with former vice president Joe Biden. “I don’t think — I hope we don’t need them, in terms of the election itself, but for the ballots, I think so.”

Friday, October 02, 2020

CA11 affirms Judge Moreno's decision to terminate protections for homeless in Miami

 Decision by Judge William Pryor here.  It starts like this:

This appeal requires us to decide whether the district court abused its discretion when it terminated a consent decree that regulated how the City of Miami treats its homeless residents. Twenty years after the consent decree’s adoption, the City moved to terminate it based on changed circumstances, fulfillment of its purpose, and substantial compliance with its requirements. The homeless argued the City was still systematically violating the consent decree and moved the district court to hold the City in contempt and sanctioned for committing the violations. The district court ruled the City had not violated the consent decree, granted its motion for termination, and denied the opposing motion for contempt. Because the district court correctly interpreted the decree and did not abuse its discretion by terminating the decree, we affirm.

Some coverage:

An 11th Circuit panel on Thursday upheld the termination of long-standing judicial protections for Miami’s homeless population, finding that the city had overhauled its homeless policing to the point where court oversight is no longer warranted.

The homeless protections were in place for two decades as part of the landmark settlement in Pottinger v. City of Miami, a class action that accused the city of unconstitutional mistreatment of its homeless population in the 1980s.

After the city secured a termination of the settlement in Miami district court in 2019, David Peery — on behalf of homeless Miamians — turned to a three-judge appeals panel in the 11th Circuit. Among other protections, Peery fought to reinstate a requirement that police officers offer homeless people a bed in a shelter as an alternative to arrest for certain misdemeanors, such as sleeping on a park bench.

The three-judge panel on Thursday rejected Peery’s appeal.

According to the panel’s opinion, the city showed “substantial compliance” with the Pottinger settlement by retraining its police on how to deal with the homeless people.

“All police officers receive training on Pottinger’s requirements, and the City has put in place body-camera-usage, records-keeping, and disciplinary procedures to monitor and regulate interactions between the police and the homeless, ” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in a 26-page ruling

During the appeal proceedings, Peery and his counsel had pointed to a 2018 mass removal of homeless people from the downtown Miami area as key evidence that the city was violating the settlement and couldn’t be trusted to regulate itself regarding its handling of the homeless population.