By Michael Caruso:
Today is Judge Beverly B. Martin’s last day of service on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She’ll be missed.
I’m limited by both ability and space to do justice to Judge Martin’s work on the Court. But, I offer two brief opinions.
First, I’d note her work—with former Chief Judge Ed Carnes—in effectuating systemic change for the men and women on Florida’s death row. In United States v. Lugo, Judge Martin concurred in the result but wrote separately to note the “alarming” number of cases where state-appointed lawyers missed their federal habeas filing deadlines. As Judge Martin pointed out, these missed deadlines have many negative consequences, including barring a federal court from reviewing the death row inmate’s claims on the merits. Her concurrence is well worth reading to see how she addresses this issue with thoroughness, compassion, and humility. And, as a result of this opinion, we now have two Federal Public Defender Capital Habeas Units in Florida to represent these men and women in federal court.
Second, although Judge Martin grounded her opinions on the facts and law of the case, I believe she never forgot that these cases are about people and not abstract legal questions. Again, my space is limited, but one recent example is United States v. Bryant. In Bryant, Judge Martin dissented from the Court’s holding that limited a person’s ability to obtain a compassionate release from incarceration solely to those “extraordinary and compelling” reasons that are pre-approved by the Bureau of Prisons. I acknowledge that the majority’s holding has negatively impacted our clients, but I think Judge Martin was right on the law. Beyond her legal analysis, however, her opinion captures the hopes and struggles that Mr. Bryant experienced while in prison. This combination of rigorous analysis and human understanding is the mark of a great judge and person.
Like I wrote, Judge Martin will be missed.