Tuesday, May 31, 2022


    It's Bonus Episode time -- we've got former NACDL president Barry Pollack discussing the chicken antitrust trials, which have garnered quite a bit of press because the original trial involved 10 defendants, which hung.  Then the government decided to try it a second time against all 10 defendants even though the majority of jurors voted to acquit.  After a second lengthy trial, the jury hung again as to all 10 defendants.  The government announced it would try them a third time, which led the district judge in Denver to call in the head of the antitrust division to explain why that was the right thing to do.  The government then dismissed as to 5 of the defendants but decided to try for a third time the 5 remaining individuals.  That third trial starts next week (June 6, 2022).  The head antitrust prosecutor has said a third trial is needed because he is not part of the "chickenshit club."  Have a listen to Barry explain the twists and turns of these two very interesting criminal price-fixing trials on your favorite podcast platform -- all of which are available at our website here.

Thanks again for listening.



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Monday, May 30, 2022

What interview questions do you ask?

Malcolm Gladwell asks whether you know how to drive a manual transmission:

In Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross’s excellent new book, Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creators, and Winners Around the World, the authors suggest alternative questions for job interviews. For example: What tabs are open on your browser right now? (In my case: a draft of an upcoming Revisionist History episode, a Youtube video of a Canadian businessman who personally sponsored 50 Syrian refugees, a journal article on the merit of homework, and the Car and Driver review of the new special edition Golf R.)

Cowen and Gross think this kind of indirect question is a better way of assessing someone’s interests and curiosity than simply asking them a direct question. I agree. The standard interviewing process—with its conventional set of easily anticipated questions—is just too easy to game. (“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” “In your chair!”)

This reminds me of a question I used for years in interviewing potential assistants: Do you know how to drive a manual transmission? If you said no, you didn’t get hired.

I know that sounds terribly arbitrary. But here’s my reasoning. It is not necessary to know how to drive a stick in the 21st century—particularly if you’re 22 years old. So the only people who do are those who are willing to take the time to master a marginally useful skill. Now why would a 22-year-old do that? One reason is that they like knowing how to do things that most people do not. Another is that they realize that the most fun cars in the world to drive are sports cars, and the most fun sports cars to drive are the ones with manual transmission, and they like the idea of being able to turn a rote activity (driving) into an enjoyable activity. I want to work with the kind of person who thinks both those things.

Interesting. I like the idea of alternate questions for a job interview.  What do you ask potential associates?  

Friday, May 27, 2022

Better Late Than Never

By Michael Caruso


Yesterday, at the behest of an 8th-grade civics class, Massachusetts lawmakers formally exonerated Elizabeth Johnson a mere 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death (thankfully, she was not executed). Johnson was 22 when she was caught up in the hysteria of the witch trials and sentenced to hang. Then-Gov. William Phips threw out her punishment, but while dozens of suspects officially were cleared, including her own mother, Johnson's name wasn't included in various legislative attempts to set the record straight. Until now.

Similarly, former President Trump used his pardon power to right very old wrongs, including the boxer Jack Johnson—convicted in 1913 of a Mann Act violation—and Susan B. Anthony—convicted in 1872 of voting fraud. (Although the Susan B. Anthony Museum rejected the pardon as she would have wanted).

The wrongly convicted and unduly punished should not have to wait that long. Currently, there are about 17,000 petitions for pardons and commutations pending. Critics like Professors Rachel Barkow and Mark Osler have assailed the modern use of the pardon power as "too often ignored or used to create calamities rather than cure them." They, along with others, recently testified at a House Oversight Committee hearing about our clemency system's issues.

And earlier this year, Attorney General Merrick Garland selected Elizabeth Oyer, a former federal public defender, and Mayer Brown partner as the U.S. Pardon Attorney. Ms. Oyer began her career as a law clerk for our very own 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus.

In this role, Ms. Oyer presides over the office that reviews and evaluates federal clemency applications. Earlier this month, several clemency advocates privately met with Ms. Oyer, "a rare occurrence that left them cautiously optimistic about forthcoming changes to a strained system."

For the clemency system to function, however, we need lawyers. Families Against Mandatory Minimums does excellent work recruiting, training, and assisting lawyers who want to lend a hand. It's never too late to right a wrong, but the sooner, the better.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Big Tech and Guns


By John R. Byrne

A couple of big decisions issued by the Eleventh Circuit yesterday, both authored by Judge Newson.

In Netchoice, LLC et al. v. Attorney General, State of Florida, et al., the Court handed a victory to "Big Tech," holding Twitter, Facebook, and other companies were entitled to a preliminary injunction against a Florida law that would have barred them from, among other things, "deplatforming" political candidates. The Court found it "substantially likely" that social media companies are "private actors" (and, thus, have First Amendment rights) and that many (but not all) of the law's provisions violate those rights. Read it here.

In  United States v. Ignacio Jimenez-Shilon, the Court held that a law making it illegal for illegal aliens to possess firearms does not run afoul of the Second Amendment. Judge Newsom's opinion digs into Justice Scalia's opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) offers a detailed account of the history of gun rights/laws in this country. Weirdly enough, Judge Newsom also wrote a concurrence to his own opinion, laying out what he considers the right analytical framework to apply to challenges to the Second Amendment. Read it here.

Judge Newsom's Jimenez-Shilon opinion is already drawing some fire on Twitter, tying the two opinions together.

Judge Scola to take senior status in October 2023

Judge Scola is the best. I’m truly happy for him but sad for all of us. He was always fair, smart, and thoughtful. The perfect judge. 

At least we keep him till October 2023. Let’s see if the White House can get its act together and get some judges confirmed  

Sunday, May 22, 2022


I've often written about how our criminal justice system coerces pleas.  One of the reasons is the trial tax.  If you go to trial and lose, your sentence is likely to be many many times the plea offer -- sometimes more than a decade longer.  It's unjust.

Because there were almost no trials during the pandemic, and many judges were more compassionate during that time (it’s all relative), it was easy to forget about the awful trial tax in our system.

But recent sentences in our District and others are showing that there is absolutely no let up for the trial tax -- even for non-violent offenders. Most judges, who have never represented a criminal defendant, have no sense what a 5 *year* sentence does to a person, a family, a community. It’s completely devastating. 

One possible solution -- at a sentencing post-trial, judges should be told what the plea offer was.  If a plea offer was X, the government shouldn't be asking for 4X. 

Since COVID, prosecutors have also candidly told me that they are now asking for much higher than they believe is appropriate at all sentencings because they believe that most judges will vary down from their recommendation.  The typical scenario is that a prosecutor believes that a sentence of 10 years is warranted.  The defense believes 3 years is right.  The prosecutor knows that if both sides ask for those sentences, a judge is likely to give 5-6 years, so the prosecutor asks for 12 or 15 years in the hopes of getting 10.  Judges then feel like they didn't give the prosecutor everything they asked for, when they actually did just that.  

Anyway, that's my Sunday morning rant.  Sentences are on the uptick again post-COVID.  Incarceration rates are moving higher again.  While COVID remains, the compassion during the pandemic seems to be fleeting.  

Friday, May 20, 2022

"Is the Justice Department Incompetent?"

 That's the title of this extensive article by New York Magazine.  Here's how it starts out:

“I’m here to declare that we are not part of the chickenshit club.”

That announcement came last month courtesy of Jonathan Kanter, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division and one of the stewards of the Biden administration’s ambitious, all-purpose antitrust-enforcement agenda. Kanter was speaking at the University of Chicago and was, improbably, in good spirits following a series of high-profile losses for prosecutors in his office. There had been acquittals in separate, closely watched criminal cases in Colorado and Texas, both involving alleged collusion in labor markets, as well as a second mistrial in a much-touted criminal price-fixing case involving executives in, appropriately, the chicken industry. After the department decided to try the chicken case a third time, the presiding judge ordered Kanter, whose job leading the antitrust division’s 700 employees is the first he has ever held at the department, to fly to Denver and explain the decision to him in person.

Kanter argued that the department’s antitrust lawyers would not be deterred by the losses (which he tried, unconvincingly, to portray as partial victories). But a casual follower of the Justice Department’s performance in recent months might have detected a larger trend extending beyond Kanter’s purview overseeing the department’s civil and criminal antitrust cases.

Early this year, an appeals court reversed the convictions of two former Deutsche Bank employees who had allegedly manipulated a financial benchmark rate known as LIBOR. In March, a jury in Texas acquitted the one and only person charged in connection with the department’s investigation of Boeing following two crashes of its 737 Max jets after deliberating for just 90 minutes. A jury in Washington, D.C., acquitted two defendants who had been charged in a campaign straw-donor scheme. (As I have noted before, I used to work in the office that brought the Boeing prosecution and know some of the prosecutors, but I was not involved in the investigation. Before my time at DOJ, I worked on the internal investigation for Deutsche Bank that resulted in the LIBOR prosecution.)

Then last month, prosecutors lost the trial over the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer after a jury acquitted two of the four defendants and hung on the charges against the others. Strictly speaking, this was not a white-collar case (unless you count the fact that so many of the alleged plotters were apparently working for the FBI), but it had some rough similarities — not just a major, highly publicized case that the department tried hard to win but also one in which deterrence was a major objective.

There have been victories, too — most notably the case against Elizabeth Holmes, who was indicted in mid-2018 and convicted following a trial last year after pandemic-related delays. More recent was the conviction in Brooklyn of a former Goldman Sachs employee who participated in a massive bribery and kickback scheme connected to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. Outside of the white-collar realm, the department has also been exceedingly busy with the January 6 prosecutions, and whatever concerns some of us may have about the scope and pace of that investigation, prosecutors’ performance in the courtroom has been impressive.

But the slew of recent setbacks has been hard to ignore, particularly in the middle of the department’s effort to tout its white-collar enforcement record and agenda. At this moment, well into the tenure of Merrick Garland, the notion that the department’s major problem is a failure of resolve seems less compelling in recent memory than ever, prompting some legitimate questions. Among them is whether Garland’s vision for the department and his understanding of its difficulties during the Trump years is as comprehensive as it needs to be.

Thursday, May 19, 2022


By Michael Caruso

The federal judiciary has recognized that diversity and inclusion are essential values in our legal system. "Diversity on the bench and among our courtroom and chambers staff is critical to serving a diverse population," said Judge Raymond A. Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia. "It's important that the court is reflective of the community it serves." This is particularly true of those chosen to clerk on the United States Supreme Court.

Judge (soon to be Justice) Ketanji Brown Jackson has put these words into action. Judge Jackson recently hired Kerrel Murray, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, Natalie Salmanowitz, a law clerk at Hogan Lovells, and Michael Qian, an associate at Morrison & Foerster.

Judge Jackson's other hire is Claire Madill. Ms. Madill practices locally—at the Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office! I don't know the exact number of Supreme Court clerks who have been hired  from a public defender's office, but the number has to be exceedingly small. 

In addition to being a public defender, Ms. Madill also is a co-founder of Law Clerks for Workplace Accountability. This group advocates for stronger anti-harassment measures across the federal judiciary. Ms. Madill's hire and work with this group are timely, given the report this week about a disturbing workplace study conducted for the federal trial and appeals courts in D.C.

As the saying goes, "personnel is policy." Choosing a young public defender—one who has a proven commitment to the public interest—is an excellent policy. Praise to Judge Jackson, and congratulations to Ms. Madill!


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Congrats to Clerk Noble


Monday, May 16, 2022

RIP Jack Blumenfeld (UPDATED)

Papa Jack was a great guy and wonderful lawyer.

Rumpole has a nice post about him here.

UPDATE-- From the Blumenfeld family:

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, Jack R. Blumenfeld, loving husband, brother, father and grandfather, passed away at age 79 surrounded by his loved ones.
His funeral will take place on Wednesday, May 18 at 9:30am at Temple Judea,
5500 Granada Blvd, Coral Gables, FL. The service will be live streamed here
for those who can't make it: https://bit.ly/3lnfi1L
We ask that you give the family time to grieve during this difficult time.
We will be monitoring Jack's Facebook messages if you have any questions.

UPDATE 2-- From the comments by Michael Caruso:

This is very sad news. As David wrote, Jack was a kind and caring man in addition to being an excellent lawyer.

I first met Jack when I was a young-ish lawyer. I received a call from Judge Gold to represent a potential defense witness that Jack wanted to call.

Jack's client—Jose Miguel Battle, Sr., was on trial for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Apparently, Battle caught my client on his property, picking maymey. After a brief dust-up, they became friends. Because they were friends, Battle let my client hunt on his large property. After one such hunting adventure, my client left his shotgun at Battle's house. Of course, this shotgun formed the basis for the indictment. Despite my client's testimony, the jury convicted.

I'm grateful I had this experience. Spending this brief time with Jack and watching him in trial was a highlight of my early career. And I can't remember a subsequent encounter with Jack that didn't leave me with a smile on my face. He'll be missed.

Finally, for those old enough to forget or too young to remember—Battle led quite a notorious life—from the Bay of Pigs to being described as the "Cuban Godfather" here in the U.S. Here are some links to stories about his life. Jack's quoted prominently.




Sunday, May 15, 2022

FACDL Banquet

It was the big FACDL-Miami shindig this weekend. 

It was a lot of fun and a wonderful group of award winners, including Judge Raag Singhal (The Gerald Kogan Award), Michael Caruso (President's Award), Elliot Scherker (Daniel-Pearson-Harry Prebish Award), and Frank Quintero (Against All Odds Award). 

Outgoing President Kevin Hellman gave very uplifting remarks and we welcomed Michael Davis as the new President, who was sworn in by Judge Kevin Emas. Margot Moss presented the Gideon's Hope Scholarship and Judge Milton Hirsch swore in the new officers. 

Brad Horenstein did a wonderful job officiating the entire event. Below are some pictures from the event.


Friday, May 13, 2022

New beginnings

 1.    Congrats to fellow blogger John Byrne and his new partner Frank Maderal for their new firm Maderal Byrne.  Two great guys.  The DBR covers it here.

 2.   UM has a new law dean, David Yellen.  From the DBR:

David Yellen, who has served as chief executive officer of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver since June 2021, is set to become the new dean of the University of Miami School of Law on July 1.

When Yellen departs later this month, Brittany Kauffman will serve as interim CEO of IAALS, where she has served as a director for nine years, according to IAALS’s announcement.

Patricia D. White had served as dean of Miami Law from 1999 to 2008 and again from 2009 to 2019. Succeeding her, Anthony Varona was dean for two years.

Varona, who is slated to become dean of Seattle University School of Law on July 1, was fired by the University of Miami in May 2021, a decision that riled the law school’s faculty and outraged many of Varona’s fellow law deans across the country.

University president Julio Frenk had said in a May 25 message to the law school community that Varona attributed Varona’s ouster to lackluster fundraising. Frenk’s vague explanation and refusal to provide additional clarity on the reasons for Varona’s firing prompted speculation among legal educators across the country and at the law school that other factors may be at play. Varona is the law school’s first Latino and openly gay dean.

Following Varona’s departure, Stephen J. Schnably served as dean for approximately six weeks until Nell J. Newton was appointed as interim dean in August.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Congrats to the two new magistrate judges

Ed Sanchez and Penny Augustin-Birch.

One prosecutor and one PD.

Two good people.


President Biden nominations for U.S. Sentencing Commission

 Finally!  See them here. Some great choices, like John Gleeson and Laura Mate.  You all know Gleeson well.  But you may not know Laura Mate.  Here's the summary:

Laura Mate has served as the Director of Sentencing Resource Counsel, a project of the Federal Public and Community Defenders in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona, since 2021 and from 2010 to 2021 was a member of Sentencing Resource Counsel. From 2001 to 2010, Ms. Mate served in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington in various roles, including as Assistant Federal Public Defender. Ms. Mate was an associate at Perkins Coie LLP from 1998 to 2001.

Ms. Mate received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1998 and her B.A. from Kenyon College in 1992.


 Politico has another story this morning with more SCOTUS leaks.  This time, Politico reports that the Alito draft opinion in Dobbs is still the only opinion that has circulated.  No dissents yet.  Interesting.

Meantime, in our court, the district judges will have their meeting today to decide who the two new magistrate judges will be.  The two will be chosen from this list:

Augustin-Birch, Panayotta Diane

Brown, Bruce Ontareo

Katz, Randall D.

Marlow, Elena Margarita

Moon, Stefanie Camille

Sanchez, Eduardo Ignacio

St. Peter-Griffith, Ann Marie

Zaron, Erica Sunny Shultz

From what I hear, the district judges fought pretty hard at the last few selection meetings.  Perhaps not like the Dobbs justices, but still... 

I will let you all know as soon as I hear.  Good luck to the candidates.

Monday, May 09, 2022

All That Jazz

By Michael Caruso

As David previously posted, Chief Justice Roberts spoke at the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Conference last week. More precisely, Senior Judge Ed Carnes interviewed Chief Justice Roberts fireside chat style. While Chief Justice Roberts's comments on "leakgate" garnered the media's attention, Judge Carnes's entire interview was quite revealing.

For example, we learned that the Chief Justice is the Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution. Chief Justice Roberts told a wonderful story about an event at the Smithsonian where he played an integral role. The Smithsonian had arranged for the legendary jazz musician Wynton Marsalis to play. Chief Justice Roberts asked whether the Smithsonian could lend Louis Armstrong's trumpet to Marsalis for the performance. And that's exactly what happened. This event marked the first time a historic instrument from the Smithsonian’s collection had been put back into actual service. Marsalis later said, “It sounded better than I thought it would sound. In terms of music, his horn sounded good because of him. When he’s not playing, you don’t think you’re going to pick up Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and sound like him.” Because jazz is the only true American art form, connecting our past, present, and future through an event like this is special. Here's a video of the performance.

Talking about our future, Justice Thomas—also interviewed at the conference—spoke at length about his concern for our country. In particular, he expressed his worry about the declining respect for governmental institutions and the rule of law.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Chief Justice Roberts speaks at 11th Circuit Conference in Atlanta

 There was a question about whether he would still attend the conference after everything that has happened in the last few days (Alito, for example, cancelled his appearance at another Circuit conference).  To his credit, the Chief showed up.  CNN reported:

Chief Justice John Roberts said Thursday that the leak of a draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade is "absolutely appalling" and stressed that he hopes "one bad apple" would not change "people's perception" of the nation's highest court and workforce.

In his first public appearance since the leak on Monday, Roberts also said that if "the person" or "people" behind the leak think it will affect the work of the Supreme Court, they are "foolish."
Roberts was speaking at a meeting of lawyers and judges at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, while the court is on a brief recess. The justices will meet together again during their closed-door conference in Washington on May 12.
 Closer to home, there were two acquittals this week in federal court -- one health care fraud case in front of Judge Cooke (Frank Schwartz and Martin Roth were the defense lawyers) and one gun case in front of Judge Seitz (AFPDs Julie Holt and Ashley Kay).

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

May the 4th be with you

 I think Fane Lozman might be a Jedi Knight.  His Supreme Court victories are legendary.  And now he has entered the trial court arena, fighting the Sith prosecutors who tried to take him down.  Of course, he won.  And with a judgment of acquittal no less.  Here's the coverage:

Fane Lozman has made a name for himself literally fighting city hall. 

He beat Riviera Beach in the U.S. Supreme Court twice. 

Now, Lozman says he is being targeted by State Attorney Dave Aronberg because he has fought corruption in his city and county. 

Tuesday, Lozman went to trial on a criminal charge and again it went his way, as the Singer Island activist turned the tables and tried to put Riviera Beach and Palm Beach County’s state attorney on trial.  

“This is a waste of your time,” Lozman told jurors at the start of his trial on criminal mischief charges for kicking and damaging a gate on a Singer Island dock near his home. “This is about retaliation for fighting corruption in Riviera Beach.” 

Lozman attacked prosecution witnesses, including dock owner Davender Kant, a former Riviera Beach city building official.  

“Have you committed homestead fraud?” Lozman asked Kant. 

Riviera Beach police arrested Lozman last February.  


“This case is about destruction,” countered Assistant State Attorney Nicholas Kaleel. “It is not about who owns the dock.”  

However, that argument didn’t wash with Circuit Court Judge Ashley Zukerman, who ordered the charge against Lozman dropped right after prosecutors finished their case. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Familiar Faces Recognized by Attorney General

By John R. Byrne

Each year the Attorney General hands out prestigious "Attorney General Awards" to DOJ employees who have made extraordinary contributions to law enforcement.  Some familiar faces received awards this year, including Trial AUSAs Chris Clark and Lisa Miller and forfeiture AUSAs Nicole Grosnoff and Peter Laserna.  That team prevailed in a six-week health care fraud trial before Judge Cohn.

Also receiving an award was Betty Alfarez.  If you've worked at the USAO down here, you know how essential Betty is to the work of the office.  Without her, the trains don't run on time.  She's a special woman and well deserving of the award.  Congrats, everybody! 

Monday, May 02, 2022

Who leaked the draft Alito opinion?


6th Circuit issues crazy ruling...

 ... saying judges can't reject appellate waivers in plea agreements.  

Appellate courts seem to be okay when trial judges reject deals that see to be too lenient (like the Michael Flynn matter).  It should be the other way around, of course.  Court are there to check the government, not to act as another branch of the U.S. Attorney's office.  

Carissa Byrne Hessick agrees that the 6th Circuit opinion is bonkers:

It is clear that the 6th Circuit—which invoked the separation of powers and stated that trial judges must exercise their power to reject plea bargains “with due regard to prosecutorial prerogatives”—wants to give more power to prosecutors. But giving prosecutors the power to unilaterally demand lopsided plea bargaining terms and curtailing the power of judges to reject those bargains doesn’t “separate” powers; it concentrates power in the hands of prosecutors. Limiting the ability of judges to reject plea bargains—especially plea bargains that are unfavorable to defendants—not only weakens judges’ ability to serve as a check on prosecutorial power, but it also infringes on the constitutional power of judges as the officials tasked with entering judgments.

Our system is more and more geared toward convictions and affirmances.  Sad.