Sunday, July 31, 2022

Justice Alito again shows his true colors

 For a sitting Justice to give remarks like this is extremely concerning.  

Here is a Slate piece discussing the bizarre remarks:

It speaks volumes about Samuel Alito that, in the face of international outrage over the impact of this ruling on the lives of millions of women, he centered himself and his own feelings. His snarky little potshots at Prince Harry and Boris Johnson were not so much “jokes” about world leaders as personal petulance over international criticism, cloaked in the insistence that Alito doesn’t care what these  world leaders think of him.

But to focus on Alito trolling American women, reproductive justice advocates, his liberal colleagues on the bench, and his international critics is to take his feeble bait. Alito is quite transparent about the fact that he delights in disapproval. He invites it! He welcomes it! His “comedy” is actually just a distraction from his gleeful effort to decimate whatever remaining legitimacy the Supreme Court still possesses in the eyes of the secular, liberal world order. Focus on that fact and there is really nothing hilarious to report from Rome at all.

For starters, there is the breathtaking conflict of interest at work when a justice gives faith-based speeches at faith-based events sponsored by faith-based parties who file briefs before the court. We only found out about this speech a week later when Notre Dame released the video, because the justices have no obligation to publicize or record their public speeches. The Rome event’s sponsor, Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative, was founded about four months before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court in 2020. As Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, a nonprofit that promotes judicial ethics reforms, noted in an email Thursday, RLI and its affiliated professors “have filed amicus briefs in several SCOTUS cases, and they have a near-perfect record.” (Naturally, these professors filed a brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization urging the reversal of Roe.) As Roth further pointed out, we won’t know if RLI financed the trip until mid-June 2023, when it must be disclosed under current law. For now, the image of a tuxedo-clad Alito chumming it up with the same conservative lawyers who are involved in cases before the court creates the unseemly impression of judicial indifference toward basic judicial ethics rules.

And he wonders why our citizens don't trust the Court.

The conclusion to the Slate piece:

If you are not very frightened by the prospect of a Supreme Court justice crossing the ocean in order to quote the Gospels to religious adherents of his own faith, who have business before the court, as he excoriates all who do not share his personal view of the primacy of religion as an organizing force in a political democracy, it’s difficult to know what could alarm you. The Framers attempted to strike a careful balance between religious liberty and secular moral values. Alito would like you to know that for the foreseeable future, the latter is the enemy, and will be vanquished and mocked.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Judge Hanzman goes old school

Back in the day during the hot summer months in Miami state court, suits were optional.  And most judges shut down entirely in August.  We haven't gone back that far yet, but Judge Hanzman did issue this order, letting lawyers know that they could go business casual during the claims process of the Champlain Towers case (hat tip Rumpole).  Thoughts?


Order 7-21-2025 (1) by Anonymous PbHV4H

Monday, July 25, 2022

Congratulations to Magistrate Judge Ryon McCabe

He had his investiture in West Palm Beach last week, and by all accounts, it was a big hit. Congrats!


Friday, July 22, 2022

Many Roads Should Lead to the Courthouse

by Michael Caruso 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with U.S. Attorney Tony Gonzalez to several law students participating in Judge Bloom’s Judicial Internship Academy this summer. Judge Bloom’s efforts are truly a force for good by opening this fantastic opportunity for many more law students. A judicial internship during law school provides students with a direct insight into the judicial process and is a valuable and enriching experience. The students gain practical experience by attending judicial proceedings, performing legal research, and providing other assistance to the judge. During the summer, the internship also exposes the students to practicing lawyers. And, of course, the internships may broaden the future employment opportunities of these students. I found the students to be smart, engaged, and committed. They also happened to be quite diverse.


A recent article published in the Notre Dame Law Review Reflection makes the case for diversity in law clerk hiring as “an imperative that basic democratic principles compel. The importance of diversity is not in demographics alone or the legitimacy that may flow from those numbers. Rather, the purpose is to ensure that the judiciary benefits from a range of perspectives that more accurately reflect those who are affected by the law.”


According to the article, in 2000, over 90% of all federal appellate judges were white. Today, 77% of federal appellate judges are white. “Although the past twenty-two years have brought modest changes to the racial composition of federal judges, the slight demographic shift has yet to trickle down to the law clerks that staff their chambers. Over time, the voices in those chambers remain increasingly white. In 2006, 74.5% of law clerks were white. In 2019—the most recent data available—that percentage grew to 79%.” 


The authors propose several changes to the law clerk hiring system. First, judges should explicitly allow for more fluidity in the application materials they request so that racially diverse applicants can provide more relevant information. Second, the federal judiciary may want to explicitly focus on law clerk hiring and how current markers of achievement are likely to limit the racial diversity of a pool of clerkship applicants. Third, judges may wish to reconsider how they sort through clerkship applicants.


Law schools also can make changes to increase the racial diversity of the clerkship pool by making more of an effort to educate students about clerkships early on and to level the playing field for students who may be interested. Relatedly, professors should ensure that they equally offer underrepresented students opportunities. 


Current and former law clerks can also help change the clerkship pipeline. Clerks who have gone through the clerkship application and interview process can offer unique insights to diverse applicants and ensure they have as much information as possible. Recently, local Miami lawyer and former law clerk, Chris Lomax organized a “Pathways to Federal Clerkships” event that did just that.


The authors conclude: “Judges, lawyers, and law schools must all commit to addressing the lack of diversity among law clerks while being accountable for the part they have to play in the current lack of diversity. Without owning their individual roles in creating this problem or committing to solve it, nothing will truly change—we will continue robotically requesting the same inputs and be dismayed at the same, stale outcomes. We owe it to the future of the profession to do better than what we are doing now.”


Judge Bloom and Chris Lomax are doing their part; we all need to step up.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Miami legal maeket is en fuego

 All the big firms are opening shops in the 305.  Chiacgo's Sidley Austin is the latest with a 40 lawyer office.  From Reuters:

  After months of recruiting lawyers from rival firms in Miami, Sidley Austin said on Wednesday it has opened a physical office in the South Florida city that has become a popular spot for large firms' expansion efforts.

Chicago-founded Sidley said it already amassed more than 40 lawyers in Miami through hiring and relocations before formally opening the office.

Lawyers from the firm are currently working out of a temporary space in the city and will move next year into a new office tower in Miami's financial district.

Miami has attracted several other big law firms this year that are following the migration of lawyers and clients in the tech and finance sectors to South Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two other Chicago-founded firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Winston & Strawn, have opened up Miami outposts in recent months. Atlanta-founded King & Spalding and Quinn Emanuel Urqhuart & Sullivan, which was started in Los Angeles, have also planted roots there.

 And Dearest Rumpole, the Verdict is great, but A Few Good Men is better:

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

'Dobbs' Will Open the Floodgates to Litigation

 That's the title of an op-ed that my oldest daughter Nicole Markus (and I) wrote about Dobbs.  The intro:

My co-author and father was born in 1972, almost 50 years ago. (Sorry, dad). The next year, in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to privacy, which includes the right to have an abortion. A few months ago, someone leaked a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, suggesting the court was about to overturn Roe and later cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which reaffirmed Roe in 1992).

Dobbs is now official, and the Supreme Court, per Justice Samuel Alito, did not change much from that draft opinion. It is now the law of the land that states can not only prohibit—but affirmatively criminalize—abortion. That means, for example, that if a woman finds out that a fetus will be born without a heart and will die within minutes of birth, a state can force her to remain pregnant for nine months and have the child, only to watch it immediately die. If a state chooses, it can force a 10-year-old rape victim only six weeks pregnant to carry a pregnancy to term (or risk being arrested for traveling to another state, as one such victim allegedly had to do after Ohio’s total ban on abortions took effect in the aftermath of Dobbs).

In Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Dobbs concurrence, he offered the wishful thought that the court is now free from deciding further abortion cases. Boy, was he wrong. It already is clear that Dobbs is going to lead to an avalanche of litigation.

Would love your thoughts.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Judging in Times of Crisis


Washington Reviewing the Western Army, by Kemmelmeyer, Fred., 1796-99

By John R. Byrne

That's the subject of Judge Altman's forward to the recent issue of the University of Miami Law Review. He covers the role judges have played in various domestic crises, from Justice James Wilson authorizing President Washington to use force to put down the Whiskey Rebellion to Chief Justice Taney's ruling that President Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus--done to facilitate the seizure of a confederate sympathizer--was unconstitutional. Most relevant to our district, he discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic posed its own set of challenges to the judiciary, including how to resolve whether the Court's suspension of grand-jury proceedings meant that defendants indicted after the expiration of the statute of limitations must have those indictments dismissed (Judge Altman and Judge Ruiz held "no" and Judge Middlebrooks "yes"). The Eleventh Circuit is set to weigh in on that issue soon. Interesting read!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

RIP Jerry Shargel

 Legendary criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel (left, with Bruce Cutler and John Gotti) passed away over the weekend.  From the New York Times:

Mr. Shargel argued that he was no more aggressive in defending his clients than the government was in prosecuting them.

Referring to the extortion and robbery case against John Gotti Jr., a son of the reputed mob boss, he said, “The Government’s campaign reminds me of something that Gregory Scarpa” — a deceased member of the Colombo crime family — “once was heard to say,” he told The New York Times in 1999. “After he killed a particular person, he was heard saying that he hated the guy so much that he wanted to dig him up and kill him again. The Government hates John Gotti, the father, so much that they’re trying him again, through his son.”

“Clients hire me,” he told The New Yorker in a 1994 profile, “because I’ll do anything that the law will allow, without concern for how it’s gonna make me look.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

“6-3 is the new SCOTUS 5-4“

That’s the title of this interesting post by Adam Feldman over at Empirical SCOTUS.  It starts:

What this means? The Court’s most common split vote this term was six justices in the majority and three justices in dissent. The most frequent six justices in the majority were the Court’s conservative justices and the most frequent in the dissent were the three liberal justices.

Why this matters? The Court’s biggest cases came in the 2021/2022 Term came down to this vote. This includes Dobbs (abortion), NY Rifle (guns), Kennedy and Carson (religious liberty) and WV v. EPA (Clean Air Act).  When at least five of the conservative justices voted together there was no opposing vote that could decide the outcome to a case. These big cases though all had a supermajority of six votes.

What do the numbers show? 13 of the 18 six to three decisions this term came down along ideological lines. This is up from 10 of 18 six to three decisions last term. Last term also had much less ideologically charged cases on the docket with the biggest cases dealing with voting rights issues (Brnovich), campaign donations (Americans for Prosperity Foundation), and unions (Cedar Point).

Monday, July 11, 2022

"Artist Behind Banana Taped to Wall Can’t Escape Copyright Suit"

 That's the title to this Bloomberg article about Judge Scola's case involving this "art" from Art Basel a few years ago:

Here's the intro to the article:

The artist behind a viral sculpture featuring a banana taped to a wall at the 2019 Art Basel fair in Miami was unable to immediately shake a lawsuit claiming he copied the artwork from another artist.

The idea of a banana duct-taped to a wall is uncopyrightable, but the specific “selection, coordination, and arrangement” of the various elements of the sculpture can receive a degree of protection, Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said in his Wednesday opinion.

At this early stage of the suit, artist Joe Morford sufficiently argued that the Art Basel exhibit, known as “Comedian,” was substantially similar to his work, called “Banana & Orange,” which he registered with the Copyright Office in 2000.

“Comedian,” created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, garnered significant international press, commentary, and controversy. Cattelan sold three copies of the work and two proofs for more than $390,000. Morford, who represents himself, sued for copyright infringement in 2021.

The judge, writing for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, found that Morford has also sufficiently alleged that Cattelan had access to “Banana & Orange,” a piece featuring both a banana and an orange taped to a wall with silver duct tape.

The work has been available on YouTube since 2008, on Facebook since 2015, and on Morford’s personal website since 2016. The artist showed that the work had been accessed in 25 different countries, Scola said.

“Banana & Orange” also met the minimum standard of originality to receive copyright protection, the judge said.

“While using silver duct tape to affix a banana to a wall may not espouse the highest degree of creativity,” he said, “its absurd and farcical nature meets the ‘minimal degree of creativity’ needed to qualify as original.”

Of the copyrigthable elements of Morford’s work, there was similarity to “Comedian,” according to Scola. Both pieces use a single piece of silver duct tape that “runs upward from left to right at an angle” that affixes a banana “angled downward left to right” against a wall, he said.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

DOJ Antritrust suffers crushing defeat in third chicken antitrust trial

 This one really bothered me -- DOJ indicted 10 defendants in a criminal antitrust case (hoping some would plead and flip).  All 10 stay strong and go to trial in Denver federal court.  All 10 are hung.  DOJ says, we are going to try again.  All 10 go to trial a second time.  And all the jury hangs again as to all 10.

Surely, the government would not try them again, right?


But the judge is rightfully upset.  So he orders the head of the antitrust division to court to explain why the government is going to try all 10 again. 

Shortly before appearing, the government dismisses against 5 of the defendants.  Then the chief showed up to court and explained that he believed his prosecutors would win.  Shortly thereafter, he was quoted as saying he's not part of the "chickenshit club."  

I wrote about how ridiculous that position was here.

The remaining 5 just went to trial and WALKED.  Not guilty across the board.

An unbelievable defeat for DOJ. 

Really happy for the 5 defendants and their lawyers, but they never should have been in that position, of course.  The government should not be able to try a defendant if it can't get a conviction at a trial, let alone two trials.

After trial #2, I did a bonus podcast episode with Barry Pollack, who represented one of the defendants who was dismissed after trial #2.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

What can a defense lawyer say about his client not testifying in closing?

 The issue has come up because a judge is piping mad that a defense lawyer said this in closing:

So . . . the Court instructed you, rightfully so, that you cannot consider the fact that the Congressman didn’t testify. He has an absolute right not to testify and you cannot consider it, but that’s a hard instruction to follow, especially in a case where we’re talking about what’s in his mind, what he knew, what he remembered, and what he understood. And we don’t have to explain the decision not to testify, but I’m going to. And the answer is that he did testify. Remember, most of what we listened to during our, I think, six days of trial were his statements. And the testimony, essentially, that he gave in those recordings was unvarnished,
unprepared, uncounseled. Well, I suppose in D.C. he told the prosecutors what he knew and remembered, and you got to hear that, too. I can’t improve on that. I can’t—his memory is not better today than it was in 2019, so there’s really nothing to add. And so here you are, some of you may be thinking, why didn’t he testify? Why didn’t he explain this? But what do you think would have happened if he got up there on the stand and tried to explain and his memory is worse than it was before and the Government confronts him with the call and asks him to explain it? He would say the same thing as what he said before, this is what I heard, this is what I understood.

Doesn’t seem so bad to me.  He said he had an absolute right not to testify and that he already gave his statements.  But the judge issued an order to show cause.  Here’s the whole order, which is being covered by Meghann Cuniff on Twitter.

I always have to sigh when I see judges getting so angry at defense lawyers.  Imagine a prosecutor had actually commented on a defendant’s silence, which happens in courtrooms all the time… the prosecutor would get yelled at for a minute and then nothing.  No reversal (harmless), no sanctions (it’s a prosecutor!), etc.  Judges typically give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt — it was just a mistake — while defense lawyers get orders to show cause.  

In any event, do you think the defense lawyer crossed a line here?  His client was convicted, by the way.  This order came out after the client was sentenced.


Tuesday, July 05, 2022

BOP incaercating people longer than the law allows

 There should be outrage.  Instead, very little is being done.  This entire article about the problem, entitled "Thousands of federal inmates still await early release under Trump-era First Step Act," is worth a read:

Thousands of nonviolent federal prisoners eligible for early release under a promising Trump-era law remain locked up nearly four years later because of inadequate implementation, confusion and bureaucratic delays, prisoner advocacy groups, affected inmates and former federal prison officials say.

Even the Biden administration’s attempt to provide clarity to the First Step Act by identifying qualified inmates and then transferring them to home confinement or another form of supervised release appears to be falling short, according to prisoner advocates familiar with the law.

The Department of Justice was tasked with carrying out the law through the federal Bureau of Prisons, but the bureau director, Michael Carvajal, a Trump administration holdover, announced his retirement in January amid criticism of a crisis-filled tenure marked by agency scandals. No replacement for Carvajal has been named, and criminal justice advocates contend that for the bureau to allow even one person to be incarcerated beyond what is permitted under the First Step Act exposes ongoing failures.

“It shouldn’t be this complicated and it shouldn’t take this long,” said Kevin Ring, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, or FAMM. “Here we are, four years later, and it’s maddening.”

Friday, July 01, 2022

Your Fourth of July moment of Zen

 I started this blog back on July 2, 2005 (happy 17th birthday to the blog!) with a post about putting a Floridian on the Supreme Court.  

That's now a reality!  Yay for KBJ, a Miamian!