Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Testimony Concludes in Racial Gerrymandering Case Brought against City of Miami

By John R. Byrne

Update on the racial gerrymandering case brought against the City of Miami. Trial testimony concluded yesterday. At issue are now "updated" voting maps, which have been challenged as unconstitutional. If the plaintiffs win, another map would be drawn.

Although a number of expert witnesses testified on statistical analyses and Miami's demographics, Judge Moore came back to statements made during public commission hearings. Judge Moore said that, in light of those statements, "it's really hard to get around the conclusion that race was" involved in the map drawing process.

Back in 2022, Commissioner Joe Carollo said the point of creating single-member districts was to ensure “there would be an African American sitting in this commission and there would be an Anglo” and “that there were three Hispanic districts.”

Commissioner Manolo Reyes also said “yes, we are gerrymandering to preserve those seats,” apparently referencing the five-person Commission. 

“The problem that I have been confronted with," Judge Moore said, is "not so much the statistical or circumstantial evidence that we’ve heard a lot about in the past two days. It was the direct evidence in those commission hearings that we’re well familiar with.”

The Herald covers it here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

No New Trial for Murdaugh

By John R. Byrne

Not SDFLA news or even news from the federal court world. But still worth covering. The judge in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial denied Murdaugh's request for a new trial. Murdaugh's team moved for a new trial, arguing that the Clerk of Court influenced the jury. The clerk, who wrote a book after the trial that was pulled because of plagiarism issues, apparently told jurors to watch Murdaugh closely when he testified.  

One juror testified that "She made it seem like he was already guilty." Asked whether this influenced her vote to find him guilty, she said "Yes ma'am."

A wild case gets wilder. I have to think an appellate court may see this issue differently. 

NPR covers it here.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Was Judge Kaplan too involved in the Trump case?

Most judges will tell you that they don't want to be the story and don't want to make news.  Especially federal judges.  Yet Judge Lewis Kaplan was front and center in the Trump case... 

Here's an ABA article detailing some of his quips.  Too much?

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Kaplan said.

Trump protested by throwing up his hands and saying, “I would love it! I would love it.”

Kaplan responded by telling Trump: “You just can’t control yourself in these circumstances apparently.”

Jurors are considering damages in the lawsuit by Carroll, who obtained an earlier verdict and $5 million in damages against Trump for sexually abusing—but not raping—her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City in the 1990s and then denying the incident in October 2022.

The new trial claims that Carroll was defamed in denials by Trump before October 2022 and after the May 2023 verdict.

Kaplan also chastised lawyers in the case—on more than one occasion. CNN, Salon and the Washington Post have these examples:

  • Kaplan reined in Trump lawyers when several lawyers objected all at once. “Let’s just get this clear for both sides right now,” Kaplan said. “The first lawyer who says anything when a witness is on the stand says everything there is to be said for that side. This is not a tag-team lawyering.” (The Washington Post)

  • When Trump lawyer Alina Habba cross-examined Carroll using a 2022 deposition, Kaplan said he needed a copy and wanted to know what portion that Habba would be reading. “Now look, Ms. Habba,” Kaplan said. “We’re going to do it my way in this courtroom, and that’s all there is to it.” (CNN)

  • Kaplan called a recess after Habba read harassing social media posts about Carroll before entering them into evidence. “You should refresh your memory about how it is you get a document into evidence,” Kaplan said. (CNN)

  • When Habba asked Kaplan again to postpone the trial to allow Trump to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral, Kaplan said he would “hear no further argument on it. None. Do you understand that word? None. Please sit down.” (CNN)

  • Kaplan criticized a lawyer for Carroll for seeking exhibits in advance to consider potential redactions. “When the document is authenticated and offered, that’s when you say objection, and that’s when we deal with it,” Kaplan said. (CNN)

  • Habba asked Carroll whether she “makes a good amount of money” from her Substack posts. Kaplan stopped her, asking, “What’s ‘a good amount of money?’ Evidence 101.” (Politico reporter Erica Orden on X, formerly known as Twitter, via Salon)

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Nice piece about AFPD Andrew Adler

 The University of Miami has a great article about Andy Adler here:

Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrew Adler sat third chair in a Supreme Court case back when he was an attorney at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in a class action securities fraud case against Haliburton. After joining the appellate division of the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Southern District of Florida in 2015, he would second-chair two more Supreme Court cases before his first-chair hat trick in 2021, 2022, and 2023. 

Adler, a criminal law expert, is aware of only a couple of public defenders in history who have argued three U.S. Supreme Court cases over the course of long careers, but he is unaware of any who have done so in three calendar years. 

The 2007 Miami Law grad's first appearance was early in the pandemic and was conducted by telephone from his home. "Obviously the Court was doing the best it could under extraordinary circumstances, but the experience felt a bit artificial," he said. "Each Justice had a three-minute segment to question so if, hypothetically, Justice Breyer talked for 2-and-a-half minutes, I only had 30 seconds to respond. And of course, the lawn guys decided to come that morning!"

Monday, January 22, 2024

BREAKING -- Judge Charles Wilson gives notice that he is taking senior status

 He sent the letter to President Biden today and will be taking senior status effective 12/31.  That means President Biden will have the opportunity to nominate someone for that seat.

A huge shout out to Judge Wilson, who has been one of our wonderful judges on the 11th.  Always prepared for oral argument and not afraid to take the difficult position if that's what the law requires.  Onward!