Friday, May 31, 2024

Is Sen. Rick Scott holding up the blue slip for Detra Shaw-Wilder?

 That's what it looks like, according to this DBR article.  Really weird.  The legal community is coming to her defense.  Here's the intro to the article:

Prominent names in the Florida legal community expressed their disappointment Wednesday with Sen. Rick Scott over his decline so far to return a “blue slip” on the nominee, Detra Shaw-Wilder, to serve as a district court judge in the Southern District of Florida.

“Detra Shaw-Wilder is well qualified and has widespread support from the community,” said Aaron Podhurst, a founder and partner of Podhurst Orseck in Miami. “I am surprised and disappointed that perhaps political issues have slowed down her process, but I am hopeful that they will be resolved soon and Detra will move forward to confirmation.”

Beatriz Azcuy, a co-managing partner with Sidley Austin in Miami, recalled over three decades ago when Azcuy was a moot court partner with Shaw-Wilder, who impressed Azcuy with her “dedication, perseverance, strength, humanity and intelligence.”

“Today, she is a sought-after, skilled commercial litigator and community leader with qualities required of the judiciary and in short supply in today’s world: integrity and impartiality,” said Azcuy, of the Am Law 100 firm. “As a lifelong Republican and Floridian, I cannot imagine a more qualified nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.”

Scott has reportedly claimed that the White House failed to follow the usual consultation process and ignored his suggestion for alternative nominees.

In response, the Biden Administration said it had included Scott in discussions over the last two years, and the senator interviewed Shaw-Wilder, general counsel at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, in January 2023.

Scott did not respond to a request for comment.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Cheers to Cathy Wade Babyak

 The Heart and Soul of the SDFLA is retiring.  Congrats to Cathy Wade Babyak on an amazing run in the Clerk's Office. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Zoom Hearing Gone Wrong?

By John R. Byrne

Another reason to have cameras in the courtroom? Videos like this one. Man with suspended license--who is also facing charges for driving with a suspended license--attends a hearing by Zoom....while driving.... 

Maybe not quite to the level as the cat-lawyer video from a while back but close. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

"Calm Down." (UPDATED)

 That was Judge Cannon to the Special Counsel's office in last week's hearing on Nauta's Motion to Dismiss for Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Trump documents case.  CNN has the coverage here:

Nauta claims that he was criminally charged in the case as retaliation for declining to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the former president’s retention of classified documents at his estate.

This photo from the US Department of Justice allegedly shows Walt Nauta moving boxes inside former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. From US Department of Justice

“I had been recommended for a judgeship, that’s beyond dispute,” Woodward said Wednesday. “There was a folder about defense counsel on the table” during that meeting, he said, claiming Bratt referenced that judgeship recommendation.

“I think the implication was that I was to travel and convince Mr. Nauta to cooperate with the investigation, and if I didn’t that, there would be consequences,” Woodward said.

Prosecutor David Harbach then rose and accused Woodward of engaging in “procedural gamesmanship” by making a “garbage argument” about the meeting.

“Mr. Woodward’s story of what happened at that meeting is a fantasy,” Harbach shouted, banging his hand on the lectern in front of him. “It did not happen.”

The heated proceedings Wednesday come as the Manhattan hush money case against Trump nears its conclusion and a new phase of pretrial activity gets underway in the federal classified documents prosecution in Florida. 

Wow.  Too bad we don't have cameras in the courtroom to see it. Meantime, Special Counsel filed a motion to modify the conditions of release to partially gag the former President based on his claims that the search team was "locked and loaded" and ready to take him out, via The Hill.   Trump has responded asking for sanctions.  Ah, fun times. (UPDATED -- Judge Cannon denied the Special Counsel's motion for lack of meaningful conferral and also denied Trump's motion for sanctions.)

All of this on the eve of closing arguments in New York.  I was asked on MSNBC last week how I would close for Trump.  Here's my one minute summary.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Jewish American Heritage Month (and more)

 Last week the Southern District of Florida held an amazing event celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month.  Judge Beth Bloom moderated a panel that included: Judge Luck, Judge Scola, and Judge Altman.  The event had almost 400 attendees and the support of the community.  It was lovely to see.  Here's a picture of the committee:

Judge Altman is making other news -- this NY Times article covers his ruling this week "block[ing] part of a Florida law that criminalized transporting into the state anyone who lacked lawful immigration status, raising new legal questions for other states pursuing similar measures."


The Florida law was intended to discourage unauthorized immigrants from living and working in the state, and organizations that work with immigrants say many undocumented workers have left the state in recent months.

The injunction puts on hold a key enforcement component of the legislation while the lawsuit against it proceeds. The law, which into effect last July, was championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as he ran for the Republican nomination for president.

The Farmworker Association of Florida sued the state in July, claiming that the component of the law related to transportation into the state was unconstitutional and that its 12,000 members would “suffer irreparable harm.”

They could, the group said, be separated from their families, unable to attend lifesaving medical appointments and prevented from driving to immigration agencies overseeing their cases because of the risk of jail time.

Judge Altman on Thursday ordered further briefing on the scope of the injunction. That decision was wrongly reported by the Herald as “revers[ing] his own ruling.”  That’s not right.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

NIL Goes to Federal Court

By John R. Byrne

A few years ago, star high school quarterback Jaden Rashada was set to play football for the Miami Hurricanes. Then the Florida Gators opened their wallets, allegedly luring him to de-commit from UM with the promise a $13.85M deal (UM had only come up with an endorsement package worth $9.5M). But the money never materialized, with Rashada ultimately heading to Arizona State with no NIL deal in place. Now he's suing the Gators in federal court, including head coach Billy Napier. Case landed before Judge Casey Rodgers. Have to think there'll be more of these in the coming years. Complaint below.

 Rashada Complaint by John Byrne on Scribd

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Clerk of Court Angela Noble breaks up with Brightline

 Her breakup letter to the Palm Beach Post starts this way:

Dear Brightline,

How did we get here? When I moved to Florida, I swore off public transportation forever. For years, I enjoyed a short commute, and life was good. Then you came along. You appealed to my sensibilities, manipulated my emotions, and lured me away with false promises of a “carefree, car free ride.” You were starting a new business and I was considering a new opportunity of my own. You exploited my proclivity for public service and pushed me toward a professional opportunity far from home. Of course, the choice was mine, but you bear some responsibility. I relied on your support.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Blame your wife!

 Oooof, both Justice Alito and Sen. Menendez are blaming their wives.

Alito says his wife is to blame for the upside flag flying outside his house.

And Menendez says his wife is to blame for all of the gifts.

From the NY Times:

It is a tale as old as Adam and Eve: A husband, faced with accusations of misconduct, blames the wife.

It is also a time-honored, bipartisan political strategy. This week, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey pointed ringed fingers at their wives for episodes that have landed each man in political or legal trouble.

“It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito,” Justice Alito, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members, told The New York Times in explaining an upside-down American flag — a “Stop the Steal” symbol of protest by Donald J. Trump’s supporters — flying on a pole in the family’s front lawn in the days before President Biden’s 2021 inauguration. The justice’s wife, Martha-Ann Alito, was in a feud with neighbors at the time over an anti-Trump sign, The Times reported.

In the case of Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, it was his lawyer who did the finger pointing. On Wednesday, in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, the lawyer, Avi Weitzman, blamed the senator’s wife and her financial troubles for what prosecutors have described as a bribery scheme involving foreign governments and hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts.

 So what do you think about the blame-the-wife strategy? Will it work?


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Breaking- we have two new Magistrate Judges

 The judges of the Southern District of Florida met today and voted for our two newest magistrate judges. Congrats to Ellen D'Angelo and Enjolique Lett!! 

Man Detained in Alleged Kidnapping Plot

 By John R. Byrne

This case feels like it's destined for Dateline. The defendant, David Knezevich, is accused of a bizarre international kidnapping plot involving his estranged wife that may have ended up in her murder. Judge Torres ordered him detained pre-trial, though he apparently struggled with that decision, noting the case against Knezevich was based on circumstantial evidence. Expect a lot of media coverage on this one. Herald covers it here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

“Use your voice… unapologetically.”

 Guest Post by Vanessa Johannes

That was the message conveyed by the Honorable Nancy G. Abudu, who was appointed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2023, at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Gala on May 11, 2024 at the Intercontinental Hotel.  For those who haven’t attended this gala before, it is a MUST DO affair in South Florida!  The who’s who of the community are in attendance, and dressed to the nines with their dancing shoes on (this year, there was a live Calypso band and Bahamian drummers).  Politicians, such as Mayor Suarez, lawyers, and business leaders attend this star-studded affair, which awards several law school students with scholarships and then honors outstanding lawyers and companies who are committed to justice, diversity and leadership in our community.   

This year’s honorees were Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (in her signature large, glittery cowgirl hat), UPPAC, the Lotus House Women’s Shelter, and Judge Abudu, who gave the keynote speech.  Judge Abudu’s speech was a candid one – she spoke about the hardships of being “a first” in a particular space (she is the first Black woman on the Eleventh Circuit).  “How do you conform to an institution not designed for you … an institution that historically has not reflected or served you … how do you maintain your own identity, while balancing assimilation to this role and institution … how do you lead with joy when pain is inevitable for so many who look like you but are not afforded the same opportunities?”   

These were some of the questions posed by a deeply intellectual and reflective judge that has the weight of much on her shoulders.  Ironically, in answering some of these questions for herself, she was inspired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a jurist who, as Judge Abudu concedes, usually does not share her legal philosophy and positions.  

 Despite their opposite views, though, both have had to navigate being lone standers in their respective spaces and Justice Thomas reminds Judge Abudu of “what it looks like to be unapologetic.” Even when the masses are not with him, “his voice is still his voice.”  He is not afraid to share his philosophical views on interpreting the law and that teaches her to do the same.  Judge Abudu’s words hit home for so many who are navigating truth to power as “firsts” or “outsiders,” balancing inclusion, respect, imposter syndrome, and, candidly, where they fit in.  Importantly, her perspective and alignment with Justice Thomas reminded the room that even during these deeply polarizing times, we must all sometimes take a step back and see things from another’s perspective – even if that person is someone we don’t care to trade shoes with.   

Maybe especially if that is a person we don’t want to trade shoes with.  It was a timely message for a group galvanized to continue moving the arch towards justice and working for a more inclusive and diverse world.

Monday, May 13, 2024

11th Circuit Conference and FACDL-Gala

1. It was my first time attending the 11th Circuit conference, and it did not disappoint.  This year it was in Point Clear, Alabama.  It was nice to see the judges without their robes and courtrooms.  Chief Judge Pryor put on an entertaining set of speakers, including Judge Kevin Newsom interviewing Sarah Isgur.  Justice Thomas headlined the event, and his speech got some news.

The flight back on Friday night was delayed 3 hours, and half of the federal bench and bar was on the flight, and still in good spirits! (That's me at the way back of the picture).

 2. The previous weekend was the big FACDL-Gala.  I'm so proud of my partner Lauren Krasnoff for being sworn in as President of the organization and of Michael Caruso for being honored (that's him with a bunch of former defenders, including Judge Kathy Williams, who introduced Michael).


3.  This weekend I posted the candidates for the two open magistrate judge slots.  See the post below.  I didn't want it to get lost as it is important.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Breaking -- 6 Magistrate Judge candidates for two slots

 The judges will vote on this list at the next meeting:

Ellen DeAngelo

Christian Dunham

Yeney Hernandez

Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos 

Enjolique Lett

Stephanie Turk

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

BREAKING -- WH nominates Embry Kidd to the 11th Circuit

 Here's the release:

  1. Judge Embry J. Kidd: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Judge Embry J. Kidd has been a United States Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida since 2019. Judge Kidd previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida from 2014 to 2019. From 2009 to 2014, Judge Kidd worked as an associate at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, D.C. Judge Kidd served as a law clerk for Judge Roger L. Gregory on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 2008 to 2009. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2008 and his B.A. from Emory University in 2005.

Spy Game or National Origin Discrimination?

By John R. Byrne

Last July, Florida passed a law restricting certain "foreign principals" from six countries of concern (including Venezuela and Cuba) from owning property in the state. The most significant restrictions are directed at those domiciled in China who don't hold either US Citizenship or permanent residency. Sponsors of the law assert that Chinese nationals have been buying up property in the United States, posing risks to national security, including concerns about spying. Now plaintiffs are filing lawsuits in federal court challenging the law on the basis that it discriminates on the basis of national origin in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Florida Constitution. One of the cases landed in front of Judge Gayles. Complaint is below. And the New York Times covers the law--and the recent lawsuits--here

In other news, the Trump criminal trial down here has been pushed pending resolution on how to address classified documents at trial. ABC News covers it here.

Complaint by John Byrne on Scribd

Monday, May 06, 2024

13 federal judges, including Judge Branch, refuse to hire clerks for anyone attending Columbia undergrad or law school

Wow, how strange.  They aren't refusing to hire students who disrupted class or who signed the silly letter saying to cancel class.  They are refusing to hire all students from Columbia.  

This takes the question in the prior post to a whole new level! And it doesn't make much sense -- they won't hire a Jewish student who was victimized by the protests? And why limit it to Columbia? 

Friday, May 03, 2024

Columbia law students want exams canceled

 Here's their statement saying they are too shaken up after the events this week to sit for exams. They are rightfully getting crushed online for the ask. 

Would you hire them?