Tuesday, March 03, 2015




Today begins the annual migration to Tallahassee for the 160 elected legislators, (120 in the House and 40 in the Senate) as the two chambers decide how many more laws they can pass in just 60 days.  The Spring Session of the 2015 Legislature begins with the banging of the gavel at 10:00 AM this morning.  The House and Senate go into a joint session for Governor Scott's State of the State at 11:00 AM.  The Spring Session is scheduled to end on Friday, May 1st.

During the next 60 days, your elected leaders will consider dozens of bills that could have a direct affect on the criminal justice system.  Here is just a sampling:

HB 0001 Relating to Texting While Driving

Revises penalties for violations of Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law; provides enhanced penalties for such violations when committed in school zone or school crossing; removes requirement that specified provisions be enforced as secondary action.

HB 0009 Relating to Use Of Wireless Comm. Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle

Provides that vehicular manslaughter includes causing death of human being or unborn child while operating motor vehicle & using wireless communications device.

SB 0090 Relating to Jury Composition

Requiring a 12-member jury for life felony cases, etc.

HB 0121 Relating to Employment of Felons

Provides corporate income tax credit for employment of person previously convicted of felony;

HB 0131 Relating to Use of Intercepted Wire or Oral Communications as Evidence

Creates exception to prohibition on use of intercepted wire or oral communications as evidence for prosecutions for acts of sexual abuse involving certain minor victims.

SB 0134 Relating to Lifetime Electronic Monitoring of Sex Offenders

Establishing the lifetime electronic monitoring program within the Department of Law Enforcement; requiring the implementation of an electronic monitoring system to monitor sex offenders sentenced to lifetime electronic monitoring;

HB 0139 Relating to Sentencing in Capital Felonies

Requires that advisory sentence of death be made by unanimous recommendation of jury after defendant's conviction or adjudication of guilt;

HB 0195 Relating to Prosecution of Juveniles

Revises age-based criteria & offenses for which discretionary direct file of information against child may be made in adult court; prohibits filing of information on child otherwise eligible if it is child's first offense unless there are compelling reasons;

HB 0235 Relating to Restitution

Requires child's parent or guardian, in addition to child, to make restitution for damage or loss caused by child's offense;

HB 0267 Relating to Confidential Informants

Requires law enforcement agency that uses confidential informants to adopt policies & procedures providing reasonable protective measures & requires agencies to refer certain prospective & current informants to substance abuse prevention or treatment;

SB 0276 Relating to Arrest Booking Photographs

Prohibiting a person who publishes or disseminates an arrest booking photograph through a publicly accessible print or electronic medium from soliciting or accepting payment of a fee or other consideration to remove, correct, or modify such photograph;

HB 0289 Relating to Boating Under the Influence

Provides that conviction for BUI be recorded in person's driving record; provides that convictions for BUI are considered prior convictions for DUI; provides that conviction for BUI be reported to DHSMV; provides that convictions for DUI are considered prior convictions for BUI.

SB 0440 Relating to Contraband Forfeiture

Requiring that seizure or forfeiture of property be incidental to an arrest under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, etc.

SB 0444 Relating to Prosecution Of Juveniles

Revising the age-based criteria and the offenses for which the discretionary direct file of an information against a child may be made in adult court; prohibiting the filing of an information on a child otherwise eligible if it is the child’s first offense unless there are compelling reasons,

SB 1176 Relating to Recreational Marijuana

Renaming the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation; creating provisions relating to recreational marijuana; exempting certain activities involving marijuana from use and possession offenses; authorizing persons age 21 and over to engage in certain activities involving personal use of marijuana in limited amounts;

SB 1192 Relating to Penalties For Driving Under The Influence

Providing that a court may order a transdermal monitor device or treatment program, or both, in lieu of an ignition interlock device

HB 4019 Relating to Use of Force

Deletes provisions specifying that person has no duty to retreat & has right to stand his or her ground & meet force with force in certain circumstances.

If you would like to track any of these bills, you can go here and view the history of the bill.


You may recall that some of Broward County's robed ones have recently been reported to have had a drinking problem.  One of them, Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Imperato, was found guilty of DUI last December following her trial in Palm Beach County.  In that case, she was sentenced to One Year of Probation with twenty days of House Arrest.  This was Imperato's second DUI as she was previously convicted in 1988.

Now, the JQC is recommending a 20 day unpaid suspension, a public reprimand, a $5,000 fine, and alcohol treatment.  Judge Imperato has agreed to the recommended penalties.  Now it is up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether to accept the stipulation.

The DBR covers the entire saga here.



Monday, March 02, 2015


March is a month of comings and goings. 

Coming: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be addressing a joint session of congress. 

Going: Attorney General Eric Holder. 

If you are a long time Miami resident, then if you watch one thing on television the next few weeks, try and catch  "The Perfect Backfield" on the NFL channel's A Football Life series. The show is about, of course, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris, and right towards the end, when Morris talks about his trafficking in cocaine conviction, there is some rare courtroom footage of Judge Morphonious and ASA George Yoss. Morphonious of course, gave Morris a prison sentence and then famously said "Sorry Merc". Thankfully, the conviction was completely overturned on appeal.   There's also a lot vintage 1970's film clips of Miami at the time, including the famous clip of Csonka and Kiick riding horses down Collins Avenue as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (if you didn't live down here then, you won't understand the meaning). 

And so another week starts. See You In Court. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015


Miami, really all of Florida, is lucky to be served by a crusading and muckraking newspaper like the Miami Herald. And today, the Herald has really outdone itself again. 

The Herald broke this shocking story, which we are sure has all of you gasping in shock and surprise:

Florida's prison system is underfunded!

"NO!" you must have shouted in pure disbelief. "Say it ain't so Joe!"

And yet, sadly, it is. Our prison system is underfunded.

Read the story here, and weep. 

In other shocking news, the Herald is reporting that spring is on it's way, the Republicans and Democrats aren't getting along, Miami has beautiful beaches, and cell phones are here to stay. 

We are so lucky. Really. 

Enjoy your Sunday. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015



BREAKING NEWS ..............


Numerous news agencies are reporting that President Barack Obama has nominated Barzee Flores to an open seat in the Southern District of Florida.  (This is the open seat from when Robin Rosenbaum was elevated from the District Court bench to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit).

Judge Barzee started her career as an associate with the law firm of Sonnett, Sale & Kuehne and she worked there for two years before becoming an Assistant Federal Public Defender from 1990 - 2003.  She then ran unopposed for Circuit Court Judge in 2002 and won a seat on the Circuit bench in Miami-Dade County and served there from 2003 - 2011.  (She won reelection in 2008 without opposition).  While on the bench, she served in both the Criminal Division and the General Jurisdiction Division as well as having the honor to sit by designation on the 4th DCA.  She resigned from the bench and joined the law firm of Stearns, Weaver where she concentrates her practice in commercial litigation and arbitration.  She also serves as a private judge, arbitrator, special master, and umpire in appraisal disputes. She is a UM law school graduate.

The two finalists who did not make the cut were U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer and Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez.

Good luck to Judge Barzee as she makes her way inside the beltway and through the confirmation process.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


When we last left the Honorable Jacqueline Schwartz (Motto" Last names matter")  she had told the supporter of her opponent "F*&K YOU" literally and after winning he election, "F%#K YOU" figuratively to Miami's Latin Community.  Here's the recap of her insulting the Cuban Community and her apology.  Basically, after winning a contentious race where she cursed like a sailor, she reflected on her victory by saying "that voters had "gone past the days when any nondescript Hispanic could go on the ballot and defeat any Anglo sitting judge." 
We covered the most infamous judicial victory speech here. 

Now the Florida Supreme Court will publicly reprimand Judge Schwartz. For those of you not familiar with a public reprimand, the Supreme Court summons the offending judge to Tallahassee where basically they yell at her and ask "what the F%^K were you thinking?" 

How will this all play out? 
No F'ing idea. 
See You in F'ing court. 

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/11/miami-dade-judge-apologizes-for-saying-she-defeated-nondescript-hispanic.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, February 23, 2015


There was a Florida Supreme Court workshop on Courts today in Miami. Judge Soto was there. So were a host of other judges. The public participated, mostly asking questions about how and why they got screwed in their particular case, which of course the judges couldn't answer. 

Here is the startling news to come out of the workshop: (steady now) The court system is out of money, it works inefficiently,  and the technology is thirty years old. 
Yup, that is a big blow for most of you to read, but the truth will out no matter how difficult to hear. 

Electronic filing is the glaring example of Florida court system incompetence that we cannot figure out. 
Roughly a decade ago the federal court system went to electronic filing. There are also electronic dockets. Anyone with access to the CM/ECF system can access any case and see any document (that hasn't been sealed) that has been filed. The government files discovery electronically, a sample of which we have included below. 
As much as we hate to say it, the Fed system works. You can file the same document in Dallas, as in Miami, or anywhere else in the federal system and you file it the same way (except in Dallas where your pleadings have to include "y'all"). 

With this template before it, Florida apparently ignored the Feds. We understand the sentiment, but in this case Florida ignored the Feds  to their detriment. Couldn't Florida have hired the same software developers? The biggest flaw in the Florida system is that the documents are not accessible. So If you come late into a case you can't simply go on-line and download the documents to get up to speed. The Florida system looks cheap, it acts clunky, there is this ridiculous requirement that if you don't enter  the exact number of pages in the document the system makes you start all over.  Overall, Florida bought a "compuserve" system in an Apple world. Or put another way, Florida has a rotary phone system in an iPhone world. Or put another way, they got ripped off and screwed. But that's technical legal jargon, better left for the civil blogs to discuss. 

Basically, the Feds got it right and we dropped the ball. Ouch. There. We said it. 

See you in court. 

Here's an example of the wonderful discovery that you get in federal court, not including Jenks material, which as we all know must be disclosed within two dozen years after the verdict.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Life turns on a dime. The pages of this blog in the new year have shown a much, as a seemingly never-ending litany of death an illnesses  are recounted day after day. 

From noted neurologist and NY Times contributor Oliver Sacks:

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver...but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can
Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

A beloved judge falls ill and has a serious operation and is hopefully recovering. Judge Morton Perry lives a long and productive life before passing away this year. Ditto for Judge Marshal Ader. And yet every so often we walk into the courtroom on the sixth floor once occupied by Judges Manny Crespo and Rob Pinero and we remember that there are no guarantees. The days of our lives are not fixed by anything other than….what? Luck? Happenstance? Providence? 

How can we believe in Providence when we recall the case of the innocent child cut down by the bullet meant for the drug dealer? The Miami Dade Police officer murdered in his car in a tragic case of mistaken identity?  The family killed by a drunk driver, when leaving the house five minutes earlier or later would have avoided the confluence of lives and tragedies? 

Is Dr. Sacks lucky to be able to confront his mortality? Are the precious days in which he will squeeze every ounce of juicy life worth the fear of the near, impending end? Or does the certainty remove the fear? 

Questions; we have thousands. Answers; we have few. 

It may sound trite, but we know this: in the end it is the quality of the life you live, not the quantity. The stand taken for principal. Character is celebrated when a small woman won't go to the back of the bus. But real character is what you do when no one is looking; when you pause as you rush to your next case and hold the door for the overburdened woman pushing a stroller or stop and spend a minute to assure an elderly woman that her grandson will be released shortly, or the money you slip into the hands of a hungry person, or the anonymous donation you make to the charity. There are the smiles on the face of children when the work you have done results in their father or mother walking through the door of home that night. The teenager who completes drug court after you refused to give up on her and the parent who can do no more than say a heartfelt  "thank you" when she has her daughter back. 

This is life. Not the life of your family, but the life of our work, and it is what we do that hopefully, when the end arrives, will allow us to say we took our skills and made a difference. That we squeezed from life every last ounce of juice and drank deeply and with satisfaction. It is what, we think and hope, will allow Dr. Sacks to live these last months, and hopefully more, with a smile on his face. 

See you in court.