WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

20 QUESTIONS

UPDATED 
Why....

Why does life and practice of law in the REGJB need to be so difficult?

Twenty questions:

1) Why aren't court documents scanned so they can be accessed electronically? 
Let's break this down in to two subsets. First, the Feds have a great system. You electronically file something and it is available for downloading from then on. This system was fully functional before the state instituted our filing system which does not make filed documents accessible. 
Second, what's the document attorneys wait in line at the clerk's office (now down to one clerk and counting) to copy? An A-Form on a new case. Why aren't those scanned so we can get them?
We can order a four course meal from a French restaurant on our phone and pay for it and have it delivered to the courthouse within an hour, but we can't get a copy of an a-form without waiting in a line for the same hour. 
You can apply for a freaking mortgage on your phone. But we can't an electronic copy of one damn pink piece of paper ("the defendant fraudulently applied for over 200 mortgages from his phone and was arrested after an investigation.") 

2) Why aren't informations provided to the defense? It's only the charging document. The prosecution doesn't give you one when they file charges and all the in court clerk will do is give you some vague promise about mailing it to you sometime before 2027. But why incur the mailing cost? Why not have a copy available? Or scanned and emailed? We realize we're being picky here. It's only the charging document. The piece of paper that is bringing your client to court and may send her to prison for life. Other than that, it's not that important. 

3) Why can't clerks in court certify a copy? Why do we have to get a copy of an order in court and then have to trek up to nine and wait in line for the clerk (down to one every other day and counting) to get it certified? 

4) And if the in court clerk could certify a document, then a motion to transport a defendant could be certified in court and handed to a corrections officer. Instead, here is the procedure (edited for brevity) : i) Go to court; It's not on calendar. leave; ii) Re-set the motion; iii) Go back to court; iv) Get the order signed;  v) Walk or ride the elevator up to nine;  Go see the clerk (down to working twice a week and counting); vi) Get six certified copies;  vii) Walk down to six. Go to corrections. Give them six certified copies. They want seven. vii) Go back to court. Court is finished for the day; viii) Call the JA and ask the case to be put back on calendar. JA asks for a written motion first. Email the motion. JA sets it on calendar in six weeks; ix) Go to court. Get motion signed. Judge comments she already signed this. "It's too long to explain judge. Just sign it again." x) Get order. Take elevator up to nine;  xi) Wait in line for clerk. xii) Get sixteen certified copies; xiii) Take certified copies to corrections. "Why do you have sixteen certified copies? We only need three." ; xiv) Look for window to jump out of.  

Rinse. repeat. 

5) Why do we have to call over-worked JAs to calendar a case? We can schedule an appointment with a heart surgeon over an app on our phone. We can buy a car on-line, book a trip to Bali, make reservations at Per Se on our phone. We can short Apple and go long on Bank of America with three clicks on our phone. But we have to call a JA to schedule a two minute motion. 

Why does the practice of law in the REGJB have to be this difficult? 

There are Apps for everything these days. Uber is changing the world. In San Francisco most of the parking spaces downtown are being electronically monitored so an App can find a parking space for you. But in the REGJB if you want almost anything, you need to wait on line and ask for a paper file which the odds are 50-50 cannot be found, and then copy the item in the file. It boggles the mind how far behind the times we are. 

Five questions about five simple issues for which the technology exists to do it better, cheaper, and easier. 

15 questions left. Post yours in the comments and we will consider using them. 

See you in court, where you must turn your beeper off before entering a courtroom. 

UPDATE: Question # 6

6) WHY CAN'T WE GET DECENT WI-FI in the courthouse? 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lot 26 Woes

"Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony."

So goes the song. 

Not so much for criminal defense attorneys and law enforcement officers. 

Lot 26, the parking lot adjacent ("next to" for our robed readers) to the REGJB, has become a flash point of sorts once again. This is the parking lot young ASAs tramp through every day, lugging carts teeming with disorderly conduct and DWLS cases while sipping Starbucks and snapchatting and walking right down the middle of the lot oblivious to the line of cars creeping  behind them looking for a parking space. 

But more of the issue is police officers who are not good neighbors, parking lot wise. Which reminds us, as Donald Trump is wont to say, tall fences make good neighbors. 


However, the problem  with sharing (a skill covered in kindergarten) is percolating just beneath the surface:

Evidence this rant, which went the  FACDL listserv equivalent of viral:

Good morning,
Several years ago those of us who pay upwards of $100 a month to park in lot 26 were asked to share the parking lot with law enforcement officers who get to park there for free.
Throughout the years there's been conflict especially on Monday mornings when the parking lot tends to be over full.
Below please find photographs of a particular law enforcement officer who chose to park in a manner taking up two parking spaces on a Monday morning.
If we are all required to share we should all be courteous to those around us, especially if you were invited to park in our lot for free.
If someone knows who this officer is please advise he or she that they would benefit from retaking the parking class at the police academy. Thank you

Here is defense exhibit one, which to be honest with you, is more like the work of a City of Miami Crime Scene tech, then a good and clear picture of the problem. 





Monday, April 25, 2016

ELECTION CENTRAL UPDATE .... WENDELL GRAHAM UPDATE .....


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

ELECTION CENTRAL 2016 ...................

COUNTY AND CIRCUIT COURT RACES

A whole lot of changes in the landscape of judicial races has taken place in the past week in both the County Court and Circuit Court.

COUNTY COURT

GROUP 15

We were the first to report (on March 8th) that Judge Judith "Judy" Rubinstein had decided to hang up her robe after 16 years on the bench.

As soon as Judge Rubinstein announced her intention to retire, two attorneys who had filed to run in Circuit Court jumped at the opportunity for a less crowded field and filed in her County Court Group. The first attorney, Antonio G. Jimenez, who had previously filed to run in Circuit Group 34, is still now running for County Court.  But, the second lawyer, Raul Perez-Ceballos, who previously filed to run in Circuit Group 52, then filed to run in County Court Group 15, has now firmly chosen to return to the Circuit Court race in Group 52 against Jodie Breece, Elena Ortega-Tauler, and Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts. Perez-Ceballos plucked down his check in the amount of $5,843.20 last week representing the filing fee to run for Circuit Court Judge.

GROUP 35

We previously reported to you that only one incumbent, Judge Wendell Graham, had yet for file to run for reelection in his Group 35 of the County Court. When we spoke with Judge Graham this past October, he indicated to us that he intended to run again. Judge Graham has been on the bench since 1994. With two weeks left in the filing period Graham has still not filed to retain his seat.  When we recently spoke with him again, he reiterated his intention to file.  The problem is, because he waited as long as he did, when he does file, he will now have to face two challengers who are attempting to take his seat away from him.

Filing to run in Group 35:

Antonio G. Jimenez. Yes, the same Jimenez that had first filed in Circuit Group 34; then moved to County Group 15, has now settled into running for the open seat in County Group 35.

Ruben Y. Alcoba. He joined the race this past Friday. Mr. Alcoba has been a member of The Florida Bar for the past 17 years. He is a patent attorney having handled over 500 patent and trademark legal matters.

GROUP 15

Wait, so if incumbent Judith Rubenstein first filed, then dropped out of County Group 15; and if challenger Antonio Jimenez first filed in this Group and then switched to County Group 35; and if challenger Raul Perez-Ceballos first filed in Circuit Group 34, then switched to County Group 15, only to switch back to Circuit Group 34,

Who, you ask, is left to run in County Group 15. Well, until a few days ago - nobody. Enter:

Linda Luce. She has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1995. We believe Ms. Luce handles primarily family law matters with an office in Coral Gables.

Eleane Sosa-Bruzin. She has been a member of The Florida Bar since 2005. Ms. Sosa-Bruzin is currently employed with Landau & Assoc., a large firm based in Hollywood. She began her career at the Broward PD’s office. She now handles PIP suits.

No doubt there will be a lot more hopping around between Groups and a few last minute surprise candidates as we draw closer to the filing deadline of Friday, May 6, 2016.

CAPTAIN OUT .....
Captain4Justice@gmail.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

She's 90














And he died 400 years ago.



It's better to be in England, now that spring is here. 
Events at Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend.

WHEN OA AT THE SUPREME COURT GOES BAD 
Slate has the uncomfortable details here (h/t Mr. Markus).

Our read: The Supreme Court wants to require warrants in DUI blood tests for certain, and maybe even breath tests, but no competent lawyer can give them the facts they need. 

Interesting side note: the court talks a lot about "insta-warrants"- warrants obtained electronically in minutes,  and we're just wondering- original intent and original text wise- in which federalist paper that was discussed? 


EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK












EL CHAPO CAFE

Photo reprinted without the permission of El Chapo Cafe, but sent in by alert reader Kenneth Weisman, at great personal expense.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

DOCTOR (?????) STANFORD BLAKE .....


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

"DOCTOR" STANFORD BLAKE .....

 "I thought I was going to be a dentist.
    I don't know why. After three chemistry
         courses I said, 'This is not going to work.' "

The year was 1966. It was a fun time to be on campus at the University of Florida. But for freshman student Stanford Blake, it was all business. That was until he barely survived his first year of science classes. Then he switched to majoring in Advertising, even winning a national competition and earning job offers from NY ad agencies.

Fortunately for us, Stan didn’t want to live in cold weather NYC and really didn't see his future in advertising. NY’s loss - our gain. He went to the UM law school, and in his final year there, he interned at the Miami PD’s office. "He loved it "from the first day I went to court," Blake said.

"Your deodorant was failing you in 10 minutes,
but afterward you would say, 'What a rush!'"

He was hired by the PD’s office and spent five years there. Then 16 more in private practice as a criminal defense attorney. While he always thought that he might run for Judge one day, it wasn’t until Operation Court Broom that Stan thought seriously about it.  He said:

"My disillusion with everything really made me move it up," .
"I was so upset that judges were on the take, and I said,
'Sometimes, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.' "

Elected in 1994, he took the bench the following January. Now, 21 years later, he reflected on his career in a story this past weekend in the DBR that can be found here.

In 1996, he took a brief leave from the bench to donate a kidney to his brother.  He took another medical leave last year after doctors diagnosed him with cancer of the tonsils; which is related to the HPV virus and in men is often contracted through oral sex. He likes to joke about that scare:

"Lisa (his girlfriend) said I'm the only guy
who can brag about how he got cancer," Blake said.

It won’t be long before Judge Blake retires from the bench and goes the mediation route. While he is still on the bench, all of us in the criminal justice community want to say while we can: "Thanks for all the great memories" and all of your great years of service on the bench working for the citizens of our community. Well done my friend, well done.

CAPTAIN OUT .....
Captain4Justice@gmail.com

 

Monday, April 18, 2016

JUDGE JACQUELINE SCHWARTZ IN TROUBLE AGAIN

We interrupt our Donald Trump like coverage of the suspension of Judge Schwartz to remind the denizens of the REGJB that there is a lunch and learn Wednesday. 

The topic, and we couldn't make this up if we tried, is...
"Defending clients with professional licenses."

Hmm.. truth is stranger than fiction. 
Sometimes the blog spirits shine on us. 
Go eat and learn. 






UPDATE: Judge Schwartz has been suspended. Initially the suspension is with pay. In other words, unlike the rest of the real world, she doesn't have to work for her paycheck. But we understand, she is a constitutional officer (as difficult as that may be to choke down) and there has to be a procedure in place for the Supreme Court to suspend her without pay. The below order requires the parties to brief that issue. 







THE DBR REPORTS:
Disciplinary troubles mounted Monday for Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz, who was accused of being intoxicated in court and starting a drunken confrontation with staff and police at a Miami restaurant...
Thee latest incident, according to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Witnesses said the judge "took the bench and presided over a criminal traffic docket while impaired" March 28, the commission charges said.
"After approximately 90 minutes, Judge Schwartz was removed from the bench by the chief judge and sent home. At first, Judge Schwartz stated that she was OK to drive herself home," the complaint said. Her bailiff drove her home in her car, but the judge couldn't remember her address or give directions and didn't recognize her bailiff or realize she was in her own car.

There was also an incident on March 18 at the Ergon Greek restaurant where the police had to be called and the judge was removed and appeared to be intoxicated, cursed at the police officers, threatened them, told them she was a judge, and threatened to have a waiter who would not serve her alcohol fired. 

Most disturbing of all is that Judge Schwartz "self reported" the incident to the JQC in which she totally and completely denied anything unusual occurring. This despite the fact that patrons of the restaurant individually called 911. 

Probable cause has been found. Things look dim. 

There are times we are hard on people and there are times we are not. In the pages of this blog recently we have refused to publicize the name of a prosecutor arrested. We said it was personal incident and we didn't want to pile on. We distinguished the arrest from an incident that would occur during the time someone was at work. 

Judge Schwartz was impaired on the bench. (Allegedly). She was removed from the bench by our chief judge while trying to preside over a trial. There was a rumor she locked herself in her chambers. Most disturbingly, Judge Schwartz apparently attempted to drive home but was stopped by police at the courthouse. 

We are by no means DUI experts, but isn't there case law that allows for the arrest of an individual who is impaired and has car keys and is going to their car under the theory they are in actual or constructive possession of their vehicle?


Was Judge Schwartz granted a courtesy that normal clients, defendants, lawyers, have not been granted? 

Enough is enough. Whether she has an alcohol problem or not, this is a judge who is consistently rude to people, who flouts her position as a judge outside of court and during the time she has nasty interactions with the public,  and has firmly demonstrated in our mind that she does not have the ability, temperament and judgement to be a judge.  She should do us all a favor and resign. If she doesn't resign, she should be removed. 

And the Miami Herald should cringe that they endorsed her in the last election and they should issue a retraction and admit they got it 100% wrong. 

Judge Schwartz's behavior is an embarrassment and brings discredit to the legal profession and the judiciary. 

Here is the complaint. 
Jeff Feiler, Esq., for the defense. 


Dr. Bruce Hyma Dade ME has Passed Away

David Ovalle and the Miami Herald have the sad news here, that Dr. Hyma, known to a generation of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and more importantly-the next of kin of the deceased- as a kind, honest, decent and superb medical examiner has passed away. 

As the article points out, Dr. Hyma joined the Medical Examiner's office when it was led by the legendary ME Joe Davis and Dr Hyma became the chief ME where he left his mark on the office, the court system, and the bereaved.

IT'S BAIL BEFORE JAIL

There's a phenomenon occurring in our criminal courts- the use of rap lyrics by prosecutors against defendants. 

Here is an interview with Dr. Erik Nielson who has a masters in Shakespeare and a doctorate in English Literature. 
The article is here, and the highlights with the yellow below are original (sorry, they're annoying)


Rap lyrics are being used in three main ways: 1) They’re treated as confessions if they’re written after the crime. 2) They’re treated as proof of intent if they're written before the crime. 3) They’re classified as "threats"—the lyrics are the crime themselves.

Rap is the only fictional genre that’s being used in court like this. And its use is undoubtedly racially motivated since only one or two cases involved white defendants.


The one case Nielson cannot let go of involves No Limit’s Mac, who is currently serving a 30-year sentence for shooting a man at a concert. Not only were Mac's lyrics used in court, the prosecution spliced lyrics together from two different songs to change the meaning of what he rapped.

Judges aren’t supposed to allow “evidence if it’s prejudicial,” but they’re misled by police and prosecutors. Maybe it’s because they’re older, or maybe it’s because they’re just as prejudiced as juries.





Thursday, April 14, 2016

FAILURE

The most important lesson of life is failure. 

The measure of a person is not how many times they are knocked down, but how many times they get back up. 

It's important that the best among us fail. It gives them perspective on the rest of us. When the best fail, they judge those who come before them in the light of their life's experiences. We're not just talking about judges here. Parents who see their children repeating the mistakes they made thirty years ago; the politician who knows failure and humiliation and even personal indiscretion, who is given a second chance. And yes, the prosecutor who fails and commits a crime. 

We live in a time of instant information, where failures are recorded on the internet for time immemorial and where the politics of absolutism demand that leaders, officials, candidates, presidents, judges, et.al, all tow the religious, moral and philosophical line of their constituents without error or deviation. 

General Petraeus was forced out of the CIA because of an affair he had in Iraq during his leadership of the surge that finally ended the fighting. 

Dwight Eisenhower, a lowly Lieutenant General from Kansas was plucked from obscurity by George Marshall to become the Supreme Allied Commander of the Armed Forces in Europe for World War II. It was upon Eisenhower's shoulders, and his alone, that he made perhaps the momentous decision of the 20th century, when on June 2, 1944, he postponed the invasion of Europe from June 5 to June 6. On June 5, he gave the final go-ahead, sending 4,000 warships and 160,000 men into battle. On May 30, 1944 the British Commander of the entire Airborne Operation asked Ike to cancel the paratrooper drop of 18,000 men, arguing that he would lose 90% of them. Eisenhower needed the airborne to control the bridges and access to the beaches and keep the German army from throwing the invasion back into the sea. Eisenhower called the decision to go with the airborne assault the toughest decision of his life. 

Eisenhower had a mistress throughout most of WWII. And yet he performed his duties superbly, and became president of the United States. 

Would Eisenhower be court-marshaled today? 

Several Presidents had mistresses before and during their time in office. 

Lincoln, surely our greatest president who suffered the most in office and made the most difficult and loneliest decisions of any president, was most certainly manic-depressive. And yet Lincoln saved the Union. The greatest figure of the 20th century- Winston Churchill also suffered from depression. Would we be better off today if Lincoln and Churchill were disqualified from service? 

Franklin Roosevelt served almost sixteen years as President, taking the country from the depression to the edge of victory in WWII. Roosevelt had a mistress. His affair was discovered by his wife well before he became president. 
None of these great men would have withstood the intense scrutiny today. 

Our scrutiny of leaders, achievers, and those who dare, weeds out the best, and leaves us with the most mediocre. Perhaps they've never had an affair or a bout of depression, but they are deemed "morally pure"- the only crucible that now seems to matters. 

 Given the choice, the last person we would ever want to sentence us would be a judge who has never failed or erred in their personal choices. It's their life experience and not their pretense at perfection that gives them the perspective to do their job. 

How many Supreme Court nominees in the late 1980's and 1990's were disqualified because they may have smoked marijuana? 
Would a brilliant female jurist who had an abortion be disqualified from service today?

"Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone."

Wise words from a failed carpenter. The son of a single woman. A man who consorted with a prostitute.

See you in court.