CANNED!

*UPDATE*SS: Prosecutor Fired Over Facebook Post

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The following is from the SAO’s PIO:

“Following our review of the Facebook posting by Ms. Amy Bloom, we have made the decision to terminate her effective immediately. The views expressed in that posting are entirely inconsistent with the ideals and principles of the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the duties and responsibilities of an assistant state attorney.”

2nd ZOOM COURT COMING

Here is the May 28th AO officially closing the 17th Circuit for face to face hearings through July 2nd.

Remarkably, more than two and a half months into the pandemic, Broward still has only one remote courtroom operational for in-custody Defendants to see and interact with their assigned division or duty judges. It’s only available in the afternoon, after First Appearances, and the lone Zoom room is shared by all the Criminal Division judges, meaning inmates can participate in court once or possibly twice a month.

There are currently more than 2700 inmates in the Broward County Jail, on lockdown up to 22 hours a day in small cells with other inmates to control the spread of virus. They have been that way almost since the start of the closures back in March.

The ACLU has been looking at the unique and unprecedented jail conditions in Broward for some time now, and have been made aware of the compounding effect on inmates’ stays caused by restrictions on access to courts. Neighboring counties are, as usual, way ahead of the 17th, with Palm Beach remaining open for easy access to judges for essential and other types of hearings, and Miami-Dade Zooming along all day long in multiple courtrooms, as reported here on JAABLOG and by The Miami Herald’s David Ovalle. Broward’s reputation as a draconian backwater has once again been firmly reinforced by its criminal justice response to the pandemic, where due to a stunning lack of leadership, the vast majority of circuit judges and government lawyers have basically been deemed non-essential personnel.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. We’re told a second Zoom in-custody courtroom should become available shortly. It will be running both for morning and afternoon sessions. Jack Tuter is set to meet with BACDL today at noon to update everyone, so hopefully he can also be asked some of the tough questions that needed to be posed and answered a long time ago. The link to join the meeting today is here.

In closing, many have seen some of the State Attorney candidates’ activism in the ongoing nationwide protests in the comments section and elsewhere. They are to be commended for their positions, and immediately enlisted to address current jail conditions and access to courts issues in the Circuit they hope to lead. While all are suffering, it’s no secret that the largest racial group currently incarcerated in Broward is African-American, receiving a pandemic double-dose of Broward “justice” while the nation mourns Mr. Floyd and so many others like him …

Video: Krista Marx on Palm Beach jury duty social distancing

SORRY, ELIHU

Elihu Smalls may have helped keep attorney John Couriel off the federal bench, but today Couriel landed on his feet, appointed by Ron DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court.

Desantis also made Renatha Francis a Supreme Court justice, all the way from the Palm Beach Circuit Court. Francis was sworn in to the Florida Bar on 09/24/2010, making her eligible for the State’s top court by a hair

WPTV – DeSantis news conference

GOT QUESTIONS?

Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM EDT

The Broward County Bar Association is live streaming a judicial forum on June 11th.

Accordingly, Ruby Green, president of BACDL, sent the following email this evening requesting submissions for interview questions.

As stated in her message, queries specific to individual races will be considered, so anyone with concerns regarding any of the candidates, including the four with JQC experience, should email Ruby directly at ruby.l.green86@gmail.com.

From the BACDL email:

… Each organization has been asked to submit 5-10 questions to be asked to the candidates for consideration. Additionally, specific questions for a particular race can be submitted also, just be specific as to what race you are referring to when submitting that question.

I would like for us to be involved in asking questions so if you have any, please send them my way by close of business this Friday, May 29th. The Judicial races are listed below!

COUNTY COURT GROUP #22: Allison Gilman v. Casey Mills

COUNTY COURT GROUP #27: Phoebee R. Francois v. Jacob E Segal

COUNTY COURT GROUP #31: Roseanna Bronhard v. Sean William Conway v. Natasha DePrimo

CIRCUIT COURT GROUP #16: Dennis Daniel Bailey v. Abba Sheila Rifkin Logan v. George Odom Jr.

CIRCUIT COURT GROUP #18: Patti Englander Henning v. Kristin Weisberg Padowitz

CIRCUIT COURT GROUP #27: Meredith Chaiken-Weiss v. Matthew Isaac Destry v. Frank David Ledee

CIRCUIT COURT GROUP #30: Dale C. Cohen v. Ian Richards

CIRCUIT COURT GROUP #50: Linda A. Alley v. Vegina “Gina” Hawkins

IT’S A MIRACLE!

Courts have been closed for more than two months already, but today marks the first time we’ve seen a confidential, mid-hearing communication between client and lawyer during an afternoon Broward ZOOM hearing.

It happened this afternoon, during Barbara Duffy’s docket. A need arose for an attorney/client conversation, and BSO provided a telephone number for the client to speak with his lawyer off-camera and confidentially mid-hearing. Duffy put the case on recall, and concluded it a short time later after the private consultation ended.

It’s a miracle of modern technology!

Whether it’s a coincidence that Dava Tunis, a Miami judge, was on Broward ZOOM last Tuesday afternoon handling an executive assignment asking to no avail for the attorney/client break-out room to expedite her proceedings, or it’s because of this letter asking again for contemporaneous communication sent by Howard Finkelstein to Jack Tuter the same day Tunis was presiding in Broward, we’re glad to see the 17th Circuit has finally taken the initiative to take one step further away from the dark ages, courtesy of one Alexander Graham Bell

CHIEF JUSTICE UPDATE

From a press release issued this morning:

Florida’s Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an order late on May 21, 2020, creating a new pilot program for civil jury trials … In other actions last night, Canady also took the following measures:

  • Issued a separate new order establishing health & safety precautions to be used in Phase 2 of the expansion of court operations. These precautions are based on a report issued by a statewide advisory COVID-19 Workgroup.
  • Amended an earlier order called SCAO20-23 that provides comprehensive emergency procedures for use in courts in the pandemic. The amendments incorporate the new Phase 2 safety procedures contained in the COVID-19 Workgroup report.

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WFMJ – Texas court holds first US jury trial via videoconferencing

SAO UPDATE/CLOSURES

From FTU re depos:

We are requesting that LEO depos not be scheduled before June 8 so the LEA have a chance to set up their own processes. They can’t use any equipment that can also be used to access criminal justice data bases according to FDLE and they cannot mandate that officers use their personal devices so they are all diligently working to set up equipment that can be used for this purpose and they need a bit of time.

The email below was also sent to SAO employees earlier this afternoon titled Courthouse and Office Update.

As follows:

Good afternoon everyone, hopefully you are staying safe and well.

As most of you have heard by now, effective June 1st, the Clerk of Court will be opening their offices to the public for floors 1 thru 4 of the West Wing.

ONLY THE CLERK’S OFFICE IS OPENNING TO THE PUBLIC.

The West Wing first floor entrance will have separate security lines for the public and employees. The East Wing 3rd floor rotunda entrance is open to courthouse employees only. I have been asked to remind you that ALL staff coming into the courthouse must be wearing a mask.

Although the West Wing floors 1 thru 4 are accessible by the escalators, for ADA purposes (and in case of breakdowns) the first two elevators will be set aside for the public. The other 6 elevators may be used by courthouse staff.

THE SAO, PD AND OTHER COURTHOUSE OFFICES WILL NOT BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Current SAO staffing and alternating work schedules will continue as is. Courts will continue operating remotely and there will be no ‘in person’ court attendance. Evidentiary hearings or witness notices must refer to remote platforms via Zoom and not have a courthouse address.

Assistant State Attorney’s and staff must continue the preparations needed to support these court Zoom hearings and remote platforms.

Chief Judge Tuter will schedule meeting sometime mid-June to discuss future opening options and jurors.

Again, it is so important to maintain your social distancing, wearing of masks and frequently washing your hands.

ASAIC’s and Support Supervisor’s please make sure everyone in your units receive a copy of this message.

We will keep you updated as things progress. Stay safe everyone.

SAO UPDATE

The email below was sent to all Felony ASA’s today titled “Afternoon Dockets and Depositions.”

We’re also working on a public records request regarding jail conditions and access to courts in June, and trying to figure out why Barbara McCarthy doesn’t seem to be listed on the Zoom hearing docket schedule, so please stay tuned.

SAO email:

As you all know by now, judge’s will be handling their own dockets daily in the mornings. Out of custody changes of pleas will be scheduled on these morning dockets. Attached hereto you will find the protocol for setting out of custody change of plea hearings. In addition to these protocols, all SAO requirements regarding changes of plea, i.e. supervisor consultation and approval of any offer that involves a charge reduction, change of charge or below guidelines offer must be obtained and documented.

I expect that most, if not all, bond motions will be scheduled on the morning dockets as well. Al matters will be handled via zoom by the assigned attorney whether it’s a division attorney or a special unit case.

Afternoon emergency bond dockets will be suspended after Monday May 18, 2020. The afternoon time slots – 1:30 to 6:00 p.m., will instead be used for the 16 circuit criminal divisions to hold evidentiary hearings such as Arthur Hearings and VOSC hearings on in custody defendants. There are 16 divisions so each FTU division will hold these types of hearings once every 16 working days. The protocol for these hearings is attached hereto as well. Emergency bond hearings not set before the assigned judge will continue to be calendared on these afternoon dockets regardless of who the assigned judge is.

Matters to be set on these afternoon dockets will be notices in the normal course and we will received dockets listing all cases to be heard the day before. These dockets will be forwarded to the assigned division attorneys and the docket clerk’s who will send out reminders to any attorney with a case on the docket. All attorneys are to appear via zoom and handle their own cases. To be clear, FTU division attorneys will be handling their own cases but all special unit cases or any case assigned to an attorney not in the particular FTU division must appear via zoom and handle their own cases.

We will be sending out the zoom invitation to any attorney with a case listed on the docket but in case we miss one, it is the attorney’s obligation to reach out to me or one of the FTU division attorneys to obtain the zoom link so they can appear.

Depositions will be resuming as well. An AO setting forth the process for taking depositions had been issued just prior to the courthouse closure that stated digital court reports could be used for less serious cases and stenographers have to be used for serious cases. I am attaching a copy of that AO hereto. Depositions will, until further notice, be conducted via video conferencing but the requirement that either a digital court reporter or a stenographer, depending on the type of case involved, participate via video conferencing remains in place.

Division FB has developed a deposition protocol that we anticipate will be followed by all judges. That deposition protocol is also attached hereto for your review.

We recognize that not all civilians will have internet access or access to the required video conferencing app. We also recognize some civilian witnesses ma not be comfortable appearing via video conferencing. We have drafted an internal protocol regarding the deposition process that I am also attaching hereto for your review. This protocol is a work in process and may be amended as necessary.

It has also come to our attention that law enforcement witnesses cannot use any official devices that also have access to confidential criminal justice information. As a result, LEA are working on obtaining terminals or tablets that will not be connected to their servers. Accessibility to these devices will be limited so scheduling and adhering to schedule will be very important. A protocol for setting LEO depositions is being developed and I will share it with you as soon as it is available. I can tell you that we will have to go through the agencies liaisons to schedule LEO depositions.

These processes are all works in progress and may have to be changed or adjusted as we move forward. Please feel free to share comments or suggestions about any aspect of any of these matters.