RETIRED!

A BSO Crime Lab rep just told us Jim Ongley, former Director, and Randy Hilliard, former chemist, are “retired” as of last Friday.

No info on who the new boss is.  We’ll be sure to follow-up on that issue, and as to why so many drug cases are stacked up for testing.  As everyone knows, lots of folks on no bond VOP holds are being cut loose at the 40 day mark when new law drug allegations are the violation, since lots of new drug arrests in general have been delayed for case filing purposes because lab results aren’t available.  Obviously some kind of overhaul in the wake of the recent Kelli McDonald scandal is underway, so stay tuned for more info.

Lastly, thanks to “Anonymous” for posting the tip on Ongley and Hilliard under GETTING FUNCKY.  And if you also want to leave a tidbit, that’s the way to do it, since the Anonymous Tip Box stopped working years ago.

DBR: Get high on Elijah Williams’ mind

NAME GAME

 Bill Scherer

Diversity in Broward catches a break: judge maker Bill Scherer is a
Judicial Diversity Task Force member! 

Check out all the members of the Florida Bar’s newly created Judicial Diversity Panel below.  These are the folks who really can make a big difference over the next couple months while Ed Merrigan’s county seat is filled.

From The Florida Bar News
:

” … The President’s Task Force to Study the Enhancement of Diversity on the Bench and the Judicial Nominating Commissions will work to determine why diverse candidates are not applying for appointment to the JNCs or for judgeships … “

Here are all of the judicial diversity warriors making up the task force:


Frank P. Scruggs II; Cynthia G. Angelos ; Robert A. Butterworth; Cassandra Larkin Denmark ; Linda Bond Edwards; Hubert L. Grimes ; Paul C. Huck Jr; Corali Lopez-Castro ; William R. Scherer; William J. Schifino ; Robert Vaughan .

And here is some interesting language from the statute  governing JNC’s, which really should be applied criteria for actual judicial appointments as well:

” … (4) 
In making an appointment, the Governor shall seek to ensure that, to the extent possible, the membership of the (JNC) reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, as well as the geographic distribution, of the population within the territorial jurisdiction of the court for which nominations will be considered … “

Your local JNC Members, who, like the Judicial Diversity Task Forcers, need to hear from everyone about the lack of diversity in the 17th:

Jamie Finizio-Bascombe; D. David Keller; William G. McCormick; Zachariah P. Zachariah Jr.; Georgette Sosa Douglass; Fred E. Karlinsky; Kevin P. Tynan; Belinda M. Keiser; Terrence Patrick O’Connor.

Now check out the list of nearby old timers looking to keep their judicial tickets current.  They say comments on fitness are encouraged, deadline April 15th.  The senior judges:

Review Board Four (Judge Dorian K. Damoorgian, Chair, 561-242-2033): Nelson E. Bailey, Fred J. Berman, William A. Bollinger, Eli Breger, Richard B. Burk, Miette K. Burnstein, Marc A. Cianca, Roger B. Colton, Barry E. Goldstein, Howard H. Harrison, Jr., Kathleen D. Ireland, Phyllis Williams Kotey, Joel T. Lazarus, Susan Lubitz, James W. Midelis, George A. Shahood, Steven G. Shutter, William R. Slaughter, II, Kenneth D. Stern, and Barry J. Stone.

Lastly, a recipe for banana bread: 

Three or four ripe bananas, smashed; 1/3 cup melted butter; 1 cup sugar; 1 egg, beaten; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 teaspoon baking soda; Pinch of salt; 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack.

SS: DUI guilty verdict challenged by Bogenschutz

Bob Norman drops in on Stu Rosenfeldt

The Captain on some interesting CJ Bills

SUNDAY NOTES

Blacks need apply – there’s a deepening diversity crisis in the 17th Circuit judiciary.  With Mary Robinson on extended medical leave, and Ian Richards under attack at the polls, Broward is in grave danger of losing badly needed Black representation on the bench.  There are currently six judges that fit the description (out of 90), only three more than when we first wrote about the issue back in 2008.  It’s a disgrace, and current governor Rick Scott has yet to appoint a Black 17th judge, while making at least four blatantly political local appointments thus far.

Still, it’s hard to pin it on the JNC and Scott if qualified minority applicants don’t apply.  Sure, the “why bother, it’s all fixed” argument is understandable, as is the fact talented Black private sector lawyers typically top a judicial salary within a year or two of finishing law school.  But it’s not called public service for nothing, and the community’s need for Black judges couldn’t be more glaring.  The point is qualified minority lawyers need to put in for Ed Merrigan’s county seat, if only to see what kind of claptrap the JNC or Scott come up with to deny the community comes second when it comes to picking judges.  Exposure is a powerful tool, and it may fix the problem going forward, at least to a degree.  And who knows, they may surprise everyone and do the right thing, even if the applicant isn’t married or otherwise related to a judge or political boss.  So spread the word, as this one may be attainable for all the right reasons, for a change …

Relapse is part of Rehab … and everyone knows it, except perhaps Peter Weinstein.  His decision to leave a vulnerable and suffering Gisele Pollack on the criminal bench has backfired big time, following last week’s much talked about second public benching of Broward’s misdemeanor drug court judge.  The details will be emerging shortly, suffice it to say Weinstein’s leadership is once again being called into question. As we told Bob Norman a few months back, allowing Gisele to pass judgment on drug users while battling her own demons is a real credibility buster, and now, unfortunately, if reports of wildly erratic behavior are true, seemingly a recovery killer too. 

Let’s face it.  Weinstein isn’t the first chief judge to cater to the whims of his voting subjects.  He also isn’t the first to promote an image of a strong judiciary at all costs, even if the tactic has proven to almost always make things worse in the end.  But this one seemed like an easy call to make, and a lot of people aren’t happy about the way the whole thing was handled.

But hey, we’re here to help.  A bunch of calls were placed on Friday to the Florida Bar, since substance abuse issues in the workplace are nothing new to a body governing nearly 100,000 stressed out souls.  It turns out there’s an agency called Florida Lawyers Assistance, based right here in Pompano, which was created in response to a Florida Supreme Court mandate to help lawyers and salvage legal careers.  Bar reps put us in touch with Michael Cohen, the Executive Director, who gave us the rundown of options for balancing rehabilitation with protecting the public, such as behavior contracts, random testing, monitoring, and meetings, with the threat of discipline for those that don’t take things seriously.  Interestingly, Cohen also stated the JQC has been in contact in recent months, although he has no insight into what the secretive judge protectors are thinking about.

So stay tuned.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel, as soon as Weinstein and the JQC start treating judges just like everybody else …

JAABLOG Movement Sandy Perlman to vacated civil O’Connor, Cindy Imperato to vacated foreclosure Perlman, Barry Stone to vacated foreclosure Imperato, and either Liz Scherer or Ed Merrigan to vacated criminal Stone.  If Scherer gets Imperato’s old criminal division (FJ), then Merrigan would go to vacated Scherer dependency.  None of this is anywhere near official of course, but we’re told Imperato is moving her office from the North Wing to the old courthouse in May, meaning her desired return to criminal may not be so imminent.  Additionally, there are whispers that some veterans want out of criminal, so there may be more openings soon.  In any event, as of Friday there was still some confusion as to who is getting stuck in dependency.  Since Stacy Ross seemed to get seniority credit for being a county judge, some are wondering if Merrigan will also get special consideration, in addition to his already helming Veteran’s Court, which deals with circuit felony issues.  In the old days Scherer would have had her choice of assignment, particularly after dedicated and lengthy service in the grueling dependency court.  But since politics play a very important role in this judicial administration, we’re told it’s still a wait and see …

Additional FDMC confirmationsJohn Howes, who didn’t return a call before deadline, is a member of the First Degree Murder Club, as is judicial candidate Dennis BaileyWe’re still looking for a working phone number for Tom Gallagher, so in the meantime drop a comment concerning anyone else you think we need to contact …

SS: Merrigan appointed to circuit judgeship

Bob Norman: Streitfeld/Trump coziness could lead to new trial

How terribly strange to be 70 …



Coming Soon – Hangin’ around with Bobby Diaz

    
Bob Norman on Gisele Pollack



Fred Berman takes over Robinson.
John Fry
back to North, for now …

THE FDMC

 Sorry, merit based entry only (for a change) …

There’s an exclusive club in Broward County, and probably in your town too.  The First Degree Murder Club, or FDMC for short.  Lawyers with two or more not guilty verdicts in First Degree Murder cases.  Lessers or compromise verdicts don’t count.  It’s got to be a flat out not guilty or JOA to qualify, and you have to do it twice to show the first time wasn’t a fluke.

These cases are the ones police and the SAO thoroughly investigate, and they’re handled by the most talented and experienced prosecutors.  No mismatches here.  Adding to the stress is the media scrutiny these trials often attract, not to mention how some of them test stamina by dragging on and on and on.  Attorneys who overcome the incredible odds and pressure even once in a career are masters of their craft, but to do it multiple times puts them in a league of their own.

And without further ado, here are the known members of Broward’s FDMC:

Dennis Bailey, John Cotrone, Michael Entin, John George, Jeff Harris, Barbara Heyer, John Howes, Pete Laporte, Jim Lewis, Ed McGee, Hilly Moldof, Mitch Polay, Chris Pole, Pat Rastatter, Keith Seltzer, Raag Singhal, Don Tenbrook, Mike Tenzer, and Dohn Williams.

Well done!

(Post a comment if you know of others, and we’ll follow-up.  Most homicide lawyers were contacted, but it’s a certainty there’s more.  Interestingly, the majority of those named above have three or more NG’s, with one attorney boasting SEVEN)

Coming Soon – Your new circuit court judge is … ; Eugene Pettis follows through; How come no one wants to calculate time served?

WEDNESDAY NOTES

 Guest columnist Charlie Gasko writes:

The RRA meltdown is close to resolving.  As reported in the local newspaper, plenty more legal types will be facing charges.  I’m thinking maybe around twenty.  Deals are being made behind the scenes, since the statute of limitations is about to run.  If these folks don’t flip and cop out to lessers, they’ll be tied up with RICO charges that’ll make their heads spin.  Some of the names may surprise you.  After that, the Bar goes into action.  Buckle up for a bumpy ride.

(Mr. Gasko currently resides in the Tucson, Arizona area.  His views are purely conjecture, however he has been known to have extremely accurate insights into the inner workings of federal agencies in the past.  Again, none of the above has been confirmed, but is in line with many of the rumors we’ve been hearing around the courthouse)

Senior Judge Army – add retired 4th DCA judge Mark Polen to the growing ranks of Peter Weinstein’s senior judge army.  From what we’re being told, Polen is supposedly coming to Foreclosures in the next few weeks, while Joel Lazarus is now the permanent Sunday First Appearances judge “for the sake of consistency“.  Frankly, none of Weinstein’s hardcore addiction to senior judges makes any sense to us, given the soft schedules of so many public servants currently taking home full time pay and pension benefits.  Whatever the case may be, count on seeing lots more of Peggy Gehl, Kathy Ireland, Barry Stone, Steve Shutter, John Frusciante, Lazarus and Polen, and a lot less of the people you actually voted for …

SS Editorial: Hollywood police deserve better union leader than Marano

Bob Norman: Trump verdict, Streitfeld video

BrowardBeat: Florida Bar joins the fight

Affidavits filed in JQC v. Decker

TUESDAY NOTES



           
LEADERSHIP

Off and running
Gene Pettis and Howard Finkelstein are pulling together as a team.  As previously reported, the President of the Florida Bar requested something in writing from Broward’s Public Defender concerning the wildly disproportionate rates of minority occupancy in the State’s jails and prisons due to non-violent crimes, and boy did he get it.  Finkelstein’s letter, found here,** went out on March 4th, as first reported by Buddy Nevins

Pettis, who was traveling last week, caught up with us today.  He’s already spoken to Miami’s David Rothman, Chair-elect of the Bar’s Criminal Law Section, who Gene says immediately agreed “there’s a problem“.  Finkelstein’s letter will shortly be in all the Section members’ hands, with the goal of raising the issues together with informed suggestions to the Board of Governors.

Here’s what else Gene had to say:

We’re looking for a solution, or at a minimum, improvement in the system.  It’s obviously an issue, there’s no question, not a lot of debate.  Look at the demographics, the types of infractions getting people into jail.  Attorney General Holder’s position is enlightening, and I am looking forward to those that are experts in that arena to give us some guidance on the problems at hand.  This is what needs to be done.

So there you have it.  As Gene says, this isn’t rocket science.  The Drug War is a dismal failure even to casual observers, while a tremendous human price is still being exacted on a daily basis in our most vulnerable communities.  Certainly most prosecutors and judges are sick of it too, but until an official body like the legislature or the Bar supports them, they will unfortunately almost always enforce the status quo.  And that’s why this is such a big deal.  A blue ribbon panel of prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges making up the Bar’s Criminal Law Section is being asked by their president to take notice of the sick elephant in the room, with the chance to make a real difference on a statewide basis, and perhaps nationally as well.  Quite simply, it’s unprecedented, and with Republicans finally joining the call for reform, the future is brighter than it’s ever been. 

Definitely a wait, see, and pray the mainstream media takes notice …

** The Public Defender also sent Chief Frank Adderley on the Broward Clerk’s website, nearly two months later …

Whose job is it anyway? – calculating time served has traditionally been the Clerk’s job.  They are the keepers of the record, after all, and have been doing a great job of it for as long as anyone can remember.  Still, in David Haimes’ division, it’s up to the lawyers to figure out.  Accordingly, after a recent trip to 7900, we naturally got to wondering, just whose job is it anyway?  Howard Forman promised yesterday to give us an answer soon, so stay tuned …

Breaking Bigclick here for Slate’s interview with Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig, the man behind the Thanks Dan! videoDid I mention I’m Jewish?

Coming Soon Joel Lazarus to weekend First Appearances?; More RRA attorneys going down, and soon?

SS: Russell Williams hands Lynn Rosenthal an election year hot potato

Bob Norman: update on “Perry’s Law”

Bob Norman: Surprise, Trump gets special treatment at Broward Courthouse

SS: Streitfeld channels Larry Seidlin

SS: BSO Crime Lab Scandal

SS: Man pleads guilty to Satz threat on JAABLOG

“Rant-sites”, JAABLOG, and you …

Gainesville Sun: Man urinated on strangers near UF campus

Tampa Tribune: Something Happened To Me Yesterday …

Law 360: Courts Wade Through Murky World Of Online Defamation

USA Today: $3.5 million in Colorado pot revenue for January

Herald: Despite false trial testimony, judge upholds 24-year sentence

SS: Broward Drug Court Judge Towbin-Singer honors highway hero

GETTING FUNCKY

 Oh Mike, not again …

The BSO Crime lab scandal is growing.  Lawyers are reminded not to plea any cases involving drugs tested by Kelli McDonald until further notice.  Close to 6000 cases could be called into question, so make sure to carefully peruse those lab reports before jumping on any sweet offers.  Brady Notices have gone out from the SAO, together back in May of 2013, and referenced it again in June , before Channel 6’s Ari Odzer made the story mainstream.  Finkelstein’s more specific June 13 letter, and a link to Ari’s story, are found here.

Expect more mainstream news coverage soon.  We’re told McDonald may have retained counsel, and is set to be deposed in Public Defender cases.  Barry Funck, a nationally recognized forensic crime lab expert, is rumored to be in talks with the powers that be to conduct an audit of McDonald’s work.  An internal audit by BSO Crime Lab personnel has turned up additional discrepancies in a small sampling of her cases, pointing to a much larger potential problem.

Developing …

NYT: Holder and Republicans Unite to Soften Sentencing Laws