2014-18-Gen

The Administrative Order Assigning Judges everyone has been waiting for went out during lunchtime today.  It should post online this afternoon.

Liz Scherer has landed in Cindy Imperato’s old FJ spot, currently occupied by Barry StoneEd Merrigan is going to Liz’s spot in Dependency.  County Criminal Merrigan MB is “vacant pending appointment“.  Sandy Perlman is going to O’Connor’s 04 Civil Division, and Imperato is running Foreclosures.  Nothing else seems to jump out, although we could be missing something.

It looks like the seniority system is alive and well …

*UPDATE*Admin. Order 2014-18-Gen

MONDAY NOTES



1.) Kevin Kulik and Eddie Kay, a couple weeks back; 2.) Mark Polen, the latest recruit to Weinstein’s senior judge army, now handling foreclosures.  

Barry Cohen, Live! – be sure to tune in Tuesday at 9:00 AM to see Barry Cohen’s public spanking, live from Tallahassee.  His crime?  In large part telling the truth about the failed Drug War, as you can see from the JQC’s Notice of Formal Charges.  This tongue lashing might be interesting though, since many of the justices probably agree with some of what Cohen had to say regarding racial disparity in the system, although they’d never make the mistake of admitting it in a public courtroom.  Lesson learned …

The Un-replaceable – no one can replace Joe Murphy, but the JNC is going to try.  Here is the notice, with a May 12 deadline for applications.  Now the JNC has two chances to show what they’re made of, with the May 5 cutoff to apply for Ed Merrigan’s spot on the county court also just around the corner.

Speaking of the Colonel … his ears must be ringing.  Whether or not Merrigan would accept his party’s nomination for chief judge remains to be seen, but there most definitely is a Draft Ed movement brewing …

End of an error Eileen O’Connor’s last day is this Wednesday.  Well done!

Coming Soon Following-up on President Pettis’ letter; Pay your own filing fee, you cheap *%#$!

BBeat: Judges Nervous as Filing Opens For Bench

JQC response to Watson’s Stay request

SS: Laura Watson fights JQC for her job

Bob Norman at Scott Israel’s Bergeron bash


OTHER VOICES OTHER VOICES:

 Voice of Reason, West

Promoting Judicial Excellence – blogging fever is spreading, and Haydee Oropesa may have caught it after coming to JAABLOG’s defense last June.  The Clearwater based attorney recently started the Florida You Judge  blog, a great read, even after taking out the nice things she wrote about us.  Check it out, and don’t miss the post about Beth Harlan, who recently quit the Polk County circuit court to avoid criminal charges.  Of course Harlan’s judicial assistant wasn’t so lucky, suffering a first offense felony conviction, jail time, and probation for her role in the same hijinks that only cost Harlan her job.  Apparently Broward isn’t the exclusive home of egregious double standards of justice, and now that brave lawyers like Haydee are doing their best to spread the word, everyone in the State should eventually know it.  Thank you again, Haydee!

 51st Anniversary …

Mike Rothschild writes:

Fifty-one years ago, today, April 29th 1963, the United States Supreme Court entered its landmark ruling regarding desegregation in Johnson v. Virginia. I know you constitutional scholars are scratching your heads wondering why I am referencing this as a landmark case when Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, sixty years ago, and which eliminated the notion of “separate but equal.” But, Johnson v. Virginia is important because it eliminated desegregation in a very important public venue: the courtroom!

That’s right, even nine years after Brown v. Board of Education the United States Supreme Court, in a 9-0 opinion, was forced by the State of Virginia to rule that desegregation applied in the courthouse. Even though in 1938 the Court ruled that desegregation was not permitted in admission to law schools (Missouri ex el Gaines v. Canada); the very place where due process is guaranteed, where equal protection most applies was among the last places where racial discrimination should have been permitted, or so the State of Virginia believed. 

Things certainly have come a long way in fifty-one years…or have they? With current controversies involving Donald Sterling and the NBA, or rancher Cliven Bundy’s  statements, or closer to home with the Florida Bar’s call for diversity on the bench and this very Blog’s constant statistical analysis o
f the incarceration rates of Blacks, has this issue ever really gone away?

Your thoughts?

JNC OPENING/MONROE COUNTY

 David Audlin, Esquire

Things have gotten mighty hot around here.  So hot, in fact, that a little more than three months after posting Let’s Get Sweaty!, the former chief judge of Monroe County is resigning from the circuit court, with four years left on his term.  The Key West article that broke the story Friday is here, and a bit more detailed story appeared Saturday.  Both articles simply state that David Audlin will be returning to private practice May 9th, and that he enjoyed his time as a judge.

Did JAABLOG light the fuse that took Audlin off the bench?  And is it only a coincidence that he stopped being chief judge of the 16th Circuit  sometime after Let’s Get Sweaty! went up?  Or were these purely personal decisions by Audlin and his family? 

The timing does seem suspect though, leading any reasonable person to conclude something unseemly is afoot.  For while there’s no question that the judge’s public Manhunt postings created an appearance of impropriety, it would be darn near criminal for this very human transgression to cost a man his job in any day and age, especially in light of all the good old-fashioned lying and cheating and racism going on which everyone tries their best to ignore.

Let’s just hope we’re wrong, or that there’s something more to it than meets the eye …

Coming Soon
Barry Cohen, Live!

FOOTNOTE 6 …

Laura Watson is fighting for her life.  Since the JQC came down with its recommendation to remove her from the bench, she’s sued them.  The documents are found here.

Meanwhile, this MOTION OF THE FLORIDA BAR TO INTERVENE was filed on April 23rd, wherein the Bar essentially wants permission from the Supreme Court to start roughing up Watson on their end.  Contained in the motion is footnote 6, which states in the event Watson is disrobed, “The Florida Bar intends to seek disbarment in this matter“.  Lastly, on the same day, Team Watson filed this motion to stay, seeking to slow everything down while all pending issues are fully addressed by the appropriate authorities.

Is Watson deciding court cases while the storm is raging?  Drop a comment if you’ve got the answer.  As for the other judges potentially facing JQC scrutiny, Cynthia Imperato is handling foreclosures, with her second DUI accusation still pending and set for case disposition on June 2nd in Palm Beach.  Gisele Pollack is nowhere to be seen, with senior judge John Frusciante handling her drug court division, while a few county judges are rumored to be angling behind the scenes for the assignment full time. 

Topping everything off, there’s lots of chatter about some judges being caught up in the RRA scandal, while everyone waits for the Supreme Court to finally decide the fate of disgraced former chief criminal judge Gardiner’s law license.  All of the documents have been in since January 27th, so all eyes are now on Jorge Labarga and company for a decision.

Just another day in the life of the Broward judiciary, where leadership is so desperately needed …

Coming SoonAdministrative Order Assigning Judges.

MCLAWRENCE v. ROSENTHAL

Jahra McLawrence has filed against Lynn RosenthalThe filing is here.

Patti Henning’s heart must have skipped a beat.  She’s Group 18, while Rosenthal is Group 8.  Due to a Division of Elections mistake, McLawrence’s filing originally showed up against Henning, but was quickly fixed. 

In other election news, Dan Lewis reports he’s heard the following incumbents may also have opposition:  Steve Feren, John Bowman, and Debra Stephens in WPB.  He’s not naming any challengers, but everyone knows Evan Hoffman has been looking at the Feren race for quite some time.  Donnie Goodwin reports he’s definitely not running against Bowman, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who may be thinking about that race.

Other challengers could also appear, and there’s still another week until the May 2nd qualifying deadline …

Are you richer than the judge? – if you’re bored, have some fun with public records.  Stroll on over to the Division of Elections website, and click on Candidates and Races.  Choose a year, click View List, and then click on your favorite judge’s Campaign Documents button.  The Financial Disclosure is there in PDF form, although some of the 2014 candidates haven’t filed theirs yet.  Gee, maybe it is public service after all …

You Make The Call!
– The SAO’s Steve Zaccor vs. the PD’s Betsy Benson & Melisa McNeill

FDMC update – add Ed McGee to the First Degree Murder Club.  Well Done!

MovementLiz Scherer to Criminal?  Ed Merrigan to Dependency? …

Coming SoonWere you appointed by Scott Rothstein?; Dear Peter (Continued); Play Six Degrees of Separation: Ari Porth, Jonathan Kasen & Lynn Rosenthal; Speiser v. Finklestein

2014 11th Circuit judicial elections update by Miami’s Captain

BBeat: Judge Ian Richards Shows How It Is Done

SS: A tale of two Fleischman’s (Jack & Sid) (1991)

DEAR PETER …


The following email, entitled “Media Inquiry”, was sent to Peter Weinstein and copied to his JA last Friday, April 11th.  Absent some initial pleasantries and a few typos, the email has been reprinted in its entirety.  As of the time of this post, Weinstein has failed to answer any of the questions posed, despite an indicated deadline of 5:00 PM, April 14th.

With the 17th Judicial Circuit backsliding to depths not seen since 2007, it’s clear something is drastically wrong.  And while JAABLOG may be partly responsible for giving the gregarious and likeable chief judge a free pass over the last few years, we think it’s high time Weinstein answers to the public he serves. 

Post a comment if you have any thoughts or suggestions for improvement.  JAABLOG believes it’s not too late for Weinstein to salvage the 17th’s sinking performance and reputation, if he decides to send a strong message to both the legal and general communities, and be something more than a caretaker of the abysmal status quo who seemingly just wants to keep everyone happy.  He may not have to answer our questions, but he certainly will answer to the judges who read your comments next February, when he seeks his third term as their chief …

The email:
 

Peter:

(R)ecent developments have some people theorizing there is a lack of leadership in the 17th Circuit.  As I know you would be the first to admit, the buck stops with the chief judge, and with morale at an all time low, and potential serious fallout looming as the RRA scandal threatens to further darken the clouds over the courthouse, I would like to ask your opinion on the following issues before I publish.

 

1.) Reliance on un-elected, senior judges filling in for elected judges.  There seems to be an unprecedented reliance on senior judges in the 17th, while many full time judges seem under-utilized, or unwilling to pick up the slack.  I understand the seniority system and reluctance to transfer judges from their long standing assignments, but clearly some type of reform is needed.  Are you willing to restructure division assignments and the judicial staffing of the satellite courthouses to ensure judges are working full days, and if not, why?  Are you willing to take action in other ways besides reassignment against under-performing judges? Also, is there some reason why you haven’t personally picked up a division full time, and also asked (Admin judge) Sharon Zeller to do the same?  Will you allow me to look at your schedule and Sharon’s and (Admin judge) Jack Tuter’s for the last six months without filing a public records request?

 

2.) New courthouse design flaws.  How involved are you in the construction project, and what type of demands does this place on your schedule?  If you are actively involved, can you discuss some of the design flaws and why the judges’ concerns weren’t remedied?  What are you doing to protect courthouse staffers who have been told they will have to park in a garage unprotected from the elements once the new building is operational? (CLARIFICATION: the new garage is not connected to the new courthouse by a covered walkway) Why are judges entitled to covered parking, when every courthouse worker is as important as the next, and will you evenly distribute or rotate covered parking to all workers?

 

3.) Diversity.  The most recent census data  shows the African-American and Latin populations of Broward to be each around 30%, yet those populations are pathetically under-represented on the bench.  Judges are allowed to involve themselves in the appointment process, and many believe you may have tried to help Arlene Backman.  Did you try to help her?  And what have you done during your tenure as chief judge to actively promote diversity on the bench?  What are you doing now to ensure minority applicants and appointments now that there are two county seats coming up, specifically Merrigan and Murphy?

 

4.) Judicial substance abuse concerns.  What are you doing to educate and help judges concerning substance abuse, and to protect the public from judges who may be battling addictions to drugs and alcohol?  When racial insensitivity issues arose during prior administrations, programs were implemented to educate and help all the judges.  Why hasn’t this been done here, particularly when other judges besides the ones in the news are also rumored to be dealing with substance abuse issues?  Will you ask the judges to submit to voluntary drug testing, to protect the community from further embarrassing episodes which tear at the basic, underlying integrity of the judicial system?  And regarding Gisele, which experts did you consult before determining to place her back in drug court back in January, and is it true you spoke with her lawyer David Bogenschutz before making that decision?

 

5.) Term limits for the CJ.  You have previously indicated that you will be seeking another term as chief judge.  Why?  Isn’t four years enough for any circuit, particularly after the well documented troubles here in the past that many believe were the result of having the same chief judge for too long?  What is it you wish to accomplish in another term, and why haven’t you implemented reforms already besides the much needed three judge panel for civil county to circuit appeals?  

SS: Broward courthouse parking rate ‘really out of line’ (April 14)


Weinstein said he didn’t want to be critical of the county. After all, they’re building a new county courthouse and two new garages, for employees and for judges. But he said $8 an hour in the public garage just east of the courthouse on Southeast Third Avenue on the south side of the New River, is “really out of line.”

… “I think asking people to pay that kind of money to come to court is very significant,” Weinstein said. “On the other hand, I also recognize all the expenses the county has.”

                           
 LEADERSHIP?

Carmel Cafiero: Chief Judge Ross monitoring slacker judge’s dockets (2007)

If Pope Francis can reform the Catholic Church,



… can’t Broward find a leader to reform its judiciary?

60 Minutes: Spurning tradition to bring humility and humanity to the papacy

DBR Profile: Carlos Rodriguez

NYT: Sweeping Ruling on Domestic Violence

LA Times: In North Korea, meth is offered as casually as a cup of tea

LA Times: LAPD officers tampered with in-car recording equipment

SS: JQC recommends removal of Broward Judge Laura Watson

BBeat: Kasen gets PBA endorsement

DBR: So long, Professor Rogow …

SS: Mickey Rocque keeps kicking Sunrise PD to the curb

NT: Are you a racist? More Blacks Ticketed for Seat Belts in Fort Lauderdale, PD Says

UPDATE/DAN LEWIS WEIGHS IN

Dan Lewis, CEO of Strategic Technologies & Research, has been a strong supporter of Laura Watson not only during her election campaign, but throughout the JQC proceedings.  The message below is by Dan in support of Watson. 

On another note, Dan let slip there are some “surprises” coming up regarding the 2014 election cycle in both Broward and Palm Beach counties.  He isn’t naming names just yet, but states two sitting judges in both circuits will be receiving opposition, not including Lynn Rosenthal.  Lewis is checking with the potential candidates, and hopes to be able to at least unmask the Palm Beach lawyers as early as next week.

In other 2014 news, Jahra McLawrence confirmed this morning that he is running against Rosenthal, and will be filing next week.  In a county where minority judges are typically targeted by Whites, McLawrence is taking a bold step by turning the tables, and he will need your support. 

Also, the deadline to apply for the county court vacancy created by Ed Merrigan’s appointment to the circuit is May 5th.  The JNC will be highly scrutinized in picking replacements for both Merrigan and Joe Murphy, who is set to retire at the end of July.  Rick Scott has yet to appoint a Black person to the bench in Broward, and community leaders have been actively recruiting qualified applicants to put in for both upcoming county slots.  It should be interesting.

Lastly, Mike Satz issued the following statement through PIO Ron Ishoy last week, when asked whether he would permit his qualified minority lawyers to apply for judgeships:

“It’s Mr. Satz’s job to make sure he has the best lawyers on staff to conduct the state’s business.  He does not, however, discourage anyone from seeking a judgeship.”

And without further ado, here’s Dan Lewis on yesterday’s JQC ruling:
______________________________________________________________________

There are two intertwined threads of this case.  The first is the alleged violation of FL Bar Rules with its associated facts, and the second is the JQC’s process of arriving at its recommendations.

Alleged Violations

The alleged violations of bar rules involve a legal service contract with clients which provides for 100% client damage recovery, including interest without any set off for attorney’s fees or costs – and provides for the attorney’s ability to collect their fees & costs from court awards or defendant negotiated settlement of attorney’s fees only.  Although all the affected clients received 100% of their claimed damages plus interest, the Bar and JQC have taken the position that these client contracts were unethical.  Judge Watson disputes this and was prevented from admitting evidence of court attorney’s fees awards, or the work that was performed on each client’s case by the JQC panel.  The Bar/JQC’s position was that the client agreements were a form of contingency agreement, which they objectively were not.

The second alleged violation of bar rules involved disclosure to clients.  Here, the JQC suggests that beyond the 100% of damages plus interest the clients were entitled to contractually, they also were entitled to full disclosure of the attorney’s fees and costs not only in their own case, but in all the related cases.  Not only were the clients not entitled to this information contractually or ethically because the clients had had no standing either financially or otherwise in the attorney’s fees or costs, especially after they received full compensation – but, it would have been ethically improper to share information about another client.  The JQC in reaching to find a basis for its predetermined recommendation attempted to make individual but similar cases into a broad class action – which it was not.
 
The third alleged violation of bar rules involved Judge Watson’s promise to defend a settlement agreement.  The JQC alleged hypothetically that if required to defend the settlement, then Judge Watson would somehow breach a fiduciary relationship with her clients.  Not only has this not happened, but logically the assertion is absurd because, again – the Clients did not claim nor were entitled to more than 100% of their damages plus interest, which is what they received.

Interestingly, none of these three alleged violations were explicit in either the JQC’s notice of investigation, nor in the JQC’s notice of formal charges, and did not become apparent until the JQC’s closing argument at the final hearing.  Had Judge Watson been put on notice that these were the actual charges, she could and would have had a clear defense for each of these alleged violations.

JQC’s Process

Anyone who has followed this case knows that Judge Watson has objected to the JQC’s process, which is more like a “star” chamber then a deliberative process among professionals.  She has objected to the manner in which accused Judges are treated and how they are prevented from mounting a defense, receiving due process, equal treatment, and how the JQC’s alleged misconduct can and in this case did occur without consequence or oversight.

For a particular discussion of these process matters, I would refer you to Judge Watson’s DEC action filed with the Florida Supreme Court prior to the JQC’s published recommendations.  Although a new Florida Supreme Court action, this case was docketed in the JQC case area.  It can be found here, here, and here.

I would encourage every judge and attorney to read this filed case.  

The disciplinary process for attorneys and judges through the BAR and JQC is completely dysfunctional, and horribly flawed.  Its duel speeds of what I call railroad or whitewash must be addressed and stopped.  

It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the Watson case will have a significant impact on the professionals in our judicial system.  How the Supreme Court of Florida acts on the serious issues before it today will determine the character of our future Florida courts.

The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing”.  Judge Watson is standing up for the Judiciary while others duck and hide.  An independent judiciary is our best defense against tyranny.  

Dan Lewis

Coming Soon An Open Letter to Broward’s Judiciary …

REMOVAL!



A nice scoop by the DBR’s Adolfo Pesquera, who received an early copy of the JQC’s findings concerning Laura Watson.

From
yesterday’s article:



“Judges are held to stricter ethical standards than lawyers because more rectitude is expected of them,” (Judge) Evander said. “Judge Watson’s present lack of understanding of the rules regulating the Florida Bar, and the most basic ethical obligations imposed on lawyers, amply demonstrates ‘present unfitness’ to serve.”

Now it’s appeal time, and ultimately a decision on Watson’s fate by the Supreme Court.

We’ll post the opinion when the Supreme Court JQC website link  publishes it …

*UPDATE*JQC FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS  (41 pages)

 

A question of leadership …

Coming Soon: RRA Update: some judges too?
; McLawrence v. Rosenthal?;
Scherer out, Merrigan in to Criminal?; Blacks Will
Apply.

IN FLUX: Merrigan and Scherer back in play? Developing

(Berman covering county Merrigan & county Robinson starting May 1st)


10 YEARS FOR LIVOTI

A witness says Tony Livoti was sentenced to ten years this morning in Federal Court for his role in the Mutual Benefits scheme, following conviction after trial.  If he completes a drug and alcohol program, a year will be shaved off the sentence.  We’re told he could have pled to somewhere around three years before trial, with the feds asking for thirty years today in court.

Another sad day for Broward’s legal community …

Herald: Livoti sentenced


Former Broward Circuit Judge Robert Zack called Livoti a “lawyer’s lawyer” with “impeccable” credentials. “His good deeds far outweigh this mistake,’’ Zack told Scola, “though I do admit it was a grievous mistake.”

BBeat: Claudia Robinson gets key endorsements

BBeat: John Curcio to be honored at Innocence Project bash

*DBR: This Drug Court Judge Is Going To Rehab* (4/3)

The (JQC) would discuss the judge’s willingness to enter a contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance Inc., a Pompano Beach-based nonprofit formed by Florida Supreme Court mandate to identify and assist attorneys with substance abuse, mental health and other disorders.

*
SS: Manager and analyst at Broward crime lab resign * (4/3)

BSO CRIME LAB CANNABIS TESTING PROTOCOL

Evidence Before Testing:



Evidence After Testing:



(positive for cannabinoids if no one 
remembers to fill out the lab report)

Coming SoonMore Corruption!

MONDAY NOTES

“Because I have faith in people” – that’s Peter Weinstein to Bob Norman, defending his decision to keep Gisele Pollack in drug court, earlier today.  The chief judge also confirmed Gisele’s relapse, and stated professionals said it was ok to keep her riding herd over a bunch of druggies after incident #1.  Interesting stuff, since we can remember criminal division judge Weinstein often having little faith in Defendants and their experts looking for alternative drug rehab sentences, way back when.  Oh well.  In any event, Gisele appears to finally be getting the long term care she deserves, while Broward’s tarnished drug court limps along without a full time leader, credibility be damned …

2014 election updateLynn Rosenthal and Steve Feren to be challenged?  No names just yet, since we took an oath.  But things could get interesting soon …

94 and there’s so much more – meet Jorge Castro, born October 14th, 1919.  Poor 94 year old Jorge must have mixed up his meds, since he was booked into the Broward County Jail last weekend, accused of unruly, felony level behavior.  A warning to all you 70-somethings: Jorge is out and about, although Pretrial Services is keeping a watchful eye.  Let’s just hope they don’t have cataracts too …

Matt, Meet Tom – everyone knows Matt Destry has a real thing for collecting court costs and supervision fees, but at least he never took it as far as Pinellas County’s Tom Freeman.  Freeman came up with something he called “the sentencing path“, recently obstructed by an appeals court.  Apparently broke ass people were kept on Freeman Road longer than statutorily permitted probationary periods, in addition to sometimes being stuck in holding cells with their phones after a visit to court, encouraged to reach out and find the funds they owed from friends and family.  Read all about it here, via the Tampa Bay Times.

FDMC confirmations – add Michael Entin and Jeff Harris to the First Degree Murder Club.  Any others?  Post a comment …

Coming Soon – What are Bill Scherer and Peter Weinstein doing to encourage judicial diversity in Broward?; Jeff Marcus makes a molehill out of a mountain; Finkelstein v. Speiser.

FL Supreme Court: Court Interpreter crackdown

SS: Controversy erupts over ‘double dipping’

SS: Broward’s ‘Felony Lane Gang’ spreads crime across U.S. (Thanks, Mike)

SS: Want To Be A Judge? Who Do You Know? (1997)