Given the extended closures, and the long awaited announcement of additional in-custody Zoom links, which, we’re told, should be implemented shortly, frustrations are at an all-time high in the 17th Circuit.
With the jail cap creeping up to 76% of capacity with roughly 3300 inmates still on widespread lockdowns due to social distancing measures, scared and angry prisoners, together with their families, lawyers, and oftentimes judges, have an awful sense of foreboding about where the Broward County judicial system is heading over the next few months. Cases are simply not being worked out preemptively like they are in neighboring jurisdictions Palm Beach and Miami, and things are at a boiling point with the holiday vacation season and SAO transition on the horizon.
Compounding the problems are a chorus of complaints about Liz Scherer, who, no stranger to late starts when the courthouse is operating normally, has continued to indulge old habits even on her few and far between assigned in-custody Zoom days.
Accordingly, since stakeholder Mike Satz is a first-hand witness to his former employee’s late arrivals on Zoom, the following email was sent earlier today to the SAO’s PIO:
(A)n attorney with thirty-five years experience has spoken with both Chief Judge Tuter and Administrative Judge Circuit Criminal Siegel concerning Judge Scherer’s tardiness yesterday on the in-custody Zoom AM docket. He voiced concerns shared by many individuals that given the scarcity of in-custody Zoom dockets, no judge should be showing up thirty minutes late, and then resetting cases at the BSO 12:00 noon cutoff for defendants who had to wait weeks or possibly even months for their hearings.
I believe both you and Mr. Satz were witnesses to yesterday’s late start, as the Parkland case was also noticed for 8:30 AM, and that Mr. Satz has also been kept waiting on Zoom by Judge Scherer starting late for in-custody Zoom hearings on prior occasions.
As the county’s top law enforcement officer who is in agreement as a stakeholder to keep the courthouse closed, does Mr. Satz feel it is appropriate for a judge to regularly start her three monthly in-custody Zoom dockets late, and have to reset hearings at the BSO cutoff?
Does Mr. Satz feel it is appropriate for the Parkland case, where there is no chance of release for Mr. Cruz, to utilize long periods of precious in-custody Zoom court time that could be dedicated to other defendants who may be releasable?
Does Mr. Satz feel it is acceptable to have only two Zoom links available for in-custody defendants more than eight months into the pandemic closures, and what is he doing to help create more accessibility to courts for inmates given his agreement as a stakeholder to keep the courthouse closed?
Lastly, will Mr. Satz be voicing his concerns to Judge Scherer, Judge Tuter, or Judge Siegel concerning Judge Scherer’s habit for tardiness, or does he believe that’s best left to the private bar?
Unfortunately, and predictably, anyone looking for leadership on any of these issues will have to swallow the SAO’s response:
“We have no comment.“
Gordon Weekes, Public Defender-elect, who was also witness to Scherer’s late start yesterday, had this to say when asked about the judge:
“I would hope that she uses the time allotted for a docket, given the pandemic, more effectively and efficiently to maximize the number of cases heard. It seems odd to waste that valuable court time having people wait as she often shows up late for a virtual docket.“
So there you have it. It’s up to the private bar and the PDO to let Jack Tuter know what’s going on with his judges, if what little in-custody court time available is to be used efficiently.
We’ll be contacting Bill Barner, head of BACDL, to see if they can help too. In the meantime, contact Tuter with your concerns or personal observations, and suggestions for improvement.
Lastly, as previously stated, additional Zoom links should be forthcoming any day now for in-custody extended hearings, so let’s hope the judiciary can pull together as a team, shorten their traditional holiday breaks, and move some of the backlog of in-custody cases before the whole place goes up in flames.
IT’S ONLY FAIR …