OH, ILONA!

Peter Avsenew is getting off death row, due to an egregious error by now retired judge Ilona Holmes. The Supreme Court ordered a new trial today. The original case took roughly thirty days to try.

Holmes is ironically currently listed as the Chair of The National Judicial College. Long time practitioners will also remember her haughtiness and absolute, frequently espoused belief that she was an expert in the rules and caselaw. Yet despite numerous reminders from defense counsel here, she refused to follow a very clear, simple rule regarding remote perpetuation of testimony of a key witness, causing a momentous, expensive, and unanimous reversal of the most serious type of case in existence.

Rule 3.190(i)(3) provides:

(3) If the deposition is taken on the application of the state, the defendant and the defendant’s attorney shall be given reasonable notice of the time and place set for the deposition. The officer having custody of the defendant shall be notified of the time and place and shall produce the defendant at the examination and keep the defendant in the presence of the witness during the examination. (emphasis added)

From the opinion:

However, proceeding with the testimony—despite Ms. Avsenew’s inability to see Avsenew—violated rule 3.190(i)(3). The failure to ensure that Avsenew was kept in the presence of Ms. Avsenew during her testimony (in this case, her “virtual” presence) constituted a clear violation of rule 3.190(i)(3). Thus, the testimony of Ms. Avsenew was not properly admitted against Avsenew at trial. Importantly, we note that the error here appears to have stemmed from sheer indifference to Ms. Avsenew’s inability to see Avsenew. (emphasis added)

Read the entire opinion here.

A job well done by Gabe Ermine, Phyllis Cook, and Bob Wills, three lawyers protecting all of our constitutional rights. As far as Holmes is concerned, we hope Jack Tuter will strongly consider the “sheer indifference” tag by Florida’s highest court, as well as other instances from the past, if Holmes ever decides to request to return as a senior judge …

GELIN FOR BOG

500 word Platform Statement by Bill Gelin for the 2022 Board of Governors election, to be published in the February printed Florida Bar News:

My name is William “Bill” Gelin, and I have practiced criminal law for the last twenty years. I am also the principal author of the award winning, corruption busting Broward Courthouse blog, JAABLOG.

Both facts are why I’m running for the Board of Governors (BOG).

As a criminal lawyer and journalist, I have dedicated my career to fighting against institutionalized racism and its byproduct, mass incarceration. Working primarily in Broward, known for traditions of draconian sentencing and an unparalleled level of JQC-worthy judicial bad behavior, I have seen in recent years beneficial strides made in both areas. Less people are going to prison for non-violent, low level, aggressively filed charges, and judges, for the most part, also are adhering to the same standards and rules of professionalism demanded of those appearing before them.

That being said, hard fought gains could disappear faster than our South Florida beaches are eroding if strong, outside voices are not immediately heard at the highest levels of The Florida Bar (TFB).

No less an authority than Jorge Labarga has highlighted some of the concerns being discussed throughout the legal community, most recently through a dissenting opinion in December, which serves as a candid criticism of his more conservative fellow justices on the Supreme Court.

From the dissent:

“(T)he majority’s decisions of late have ushered in a series of drastic changes in civil, criminal, and rulemaking contexts, and today’s decision by the majority only furthers this list.”

Labarga was moved to make his statement over a rule modification he believes will jeopardize further progress toward diversity in the legal profession, an area where so much improvement is still needed. Taken together with a recent ruling impacting constitutional rights of due process and against self-incrimination, and TFB new Rule 3-7.18, which many believe will severely chill and limit attorney free speech, these factors and others should cause concern for all those interested in criminal justice reform.

Criminal justice practitioners are woefully underrepresented on the BOG, something I hope can start to be remedied if I’m fortunate enough to be elected. However, the issues I am discussing affect all Bar members, and most importantly, the general public, for which TFB exists to protect.

TFB must switch gears and stand to preserve the ability of attorneys to zealously advocate for their clients, and to maintain the right to truthfully call out or criticize errant or unprofessional judges who embarrass us all, without the fear of retribution.

Unfortunately, traditional checks and balances continue to be eroded by the Bar and others, and without a strong outside voice on the BOG, the already precarious trust between the general public and the legal profession may be compromised.

It’s too important a time to maintain a business-as-usual attitude at TFB. New ideas and courage in support of honest attorneys trying to make a difference are needed, as opposed to representatives interested in networking and boosting their personal profiles and revenues. If elected, I will fight for you, and for the public we serve.

(Disclaimer/Unsolicited Mass Communications – anyone subscribed to JAABLOG not wishing to receive blogs regarding Bill Gelin’s candidacy for BOG Seat 17/1 of the Florida Bar should immediately UNSUBSCRIBE to JAABLOG. To Jay Kim: equal time is absolutely promised on JAABLOG, if so desired)

2020 Gelin Platform Statement

MOVEMENT

Hunter Davis is taking over Tom Coleman’s circuit felony division; George Odom is taking over Davis’ old 2nd and 3rd degree felony division. Davis will remain on the fifth floor in room 5780.

The moves appear to be housekeeping related, based on judicial experience levels …