WITNESS THE CHANGE …

New Times – Judge’s Gambit (2008)

Broward courts are set to reopen next week for in-person Final Violation of Probation (FVOP) trials. Witnesses and attorneys must appear in-person, while friends, family, and observers will only be permitted to attend via Zoom.

Status hearings are being held this week, with the easy to fix cases, mostly those not designated as VFO, for “Violent Felony Offender,” getting resolved to county time or reinstatements of supervision, just as they’ve been for months now on the regular in-custody Zoom division dockets.

The problem, of course, remains the VFO qualified offenders, those individuals with qualifying offenses they’re on probation for, or have as priors, even if they’re old. VFO is a deceptive term; it’s possible, and common, for someone who has never thrown a punch, or having committed a violent act a long, long time ago, to be held as VFO, even if they’re on probation for a non-violent charge. The majority of the cases being set for trial next week seem to involve VFO’s accused of “technical” violations of the type highlighted in the Gardiner article above, not involving new arrests while on probation. Since the pandemic started, the SAO and many judges have been resistant to stating that many of these Defendants are “not a danger to the community,” the requirement to a VFO being spared prison and put back out onto their original probationary or modified new terms. This has caused a backlog in the jails and, it’s believed, jumpstarted the need for the extremely short-noticed FVOP reopening next week.

The status hearings we’ve observed thus far in anticipation of next week’s trials have yielded few surprises. As previously stated, the easy ones are being handled, while prison time is being doled out on others. Many stiff prison offers are being rejected, and those cases are keeping their previous haphazardly assigned trial dates for next week, since the judges don’t seem willing to state any type of position on dangerousness, preferring to wait until next week. Anyone hoping for more flexibility on behalf of the SAO under Harold Pryor in these situations, given the “technical” nature of most of the violations, are most certainly disappointed.

And now the main point: next week’s live-Zoomed trials offer a historic opportunity for anyone interested in criminal justice reform to easily witness how a large segment of the mass incarceration problem, specifically violations of probation of a technical nature, are traditionally handled in Broward County. There are, of course, plenty of serious offenders who have earned a trip to prison, but there are many others who may be sent up the river for long stretches that many believe shouldn’t be under a modern, reform-minded State Attorney.

Be sure to spread the word. A lot of things have gone down unnoticed in courtrooms across the country over the years that have contributed to the mass incarceration crisis that would shock the average layperson, but with Zoom, can now be easily observed from the comfort of home or office. It’s just about the only good thing we can think of coming out out of the pandemic, so if you’re committed to change, spread the word, and stay tuned here for dockets and Zoom links for next week’s Zoom FVOP trials …

JAABLOG – GOT VFO? GOT ARTHUR? (4/20/2020)

DELAY!

The Soft Reopening has been delayed. The Stakeholders reportedly met yesterday, and decided to push back the proposed March 8th date for misdemeanor jury trials.

Felony “Technical” VOP’s are still slated to start in-person on March 15th in two courtrooms, with Marty Fein and John Murphy presiding. So long as there aren’t new law allegations, the VOP’s will be status’d before Fein and Murphy, and if not resolved, set for FVOP in-person. The VOP procedures are still a work in progress, so don’t hold us to anything. The jury trial delay is, however, a done deal …

ROCQUE 1, LEVY 0

DBR – Broward Judge’s Contempt Order Against ‘Disruptive’ Defense Attorney Reversed (3/1/21)

Contempt Hearing! (8/1/2019)

The 4th DCA today reversed and remanded the contempt order issued by Jill Levy against Mickey Rocque. The SAO conceded Levy’s error in taking Mickey into custody prior to the hearing, and the remaining issues will now be heard by successor judge Mindy Brown. The opinion is here.

Congratulations to Mickey and Fred Haddad, who prevailed based on this bang-up brief. The SAO’s answer brief is found here.

Stay tuned for the next hearings, which may involve some interesting witnesses …

COUNTY JUDICIAL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES

With the courthouse soft reopening fast approaching, featuring a limited number of in-person county court jury trials starting March 8th, and two operational felony courtrooms going live on March 15th for in-custody VOP’s (Marty Fein and John Murphy initially presiding), it’s hoped the pandemic blogging doldrums will soon be cured. With so much pent-up frustration on behalf of all parties directly involved in or staffing litigation, JAABLOG should once again have plenty to write about once things start to get back to the standard Broward abnormal.

In the meantime, as with the trial stats, we’re still relying on tried and true traditional blog fodder to keep you entertained.

Accordingly, click the links below for the most recent financial disclosures filed by the 17th Circuit’s county judges, courtesy of a PRR to the Florida Commission on Ethics. As anyone interested in this stuff knows, the county disclosures are not as readily accessible as circuit court disclosures, which can be easily searched up at the Division of Elections by year of a judge’s most recent election.

Enjoy!

COMING SOONCOMPOUNDING REOPENING PROBLEMS: SAO FTU EXODUS

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES:

FLORENCE TAYLOR BARNER

BETSY BENSON

TABITHA BLACKMON

MINDY BROWN

DEBBIE CARPENTER-TOYE

STEVE DELUCA

NATASHA DEPRIMO (SOE)

ALLISON GILMAN (SOE)

NINA DI PIETRO

BOBBY DIAZ

KAL EVANS

ELLEN FELD

PHOEBEE FRANCOIS

KEN GOTTLIEB

JEN HILAL

JAY HURLEY

DAN KANNER

BOB LEE

GINGER LERNER-WREN

OLGA LEVINE

JILL LEVY

KATHLEEN MCCARTHY

KATY MCHUGH

TERI-ANN MILLER

GIUSEPPINA MIRANDA

KIM MOLLICA

LOU SCHIFF

MINDY SOLOMON

SAO APOLOGY

UPDATE – SAO Email, as reflected in the comments section, received February 6th at 7:19 PM:

The filing of the charges was clearly an error and we apologize.

__________________________________________________________________

6:21 PM February 6th original post: “SAO CHARGES DESIR” –

Anyone hoping for reforms in the SAO’s Felony Case Filing Unit (FCFU) have been disappointed since January 5th. Lawyers are seeing the same steady stream of aggressively overcharged “reaches” coming through, just as they had throughout the Satz dynasty. In fact, with Staci Direnzo taking over as Unit head, two names, Direnzo’s and Satz’s long-time, close friend John Countryman’s, seem to be appearing on almost all the Informations, signifying that individual case filing ASA’s can no longer independently decide on the appropriate level of charges or dismissal, as they had before. Criminal justice reform in many peoples’ minds begins and ends with felony case filing, but things seem to have only gotten worse.

Now, despite news breaking on January 18th of the tragic in-custody hospitalization and eventual death of Kevin Desir, the deep disconnect between Harold Pryor’s case filing units, and the reforms we believe he is genuinely trying to implement, has once again raised its ugly head.

On February 2nd, Direnzo and Countryman signed separate felony charges for Desir, roughly sixteen days after the SAO would have known Desir was hospitalized, and six days after he died.

Click the links for the charging documents for Criminal Mischief and Possession of Cannabis.

How this could happen is anyone’s guess, but is sadly characteristic of the sloppy and reckless manner many believe FCFU has employed throughout the mass incarceration era.

Stay tuned to the continuing mainstream news coverage of the SAO and BSO pointing fingers over the investigation into Desir’s passing. Justice will have to be served. In the meantime, let’s hope the wildly insensitive and inappropriate case filing insults highlight the need for fresh, visionary faces in FCFU, who can help Pryor turn things around, instead of interminably damning him to the past …

SOFT OPENING UPDATE

News from this morning’s Stakeholders’ meeting:

Civil/Probate – Zoom still for the foreseeable future.

County Criminal – March 8th for a small number of jury trials, unless stakeholders believe the COVID-19 numbers are too high, in which case a pushback of opening is likely until April. One hundred and twenty jurors would be summoned for March 8th.

Circuit Criminal – VOPs, VOPs, VOPs. Administration realizes what is clogging the jails, and judges, possibly handling cases from multiple divisions, would handle in-court VOP hearings in vastly separated courtrooms to keep the courthouse as clear as possible. No word on circuit jury trials at this time.

Developing …