(photos courtesy of The Sun Sentinel’s Taimy Alvarez)

2:00 P.M. – Currently a roomful of national and international media, together with a full contingency of top lawyers, are waiting for a court reporter to show up for Nikolas Cruz’s 1:30 P.M. hearing.

Liz Scherer came out at 1:35 P.M. and apologized to everyone in attendance, explaining a court reporter couldn’t be located.  Cruz was then taken down, after the judge left.  At 1:45 P.M., with Cruz in the holding cell, Scherer announced it would be a minimum of thirty minutes until a court reporter could appear, and proceedings were recessed until 2:15 P.M.

After leaving the courtroom, we saw a court reporter on the seventh floor where Scherer’s courtroom is located, steno machine in hand, waiting for the elevator to take her to Bernie Bober’s courtroom on the 5th floor, also apparently in wait mode while a reporter could be located.

We’ll check back at 2:15 P.M. to see if the Cruz hearing will be held today.  In the meantime, it’s about time judicial administration kicks it up a notch.  As previously reported on JAABLOG, the court reporter staffing mess has been ongoing for far too long, and the 17th Circuit can hardly afford another embarrassment following so closely on the heels of Ehrlich’s star turn …

UPDATE 2:16 P.M. – the hearing has started, with speedy trial waived on the record …


Anyone looking to Jack Tuter as a beacon of change for the ailing Broward judiciary had better look elsewhere.  Putting it another way, it’s best not to forget he cut his chief judge chops as an administrator under Vic Tobin and Peter Weinstein.  The never-ending, in a class by themselves embarrassments that have been a fixture of the 17th Circuit for as long as anyone cares to remember will inevitably continue to recur, if what’s known of today’s roughly twenty-minute judicial summit is any indication.

First, what wasn’t discussed, according to multiple sources:

  • Ms. Sandra Twiggs.  There wasn’t even a moment of silence.
  • A judicial rotation plan to conform with the Rules of Judicial Administration,* and to stem burn-out.
  • Professionalism panels for judges to cut down on JQC complaints, contested elections, and the far too common meltdowns and ethical lapses that distinguish the Broward judiciary in terms of scope and volume from judicial circuits across Florida and the nation.
  • Recent incidents involving Bobby Diaz and Barbara McCarthy.
  • Tuter’s perceived preference of using transfer to the Criminal Division as “punishment detail“.
  • Tuter’s perceived role in sparking Ehrlich’s resignation and corresponding inexcusable and cruel meltdown at First Appearances by notifying her of his intention to transfer her to the Criminal Division.

Next, what was discussed, according to multiple sources:

  • High fives all around for the great job the majority of hard-working judges are doing, and a message of approval from the Chief Justice to same.
  • An implied warning for judicial “leakers” to a blog that only wants to make them look bad, and a confirmation that the Chief Justice cancelled his trip to avoid a circus after the announcement appeared on the blog.
  • The overall strong condition of the circuit, despite a handful of blog malcontents.
  • Unspecified plans to improve things in the future and avoid pitfalls provided by a few bad apples.
  • A focus on the large number of new young, talented judges who will be taking the circuit forward.
  • The great strides in reducing the jail population, and in electronic scheduling for both civil and criminal.
  • Tuter’s close working relationship with Howard Finkelstein.

Multiple sources agree this meeting was a morale booster, and not a forum to point fingers.  Whether or not Tuter was simply playing to his base and not showing his cards shall be seen, but for now it seems his strongest public admonition for greater judicial accountability remains the April 23rd letter that’s posted below.

We’ve copied this entire post and emailed it to Tuter for review, in case we’ve gotten anything wrong or missed any important discussion points.  If he writes back, we’ll update …

* The Rules of Judicial Administration encourage circuits to assign judges to different divisions over time in order to allow them to become generally familiar with all types of cases and fully develop their capabilities. (referencing Rule 2.215(b)(3), Florida Rules of Judicial Administration)

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