Sorry, merit based entry only (for a change) …

There’s an exclusive club in Broward County, and probably in your town too.  The First Degree Murder Club, or FDMC for short.  Lawyers with two or more not guilty verdicts in First Degree Murder cases.  Lessers or compromise verdicts don’t count.  It’s got to be a flat out not guilty or JOA to qualify, and you have to do it twice to show the first time wasn’t a fluke.

These cases are the ones police and the SAO thoroughly investigate, and they’re handled by the most talented and experienced prosecutors.  No mismatches here.  Adding to the stress is the media scrutiny these trials often attract, not to mention how some of them test stamina by dragging on and on and on.  Attorneys who overcome the incredible odds and pressure even once in a career are masters of their craft, but to do it multiple times puts them in a league of their own.

And without further ado, here are the known members of Broward’s FDMC:

Dennis Bailey, John Cotrone, Michael Entin, John George, Jeff Harris, Barbara Heyer, John Howes, Pete Laporte, Jim Lewis, Ed McGee, Hilly Moldof, Mitch Polay, Chris Pole, Pat Rastatter, Keith Seltzer, Raag Singhal, Don Tenbrook, Mike Tenzer, and Dohn Williams.

Well done!

(Post a comment if you know of others, and we’ll follow-up.  Most homicide lawyers were contacted, but it’s a certainty there’s more.  Interestingly, the majority of those named above have three or more NG’s, with one attorney boasting SEVEN)

Coming Soon – Your new circuit court judge is … ; Eugene Pettis follows through; How come no one wants to calculate time served?


 Guest columnist Charlie Gasko writes:

The RRA meltdown is close to resolving.  As reported in the local newspaper, plenty more legal types will be facing charges.  I’m thinking maybe around twenty.  Deals are being made behind the scenes, since the statute of limitations is about to run.  If these folks don’t flip and cop out to lessers, they’ll be tied up with RICO charges that’ll make their heads spin.  Some of the names may surprise you.  After that, the Bar goes into action.  Buckle up for a bumpy ride.

(Mr. Gasko currently resides in the Tucson, Arizona area.  His views are purely conjecture, however he has been known to have extremely accurate insights into the inner workings of federal agencies in the past.  Again, none of the above has been confirmed, but is in line with many of the rumors we’ve been hearing around the courthouse)

Senior Judge Army – add retired 4th DCA judge Mark Polen to the growing ranks of Peter Weinstein’s senior judge army.  From what we’re being told, Polen is supposedly coming to Foreclosures in the next few weeks, while Joel Lazarus is now the permanent Sunday First Appearances judge “for the sake of consistency“.  Frankly, none of Weinstein’s hardcore addiction to senior judges makes any sense to us, given the soft schedules of so many public servants currently taking home full time pay and pension benefits.  Whatever the case may be, count on seeing lots more of Peggy Gehl, Kathy Ireland, Barry Stone, Steve Shutter, John Frusciante, Lazarus and Polen, and a lot less of the people you actually voted for …

SS Editorial: Hollywood police deserve better union leader than Marano

Bob Norman: Trump verdict, Streitfeld video

BrowardBeat: Florida Bar joins the fight

Affidavits filed in JQC v. Decker



Off and running
Gene Pettis and Howard Finkelstein are pulling together as a team.  As previously reported, the President of the Florida Bar requested something in writing from Broward’s Public Defender concerning the wildly disproportionate rates of minority occupancy in the State’s jails and prisons due to non-violent crimes, and boy did he get it.  Finkelstein’s letter, found here,** went out on March 4th, as first reported by Buddy Nevins

Pettis, who was traveling last week, caught up with us today.  He’s already spoken to Miami’s David Rothman, Chair-elect of the Bar’s Criminal Law Section, who Gene says immediately agreed “there’s a problem“.  Finkelstein’s letter will shortly be in all the Section members’ hands, with the goal of raising the issues together with informed suggestions to the Board of Governors.

Here’s what else Gene had to say:

We’re looking for a solution, or at a minimum, improvement in the system.  It’s obviously an issue, there’s no question, not a lot of debate.  Look at the demographics, the types of infractions getting people into jail.  Attorney General Holder’s position is enlightening, and I am looking forward to those that are experts in that arena to give us some guidance on the problems at hand.  This is what needs to be done.

So there you have it.  As Gene says, this isn’t rocket science.  The Drug War is a dismal failure even to casual observers, while a tremendous human price is still being exacted on a daily basis in our most vulnerable communities.  Certainly most prosecutors and judges are sick of it too, but until an official body like the legislature or the Bar supports them, they will unfortunately almost always enforce the status quo.  And that’s why this is such a big deal.  A blue ribbon panel of prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges making up the Bar’s Criminal Law Section is being asked by their president to take notice of the sick elephant in the room, with the chance to make a real difference on a statewide basis, and perhaps nationally as well.  Quite simply, it’s unprecedented, and with Republicans finally joining the call for reform, the future is brighter than it’s ever been. 

Definitely a wait, see, and pray the mainstream media takes notice …

** The Public Defender also sent Chief Frank Adderley on the Broward Clerk’s website, nearly two months later …

Whose job is it anyway? – calculating time served has traditionally been the Clerk’s job.  They are the keepers of the record, after all, and have been doing a great job of it for as long as anyone can remember.  Still, in David Haimes’ division, it’s up to the lawyers to figure out.  Accordingly, after a recent trip to 7900, we naturally got to wondering, just whose job is it anyway?  Howard Forman promised yesterday to give us an answer soon, so stay tuned …

Breaking Bigclick here for Slate’s interview with Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig, the man behind the Thanks Dan! videoDid I mention I’m Jewish?

Coming Soon Joel Lazarus to weekend First Appearances?; More RRA attorneys going down, and soon?

SS: Russell Williams hands Lynn Rosenthal an election year hot potato

Bob Norman: update on “Perry’s Law”

Bob Norman: Surprise, Trump gets special treatment at Broward Courthouse

SS: Streitfeld channels Larry Seidlin

SS: BSO Crime Lab Scandal

SS: Man pleads guilty to Satz threat on JAABLOG

“Rant-sites”, JAABLOG, and you …

Gainesville Sun: Man urinated on strangers near UF campus

Tampa Tribune: Something Happened To Me Yesterday …

Law 360: Courts Wade Through Murky World Of Online Defamation

USA Today: $3.5 million in Colorado pot revenue for January

Herald: Despite false trial testimony, judge upholds 24-year sentence

SS: Broward Drug Court Judge Towbin-Singer honors highway hero


 Oh Mike, not again …

The BSO Crime lab scandal is growing.  Lawyers are reminded not to plea any cases involving drugs tested by Kelli McDonald until further notice.  Close to 6000 cases could be called into question, so make sure to carefully peruse those lab reports before jumping on any sweet offers.  Brady Notices have gone out from the SAO, together back in May of 2013, and referenced it again in June , before Channel 6’s Ari Odzer made the story mainstream.  Finkelstein’s more specific June 13 letter, and a link to Ari’s story, are found here.

Expect more mainstream news coverage soon.  We’re told McDonald may have retained counsel, and is set to be deposed in Public Defender cases.  Barry Funck, a nationally recognized forensic crime lab expert, is rumored to be in talks with the powers that be to conduct an audit of McDonald’s work.  An internal audit by BSO Crime Lab personnel has turned up additional discrepancies in a small sampling of her cases, pointing to a much larger potential problem.

Developing …

NYT: Holder and Republicans Unite to Soften Sentencing Laws


1.) GOLD WATCH TIME – make sure to drop by the North Wing 7th Floor conference room FRIDAY, February 28th, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, to say bon voyage to Denise Goodsmith.  After more than eleven years working with Andy Siegel, and a couple more decades JA’ing before that, Denise is calling it quits.  A hearty well done, but not without a bit of sadness.  As any lawyer or staffer will tell you, it was always a pleasure dealing with a team player like Denise.  Congrats!; 2.) Coming Soon – senior judge Fred Berman?; 3.) Who knew?  A young Buddy Nevins with a circa 1966 Keith Richards.  Before, and before the Sun Sentinel, there was Teen Life Magazine, and a largely unseen stash of photos of Buddy with leaders of the 1960’s cultural renaissance; 4.) Mitch Polay and accused Dunkin’ Donuts killer James Herard.  This was shortly after Kevin Kulik pulled rank.  Herard is pushing Polay to continue voir dire with a new penalty phase lawyer, while Mitch knows better …

Coming SoonRandy Tundidor v. Imperato update; Dear Mr. Pettis & Chief Adderley; Lowly judges not invited to Topping Ceremony …

SS: Tonya Alanez goes to Pakistan

Herald: Tampa lawmaker tackles issue of DL Drug suspensions

PB Post – Marni Bryson’s tough talk

SS: 4th DCA in the house

Gainesville Sun – JQC opens up on Andy Decker

JQC Decker documents

Bob Norman video starring Norm Kent

Bob Norman video starring Eric Rudenberg & Mike Glasser

Grimm – Broward PDO v. DJJ

Building the perfect beast …


Mary Robinson is doing great, but due to the normal rehab schedule, John Fry will be taking over her division.  Steven Shutter will be handling Fry’s duties up at the north satellite.  The switch may be happening as early as this week, much to the relief of the county judges who have been taking turns covering Robinson’s docket.  Today relief duty judge Olga Levine handled the chore, while Bobby Diaz didn’t appear to have any court at all.

In other Fry news, all the candidates vying for O’Connor’s circuit spot were final interviewed yesterday in Tampa.  Expect news of the appointment soon …


Kevin Kulik and Mitch Polay spent the last five days trying to pick a jury in the death penalty trial of accused Dunkin’ Donuts killer  James Herard, only to be stymied by the Florida Supreme Court.  It’s not often one death penalty proceeding interrupts another, but that’s exactly what happened today, after the Supremes issued this Order  this morning in the Robert Henry matter

Henry’s execution was set for March 20th  on Valentine’s Day, prompting his attorney Kulik to reprioritize his to do list.  Paul Backman was forced to send the Herard jurors packing, but only after a lengthy discussion about whether or not Herard’s wishes to sub his prior attorney John Cotrone as his penalty phase lawyer for Kulik would be allowed.  In the end everyone but Herard agreed that was a bad idea indeed, so the whole thing will start over with a fresh juror panel after Henry’s death warrant expires at the end of March.  Herard, possibly sensing a strong appellate issue in a case fraught with problems for the defense, was visibly angry, stripping his tie off and throwing it down as soon as Backman’s ruling was final.

And now all thoughts to Kevin, who has the weight of the world in his hands …

Coming Soon Reversible error?: Uncertified interpreters, the 17th Circuit, and you …


Good from Bad – maybe the Florida Bar isn’t so bad after all.  Today Bar President Eugene Pettis hosted a meeting concerning selective enforcement of the drug laws over at his place, with Howard Finkelstein appearing by phone. 

It came about after a chance encounter at the West Palm Beach courthouse a few weeks back.  Pettis good naturedly took our ribbing over not returning calls  during Bar v. Blog concerning the failed Drug War, and then quickly agreed to set today’s meeting.  It wasn’t stated, but considering the persecution was over, and the incredible importance of the subject matter, saying yes must have been easy.  A quick call to the Public Defender confirmed his participation, and it was off to the races.

The meeting was premised on trying to find a role for the Bar, whose logo proudly boasts “Protecting Rights, Pursuing Justice … “, in equaling the lop-sided scales of criminal justice.  Drug use and sales are as prevalent in affluent America as in low-income America, but minorities are wildly over-represented in courthouses, jails and prisons everywhere.  It’s a national and statewide problem, and as Finkelstein pointed out, even the Feds are doing something about it.  Why, we asked, can’t the Bar?

The answer was a qualified we can.  Pettis patiently explained that because the Florida Bar is a unified bar with compulsory membership and dues, neither the president nor anyone else can push the organization anywhere near the line which might cross into ideological territory.  Everything must fall under “the Keller umbrella“.  Employing an example Pettis definitely didn’t use, a bunch of us may hate what’s going on in the criminal courts, while others like things just the way they are.  And if that’s the case, the Bar can’t be directed to get involved.  Got that?

But there is a middle ground.  Pettis is eager to “initiate and raise the dialogue” by asking the Bar’s Criminal Law Section  (“CJ Section”) to discuss the elephant in the room.  He’s asked for a request in writing from Finkelstein, who has agreed to provide the data he’s assembled concerning Walking While Black, Biking While Black, and of course Driving While Black.  The CJ Section can then be queried whether Florida is answering Attorney General Eric Holder’s call  to address important issues of fairness in the state’s criminal courts, and to do all that is possible within the rules and guidelines of the Bar to suggest improvements. 

I was present in San Francisco last August when Attorney General Holder rolled out his guidelines,” Pettis said.

We all move around as if these and other problems don’t exist, like graduation rates.  We go about our lives as if everything is well.  But I would like to pull together a dialogue on a community and statewide basis to collectively do a better job.” 

So there you have it.  A great start, considering this is possibly the first time a state Bar president has agreed to get involved with such hot button issues.  Expect things to move quickly, since everyone is aware Pettis’ term ends in June.  And in the meantime, we’ll be sure to follow-up with Greg Coleman, the president-elect.  This is one ball that definitely needs to keep rolling …

 Not a law firm …

Gold, Spechler & Sweetapple – everyone is talking about Friday’s Sun Sentinel article detailing the battle for the beach, pitting the Ticket Clinic’s Mark Gold, former judge Jay Spechler, and Laura Watson’s other go-to-guy Robert Sweetapple against the city of Deerfield Beach. 

Apparently it all started many years ago, but the trio isn’t letting city hall get them down.  They’re hosting private parties and generally making the most of their unique situation, while city officials are not so quietly trying to figure out what to do.

It’s nice to be able to fight for your rights and have fun at the same time,” Spechler says, although it was hard to hear exactly what he was saying, given the whooping and hollering in the background, and what sounded like the thwak of a beach ball being launched into orbit.  Unfortunately, signal was lost before we could get confirmation regarding the Beach Boys being booked for July 4th festivities, so stay tuned for all further developments …

a teenage symphony to God …

        2014 Gulkin Award Winner Hilly Moldof 
     with daughters/presenters Kelsey and Meeghan


BACDL Feb Newsletter – Moldof Interview