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 Big – click here for Slate’s interview with Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig, the man behind the Thanks Dan! video. Did 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.
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 BrowardBeat.com, 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 Soon – Randy 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 …
The Fourth DCA is in the house TODAY, February 27th, starting at 1:30 PM in Room 416. The schedule is here.
Come root for the home team, and don’t forget to bring a copy of your favorite opinion for autographing afterwards.
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
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19th @ 5:30 PM
BROWARD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
BACDL Feb Newsletter – Moldof Interview
Thanks, Buddy – it seems everyone around the courthouse really enjoyed BrowardBeat’s take on Cohen v. Blog, at least from the feedback we got. And while critics are correct that the high road wasn’t taken by either party before things spun out of control, absolutely everyone is wondering what could have prompted the other guy to cross into the creep zone. That being said, we’re satisfied this is over,* even if some of you still persist in spreading wholesale lies regarding a certain somebody being called “a derogatory name for a gay that starts with an F“. It never happened, of course, and while Mr.Cohen’s distant relationship with the truth in this area may be infuriating, it goes with the territory of being a self-appointed cyber finger-pointer. Besides, it hasn’t been of any concern to friends, while others we’ve never met need only look back over the years of blogging to see that JAABLOG’s core message of equality and justice for all has never wavered. And so, without further ado, on with the show! …
* Although JAABLOG’s polygraph challenge to Cohen remains open ad infinitum.
Gardiner Reply Brief – here is the Amended Answer Brief of Respondent, filed by Dave Bogenschutz on January 23rd. It’s a 52 page unmitigated Mitigation-Fest, with plenty of cites to the trial transcript. In other words, it’s a complete bore, since so many of Gardiner’s celebrity witnesses were left unmolested by Bar prosecutors. Whatever. Hopefully the Supreme Court rules soon, considering everything is filed. Check out the docket here, and read all the documents filed in SC11-2311 here.
DBR: Judge Watson’s Attorney Warns JQC That It’s Reminiscent Of KGB
JQC v. WATSON – it’s almost over, folks. The JQC has rested, and the Defense already started with its character witnesses. Tuesday saw Tom Lynch and Watson’s childhood friend/JNC member Terrence O’Connor going to bat for the embattled judge. Star witness Jack Seiler takes the stand tomorrow at nine, with the whole mess wrapping up shortly thereafter.
Is this a clear cut case of the Florida Bar punting on a serious matter, or is the JQC railroad running full steam, as some claim? It’s still hard for us to tell exactly what this whole thing is about, and judging from the confused looks on some panel members’ faces, we’re not the only ones. One thing’s for sure, when juror Mayanne Downs, past president of the Florida Bar, asked Watson if she had checked with the Bar’s 1-800-ETHICS anonymous hotline to make sure a complicated contract indemnity provision passed muster, it really made the JQC look bad.
And to think the Supreme Court still hasn’t been able to deal with the egregious and insulting conclusions in Gardiner’s Bar case, while Watson’s convoluted JQC matter has thus far proceeded with lightning speed …
“Don’t Blame Us” – in all fairness, it seems some of the Gardiner Opinion delay is due to Respondent’s answer brief not being filed in the appropriate font. Got that?
From the Supreme Court’s docket in Bar v. Gardiner:
Respondent’s answer brief, which was filed with this Court on July 12, 2013, does not comply with Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.210 and is hereby stricken. Respondent is hereby directed, on or before February 5, 2014, to serve an amended answer brief which is double-spaced and submitted in either Times New Roman 14 point font or Courier New 12 point font …
Come on. It’s not going to hurt that bad, is it? …
“Beyond the Pale” – that’s how Howard Finkelstein categorizes reports of attorney Bradford Cohen’s recent outbursts against this here blog, and developments in his own ongoing dispute with psychologist Michael Brannon.
You can read about Bradford Cohen v. JAABLOG over at BrowardBeat.com, and you can see /files/34726-32374/jan_27.pdf”>and was forwarded in January to Satz, as part of a follow-up general request for investigation into a variety of issues. Satz’s blustery responses SDFL: Judge Richard Rosenbaum
Laura Watson’s JQC trial began this morning in Room 347. A Federal judge denied her request for injunction over the weekend. No word yet on whether the judge was in pajamas working from home when the Order was issued, wearing golf apparel or a bathing suit, or whether she had to make a special trip to the office before ruling.
Stop on by Room 347. JQC trials don’t happen all that often, even in Broward. Both the DBR and Sun Sentinel were in attendance, and a photographer as well, so there should be something in the mainstream media for anyone interested.
Coming Soon – Monkees 50th Anniversary Salute …