Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Legal Articles Maybe Worth Catching Up On

A Story of Deception and Redemption: the John Nevin Chronicles
Fred Grimm does an outstanding piece in the Miami Herald on Sex Offenders

Judge Greene grants amputee a new trial, Sun Sentinel reports

Christensen says in Herald Courthouse could get Stimulus Funds
Volunteer Lawyers Program in Houston
Herald on Taser Debate Headed to Supreme Court
Liberty Counsel Wants Florida Bar out of Gay Adoption Case
this section is updated regularly

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

Gun Trial Starts in Mexico
John Sherffius has been capturing the issues of the day in pen and ink since his college years at the University of California, Los Angeles. Sherffius has been honored in recent years with national cartooning awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, the National Press Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Scripps Howard Foundation. He is the 2008 winner of the Herblock Award. His home paper is the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.

A New York Hate Crime Killer Nabbed

Normally you would not blog about every senseless killing pounding at the heart and soul of our communities. There are far too many, and they are far too ugly. They dramatize that for all the advances of our civilization, we have raised people that are far too uncivil.

Occasionally, one episode says it all. That would be this one. The venue is New York State, and an Ecuadorian national was walking arm in arm, laughing, holding, touching his brother in a small village called Sucuzhanay. But the maggots who stumbled upon these loving brothers came armed with hate. They thought the brothers were gay. So they took out baseball bats and bashed one to death.

Fast forward to yesterday and one of the killers is apprehended. How uneducated, how inhumane, have some of those who walk among us become?

Here are the words of the apprehended suspect:

"So I killed someone- that makes me a bad guy?"

Yes, sir, it does.

What Do You Believe In?

You want to be a criminal defense attorney? Then know this going in:
Everyone is guilty
- James Woods in The True Believer

Was thinking about all the best legal movies and the video clips on the right side of the blog with some scenes from each. Had forgotten about this one.

I really do not believe all my clients are always guilty. Some times the laws are more so.

Friday, February 27, 2009

'The Hard Cases' Featured in New Yorker

If you are at a news stand and want to pick up a magazine to read, and you are looking for an intersting piece, may I suggest the New Yorker Magazine and the article, “The Hard Cases,” . Oh, and in a shameless, self promoting plug, it is available at Norm's News at 1400 East Las Olas, open seven days a week. See my nephew Tyler if he is not flirting with the female hairstylists in the barber shop next door.

It takes a close-up look at the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, an alleged enemy combatant held without charge in a Charleston, S.C., brig, and the difficult policy choices facing President Obama.

Al-Marri, whose criminal charges in the federal court system were dismissed in 2003 when al-Marri was declared an enemy combatant by President Bush, is at the center of a Supreme Court case on whether a president can order someone held indefinitely without charge in national security cases.

The article also looks at possible strategies, including a controversial proposal to create a national security court, that the new administration may employ in alleged terrorism cases.

Thanks to Gavel Grab for turning me on to this magazine piece. By the way, h is also a stunning article by the nationally respected New York District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, censuring the State of Alaska for its refusal to use DNA testing:

'Motion to Adopt' Rumpole's Blog

A blogitorial off the Justice Building Blog from Rumpole about Judge Cueto's blow up yesterday afternoon, screaming loudly at a fifteen year old apparently.

We adopt in full the following comments made at that blog and reprint them here:

'Here is the point about Judge Cueto: we are supposed to be professionals. We are supposed to be trained in dealing with the emotional situations that arise on a daily if not hourly basis in criminal court. And above all others, the Judge is supposed to radiate impartiality, while controlling the courtroom and giving to all sides an impartial decision based on facts not emotion.

At this Judge Cueto failed miserably. He needs to apologize to the woman and the juvenile. He needs to be removed from criminal court until such time that he shows he is capable of handling a bond hearing without losing his temper.

You practice long enough and you just want the people on the bench to act with dignity and respectability, consistency and decorum. You want to come out of a courtroom not brutalized or demeaned but with your head held high for yourself, your client, and the system you spent your life being a part of.
When a judge snaps like Cueto did, man the dude needs time outs, time off, and time away from the bench. He did not bully the lady he responded to. He bullied the bar of justice. Sure he was called a nasty name, but somehow, someway, it is his duty to suck it up and respond to it more maturely. He looks a lot happier in his campaign photo, doesn't he?

Norm Gets A Crack Pipe

Okay blogger fans. The question here is who is wearing those Foster Grants?

Is that Billy Joel playing the piano, or Norm learning how to use a crack pipe?

Actually folks, that would be me, during a pulmonary function test at Broward General Hospital early today. The best part of this test is when they tell you to “breathe normally.”

Think about this, they put this plastic nose clip on your nostrils, then they tell you to wrap your lips around what looks like the center piece of cardboard on a toilet paper roll, close you into a glass booth like you are in the $64,000 question, and then they say, “breathe normally.”

Has it occurred to them yet that if I could breathe normally, I would not be there? I guess when you are pushing 60 you just have to go to the judges and tell them once a month you have at least one medical reason for not being able to get to court. Still, even if I wind up with a terminal condition of pulmonary fibrosis, this makes a really cool picture. I think it makes me look like Billy Joel did at the Hard Rock earlier this month.

Broward General really looks good now that they fixed it up. And how many hospitals have a McDonalds inside their lobby right next to the Heart Institute? Which is next to a Starbucks with every pastry you can imagine. My kinda place to go for a stress test.

So I stop by the Cancer Center on my way out, and run into the receptionist and see on the Tree of Life that my name is on one of the leaves, correctly spelled as “Norm Kent.” That is no small achievement, my friends. You see, when I made the original donation to put my name on a plaque, the hospital created one with the name “Norma Kent.” When I spoke to the secretary who handled the inscription, she apologized, saying that is what she thought my name was, stating, “Well, that is the name your client Neil Rogers calls you everyday on the air. You mean your name isn’t Norma?”

Thanks, Neil.

Photograph of the Day

Anyone for a game of pickup basketball this weekend?
There used to be a group of lawyers and judges that would play b ball at St. Anthony's Church in Victoria Park on Saturday. I think Keith Seltzer was one of them. Now he goes to his home in Tennessee. Backman too used to be there. Now he sits in the third floor cafeteria giving his coffee 20 to life. Just wondering if the game still goes on and who plays. Anyone know?

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

Steve Sack has been the staff editorial cartoonist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune since 1981. He has won assorted local and national cartooning awards, and has once been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video Verite: Judges in Miami and Kentucky Fire Back in Courtroom Shouting Matches

"I'll yell all I want. This is my courtroom."

-Judge Miniard

If you fast forward, the action starts about two minutes into the video.

What starts off as a low key discussion in front of Honorable Vernon J. Miniard, Jr. turns into a full blown confrontation when the Kentucky prosecutor and Commonwealth attorney Larry Rogers suggests the judge recuse himself because of jury tampering that may render him a witness. His honor was not too thrilled. This video obtained by the blog Justice Watch.

Meanwhile, in Dade County another judge seeks not to be outdone. Here is the video of a jurist blowing up at the sister of a defendant he incarcerated on a $90,000 bond for a coke charge.

You may have to dig through the channel four site to find the correct one:

Justice Alito "Imagines" John Lennon in Monument Case

Here is a piece from BLT, one of the best legal blogs in the nation which we look to each day for commentary and ideas. This is a piece by Tony Mauro who has had a chance to review the complicated case of Pleasant Grove, relating to monuments on public land. Can't blog on everything, so in this case we will rely on his thoughtful words.

'Last year Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. won praise for quoting Bob Dylan in an opinion (a dissent, actually, in Spring Communications Co. v. APCC Services.) Not to be outdone, apparently, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. today quoted at length from John Lennon.

It came in Alito's major ruling in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, which redefined monuments placed on public land -- such as a Ten Commandments monument -- as a form of government speech, rather than private speech that can run afoul of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Some briefs had argued that if a memorial was to be regarded as a message conveyed by government, the government ought to be forced to embrace the message through a formal resolution.

In knocking down that argument, Alito, 58, makes the point that public monuments can convey multiple messages, or messages that change over time. The Statue of Liberty, for example, came to New York as a symbol of friendship between France and the United States, Alito said, and only later became viewed as a beacon welcoming immigrants.

Similarly -- and here's where Lennon comes in -- the mosaic in Central Park in New York City that displays the word "Imagine" as part of the memorial to John Lennon conveys several messages. "Some observers may 'imagine' the musical contributions that John Lennon would have made if he had not been killed," Alito said, while others might think of Lennon's song by that name, which imagined "a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed or hunger."

Alito then drops a footnote that offers the full text of Lennon's lyrics to the song "Imagine." The Court's newest justice also makes a number of other Central Park references, including the 1876 controversy over a memorial to Daniel Webster, and a monument to Balto, the sled dog that brought medicine to Alaska during a diptheria epidemic.

If these references have a distinctive New York City flavor, it's no accident. Most of them were mentioned in a brief filed in the case by Michael Cardozo, corporation counsel for the city of New York on behalf of the city, arguing for the government speech approach that Alito adopted.
So was Alioto plagiarizing Cardozo? Does Cardozo care? He won!

Internet Defamation Leading to Blogger Lawsuits

Censorship is Not a Good Thing

It has only been a month but some of you may not remember that this blog got its start as a result of JAABLOG censoring me. Despite having a password to post articles on their site, they foolishly, in my mind, chose to delete, after its publication, an article I had written on the legal liability of bloggers.

JAABLOG, meaning probably Marshall “I paid for this blog” Williams, felt he did not want columns which might in any way inhibit the breadth of their posters’ comments. I felt news is news, and Google being sued by a Vogue model in order to disclose a defamatory poster’s identity was worthy of a blog by a guy who has been doing first amendment law cases for thirty years next month. So I started my own blog, and 'gotta tell you, I'm loving it.

Ironically, the conclusion I reached was that blogs such as JAABLOG would more often than not be protected against litigation, by virtue of the exemptions granted to blog sites under provisions of the Communications Decency Act. Here is the piece I wrote which was censored:

As a member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, very intrigued by issues of this nature, I carefully track articles on the subject. I recognize they are esoteric and limited in broad interest. However, those as intrigued as I am by these issues are invited to a piece on this morning, written by Jonathan Bick, for the New Jersey Law Journal.

Jonathan Bick is counsel at Wolf Block in Roseland, N.J., and is an adjunct professor of Internet law at Pace Law School and Rutgers Law School. He is also the author of "101 Things You Need To Know About Internet Law" .

This is as good an article as you are going to read anywhere on the rights of bloggers, Internet defamation, and the kinds of lawsuits JAABLOG posters may be facing as they trespass routinely on the principles of defamation and slander. The blog may be protected. The posters may not be so lucky.

I wish the jaablogers the best, because I am doing my thing, and it is entirely different than what they do and how they do it. Some of what they cover is cutting edge, nearly first responder type of info. Like this great piece today:

You almost think that if there is a heart attack in the courthouse it will be on Jaablog before the stricken party reaches the ER. Just don't have that time, and am more interested in legal commentary then drooling.

The National Blawg Directory pretty much proves there is room in the blawgosphere for thousands of blogs, and no one should be jealous of the other. But as I pointed out in the original article, there are going to be more and more lawsuits for defamation and slander on the Internet. And Jaablog sure invites some comments which push the envelope, so while their posters should never be chilled, they should nevertheless be forewarned.

For myself, I am looking forward to being counsel on one side or the other in the inevitable constitutional litigation that is going to evolve out of blogging our way recklessly through the legal universe.
Norm Kent

AG Eric Holder Affirms He Will End Raids on Medical Cannabis Providers

Score one for the good guys!

My friend Paul Armentano is reporting some great news on the NORML blog today. At least for me and people who have been working for years to fight for a change in American cannabis laws.

Earlier this month, new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised a clean break from the policies of the Bush administration. Yesterday, during a live interview on C-Span, he affirmed that this change includes ending the DEA raids of state-authorized medical marijuana providers.

Responding to a reporter’s question regarding the DEA’s recent actions against several California medical cannabis providers, Holder stated: “What the President said during the campaign . . . will be consistent with what we will be doing here in law enforcement. . . What [President Obama] said during the campaign . . . is now American policy.”You can watch the video of Attorney General Holder’s remarks here.

Holder’s statement marks a dramatic shift in U.S. drug policy, and is a major victory for the 72 million Americans who reside in states where the use of medical cannabis is legal! It also lends support to the ongoing efforts in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — each of which are debating legislative proposals to make the production and distribution of medical cannabis legal under state law.

“Change we can believe in?” Yes it is, says Armentano, "and it’s about time." I concur.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger's post on this subject just yesterday is right here. There is time to save Charles Lynch.

Will be in DC next week for the NORML Board of Directors meeting (; definitely going to follow Forrest Gump's advice and bring Eric Holder a box of chocolates. Not brownies, just chocolates. :-)

Flight 1549 Passengers Lawyer Up

This story and video is more than enough reason to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal Blog, not only a remarkable depiction of the drama of the aborted flight and watery crash of a US Airways jet last month, but a story surrounding- what else- the potentiality of lawsuits.

To the credit of everyone so far, as this article points out, a tremendous amount of restraint has been shown. With full credit to the WSJ, and just a teensy little bit of comment afterwards, here is their entire piece:

We’ll admit it. Shortly after Sully Sullenberger pulled off his miraculous landing in the Hudson River last month, visions of lawsuits danced in our heads.

We weren’t exactly sure what these hypothetical lawsuits would look like, mind you, given that the passengers all survived, with only a few suffering minor injuries. But we tried out some theories, nonetheless, trying to gauge what the suits might request. Damages for emotional pain? Money for lost luggage? We took it even farther: What if the aborted flight caused someone to miss a job interview in Charlotte? Could that get wrapped into a claim?

Well, we just might find out! Another WSJ blog —
The Middle Seat Terminal — is reporting today that more than a dozen passengers from the flight have contacted a well-known aviation accident law firm, Kreindler & Kreindler, to “learn more about their rights after the accident.”

That said, Andrew Maloney, a lawyer at the firm said the firm wasn’t necessarily filing a suit. “Right now we’re trying to do the responsible thing and investigate the incident,” Maloney said. “And that’s what we’ve told people who’ve contacted us.”

US Airways has ponied up a little already. The airline sent passengers $5,000 checks — plus reimbursing airfare — the weekend after the accident. The carrier also upgraded all passengers on board to “
Chairman’s Preferred” status, entitling them to automatic upgrades, exemptions from baggage fees and bonus miles for a year.

The gut reaction is that of course these guys should get medals, not lawsuits. And it would be hard right now to get a jury to think otherwise. But the lawyer in me asks, what if we discover that air traffic control was negligent in not warning that there were flocks of birds seen in the vicinity earlier in the day? What if the probe of the aircraft reveals maintenance deficiencies? What if the black box recordings surprisingly disclosed improper procedural techniques utilized by the crew at takeoff?

Aircraft accidents, Dr. Josephine King taught be in Torts during my first year of Hofstra Law School, were res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself. Your contract with the airlines was for a plane ride to a location. You did not bargain for a Disney ride down Magic Mountain to end up in the water. So, yeah, winning a verdict might be tough, but lawyers have a duty to represent persons who may have been physically injured or emotionally traumatized by the crash. Your duty as a lawyer is not to do what is popular in the public eye. It is do what is right for your client.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

With his singular style, Tom Toles tackles the complex issues of the day. This Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist skillfully targets political, economic and social concerns — in particular complicated environmental issues — with a clear-eyed precision that hits the mark every time.

Articles Maybe Worth Catching Up On

Stemming Prostitution in LA; A Class for 'Johns'

Ten Commandments Monument May Stand Alone; Free Speech

Time For Legalizing Marijuana? CBS News Editorial

Jersey Governor Will Sign Medical Marijuana Bill;
14th State to 'Medicalize' Pot

No Oscars for Medical Marijuana Providers;
Unjust Federal Laws (Written by your publisher)

Bailed Out Bank Blows Millions On Parties; Northern Trust not so Worthy

Team Owners Stole Millions from Charities;
More Scams from Corporate America$533M

Court Says Helmsley Dollars Do Not All Go to Dogs

DCF Child Abuse; Talenfeld Wins Again

JAABLOG's Listing of New Florida Criminal Justice Bills Legislators Propose

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Domestic Battery Arrest for 'Unwanted Hug'

Jonathan Turley's blog Res Ipsa Loquitor has been voted one of the best in legal theory. But today we applaud him for picking up a story about carrying domestic violence laws too far. The place, Florida; Hernando County.

Actually, it is also a warning to those of you out there who have ever been on the wrong end of a restraining order. Remember, stay away. No emails, no texting, no driving in front of your ex's apartment. No phone calls. Stop. Cease. Do Not Contact. Especially, do not touch. Definitely, Do Not Touch. So there is your blog message. Obey the Restraining order or you will wind up being judicially restrained.

Look up, at Lori Smith, pictured above in a rather disoriented state. She was arrested for giving her boyfriend Kevin Connelly an 'unwanted hug'. She was charged with one count of domestic battery. Now keep in mind there was no restraining order in place in this instance. It was a deputy responding to a domestic call.

So here is the hilarious scenario. Well, not hilarious for the women arrested.

Deputies in Hernando County respond to a call and upon arrival, made contact with the victim, Kevin Connelly.

Kevin advised that he had been involved in an altercation with his girlfriend, Lori Smith, with whom he resides. Kevin advised that Lori tried to hug him; however, he did not wish to be hugged. Kevin stated that Lori grabbed him several times and “threw him around the room.” Kevin advised that he physically pushed Lori down on the bed in order to get away from Lori. Kevin did not have any injuries. I then spoke to Lori, and she advised that she attempted to hug Kevin twice; however, he pushed her away because he did not wish to be hugged. Lori did not have any injuries. Due to the fact that Kevin did not wish to be touched, and Lori continually grabbed a hold of him, she was taken into custody for one count of Domestic Battery. She was then transported to the jail without incident.'

Sometimes government goes too far, and though none of us was there to see the level of anger and intensity which may have there existed on the date and time the deputy responded, but he twice wrote 'no injuries.' So it looks like an abusive arrest. Still, this woman better not go back to try to make up, because with a restraining order now in place, a 'make up hug' could a felony make.'Make up sex'? Guess that would be Life!

This case reminds me of too many instances where inconsequential conduct led to ludicrous arrests based on specious charges which could not be sustained. Had cases where throwing water on someone caused a party to get locked up, so this is no big shock.

Might be interesting to have some lawyers post comments below on some of the more bizarre domestic battery cases they have come upon as well. Makes you wonder if we do not compromise the real cases for false claims.

Dirty Cops May Deep Six DUI Arrests

Maybe the deputies in Broward were doing steroids, but that is a lot less of a problem then the one blowing in the Windy City. Those problems would be the revelations today that a series of top DUI enforcement cops have fabricated charges against innocent defendants. Holy Lawsuit!

Dozens of DUI arrests may be dismissed in Chicago because the officer, Joe Parker, who made them has come under suspicion of falsifying them and framing drivers. He's the second cop to be accused of such wrongdoing.

Blues Singer Vanessa Davis may be one of Parker's victims, after Parker stopped her in 2005."He said, 'I smell liquor on you' and I said, 'You couldn't possibly, because I haven't been drinking,'" Davis said, recalling the night she was arrested.

A judge later threw out the DUI and the city paid Davis $100,000 to settle a lawsuit against Parker. Davis suffers from multiple sclerosis, and she said her anxiety from the arrest caused severe medical complications.

Parker faces a federal lawsuit by another man, Wayne Jackson, who said he was stopped by Parker while driving home from work on Lake Shore Drive in 2006. Jackson said he was given a field-sobriety test, which he said he passed. Parker's arrest report said Jackson was swaying and that his speech was slurred.Jackson said he passed a Breathalyzer test.

Now the Cook County State's Attorney's office is reviewing dozens of Parker's cases. Last year, prosecutors dropped more than 50 cases after accusing Chicago officer John Haleas of perjury. He had been honored as one of the top DUI enforces in the state. The perjury case against Haleas is still pending.

It is the criminal justice system, and some days it seems far more criminal than it does just. Lenny Bruce once said 'In the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls.' One month of blogging and criss crossing the Internet for legal articles, and day after day you witness corrupt judges, dirty cops, rotten lawyers, and a system so taxed at every level you wonder how anything ever functions. You wonder how you spent your life in a world so seedy; how soiled you have inevitably become being part of that process. The scales of justice are blind. They should be. Lady Justice would be frightened if she could see.

Dade Courthouse Ceremony Censures Segregation

Wish I had been there. The Dade County Bar Association did an admirable thing yesterday, leading the way to recognize today that our past was not so pretty. We as Americans were segregationists, and long after the civil war.
Dade County in the 1930's was not populated by liberal northern retirees. It was the deep south. And in Fort Lauderdale, as late as 1949, blacks were not allowed east of US 1 after dark. As Eric Holder, our new Attorney General just pointed out, racism was endemic to the United States of America.
So yesterday one of the old segregated water fountains was not torn down. It got a permanent plaque to etch into history the memories of a disgrace we tolerated. Above that water fountain now reads these words:
``When the Florida Bar was formed in 1950, there were less than 25 black lawyers in the state.
``These lawyers represented their clients in segregated courthouses at a time when justice was neither equal nor fair, and when racial discrimination was not only countenanced by the law -- it was the law.''

Last July, JAABLOG ran a post on the history of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, the man whose statue (dis?)graces the entrances to the north wing of the courts:
Broward was once the governor, the founder of this county, the namesake, I suppose of this blog. Not sure he is the kind of guy we should celebrate. You can't undo history and the world people lived in 200 years ago. But you do not have to honor it either, do you?

Photograph of the Day

The famous Norman Rockwell painting, one of the most popular posters of WWII

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

Editorial cartoonist Stuart Carlson has the unique ability to look at current events and bring them from that far away place where news is made and into the homes and daily lives of his readers. His material not only targets politicians and recognizable media figures, but it also covers topics that hold up a mirror to everyday Americans and sends them into action, wanting to take on the issues in their own lives.

Judge Hurley Move Opens Door for Obama

Longtime U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley announced Tuesday that he will move to senior status, opening the door for President Obama’s first judicial appointment in South Florida.

In the latest major case to come before him, Hurley is presiding over the murder trial of four defendants charged with the execution-style slayings of a Greenacres couple and their two young sons along Florida’s Turnpike. Two defendants could face the death penalty.

“He’s a superb federal judge,” U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami told the Daily Business Review “He’s one of the hardest-working judges I’ve been privileged to serve with and willing to devote all the time necessary to achieve a fair and just result.”

Hurley has been on the federal bench for 15 years since being appointed by President Clinton in 1993. He has conducted himself with class, dignity, and distinction. Still, I can't think of anything more exciting and juicy then guessing the identity of the next new federal judge. Too bad Judge Larry Seidlin is getting that TV gig. Damn! :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Female Lawyers at Risk During Recession?

This is a real blog piece, and definitely too long. It has no direction, no purpose, just some passing remarks on my past and the present.

I remember the very first class I took at the Hofstra University School of Law was a Contracts course given by Associate Dean Judith Younger, a brilliant lecturer and scholarly professor. That's her picture, now teaching at the University of Minnesota Law School.

In 1972, women's legal rights were first being pioneered and Dean Younger was publishing treatises on the inequities and disparities of property rights for females. Hofstra University paved ground even back then, when its new Dean, Monroe Freedman, insured that 40% of the entering class was females. But women had a hard road to toe making it in the male bastion that was the legal profession.

I thought of that when I read the article on the Glass Hammer site today; on how women are likely to become the first cuts of the ensuing legal recession. My first reaction is that would be stupid. It makes sense logically, but not practically. Most of the established white collar law firms, they suggest, are entrenched white men finding room as they see fit for women. True, there are very few powerful female firms out there, especially here in the South. But with so many more women in the workplace, running businesses, and serving in managerial capacities, wouldn't you want more women in your firm to provide legal services to them?

The article also suggests that since the legal practice areas most affected by layoffs are in male dominated fields like finance, real estate, and corporate law, males will bear the brunt of the layoffs. But why is any field of law a male bastion? I can tell you there are plenty of female prosecutors you do not want to go up against, starting right here in Broward County. Given what we have seen about the way men ran our financial institutions, maybe we need a few more women in charge. I know mom never went to play poker one night a week as Dad did.

The article suggests another reason women are at risk is because the stats suggest more women work part time and part timers are the first on the cutting block. Well, I would rather have a good part timer then someone who is ineffective full time, and I don't care what the gender. A second reason for cutting women first is that since their advances are recent, they are more likely to be lower on the partnership totem pole. Well, why not get rid of the old wood first when rebuilding the boat?

There is one other reason I would think twice before getting rid of female lawyers first. I think it is sexist on my part. But I am a guy, and I fear women lawyers more. You seem to work harder. I think guys are lazier and too comfortable. Maybe women are stronger because you were overcoming adversities while men were overcoming apathy.

I am left wondering how naive I am about this entire issue. I know there was a time when women had a hard time making it in the professional world. But so many are now in office as jurists, serving as state attorneys, filling Congressional positions, and rising to be the Chief Justices of our courts, or law school deans, how is this an issue anymore?

Secretary of State. Speaker of the House. Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. One time Attorney General of the United States. University Presidents. Congress. Generals in the Armed Forces. Aren't we over it? Is there still a glass ceiling or are we perpetuating an illusory and artificial one that no longer exists? Have we torn the walls down? Or have I just missed the boat working for 30 years not in the corporate world but a two person office? I just have one question, are we there yet?

There is a saying by Lao-Tsu that "A government can be compared to our lungs. Our lungs are best when we don't realize they are helping us breathe. It is when we are constantly aware of our lungs that we know they have come down with an illness."

What Lao-Tsu is saying to me is that there will come a time when women and minorities are around us and about us and we think of them indifferently as peers and partners and participants in the promise of our lives. I don't care who is gay, who is black or who is a woman. I care about those who are righteous, who are decent, and who are honorable. Those are the people I want to work with, live with, and associate with.

That is probably why I remember Dean Younger today, for her humor, her teaching, her thoughtfulness. Oh, yeah, she was a woman, too, and I doubt if any guy has ever taken a job away from her.

- Norm Kent

See the piece at the Glass Hammer by Anna Collins

and the previous blog, Black Thursday:

Can You Get By on 25% of 10 Million?

This short blog piece is dedicated to all of us that practice criminal law and defense and go out and hustle everyday. We are not so impacted by the adventures of the Attorney General on the following issues.

The WSJ praises today a bill supported by Bill McCollum to limit the possibility of jackpot fees when private lawyers team up with the state AG's office, a practice in which our state had been among the worst offenders during the tobacco heist.

The Florida bill, which would cap attorneys fees at $50 million, would hardly consign lawyers to a life of penury, unless you are Scott Rothstein and your wife is pressing you to buy a newer home. Outside counsel could receive contingency fees of 25% for the first $10 million, 20% of the next $5 million, 15% for the following $5 million and so on. I spoke to Russell Williams, chair of the BACDL. He says those are the new SPD rates.
The bill would also require competitive bidding and make contracts transparent to voters by posting them on the Attorney General's Web site. In case you want to discover how much you are missing out on. The article says the bill faces opposition from lobbyists in Tallahassee. I want to hang with guys that think 25% of 10 mil is not enough. What do they play pro baseball?

Clearwater Sinks First Amendment Banner

Not So Clear Waters

by Norm Kent

Clearwater, on Florida's west coast, a pleasant little town with a seductive name, and a place where the First Amendment is literally up against a wall.

As reported first in the St. Pete Times, and then in the ABA Journal, the 'Complete Angler' thought they could draw some business by displaying a painting of game fish on the exterior wall of their bait and tackle shop. You would think like some of the Whelan paintings of whales, populating walls from Key West to Honolulu, a city might fight it aesthetically appealing and attractive.

Of course, this is Florida. The rules are different here. It seems that the fish painting violates a ban on a business 'displaying a depiction of the product it sells.' This is beyond me. I own a newstand and soft ice cream shop on East Las Olas, next to the Floridian. Should I like go put pictures of naked women on it instead of ice cream cones? Well, it's Las Olas. Maybe naked men instead. Seriously though, can you me imagine advising the owner of the Floridian that he can't paint a picture of a hamburger on his window?

Anyway, I want to meet the owner of the Complete Angler, because when the city compelled him to paint over the fish, he responded with the ultimate act of defiance. He refused to take down the painting. Instead, his shop covered it with a banner providing the text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"As passionate as they are that it's a sign, I'm more passionate that it’s not a sign,'' Quintero said today. Coincidentally, I am dealing with this identical issue right now from a client who has a bar on Andrews Avenue. He had a legal sign, but to market his new eats, he wrapped a canvas around it.
"Down it must come," says code enforcement. It is an illegal banner sign." Sadly, I checked. They are technically correct. I sympathize with Quintero, but he may be on soft legal grounds. Banner signs also need permits, so content notwithstanding the banner has to meet code specs. The St. Petersburg Times wrote about it.

Happily, Quintero has some strong legal company. The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the fray, suing the city in federal court over the alleged First Amendment violations. Howard Simon, their director, comments:

“Only in Florida could a business owner be targeted and fined for displaying artwork; and then in protest of the fine, display the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–and then be ticketed for that,”

The city says it is simply enforcing strict rules in a uniform manner regardless of the content of the sign. My prediction is they very well might win, because zoning matters are within their control and rationally based ordinances which protect the public safety are routinely enforceable. But that is to the banner only.
As for restricting the content of the sign, or deeming it illegal for a business to promote its products by restricting what is displayed within the constructs of an otherwise legal sign, well, on that issue, the city goes down. Forget that it is seemingly impermisible content-based regulation for a moment. It is just plain ordinary stupid with a capital S.

The residents of Clearwater need to ask their city commissioners to alter the illogical ordinance which has no reasonable basis for governmental regulation on the one hand, and are counterproductive to the business community on the other.

Earlier coverage:
St. Petersburg Times: "Clearwater tackle shop covers forbidden fish mural with First Amendment"

4th DCA Affirms Judge Lebow

The headline reads that the 'Fourth DCA has affirmed Judge Lebow.' Those new to this blog or this issue may know not of which we speak.

Simply, here in County Broward, a cataclysmic error of seismic proportion was made by the Office of the State Attorney. In their zeal to prosecute, maybe even a guilty man, some of their own chose to listen in furtively on taped conversations of inmates with their lawyers as they strategized for trial. As you can see from the tape above, way back in 1963, a folksy sheriff named Andy Griffith even knew better.

The prosecution justified their arguments on the grounds that public notice had been given to the incarcerated that their conversations may be eavesdropped upon. They warned, they contend, that anything anyone said could be used against them, and we gave you notice. To do so, the forces of law surrendered their badge of righteousness and chose to become elements of injustice, invading the sanctity of the attorney client privilege for the expediency of the moment; to score a victory on a particular case whilst shattering the integrity of the criminal justice process.

Their incursions into privacy so discovered, atttorneys for the accused sought a mistrial. Judge Lebow declined to go so far, concluding instead that the sanction warranted for the prosecutorial malfeasance of a few was to exclude as prosecutors the entire State Attorneys' office, the voices of incursion having echoed throughout their chambers. So Judge Lebow declared. Today, she was affirmed by appellate powers greater than she.

What follows is the DCA decision, as first posted this afternoon on the JAABLOG website, once again ahead of the courthouse curve. When does Bill have time for court?

State v. Martinez
"Even if we were to conclude that Weir and Gaines are not controlling and that extraordinary writ jurisdiction may be invoked to review an order entered after a criminal trial commences, we would deny the petition in this case because the trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of law. See Pettis, 520 So. 2d 250; see also State v. Smith, 951 So. 2d 954, 958 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007) (recognizing that the standard for certiorari review “pertains to the seriousness of the error, not the impact of the ruling”). The trial court entered a thoughtful order after an extensive evidentiary hearing.

The State has provided the transcripts of the hearing, which we have reviewed. The record supports the trial court’s findings that the case law cited is distinguishable and that there was no waiver of the attorney-client privilege based on the circumstances in this case. Although the order states that the trial court did not need to consider the contents of the calls in making its ruling, the recordings were played during the hearing, the contents were discussed at length, and the trial court expressly found that the calls contained trial strategy. The order also recognizes that the conversations included privileged information that has been discussed throughout the State Attorney’s Office.

The failure to address the contents of the conversation in the order and expressly find actual prejudice is not “a violation of a clearly established principle of law resulting in a miscarriage of justice.” See Pettis, 520 So. 2d at 254. Even if we had jurisdiction, we would conclude that the State has not shown a preliminary basis for relief, and a response from the defendant would not be necessary. Fla. R. App. P. 9.100(h)."

Here is the previous Broward Law Blog piece on the subject, calling for the 4th DCA to affirm. It is great that they have.

Was Journal Blogger Dan Slater Laid Off?

The ABA Journal is today reporting that the popular Dan Slater, the writer for the Wall Street Journal Law Blog is one of 14 people laid off in the news room.

'A post by writer Dan Slater on Friday said it was his last day and legal editor Ashby Jones will now guide the blog. A note on the website doesn’t identify Jones as the sole writer, though; instead it says the newspaper’s legal affairs group will do the writing.

The Wall Street Journal announced the 14 newsroom cuts last month and said a legal staffer would be cut, according to Legal Blog Watch. But the newspaper didn’t identify which legal journalist would be laid off, making Slater’s note a surprise. Legal Blog Watch speculates the change could mean the Wall Street Journal Law Blog will reduce its coverage of the legal industry.'

Blogger Robert Ambrogi of Legal Blog Watch isn’t happy with that prospect. He explains his devotion to the Law Blog this way: “A typical day for me goes something like this: Wake up. Check the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. Brush my teeth. Check the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. Make coffee. Check the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. Shower. Check the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. You get the picture
Whatever Dan does he does well. And he was one heck of a legal blogger. Good luck to him.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993, Steve Benson has been a lightning rod for more than 20 years as the staff editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic. Benson sums up his career best: "I don’t aim to please. I just aim."

High Court Denies Purported Anti Gay Free Speech Case

The Supreme Court said Monday that it would not take the case of a Kentucky high school student who wants to sue his school district over a policy that allegedly barred him from expressing opposition to homosexuality. Not even close. Teaching kids respect for fellow human beings does not a constitutional crisis make.

The justices did not comment in denying the appeal of Timothy Morrison, who alleges he was harmed by the policy of the Boyd County Board of Education. Morrison sued the Boyd County school district over a policy that required students to undergo anti-harassment training. He claimed the policy threatened him with punishment for expressing religious beliefs in opposition to homosexuality. Morrison is a professed Christian who believes his religion requires him to speak out against what he sees as behavior that doesn’t comport with his understanding of Christian morality. What has that got to do with harassing someone?

Morrison was never punished under the policy, which was later changed to exempt speech that would normally be protected off campus. So the case may not have had a precise set of facts upon which to deliver a thoughtful ruling. More than just that, a course curriculum designed to teach children how to be more thoughtful to others and not harass their fellow classmates because of their ethnic, sociological or sexual backgrounds does not transparently appear to infringe on another's right to freely practice religion. How is it any different then teaching athletic or mental skill sets?

The school district adopted the policy and established the anti-harassment training as part of a 2004 legal settlement that ended a lawsuit between the school district and a gay-rights group that wanted recognition as an extracurricular group, and were not allowed to meet on campus. Broward County, you may recall, has had the same battles, with religious groups fighting sensitivity training in local schools. What an abuse of alleged religious free speech.

Meanwhile, gay groups yesterday gathered in Fort Lauderdale to commemorate the slaying of a young transsexual on Northwest 6th Street. His mom is in the picture above.

Police have called it a Hate Crime. The killer has not been captured. Maybe if the murderer had been to a school and had this kind of anti harassment training, he would not have been so fast to take another's life for a lifestyle different than his own.

Justice Unit Gets Happy on Thursday

The B’nai B’rith Justice Unit

Invites you to a Happy Hour

at Morton's Steakhouse
( 500 East Broward Blvd.)

* Free Appetizers will be served*

February 26, 2009 from 5:30 - 7:00

The Twenty-Ninth Annual Installation Brunch

Celebrating the Installation of incoming President

The Honorable Peter Weinstein

and the Officers and Directors of

The B’nai B’rith Justice Unit #5207

Sunday, March 8, 2009 @ 9:30 a.m.

Renaissance Hotel - Plantation
1230 South Pine Island Road, Plantation (I- 595 & Pine Island Road)

A Gourmet Brunch will be served. Cost is $50

RSVP to Mark Schorr: (954) 761-3774 or

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wade vs. Wade in the Windy City

How do you reduce a juicy fifty page lawsuit to 25 words?

'Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade sues his estranged wife and her attorneys for falsely accusing him of having an affair which resulted in her being infected with a sexually transmitted disease.'

This is juicy news here in South Florida. And here is the place to go get the PDF of the complaint. Yeah, I have not figured out that technology yet.

Matthew Heller's courthouse news service has it here. Sitting at the cafeteria in the Broward Courthouse it seemed to be the topic du jour. Mostly because he named as defendants the wife's lawyers. Looking through the suit, he appeared to be saying the lawyers negligently incorporated defamatory claims within the context of lawsuit, and they were sort of acting in an agency capacity for the wife. It is an intriguing claim because as a general rule most representations within the context of a legal pleading are protected and privileged from a defamation action. The suit may thus raise some First Amendment issues.

Frankly, I just want to see Wade play basketball.

'The Complete Lawyer': Nutrition for the Mind

A little too stressed out by spending too many hours behind your desk at a computer? Want to devise a new life plan that gives you harmony and puts you at one with the Earth?

Once again Above the Law, recognized as a top rated blogger, has shared a site worthy of your consideration. It is called and it lays out how you can be professional, responsible, and deal with balancing stress in your life. Sort of a whole foods for legal minds.

Lots of protein in the articles on this site, particularly enjoyed the pieces entitled 'Examine Your Work Life Balance' and 'Our Responsibilities Might Be Hazardous to Our Health.'

'Let Cartoonists Draw As They Please'

Let Cartoonists Draw

Blogitorial by Norm Kent

A week ago, when a group of African American teenagers were shot up in Miami by a random gang armed with AK 47’s, I was impressed with Al Sharpton showing up in South Florida to condemn the senseless acts of violence and the ‘culture of silence’ which contributed to killers going unidentified. Nice going, Al. I was impressed because you were sticking your head into something useful, which could save lives.

But this week Al Sharpton showed his head again, and regrettably it was not in defense of lost lives. Nope, Al decided to invoke his presence into the growing and unnecessary outrage against a NY Post editorial cartoonist, whose latest drawing was politically incorrect. Sharpton joined the chorus of voices censuring Sean Delonas, who published an editorial cartoon which implicitly compared President Obama with a primate. It evoked a history of racist imagery of blacks. It was not in good taste. So what? Satire does not have to be.

How many times do you have to repeat that the First Amendment is not for voices that agree with us? Jerry Falwell is gone now but he never liked what Al Goldstein did to him in Screw Magazine either. Al was a friend, a client, and understood his job, his duty, his obligation as a porn publisher was to press the envelope. It was easy for him. All things he considered moderate others deemed excessive. For Al, too much of a good thing was not enough. And there were no limits, so much so that he spent many of his thirty years publishing Screw Magazine in court defending it against pornography charges. Thank you, Herald Price Fahringer.

How many of you in college had the incredible poster of all the Disney characters from Minnie and Mickey and Pluto fornicating hanging up in your dorm room? You thought it was funny? I am guessing the late Walt Disney did not.

Not had a lot of dealings with Larry Flynt, but do you remember when Hustler Magazine ran the cartoon parody of Jerry Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse, saying he always liked to get ‘sloshed’ and have a little foreplay before delivering his sermons? Jerry, upset as he was with the First Amendment, then had no problem 20 years later censuring a cartoon character named Tinky-Winky for being ‘too gay.’

How many times over the years have I heard people say my client on 560 WQAM, Neil Rogers, has ‘gone over the line?’ No, he never went over the line. But his divine, funny sarcasm made you think about crossing it. That is what a host is supposed to do. That is what editorial cartoonists also do. That is sometimes what an attorney has to do when zealously representing his clients. That is the blessing and breadth of the mother of all amendments, the Amendment we call First.

Publishing this blog, I have made the ‘Editorial Cartoon of the Day’ a daily feature. Paid a subscription fee to acquire them. It is not just because a picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing reflects the cross section and breadth of an American free press more than the satirical reaches of comedic art as expressed in your newspapers. I have been balancing conservative and liberal cartoonists alike, just to create an entertaining daily blog.
Having been a radio host for over a decade, and representing them for three, I learned people do not care so much what you say as how you say it. You can be the greatest liberal or conservative in the world, but if you are not entertaining, your show will fall flat. Ever hear an author give a speech at a book show? Most of the time it is death warmed over.

Spent most of the week thinking how to write about this, then I saw that Scott Greenfield wrote a thoughtful blog this week already on the topic at Simple Justice. He is so right on. Editorial cartoons are satire. This is what Greenfield concludes:

“Obama is fair game. Obama cannot be untouchable. No President can be untouchable. No political commentary should be subject to rules. And who cares what Rev. Al has to say anyway.”

How could we dare think otherwise?
I come to these pages after 30 years of seeing issues like these make the news. A high school student in Illinois named Tinker could not wear an armband. An activist named Abbie Hoffman was not allowed on TV wearing an American Flag shirt as a motif. Comic books were too violent 50 years ago, and now video games are so today.

Spencer Toys sold pornographic Santa Clauses and some high school kid’s project was thrown out of the art show because it depicted Jesus with an erection. Who cares? Our nation has survived wars, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disaster and man-made calamities, can’t it handle controversial cartoons? Let us protect the expression of ideas as jealously as we are supposed to our natural resources.

I am really over it, debating the first amendment. It is there. Use it. Abuse it. Enjoy it. Step on it. Tread on it. It will still be there, long after you are gone crying about the fact that it did not blow your way. But that is why it was there. It was not made just for you. It was made for the guy you disagree with, and maybe for that day you disagree with all those things ‘They’ are telling you that you have to buy into and believe.

We come together as a society not to restrict the rights of any, but to secure the rights of all. So the next time you see something YOU don’t like, suck it up and say ‘Thank you, America. One day I may choose to be that guy.’

Related Links:

Editorial Cartoon of the Day

Signe Wilkinson's honors include the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning (the first woman to win this award), the 1997, 2001 and 2007 Overseas Press Club Award, the 2002 RFK Award and she has the distinction of having been named "the Pennsylvania state vegetable substitute" by the former speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Her cartoons are syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.
Today's Sports Section of the NY Times:
A Rod Adds Lawyers to His Team
(That's funny, I thought he was supposed to be going to Spring Training with his team)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

High Court to Hear DNA Testing Case

Justices to Debate Whether Convicts Should Be Guaranteed Access to Latest Techniques



--More than 200 people nationwide have been freed because DNA tests performed after their convictions showed they could not have committed the crimes. This on the heels of the Forensics report last Friday.

---It is the Supreme Court's first case that confronts the dilemma of how to deal with DNA evidence, which former attorney general John D. Ashcroft called the "truth machine of law enforcement."
----"Relying solely on the unfettered discretion of prosecutors to unlock the promise of DNA analysis can sanction injustice," said a brief filed on behalf of current and former prosecutors, including former attorney general Janet Reno.
Is there any doubt that with the number of inmates so wrongly convicted that we should do so much more to fund, research, and review the processes which have created and now perpetuate unconscionable levels of injustice? Any doubt at all?
Hell, it should be part of the stimulus package.

Gay Men Too Often Targets

As reported in the local newspapers, a Boca Raton man faces the death penalty after a Broward County jury convicted him Friday of murdering a gay man he targeted for robbery. Shari Tate was the successful prosecutor of Eric Kurt Patrick, 45, pictured here. He was no kid. He was a killer.

Patrick had confessed to the September 2005 slaying of Steven Schumacher, a 72 year old man, who was killed in his Oakland Park home. Too many times as the publisher of the Express Gay News I have had to write about younger men killing older gay men. In this case, Patrick had beaten, hog-tied, gagged, and then strangled Schumacher.

I represent the Cubby Hole Bar in Fort Lauderdale, where Schumacher was a regular. Their patrons were devastated by the killing. Schumacher was an easy going and affable gentleman who sought to reach out and assist a guy who had just gotten out of prison for a carjacking. He did not have any clue what he was getting into. This was a convict tattooed with Swastikas and the Grim Reaper. That is what he became to a man who was reaching out to help him.

Patrick was a 'hate crime' killer who specifically targeted gay men because he thought they were an easy hit. That should be a sentencing enhancement and an aggravated circumstance when the jury reconvenes to decide whether he gets life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The jury will not get to consider how Schumacher's spouse feels. After all, this is Florida. Gay men cannot marry. But they bleed the blood of victims still. Too many times.

Herald: Citizen Suing Over Traffic Cameras

An Aventura resident is hoping to put the brakes on traffic cameras by taking the city to court, alleging they are unconstitutional. It has been a legal debate for many years now. Once appeared on CNN with Johnny Cochran opposing it, saying the next thing cities will do is strap cameras on the backs of alligators to see who is poaching in the 'Glades. Many cities are now into the process. Google the subject and it seems to be the wave of the future. Technology that once never before existed we can now not escape. Don't worry about a national ID card; we are all going to get a chip implanted in us, just like our dogs. I am surprised they have not passed a law like that for sexual offenders yet. Anyway, here is a gutsy citizen taking the issue to court, arguing too much, too much, too much. Ticket Lawyer Brett Lusskin has the gig, arguing cameras are not good enough; that it is requires a police officer as a witness. I agree, but legislators are into expedience rather than excellence. Let's see what they do.
See also:

Many Judges Wear No Robes

Judicial Misconduct Permeates Judiciary

A Rant By Norm Kent

After blogging for a month, I now see that a wave of disgraceful and dishonorable conduct is staining the American judiciary. I am not going to bother naming the names, because all of these persons I reference today have already been named in a blog, in an indictment, or on a police report.

All across this country, from small counties to large cities, judges are being exposed as every bit as corruptible as the public they preside over. They are frail. They are weak. They are foolish. They are human. There are 800,000 stories in the Naked City. These are just some of them.

Isolated incidents that would normally never be noticed from state to state now come together because of the breadth of the Internet and its spontaneous dissemination of news and information. The picture it creates forever tarnishes the credibility of our courts. The fears that our justices have about attorneys destroying our courts by open criticism of our judiciary can be put to rest. The judges are doing themselves in without any help from counsel.

Let’s begin in Pennsylvania, the shocking case where two jurists were arrested for taking kickbacks from a private firm paid to run juvenile justice detention centers, compensated by the corporation each time they sent a kid into custody, whether he needed to be there or not. They pled guilty and are headed to jail. It is as disgusting a betrayal of a robe as we will ever see anywhere.

Of course, there is a United States District Judge from Texas facing federal sex crime charges, and he added to his woes by getting indicted last week for obstruction of justice as well. That is more serious than the judge in Alaska who was suspended after he decided to play a game of ex parte during a trial, passing only one of the parties’ notes to aid his litigation. And the note was not about shooting a moose from a helicopter.

There is a Texas county court judge fighting a DUI where she was pulled over for going 92 mph in a residential community. The Commission on Judicial Performance is accusing another judge of leaving work too early, too often, contending that he frequently departed the courthouse halfway through the day. Better than this groveling judge though, begging for mercy on a video cam after being pulled over for a DUI. Here is that link:

In New Jersey, a former judge has been suspended from his law practice for three months for an incident in which he allegedly told police officers who had arrested him on a drunken driving charge to “get the Vaseline out and bend over." Is that better or worse than the retired Broward County judge who pulled citizens over at gunpoint while he was drunk. That was years ago. I am writing now only about things which have just happened in the thirty days since I started blogging.

Of course, Broward County, Florida has created a comfortable niche for itself, populated by a battery of judges whose words and deeds this past year have been highly improvident. At least five separate county and circuit court judges have been humiliated for either inexcusably or inadvertently denigrating courthouse service personnel, gays, African Americans, and other lawyers. One was accused of taking kickbacks from an attorney for assigning him cases, another accused of snaking money from the elderly, and another went to a judicial conference sober but came home disrobed.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Supreme Court has reprimanded a former judge for derogatory public comments he made about “white folks.” How does that compare to the NY federal bankruptcy judge who was popped for a domestic violence charge last week after slapping around his wife of 20 plus years? Or the one in Buffalo who is resigning today amidst accusations that he tried to fix a DUI case for a lady friend? What did Casey Stengel say about the 1962 NY Mets? Can't anybody here play this game?

In St. Petersburg, Florida an Appeals court judge resigned his seat after admitting to helping a stripper he ‘befriended’ conceal assets from judgment creditors. Well, that is a little bit better than the newly elected judge just south of Seattle who ‘befriended’ and then threatened male prostitutes, and now is being investigated by county prosecutors. In Boca Raton, a lawyer who was suspended from the practice of law managed to win a judicial seat from the jurist who had filed the disbarment proceedings against him. But the Supreme Court has barred the newly elected jurist from serving. Is this a soap opera or not?

As an embryonic blogger, my net-surfacing these past 30 days has enabled me to criss-cross the Blawgosphere the way an astronaut speedily circles around a planet. I have stumbled upon a collage of articles on popular legal blawgs and sites like the ABA Journal and, exposing these judicial foibles. Clearly, I have found lawyers too whose transgressions are outrageous and many. I have written about those too. But there are what, 500 lawyers for every judge? If the Legion of Judicial Disgraces continues at this pace, they are going to have their own comic books. It almost seems like the Obama Administration vetted judicial candidates.

The bottom line is that the judiciary is not above questioning. Behind those many colored robes are some seriously dysfunctional individuals. It thus becomes the burden of every litigator to stand their ground, make their case, and advocate zealously for their client. The judge’s duty is to be impartial, but first we must guarantee they are credible and competent. As lawyers and litigators, we must hold them to their tasks as they must do so to us.
There is a denigrating joke a senior partner in a big white collar law firm tells about the candidates they promote for judicial office: “Well, if they can’t generate their weight in billable hours, we make them judges.” Hmm. Yes, they wear robes and ought to be honored for the office they hold. Many come to the bench to crown a lifetime of achievement and honor. Still, no one should get a free ride.
Judges too must be held accountable. Apparently, around the country, some are. Not enough, I think. It is the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, from what I have seen so far, the judicial ship they are piloting is called the Titanic.

Video Game Law Struck Down in California

Is there any doubt in your mind that Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most popular men in America? That if he were eligible to run for president, he would win in a landslide?
He always impressed me for the ways he went beyond the screen, identifying himself as more than an actor. But I wonder what he has to say about the steroid scandals today. Is there any doubt that he used steroids to become the physical mass of humanity that he became?
So here he is with a bunch of girl scouts, signing into law a bill that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has just declared unconstitutional. It is the video game law which mandated an additional labeling requirement and made it illegal to sell or rent a video game that has been labeled “violent”.
In defending the law, the state argued that violent content should be judged by the same obscenity standards as sex. (For the text of the act, which contains language that tracks the Miller test, see page 5 of the opinion.) Just as the government can prohibit the sale of explicit pornography to minors, state lawyers contended, it should have been allowed to establish an adults-only category of ultra-violent video games.

But a unanimous appellate court ruled that a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed tighter restrictions on selling explicit materials to minors than to adults applies only to sexual content and not to violence.
“The Supreme Court has carefully limited obscenity to sexual content,” wrote Judge Consuelo Callahan. “We decline the state’s invitation to apply the (same) rationale to materials depicting violence.” Nice of the state to extend the invitation. Nicer of the Courts to protect the first amendment rights of consumers in a free and open society.
We come together as a community not to restrict the rights of any but to secure the rights of all. I wish legislators would meet annually to eliminate laws which are unnecessarily restrictive. Instead they collectively gather only to find new ways to pass more laws which invade the breadth of your freedoms.
'That government which governs least governs best'
Thomas Jefferson