The picture and story are courtey of the Sun Sentinel. But Futch's passing is the passing of a legend in Broward. I suppose most of the commentaries about him will come on the jaab site from those of us who have been here for 25 years or more.
He was never an easy judge, always a tough cookie, but I admired him for his damn decisiveness.
There are two stories I want to share about 'Maximum Dan' and neither had to do with those Friday afternoons all of us in the courthouse used to spend at Il Giardino's on East Las Olas.
The first had to do with one of my first days as the morning drive radio talk show host for WFTL, 1400 AM, early in 1990. My start there required me to replace one of the longest running talk show hosts in the history of Broward County, a soft spoken story telling polite gentleman known as 'Lovable John Lupton.' Instead of turning on the radio and listening to passive anecdotes, the audience was now listening to a heated political show, led by a liberal, aka, me.
I remember I was talking to bondsman Wayne Spath in Judge Arthur Franza's courtroom, and Russell Williams, who was then working for me, just starting out, came to get me. 'Damn, Norm, you better get to Futch; he is screaming about you.'
'Okay, but why, I don't even have a case there...."
So I go to his courtroom and he sees me and stops the proceedings, "You are one son of a bitch, you know that?," he says. And smiles!.
"What did I do," I ask?
"What did you do?", He cries: " For thirty years my wife and I have been waking up to 'Lovable John Lupton' on WFTL and now this morning I turn on the radio, and our favorite host is gone, and you are invading my private bedroom space with your radical commie crap. Get out of my house. Get out of my courtroom!"
There is another story about how I filed an emergency injunction request for an adult bookstore on a Friday morning, and he called me up personally to say, "you know Norm I can hear this right away and deny it this afternoon, and you can take it up right away, but if you want to give your clients some time to think they paid you for something we can wait till next week and I can deny it then...."
But boy, he could be brutal. Show up late and you go to jail. Show up in shorts and you are thrown out of his courtroom. Say you are ready for trial, and just to make sure you don't flee, or get running feet, he would take you into custody.
Now that I think about it here are two more Futch anecdotes. Some kid shows up plastered for sentencing, and Futch says to him, "you just came into my courtroom drunk, didnt you?"
"Yes, judge, I heard you were a real bad ass, and were going to sentence me for a long time, so I figured I would just tie one on last nite."
"Young man, I admire your honesty, so I am going to sentence you to only 30 days- for contempt of court. Come back in a month, and then I will give you your real sentence, and I promise you I won't disappoint."
Of course I remember winning a motion to suppress with him when the young man who was caught with coke outside the Playpen turned to the judge and said, "Your honor I did not leave the coke on the dashboard or on the console like the cop said. Man I knew it was illegal, I knew if I got caught I was going to jail. Yes, I had the dope. I hid it. Hid it under the carpet, under the asbestos flooring, under the front seat, even covered that up. The cop pulled me out of the car, ripped it up and found it . It was not in plain view. I did everything I could to hide and conceal it cause I did not want to get caught."
"So young man you are admitting openly to me that you had the cocaine and were using it."
"Yes sir, judge, I am not going to lie to you. I was."
"Well you know son your honesty is so refreshing, and coming clean and admitting you hid it and owned up to it, and went to so much trouble to conceal it, and you not giving me a sob story of how you lost your job or your father beat you, I am going to find you are telling the truth and that the cop lied. The evidence is thrown out. It's an illegal search. But son you still are going to have to do about 30 more days. We will let you out next month."