Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teen Girls Win 'Sexting' Case


Good news for social justice for kids.

A U.S. judge on Monday barred a Pennsylvania prosecutor from filing child pornography charges against three teenage girls caught with sexually suggestive pictures of themselves on their cell phones.

U.S. District Judge James Munley said he was issuing a restraining order on Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick because his proposed action would violate freedom of speech and parental rights.

The ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union sued Skumanick on behalf of the girls and their families.

"The court agrees with the plaintiffs that the public interest would be served by issuing a TRO (temporary restraining order) in this matter as the public interest is on the side of protecting constitutional rights," the judge said.

The case has attracted national attention and revolves around the growing practice among teens of "sexting," a play on the term texting, in which nude or semi-nude photos are sent on cell phones or posted on the Internet.

The pictures, found last fall by officials of Pennsylvania's Tunkhannock School District, showed two of the girls wearing bras, and another standing topless with a wrapped towel around her waist. No sexual activity was displayed.

Last month Skumanick told the girls and 17 other students that he would charge them with possessing or distributing child pornography, which is a felony, unless they agreed to probation and participated in a "re-education" program.

All but three agreed to his demands, setting the stage for the lawsuit. Most civil libertarans were outraged. People like me blogged obsessively about it. Someone heard us all. Justice kicks in.
A related link from a previous blot...well it could have been called blot....but someone decided blog was better..

NSU Hosts Public Speech for PETA Executive Tomorrow


Dan Mathews, senior vice president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), will speak at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center on Thursday, April 2, from 6 to 7 p.m.

Matthews will hold a signing of his book, Committed: A Rabble-Rouser's Memoir, at a reception following the speech. The event is free and open to the public.

Mathews’ presentation is titled “Challenging the Law on Behalf of Animals.” He will discuss ethical and legal issues PETA faces as it conducts undercover investigations, seeks standing to sue for animals, and engages in civil disobedience – in 1994, Mathews led an occupation of Calvin Klein's office in New York, which resulted in a dozen arrests and the designer renouncing fur. Mathews has been with PETA since 1985. He is responsible for many of the organization's provocative efforts, including the iconic "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign, and he has recruited stars as diverse as Paul McCartney, Pink, and Pamela Anderson to participate in PETA’s campaigns.
The presentation will be held at the Law Center on NSU’s main campus at 3305 College Ave. in Davie. It is being hosted by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at the Law Center. More information is available by calling 954-262-6166.

Conficker Worm No April's Fool Joke


Computer experts are extremely wary of April 1. No -- not because it's April Fool's Day. But because, as CNET-TV Senior Editor Natali Del Conte explained on The Early Show Tuesday, it's when the "Conficker" computer worm is expected to reach out for new instructions from its creators -- and no one knows the nature of those instructions.
Conficker is already one of the worst computer security threats in years -- though experts agree April 1 could come and go with nothing more serious than the then-dreaded "Y2K" bug turned out to be -- over-hyped, to say the least. Still, better to be safe than sorry. Mac Users already are: Conficker only runs on Windows computers, in stealth mode, spying on your online activity seeking to obtain your passwords and financial information. You should be safe, Del Conte says, if you install the most recent updates for Microsoft and run regular anti-virus scans:

There are three potential tipoffs that your PC may have Conficker inside, Del Conte points out: It won't let you go to Microsoft.com, because the Web site has a fix, so if you can't get there, beware -- it's a sign that something may be fishy.

Conficker also won't let you get to the Web sites of various computer security vendors, such as those of Symantec, McAfee, etc. because, again, there are fixes there. So if you can't to them, Del Conte advise, be suspicious. Conficker may also prevent you from turning off your computer. If your machine won't power down, it may mean someone else is driving it, so disconnect the Internet cable and the power chord and call someone.
If your machine has had Conficker for awhile and hackers already have your financial information, log onto an uninfected computer and change all of your passwords immediately. Also, call the financial institutions you deal with and tell them you think someone may have stolen your passwords and that you'd like to be notified of any suspicious activity, and would like to change your account numbers.

There are three potential tipoffs that your PC may have Conficker inside, Del Conte points out: It won't let you go to Microsot.com, because the Web site has a fix, so if you can't get there, beware -- it's a sign that something may be fishy. Conficker also won't let you get to the Web sites of various computer security vendors, such as those of Symantec, McAfee, etc. because, again, there are fixes there. So if you can't to them, Del Conte advise, be suspicious. Conficker may also prevent you from turning off your computer.

If your machine won't power down, it may mean someone else is driving it, so disconnect the Internet cable and the power chord and call someone. If your machine has had Conficker for awhile and hackers already have your financial information, log onto an uninfected computer and change all of your passwords immediately. Also, call the financial institutions you deal with and tell them you think someone may have stolen your passwords and that you'd like to be notified of any suspicious activity, and would like to change your account numbers.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day; President Flies to Europe


The President leaves for his first European tour today. Maybe things are better there. Oh wait, he is going to London for an economic summit. He ought to just hire the guy that runs the NFL to run the economy. Or maybe Barry Star from Hot Dog Heaven. There is still a line outside his shop on East Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, and those Vienna Hot Dogs are real good.
Born in 1956 in Little Rock, Deering has been drawing since his childhood fascination with science fiction and dinosaurs -- subjects he made into comic books. After studying art with Truman Alston, Deering focused on commercial and fine art at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Along the way, he found his strength in interlocking art with comment

Astor Trial Begins With Judicial Warning About 'Twittering'


There will be no Twittering in the courtroom. No 'google' mistrial here.

On the heels of a NY Times featuring revealing a stunning number of jurors using the Internet during a trial here in South Florida, a jury being seated in New York City is being told to stay away from their Blackberrys.

It is the blockbuster trial of famed philanthropist Brooke Astor's son which opened Monday. A judge told 200 potential jurors to put away their BlackBerrys.

"I understand there is a temptation to review [news] stories," Supreme Court Justice Kirke Bartley said as he ordered panel members to stay away from their computers. "You are not to conduct research...particularly on the Internet."

"Blogging, BlackBerrys, whatever," are prohibited, he said in the nearly 10-minute lecture.

"There have been reports from all over about jurors Twittering and blogging," said Ken Warner, a lawyer for Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, who is charged with looting his mother's fortune.

Warner was referring to the popular instant social-networking Web site Twitter. With easy access to the Internet, jurors around the country are increasingly turning to the medium to satisfy their curiosity about a case they are sitting on - and that is resulting in costly mistrials.

Marshall, 84, and once-disbarred lawyer Francis Morrissey, 66, are charged with looting the Alzheimer-stricken Astor's estate by coercing her to update her will. Marshall arrived in court clutching a cane and his wife's hand.

Of 200 original prospective jurors, 30 people who said they could serve for as long as three months - the trial could last that long - were kept for further questioning.

'Harry Gulkin' Awards Dinner Honors Judges Howard Zeidwig and Charles Kaplan


The Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Cordially requests your presence at the

Harry Gulkin Award Dinner

Honoring the late Honorable Howard Zeidwig
and the late Honorable Charles Kaplan

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm
at the Tower Club
One Financial Plaza, 28th Floor,
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

$100 per person
$50 gov't employees
Complimentary Valet

RSVP by April 8, 2009

If you wish to attend please print out the attachment and mail the response card and your check to: Teresa Williams,
633 S. Andrews Ave.,
Suite 101,
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301

To limit costs, invitations will not be sent out directly.

So as I posted this, I googled Harry Gulkin's name to see if I could write a paragraph about this distinguished gentleman I knew years ago, a pillar of the Fort Lauderdale legal community, professional, polite, scholarly, and all I could find was the mention of those who received the award bestowed in his name, posted every year in the courtroom of the retired Judge Stanton Kaplan. I did find this one piece out of the NY Times, reflecting the kind of diligence that Harry brought to the fore; the type of cases he was known for. So we take you back 20 years to Roswell Gilbert and the mercy killing of his wife, which led to a first degree murder conviction, and Harry's battle to overturn the sentence.

Here is the NY Times piece, a journey to the past for those of us old enough to appreciate it; an invitation to the past for those of you young enough to want to look back:


Who was he? He was a great lawyer. Ask David Bogenshutz, Stan Kaplan, Mike Satz, some of the guys who have walked these courthouse corridors for many years. They will share fond stories of a good man who died too young.

Criminal Justice Reform on US Senate Agenda


Speaking of prisons, and editorials, the NY Times is encouraging this weekend too, writing to adopt Senator Jim Webb's call for a commission to review our misguided criminal justice system, far more criminal than it is just.

"America’s criminal justice system needs repair. Prisons are overcrowded, sentencing policies are uneven and often unfair, ex-convicts are poorly integrated into society, and the growing problem of gang violence has not received the attention it deserves. For these and other reasons, a bill introduced last week by Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, should be given high priority on the Congressional calendar.

The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, would establish a national commission to review the system from top to bottom. It is long overdue, and should be up and running as soon as possible.

The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. More than 1 in 100 adults are now behind bars, for the first time in history. The incarceration rate has been rising faster than the crime rate, driven by harsh sentencing policies like “three strikes and you’re out,” which impose long sentences that are often out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense."
As Lenny Bruce said, 'in the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls.'

Palm Beach Post Editorial Calls for Better Treatment of Mentally Ill


Pictured: A child deemed mentally incompetent outdoors at an asylum


We salute and repost the Palm Beach Post Editorial of Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It made sense a year ago, with the economy teetering, for Florida to start treating mental illness as a disease, not a crime. It makes even more sense now, with the economy staggering, to make a change that would protect the public and save money.

The issue goes back four decades, when asylums for the mentally ill were closed but no new treatment centers were opened to replace them. In Florida, the issue came to a head in late 2006, when a Pinellas County judge threatened to jail the secretary of the Department of Children and Families for not providing treatment for mentally ill inmates in the county jail. DCF finally found $5 million, but the underlying problem remained.

Prompted by the crisis, the Florida Supreme Court created a task force. DCF's attitude became more enlightened under Gov. Crist than it was under Jeb Bush. Former DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth - also an ex-sheriff in Broward County - campaigned in 2008 for legislation that would allow the state to shift the focus from giving mentally ill inmates just enough treatment so they can be declared competent for trial to a system of community-based alternative treatment. The House agreed, but the proposal died in the Senate.

The legislation is back, and Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, the House sponsor, said, "I have a good feeling." The proposal is "flying in the House." The Senate version has had one favorable committee vote and is up for another on Wednesday. Rep. Snyder, a retired law enforcement officer, calls it "extraordinarily good public policy," and he's not exaggerating.

Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Steve Leifman points out that "the fastest-growing sector of the (state) prison population is the mentally ill." The state, he said, will need $500 million over the next 10 years just to build prisons for that population. The state spends another half-billion a year on two psychiatric hospitals that are relics of the 1970s. Fifty percent of all females in the state prison system are mentally ill, in most cases because of sexual abuse as children.

This legislation is aimed strictly at those diagnosed as having a mental illness, and thus who commit crimes literally because they are sick. It doesn't apply to violent gangbangers. It seeks to get treatment before the cycle of lesser crimes, release and homelessness leads to a major crime. Also, being progressive costs less. Miami-Dade, Judge Leifman said, closed down a wing of its jail that had been stocked with such offenders.

Another supporter of this legislation is Krista Marx, the Palm Beach County judge who in 2007 sentenced Duane Vanduyl to 40 years in prison. On July 4, 2006, the mentally ill man kidnapped three people, held them in his van at gunpoint and forced two women to perform sex acts on him.

In passing sentence, Judge Marx criticized the system's failure to get Vanduyl the treatment that might have prevented the crime. "The system missed him," Judge Marx said. "We have to move 50 years right now, and build a new system over the next six to 10 years."

By becoming the first state to shift from incarceration to treatment, Florida would pass "the most far-reaching legislation since the Baker Act," said Bill Janes, DCF assistant secretary for substance abuse. The approach would be cheaper and better, and Florida would be solving a problem, not letting it fester.

Wrong Way on a High Way Leads to Death


Last week's deadly head-on wreck on I-95 resulted from a car driving in the wrong direction, the Florida Highway Patrol said today.

A silver 2003 BMW was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of I-95 at Commercial Boulevard about 4:18 a.m. Friday, according to the FHP. The BMW collided with a white 2005 Ford van, killing Aracely Mendoza, 23, of Miami, who was a passenger in the van."

Physical evidence at the scene and independent witness accounts confirm the 2003 BMW was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes," said FHP Lt. Gene Hingson. The wreck shredded the entire front half of the BMW and tore into the front passenger side of the van.
Now here is something you may not know, that I as a traffic judge did not even realize. Because how can you go the wrong way on a highway? How do you get on an off ramp, or go south in northbound lanes? The markers seem so good, so clear, but maybe they need to be better. Here is why:

Highway accidents caused by a driver going the wrong way are not rare, even on well-traveled, well-lit highways. A Sun Sentinel analysis of accident data found there were 166 fatal wrong-way crashes on divided highways in Florida from 2002 to 2007.

At least 212 people were killed in those crashes and another 250 injured. Had no idea it was so many so often. Maybe that should tell us DOT needs better directions for getting on and off ramps, wouldn't you say?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bernie Madoff Will Lose Tickets at New Mets' Stadium


Looks like baseball fan Bernie Madoff is going to miss out on his prime Citi Field seats at the Mets' new stadium. The tickets are going on the auction block.

The New York Mets season tickets, just behind home plate, will likely be resold by the trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

"We have no intention of not monetizing them and letting them go unused," trustee Irving H. Picard said Saturday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "When we have something to announce, we will do so."

Mets executive vice president David Howard said the seats were paid for and were in either the first or second row behind home plate, a section known as Delta Club Platinum. They list for $695 each for opening day on April 13 and June interleague games against the New York Yankees, all classified as platinum by the Mets.

They cost $595 for gold games, $495 for silver games, $395 for bronze games and $295 for value games. Overall, the season ticket comes to $40,095 per seat, an average of $495.
"They're paid for. They can do with them what they want to," Howard said.

Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were close to Madoff, who pleaded guilty March 12 in federal court to 11 counts, including securities fraud and perjury, stemming from a Ponzi scheme prosecutors said was worth $64.8 billion. The 70-year-old Madoff could get up to 150 years in prison at sentencing June 16.

Wilpon, Katz and many entities of their company, Sterling Equities, and various affiliated foundations are among the swindled creditors. It will bring a new dimension to the team when the first base is stolen at the new stadium. It won't have been by an athlete. It will have been by Bernie. What I really want to know is why are we still calling it Citi Field after Citi Bank? I am thinking it should be:

a) Taxpayer's Park

b) Bailout Ballyard or

c) People's Stadium

Or do something different. Let's name it after a hero. Let's call it Jackie Robinson Park.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day


For more than two decades, political cartoonist Steve Kelley has devoted his attention to public officials the way the radiator grille of a tractor-trailer might devote its attention to June bugs. He has delighted readers by consistently consigning office-holders to the one fate they fear most: that of not being taken seriously

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sagging Economy Leads to Rising Scams as Florida Bar Warns Attorneys to 'Beware'


This month the Florida Bar issued two warnings to attorneys of potential scams to avoid. The first involves loan modifiers. Attorneys are being asked by scammers to become involved with companies offering loan modifications, short sales, and other foreclosure related services.


Ever since the Florida Foreclosure Rescue Act, which can be read at F.S 501.1377 on http://www.myflorida.com/, restricting non-lawyer loan modifiers, these non-lawyers have offered to hire attorneys to act as in-house counsel to provide services to the non-lawyer's clients. This is a violation of the rules of the Florida Bar and can get the attorney in deep trouble.


The ethics rules of the Florida Bar specifically prohibits the non-lawyer, whether a mortgage broker, Realtor, or rescue consultant, from paying a referral fee or paying anything of value, for referring the distressed homeowner to a lawyer. Lawyers are also prohibited from sharing fees with non-lawyers or from being set up in offices by these rescue agents. The rescue agents cannot even act as referral services because they cannot meet the rules of the Bar for offering a referral service.


Further, the Bar has indicated that attorneys cannot even take clients from these companies because the firms engage in practices that are not allowed of lawyers, such as promising results in advertisements and directly soliciting clients from the public foreclosure records or from the Internet. The law has shut down one outfit and is bringing fraud charges against other companies who will take your money and still allow you to lose your home in foreclosure. More than 26 companies have been or are now under investigation for the unlicensed practice of law.


The Attorney General's office has recently filed eight lawsuits and initiated another 48 investigations. A corporation is prohibited from practicing law and cannot hire an attorney for their client. One company allegedly advised clients to hire their attorney when they found a legal violation by a bank. They also advised clients to send payments to their company, a practice no intelligent person should accept. Because these groups are engaging in the unlicensed practice of law, which in Florida is a crime, any lawyer who assists them can lose their license.


Florida residents are also having their money stolen by con artists posing as Florida lawyers or law firms who contact the individual informing them that they have won a, often foreign, sweepstakes and need representation to collect the winnings. The Federal Trade Commission has advised that playing a foreign lottery is a violation of federal law. Ignore all phone calls, mailings and delete Internet e-mails, which may also contain a virus.


There was an old Web- site which was shut down, but is evidently surfacing as a new site. The cons obtain the names of respectful attorneys that they list as members of their firm. Some of the sites claim the attorneys represent federal agencies, such as the IRS or Homeland Security. The old site that was closed down, according the Florida Bar News, was being operated outside the country, so there was little local law enforcement could do.


This piece courtesy of William Edy, published at the News Press. He concludes wisely that the: ' Florida Bar has indicated the best way to combat these scams is through publicity to both lawyers and the public. It distresses me that my name could show up on a bogus site without my knowledge. This identity theft is also the unauthorized practice of law, which is a criminal act. No group should solicit the referring of an attorney unless they are approved by the Florida Bar and any group that does so should be reported to the Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee of the Bar and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Solicitations from the Internet are the second worst way to find legal advice, second only to seeking the advice from a former jailhouse lawyer.'

The Rules are Different in Somalia

An Islamic court in southern Somalia on Tuesday sentenced a man who had killed a United Nations aid worker to pay the victim’s family 100 female camels as compensation.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the murder of a senior World Food Program official. The trial took place in a region that is under the control of the Shabab, a hard-line Islamist group, and its allies. The Islamist administration in the area has opened courts applying Sharia, or Islamic law, over the past year. In the UN aid worker's murder case, the judges deliberated and gave the victim's family the option to choose the death penalty for the accused or receive compensation.
Abdullahi Hussein, a local elder who was part of a committee involved in the case and suggesting an adequate sentence, said the 100 female camels were worth about 10 million Somalia shillings, or around $45, 000 in American money.
The victim, Abrahim Hussein Duale was shot dead by masked gunmen on January 6. Aid workers have been frequently targeted in Somalia, where the UN estimates that a third of the 10 million inhabitants are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Well, there are better ways of treating Peace Corps and UN volunteers.
Outside my jurisdiction, but I am thinking a tour of the Somalian deserts is not on my agenda.

Legal and Lower Bond Set in Illegal Abortion Case


This Sun Sentinel Photo, published online last nite, shows Lisa Pryor, left, a cousin, and Natira Williams, sister, of defendant Tonuya Rainey, who is charged with illegally terminating a pregnancy and improper disposal of human remains, reacting to Judge Matthew Destry's decision to reduce Rainey's bail to $14,000 from $185,000.

When First Appearance Magistrate Jay Hurley raised the bond on an inmate accused of illegally aborting a fetus, calling it murder, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein shot back that the judge was acting ultra vires, outside the scope of his authority, injecting his personal feelings into a legal fact finding tour. Correctly, the PD assigned the case made an ore tenus motion to recuse.

First of all, since the Broward County first appearance system only sets a preliminary bond, an inmate has an immediate second chance to get a new bond set by the jurist assigned their case. Thus, if a good attorney can secure an instant hearing before the judge so assigned the matter in chief, an appeal to the DCA may be unnecessary.
In this instance, Judge Hurley says it was too much like a murder case to leave the bond too low. But the State had not so charged and there was no evidence to sustain his personal judgment. The PD justly appealed. The Attorney General rightly remained silent, in effect arguing that there 'was no there there.' Returned to Judge Destry, the bond was properly reduced.
What makes the case intriguing is what makes Finkelstein so special as a Public Defender. He does not subscribe to the morning line. He does not do what makes him popular. As he challenges the ‘moral’ decision of Judge Hurley, he makes a ‘moral’ decision of his own, willing to buck the public adulation currently saluting Judge Hurley’s impressive early track record at reducing jail populations. He did not do what was fashionable and popular. He did what was legally correct.

Finkelstein’s challenge sends a recurring message that this public defender will not abide by comments, which demean and disgrace his clients for their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or human condition. For Finkelstein, once again it is simply not politics as usual. Because he is going to remain a watchdog and sentinel to guard the rights of those too often forgotten by the system.

Judge Hurley's higher bond may have answered to his own higher authority. But in a small way the Fourth DCA reminded the judge that abortions are not illegal, and have not been since Roe v. Wade some 40 years ago.
Ironically, as it says on the back of my citizen's rights card, the final determinant of what charges to be filed against anyone is not the police or the judge but the state attorney. And if facts are elicited which later lead to an amended charge, a more serious one, her bond can indeed be raised again. That will ultimately depend on what the state attorney does with the case. So the last chapter on Ms. Rainey may not be written yet. Just because the police concluded one thing does not guarantee that a state attorney in the filing division will not conclude another.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Editorial Cartoon of the Day


Teen Who Sent Nude Photos on My Space Could Be Charged as Sexual Offender



The mother of the New Jersey girl whose death inspired Megan's Law is criticizing prosecutors who charge teenagers with child porn for distributing nude photos of themselves. Maureen Kanka said Thursday that the prosecutors are harming the children more than helping them. Good for her, speaking out!

Her comments came as authorities in Passaic County charged a 14-year-old girl with child pornography for posting nude photos of herself on MySpace.com. If she is convicted, she would have to register with the state as a sex offender under Megan's Law. Would that not be totally absurd?

The girl's name has been kept confidential because she's a minor, but she allegedly posted 30 naked photos of herself on the social networking site. Prompted by a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, authorities investigated the case for a month before zeroing in on the suspect, who said she posted the pictures for her boyfriend’s pleasure. Anyone who was online “friends” with the girl through the site or knew her name could see the pictures.

The teen was charged with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. Police remanded her into her mother’s custody. A sheriff’s department spokesman told NorthJersey.com that more arrests in the case are possible.


This is ludicrous, an example of overreaching insanity made crazier by our zeal to control sexual predators. It was not a law intended for kids playing strip poker as teenagers, or we would all be sexual offenders.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dallas Cop Debacle


One a.m. Suburban Dallas. You rush to the hospital to be near a dying family member. You get to the E.R.
A cop stops you: “License and insurance, sir. You ran a red light.”

Man, my mom is dying inside.”

“Your attitude sucks, sir.”


Even after an ER nurse comes out and publishes the emergency, the cop, Officer Powell, holds up the ‘suspect,’ barring his entry into the hospital. The mother in law dies.

Everyone is apologetic afterwards. Dallas police. The cop. National news. Brian Williams shaking his head. Jay Leno probably doing jokes about it. But it is real life. Cops, like judges, like attorneys make mistake. Our justice system, well, that is one large mistake sometimes. This was one of those times.

That Dallas cop on that nite did more than exercise poor discretion. He stole a moment in time which can never be recaptured. Every son wants to be there when his mother in law dies. No, wait, seriously, god, I can’t resist a joke- seriously, this is a vivid example of when rigid rules clash with harsh realities.

It was a bad mistake, maybe by a good cop. I have no clue. But it goes a long way to teach community policing, seeing the community as a friend and neighbor. In this case, the detained suspect turns out to be an NFL football player. Maybe one the cop cheered for the Sunday before, watching a game with his son on TV.

Cops, too often disobeyed, develop jagged edges. They don’t want to hear anything. You become stupid. They become right. They own the street. You can hire a lawyer. Take your best shot. But in uniform, on the street, screw with them and you wind up facing the battery LEO, not them. They get exonerated. You get fried. Not this time, though. Cameras again capture injustice at work in the big city.

There are 80,000 stories in the Naked City. Thanks to You Tube, the Internet, cameras on dashboards, now you know about one more of them, shouting out “How can this happen?” Members of the jury, it does, everyday, anywhere, any place. It is our system, and like most systems, it breaks down more often than we would like.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/032609dnmetcopstop.3e9c080.html

SFL Reports Ripple Effect of Markus Trial Misconduct



Off the South Floriduh Lawyers' Blog today:


'Two federal prosecutors in Miami are being reassigned for their roles in the secret tape recording of a defense attorney and his investigator in a criminal case.

Court documents show that prosecutor Karen Gilbert voluntarily stepped down as chief of the Miami U.S. attorney's narcotics section. Prosecutor Sean Cronin asked to be transferred from the criminal division.

The U.S. attorney's office acknowledges serious mistakes in a decision to have witnesses tape conversations with defense lawyer David O. Markus and investigator Michael Graff. Markus wants a federal judge to order the government to pay his fees and costs because of the misconduct.

That's refreshing, huh?- SFL writes- We've had way too few of these moments from our federal government over the last few years. We could use some more.'
It would be nice. It would be nice.

Jailed Judges Corrupt Conduct May Overturn 1,000 Convictions


The corrupt Pennsylvania juvenile judges who are now doing jail time may wind up having a ripple and residual effect that is mind boggling. The NY Times is reporting, along with the ABA Journal, that maybe 12oo convictions are going to have to be overturned and vacated.

The ruling affects juvenile convictions between 2003 and 2008 in cases heard by the former president judge of Luzerne County, Mark Ciavarella Jr., reports the Associated Press. The AP put the number of juvenile convictions at issue perhaps in the hundreds, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports they could total 1,200.

He and a judicial colleague pleaded guilty last month in criminal cases concerning some $2.6 million in kickbacks they allegedly accepted in exchange for sending juveniles to a detention facility then reportedly owned, in part, by an attorney, as discussed in earlier posts.

A special master is looking into the situation. The penalty for these judges should be Bart Simpson like. They should have to sit down and write in longhand an apology to every kid and every kid's family and every state attorney and parent whose rights they poisoned with their diabolical greed. But first maybe we should break their fingers.

My first blog about this was a month ago, and each new revelation is repulsive. These guys have so corrupted the justice system in Pennsylvania.........
http://browardlawblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/judges-jailed-in-juvenile-prison-scam.html

HERE IS A NY TIMES PIECE ON A BETTER WAY- MISSOURI STYLE
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/us/27juvenile.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

Dominatrix Allegedly Ran $50M Mortgage Fraud Scheme



Just can't match what the ABA Journal ran today with Martha Neil so let me just excise those salient pieces which are juicy enough for anyone's Friday. Okay trivia fans, which movie was it with Richard Gere and the judge and the whips and the chains? Was it not 'And Justice For All?'

In the news last month when he complained that authorities had searched his law office, a Long Island criminal, matrimonial and real estate attorney now has additional trouble on his agenda.

Private practitioner George Guldi, 57, is accused of running, along with a dominatrix, her husband and two more New York lawyers, a $50 million mortgage scam that allegedly used straw buyers recruited from a fetish club to help dupe lenders into granting excessive mortgages, reports Newsday. When the mortgages weren't paid, the homes reportedly went into foreclosure.

Guldi is particularly well-known because he is a former Suffolk County legislator. He has now been criminally charged in what Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota describes as a "seven-year-long mortgage fraud spree" operated between 2002 and 2009 concerning dozens of upscale homes in the Hamptons, according to the newspaper and the Associated Press.

A lawyer representing Guldi, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree grand larceny and other charges in Southampton Village Justice Court, declined Newsday's request for comment. The newspaper says Guldi is accused of "act[ing] as the lawyer in dozens of fraudulent transactions that made him millions."

Prosecutors say another New York lawyer, 49-year-old Ethan Ellner, created fake titles that falsely claimed homes involved in the scam were free and clear of mortgages and other debt, Newsday reports. Thus, the straw buyers allegedly recruited with payments of $5,000 to $10,000 to overstate their incomes and pose as legitimate purchasers of expensive East End homes in the Town of Southampton were able to persuade banks to loan more on the homes than they were worth, according to the government.

Defendant Carrie Coakley, 38, who was featured in the 1998 documentary Whipped, and her husband, Donald MacPherson, 65, allegedly recruited straw buyers from among the clientele of their sexual fetish fantasy business, Arena Studios.

MacPherson is the publisher of the SoHo Journal, reports the East Hampton Star, in an article that provides additional background information about Guldi.

Earlier coverage:
ABAJournal.com: "Prosecutors Seized All Files in My Law Office, NY Attorney Says"

Editorial Cartoon of the Day



When I heard about the problem about debris in space, I thought of Sputnick. I thought of the Space Program. I thought of Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn and Apollo, and those little capsules circling our planet. I thought of Astronauts and Cape Kennedy and Cape Canaveral and about how much I have been enraptured over the years in the Space Program, how I became friends with one or two astronauts, how I dreamed I could be them. Then I saw this cartoon. And I laughed and said, 'Only in America.' Only we can prevent forest fires, said Smokey the Bear to me growing up. Only we.

Your Daily Miami Beach Celebrity DUI Arrest


Painter and sculptor Romero Britto was arrested in Miami Beach early Thursday on drunken-driven charges, accused of finger painting at the wheel.

Police say they were drawn to the Brazilian-born artist's attentiton by the distinctive colors of his car above, when they saw it about 3 a.m. swerving between lanes, said Miami Beach Detective Jenny Velazquez, police spokeswoman.

In lieu of bond, Britto painted a new motif and design for the Dade County Jail, according to Miami-Dade Corrections spokeswoman Janelle Hall.

The artwork of Brazilian-born Britto can be found throughout Miami, which is distinctive for its bold colors and famous urinators who get drunk, drive, and piss all over the city. He has an art gallery on Lincoln Road. Last year he did a piece featuring Dontrelle Willis, the former Marlins pitcher also caught drinking and driving. Since then, Willis has not thrown a strike.
This piece has been given satirical license by the blogger.

AG Fighting Cyber Crime Fast and Loose With Public Funds


Beth Reinhard, great reporter for the Herald, opines today about the potential rivals in the next governor's race, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, feuding over the no-bid contract for his cybercrime campaign.
Wait, did we not just elect Charley Crist? And why don't the people we elect have their seats warm before we are talking about them running for something else? Anyway, all I am blogging about today is how power and influence greases the wheel and that is not the way it should be. In a sense, this is the point Howard Finkelstein was making in the last piece about the Chief's wife getting a better deal than others similarly situated.
So Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum wants to fight cyber crime. Good for him. I see his ads all over TV. So do you I am sure. But now I find out his noble public purpose is a vehicle to line green the pockets of a chief campain aide. What a bunch of crap that is. Seems that he has been doling out dollars to a consultant to run the ads using the 'no-bid' you be my good buddy system. Gracious, me. In our society? Shocking!

McCollum has already dropped about $1.4 million in state funds on public service ads about on-line predators, and he asked for Sink's ''continued support.'' She said she backs the message, not the method.

''I was disappointed to learn that you intend to continue your no-bid contract to Chris Mottola Consulting, instead of going through a competitive bidding process,'' Sink wrote in response. ``Also it is important to note that these funds are public funds -- they belong to Florida's taxpayers.''

Sink asked for more documentation on the contract but her office has said she can't stop payment if McCollum complies with state law. He called her actions ''hypocritical'' and accused her of standing in the way of public safety.

''This essential program's only purpose is to protect Florida's children,'' McCollum wrote back. ``CyberSafety is not a political issue -- our children's safety hangs in the balance.''
Bah Humbug. So much for nobility.

Plea Deal for Chief's Wife Still Going Back and Forth With Controversy



The Sun Sentinel generates more controversy today on the shooting case involving the wife of Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderly. The Tonya Alanyez piece drives home the point that there are two sentencing standards, one for the rich and another for the poor.

Here is the link-

As a defense attorney, your duty is not to apologize for the system. Your duty is to get your client the best deal. A defense lawyer, the NACDL argues, is liberty's last champion. But you first of all, are your client's most important advocate. We may work within a system which is far more unfair than it is just, but your duty is first to your client on the case before you.

If David Bogenshutz purportedly has the power and influence to shape an outcome more favorably for his client than a young public defender would for his, that may not be good for the system. But it is good for Mr. B and his client. And Mr. B's duty is first and foremost to the client retaining him. So while the Public Defender can advocate for a 'more better' and equal system as he should and must do, in the meantime if you can you go to the lawyer who will get you the best outcome. That is our job first and foremost, and we do not have to apologize for it.

One of the points that is made in the news piece has to be that justice is supposed to be color blind. But more than that, it is supposed to be gender neutral, economically equally, socially level, and overall, be fair to all regardless of pocketbook or power. That is what our community should strive for. That is what our public advocates must demand. Equal justice under the law. In the meantime, though, a defense attorney may not have the wherewithal at a given moment to turn the system around. He has but one person to answer to- his client.


Domestic violences crosses all social stratospheres. Maybe if this case serves a purpose it will be to insure that the State Attorney's office and courts fashion future remedies with the time, heart and consideration eventually to be meted out in the case involving the wife of the Chief of Police. Then we would be moving in the right direction together.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Snap! Your Tag is in the System


Scanners, can't even get them to work on a computer, and now here they are on Hollywood police cars. And all it does is snap a little picture of your license plate tag. The Sun Sentinel so reports today. Fascinating:

"These things are awesome," said Hollywood Police Lt. Scott Pardon, whose traffic unit, in just a few weeks, recovered one stolen car, one stolen tag and made two arrests.

I am beginning to think there is no such think as privacy anymore, so it is impossible to invade it. I do know this system is also used to help people find their vehicles when they lose them in airport, stadium and large shopping mall parking lots, like at Sawgrass Mills: "Oh, yes of course we know where your green chevrolet is, you do do, you parked in the blue lot on the south side, not the red lot on the north."

Police everywhere say it's an effective crime-fighting tool while allowing officers to multi-task. But privacy-rights groups take issue with authorities taking and storing information on noncriminals, something they say is too Big Brother-like."If I have never gotten a ticket or have never done anything wrong, I should have the right to know if the picture of my car is in the database, and what are they doing with it," said Lillie Coney, with the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"It's not that they are looking at license plates and taking pictures of cars belonging to innocent people," said Barry Butin, co-counsel of the ACLU's Broward chapter. "We are more concerned with what they do with the information later."

Butin and others say there's a potential for misuse, such as an officer tracking a girlfriend, or police prying into the comings and goings of law-abiding citizens.In Aventura, police have been taking thousands of images and tag information since December. They say the information is stored permanently for possible use in future investigations. Punch in a tag and, if the scanner ever came across it, the system will indicate where and when.Plate recognition systems vary by vendor, but most work the same way: Once a camera shoots an image of a tag, the plate number is run through a constantly updated database of stolen cars and tags. A computer inside the cruiser alerts the officer when it finds a hit.


During a recent demonstration, Aventura Police Officer John Methvin drove around the Aventura Mall parking lot, zipping through three tags a second as his car slowly cruised the aisles. His cruiser has three sets of cameras mounted on the roof. He processes about 2,000 tags a day, most of them at the mall.A laptop computer plays a steady beat of "clicks" after each picture is taken. Suddenly, an alarm alerts Methvin to a "possible stolen car.""I get this one every time I drive by here," he said. It's a mall employee whose Florida plate has letters and numbers that match a stolen car from Canada.

The Broward Sheriff's Office, which covers 14 cities including Pompano Beach, Tamarac and Cooper City, has 35 license plate recognition systems mounted on patrol cars and at fixed locations throughout the county, scanning an average of 300,000 plates a month, said spokesman Mike Jachles. The department has been using the system about a year.

Many departments say the goal is to have all agencies share the same information. Police emphasize the scanning system does not run a full background check on every tag. That would overload the database system, they said. "It's a crime-fighting tool used to find violent offenders or violent criminals. This is not Big Brother watching," Jachles said. "We're not looking for expired tags, or things like that. If we did, we would be too busy to do other things."
Does anyone really believe this is not the mother of all database systems designed to garner and store as much information as is possibly useful later on down the road? Who are we kidding?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anna Nicole Back to the Future


Prosecutors are poised to re-open the investigation into the death of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.

The move comes after Smith’s former lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and two of her doctors, were charged with conspiring to provide her with thousands of prescription drugs over the three-year period up to her death in 2007.

The charges were brought in California, where Smith lived for much of her adult life.But now authorities in Florida, where Smith died of a massive drugs overdose at the Seminole Hard Rock Resort in Hollywood, have met with their counterparts in California.

Ron Ishoy, spokesman for State Attorney Mike Satz, intimated that the Florida death investigation could be re-opened.

“Our prosecutors have met with representatives of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Justice and discussed the evidence they have turned up in their investigation. We are now examining that evidence to see where it might lead in relation to Ms Smith’s death here in Broward County in 2007.”

This is music for CNN's ears. Another showdown in Fort Lauderdale. 'Bring back Larry' cheers are echoing the courthouse cafeteria as I blog.

Stern and the doctors, Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich, face 11 charges, relating to the supply of prescription drugs.It is alleged they were often prescribed for no legitimate medical purpose. Should have given her pot. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has described Stern as Smith’s “principal enabler.”

Stern was the most famous member of Smith’s entourage. He even claimed, falsely, to be the father of her newborn daughter, Dannielynn. Stern was buying a boat in Miami Beach when Smith died but had been staying in her suite at the Hard Rock. Smith died months after the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, of a similar drug overdose in the Bahamas. Other than Smith, Stern was the only other person in the room when he died.

Frankly, my blog in this is simple. The whole damn family was crazy, whacked, drug induced. I give Seidlin some credit. He got it right. The only sane one may be the dude he gave the kid to. I don't even the remember the name, what was it? You know, the blonde haired guy who showed up with the child on Larry King? Larry Birkhead? He was like the Kato Kaelin of this mess. Send 'em all packing. Keep them from Broward. I don't want to see 'Millstein,', 'Texas,' or any of the cast of characters that reduced Broward to a daily comedy show.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Barney Makes Waves With Frank Talk About 'Homomphobic' Justice Scalia


U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., called Justice Antonin Scalia a "homophobe" when commenting on the possibility of a case involving gay marriages reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an interview with the gay website 365gay.com, Frank was questioned about legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, FOX News reports. The 1996 law says the federal government and states have no obligation to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

"At some point, [the Defense of Marriage Act] is going to have to go to the United States Supreme Court," said Frank, who is gay. "I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has got too many votes on this current court."

Gays have criticized Scalia for his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the majority struck down a law barring sodomy, according to the Catholic News Service. Scalia said the majority decision represented "a massive disruption of the current social order."
So who is going to be the first to file the Bar Complaint against Barney Frank for intemperate conduct disrespectful to a jurist? Just askin.... Is truth a defense, though? If so, then it speaks for itself that he has a built in defense.

Judge Richards Breaks Up Fight As He Pole Jumps to the Rescue


You must go to the Video Link First !!!

http://cbs4.com/local/John.Reasee.Judge.2.966837.html


Pole Vaulter and attorney James Pedley would be proud of Broward County's newest judicial hero, who makes CNN about 30 days into his tenure as a jurist. And with a move Mickey Rourke would be fond of. Broward Judge Ian Richards jumps the bench to help a woman being attacked by domestic violence suspect. Now playing nationally on CNN.

Some quick thinking and quick action by a Broward County judge was caught on courtroom surveillance video when a domestic violence suspect tried to attack a woman in court.

According to BSO officials, John Reasee, 29, was appearing before Judge Ian Richards in courtroom 5810 at the main Broward County courthouse in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday morning when he apparently realized he didn't want to be taken into custody. Reasee was standing next to his attorney at a courtroom podium.

His alleged victim, Nicole Word, was standing next to her attorney on the other side of the podium. When Judge Richards decided that he was going to remand Reasee into custody for violating the terms of his pre-trial release, he pulled away from the Bailiff and attacked Word, who in turn, ran next to the Judge's bench.

Two court deputies quickly jumped into action to restrain Reasee, just as the Judge pushed the courtroom panic alarm and jumped off his bench to separate and protect Word from Reasee. Several Lauderhill police officers, who were in the hallway outside the courtroom at the time, intervened and helped the Bailiff restrain Reasee without further incident.

Reasee, who was charged with domestic violence, now faces new charges of resisting arrest and stupidity in the first degree. No bond for this guy now. Serious incarceration. Danger to the community and all that. But not to Super Judge. Expect an appearance on Letterman by Friday.

Looks like Seidlin's 15 minutes are gone. Welcome our new Judicial Super Hero . Ian Richards.
Young, in shape, and America's Newest Judicial Idol. If this dude had tried this in front of Judge Thomas Coker, I am thinking he takes out his .357 magnum and fires off a couple of rounds....

Family Law Section Plans All Day Affair Friday



Broward County Bar Association Family Law Section

presents

RAISING THE BAR FAMILY LAW SEMINAR

FRIDAY, March 27, 2009

8:30 am - 3:30 pm

Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Hotel

1617 Southeast 17th Street,

Ft. Laud. FL 33316

PRESENTERS AND AGENDA

8:30 - 9:00 Registration & Continental Breakfast

9:10 - 9:40

Judge Renee W. Goldenberg

Parenting Plans - Five Months Later

9:40 - 10:10

Judge Arthur M. Birken
Common Mistakes
10:10 - 10:40

Judge Linda L. Vitale

Current Procedures and Expectations in Chambers

10:40 - 11:10

Judge Marina Garcia-Wood

Hot Practice Tips

11:10 - 11:40

Russ Adler, Esq., Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler

Cutting Edge Software for the Future

11:40 - 12:00

Judge Renee Goldenberg, Suzie Higgins, Suzanne Ferriss and Lesley Kleiner

Stretch and Relieve Stress At Your Desk

12:00 - 1:30 LUNCH /

Table Topics:
Core Procedures and Problem Solving

1:30 - 1:50 Judge Eileen M. O'ConnorDomestic Violence and Related Issues
1:50 - 2:30

Judge Lisa Porter;
Judge Guiseppina Miranda;

Donald Gelin, Office of the General Counsel, Broward Sheriff's Office; and,

Emilio Benetiz, Esq.Dependency Practice and Procedure in Family Courts

2:30 - 2:40

AFTERNOON COFFEE
2:40- 2:55

Judge Susan F. Greenhawt,

Katherine Birnbaum, Esq.,

Kirschbaum, Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire, PLLC, and

Ken Gordon, Esq., Brinkley, Morgan, Solomon, Tatum, Stanley & Lunny, LLP

Private Judging and Special Magistrates

2:55- 3:30

General Magistrates,
Surprise Presentation
A surprise presentation? Like Vic Tobin shows up in drag? This should be special

'Play Ball' As Miami Votes for Stadium


Hey Norman Braman. You lost. Get over it.
Time to play ball in Miami. Real Stadium. Real City. Real international Community.
I am moving at once. Broward Law Blog, my ass. New name. South Florida Law Blog.
Working on it. Changing my name. Normandito from here on in.
Wait I blogged on this already. My love for baseball surpasses anything else:
As for my good buddy, former sportswriter Michael Mayo, writing ever so accurately in today's Sun Sentinel, hell thanks Mikie for bursting my bubble and ruining my day.
But how true you be in your notes.
How much so many of us will follow your way.
To the couch, then. Bring the beer, chips and remote!

In Lieu of a China Closet, Will a Coke Cabinet Do?


A humorous piece off the ABA Blog this past weekend. Molded cocaine as dinner servings. Not what I think Rick Steves' has in mind when the Travel Host displays Austrian dinnerware in European capitols. Or what mom had in mind when she saved all the good dishes in the dining room in something called a China Closet, which was God's way of saying we only touch the stuff there on holidays.

Remember the scene in Traffic in which Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing the wife of an imprisoned dealer, negotiates an exclusive deal to provide a Mexican druglord with seeming toys manufactured from cocaine? As the druglord watches, she dissolves a toy and sets up a line of coke, but refuses to partake because she's pregnant.

Such drug-dealing might have seemed a bit fantastic when the critically acclaimed movie was released in 2000. But it was based on reality then, according to the Los Angeles Times. And it's apparently becoming commonplace now, according to the London Times.

Spanish authorities recently seized a 44-pound dinner service in which all 42 of the plates, bowls, cups, saucers and other pieces were made of compressed cocaine, the British newspaper reports.
Grandma's chicken soup would sure have a new flavor.

Another enterprising drug-smuggling effort foiled by Spanish police several weeks ago involved a 66-year-old Chilean man wearing a "cast" made of cocaine, the Times writes.

His leg was in fact broken, X-rays showed, and, a police spokesman says, “investigators are examining the possibility that these injuries were brought about voluntarily ... to facilitate trafficking through security checks.” No word yet if he tried to snort his leg.
Nothing new here for people working in Miami customs for years. I mean, from people swallowing it to shipping it to hiding it in 2 by 4's, we could do a book on the best ways to hide coke. Actually the best thing to do is hide from it. Not good for you. Or your freedom.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day


US Supreme Court Should Toss Strip Search of Teen


The NY Times is reporting today that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its big strip search case on April 21. The High Court will review a lower court ruling that school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old Arizona girl when they strip searched her based on a classmate’s uncorroborated accusation that she possessed ibuprofen. I theenk theese case is an outrageous abuse of school district powers.

The matter, Redding v. Safford Unified School District, was appealed from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found the strip search to be unconstitutional. A six-judge majority of the appeals court further held that the school official who ordered the search is not entitled to immunity as a result of his actions.

Savana Redding, an eighth grade honor roll student at Safford Middle School in Safford, Arizona, was pulled from class on October 8, 2003 by the school’s vice principal, Kerry Wilson. Earlier that day, Wilson had discovered prescription-strength ibuprofen - 400 milligram pills equivalent to two over-the-counter ibuprofen pills, such as Advil - in the possession of Redding’s classmate.

Under questioning and faced with punishment, the classmate claimed that Redding had given her the pills. 2003? By now, she could have graduated college and found a teaching job.

In the school nurse’s office, Redding was ordered to strip to her underwear. She was then commanded to pull her bra out and to the side, exposing her breasts, and to pull her underwear out at the crotch, exposing her pelvic area. The strip search failed to uncover any ibuprofen pills.

This is galling. The strip search was undertaken based solely on the uncorroborated claims of the classmate facing punishment. No attempt was made to corroborate the classmate’s accusations among other students or teachers. No physical evidence suggested that Redding might be in possession of ibuprofen pills or that she was concealing them in her undergarments. Furthermore, the classmate had not claimed that Redding currently possessed any pills, nor had the classmate given any indication as to where they might be concealed. No attempt was made to contact Redding’s parents prior to conducting the strip search. The Supreme Court does not normally uphold a lot of what they do out here in the Ninth Circuit, my second home. This case should be the exception.

Additional information on the case, including that ACLU’s legal filings and the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, is available at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/search/35964prs20080711.html

Today's NY Times article

Jax Lawyer Jacks System for 700K of SPD Funds


And you think Chris Roberts had a problem? Since July, a Jacksonville lawyer has billed Florida taxpayers nearly $700,000 with questionable invoices that reflect an impossible workload, according to the agency that pays private attorneys appointed to represent indigent defendants.

At $90 an hour, David Taylor billed the state for more than 24 hours of work on two dozen separate days in 2008, a Justice Administrative Commission audit showed last month, including 42 hours in one day. He has billed for more than 16 hours on at least 100 more days, the commission said. Now he is selling real estate and apparently swampland in the Glades. Look at the picture above.

Questions about Taylor's sworn invoices led commissioners on Feb. 24 to cancel his contracts for court-appointed cases and challenge his invoices in court. The agency called his billing excessive, duplicative and more than twice that of the next highest paid court-appointed lawyer in Florida, who unlike Taylor exclusively handles first-degree murder cases in Miami.

"We just have no confidence in the accuracy of the billing," commission attorney Stephen Presnell testified in a Jacksonville hearing. Based on commission records, Presnell called Taylor the "highest-paid attorney in Florida."

This story from the Jacksonville paper,

reminds me of a cartoon from the New Yorker. A young lawyer passes in an accident and shows up to the gates of St. Peter seeking admittance, and is asked his age: '35,' he replies.

'But that cannot be,' says St. Peter, 'based on your billing records alone, you have to be at least 68 years old.'

I think that is how many years this guy is going to get. I guess this is why we did away with SPD appointments, which greased so many for so long. Still, somewhere between SPD and Conflict Counsel, there is a better medium which serves the public interest. What we have now is ineffective, unfair, and counter productive. We are not only not serving the poor; we are hurting them. It is not that we have non feasance, we have mastered malfeasance.

Federal Sentencing of Medical Dispensary Owner Postponed by Judge


Great news from Los Angeles...

A federal judge here Monday postponed the sentencing of a man convicted of running a medical marijuana dispensary and asked the Department of Justice to clarify its revised position on such cases.

Attorney General
Eric H. Holder Jr.said last week that federal authorities would not seek to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries if the operations complied with state and local laws, a departure from the Bush administration policy that federal narcotics laws held sway. California is one of 13 states that allow the growth and sales of medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

“The judge said this statement raises more questions than it answers,” said Reuven Cohen, a lawyer for the defendant, Charles Lynch. “He said he needed an explanation, and he needed it from the Department of Justice, not the local prosecutor.”

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney in Los Angeles, said that he could not comment on the specifics of the request by Judge George H. Wu, but that prosecutors “do believe that Mr. Lynch violated state law.”

Last August, a jury convicted Mr. Lynch on five counts related to running a dispensary and selling medical marijuana to customers under 21, considered minors under a federal statute that prohibits the sale of marijuana and other narcotics to minors. Mr. Lynch faces a minimum sentence of five years in federal prison.

The case has been widely followed by medical marijuana advocates since Mr. Lynch was arrested after a 2007 raid on his dispensary in Morro Bay, Calif.

“He’s scared,” Mr. Cohen said of Mr. Lynch. “He’s an engineer with no criminal record. In a million years, he never thought that this is where he’d be.”

Prosecutors convicted Mr. Lynch under federal statutes last summer. The issue of state law was barred from being raised in the trial, Mr. Cohen said. Here is my post about the situation a few weeks ago on The Kent Vent....



Monday, March 23, 2009

Colin Powell’s Former Chief of Staff to Speak at NSU Law Center Thursday


Ret. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, will speak at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center on March 26 at 3 p.m.

The free public presentation will address how recent foreign policy changes affect the United States’ national security. Wilkerson, who served as Powell’s chief of staff from 2002-05, has been critical of the Bush administration since leaving the State Department. He has criticized the intelligence used to make a case for the Iraq War and said of his role in Powell’s presentation to the United Nations: “I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council.” He has also accused former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of running a “cabal” during the Bush administration to push through their agenda.


Wilkerson is currently the visiting Pamela C. Harriman professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, as well as professorial lecturer in the honors program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Wilkerson’s presentation is being hosted by the National Security and Law Society at NSU’s Law Center.


The presentation will be held at the Shepard Broad Law Center on NSU’s main campus at 3305 College Avenue, Davie, Fla. 33314. More information is available by calling 954-818-9191.


About the National Security and Law Society: The National Security and Law Society is an international, non-profit organization devoted to fostering awareness of national security-related issues in the law. Comprised of chapters at law schools across the United States and Canada, NSLS strives to assist interest students and professionals in their academic and professional pursuit in this field, and the law.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day and Weekend Stories of Interest


Lots of interesting pieces in the Sun Sentinel this weekend worth your review and blogging comments this past weekend that we will have to catch up on...
Prostitution Blamed on 'Cheap Hotels' in Hollywood
Brittany Wallman on Police Brutality Complaints in Fort Lauderdale
High Bond for Murder or Abortion?
Last Pitch for Stadium Today
A Private Judicial System for Indian Tribe?

Judges on 4th Remember Gideon by Asking for Shorter Briefs


No, this picture has nothing to do with Gay Pride Weekend in Fort Lauderdale. First a blog about Gideon's anniversary, now a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling that too much of Gideon is not a good thing. In today's Sun Sentinel, a piece by Dianna Cahn lamenting the jurists' complaint that they need to limit the number of pages in post conviction briefs in non capital cases.

Say the justices who campaigned for their jobs by the way, the growing number of lengthy motions to the court by convicts can hinder rather than enhance justice. Not feeling lots of sympathy here, sorry.

The evidence that led to a guilty verdict in Alan Hedrick's murder trial was so "overwhelming" that an appeals court declared his 130 pages of arguments claiming an unfair trial to be not only without merit but "unfounded," and "abusive" of the process. But wait a second, team, the guy did this on his own. He had no freaking lawyer.

While the court was concluding that the "defendant's abusively lengthy post-conviction filings which raised unfounded claims of prosecutorial misconduct and paranoid allegations of vast conspiracy by government officials were wholly without merit," somewhere somehow you gotta note the dude was acting alone.

In January 2005, after his conviction, Hedrick — acting as his own attorney — filed a 109-page motion raising 24 claims alleging he had not received a fair trial or a proper defense. He then filed another motion through a lawyer with more allegations, the opinion states. The trial judge held hearings on two of the claims, then rejected the rest. The appeals court upheld those decisions.

The appellate judges added that the rule for post-conviction relief "was intended to provide relief for a very narrow class of serious errors that could not be corrected on direct appeal." Instead, they said, these motions are now filed in almost every case, forcing a search for a possible needle in a haystack. And I am supposed to feel sorry for them? Whoa, hold the horses. Okay, impose page limits like you do with attorneys. Go right ahead.

After all, 'pro se' litigants are a pain in the ass, right. See that Mr. Gideon, see how we are remembering you on your anniversary? And Bruce Winick jumps right in as an echo, chiming it would be a good thing to reduce 'frivolous claims.' Because why, the Gideons of the world are all frivolous?

How about this? How about establishing an Office of the Public Advocate, and turning each and every pro se appeal over to a law clerk, or law clinic, to effectively summarize and weed out the arguments advanced by the frustrating 'pro se' petitioners, but insuring that they get their claims and arguments heard nevertheless. I know they suck, they are long, they are discombobulated, they are a mess, they are compounded, they are complicated. But sometimes there are diamonds in the rough. And it's your job to read them. OK, impose limits not restraints; impose regulations, not restrictions; but don't whine about them.

All we are saying, is give 'pro se' a chance.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/custom/consumer/sfl-flbpostconvictionappeal0323sbmar23,0,5460329.story