Florida's Judicial News
Click headline for full story
Appeals Court Criticizes Polk Judges
case ruling faults incorrect finding of probable cause to proceed
An appeals court ruling involving a
man jailed on a drunken driving charge after a Breathalyzer test
registered 0.00 could change the way police in Polk County document evidence in some
DUI cases. . . .The ruling criticized the way Polk County judges sometimes review
cases when a DUI defendant makes his or her first court appearance
after their arrest. The DCA ruling said the judge who reviewed
Stephen Gould's arrest incorrectly found that probable cause existed
to proceed with a DUI charge. . . . Gould's car had crashed into the
back of another vehicle and
Lakeland police officers
investigating the accident gave him a Breathalyzer test, which
showed no alcohol use. Gould told officers he had taken the drug
Xanax and he was charged with driving under the influence. . . . The
only evidence submitted to the judge at Gould's first court hearing
was a traffic citation filled out by police that checked a box
indicating that Gould was intoxicated. No supporting evidence
accompanied the citation. . . . The three-judge DCA panel ruled this
month that wasn't enough to show probable cause existed to arrest
Lawyer may lose license for blog entry on Broward judge
A defense attorney's law license is at risk because he posted an
angry description on the Internet of embattled Broward Circuit Judge
Cheryl Alemán, calling her an "evil, unfair witch."Last week, as
Alemán was on trial for alleged misconduct before the Judicial
Qualifications Commission, The Florida Bar signed off on its finding
that Sean Conway may have violated five bar rules, including
impugning the judge's qualifications or integrity. . . . In the
Halloween 2006 posting on a blog, Conway denounced Alemán for what
he said was an "ugly, condescending attitude" and questioned her
mental stability after, he says, she unlawfully forced attorneys to
choose between unreasonable trial dates or waiving their clients'
rights to a speedy trial. . . . Conway, a former Broward assistant
public defender now in private practice, said Wednesday he feels
justified in his comments. . . . "She was giving people one week to
prepare for trial and as soon as the blog exposed it through
powerful words she stopped it," he said. "And that's why I stand by
what I did. Sometimes the language the bar approves of doesn't get
the job done."
Letter: More injustice in the justice system
The letter by Clifford Henry (“St.
Lucie County engaging in illicit money-making scheme”), stating he
was assessed a fine plus court costs by a St. Lucie County judge, in
spite of his proof of innocence, prompted me to write. . . . My case
involved a simple real estate sale wherein the judge awarded
excessive attorney fees and costs to a Palm Beach County attorney
and told everyone in the courtroom not to tell anyone that he ever
awarded $375 per hour when the hourly rate for attorney fees in the
19th Judicial Court in St. Lucie County is $250 per hour. This judge
ignored Florida Bar Rule 4-1.5 (1)(C) and required me to pay the
Palm Beach County attorney for additional hours the judge spent at
his doctor’s office (and not in the courtroom), a total of 33 hours
at $375 per hour, plus $350 and $275 per hour for other partners in
the Palm Beach County law firm. . . . He added a $14.98 per day
interest fee, making it retroactive one month prior to the date I
received the judgment amount. . .. In Clifford Henry’s letter, he
questioned how a judge who is sworn to be fair in his decisions
could perpetrate an injustice against him? That is the question I
asked. Just another example of injustice in the justice system.
Bea Corac / Port St. Lucie
Reprimand urged for Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Alemán
Alemán calls her hearing 'educational'
12-8-07 -- The attorney for the state agency
that polices judicial conduct said Thursday that Broward Circuit
Judge Cheryl Alemán deserves a public reprimand for breaching her
professional duty to be patient, dignified and courteous. . . .
"This is a judge who doesn't have the ability to see what others
see," Lansing Scriven, counsel for the Judicial Qualifications
Commission, said in his closing argument on the third and final day
of Alemán's judicial misconduct hearing. Yet Scriven said Alemán was
capable of turning her behavior around. . . . The commission had
charged Alemán, 49, with improperly threatening to hold attorneys in
contempt and refusing to step down from caseswhere she had an
acrimonious relationship with the defense attorney. . . . Alemán's
inability to assess her own conduct called for the reprimand,
Scriven told the commission's six-person panel.
Broward's Judge Alemán defends herself for 5 hours
judicial panel reviewing the misconduct charges against Broward
Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Alemán resumes its work Wednesday.
12-5-07 -- When asked to describe Broward
Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Alemán's reputation on the county bench,
assistant public defender Bruce Raticoff was blunt. . . . ''The word
was she was cold-hearted and that she was going to kill my client,''
said Raticoff, the first witness to testify Tuesday before a hearing
panel that is reviewing misconduct charges against Alemán. . . .
Raticoff, one of several attorneys who has accused the jurist of
improper conduct, was referring to a 2006 murder case for which the
defendant was facing the death penalty. . . . Alemán'scase is before
the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. The judge is accused
of several violations, including that she unfairly held, or
threatened to hold, lawyers in contempt of court. . . . Raticoff's
testimony at the trial-like administrative proceedings followed
nearly five hours of testimony by Alemán herself, who was questioned
about her frosty disposition, and about incidents in which she
ripped up an attorney's written motion from the bench, and a failure
to recuse herself.
Judges Feel Legal Blogs' Glare
In May, Dale Ross, chief judge for the
Florida circuit court in Broward
County for 16 years, stepped down following a year of embarrassing
scandals, gaffes and bad behavior by his judges. .. . . Although
pressure was building for Ross to resign for years, many legal
observers say it would not have happened if not for the new Broward
JAA Blog. . . . That blog hammered Ross on a daily basis
and reported on such incidents as a judge arrested for smoking pot
in a park, another judge making an off-color sexual remark and
another judge allegedly taking a loan from a defense lawyer
appearing before him. . . . The JAA Blog was started in August 2006
by a group of criminal defense lawyers fed up with the way things
were being run in the Broward courthouse. They believed that it
operated like a "good ol' boys network" rather than the
second-largest county court in Florida.
Judge Larry Schack: Allegations false, and court records can
Judge Larry Schack, guest columnist
I read the letter from Martin McMahon
and was absolutely shocked since I never made the remark nor
anything that could even be misconstrued as such. I have never
thought the way that was portrayed in the letter, nor spoken that
way. [McMahon letter below] The quote is a complete fabrication. . .
. I am writing because Mr. McMahon raised a claim that strikes at
the heart of what we as judges are supposed to do. I am responding
for several reasons. . . . First, I owe it to the public who invests
me with the trusted position of this office to assure them that I am
exercising the authority they have loaned me in a proper fashion. .
. . Second, as noted, the claim is patently untrue, and I do not
want it impacting the proceedings in court. . . . Third, a
fabrication of that nature not only impacts my reputation, it also
impacts the reputation of the court system as a whole. When a judge
goes awry, the entire judiciary tends to be tarred by the same
brush. . . . Finally, I wish to use this as an opportunity to
further educate the public on what we do as judges.
Letter: How can Judge Larry Shack make such a ludicrous
Regarding Judge Larry Shack and his
ludicrous statement, “I’m going to hand out a million years served
before I’m off the bench,” what do we have here? Premeditation and
prejudice — already sentencing people before their cases are heard.
He is an elected egomaniac. . . . Let’s get together and vote, or
force this “judge” into another venue — maybe flippin’ burgers at a
hamburger stand. Then the “judge” can claim more than a billion
Martin McMahon, Stuart
Kaney removed from bench
Florida Supreme Court won't put the retired jurist on any more
When Senior Orange Circuit Judge Frank
N. Kaney finished handing out sentences Oct. 18, his 34-year career
on the bench ended abruptly. . . . The Florida Supreme Court had
decided not to renew the retired jurist's annual appointment to
assist with overflow cases in the circuit. The exact reason is
confidential under court rules. . . . But records released to the
Orlando Sentinel show that six defense lawyers had complained to
Robert Pleus Jr., then-chief judge of the 5th District Court of
Appeal. They said "criminal defendants cannot get a fair trial
before Judge Kaney," according to a March 28 letter Pleus wrote to
the Florida Supreme Court. . . . Pleus described the attorneys,
whose names were not disclosed, as "highly respected members of the
Judge Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations
--The Ninth Circuit Judicial
Nominating Commission is seeking applicants to fill the vacancy
of Orange County Circuit Court Judge James C. Hauser, who has
resigned. . . . Applicants for the $145,080-a-year job must be
residents of Orange or Osceola counties, a registered voter and
an attorney in good standing for at least five years. . . . Gov.
Charlie Crist will appoint a successor for a one-year term. The
judge later would have to qualify and run for office. . . .
Hauser, 58, resigned in the middle of a misconduct
investigation by the state Judicial Qualification Commission.
New rules on court records often ignored
Some Miami-Dade and Broward
judges aren't following tough new rules meant to prevent the
wrongful sealing of court records.
--Six months after the Florida
Supreme Court ordered tough new rules aimed at curbing the
wrongful sealing of court records, judges in Miami-Dade and
Broward aren't following them. . . . A review of sealing orders
shows judges often are failing to comply with some of the new
law's key requirements, such as specifying in writing the
grounds for sealing court records, or including findings that
the secrecy was no broader than necessary. . . . Broward judges
have issued 10 sealing orders since the high court's ruling on
April 5, the clerk's office said. Eight don't meet the new
requirements. . . . Four of six sealing orders that judges
issued in Miami-Dade do not comply. . . . The cases include the
divorce of a prominent Broward homicide prosecutor, a defamation
suit against a Miami doctor, and a Fort Lauderdale law firm's
fee dispute in a probate matter.
Eleven years ago eBay did not have any
customers; today they have over 150,000,000 users and are growing
globally at a rate of 100,000 users per day.
Click logo now!!!!
Proceeds from your membership benefit us!
With NiceSale you have the opportunity to be a part of Internet
history and be one of the early members. Membership with NiceSale is
very exciting because your membership allows you to share in
NiceSale's revenues. Each item you list can attract a buyer and a
potential new member or user for you. EBay is nothing like
NiceSale; with NiceSale you can share in the growth and success.
Disbarred judge accused of illegally acting as attorney
--A disbarred judge was booked into
jail Thursday amid allegations he has been practicing law
without a license. . . . Louis Frazier Tidwell, 69, lost his law
license after he was sentenced to prison in 1991 for having sex
with a 14-year-old girl and smoking crack cocaine. . . . On
Thursday, state attorneys asked Hillsborough Circuit Judge
Gregory Holder to sentence Tidwell to jail for violation of
probation. . . . Chief Assistant State Attorney Karen Stanley
said the violation stems from evidence the state has that he has
illegally acted as an attorney. However, no formal charges have
been filed detailing those allegations.
Ex-Huntingdon County DJ charged with misconduct
--A former magisterial district
judge, who served for more than 30 years in Huntingdon County,
was formally charged with misconduct by the Judicial Conduct
Board Thursday. . . . Former District Judge Daniel S. Davis, who
resigned from the bench Aug. 31, is alleged to have covered up
financial misconduct in his office, and ordered unlawful
community service programs to defendants in his court, according
to a formal complaint issued by the board. . . . Davis was
charged in the Court of Judicial Discipline in Harrisburg with
failure to discharge his duties and failure to maintain adequate
records. . . . The complaint filed against Davis alleges that he
allowed his constable, David Ray Metzger, to collect more than
$800 in fines from defendants and deposit them into his personal
account. . . . The Huntingdon County District Attorney’s Office
is prosecuting Metzger on forgery and theft-related charges.
Activist Files Complaint Against Judge Durrance
10-10-07 --Winter Haven resident and
community activist Macy Butler has filed a complaint with the
state Judicial Qualifications Commission against Polk County
Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance. . . . Butler said that he is
complaining because of recent sentences handed down by Durrance.
. . . He cites two cases in which he thinks the judgment was too
harsh. . . . The cases are Daniel Norris, a volunteer
firefighter with no prior criminal record who was sentenced to
30 years in state prison for a drunken driving accident in which
two of his friends died, and Joseph Woods, a man sentenced to
six months in county jail for uttering a four-letter word in
Durrance's court on a first appearance hearing. . . . "They need
to review his record and review his tendency to make harsh
decisions with people with nonviolent records," Butler said. .
.. Butler, a former president of the Winter Haven NAACP, said
that he was especially upset when he heard of the sentence that
former Sheriff's Capt. Mark DeComo received in Durrance's
Chief Judge Under Investigation
9-26-07 -- Jacksonville Circuit Court Chief
Judge Donald R. Moran is under investigation for domestic
battery. . . . Moran's wife told police he hit her after she
punched him or threw something at him during an argument at
their home Monday night, according to a police report. . . . The
police report shows Moran, 62, left the home before police
arrived to investigate. Moran's wife said the two had been
drinking. . . . The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office would not say
whether investigators have spoken with Judge Moran. A JSO
spokesperson says it is an ongoing investigation. . . . Judge
Moran has not been arrested. . . . Right now, there is not a
warrant out for his arrest. . . . "Police do not need a warrant
to arrest the aggressor in a domestic battery," said State
Attorney Harry Shorstein. "That is one of the only misdemeanor
charges police don't need a warrant to make an arrest."
Judge and Jury
9-12-07 -- Joel T. Lazarus is a powerful
guy. He isn't just a Broward Circuit judge; he's also a jury.
And on Monday, he single-handedly did more to damage
anticorruption efforts in his county than just about any man
ever has. . . . Lazarus is the judge in the corruption trial
against Keith Wasserstrom, a former Hollywood commissioner.
Wasserstrom used the power of his office to help a sewage
company to which he was allegedly financially tied get a
lucrative contract in his city. . . . That much is uncontested
fact — and the lurid details smell worse than the sludge
involved in the city's contract. But after the prosecution and
the defense rested Monday, Lazarus threw out the key felony
charge against Wasserstrom, saying the unlawful-compensation
case against him was "circumstantial." . . . In doing so, the
judge not only subverted a fundamental American legal principle,
the jury trial, but also the opinion of a much higher power —
the Florida Supreme Court. . . . After Lazarus made the stunning
move, I questioned the judge about it outside the courtroom. . .
. "Did you make the decision to take this case out of the jury's
hands lightly?" I asked him. . . . "What?" . . . "Are you a
judge or are you both the judge and jury?"
Vindictive Judge Faces Misconduct Charges
9-10-07 -- A Seminole County judge who sent
a defendant to jail earlier this year for asking the judge to
recuse himself has been formally charged with misconduct charges
by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. . . . In a
formal complaint served last week, the judicial panel has
charged that Judge Ralph Eriksson’s actions were “calculated to
punish the defendant for exercising a legitimate legal right”
and were “punitive and vindictive”, undermining the orderly
administration of justice. . . . In another case, a defendant
who was unable to hear the proceedings and who was confused why
his attorney hadn’t filed some paperwork, was also sent to jail
by Eriksson who has been a judge for 12 years. . . . Bob Lee
Walton, 22, had been charged with driving under the influence
and driving in violation of the terms and conditions of a
business purposes license. The case had been previously charged
in Circuit Court due to an allegation of possession of cocaine
that was subsequently dropped.
Failed polygraph exams on sex-harassment allegations haunt judge
9-5-07 -- After allegations surfaced in
November that Orange Circuit Judge James C. Hauser exposed
himself at a law student's apartment months earlier, he passed a
lie-detector test and supplied it to deputy sheriffs and a state
judicial panel investigating the matter. . . . On Friday, a
lawyer for Florida's Judicial
Qualifications Commission disclosed that Hauser failed two
earlier polygraph exams and did not report the findings to
authorities -- raising questions about this truthfulness. . . .
JQC special counsel Lauri Waldman Ross, acting as a prosecutor
on the probe, produced the test results subpoenaed from Richard
Keifer, an Apopka polygraph examiner and retired FBI agent. . .
. "You wanted people to believe you passed a polygraph," Ross
asked the judge. "And that included the sheriff's department,
the JQC and the public at large?" . . . "That is correct,"
Hauser said, adding that Keifer told him that the earlier
results were "inconclusive." Hauser said he never saw the
Lawyer: Scathing written opinion not enough to remove
judge from bench
8-31-07 -- Like it or lump it, Judge Michael
Allen's scathing written opinion in the appeal of W.D. Childers'
bribery case doesn't make him unfit to be a judge, his lawyers
argue. . . . Wally Pope, the lawyer for the Judicial
Qualifications Commission said Allen's actions were ''uncaring,
unjustified and motivated by ill will'' against fellow First
Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Charles Kahn, reason enough to
pursue ethics charges. . . . But Allen's lawyers Thursday argued
that ethics charges against the judge should be dismissed
because Allen's opinion did not fulfill the basic requirements
to pursue an ethics case. . . . ''All Judge Allen's opinion did
was show his reason for (voting to have the entire court hear)
the Childers case,'' said Bruce Rogow, an attorney for Allen.
''You can like it or don't like it but there's nothing in there
that shows a present unfitness to hold office.'' . . . Broward
County Circuit Judge Paul Backman, who chairs the hearing panel
of the Judicial Qualifications Commission considering the case,
said he'd make a ruling on the motion to dismiss as soon as
Florida high court may take up children's rights to sue
8-27-07 -- The question of whether Florida
parents can sign away their children's rights to sue sports,
amusement and water parks may soon become an issue for the
Florida Supreme Court, state lawmakers or both. . . . In the
meantime, a recent appellate court ruling in the death of a
14-year-old boy at an Okeechobee ATV park has left both parents
and park owners confused. . . . Christopher Jones died in May
2003 after losing control of his ATV at the Thunder Cross Motor
Sports Park. His father, Bobby, had signed a waiver
acknowledging the risks at the park and giving up his and
Christopher's rights to sue - a common practice before children
enter parks or participate in sports events. . . . The 4th
District Court of Appeal ruled this month that Bobby Jones could
not sign away his son's right to sue, clearing the way for a
lawsuit against the park on behalf of the boy's estate.
Judge calls police to shoo 'O'Reilly' crew
They are given warnings. But a producer says the judge blocked them
in his driveway.
Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez arrived home Monday evening to find a
crew from Fox's The O'Reilly Factor parked in his driveway. . . .
The crew wanted to interview Lopez about his decision to grant bail
to a man who later killed a sheriff's sergeant. The judge wanted
them off his property - and summoned law enforcement to help. . . .
A Hillsborough sheriff's deputy issued trespass warnings to Brian
Lyle, Jesse Watters and Colin Kelly. . . . The men face penalties
only if they return to the judge's home, said sheriff's spokesman
J.D. Callaway. . . . But the show's executive producer said Lopez
blocked the men's sport utility vehicle, prohibiting them from
leaving. . . . "They would have left without incident if the judge
had let them," said David Tabacoff.
Pahokee suspect gets out despite 41st arrest
8-22-07 -- Alvin Lamont Walker's rap sheet
includes arrests for three homicides, a rape, batteries,
burglaries and assaults. . . . And yet, after his 41st arrest,
Sunday, the longtime Pahokee criminal was released immediately
on his own recognizance, without having to post bail. . . .
Walker, 57, who goes by the nickname "Cooter Pop," was charged
with simple battery, for allegedly punching a fellow customer
during an argument at a Pahokee liquor store. Judge Nelson
Bailey allowed Walker to be released, according to the state
attorney's office. . . . Bailey could not be reached for comment
Monday. . . . Walker's criminal record reads like a broken
record of dropped, dismissed or reduced charges. The whole
community knows and fears him, said former Pahokee Police Chief
Rafael Duran, now a corporal at the sheriff's office. . . .
"He's basically a career criminal and has gotten away with a lot
of things because people are afraid to talk," Duran said. "It's
fear. It's absolute fear."
Fla. Legal Elite Hope to Get Judges a Little Respect
Group wants to bring judges back in public's good graces after
embarrassing blunders and judicial abuse and misconduct
Prompted in part by Florida Supreme Court justices and the potential
loss of a new courthouse, a group of high-powered lawyers is
launching its own effort to restore public confidence in Broward
County's fractured judiciary. . . . The project is spearheaded by
former Democratic state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, prominent
Republican lawyer Edward Pozzuoli and Eugene Pettis, a member of The
Florida Bar Board of Governors. . . . The group began organizing in
the past few weeks and is attempting to set up an initial meeting. .
. . The objective: Help bring respect back to a bench beset by
criminal investigation, insensitive comments and inappropriate
actions. . . . "We have a great judiciary. We just have to prove it
to the public," Campbell said. "The group is starting because there
is a call for help." . . . The group plans to discuss ways to bring
the judges back into the public's good graces and wants to meet with
incoming Chief Judge Victor Tobin. . . . The judge said Tuesday that
he is receptive to the lawyers' involvement.
'Absurd' case?' Prosecutors think not
A retrial is planned despite a
scathing appeals court ruling.
An appeals court called the case
against Mark O'Hara "absurd" and "ridiculous," but the
Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is refusing to drop charges
against the 45-year-old Dunedin man. . . . O'Hara appeared
before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta Wednesday
morning, his first time in court since his release from prison
July 25. . . . During the brief hearing, prosecutor Darrell
Dirks indicated his office plans to pursue a second trial for
O'Hara, who was accused of drug trafficking after authorities
found 58 Vicodin pills in his bread truck. He had legal
prescriptions for the drugs. . . . O'Hara's lawyer, Ira Berman,
said he was stunned by the decision. He told Ficarrotta he
planned to ask for a dismissal.
Judge questioned on visit to woman's home
Law student disputes his version
8-8-07 -- It started as a conversation
between a male teacher and a female student after law class,
followed by a casual dinner and a trip to her apartment to
borrow some movies. . . . What happened next -- indecent
exposure or consensual kissing -- is in dispute and may
determine the future of Orange Circuit Court Judge James C.
Hauser's career. . . . On Tuesday, an attorney for the state
Judicial Qualifications Commission began questioning Hauser to
determine his fitness for the bench. . . . In a mock courtroom
at the Orlando offices of his attorney, Keith Mitnik, Hauser
admitted a romantic interlude last year with a married Barry University law student in
Orlando while he was a co-instructor in a class called "Making
the Divorce Work." But he was adamant that it was a welcomed
Judge upholds Save Our Homes law
8-8-07 -- The Florida law that shifted
about $7.8 billion in property taxes from homesteaders to all
other property owners this year is ''even-handed'' and not
discriminatory, a Tallahassee judge ruled Monday. . . . Circuit
Judge John C. Cooper dismissed a suit filed by Alabama citizens
who say they're paying an unconstitutional amount of taxes for
second homes in the Panhandle. . . . The judge, basing his
ruling on higher court opinions, ruled from the bench that the
voter-approved Save Our Homes constitutional amendment did not
violate the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection and
right-to-travel provisions. . . . The plaintiff's lead lawyer,
William Slaughter, said he was ''not at all surprised'' by the
ruling because the case is fraught with ''political angst,''
judges such as Cooper are locally elected and ``even the Supreme
Court reads election returns.'' . . . Slaughter, whose wife was
once listed as a plaintiff, said he plans to take the case to
the nation's highest court. Along the way, he'll stop at
Florida's Supreme Court and the state's First District Court of
Appeal, which issued the Reinish v. Clark opinion in 2000 that
held that Save Our Homes is constitutional.
Anna Nicole Judge Larry Seidlin Scores Own TV Show
Move over Judge Judy… Judge Larry
is coming to town!
8-8-07 -- Judge Larry Seidlin, the
wisecracking emotional judge from the Anna Nicole Smith case, is
shooting a pilot for his own TV show, Access Hollywood has
The show will be produced by CBS
Paramount. No other details were available.
The lampooning purveyor of
justice (dubbed Sideshow Seidlin by the media for his courtroom
antics) announced his resignation from the bench in June, amid
speculation he was negotiating a deal for his own show.
Fla. Appeals Panel Finds in Error Judge Who Made
Broward Circuit Judge Charles I.
Kaplan suffered his second appellate setback in three weeks
Wednesday when a Florida 4th District Court of Appeal panel
found he erred twice in holding a Broward juvenile in contempt
for violating a court-ordered curfew. . . . In a two-page per
curiam opinion in K.M., a child, v. State of Florida and Daryl
Wolfe, a 4th DCA panel ruled a valid court order did not exist
for violation of curfew, and thus Kaplan could not hold the
teenage boy in contempt. . . . Kaplan, who was elected last
year, declined to comment on the ruling. . . . Earlier this
month, in a 2-1 decision, a different 4th DCA panel disqualified
Kaplan from another juvenile delinquency case because the judge
made remarks about the 14-year-old defendant's dress and
appearance. . . . Kaplan compared the juvenile's appearance to
two teenagers who killed 13 people in 1999 at Columbine High
School in Colorado. The panel majority said those remarks
suggested Kaplan could not be impartial in the case.
Court: Defendant's satanist robe OK for murder trial
Man cites permission given
Muslim terror suspects to wear Islamic garb
Florida trial Judge Peter Adrien has ruled that a satanist on trial
for allegedly killing and dismembering another man, then eating
portions of the body, may wear his full religious regalia when he
defends himself in court. . . . The prosecutor in the case,
Assistant State Attorney Herbert E. Walker III, told WND the motion
was brought by Lazaro Galindo, who is on trial for the 2000 death of
Argelio Gonzalez. . . . Walker said he did not object to the
request, because Galindo cited recent decisions that have allowed
Islam into U.S. courtrooms for Muslim faithful, and he didn't want
to set up a circumstance that could result in grounds for an appeal
if Galindo is convicted. . . . "His argument was that if Muslims
have a constitutional right for their religious beliefs to be
recognized by the government, then he does," Walker told WND. . . .
Walker told WND it was the first time he's ever heard that a
defendant will be allowed to wear satanic garb, and carry the
satanic bible, during a murder trial.
I've Got Nothing Here
This story is so bizarre and outrageous, I can hardly
believe it's true. . . . Tampa's Mark O'Hara was released from
prison this week. He was serving a 25-year sentence for possession
of 58 Vicodin tablets. Prosecutors acknowledge he wasn't selling the
drug. They acknowledge that he had a prescription for it. At his
trial, two doctors testified they'd been treating O'Hara since the
early 1990s for pain related to gout and an automobile accident. . .
. But prosecutors inexplicably brought drug trafficking charges
anyway, because as the article explains, "Under the law, simply
possessing the quantity of pills he had constitutes trafficking." .
. . This is simply stunning. The man was sentenced to 25 years for
possessing 58 pills for which he had a legal prescription. . . .
Prosecutors then argued—and the trial court agreed—that the jury was
not allowed to consider the fact that O'Hara had a prescription
because Florida statutes governing painkillers don't allow for a
"prescription defense," as if that rather crucial fact were some
mere technicality those ACLU-types are always using to get criminals
off the hook.
Judge Victor Tobin to oversee Broward's judiciary
Broward judges on Tuesday elected a 10-year veteran of the bench to
the court's top administrative post.
Broward Circuit Judge Victor Tobin, elected chief judge on Tuesday,
pledged to bring a new, open-style administration to a wounded, and
deeply divided, county courthouse. . . . Tobin's biggest challenge
will be to restore public faith in Broward's judiciary following
more than a year of upheaval on the bench. . . . Last week, Gov.
Charlie Crist ordered a criminal investigation into allegations of
wrongdoing by two Broward judges who have been accused of accepting
gifts and money from a defense attorney who regularly appeared
before them. . . . Tobin succeeds Dale Ross, who resigned the post
last month amid a rash of embarrassing missteps by Broward judges. .
. . Tobin's election to lead the second largest judiciary in the
state comes on the same day that the state Commission on Human
Relations issued a number of recommendations to improve Broward
Stuart's McManus named new circuit judge
A partner in the Willie Gary law firm will become the newest judge
on the Treasure Coast after being appointed to the post Tuesday by
Gov. Charlie Crist. . . . F. Shields McManus, 60, a partner with
Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando,
fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Scott M.
Kenney. He will be taking over a range of civil, family, probate and
other noncriminal matters in Okeechobee and will begin sometime in
August, he said. . . . "I'm extremely pleased and happy and excited
and very thankful that the governor saw fit to appoint me because
all the candidates were eminently qualified," he said Tuesday. "This
was something that I wanted to do for many years."
Prosecutor named to probe 2 Broward judges
A criminal probe into possible
wrongdoing by two Broward judges will be conducted by the
Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. . . . On Thursday, Gov.
Charlie Crist assigned State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle
the task of investigating accusations that Circuit Court Judge
Larry Seidlin received gifts or loans from a local attorney who
regularly represented clients in his courtroom. . . .
Fernandez's office will also investigate whether Broward County
Judge Robert Zack inappropriately solicited or accepted gifts or
loans from a local attorney who appeared before him on a regular
basis. . . . Crist assigned the cases to the Miami-Dade State
Attorney's Office after receiving a request from the Broward
State Attorney's Office on July 2. State Attorney Michael Satz
said his office could not conduct the investigation because of a
conflict of interest. . . . Seidlin -- best known for his crying
jags and emotional outbursts during the Anna Nicole Smith case
-- was a former prosecutor with the Broward State Attorney's
Office and is eligible to preside over cases prosecuted by Satz.
. . . Zack is a sitting judge and his daughter is a former
prosecutor. . . . It's against the law for judges or public
officials to receive gifts from anyone doing business with their
agency. Judges also are required by law to report gifts on their
annual financial disclosure forms to the state Ethics
Lawyer's memo: Father offered favor to Broward judge
before son's sentencing
Broward Circuit Judge Charles Kaplan
7-13-07 -- A Broward assistant public
defender is raising questions about an off-the-record exchange
between a judge and a parent in a juvenile case, according to a
memo obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. . . . During a
June 12 courtroom recess and before imposing a sentence upon a
teenage boy, Broward Circuit Judge Charles Kaplan gave his
business card to the teen's father after he told the judge he
could get free tickets to social soirees, according to Assistant
Public Defender Tanya Simpson's memo. . . . Kaplan says he did
not received any tickets nor was that his intent. . . . "I'll
gladly stand up to any scrutiny anyone wants to throw at me," he
said. "I have a sterling reputation." . . . The teen, who had
violated probation by testing positive for marijuana and the
anti-anxiety drug Xanax, was before Kaplan on an open plea,
which leaves it to the judge to determine the sentence.
Fla. Judge Removed From Juvenile Case Over Columbine Remarks
7-13-07 -- In a split opinion, a Florida 4th
District Court of Appeal panel removed Broward Circuit Judge
Charles Kaplan from the juvenile delinquency case of a
14-year-old based on Kaplan's remarks comparing the defendant's
dress and appearance to the two teenage mass killers at
Columbine High School in Colorado. . . . The opinion was
supported by 4th District Judges Larry Klein and Robert Gross.
Judge Barry Stone dissented. . . . The Broward teen was in court
over his possession of a razor blade on middle school property.
The teen said he simply forgot to remove the blade from his
trousers. . . . According to the 4th District ruling, Kaplan
said in open court that the defendant is "walking around with a
razor in his pocket; he's wearing black; his fingernails are
black; he's got that thing in his ear. ... I think if you look
around at all the kids that are doing things in school, they're
dressing this way."
Defense lawyer who has accused two Broward County judges of
improprieties leaves town with bitter taste of justice
7-9-07 -- A "For Sale" sign hangs outside
Lawrence "Chris" Roberts' waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale.
After 38 years in South Florida, he intends to move to the
Jacksonville area with his wife and 7-year-old son. . . .
Roberts, a defense attorney and former judge, is not leaving
quietly. . . . In the last month, he's taken a figurative torch
to the Broward County Courthouse where he spent much of his
professional life. . . . First he leveled allegations of
impropriety against Larry Seidlin, the recently retired judge
and ringleader of the Anna Nicole Smith circus who's gone on to
pursue a television career. . . . Roberts said the judge
prompted him to buy a $1,000 Louis Vuitton purse for Seidlin's
wife about five years ago. At the time, Seidlin gave Roberts
lucrative special public defender appointments in juvenile
On Mayo, Roberts, Kent, and JAABloggees
7-9-07 -- Sun-Sentinel columnist Micheal
Mayo weighs in on the Seidlin story this morning with a piece
focused on Lawrence "Chris" Roberts, the man who blew the
whistle on Judges Larry Seidlin and Robert Zack. The
piece has its merits, including being the first to
report that Roberts was planning to move out of the area (I only
learned that Friday afternoon myself) and squarely looking at
the ethical quagmire involved. But Mayo, in the midst of the
column, takes flight from reality: . . . "It's hard to say
whether Roberts should be lauded for his 11th-hour integrity or
lambasted for his self-serving timing. . . . After all, it's
pretty easy to set the town ablaze on the way out. True virtue
would have meant refusing the gift and loan requests and
immediately reporting the judges." . . . True virtue at the
Broward County Courthouse? . . . Pardon me while I laugh my ass
off. The courthouse has been so deeply corrupt for so long that
finding "true virtue" there is like finding true peace in Iraq.
It's just not there. That place is packed with stories about
prosecutors cavorting with judges, of undisclosed gifts and
illicit favors, of justice subverted, of, in fact, every sin
imaginable. But those stories will never be told. I know a few
ditties myself that would take the Seidlin matter to another
level and make for a new scandal or two. . . . But the people at
the heart of them, namely lawyers, know what will happen if they
snitch (and Roberts' use of the word "rat" in Mayo column is
telling). They'll be blackballed. They'll be smeared. They'll be
destroyed, plain and simple. They can't tell the story, and if
they do it's off the record. And if it's repeated, they'll deny
Judge won't hear cases involving Broward State Attorney's Office
Zack faces investigation over loan
7-5-07 -- The
Broward State Attorney's Office has agreed to have all of its cases
before embattled County Court Judge Robert S. Zack reassigned to
another judge. . . . Zack, 64, is facing an investigation for
inappropriately accepting a $2,500 loan from a defense attorney who
regularly appeared before him. . . . The state attorney's office on
Monday asked Gov. Charlie Crist to have an outside agency
investigate the allegations against Zack. . . . Chief Assistant
State Attorney Chuck Morton wrote in a letter Tuesday to Chief Judge
Dale Ross that the cases should be reassigned "in an abundance of
caution to avoid any appearance or perception of potential
conflicts." Morton wrote that he was accepting Ross' offer to do so.
Judge cleared of wrongdoing for comment in court
7-5-07 -- The state Judicial Qualifications
Commission has cleared a Broward County judge of any wrongdoing
for making a comment some called racist. . . . Circuit Judge
Charles Greene used the term "N.H.I." in April after jurors
acquitted a defendant of attempted murder. The victim, defendant
and witnesses in the case were all black. . . . N.H.I stands for
"no humans involved." The acronym is used to describe why some
crimes against the poor or minorities might not be investigated
or pursued as thoroughly as possible.
Another judge rotates into 'emotionally difficult' family court
7-5-07 -- Case after case of allegations of
physical and sexual abuse on children can make even the
strongest of judges tear up. . . . After two years covering
child welfare cases in east Volusia County, Circuit Judge Frank
Marriott is the latest dependency judge to request reassignment
to a new division. . . . While he found working with children
"rewarding" and would volunteer to come back, he said he needed
a break and wanted experience in other areas. He started Monday
in the felony division where he'll handle such cases, including
murder. . . . "As a judge, you can do something that really
helps a kid," said Marriott, 60, of Ormond Beach, a judge since
2000 and a civil trial attorney in Daytona Beach for 25 years. .
. . But the hard part of dependency court, he said, is it can be
"emotionally difficult" for him or any judge. Dependency court
can deal with removing children from their parents for abuse or
neglect or terminating a parent's rights. . . . "It's a constant
exposure to negative situations involving children. It sort of
wears on you," Marriott said.
IRS Slammed Judge Larry With Tax Bill
7-5-07 -- A look at Judge Larry Seidlin's
financial disclosure forms not only shows that he never reported
any gifts from wealthy widow Barbara Kasler, but they also show
the feds hit him for $11,000 for allegedly failing to report
profits he made from stocks last year. . . . The IRS notified
Seidlin of the apparent oversight in a letter this past
September 11, notifying the judge that it had learned from a
third party that he'd earned $27,763 from stocks he owned in a
Boca Raton company called JAG Media Holdings, Inc. Seidlin
included the "Notice of Deficiency," as it's called, in his
latest financial disclosure, which he filed on June 5.
In the Bag
Judge Seidlin heads off to la-la land with collateral damage to his
So Judge Larry Seidlin, of Anna
Nicole Smith fame, has quit the Broward County Courthouse to go off
to Hollywood to develop a TV show. . . . South Florida should
rejoice. . . . It´s not so much that the 57-year-old Seidlin was a
bad judge; it was that he wasn´t much of a judge at all. He is, in
fact, a shining example of the dim era ruled by outgoing Chief Judge
Dale Ross, who pretty much let judges do as they pleased so long as
they bowed at his feet. . . . So, other than drag the country though
a needless and absurd Anna Nicole hearing/screen test, what did
Seidlin do? . . . Well, as almost everyone at the courthouse can
tell you, flying through dockets in the morning and playing tennis
in the afternoon was his M.O. But what few know is that he also
allegedly had time to wrangle gifts out of at least one lawyer
working in his division and a small fortune from an elderly woman
living in his ocean-view condo building on Las Olas Boulevard. . . .
We´ll start with the woman.
Judge Vying for Promotion Cuts His Long Mane of Gray Hair
Broward Circuit Judge Thomas M.
Lynch IV is so committed to promoting a new, more positive image of
the Broward judiciary that he chopped off the long gray mane that
has cascaded down his black robe for much of the past decade. . . .
Lynch is one of three veteran judges vying for the circuit’s chief
judgeship following Chief Judge Dale Ross’ unexpected announcement
that he is stepping down in September after 17 years at the helm. .
. . While Lynch’s two rivals for chief judge — Circuit Judges Paul
Backman and Victor Tobin — haven’t altered their appearance, they
agree that the main problem facing the Broward judiciary is public
All Rise, Here Comes Judge 'Weepner'
Judge Wapner was firm and fair,
Judge Judy is tough as nails. But when Judge Larry Seidlin gets
his own courtroom show, they better put a big box of tissues on
the bench. Seidlin, the weepy Florida judge who presided over
the fight over where to bury Anna Nicole Smith, has inked a deal
to develop a 2008 show with CBS Television Distribution and is
slated to film a pilot in L.A. next month, Broadcasting & Cable
magazine reported on its Web site. . . . The Bronx-born jurist
is leaving his court job after spending a week in
Hollywood meeting with TV execs
in search of a deal. His last day on the bench is July 31,
according to his letter of resignation. . . . Seidlin, a former
New York cabbie, was coy Tuesday when asked if he has a future
on the tube. "We don't know. There's a lot of things we'll
explore," he said as he was leaving his chambers with his
6-year-old daughter in tow. . . . When pressed about his TV
plans, he turned to his daughter, Dax, and said: "What do you
think, my little one? Do you want to see me on TV? Do you want
to be on TV with me?" . . . "Yes," the pigtailed girl said.
Judge in Anna Nicole Case Resigns -- and TV May Be Next
In the latest Broward County,Fla.,
judicial shakeup, Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin, who drew large
audiences and sharp criticism for his handling of the February
custody fight for the body of tabloid icon Anna Nicole Smith,
has announced he is leaving the bench at the end of July. . . .
Seidlin did not return a call for comment by deadline.
It has been rumored that Seidlin
has a TV show in the works. Twentieth Television, which
previously said it was talking to Seidlin about a deal, could
not be reached for comment by deadline. . . . Seidlin came under
widespread criticism in the legal community for his handling of
the Smith case, and more recently came under fire for other
behavior. Last month, WSVN-TV Channel 7 reported Seidlin took
three-hour lunch breaks on the four days in April that he was
tailed by the station's investigative team. WSVN also showed
that he was at a tennis club by 4 p.m. on three of the four days
he was watched. He declined to comment for the TV report.
Magazine says retiring Broward judge headed to TV
6-20-07 -- Broward Circuit Judge Larry
Seidlin is destined for the small screen -- he has committed to
develop a fall 2008 court show with CBS Television Distribution,
the TV industry magazine Broadcasting & Cable is reporting. . .
. Citing "multiple industry sources," the magazine reported that
Seidlin is expected to tape either a pilot or sales presentation
in early July in Los Angeles. Seidlin announced Tuesday that he
was stepping down from the family court bench, effective July
31. . . . His attorney, Dave Bogenschutz, told the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday that he could not confirm or deny the
report. . . . The magazine previously reported Seidlin met
earlier this year with several program distributors.
generation RAZR package includes a voice
plan and feature of your choice at
lightening-fast 3G speed! The MOTORAZR V3xx
has a 1.3 MP camera, video playback and
music capabilities. Listen to your favorite
tunes on the MP3 music player and customize
your own playlists. Stay hands free with
stereo Bluetooth® wireless music profiles.
Snap crisp photos on your 8x zoom camera or
watch news, sports, and more with Cellular
Video capabilities. With 3G abilities you
can download music and videos at ultra fast
UMTS speeds. The ultra sleek design,
enhanced speech recognition, and multiple
messaging options will keep you connected in
style. The MOTORAZR V3xx is as hot as it is
Recently published stories on South Florida judges in trouble
Attention-getting Broward judge in Anna Nicole Smith case resigns
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Broward Circuit
Judge Larry Seidlin -- who gained notoriety for his tearful
televised performance in the Anna Nicole Smith case -- is leaving
the bench on July 31. (Jun 19, 2007)
PHOTO GALLERY: Anna Nicole Smith -- 1967 -2007
FILE VIDEO: Judge Seidlin's emotionally charged ruling
Broward judge in pot-smoking case retires
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Three months after
being cited for smoking marijuana in a public park, a Broward County
judge has announced his retirement. (Jun 14, 2007)
Broward judge faces possible removal by state panel for smoking
A Broward County judge apologized in
court Monday for smoking marijuana in a Hollywood park, cutting a
deal on his misdemeanor drug case but leaving his judicial career in
jeopardy. (May 8, 2007)
Judge Korda pleads not guilty to pot charge, attorney says
Broward judge placed on leave while he faces pot-smoking charge
Broward judge seeks reassignment after insensitive remark creates
Broward Circuit Court's diversity
committee had its first case before it even had bylaws. (May 2,
Colorful Anna Nicole Smith Judge Leaving
Larry Seidlin, the wisecracking judge
who presided in the dispute over Anna Nicole Smith's remains and was
lampooned for his sobbing announcement of the verdict, will resign
next month, a court spokesman said Tuesday. (Jun 19, 2007)
Diversity training is slated for judges treatment of minorities
Broward judges have berated litigants
for not speaking English and disparaged the cleaning crew for
leaving a bench in disarray, raising the ire of minority and women's
lawyers groups. (Apr 27, 2006)
Chief judge's shtick not the example courthouse needs
Comedy in the wrong hands can be
dangerous. For the latest proof, we turn to Broward County Chief
Judge Dale Ross' stint in magistrate court last weekend.Magistrate
duty involves setting bail and handling cases of those who've been
arrested. During the course of two hours last Sunday morning, Ross
made a series of quips that would make a radio shock jock
proud. (Feb 11, 2007)
Charges accuse Judge Cheryl Alemán of arrogance and discourtesy
The state judicial watchdog filed
formal charges against Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Alemán on
Tuesday, accusing her of "a pattern of arrogant, discourteous, and
impatient conduct."Using unusually strong language, the state
Judicial Qualifications Commission charged her with violating
several canons or rules, and acting in a manner that "erodes public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." If
the allegations are proven, Alemán faces anything from a public
reprimand to removal from the bench. (Feb 7, 2007)
Seidlin a TV star? CBS makes an offer
The appetite for his antics may be
wearing thin in South Florida, but the networks and cable TV only
seem to want more of Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin.The
courthouse rumor mill was grinding two big items Friday: Seidlin is
retiring from the Broward bench. And he's finally getting that TV
judge show his friends say he should have. (
Judge won't face misconduct charges over bias complaints
Broward Circuit Judge Eileen O'Connor
will not face judicial misconduct charges in connection with
accusations she failed to disclose two employee discrimination
complaints when she applied to become a judge in 2003, the South
Florida Sun-Sentinel has learned.The state watchdog agency that
monitors judges, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, voted at
its Aug. 24 meeting to dismiss a complaint against O'Connor. (Sep
Judge denies remark racist defender's office files complaint over
comment on court's cleaning crew
The Public Defender's Office on
Monday called for a state investigation into a Broward County
judge's courtroom comments that they say demean minorities and poor
people. (Jun 28, 2005)
Judge Accused in Pot-Smoking Case Resigns
Veteran Broward Circuit Judge Lawrence L. Korda has resigned from
the bench, three months after he was arrested on a misdemeanor
charge for smoking pot in a Hollywood, Fla., park. . . . "It has been
my honor to serve the court and the state for over 30 years," Korda,
59, wrote in his June 11 letter to Gov. Charlie Crist. The Florida
judge was first elected to the bench in 1978. . . . His resignation
takes effect July 2. Korda had been on a voluntary paid leave of
absence since early April. After he was caught smoking pot, Chief
Judge Ross had transferred him from the family to the probate
division. But public criticism mounted, and Korda went on leave. . .
. Copies of Korda's letter also were sent to Ross and the state
Judicial Qualifications Commission. The NAACP says it has filed JQC
charges against Korda in connection to the marijuana incident.
Schiavo Alma Mater Honors Judge In Death Case
Florida honors judges who advocate killing the disabled, elderly and
vulnerable. . . . The alma mater of Michael Schiavo, the estranged
husband who battled in the courts for years in order to secure a
court order to kill his wife, is honoring retired Circuit Court
Judge Susan F. Schaeffer, the judge who assigned Probate Court Judge
George W. Greer to be the executioner in the Terri Schiavo case. . .
. Schaeffer is also the judge who allowed Schiavo and his concubine,
Jodi Centonze, to duck depositions in the 2001 civil suit brought by
the Schindlers, Terri’s parents against Michael Schiavo accusing him
of fraud, perjury, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy. She
then dismissed the civil proceedings against Schiavo. . . . Judge
Schaeffer and Circuit Judge Walter L. Schafer Jr. were among the
three 2007 inductees into the St. Petersburg College Hall of
Distinction which recognizes friends and alumni who “have brought
honor to themselves, the community and SPC”. . . . Schaeffer has also been named the college’s Outstanding Alumna
Panel Says Orlando Judge Erratic, Abusive
An Orlando circuit court judge has been formally accused of erratic
and abusive behavior from the bench and allegedly making unwanted
sexual advances towards a law school student according to charges
filed against him Friday by the state Judicial Qualifications
Commission. . . . The commission alleges that James C. Hauser, 58,
made inappropriate sexual advances towards a 33-year-old married
student in a class he was co-teaching at Barry University’s law
school during the spring semester of 2006. . . . He allegedly
continued to call the student numerous times from his cell phone and
his chambers after she made it clear that his advances were
unwanted, the commission charged.
Point Of Order Broward Judiciary In Disarray
Local attorneys have long held
that some in the Broward County judiciary are rude,
discourteous, and racist. Many lawyers are afraid to say
anything because of possible repercussions. Few individuals
will run against an incumbent judge in Broward because of the
likelihood of retaliation by other judges on the bench. . . .
Last year, the Haitian Lawyers Association, Broward County
Hispanic Bar Association and Cuban Bar Association took the
offensive against insensitive and racist remarks made to a
Hispanic lawyer about a Haitian client who needed a translator.
. . . Florida Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis met with the minority
bar associations and ordered diversity training for all Broward
County judges. . . . After the diversity training, Broward Chief
Judge Dale Ross stated about a black defendant, he was “playing
that atrocious rap music on a boom box.” . . . That same month,
Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin embarrassed many in the
legal profession with his mishandling of the Anna Nicole Smith
case that led to him breaking down in tears. This was followed
by Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda smoking pot in a public park
where children were present. . . . Circuit Judge Charles Greene
stepped down from his post as chief administrative judge of the
criminal division after he used the racially charged acronym “NHI,” meaning “no humans involved,” when referring to minority defendants
and witnesses involved in an attempted murder case.
Robles Case Shows More Document Sealing
Disbarred Miami attorney Louis Robles was set to accept a
federal plea deal for 10 years in prison and $13 million in
restitution to former clients whose money he took. . . . But the
previous week, Robles' bond was abruptly revoked, and U.S.
District Judge Alan Gold threw him back in jail because Robles'
girlfriend warned his probation officer that Robles had hired a
pilot and was planning to flee the country. . . . Yet no one
outside the case knew about these key developments in the
high-profile Robles case until a week after he was arrested.
That's because the probation officer's petition for bond
revocation, the arrest warrant and other key documents were kept
off the federal court Web site by the office of Southern
District of Florida Clerk of the Courts Clarence Maddox. That
was done in apparent violation of U.S. Judicial Conference
rules. . . . The move distressed Miami defense lawyers and First
Amendment experts, who are concerned about an escalating trend
by the courts of keeping a variety of documents off the
Judge Roberts Loses Appeal in Ballard Case
The 2nd District Court of Appeal has refused to reconsider its
decision to take Judge Susan Roberts off the Roy Phillip Ballard
murder case. . . . Roberts was removed as judge from the case in
February, after the 2nd DCA ruled that remarks Roberts had made in
the case were enough to cause the State Attorney's Office to fear it
wouldn't receive a fair trial. . . . Roberts had told the State
Attorney's Office it should rethink whether it wanted to seek the
death penalty against Ballard, given that he was 65 years old. . . .
Ballard has been charged with the murder of his stepdaughter Autumn
Traub, whose body has not been found. . . . Ballard's lawyer, Byron
Hileman, filed a written request asking the 2nd DCA to reconsider
its decision to remove Roberts from the case. . . . He argued that
when Judges Charles T. Canady, Craig Villanti and Douglas Wallace
removed Roberts from the Ballard case, their ruling had the
potential to set a new precedent that would allow many more judges
to be removed from cases than had been in the past.
No Wonder Miami's Immigration Judges Aren't Fair
5-25-07 -- The reputation
of immigration court received another blow Wednesday, when
Department of Justice employee Monica Goodling testified before
congress that she had "crossed the line" when it came to her
hiring tactics. Goodling admitted that she intended to hire
people who were conservatives in her position interviewing
candidates for attorney general appointments - including
immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration
Appeal. Goodling did not reveal what she specifically asked of
immigration judges, but the idea that asylum seekers get a fair
trial is compromised, at best. . . . As New Times
documented last fall, the Miami Immigration Court is
among the courts with the lowest grant rates for immigrants
seeking asylum in the United States. . . . Judge Denise Slavin,
who presides over the court at Krome Detention Center and is
president of the National Association of Immigration Judges,
admitted that she was concerned about Goodling's testimony and
"the issues it presents with respect to judicial independence
and the public's confidence in the court system."
Judges brashly judged by blog
5-25-07 -- When it came
time to elect a new chief judge earlier this year, some
Hillsborough judges quietly suggested adding the issue of term
limits to the confidential ballots. . .. The push went no
farther than an anonymous straw poll. . . . Things aren't so
discreet down in Broward County. . . . Since August, legal types
there have found a new guilty pleasure in JAABlog
JAABlog.jaablaw.com, a blog created by the Justice Advocacy
Association of Broward. . . . Founders say the public forum
helps expose courthouse problems such as cronyism, nepotism and
judges who run unopposed.
Florida Bar Watch!
Keeping An Eye on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners Since
If you know of any
dishonesty, bias, corruption, or wasteful expenditures by
the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, please contact us. We're
actively trying to reform the Florida Board of Bar Examiners
and restore it as an institution that citizens can trust.
Judge tackles voice problems
5-22-07 -Lee County
Circuit Judge Joseph Simpson has decided to start wearing a
lapel microphone to amplify his voice in the courtroom. . . . He
will also be taking additional speech therapy classes. . . .
There had been complaints that Simpson, who suffers from a
Parkinson's-like disease, was sometimes difficult to understand.
. . . Simpson, Chief Circuit Judge-designate G. Keith Cary and
others among Simpson's colleagues have reacted quickly and
constructively to the concerns. . . . Simpson, elected last
year, is a splendidly qualified jurist and is highly thought of
in the legal community. He knows, however, that a judge has to
be able to communicate effectively for justice to be done.
Miami-Dade Judge Will Get His Own TV Show In The Fall
5-18-07 --(AP) Another
Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge is getting his own television
show. Criminal court Judge David Young will step down May 25th.
His show is scheduled to start airing in syndication in the
fall. Young joins former Miami-Dade bench colleagues Marilyn
Milian, who hosts "The People's Court," and Alex Ferrer of "The
Judge Alex Show." . . . Development executives with Sony say
Young caught their attention in news reports about his handling
of the case of two America West pilots found guilty of being
drunk in the cockpit just before take-off from Miami
Broward Judiciary Needs An Overhaul
5-17-07 --The Broward
judiciary is a mess. . . . One judge was caught smoking
marijuana in a public park, while another makes a fool of
himself on national television presiding over the Anna Nicole
Smith circus. The chief criminal judge wrapped up a recent trial
by suggesting the defendant and the victim and the
witnesses--all of whom were poor and black--didn't really
matter. "NHI" he said. No humans involved. . . . The Broward judiciary is rife with
allegations of bigotry, racism, nepotism, sexism, cronyism --
and just about every other ism you can imagine. . . . You have
judges telling crime victims they have to speak English if they
want to be heard, while the county's top judge, Dale Ross, has
been accused of ridiculing Mexican and African-American
defendants from the bench. . . . "Broward
County is a major metropolitan area," said Bill Gelin. "It's a
majority minority community, and it is still being run by boss
hog and his adjutants."
Commentary: Schiavo Judge To Discuss Role Between Law, Media
5-17-07 --One of America’s
most vilified judges, Pinellas County probate court judge George
W. Greer, judge, jury and executioner for Terri Schindler
Schiavo, will be among the presenters at The Florida Bar’s June
1 Media Law Conference. . . . Greer is the icon of judicial
tyranny in America, who set the stage for the mass killing and
extermination of the disabled and elderly in the U.S. as part of
the government’s effort to save of Medicare, Medicaid and Social
Security, to perpetuate a throw-away society. . .. His
fellow judges and lawyers in Florida, particularly in Pinellas
and Pasco Counties, have done everything possible to try to
atone and condone Greer’s acts of judicial tyranny which brought
attacks and the spotlight on the judiciary nationwide and made
Pinellas County and its guardianships infamous worldwide–to try
and improve his image, sell him to the public.
Embattled Judges Seek to Restore Public Confidence . . . With
The committee charged with
helping restore public confidence in the Broward Circuit Court
held its first meeting with minority bar groups — in secret. . .
. The four-judge diversity board, chaired by Circuit Judge
Elijah Williams, held a closed dinner-and-drinks session Monday
night at the Bimini Boatyard & Grill to gather input from
minority bar leaders. The dinner and drinks were paid for by
Cuban American Bar Association president Elizabeth Hernandez. .
. . Chief Judge Ross established the board in late March to help
him deal with criticism from a series of incidents involving
racially insensitive comments, alleged misconduct and
embarrassing behavior by judges. . . . The meeting was attended
by the four Broward judges on the board, Commissioner on Human
Relations Shahrukh Dhanji and leaders of seven minority bar
organizations. . . . A Daily Business Review reporter was
refused entry to the meeting. Several attendees refused even to
identify themselves to the reporter. There was no public notice
of the meeting.
Top judge gets caught in a blogjam
doesn't much like the criticism of his regime that's busting out
in the blogosphere. . . . Undermines the judiciary, Broward
Chief Judge Dale Ross complained. ''There's nothing constructive
offered,'' he told The Miami Herald's Jennifer Lebovich. . . .
The judge's words were reminiscent of his letter published in
The Herald last September complaining that one of my columns was
undermining his judiciary. . . . ''If the intent of The Miami
Herald is to erode the public trust and confidence in the court
system, it has done a good job,'' the judge wrote. . . . I had
called the Broward judiciary a cabal of ''bubba judges'' who
maintained a good-ol'-boy system of cronyism usually associated
with courthouses in unsophisticated rural backwaters.
And now the chief-bubba-for-life
is catching hell in the new media. A blog posted by a group
called the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward (JAABlog.jaablaw.com)
has been posting similarly unkind comments about the perpetual
When Should a Judge Face Discipline for What an Opinion Says?
Earlier this month, the
Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications
formal disciplinary charges against an appellate judge
serving on Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal based on
statements contained in a concurring opinion the
judge had issued in the course of deciding a case on appeal.
This would be quite remarkable if that opinion were in fact
deserving of censure, but what makes this event all the more
outrageous is that it is difficult to conceive from reviewing
the case that the concurring opinion provides any cause for
disciplining its author. . . . The underlying case began as an
appeal from a criminal conviction. The appeal was originally
argued before a panel that ultimately decided by a vote of 2-1
to overturn the conviction. Before that ruling was issued to the
parties and docketed as the appellate court's judgment, the
decision was circulated within the appellate court to all active
judges. At that point, a majority of the non-recused active
judges voted in favor of rehearing en banc. As a result, the
three-judge panel's decision never issued.
Is The "Wheel" Of Broward Justice Coming Off?
When Broward Chief Judge
Dale Ross told reporters last week that
JAABlog is out to "undermine" the judiciary, he gave
the blog he hates a wonderful plug. It has led to a torrent of
news reports, first by Jordana Mishory
in the Daily Business Review on Friday and followed
Miami Herald and
Sun-Sentinel yesterday. . . . Ross was upset that
there had been name-calling on the blog, which was set up by
attorney William Gelin to expose corruption at the Broward
County Courthouse. Some of it has even been done, gasp!,
anonymously. Ross complained to Mishory: . . . “I like folks who
are serious people, who come up to me face-to-face and say, ‘Hey
Dale, I have a problem I’d like to talk to you about.’" . . .
Here's what he told the Herald's Jennifer Lebovich: . . .
''There's nothing constructive offered. I think the blog, if it
was positive in nature . . . would be helpful to the judiciary.
I'm not sure the method and manner advances anyone's cause.'' .
. . I'll put my name to this bit of negativity: Ross is
obviously afraid that he's about to get blown out of the water.
So, rather than deal with his own problems, he's lashing out at
a blog that is doing what a great free press ought to do --
uncovering the abuses in the justice system, no matter how seamy
they might be. And in Ross's little empire, there's enough
abuses to keep ten blogs busy.
Gay Judge Moves His Act From Courtroom to TV Studio
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge
David Young was conducting a routine criminal court motion
calendar recently when he had a moment that would have made for
great tabloid TV. . . . Young told a weathered, wrinkled woman,
who looked to be in her 50s, that she had successfully completed
her pre-trial intervention program. Suddenly she began to weep.
Out of the blue, she told the judge she had a bad heart and
indicated that she had a scar on her chest. . . . Then she
decided to show him the scar. Without warning, she lifted her
black-and-gold macramé shirt. . . . “Whooaaaaa,” Young
exclaimed, recoiling behind the bench. “I haven’t seen anyone do
that in the past 14 ½ years.” . . . The openly gay judge paused
a beat and added: “I hadn’t seen anyone do that in the past 47
years, but that’s a different story.” . . . The 48-year-old got
over his surprise and composed himself. The scar-baring
defendant turned to leave the courtroom. He called after her,
“Madam, I’m having a TV show — come back and flash me then. I’ll
beat Judge Judy and Judge Marilyn in a heartbeat!”
Some Fla. Criminal Defense Lawyers Take Aim at Beleaguered
Judiciary Via Web Log
small band of criminal defense lawyers has shaken up the Broward
County, Fla., legal community with a Web log that reports what the
bloggers consider abuse and misconduct by judges. . . . Their
controversial blog takes daily blasts at Broward judges
and urges lawyers to run for election against sitting judges.
Designed as the communication arm of the new criminal defense group
Justice Advocacy Association of Broward, the site was started last
year to provide information about case law. . . . The site, which
averages 31,000 hits a week, has become a daily must-read for many
in the legal community at a time when Broward judges are involved in
a series of verbal gaffes and face allegations of misconduct. . . .
The blog gained visibility last month when it was the first to
report that Circuit Judge Charles Greene, chief administrative judge
of the criminal division, used the term "NHI" -- meaning no humans involved -- to describe the minority victims and
witnesses in a recent murder trial. That remark led to a firestorm
of criticism. In the wake of the controversy, Greene stepped down as
administrative judge and at his request was re-assigned to the civil
division. . . . Fort
Lauderdale attorney William Gelin, one of the blog's founders and a
frequent writer, said the goal of the blog is to inform the public
and hold court officials accountable. "We are shedding light on
previously very dark places," he said, adding that so far judges
have not treated him or his clients differently as a result of his
blogging. . . . The Web site has angered many Broward judges and
lawyers. Last week at a news conference, Broward Chief Judge Dale
Ross blamed the blog's organizers for trying to "undermine" the
judiciary. He said in an interview he would prefer that lawyers with
concerns come to him directly. . . . "I like folks who are serious
people, who come up to me face-to-face and say, 'Hey Dale, I have a
problem I'd like to talk to you about,'" he said. While Ross said he
doesn't read the blog, he complained that he hadn't "seen one thing
yet that was factually correct." . . . The incoming president of the
Broward County Hispanic Bar Association, Miramar attorney Jose
Izquierdo, also criticized the organizers of the blog, saying they
are using it "as a forum to attack and not fix the problem." . . .
Russell Williams, vice president of Broward Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, echoed that criticism of the blog. "All they do is
complain, and the complaints become a cancer that grows from the
inside and spreads throughout the courthouse," he said.
Fla. Supreme Court Makes Landmark Change to Trial Procedure
5-9-07 -- For
more than 150 years, Florida defense attorneys have had the last
word with juries in noncapital criminal trials where their client
was the only defense witness. But the Florida Supreme Court has
sided with prosecutors and revised procedural rules to give the
state the last word. . . . On Thursday, in a 5-2 vote, the high
court amended the rules of criminal procedure. The new rule states
that "in all criminal trials, excluding the sentencing phase of a
capital case, at the close of all the evidence, the prosecuting
attorney shall be entitled to an initial closing argument and a
rebuttal closing argument." . . . The per curiam opinion states the
change "brings Florida procedure into accord with the procedure in
the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions." . . . In making the
decision, the court sided with the Florida Bar's Criminal Procedure
Rules Committee, which recommended the change, and went against the
Florida Bar Board of Governors, which voted not to support the
change. . . . In its ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court changed Rule
3.250 and added Rule 3.381.
Judge Takes Deal For Using Marijuana
A Broward County judge apologized in court Monday for smoking
marijuana in a Hollywood, Fla., park, cutting a deal on his
misdemeanor drug case but leaving his judicial career in
jeopardy. . . . Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda soon could face
tough questions from the state's judicial watchdog agency -
ranging from where he got the marijuana to how often he has used
the illegal drug. The Judicial Qualifications Commission could
recommend that the Florida Supreme Court remove the veteran
judge from the bench. . . . The agreement Korda reached with
prosecutors should make Monday his first - and last - court
appearance as a criminal defendant. Korda's arrest gained
national attention because it came just three weeks after he
briefly handled part of the paternity battle over Anna Nicole
For stating opinion, judge is charged
A judicial panel says Michael E.
Allen was wrong to question a fellow judge's ethics.
For daring to question the ethics of a fellow judge, 1st
District Court of Appeal Judge Michael E. Allen is facing formal
misconduct charges. . . . The state Judicial Qualifications
Commission filed charges against Allen on Thursday that could
lead to his removal from office. . . . In charges filed with the
Florida Supreme Court, the commission said that by criticizing
Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. in a written court opinion, Allen
could "impair the confidence of the citizens of this state in
the integrity of the judicial system." . . . Said Bruce Rogow,
one of Allen's attorneys: "It is unprecedented, not just here,
but anywhere in the country, " for a judge to face disciplinary
charges based on a written opinion. . . . "This is all about
judicial independence, " Rogow said. "Can an appellate court
judge write an opinion seen by all the members of the court
before it goes out and still have to fear that the JQC will seek
to punish him for that opinion?"
Judge Leaves Criminal Bench After Being Accused of 'Vile' Remark
Minority bar groups have complained to Fla. high court about similar
behavior by other judges in same county
Broward County, Fla., Circuit Judge Charles Greene, the
administrative chief of the criminal division, asked to be
re-assigned from the criminal bench Tuesday after he was accused of
making a racially insensitive remark in his courtroom. . . . In a
letter to Broward Chief Judge Dale Ross on Monday, Broward County
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein complained that Greene used the
initials "NHI" -- meaning No Humans Involved -- to describe
defendants and witnesses in an attempted murder case involving
minorities. . . . Greene made the comment after the acquittal of
James Thompson on April 19 on charges of attempted murder, burglary
and shooting into a vehicle, according to Thompson's attorney, Tom
O'Connell of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. . . . This is the latest in a
series of embarrassments for the Broward judiciary. Leaders of South
Florida's minority bar groups recently sent a letter to the Florida
Supreme Court complaining about a "continued lack of sensitivity"
toward racial and ethnic groups displayed by Ross and other Broward
judges. Ross met with the minority bar leaders in March to discuss
Insurance Company Does Damage Control on GC's Remarks About Judges
Being 'Paid Off'
United Automobile Insurance Co. rushes to disassociate itself from
general counsel's statement about Florida judges
Facing a firestorm of criticism from the Miami-Dade, Fla., legal
community, United Automobile Insurance Co. has scrambled to distance
itself from its general counsel's comment this week that judges in
Miami-Dade County Court "are being paid off." . . . The insurer took
out a full-page ad in the Daily Business Review in its public
relations effort. . . . But at the same time, the insurer's lawyers
are aggressively trying to remove one Miami-Dade County Court judge
from all its cases, claiming she's biased against the carrier. In a
new court filing to recuse Judge Jacqueline Schwartz, North Miami
Beach-based United said it filed a complaint against her with the
state Judicial Qualifications Commission. . . . While United general
counsel Charles Grimsley also has been a public spokesman for the
company, he said he knew nothing about the ad before a reporter told
him about it during an interview Thursday. He did not deny making
the comment. . . . "I was searching in my head for some explanation
as to why there was this judicial hostility," he said. "It has to go
beyond campaign contributions, which give the appearance that
something like that is going on, but I don't think it's actually
going on. I don't think there's any money changing hands."
Moratorium Placed on New Cases for Overloaded Fla. Drug Court
Miami-Dade's overwhelmed felony drug court will stop taking new
cases, thrusting hundreds of defendants into mainstream criminal
court to face possible prison time instead of treatment and
rehabilitation options. . . . Miami-Dade Chief Judge Joseph Farina
confirmed in an e-mail that he declared the moratorium and that it
will last no more than 120 days. . . . "At this time, the existing
caseload has exceeded the court's ability to provide Drug Court
services for all those in need, thereby necessitating a temporary
moratorium," Farina wrote. "As cases are closed, new participants
will be enrolled in the Drug Court program." . . . The Miami-Dade
Circuit Court's drug court -- established in 1989 -- became a
national model. It has been mimicked by more than 400 communities
throughout the country. The goal is to give drug users treatment and
counseling instead of sending them to prison.
Carnival-Like Hearing on $93M Attorney Fees, $100M Sanctions Against
Florida's Broward Circuit Judge Leroy Moe seemed to tip his hand
Wednesday during a hearing to consider Stuart, Fla., litigator
Willie Gary’s post-trial request for $100 million in sanctions and
$93.1 million in attorney fees in a trade secrets case against
electronics giant Motorola. . . . Moe said he did not want to hear
from the scheduled long list of witnesses. "Fees are going to the
law firm," he said. "How they split them up is up to them." . . .
The eight-week trial in the $10 billion trade secrets case ended in
a mistrial last fall when jurors deadlocked over whether Schaumburg,
Ill.-based Motorola stole the idea for a satellite vehicle tracking
device from now-defunct SPS Technologies of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Gary's firm represents the former owners of SPS. . . . Gary said the
case ended in a mistrial because two witnesses for Motorola defied
Moe's sequestration order and read plaintiff testimony before taking
the stand. . . . "Motorola's multiple violations of the
sequestration rule and this court's orders were intentional
deliberate, blunt, willful and contumacious," Moe wrote in a Jan. 12
order setting the date for this week's hearing.
Judicial rifts surface
Two complaints involve one judge.
A sexual harassment case is tossed but an ethics complaint against
one of the judge's critics - also a judge - remains.
4-11-07 -- An
uproar has engulfed the state's largest and most important appellate
court. . . . Two complaints have been filed with the state Judicial
Qualifications Commission, both having to do with the former chief
judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, Charles J. Kahn Jr. . . .
The JQC dismissed one of the complaints, the St. Petersburg Times
has learned, and is considering the other. . . . In one complaint,
13 of the 15 judges on the appeal court said that Kahn had affairs
with two court employees, traveled with them at state expense and
helped one of them get a better job. Though the relationships were
consensual, the judges worried that it amounted to sexual
harassment, given the power position the judge holds.
Broward judge placed on leave while he faces pot-smoking charge
Broward Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda begins "an indefinite,
temporary leave" of absence today while prosecutors pursue a
misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession against him, Chief Judge
Dale Ross said. . . . Ross said Korda agreed on Tuesday that an
open-ended paid leave gives him time to undergo counseling "for
personal issues" and would bolster "public trust and confidence" in
the court system.Korda, 59, could not be reached for comment despite
telephone messages. . . . Three Hollywood police officers say they saw the family court judge smoking marijuana
on March 18 in Stanley Goldman
Memorial Park near a group of children.
Motorola Owes $11,000 an Hour for Hung-Jury Case, Lawyer Says
Willie Gary, a Florida attorney whose personal Boeing 737 has an
18-carat gold bathroom sink, wants Motorola Inc. to pay him $11,000
an hour for his work on a lawsuit against the company. . . . That's
the least he should receive, Gary says. In court papers, he says he
will ask a judge today for twice as much, or $22,000 an hour,
because Motorola violated a court order in defending the suit. At
the $11,000 rate, Gary would receive $24.3 million and other
plaintiff's attorneys $12.5 million. . . . The lawsuit charges that
the law firm and some of its partners committed errors in
documenting the acquisition for Charter and then concealed those
errors from Charter for many months, according to a Charter release.
. . .Charter filed its five-count federal complaint against Irell &
Manella in the Santa Ana Division of the U.S. District Court for the
Central District of California. Irell & Manella has offices in
Century City and Newport Beach. . . . While lawyers sometimes take
in the equivalent of $11,000 an hour in contingency fees when they
win a big case, the wrinkle in the Gary request is that his client
didn't win. The trial ended with a hung jury. . . . ``This is
outrageous,'' Paul Alfieri, a spokesman for Schamburg,
Illinois-based Motorola, said in an e-mailed statement. Motorola is
the second-biggest maker of mobile phones behind Finland's Nokia Oyj.
Blasting 'Overpayment' of Bills in Murder Case, Fla. Judge Halves
Defense Fee Request
4-10-07 -- A
veteran Broward County, Fla., Circuit judge has called the legal
bills in the capital murder case against a former federal informant
one of the "worst" examples of "overpayment" of legal fees and costs
that she's ever seen. . . . The case of Luis Martinez, who has been
jailed since his arrest in November 2003, is now on its fourth set
of publicly paid defense attorneys and has run up legal bills of
$46,000 so far. With a trial date nowhere in sight, Judge Ana
Gardiner slashed the fees requested by Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
defense lawyer Barry Butin in half -- to $10,600 -- when Butin
recently withdrew from the case after 14 months. . . . Under state
statute, the fee cap for representing defendants at the trial level
in capital homicide cases is $3,500. For the state Judicial
Administration Commission to pay attorneys more, the court has to
find that the extra billed hours were reasonable and that the case
Victims-of-Law, Inc. is an
Two Judges in Anna Nicole Smith Case Get Reassigned
3-28-07 -- The
two judges who oversaw the Anna Nicole Smith cases in Florida's
Broward Circuit Court are swapping jobs -- at least temporarily. . .
. Chief Judge Dale Ross ordered the moves Tuesday in the wake of
complaints and a newspaper editorial that Circuit Judge Lawrence
Korda should be moved out of family court until his misdemeanor drug
charge is resolved. . . . Korda, who briefly oversaw the paternity
dispute involving Smith's baby daughter, was cited on March 18 for
possession of one marijuana cigarette weighing less than 0.1 gram.
Police said they caught him smoking pot in a Hollywood, Fla., park.
. . . Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin, who gained national fame for his
courtroom theatrics during the Anna Nicole Smith body custody case,
will move from the probate to the family division to make way for
Korda. . . . Chief Judge Ross said in an interview that he hopes the
swap is temporary, and the judges can return to their respective
divisions when Judge Korda's marijuana case is resolved. The move is
slated for April 9.
Judge Pulls Gun After Attack on Defendant
3-27-07 -- A
Circuit Court judge pulled a handgun in his courtroom after a man
jumped a railing and punched a handcuffed defendant accused of
molesting his son. . . . Bailiffs eventually took control of the
attacker during Friday's outburst, and Circuit Judge John Merrett
handed his gun to a clerk for safekeeping. The judge met with the
father in his chambers and later ordered him released without bail,
even though he was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. . . .
The man is not being named to protect the identity of his son.
Merrett said Monday he never put his finger on the trigger or
pointed the gun at anyone. Because of the way his courtroom is
configured, the judge said he couldn't see the fight below his
bench. He said he pulled the gun as a precaution. . . . "I didn't
know if he was going after me or the bailiffs or the defendant," the
Fla. Appeals Court Tosses $1.58 Billion Verdict Against Morgan
Panel did not rule on judge's controversial ruling based on Morgan
Stanley's violation of her discovery orders
Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal threw out one of the largest
verdicts in U.S. history Wednesday when it overturned a $1.58
billion judgment against financial behemoth Morgan Stanley. . . .
The 2-1 decision in Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. v. Coleman (Parent)
Holdings Inc. tossed both the $604.3 million economic damages award
and the $850 million punitive award handed down by a Palm Beach,
Fla., Circuit Court jury. The conspiracy and fraud case was brought
by billionaire financier Ronald O. Perelman. . . . The court found
that Perelman did not prove damages because his damages expert did
not correctly calculate the amount of damages his company suffered
due to fraud allegedly committed by New York-based securities giant
Morgan Stanley. . . . The majority held that the trial court should
have entered a directed verdict on compensatory damages in favor of
Morgan Stanley, and therefore the punitive damages verdict could not
stand either. The court remanded the case with an order to enter a
judgment in favor of the defendant. . . . The complaint alleges
District Judge Paul W. Clark violated rules of judicial conduct by
not disclosing that he had received campaign contributions in 2004
from a law firm representing Dr. George Tiller and Sedgwick County
District Attorney Nola Foulston.
Supreme Court hears objections to proposed secret records rule
(AP) The Florida Supreme Court heard a wide range of objections
Monday to proposed rule changes designed to stop the improper
sealing of court records and dockets. . . . The proposal was in
response to last year's discovery that hundreds of civil and
criminal cases involving television personalities, judges,
police, elected officials and other prominent people had been
sealed as part of secret dockets in some courts, mainly in South
Florida. . . . The news media, prosecutors, public defenders,
court clerks, plaintiffs' lawyers and a judge opposed all or
parts of the proposal made by a Florida Bar committee. The
justices will act at a later date. . . . The oral argument
included an exchange between Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis and
Circuit Judge Judith L. Kreeger, chairwoman of a Supreme Court
committee conducting a broader study of public access to court
Can court cases be hidden?
The Florida Supreme Court will hear
oral arguments today about how to resolve issues surrounding the use
of secret dockets. . . . Newspaper reporters in South Florida
discovered last year that some court cases were being kept off the
public docket, essentially masking their very existence. . . . While
judges frequently seal parts of a file, such as psychological
evaluations in a criminal case, the sealing of the entire docket is
far more rare. The docket provides the names of the parties involved
as well as the nature of the case. Its sealing could prevent the
public from knowing the case ever existed.
Put court openness atop docket
3-5-07 -- A cry
of foul erupted across the state last year when it was discovered
that courts in a number of counties were keeping cases off the
public docket, essentially erasing their very existence. Even worse,
it appeared that Broward County was keeping cases off the docket to
protect prominent and influential people from public embarrassment.
In places like Pinellas and Pasco, where dozens of cases were also
hidden from public view, the motives seemed more benign and were
primarily due to mistakes and misunderstandings. . . . Nonetheless,
the problems pointed up the need for a statewide policy. And on
Monday, the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments on a new set
of proposed rules on public access to court documents, a plan
offered by a committee of the Florida Bar.
Attorney General Joins Effort to Oust Roberts
Petition filed seeks removal of judge in 26 first-degree murder
Attorney General's Office has thrown its hat in the ring in the
increasingly bitter feud between the State Attorney's Office and
Circuit Judge Susan Roberts. . . . On Wednesday, the Attorney
General's Office filed a petition with the 2nd District Court of
Appeal asking that Roberts be removed as judge from 26 first-degree
murder cases in the 10th Judicial Circuit, which includes Polk,
Highlands and Hardee counties. . . . The 2nd District Court of Appeal has already
ordered Roberts removed from one murder trial, that of Roy Phillip
Ballard, because of remarks she made regarding the death penalty.
Court: Bury Anna Nicole Smith in the Bahamas
Appeals court clears way for Anna Nicole Smith's burial
funeral for Smith set for Friday, lawyer says
• Daughter's guardian says Smith wanted Bahamas burial
next to her son
• Smith's mother wants daughter buried in Texas
(CNN) -- A Florida appeals court
cleared the way Wednesday for Anna Nicole Smith to be buried next to
her son, Daniel, in the Bahamas. . . . The decision by a panel of
three judges with the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a lower
court ruling that gave custody of Anna Nicole Smith's remains to the
court-appointed guardian for her daughter, Dannielynn. . . . Last
week, Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin awarded custody of Smith's
body to Richard Milstein, whom Seidlin had appointed as guardian ad
litem for the nearly 6-month-old girl. . . . Smith's mother, Virgie
Arthur, appealed that ruling, because Milstein wants the former
Playboy playmate buried in the Bahamas and Arthur wants her daughter
buried in Texas with other family members. . . . Milstein intends to
have Smith buried next to her son, Daniel. The late model purchased
the adjacent Bahamas burial plot after Daniel, 20, died in
September, three days after Dannielynn's birth. . . . Howard K.
Stern, Smith's partner and attorney who claims to be the biological
father of Dannielynn, also wishes to have Smith buried in the
Bahamas. . . . Any appeal of the decision by the panel of Florida's
4th District Court of Appeal would go to the Florida Supreme Court.
The Guetzloe Files: Questions Of Judgment
The latest in a series of reports from The Guetzloe Files offers
new findings that raise questions for some of the most powerful
people in our community -- circuit court judges. . . . In recent
weeks, Local 6 reported about politicians, business leaders,
lawyers and strip club owners all involved in some way with
political consultant Doug Guetzloe. . . . Monday night, Local
6's Tony Pipitone reported on the story of judges who say they
did not know they were in the files. . . . “A judge whose
ambitions Guetzloe would be asked to "smash" and another's to
promote and three judges who can't explain how their campaign
checks wound up in the (Guetzloe) files," Pipitone said. "They
sit in the same circuit as another judge who prevented us from
airing the files for 10 days after Guetzloe won an injunction.
But there is no evidence the court's rulings were in any way
affected by any relationship. Nor are we suggesting Guetzloe did
anything wrong with the judges. But Guetzloe's involvement in
the judicial branch does raise questions of judgment."
‘Secret’ cases prompt high court review
Questions of access and judicial discretion in sealing court
cases will go to the Florida Supreme Court next month after
reviews of court records around the state uncovered hundreds of
secret files. . . . Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis
asked each of the state's 20 circuit courts to check their files
after newspaper reports last year about secret cases, not
recorded in dockets accessible to the public, were uncovered in
South Florida courts. . . . A Florida Supreme Court hearing is
set next month on proposed changes to rules that govern when
someone can challenge a judge's decision to seal a file. . . .
“You don't even know they exist. That was the main concern of
the media or others,” Eighth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge
Frederick Smith said about the discovery of the secret records.
Report: Anna Nicole Judge Offered Job On CBS
The judge in the Anna Nicole Smith case may have a future at
CBS, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Monday. . . .
The senior producer of the network’s "Saturday Early Show" wrote
a letter to Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin, who has been
presiding over the former playmate’s case, asking if he would be
interested in hosting a new segment on the program called
“Morning Justice,” in which he would tackle viewers’ problems. .
. . "I have been extremely impressed by your compassion in the
Anna Nicole case and I would love to discuss with you the idea
of being our judge on a new segment, 'Morning Justice,'" Michael
Rosen, the show's senior producer, wrote in a letter Friday to
the judge, according to the Sun-Sentinel. . . . Seidlin’s
judicial assistant, JoAnn Gallo, confirmed he received an offer
and said she has been fielding hundreds of calls a day for the
Florida Judge in Anna Nicole Smith Case Is Vilified as 'Weepy Wacko'
From the state that brought you the hanging chad, now comes the
crying judge. . . . Some members of the bar and other
court-watchers are cringing over the way Judge Larry Seidlin
wept -- no, sobbed -- on live, national TV as he announced a
ruling Thursday in the dispute over where Anna Nicole Smith
should be buried. . . . Some are accusing the brash former New
York cab driver of showboating for the cameras, or worse,
auditioning for his own courtroom TV show, with his one-liners,
his personal asides and his smart-alecky Bronx delivery during
the six-day hearing. . . . They say that he let the hearing drag
on way too long, that he made inappropriate jokes for a dispute
over a body, that he acted as if it were all about him. . . .
"He's like Judge Judy's wacky little brother," legal analyst
Jefrey Toobin quipped on CNN.
Recusal Requests Involve Judge's Family
Susan Roberts is asked to quit
cases involving detectives investigating her son.
The State Attorney's Office wants
Circuit Judge Susan Roberts to remove herself from seven Lakeland
police homicide cases because Lakeland detectives are investigating
the judge's adult son, Carson Brawley. . . . According to a motion
filed Monday afternoon, the State Attorney's Office and Lakeland
police are investigating Brawley after a child being cared for by
him suffered a significant head injury. That child and two others
who were living in Brawley's home have been temporarily placed in
Roberts' custody. . . . Lakeland detectives Scott Kercher and
Bradley Grice, who are investigating the Brawley case, are also
handling the seven homicide cases that Roberts would preside over.
"In all of these cases the State anticipates that issues will arise
which will call for the Judge to rule on the credibility of the
detectives involved," the State Attorney's Office said in its
motion. "Inasmuch as these very detectives are investigating
potential criminal charges against her son, it would be improper for
Judge Roberts to preside over such matters."
Review of judge's actions is sought
2-20-07 -- The
judge who jailed two women in a fatal home-birthing case is being
accused by the women of breaking the law by refusing to release them
from prison during their appeal. . . . Tom McGlade, whose wife and
daughter-in-law were convicted last year of practicing unlicensed
midwifery after a relative died during childbirth, has asked the
Judicial Qualifications Commission to review Judge Edward Nicholas'
actions related to the women's appeal. . . . Nicholas ignored a
higher court's ruling that the women should be released from prison
pending an appeal, saying the McGlades posed a threat and would
continue performing "underground births." . . . Nicholas' decision
drew a scathing rebuke from the Second District Court of Appeal,
which eventually freed the women and called Nicholas a
"recalcitrant" judge whose rulings were "palpably illogical."
Broward judge in Anna Nicole Smith case shoots from the lip
'This body belongs to me,' Judge Seidlin says
His friends say Broward Circuit
Judge Larry Seidlin could have been a stand-up comedian and should
have been the first judge to preside over The People's Court on TV.
. . . But he shocked many television viewers who watched as the
robed Seidlin, leaning back in his chair in chambers, pronounced
that Anna Nicole Smith's "body belongs to me now" and "that baby is
in a cold, cold storage room." . . . The New York Post labeled him a
"wacky judge." CNN's Nancy Grace, who is not renowned for
sensitivity, remarked on the air that it was not how she would refer
to "the dead body of a lady waiting to be buried." . . . For
attorneys who frequent his courtroom, the judge's "open mouth,
insert foot" style was no shock. They say he's been talking that way
in the anonymous halls of juvenile and probate court for years.
Judge Cited For Refusing To Release Dying Man
Broward Circuit Judge, Cheryl Alemán.
judge who refused to release a dying man from jail and then
allegedly entered a misleading order in the case which appeared to
be in response to a newspaper article is the subject of an ethics
investigation by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. . .
. In a formal complaint served on Broward County Circuit Court Judge
Cheryl Aleman Tuesday, the commission alleged that the judge had
violated judicial canons through a "pattern of arrogant,
discourteous and impatient conduct toward lawyers and others".. . .
The commission's investigative panel found that during a hearing on
July 1, 2003, Aleman had denied the request of inmate Jean Felix for
a medical furlough despite the assistant public defender and
assistant state attorney appearing both stipulated that Felix was
suffering from an incurable fatal disease and that his life
expectancy was approximately two months according to medical
personnel at the jail.
Click for .pdf Notice of Formal Charges
Jurors Criticize Judge for Acquittal
Pierre Ducharme/The Ledger
2-7-07 --A Polk County judge's decision to
abruptly end a murder trial by acquitting the defendant has drawn
fire from some of the jurors in the case. . . . Paul Joseph, one of
the jurors on the Samuel Lugo murder trial, said he lost faith in
the judicial system after Judge Susan Roberts acquitted Lugo in
December before the case went to the jury. . . . Several other
jurors reached by The Ledger agreed that they felt they should have
been allowed to deliberate, and said that Roberts told them that the
reason she was acquitting Lugo was that if they found him guilty,
their decision might get overturned on appeal.
Prosecutors Step Up Push to Remove Judge
1-30-07 -- Polk
prosecutors filed an emergency petition with the 2nd District Court
of Appeal on Monday, escalating their effort to keep Circuit Judge
Susan Roberts from presiding at a murder trial. . . . State Attorney
Jerry Hill's office asked the appeals court to issue an order
removing Roberts from the Roy Phillip Ballard trial and to delay the
trial until the appellate judges can issue a ruling. .
A parking problem
1-29-07 -- Has
it gotten to the point where it needs to be said that a judge who
decides disability claims should not park his car in a handicap
space using a permit issued to someone else? . . . Seven days in the
past three weeks, a St. Petersburg Times reporter observed Judge
Elving Torres' Mercedes in one of seven spots for the handicapped
outside the Times' office in downtown Tampa. State records show the
handicap placard on the dashboard of his car is registered to an
86-year-old woman from Bradenton.
Mistake not worth 30 years
Warped justice ruins yet another man's life, Dec. 4
Congratulations for the
excellent editorial. As a conservative Republican, law-and-order and
even hard-nosed, I am outraged by Circuit Judge Ric Howard's grossly
inappropriate sentences in each of the three cases described. . . .
The sentencing in the case of William Thornton is the most egregious
example of judicial bad judgment I have ever heard of. Thirty years
in prison for an accident? That is shameful. For God's sake, it was
an accident! . . . My understanding of the Thornton case is as
- William Thornton was 17 years old, a good student
with a part-time job and had never been in trouble before. He was
not drinking or on drugs and it was not a hit and run. ---- He
topped a hill and skidded into an intersection that has since had a
warning sign installed before the crest of the hill, indicating
negligence by the county at the time of the accident because there
was no sign. ---- - The driver of the other vehicle was legally
drunk (0.1102, that's far above the legal limit of 0.0800), which
may have prevented him from taking evasive action. --- - Most
important, weren't the deceased not killed by the impact, but died
when they were thrown from their vehicle? And they illegally did not
have their seat belts fastened, which would have protected them. ---
- Were the deceased too drunk to fasten their seat belts or did they
deliberately violate the law by leaving them unbuckled? Wouldn't
they have survived the accident if they had buckled up, as the law
requires, and what would the sentence have been if they had lived?
Surely not 30 years.
Judge Holder must pay his own attorney's fees, state Supreme Court
judge was cleared of misconduct charges last year but owes
$1.8-million in legal bills.
Circuit Judge Gregory Holder beat a plagiarism charge but remains on
the hook for his attorney's fees, the Florida Supreme Court ruled
Thursday. . . . The state Constitution does not authorize the high
court to award attorney's fees arising from Judicial Qualifications
Commission proceedings, the majority opinion said. . . . Holder's
lead attorney questioned the decision. . . . "This puts a wrongfully
accused judge in the position of making a Hobson's choice between
loss of reputation and removal from the bench on one hand," attorney
David B. Weinstein said in a prepared statement, "and mounting an
effective defense - which could lead to financial ruin - on the
other." . . . Six months ago, attorneys for the JQC and Holder
argued before the court after the judge made an unprecedented
request for the ethics body to foot his $1.8-million legal bill.
Holder said he was entitled to recoup fees because the misconduct
charges were connected to the performance of his official duties.
Judge Ousted After Wrongly Jailing 11 People Late for Traffic Court
12-08-06 -- A
judge who jailed 11 people because they were late for traffic court
after being directed to the wrong courtroom lost his job Thursday.
The Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled he was unfit to remain
on the bench. . . . The justices said the jailing and strip
searching of the 11 misdirected motorists capped a series of
complaints of intemperate conduct against Seminole County Judge John
Sloop, 57, of Sanford, Fla. . . . "Judge Sloop's
indifference to the anxiety, humiliation and hardship imposed upon
these 11 citizens reflects a callous disregard for others that is
among the most egregious examples we have seen of judicial authority
and lack of proper judicial temperament," the high court wrote in an
unsigned opinion. . . . The justices also offered an apology on
behalf of the judicial system to the citizens of Florida and
Seminole County and in particular the 11 jailed defendants. They
came to court on traffic citations ranging from driving with a
suspended license to having an illegal tag.
Warped justice ruins yet another man's life
Another young man guilty of committing serious offenses appears
before Circuit Judge Ric Howard fully expecting to pay for his
actions but also, naively, believing that he will be treated fairly.
Instead, he receives a punishment that meets the basic rules for a
legal sentence but fails the test for true justice. . . . In an
all-too-familiar scenario last week in the Citrus County courthouse,
Howard - who lives in Hernando County and is elected by voters of
the five-county 5th Judicial Circuit - again imposed a cruel
punishment on a young man who was foolish enough, or poorly advised,
to put himself at the mercy of a judge who has demonstrated that
that trait is in short supply. . . . Jason Aron Hill of Beverly
Hills admitted that he had sex several times with his girlfriend.
This became a crime because Hall is 19, an adult, and the girl is
15, a minor. Also, after smoking marijuana and being bored, the two
set paper towels on fire and nearly burned to the ground a gazebo
belonging to the Beverly Hills Recreation Association. . . . Make no
mistake, these are serious offenses. Hall, a high school dropout,
should have known better than to have sex, even consensual, with a
15-year-old. Plus, he violated his pretrial release orders to stay
away from her. And he initially denied to authorities that the two
had been intimate. . . . Hall was also 20 minutes late to his court
appearance, which incensed the judge. . . . The Jan. 25 fire caused
about $25,000 in damage. The group's insurance rates doubled as a
result, putting the association in such dire financial straits that
four part-time workers had to be laid off.
A hero to some, an out-of-line judge to others
Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell’s wife awoke him early
Tuesday morning with some news. . . . She heard Gov. Jeb Bush on the
radio accusing Farnell of throwing a judicial “temper tantrum” for
threatening to jail the secretary of the Department of Children and
Families because the agency wasn’t removing mentally ill inmates
from local jails quickly enough. . . . “If this is a tantrum,”
Farnell said, “he’s lived a very sheltered life. We’re just trying
to help these poor folks.” . . . A Pinellas judge for nearly 25
years, Farnell has gained national attention recently for his battle
with DCF. . . . He has threatened to fine the agency thousands of
dollars a day and jail its leader, Lucy Hadi, if DCF doesn’t start
following a state law that requires mentally ill inmates to be
removed from local jails within 15 days. . . . While advocates for
the mentally ill are praising Farnell, Bush is critical. . . . “With
all due respect to judges pounding their chest in their big black
robes up on top of a big chair looking down and castigating
Secretary Hadi, they’re not governor,” Bush said Monday. . . .
“They’re not the secretary. They’re not the legislature. There is a
separation of powers... I think that some of the temper tantrums
that have taken place have gone too far.”
Chief appeals judge steps down
Charles J. Kahn Jr., accused
of appearing to aid a former senator, loses "chief."
Florida's largest appellate
court has quietly replaced its chief judge amid internal
rancor and suggestions of political influence surrounding
the bribery conviction and prison sentence of former Sen.
W.D. Childers. . . . Charles J. Kahn Jr., elected in 2005 to
head the 1st District Court of Appeal for two years,
resigned the chief judge's job last month in the face of a
revolt by fellow judges. . . . A formal complaint alleging
misconduct has been lodged against Kahn, documents obtained
Friday by the St. Petersburg Times indicate. . . . In a
written opinion denying Childers' appeal of his bribery
conviction, another judge suggested that the public might
conclude that Kahn was trying to reverse Childers'
conviction as a political favor.
September & October 2006
Appeals court chastizes local judge in case of midwives
appellate court today dismissed Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas’
stance that said there is no reasonable condition to allow the
release of two women convicted for practicing unlicensed midwifery.
. . . Instead, the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland
ordered an independent judge, Paul E. Logan, to set bond conditions
for Tanya and Linda McGlade. Logan must have a report filed by Nov.
3, the appellate judges said. . . . The McGlades were convicted at
trial this year of practicing unlicensed midwifery. Prosecutors
filed the charge after a relative of the McGlades died shortly after
birth in December 2004.
Punishment For An Innocent Woman
Judges Tortured, Murdered Terri
The Vatican –
the Catholic headquarters in Rome – likened the removal of Terri
Schiavo’s s feeding tube to capital punishment for an innocent
referred to the way Terri died as an "execution, torture" and
When is Life
state and federal judges play "God," Life is no longer ‘Life.’
States Congress tried to rescue Terri Schiavo from the cold clutches
of the judges who passed final judgment on whether Terri Schiavo
should live – or die.
Bush joined the Congress in trying to keep Terri alive.
over-rode both the President and Congress.
What kind of
a "legal" system do we have in America?
One that is
certainly not "legal."
Where is "the
law?" Who is "the law?"
of America created the U.S. Constitution specifically to prevent a
renegade Congress, or renegade President, or a renegade judge to
deny citizens their individual rights, which are clearly spelled out
in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Supreme Court was established to uphold the Constitution – not to
make laws. Congress makes laws, with the President either approving
or rejecting legislative bills awaiting his decision.
the federal government wanted to help Terri Schiavo – not kill her.
and judges prevailed.
President, Congress and Terri Schiavo lost.
This was a
showdown between the two Americas: The traditionalists and the
secularists. The anti-God, anti-religion, pro-abortion secularists
won the day when Terri Schiavo died "on their watch."
did our government become "Murder, Incorporated?"
taxpaying-voting citizens of America must now demand a real reform
of our nation’s judicial system, which has been running out of
control for the 75 years, beginning with President Franklin
Roosevelt’s socialist "New Deal" program in 1935. That was the year
that "entitlements" became federal law.
record, there is no such thing as "entitlements" in the U.S.
Constitution. That’s not what our founders envisioned for a new
nation based on freedom, liberty and opportunity for all citizens.
The only way
voters can reclaim their country, as set forth in the Constitution,
is first to vote out of office those who want the Supreme Court to
eligible voters no longer bother to vote. They no longer believe in
the socialist system that has evolved over the past 75 years,
leading to bigger and bigger government and more and more taxes at
the expense of the working class.
Schiavo’s "execution" will spark another 1776 Revolution, forcing
government to be accountable for its destructive actions against the
today have the will and the spirit to unite and establish a
government that serves the taxpayers, not the corrupt
and legal system will be the first agenda in the 21st Century
American Revolution. Either they obey the laws of the land, or they
will be dealt with by the "rule of law," which is the foundation of
our Constitutional Republic.
No, we are
not a "democracy," which Greek philosopher Plato warned will lead to
"anarchy" (mob rule), which is what we have today. The secularists
are the "mob."
Traditionalists seek "rule of law," which the founders wrote into
Schiavo’s life was a decisive victory for the secularists.
Now is the
time to take back our Constitutional freedoms rooted in faith and
the rule of law.
must lead the charge because it is the future of their country they
will be fighting for.