Click the link for Wayne Treacy v Al Lamberti ...
If, over a long career, you sentence a lot of people to prison, several things can happen to you. Most of them are bad. Here’s a short list of some of the bad things:
* You can begin to see offenders only in numerical terms. ”What’s the base offense level, criminal history score and sentencing range? Next!”
* Unless you are very careful, you may become inured to the horrific impact that prison sentences have on offenders and their families. ”You say your parental rights will be terminated if you go to prison, well, they’ll be better off anyway.” ...
It's a lousy job ... if you do it right - Kopf's essay highlights the need for judicial rotation, and the simple fact judging your fellow humans is a super lousy job if you have the fortitude to do it right.
Think about it. The long hours due to the never ending stream of the same old boring, non-deterable offenses, lousy pay, the stress of dealing with both the inept and the much smarter than you are lawyers, media and appellate scrutiny, clueless or downright disrespectful litigants, elections every six years, a wimpy state attorney who tosses everything in your lap, and everything else you're expected to grin and bear. It's really no fun at all.
Maybe that's why some judges can be found anywhere but their courtrooms, and why others resort to humiliation tactics or form over substance procedural edicts to cope. Whatever the case may be, the genuinely good judges deserve our respect. They're the ones who can always be found in court, no matter how many Motions or 3850's are waiting in their offices. They're the ones who let you set hearings quickly and easily, and who would never impose a trial tax because you cut into their down time. They're the ones who may get cranky, but never nasty, even when dealing with problems on the home front. And they're the ones who unfortunately get dragged down by the burn-outs and neurotics, who honestly just don't seem to care about anyone but themselves ...
Hey Peter! - how about an Attorney's Lounge in the new courthouse, with computers, fax machines, and coffee? It works in Miami, afterall ...
Coming Soon: June 14th - "Hey Gene Pettis!: Just what do you plan to do about institutional racism?"; JAABLOG Names Broward's Most Inefficient Judge; Is Perjury A Crime In Bar Discipline Trials?; STATEWIDE JAABLOG.
BBeat: Alu Back In City Hall Vowing To Stay Involved
SPU gets its man: juries won't always look the other way on cop cases ...
Gossip Extra: Chad Johnson Twist - Judge Who Heard Butt Slap is Legally Blind!
Well, we were just another band out of Boston ...
IN THE MATTER OF JAABLOG
by Haydee Oropesa, Esquire
(Haydee is a Stetson grad, practicing in the Tampa Bay area)
I don’t know Bill Gelin, don’t practice law in his neck of the woods, and never heard of his blog until now. I hear the Florida Bar is investigating him. I‘ve perused that blog and can’t say I personally endorse it; in fact, I find some of the postings and commentaries distasteful.
Mr. Gelin suspects that he is being investigated for being critical of two local judges. He says he is not being told what rule he has violated or who submitted the complaint against him. In any event, a local reporter, Bob Norman, covered his story and prominent politicos went on the record in his defense. Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, who is married to a Circuit Court Judge, claims that Mr. Gelin’s blog efforts in commenting about the local courthouse has resulted in a public good worthy of praise and appreciation - not an investigation. Howard Finkelstein, Broward’s Public Defender, also chimed in supporting Mr. Gelin and called the investigation a “travesty.” If Mr. Gelin is having to undergo every attorney’s worst nightmare for making truthful public commentary about judges, the much dreaded and anxiety-producing experience that is a Florida Bar investigation, Mr. Finkelstein is right.
I contacted Mr. Gelin and expressed an interest in supporting his efforts of truthfully raising legitimate issues however critical of the judiciary. Mr. Gelin expressed appreciation but kindly cautioned me against identifying myself as he did not want me being drawn into the fray or potentially coming under scrutiny myself. I appreciate you looking out for me, Mr. Gelin, but, no thanks. I am Haydee Oropesa, and here is my complaint. If Mr. Gelin has not said anything false or with reckless disregard to the truth in commenting publicly about the judiciary (should that be the basis of his investigation), the chilling effect on the speech of attorneys fearful of such investigations is problematic and detrimental to the public at large.
Freedom of speech and our ability to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is a right that we as Americans cherish deeply. Since early childhood, my Cuban parents, who fled communism in Cuba, continually reminded me of how fortunate I was to have been born in a free country. Soon we will be celebrating the 4th of July and the adoption of our Declaration of Independence. Prior to listing the King’s repeated injuries and abuses, which included his control of the judiciary, the signers declared, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” I would venture to guess, had the technological advances of our day been available, this massive document would have appeared on a blog like Mr. Gelin’s.
Americans, however, do not enjoy an unbridled right to free speech. In discussing this issue, routinely one is met with the famous, “you do not have the right to run into a crowded theater and falsely shout fire." Conversely, what happens when there is a fire in the theater and you fail to run in and alert those in danger of being set ablaze because you have been conditioned and stifled by fear of negative repercussions? Attorneys who fear becoming the subject of investigation and fail to publicly comment on valid issues may therefore achieve the very thing Rule 4-8.2 is in place to prevent, namely deteriorating public confidence in the judicial system.
The Florida Bar’s interest in regulating an attorney’s speech under Rule 4-8.2 serves a legitimate interest and is a reasonable limitation on what attorneys say. Rule 4-8.2 reads in part, “A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge….” The Florida Supreme Court in The Florida Bar v. Ray, 797 So.2d 556 (Fla. 2001), made it abundantly clear that the purpose of this rule is not to shield judges from criticism by attorneys in exposing valid problems within the judicial system, but to rightly prohibit the practice of attorneys making false and reckless statements without regard for truth. The Florida Supreme Court stated that the purpose of the rule is to preserve public confidence in our judicial system. Litigants at times justifiably walk out of courtrooms with their confidence in the system compromised and not because of comments made by a lawyer. When an attorney speaks out publicly to call attention to valid problems within the judiciary, the public’s confidence in the system is reinforced and, if it has waned, has a chance of being restored.
Who gets to sit on the bench and administer justice on behalf of the public is decided by voters. Judges wield immense power over the lives of those brought before him or her. As such, one casts a vote and hopes it is a well cast vote. “Robitis” is a term known by lawyers as meaning someone who changes dramatically upon being clothed with the mighty black robe. A good inoculation program against “Robitis” is blogging the truth about judicial conduct when warranted for the benefit of voters. We the people should be well informed in order to quarantine from the bench those we deem necessary come election time. A good number of the electorate will never have occasion to enter a courtroom and see their elected judge in action, much less regularly observe how a particular judge daily carries out his or her judicial duties. Attorneys, on the other hand, have that unique position. As such, commenting publicly gives any interested voter the means to gain knowledge on who should or should not remain on the bench.
Mr. Gelin’s truthful blogging efforts can achieve this goal and I stand with him towards this end. The news and controversy surrounding his story has already reached the Tampa Bay area where attorneys are discussing the issues. I will remain hopeful that the Florida Bar will sort through the facts of this interesting case and make the right decision.
(Disagree with Haydee, or anything else on the blog? As always, JAABLOG will print any viewpoint you may have, so long as it's written in coherent English. Just drop us a line ... )
THANK YOU HAYDEE!
COMING SOON - Is it time for a new Chief Judge?
Howard Finkelstein editorial on the latest government intrusions
Howard Finkelstein's Letter to Satz re Crime Lab
NBC 6 - BSO Crime Lab Under Scrutiny After Losing Cocaine
SS: Crack missing from BSO crime lab ignites dispute, call to review cases
SS: McHugh releases ex-Dolphin Chad Johnson from jail
Herald: Scherer sharply questions state workers
SS: Broward courthouse 'going up fast'
Bob Norman: The Florida Bar Strikes a Blow for Unjustice Everywhere (2009)
ARE YOU A RACIST?: NYT EDITORIAL: Racially Biased Arrests for Pot
The Senior Judge Army's Steve Shutter
Mike Mayo: Florida Bar should protect rights, not judges
"Investigation targeting Fort Lauderdale attorney/blogger Bill Gelin is disturbing ... "
Howard Finkelstein Op Ed: Satz, institutional racism, and cannabis laws
"A recent report revealed that blacks are arrested and prosecuted for possession of marijuana by Broward State Attorney Mike Satz at 3.7 times the rate of whites resulting in institutionalized racism ... "
Broward may offer alternative in pot cases
"Prosecutors are more hesitant than defense lawyers to commit ... "
NBC 6: Gordon Weekes on abuse allegations at AMIkids
SS: Marc Gold and the Double Jeopardy defense
"But Gold did not appear to realize that once a jury has been sworn in to hear a criminal trial, jeopardy is attached, meaning the case has to proceed unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as a hung jury or attorney misconduct, lawyers in the case said ... "
BBeat: Stacey Schulman makes it official
Blanced! - Treasure Coast's Mark Klingensmith wins 4th DCA Broward seat
COMING SOON - SEX AND THE SAO; Jack Seiler on jury duty; It's all about PIP, stupid; Florida Bar, Florida Bar, Florida Bar, Florida Bar ...
JAABLOG RETURNS SHORTLY
A picture's worth a thousand words ...
It's not like more proof was needed. Walk into most any courtroom on any given day in Broward County, and it smacks you in the face. In custody or waiting for their cases to be called, a hugely disproportionate number of Defendants caught up on drug charges are Black.
Still, it was nice of the ACLU to publish this report last month, showing how billions of dollars are wasted annually on racially biased arrests nationwide. It's bad everywhere folks, but as we've been pointing out since day one of blogging, it's even worse in Broward County.
What do you do about racism in the criminal justice system if you happen to be Satz, the county's top law enforcement officer since 1976? Apparently nothing. Or if you happen to be Eugene Pettis, President of the Florida Bar, whose logo proudly boasts "Protecting Rights, Promoting Justice"? Pretty much the same it seems, judging by his refusal to even return calls asking about plans to combat racial injustice.
Thankfully, there is some leadership to be found. As previously reported, Gisele Pollack is pushing back, as is Howard Finkelstein. The Public Defender's relentless one sided correspondence to hapless pen pal Satz is showing everybody just what the State Attorney is made of.
Check out this missive citing the ACLU study, delivered to the SAO earlier today. It features some of Finkelstein's strongest language yet, most assuredly to be met with the same stony silence everyone has come to expect from a man who can't even muster the courage to publicly apologize to any of the known wrongfully convicted victims prosecuted by his office.
From Finkelstein's letter:
Broward County is a glaring example of institutionalized racism ... In 2010, Broward County was ranked 12th in the nation for the highest number of marijuana possession arrests of black residents ... black residents are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white citizens- even though the percentage of black residents who use marijuana is almost equal.
These numbers unequivocally show that black residents are targeted by law enforcement. These numbers fall on your shoulders as the chief law enforcement officer ... If you did not know that law enforcement was targeting black communities, you were not doing your job. Your decision to be a passive State Attorney has given police free rein in the black community. Your failure to lead for the last 38 years has allowed racism to become institutionalized in Broward County ... it is your job to fix it.
Still, Satz can't do nothing alone. He needs a never ending stream of fresh new lawyers to allow institutional racism to continue to thrive. As everyone knows, he hires them right out of school, after confirming via polygraph exam that many used illegal drugs in the past. The irony isn't lost as they're turned loose into the county and circuit juvenile courts for training on cannabis and juvenile drug cases, until promoted to circuit felony, where the racial disparity in drug arrests is most overwhelming. By that time they're programmed so well, most don't even blink an eye when asked to prosecute some poor slob over a single pill felony or a microscopic cocaine residue arrest*. Compounding the injustice, the cases are often derived from manufactured DWB stops featuring dark tints, a seatbelt violation, or preposterous "consensual" searches.
Everybody needs a job. We get that. But everyone needs to try to do something, or you're just as complicit in the administration of modern day Jim Crow as those actively making it happen on the streets.
Think about it. If enough people went to Satz, including the hypocrite judges who smoked and snorted their own small parcels of South American real estate back in the day, and impressed upon him just how far racism has crept into Broward's criminal justice system, things might change for the better. Even a man with as dismal a legacy as Satz might make an effort to actually accomplish something of lasting value in his last years in power, even if only to improve his image. All you can do is try. And if that happens, at least you can answer the question "Am I a racist?" in the negative.
*Single pill and cocaine residue felonies are rarely, if ever, brought to court in neighboring jurisdictions ...
NYT Editorial - American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot