Monday, June 30, 2008

Scott Baena Descends Into The Belly Of The Beast


Surprisingly, according to Scott, the belly of the Beast doesn't have a too many real estate developers down there:

Getting the picture? Too many lenders at the trough, dwindling property values, no cash to use, too little time under bankruptcy law, and financial retribution for filing bankruptcy. I believe that if we do see a spike in real estate bankruptcies it will be attributable to prepackaged plans, most often to facilitate bankruptcy sales of distressed real-estate assets.

But take no false sense of comfort from that as we are still bleeding red ink. Things are likely never going to be the same as before we started this descent into the belly of the beast.

This is actually an informative article. It's true you would expect more developer bankruptcies in this declining economy, but Scott (or whichever associate ghostwrote it) makes a cogent case that that is unlikely at least for the near future.

Nice work anonymous associate, I mean, Scott!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Judge Echarte Is Related To Someone. Or Something.


In a bombshell dropped only days before trial, Bob Martinez filed a motion to recuse Judge Echarte in the Miami Megaplan suit, and the Judge granted the motion:

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr.'s mother is first cousins with attorney Bob Martinez's sister-in-law. The judge signed the recusal order from the high-profile case after Martinez, representing auto dealer Norman Braman, requested he no longer oversee it.

The Braman team's legal move came after a series of court decisions have gone against the millionaire businessman -- and in favor of the city, county and Florida Marlins, who would benefit from the slate of public-works projects Braman is trying to stop.

''I'd say Mr. Braman thought he was going to lose,'' said Marlins attorney Sanford Bohrer -- who represents The Miami Herald and other media in other matters.

Bohrer called Martinez's request ``the weakest motion to disqualify I've ever seen.''

Martinez said the rulings played no part in his request, writing that the judge should remove himself ``because of the court's desire to ensure that no one could question its impartiality in hindsight.''

Martinez, a former U.S. attorney, learned of the relationship Tuesday evening from his brother, and said he confirmed it Wednesday. ''In order to avoid any issues, we thought the prudent thing to do was to file a motion and bring it to the court's attention,'' he said.

Are you kidding me? It pains me to say this, but Bohrer is right -- that motion is a crock. And why did Judge Echarte grant it? My guess here is that Martinez didn't think the motion would be granted, but wanted it in his pocket for appeal. The timing certainly is curious, to say the least.

Did Judge Echarte not want to preside over this trial, because otherwise the prudent thing to do would have been to deny the motion and allow Martinez to take an interlocutory appeal, which would have been denied. Wow. While Echarte goes away on his vacation, the case now goes before poor Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign.

This is a case of hot potato -- surely Judge Cohen's mother's sister's second niece twice removed is related to someone on the trial team? For her sake I hope so.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- The State of Miami, Turning Basins, And Scrivener's Errors


Yes kiddies it's that time again, so let's dig right into that wacky, wild and wonderful place, yes you got it -- 3d DCA land:

Lanoue v. Rizk:

Let me ask you, do you see anything wrong with this choice of law provision:

“This Agreement shall be governed in all respects by the laws of the Province of Ontario and the State of Miami.”
No, me neither. But some nutty debtor apparently had a problem with it, arguing that there is no such place as the "State of Miami" and therefore only Ontario law could apply. What a kook!

Judge Cope put him in his place, though, trotting out that old warhorse, the sloppy scrivener:
As an initial matter we agree with the trial court that the common sense reading of the choice of law provision in the security agreement meant the Province of Ontario and the State of Florida, not the “State of Miami”. . . . the reference to the “State of Miami” was a scrivener’s error and should have been the State of Florida.
The rest of the opinion got exceedingly dull so I stopped reading.

Hill v. Deering Bay:

Let me summarize -- a bunch of ultra rich people fighting over dock space and turning basin rights for their yachts. Where's Judge Schwartz and his ticky-tacky dicta when you need him?

Anyway, to read the opinion, this is a pretty clear cut case of reading a contract and ruling accordingly. Maybe Judge Friedman was trying too hard to split the baby, as the Third affirmed the judge on all points but reversed as to the one item he went the other way on:
We do, however, find that the trial court erred in concluding that Deering Bay could impose a $3 per linear foot per night fee on Kings Bay homeowners for using the temporary dock. As with the $500 annual fee to use the boat ramp, the Appler agreement confers no authority on Deering Bay to impose a fee for using the temporary dock—a fact conceded by Deering Bay in its written closing argument below. The contracts at issue here are clear and unambiguous and require no interpretation.
Good day, sir. I said good day!

GT Press Release: "Businesses Like Me. They Really Like Me!"


Anyone else get this GT press release the other day:
Greenberg Traurig has been selected as the best corporate law firm in Miami by directors serving on boards of publicly traded companies, for the seventh consecutive year. The results were published in Corporate Board Member magazines annual Legal Industry Research Study, sponsored by FTI Consulting.

Greenberg Traurig was recognized during the first annual Corporate Board Member/FTI Legal Recognition Dinner held in New York City on June 19.

"We are proud that this recognition comes from clients and other knowledgeable consumers of legal services, who understand and value the experience and commitment that it takes to succeed in a constantly changing legal and regulatory environment. It is especially gratifying that we have been able to maintain this status for seven years, in good times and bad, which demonstrates our ability to adapt to the needs of the market and our clients," said Gary Epstein, chair of Greenberg Traurigs national corporate practice. "We share this recognition with the other Greenberg Traurig corporate lawyers in South Florida, with whom we work on a regular basis, and, in a broader sense, with the entire national corporate practice group, whose resources are always available to us."

The 60-plus attorneys in Greenberg Traurigs corporate and securities practice in South Florida represent both public and privately-held clients in a wide range of industries and in transactions ranging from multi-billion dollar acquisitions to private equity transactions as well as public and private offerings of securities.

Ok, we get it dude. Don't try so hard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

School Board Attorney Thinks Her Home Address Is "Private Information"


Hmm, I guess she doesn't get on the intertubes all that much:

Two-and-a-half years after Miami-Dade School Board attorney JulieAnn Rico accepted $15,000 from the district to move to Miami-Dade County, she still claims a homestead exemption in Palm Beach County, public records show.

Her driver's license and vehicle registration list the West Palm Beach address, and her land-line telephone number rings there.

School Board member Marta Pérez wants Rico to return the money.

''The contract is explicit that she is not entitled to the moving fee unless she actually moved within the first year of her employment,'' Pérez wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.

When reached at her West Palm Beach phone number Tuesday, Rico would not give a detailed explanation of her living arrangements. In a memo written Monday to board members, she called the allegations ``incorrect and improper.''

''I am certain that a comprehensive review of the circumstances and my record of budgetary frugality will indicate that I have always been a careful steward of public funds,'' she wrote.

According to her contract with the district, Rico was to receive a ''one-time moving expense allocation in an amount not to exceed $15,000'' should she ''move to Miami-Dade County'' within the first year of the contract.

She received a check from the district in the amount of $10,102.50 on Jan. 17, 2006, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald. The difference accounts for federal taxes.

Public records, however, suggest Rico still lives in Palm Beach County.

She owns a home there and does not own any property in Miami-Dade.

When reached by phone on the West Palm Beach land-line late Tuesday, Rico first declined comment.

''I'm not answering any questions,'' she said. ``Not from home.''

Later, Rico called The Miami Herald back and provided a limited explanation.

''I have moved to Miami every summer since I started,'' she said. ``I rent a place in Miami.''

Rico declined to give any other details, saying she is entitled to a full investigation and due process under state law.

''I should be afforded the same level of process that any other public employee would be afforded in terms of an inquiry of this nature,'' she said. ``I'm not going to be throwing out my addresses. That's personal information.''

Property records are personal information nowadays? I didn't know that. Also, she moves to Miami in the summer? Oh I get it -- to escape that dreadful West Palm heat.

And who cares what her contract says so long as she follows "budgetary frugality"? That should be enough, shouldn't it? Note her response that she won't answer questions -- "not from home." Uhh, that's rather the point, JuliaAnn.

Is it just me or does anyone else thinks Rico needs an attorney to be speaking on her behalf?

Fireworks in Judge Pando's Courtroom


I received a few requests to find out more about an interesting hearing yesterday in Judge Pando's courtroom. If anyone reading knows what happened, please email or post your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Curtis Miner Bottom Lines and Triple Underscores Something



Colson Hicks attorney Curtis B. Miner nudges his case into the headlines today on the big sugar deal:

In January, three former U.S. Sugar employees filed a federal lawsuit in West Palm Beach seeking class-action status, alleging the privately held company's board kept secret two $575 million buyout offers in recent years that were rejected.

An attorney for the employees said on Monday that the lucrative state deal shows employees were getting less for their stock than it was worth.

U.S. Sugar employees own about 35 percent of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, according to the suit. The employee stock plans are a common ownership structure for thousands of American companies.

U.S. Sugar bought back employee-owned shares in recent years for about $200 per share as employees retired, according to the suit. The two $575 million offers rejected by the board valued the shares at $293 apiece, the suit says. As the number of outstanding shares were reduced, the suit alleges that increased the value of the remaining shares, including those controlled by directors, officers and descendants of the company's founder.

U.S. Sugar and the other individual defendants, including board chairman William S. White, have filed motions to dismiss the suit. The company has said the suit has no merit.

Some 4,000 former and current employees are affected.

The suit also names as a defendant the $2.5 billion Charles Stewart Mott Foundation of Flint, Mich., which owns 19 percent of the shares and donates millions of dollars annually to combat poverty, promote social causes and protect the environment.

Coral Gables attorney Curtis Miner, who represents the plaintiffs, said the $1.7 billion public buyout of U.S. Sugar bolsters the contention that employees were paid below fair value.

"The bottom line is, I think this just triple underscores that the U.S. Sugar employee shareholders were being vastly underpaid for shares," he said.
Throwing in "bottom line" only makes that "triple underscoring" quote doubly delicious. Good luck with the suit.

Monday, June 23, 2008

''I Just Don't See It.''


That's Judge Echarte, shooting down a request by Bob Martinez for discovery into the financial health of the Marlins:

The Florida Marlins and Miami-Dade County won a slight victory in court Friday when Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. shot down several attempts to get Marlins President David Samson to disclose the ball club's financial picture.

The two sides are readying for a July 1 court date, with auto dealer Norman Braman contending the $609 million stadium and parking garage plan -- to be built with almost $500 million of public money -- doesn't benefit the public.

On Friday, Braman attorney Bob Martinez tried to get Echarte to compel Samson to answer dozens of questions the Marlins executive had waved off when he was deposed earlier this month.

Echarte shot that down, ruling that almost all of Martinez's questions dealing with club finances weren't relevant to the trial.

When Martinez tried to get Samson to hand over projections of attendance, the judge questioned whether such figures are paramount to the public purpose of a stadium. ''I just don't see it,'' Echarte said.

Both sides will be back in court most of this week setting witness questioning and attempting to narrow the proceedings so the trial doesn't run too long. Echarte said he has vacation plans for most of July.

Am I missing something here? The "public purpose" of funneling hundreds of millions in tax revenue to a private business is not well-served if the private business is not profitable nor likely to be so for a period of years. A stadium built for a shaky financial entity that is obligated to partially fund the stadium and help maintain and operate it would be a total waste; just look at the old Miami Arena for just one of many examples of poor city planning (although I saw a great Dylan show there way back in '87).

We've all heard Samson cry and whine on Lebby's show about how badly the Marlins are doing financially without a publicly-financed stadium in the picture, but now he refuses to answers questions at a deposition about this very topic? I guess we're stuck with his mediocre and stunningly pedestrian movie reviews instead.

I also don't get the Judge's ruling if it is based -- as it appears to be -- entirely on relevancy grounds. Something has to be completely way off-base for the entire topic to be excluded from discovery on relevancy grounds. Were there other grounds raised?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Free At Last!" Thank God Almighty I'm Free At Last!!"



I can't say for sure what was going through Miami lawyer Jonathan Schwartz' mind as Collier County Judge Mike Carr finally relented and allowed Schwartz to post bail. But a guy can dream, can't he:

A Florida judge who sent a Miami lawyer to jail for missing a trial agreed to set bond at $10,000 two days later.

The lawyer, Jonathan S. Schwartz, was released Wednesday night after posting bond, the Naples Daily News reports. He appeared in court earlier that day in shackles and handcuffs until he had a coughing fit and Judge Mike Carr ordered the restraints removed.

Carr of Collier County said he decided not to allow Schwartz to be released on his own recognizance because of a history of missing court dates. Carr said Schwartz had been admonished in 1995 for ignoring an order by a Broward County judge to appear in his court after failing to show up six times, the story says.

Carr held Schwartz in contempt on Monday, also citing his failure to seek dismissal of a bench warrant for a client, the Naples Daily News reported in an earlier story. Carr ordered Schwartz jailed for 10 days and told him to pay a $500 fine.

Schwartz didn’t show up for an April trial scheduled for a client who was charged with driving without a license. When the client couldn’t find Schwartz, another lawyer stepped in to negotiate a plea bargain that allowed the client to avoid jail. Carr heard testimony that the mix-up stemmed from attempts to find a substitute for Schwartz, who was attending another court hearing.

Schwartz had a substitute lawyer appear for him at an earlier hearing involving the same client, but he told the judge he could not locate the client. The substitute lawyer had never met the client.

Schwartz’s lawyer, Lee Hollander, said his client’s problems were caused by accepting too much work.

Hmm, pulling out the old coughing-fit ruse, eh?

Well played, sir.

Bob Zarco and The Magic Baseball


So I heard there's going to be a video showing this morning to resolve the Ken Griffey Jr. "magic baseball" suit. How do you think it will come out? Will Mr. Franchise Bob Zarco back down? Who knows:

It's a bizarre tale of a singer and his wool hat, a man in a Sergio Mitre replica jersey who only goes by "Joe," grainy replays that seem to prove nothing, along with claims of foul, thievery and dishonesty.

"It's all really weird," Kimball said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It makes me sick to my stomach."

Kimball has filed suit in Miami-Dade County court, alleging, among other things, that "Joe" - identified as "John Doe, an individual a/k/a Joe and any party in control or possession of (the) Ken Griffey Jr. 600th home run baseball" - committed civil theft and civil battery against him.

Oh, and as if this all wasn't enough drama, the story got more odd Thursday: Kimball's side also says people - they weren't identified - at the stadium informed their office that the infamous "Joe" struck again Wednesday night, and wrestled Dan Uggla's game-ending grand slam away from a woman whose hands were on that ball, too.

"This guy is apparently a magnet," said Robert Zarco, one of the lawyers representing Kimball for free.

Marlins president David Samson said "Joe," who Samson said has authorized him to speak on his behalf, did not catch the Uggla ball.

But whether "Joe" caught it or not, Uggla left the stadium with his grand slam ball Wednesday.

That's nice -- Zarco is doing this for free. My own guess: this case is settling today.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Your Crackberry Addiction Is Charming And Really Quite Flattering.


Let's face it -- you're addicted to surfing the net instead of working on those crappy cases that keep plopping on your desk. That's ok -- who the hail cares when discovery ends anyway?

But I'll tell what is starting to annoy me -- this incessant need to check Crackberries at socially inappropriate times. You know who you are:

You check emails in the elevator. At lunch. At the gym. Driving home. While in bed. At the store. While on the phone. In movie theaters. At sporting events. During conversations with your spouse. On conference calls with clients. Waiting in court for the judge. In the bathroom. At a deposition. Yes, you have a problem:

"CrackBerry" was the 2006 Webster's New World College Dictionary "New Word of the Year." We are addicted to these devices. Yeah, we say, but we are addicted to air and water and food; this is a natural addiction, a good addiction. Our BlackBerrys keep us connected. We are in a service business and these wonderful devices let us render service to our clients in real time, every waking moment. But here is a caution -- when we use them at a deposition to check and return and compose e-mails, we may be violating ethical rules.

BLACKBERRY ADDICTION MAY IMPACT OUR DILIGENCE

We did not come to this view on our own; we were too busy sending and receiving messages on our BlackBerrys. We were provoked to thought by David Schott of Alton, Ill., who, in the May 2008 Illinois State Bar Association Trial Briefs suggests -- well, no, he more than suggests, he flat out opines -- that the use of a BlackBerry during a deposition is a violation of an attorney's duties to use reasonable diligence and charge reasonable fees. And with David's wake-up call, we have temporarily sobered up from our BlackBerry stupor to think this through. Join us. Come on, we know how hard it is. Put your BlackBerry down and rest your thumbs, just for a minute. Read on and think with us.

Now, part of the problem is not ethics but manners. We don't belong to country clubs, but we understand that most of them ban BlackBerrys and cell phones. (That isn't the reason we don't belong -- we just don't play the game.) But why? Cell phones we easily understand -- an untimely ring or conversation could actually distract a golfer. But silent thumbing?

Well, these devices are banned because it is bad form, it is rude, to attend to business when one ought to be enjoying one's time in a sand trap. And if it is rude on a golf course, how about in a courtroom? How many judges will permit you to whip out your BlackBerry during live testimony at a trial? Most judges ban BlackBerrys not out of concern for ethical considerations, but because their use is an affront to the decorum of the court.

And since a deposition is essentially an extension of the courtroom, are the rules any different? Well, yes. There's no one wearing a robe at the deposition. So is it rude to use a BlackBerry at a deposition? Maybe. Probably. But so what? Get over it. But is it unethical?

You have seen this guy. Maybe you are this guy. The guy who interrupts the deposition to have a question and answer re-read because he didn't hear it. Everyone there knows he didn't hear it because he was distracted by the e-mails he was reading and sending -- a self-created distraction because he chose to text rather than listen.

I used to pull on the newspaper during a deposition, so the questioner would think I thought the questions did not deserve my full attention, so I suppose this is an improvement.

Leslie Smith Has A Comfy New Chair


To certain emailers, sorry I didn't get around to it as I was working on important windsurfing plans, but ok ok -- here you go:

Foley & Lardner partner Leslie Smith has been named to the newly created position of litigation chair in the firm’s Miami office.

Her new responsibilities include mentoring, training, assignments and associate career developments.

Smith, who is part of the firm’s distribution and franchise practice, litigates commercial matters at the trial and appellate levels in federal and state courts.

There, happy now? And by the way, congrats to Leslie, who we know will do a great job in this challenging position. Now, back to important planning.....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- I've Gotta Get a Message To You


Ok kiddies, it's that time again, let's dive right in to that crazy, mixed up, wacky world, yes, 3d DCA land:

Pieneta v. Lieberman:

A per curium opinion that sheds absolutely no light on any issue that practitioners may ever encounter in the future. Did you know that:

Where, as here, an order has already been appealed and affirmed “common sense and the principles of res judicata” dictate that it cannot be appealed for a second time.
Good to know!

Attorney's Title v. Landa-Posada
:

Ahh, a true South Florida story--

According to the allegations in The Fund's complaint filed below, after a number of claims, The Fund became aware that one of its attorney member-agents, Sarino R. Costanzo, was conducting fraudulent closings through his law firm, Sarino R. Costanzo, P.A. The Fund alleges that Costanzo had set up a satellite office in Dade County that was run and controlled by Vanessa Montalvo, a non-lawyer and non-member of The Fund. Montalvo's involvement was without the supervision of Costanzo and without The Fund's knowledge or consent.

Further, The Fund alleges that Ms. Montalvo, essentially, was operating a real estate/mortgage fraud "factory” out of Costanzo's office using stolen credit histories, "straw" buyers, and falsely inflated appraisals. These fraudulent documents were used to induce mortgage lenders, who were The Fund's insureds, to loan millions of dollars on fraudulent real estate deals orchestrated and closed by Montalvo herself. After the closings, Montalvo would electronically disburse the falsely-generated excess funds on each transaction from the Costanzo trust account to various accounts held in her name in the same bank. The misappropriated trust monies ran into the millions of dollars.
Yeah, and your point is? Oh, apparently this type of conduct is -- to paraphrase Ted Knight in Caddyshack -- illegal.

Anyway, a subpoenaed third-party has no right to attorneys' fees and costs in responding to a subpoena. There is no such thing as attorney's fees awarded on the basis of "equity." Getting sleepy....

Comcast v. Eventys Marketing:

Oh, Judge Schwartz, this should be interesting:

Because the parties’ mutual course of conduct pursuant to an agreement which contained an arbitration clause clearly evinced their assent to the entire agreement, it does not matter, contrary to the holding below, that the appellee, which was suing for its breach, did not formally execute it.
"Did not formally execute" the contract being sued upon? Is it possible to "informally" execute a contract? Yet arbitration is compelled in accordance with its terms? Okey dokey, I need to stop now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vacation Plans, Anyone?


Ahhh it's a slow news day, it's hot, it's raining, and I can feel the energy fading from my colleagues, judges, and opposing counsel as everyone starts making vacation plans or are actively away enjoying themselves. I received four "out of office replies" on various matters just today. I've never understood that -- why let your adversaries know that you are not working? You know that's exactly when a massive summary judgment paper is being furiously prepared. Plus, don't you check your messages all the time anyway? Keep things discreet, I always say.....

So it's off to North Carolina, Colorado, Maine, or -- as Rummy used to say -- points "east, west, south, and north somewhat." Ever wonder why everything just seems better on vacation? Not just food or your kids, but other stuff too.
Here's some food for thought:

Arlene, a 27-year-old writer who lives in Philadelphia, recently went to Paris for a weeklong vacation with her 30-year-old boyfriend, a chef in the Philly area. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and the Tuileries all lived up to their advance billing, but one aspect of the getaway scored a clear "better than expected": the after-hours activities. "Even though we were running around like crazy seeing all the sights," Arlene recalls, "we still had sex almost every day," compared to an average of once or twice a week back home. "And the sex was better; we both seemed more relaxed."

It never hurts to be in the most romantic city in the world, "strolling home every night to our hotel near the Champs-Élysées" and drinking fabulous French wine, recalls Arlene (not her real name; it was changed at her request owing to the intimate subject matter). But even if your summer vacation is in (fill in the blank with some C-list place; we're trying to avoid angry e-mails from, say, the good people of Cleveland) chances are that being away will do wonders for your sex life. In fact, in Arlene's case the Parisian part of the experience wasn't even crucial. "It's not the only time our sexual connection has flourished on vacation," she says. "Something about leaving the laptop behind, turning the cell phone off and relaxing makes the sex better. Not only that, but being in a totally different environment sparks a sense of adventure and boldness," all of which can add up to sex that is more frequent, more fulfilling and more memorable than what couples have at home.

As more and more Americans weigh canceling their summer vacation because of the highest gasoline prices since the dinosaurs gave their lives to form the stuff, while airlines--charging to check a bag, interminable delays, planes as packed as the Tokyo subway--seem determined to make getting away as unpleasant as possible, psychologists recommend doing all you can to preserve at least a short getaway. Especially for couples who are extra frazzled this year due to financial stress, the renewed intimacy can help power through the anxieties that will be waiting for them back home, whether it's rising food prices, the threat of layoffs or just the usual marital strains.

So dear readers, have you all made your summer plans yet?

“You Operated As If Your Law License Was A License To Steal.”


That's Collier County Judge Mike Carr, as he threw Miami sole practitioner Jonathan S. Schwartz in jail:

A Collier County judge threw a Miami attorney in county jail for 10 days Monday after finding him guilty of contempt for twice not appearing in court and not filing a motion to dismiss a bench warrant seeking his client’s arrest.

“You operated as if your law license was a license to steal,” County Judge Mike Carr told Jonathan S. Schwartz, 49, of Miami, after Schwartz finished his testimony. “You took his $800, wanted more and left him at the mercy of the court.”

After hearing from three other attorneys — Lee Carney, Diane Gonzalez and Justin Weisberg — and Schwartz’s legal secretary, who all testified for the defense, Carr found Schwartz guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced him to jail and six months of probation, with the condition he take a Florida Bar lawyer professionalism class. He also fined him $500.

“You took a signing fee and contracted for more and did absolutely nothing for your client,” Carr said during sentencing. “Even after a bench warrant was issued for your client, you left a bench warrant out there for more than a month. I can’t think of anything you did in this case that remotely represents your duty. ... Court is just a convenience for you to collect money.”

Carr said had it not been for attorney Shannon McFee of Naples, who stepped in without charge to negotiate a plea bargain for Schwartz’s client, the client would have been jailed. Instead, Diogenes Alicea Galarza, 42, of North Miami, pleaded no contest, was fined $150 and an adjudication of guilt was withheld on a charge of driving without a valid license.

Schwartz jumped up and asked for a supersedeas bond, which would allow him to remain free and delay sentencing. But Carr cut him off with a curt, “Denied.”

Schwartz’s defense attorneys, Bob Allen and John Musca, then asked to speak with Carr at a sidebar, but after a few words at the bench, Carr said loudly, “I said, ‘denied.’ ”

Schwartz was then fingerprinted and led off by a bailiff. Both Allen and Musca declined comment afterward.

Wow, that is pretty hard-core. Does anyone think a Miami judge would do something similar? If you know more about this case please let me know.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Federal Judges Dig My Funk; The Rest of You Are On Your Own


They're probably talking about someone else, because I thought that grandstanding like a preening buffoon was how you should always act in federal court:

Generally, the judges said they were pleased that the level of civility among lawyers had increased in recent years, with a greater show of cooperation and respect among attorneys. Still, in discussing which behaviors they like seeing from lawyers and which antics make their blood boil, the discussion focused on careful use of technology and bad body language.

Lawyers shouldn’t be acting up in a courtroom, whether it’s in front of a jury or not, the judges made clear. As examples of bad behavior, they cited lawyers jumping up and down in front of them, rolling their eyes while chuckling with each other during proceedings and repeatedly shaking their heads during arguments by opposing counsel.

“There’s no reason to ever show your emotions at that level in front of a judge,” said Valdez, who admonished the lawyer jumping in front of her.

The standard becomes particularly important when a jury is involved because of the distraction it can present, they said. St. Eve noted one juror she talked with was upset with how an older male lawyer was treating a younger female colleague at the lawyers’ table. Kennelly said some of his jurors complained recently because attorneys were “demeaning” others with the eye-rolling and chuckling.

“I cannot stress enough how much juries really do pick up on what the lawyers are doing,” St. Eve said.

The suggestion extends to treatment of opposing counsel, they said.

“You’ve got to be a pro when you’re in there, and what a pro does is they wait for their turn and then they talk,” Kendall said.
Not shake your head demeaningly while your opposing counsel is addressing the Court? Not roll your eyes while chuckling with colleagues? Not emoting wildly or grandstanding like a raging bull? Hey, you've just pretty much emptied my bag of tricks, though I guess I can still insist on going first even if it's not my motion. Now that I think of it, nothing was mentioned about raising new arguments and submitting new cases in a binder for the judge for the first time at oral argument (oh yeah, that's state court).

What will the "old lions" of our local Bar do without these tried and true, field-tested techniques? Come on people, we all know who they are.

Hello, You've Got (Rat Turd) Mail!


Have you ever thought opposing counsel's letter was just plain full of crap? No, I mean it literally:

''Infested with mice,'' her lawyer, Gerald Kornreich, alleges in an emergency motion.

One of Reuther's attorneys, Dirk Lorenzen, says Reuther is the dad, no question, and is generous with the kids. He has paid more than $13,000 this month in rent and support, court docs say.

Her apartment, overlooking the bay, would list for $500,000-plus, Lorenzen adds. Reuther rents the adjacent apartment. Onyewenjo claims Reuther once ''pushed his way'' into her unit, ``screaming and threatening her.''

Lorenzen calls the alleged rodent problem a ''litigation fairy tale.'' If there are critters, they could have stowed away ``in one of the boxes or pieces of furniture moved from North Bay Road where there was a mouse and rat problem.''

Kornreich's response: ''Mice and/or rat droppings'' sent in a letter to Lorenzen and Reuther's other lawyers, Christopher Klein and Thomas Baur. ''We are only enclosing a small sample to avoid a large mess in your offices and remain professional,'' says the letter, now an exhibit in the court file.

Let me try to understand this -- Gerald Kornreich encloses rat turds in a letter to another lawyer "to remain professional"?

Tell you what, I'm glad I don't practice in divorce court. Besides obvious Rule 901 evidentiary issues, you gotta feel for the office staff on all sides involved in the transmission and receipt of that lovely correspondence.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Judge P!


Let's end this week on a happy note, shall we? It's time to pay tribute, say thanks, and extend our best wishes to Judge Palermo on his 90th birthday:

One of Miami's longest-serving federal judges is being honored at the downtown courthouse for his upcoming 90th birthday.

A reception was planned Friday at the new Ferguson U.S. courthouse for Magistrate Judge Peter Palermo. He has served as a magistrate judge since 1971. His actual birthday is Sunday.

Palermo says he was one of the first magistrate judges appointed in the country to help ease the caseload on district judges. Magistrates generally hear pretrial matters such as arraignments and often preside over civil cases. Palermo says he handles about 50 or 60 civil cases a year.

Palermo has lived in Miami-Dade County since 1947. He was a state prosecutor and a lawyer in private practice before joining the federal bench.
Hey, don't forget Mayor of West Miami.

No wonder he's got so many great war stories.....

The Gift


Floods, boy scouts, earthquakes, "baby mamas," boy things sure do look bleak. Let's brighten things up with a wonderful Father's Day gift idea:

Charla Muller promised her husband "the gift," as she refers to their year of passion, for his 40th birthday--a particularly inspired alternative to, say, an expensive watch:

"This is something no one else would give him," she said in an interview. "It didn't cost a lot of money. It was highly memorable. It met all the criteria for a really great gift."


Brad was less than fully enthusiastic, mostly because, he says, his wife often has big ideas and poor follow-through. After all, she hadn't been especially generous in that department since they'd had their two children. He paid closer attention when he realized that she was serious.

But as with any marathon, the couples hit a few bumps along the way. First came fatigue:

The Mullers, or at least Charla, hit a wall somewhere around the 10th month. In her book, she describes the gift then as "my stupid idea" and "a hidden cross to bear."

Then, for the Browns, came vertigo:

And were it not for [Annie Brown's] competitive zeal, their streak might have died well short of 100 days. Annie even forced her husband to have sex during a bout of vertigo. "I'm not a quitter,' she said. "The night he had vertigo, I said, 'I'm sorry, guy, but you've got to keep going.' "

And, yes, there was even boredom:

Doug said in an interview that on their 101st day, he felt "sort of like you had some long-forgotten appointment to hear some tax attorney talk about estate planning."


After that, he said, "I think we didn't do it for a month."

But, in the end, it was all about the lessons learned:


Charla Muller and Annie Brown both talk about how mandated physical intimacy created more emotional intimacy. "It required a daily kindness and forgiveness, and not being cranky or snarky, that I don't think either of us had experienced before," Charla said.


Annie said that she and her husband reached a place in their relationship that they have seldom approached since. "It was just this intense closeness," she said. "We were so aware of wherever the other person was mentally and emotionally and physically."

You can read more on the Mullers' remarkable adventure here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Richard Hrebik Wants to Elect Presidents Like He Hires Secretaries


Walton Lantaff's Richard Hrebik explains to the Miami Herald how we should elect our next President:

First, experience does not equal competence. For more than 10 years I heard some lawyers say that they wanted secretaries with lots of experience. But many of the applicants garnered years of experience by jumping from job to job because they were not very good at their tasks.

What I looked for were applicants who had a good formal education, maybe completed a secretarial school and were fluent in the English language. They proved to be the most capable of doing excellent work, though they had little experience.

Dick's right. I think we should elect our next President the same exact way Hrebik hires support personnel -- by using ihirelegal.com:

We have been using iHireLegal.com for employment advertising for about a year now. The price is exceptional, the unlimited information that can be included in stating requirements of the position and describing our firm is phenomenal. Better yet, the responses are often received within hours of placing an ad. The number of individuals seeking employment, across the country, that look to the internet is why we now use iHireLegal.com almost exclusively for all our attorney, paralegal and secretarial requirements in all our offices throughout Florida. We are really pleased with the ease and results of using your service. Keep up the good service, and we thank you. - Richard Hrebik, Walton, Lantaff, Schroeder & Carson, Miami, FL
Heck, let's let ihire pick our judges too.

You know I'm just joking Richard, I actually agree with your letter and main point. And your Amazon review of the Schwinn Windrigger Rowing Machine is dead-on; you definitely need strong lats to windsurf!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- The Miracles of Design



Hi folks let's dive in right in to that mythical land where your brakes have to fail completely before you can recover for a design defect, and even then it's not at all certain, yes, 3d DCA watch:

Butler v. Kia:

Here, Judge Shepherd reverses a certified class of 1999-2001 Kia Sephia owners who sued because the Sephia allegedly had a design defect which caused the brakes to fail prematurely. The Judge finds no common questions of fact, reasoning:
Kia points out that there is no absolute design for automobile front brakes. According to Kia, brake design requires a balancing of design goals which are not consistent, including braking stability, brake response time, reliability, appropriate cost for the price of the vehicle, maintainability, rate of wear, noise, and corrosion resistance. Quality and performance tradeoffs, therefore, necessarily occur; the final judge being the marketplace, according to Kia.

Whatever the merits of Kia’s “no defect” argument, it cannot be disputed that the component and design changes described above resulted in significant differences in the performance of the Kia Sephia’s front brakes over the three model years at issue here. It is therefore scientifically and logically impossible to conclude that any performance issues for these three model years were the result of a common design. It follows that even if there existed a difference between the price paid for each vehicle and the value of the vehicle as delivered for any design period, that difference cannot be proven on a class-wide basis.
Yeah, maybe Kia engineers design each brake system from scratch for each Sephia sold! And those crazy designers use different parts each time! That would be efficient when you are selling thousands of cars worth about $15k.

The Court is also apparently mystified at the byzantine, highly complicated process by which a car brake system is manufactured:
The disc braking process in an automobile—the process involved here—is a complicated mechanical and hydraulically assisted process, wherein force applied to a brake pedal is enhanced and quickly transferred to brake pads surrounding a rotating “rotor” in the wheel well of the vehicle, squeezing the rotor and, in turn, slowing and stopping the tire and wheel.
Wow, I bet NASA can get a man on Mars before another crappy yet highly complex Kia brake system miraculously hits the road. Didn't the Model T have a braking system?

The Court concludes with this:

In complex cases such as this, where no one set of operative facts establishes liability, where no single proximate cause applies to each defendant, and where individual issues outnumber common issues, trial courts should be hesitant to certify class actions.
Can you believe the Court thinks the marketplace of attorneys are running to sign up individual Kia owners to take up a "complex case" against a large vehicle manufacture for minimal damages? You'd have to be former counsel to the Richard Scaife-funded Pacific Legal Foundation to find that prospect appealing.

Sheesh, You Don't Have to Rub His Nose In It


So home prices are down 25 percent or so from last year, we all know this. But does the Sun-Sentinel need to rub it in? Get a load of this headline:

Miami lawyer loses $100K on Fort Lauderdale 4BD

Craig D. Linder and his wife, Alessandra, sold a four-bedroom, three bath at 3320 NE 15th Ct. in Fort Lauderdale for $865,000 to Craig Eckstein, Camilla Eckstein, Richard Eckstein and Anastasia Eckstein on May 19.

The Linders paid $965,000 for the home in July 2004. The 2,260 square foot house was built in 1958.

Mr. Linder is an attorney in the Miami office of international law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey LLP. His practice is focused on corporate transactions and securities regulation.

He earned his LL.M. from New York University and his J.D. from Loyola Marymount University. He received his bachelor's from California State University-Northridge.

Home sales in Fort Lauderdale dropped 26.3 percent in 2007.
There's a nice picture of Craig there too. It's good to have your name in print and all but Craig, if you or someone at SSD submitted this item to blockshopper.com I would rethink your marketing strategy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

E Tu, Lenny Cooperman?


This story on office gym etiquette had me thinking about perennial judicial candidate Lenny Cooperman:

Sure, a fitness center seems like a great perk for employees. Hooray for that 20-minute lunchtime power session on the elliptical! Work gyms are convenient and cheap, if not free. Of course, they're also inherently awkward.

''It's a little more stressful sweating profusely around people that you are in a professional atmosphere with,'' says Justin Lucas, 25, a Washington resident who works for a human resources consulting firm. ``Or vice versa: seeing somebody really, really talented sweat all over the place.''

Like most office gyms, the one in Lucas' building is small: two treadmills, four ellipticals, a few weight-lifting machines, a dumbbell rack and an abdominal bench. Close proximity makes interaction unavoidable, but Lucas says that he and his boss, who also uses the gym, keep their fitness exchanges brief.

''I already saw you for eight hours today,'' Lucas says. ``That's my professional life. Now I'm just going to work out and be myself.''

I was working out some years ago at a downtown gym when I had finished up and was just coming out of the shower. Well who comes running up to me -- buck naked -- but none other than good ole' Lenny, pushing his latest bid for judicial office. As I struggled to throw on my boxers Lenny thrusts out his hand, grabs mine, and engages me in a good ten minute recitation of his qualities for judgeship. Given that we were both completely naked, I thought it a rather....interesting....time to be making a judicial pitch to a business colleague. Anyways, after a while naked Lenny moved on in the locker room and found another lawyer to discuss his judicial campaign with.

What the heck happened to Lenny? A good guy, but I don't think he ever did get elected. Old-timers, please weigh in.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Former Podhurst Attorney Needs Help With His Website


Sure sure you can complain about a conflict-of-interest at Miami-Dade County involving Luis Andres Gazitua, a senior full-time advisor to Mayor Carlos Alvarez. But that's like complaining that water is wet:

On his law firm's website, mayoral legal advisor Luis Andre Gazitua is seated beside a window overlooking downtown Miami from an office atop Miami-Dade County Hall.

At the top of that Web page is a link to another page that explains how Gazitua and his three law partners use government access to help their clients.

'Our Government Policy Practice attorneys work with all branches of government, through both traditional and innovative channels, to promote and protect our clients' interests,'' it says.

Gazitua, 32, is a full-time senior advisor to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The county's ethics policy forbids the use of public office for private financial gain. ''That's the underlying principle of the code of ethics; it applies to everybody across the board,'' said Robert Meyers, who directs Miami-Dade's Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.

There is no evidence that Gazitua's private business has profited from his public post, but touting his county position on the website troubles ethics experts.

Gazitua did not respond to Miami Herald interview requests made directly and through the mayor's office.

Let's see what his website looks like today. Yep, that poorly-drafted language is still there. UM Professor Alfieri states the obvious:

Legal experts say the trumpeting of his county post on his law firm's website raises an appearance of impropriety.

Gazitua appears to be ''using public access to leverage private gain,'' said Tony Alfieri, a University of Miami professor who directs the school's Center for Ethics and Public Service. ``That's a disadvantage to other law firms, and it creates a perception to ordinary citizens that public policy turns on access rather than merits or fairness.''

CONNECTIONS NOTED

V. Lynn Whitfield, city attorney for North Miami and a member of the Florida Bar's local government law branch, said that advertising a public post on a private website appears to be a clear-cut case of influence-peddling.

She said it seems to say, ``I've got connections because of my job.''

''But it's interesting,'' she added. ``It really is about what your bosses let you do.''

The website details a trip that Gazitua took to China for the county to bolster foreign trade, and how he represents the mayor on legal issues regarding mortgage fraud. The website says his firm covers international business and real-estate transactions.

The lawyer worked on Alvarez's strong-mayor campaign, which vaulted the mayor to unprecedented power in January 2005.

In a 2006 interview with South Florida CEO magazine, Gazitua said he did much of the campaign's legal work: ``I started doing all the legal work.''

FATHER'S DONATION

Gazitua's father, Ralph Gazitua, donated at least $30,000 to Alvarez's strong-mayor campaign, either personally or through businesses he owns, records show.

Alvarez appointed Ralph Gazitua to the board of directors of the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium, a county agency responsible for developing two-way trade at the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport.

Less than a month after Alvarez became strong mayor in January 2005, Luis Andre Gazitua joined the mayor's staff. He had passed his bar exam in September 2003 after graduating from St. Thomas Law School.

Donations? Connections? Daddy's money? I like this kid already. Luis, if you are out there, give us your side of the story -- so far you are a true South Florida success story.

Professor Alan Swan -- RIP


Wow, this is a huge loss:

Miami police, which has not officially released Swan's name as the victim, said the collision occurred as the couple was traveling north on the highway in their Honda, headed toward the entrance to Interstate 95.

At Southwest 16th Avenue, police said motorist Juan Carlos Delgado, 31, also traveling north at a high rate of speed, collided into Swan's Honda, causing the car to lose control. It's unclear who was behind the wheel, Swan or his wife.

Delgado has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved a death, said police spokesman Willie Moreno.

So Delgado not only was going too fast, endangering not just Professor Swan but other vehicles as well, and then leaves the scene of the accident? Despicable.

Celebrate life, dear readers. Despite our best efforts to control and minimize risk, death is amazingly random, nonselective, and final.

RIP Professor Swan -- may the road rise to meet you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Judge Altonaga Gets It Right


How about that -- Judge Altonaga strikes down Miami-Dade's idiotic loitering and parade-permit restrictions:

Miami-Dade's bans on loitering and its permit requirements for public protests are too vague, too broad and could cross First Amendment rights, according to a federal judge who struck down those ordinances late Wednesday.

Organizers of a 2007 protest sued after being denied permission to close streets in front of Miami Dade College during President Bush's speech at the Kendall Campus. County police have few rules about when to approve or deny such requests.

ASSUMED INTENTIONS

''We are left simply to assume the benevolence and good intentions of the sheriff in denying the application,'' wrote U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez declined to comment; his spokeswoman said the administration had not fully reviewed the ruling. The county attorney's office has not decided whether to appeal.

The protesters -- including Miami for Peace, South Florida Peace and Justice Network and Haiti Solidarity -- also complained that police could have used the county's loitering ordinance to arrest protesters.

That ordinance is broad enough to ban standing on a public sidewalk in a way that hinders pedestrians and, according to Altonaga's ruling, ``criminalizes virtually all behavior likely to take place at a public demonstration.''

The permit rules provide no standards, no clear appeal and no timeline, leaving police the freedom to sit on a request until the last minute.

''It gave them completely unlimited discretion,'' said Mara Shlackman, an attorney for the groups.

Altonaga's order, like the ordinances themselves, only applies to unincorporated parts of Miami-Dade; cities have their own regulations.

You can read the Judge's summary judgment opinion here. It's a nice, clean logical ruling. I like the way the Judge mocks the awful language of the county ordinance:

The awkward and sweeping language of the Ordinance results in a legislative pronouncement that defines loitering with use of the term it seeks to define: “knowingly . . . [l]oitering” in selected public areas, “so as to hinder or impede the passage of pedestrians or vehicles” or “the orderly conduct of instructional, recreational, or other school activities.” Id. Indeed, even the only arguably “objective” component of this construction – “so as to hinder or impede” – is also relatively subjective.
She then concludes:

Since the Loitering Ordinance lacks virtually any objective standards regarding its application, every participant in a public demonstration, or indeed anyone using a public right of way, may be deemed to be in violation of the ordinance and be subjected to its stated penalties.
Yeah, so? We said we would only exercise this power sparingly and with the very bestest of intentions.

It's a good feeling when simple constitutional rights are vindicated.

Thank You Judge Silverman; Florida Legislature, Not So Much.


Well it was a good and bad day yesterday for our local court system.

On the good side, anyone else attend the rousing and inspirational dedication of historic Courtroom 6-1? It looks great:

The carved wood doors leading to Miami-Dade's newly renovated historic Courtroom 6-1 swung open Thursday, giving spectators a glimpse at its restored 1928 grandeur.

More than 200 spectators filed inside for the afternoon unveiling and dedication of the courtroom, which once again looks just like it did 80 years ago when the Miami-Dade County Courthouse opened for legal business at 73 W. Flagler St.

The $650,000 restoration of the spacious courtroom, which took eight months, is a natural move in preserving local legal history.

''No other courtroom in Miami-Dade has hosted as many historic cases as this one,'' said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman, who led the push for the restoration and heads the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society.

If you all haven't been by, please take a look. And take a moment to thank Judge Silverman as well as those firms who helped underwrite the restoration, including Boies Schiller & Flexner and Greenberg Traurig. Now, what can we do to get Judge S to preside over that majestic space?

The bad: Thanks to the wisdom of the voters and our State Legislature, Chief Judge Farina had to axe 14 court employees and lay off another 14. Just another really bad day at the office:

The court’s family division took the biggest number of layoffs, losing a court operations manager, two administrative assistants and an administrative secretary. A vacant court analyst position was dissolved.

The probate and guardianship division lost two court program specialists and deleted three vacant slots.

Five vacant law clerk positions were eliminated in the Office of General Counsel. The remaining cuts came in the traffic, criminal, juvenile, general magistrate, unified family court, court administrator and general jurisdiction divisions.

The cuts were by far the deepest for any circuits in Florida.
Oh well, the family division just hums anyways, so no worries there. And traffic, criminal, and juvenile, your days of living high off the hog are over. Just don't get concerned when the judge you are waiting for has to make copies, answer the phone, and fix the broken a/c while you wait to argue some meaningless and esoteric discovery dispute.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

WSJ Law Blog Snubs Michael Hanzman. You Heard Me, Michael Hanzman!


Late to the party (we blogged about this case back on May 20), WSJ's Law Blog reports on the Russian RICO case against BoNY brought by Podhurst lawyer Steve Marks. Yet in summarizing the experts retained by Steve-o, they inexplicably ignore the Big Cheese himself:

In the Russians’ corner is Miami lawyer Steven Marks, of Podhurst Orseck. He’s hired Harvard law prof Alan Dershowitz and G. Robert Blakey, a RICO expert from Notre Dame’s law school, to testify about the applicability of RICO in Russia. Also on Marks’s side is George Pratt, a retired federal appellate judge who’s now a special counsel at Farrel Fritz.
There's going to be hell to pay in Coral Gables......

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been


This is more Rumpy's territory, but I have had several civil and pleasant dealings with Jack Thompson over the years and found him to be perfectly professional. So it it is with some regret that we receive the news that Jack will be no longer be among us (as an attorney, at least):

Coral Gables attorney and anti-porn crusader Jack Thompson should be disbarred and not allowed to apply for readmission for at least 10 years, The Florida Bar recommended at a hearing Wednesday.

Web Extra:
Thompson's formal objections

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dava Tunis, the referee overseeing a Bar grievance case against Thompson, has already recommended that he be found guilty of 27 Bar rule violations. Tunis held a hearing Wednesday to help her determine what penalty she will recommend the Florida Supreme Court impose against Thompson.

“It’s a privilege to practice law in the state of Florida, it is not a right,” Bar counsel Sheila Tuma told Tunis. “If you look at case law in the state of Florida, enhanced disbarment is appropriate.”

A typical disbarment generally allows an attorney to reapply for admission to the Bar after five years.
I know this isn't the end (from Jack's perspective, for sure). I did get a kick out of this part:

At the hearing Wednesday, Tuma also submitted an affidavit from Lawrence Kellogg, a partner with Tew Cardenas, that she said indicated Thompson has sent that firm more than 100 e-mails criticizing Kellogg and partner Alberto Cardenas since December.
That's it? I get more than an hundred emails a day offering great refinancing terms or certain pharmaceutical enhancements, but maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- "Move Along, Nothing to See Here."


Let's dive right in and see what pearls of wisdom the 3d DCA has elected to shower upon us this week:

Busca v. All Seasons:

Like an inscrutable Zen master, the 3d has decided to write an opinion entirely in haiku. I have no idea what this case is about, and neither will you. I guess that's the beauty of a per curiam opinion.

Still, those flirty judges did leave us hanging with this tease:

Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm. Because our jurisdiction is limited to that issue, we express no opinion as to any other issue raised in Appellants’ brief.
Ahh, come on! Don't be like that, go ahead, express an opinion for gripe's sake. Dicta is the legal grease that keeps our billable hour machines humming.

That concludes 3d DCA watch for this week. Seriously. What the hail, are all the judges already in North Carolina?

Spotted: Steve Zack And A Doggy Bag


Anyone else see Steve Zack leaving Capital Grille yesterday, doggy bag in hand, walking alone through the corridor connecting the Hyatt to old Centrust Building? Ahh, the good life.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Things Are Tough All Over


Welcome summer associates, to the extent there still are any at South Florida firms this year. Weiss Serota did away with their program completely. Squire Sanders is down to four, Holland & Knight has just eight lucky souls this summer, Hunton & Williams is down to four, and GT only has nine, down from 12. But don't worry, the economy has nothing to do with it:
Other law firm leaders say their programs are slightly smaller than last year but deny it’s because of the slowdown, which is generally recognized as a recession in Florida.

Greenberg Traurig plans to hire nine summer associates in South Florida this year, down from 12 last summer. The firm’s program is down to 64 this year from 88 last summer.

Cesar Alvarez, the firm’s chief executive officer, said Greenberg began planning the cutback last year before the slowdown became apparent.

“As a firm that ‘hires to keep,’ we made the decision prior to the 2007 on-campus recruiting season,” he said.
See, all you summer newbies, that's one of the first lessons to learn about your firm -- they always lie about finances! Of course it's about the finances, what else could it be about? DBR reporter Alana Roberts does the math:
The reduction in summer associate programs could be a reflection of the financial performance of some South Florida law firms.

The gross revenue of Hunton & Williams’ Miami office dropped 7 percent to $39 million in the year ended March 31, a far cry from the 15 percent growth it experienced the year before.

Bilzin Sumberg gross revenue was up 3 percent to $68.1 million last year, down from a growth rate of 23 percent the year before.

Holland & Knight, which had nine summer associates in Miami last year, plans to have eight this year. Gross revenue was up 2.5 percent to $97.1 million last year in the firm’s South Florida offices compared with $95 million in 2006.
Here's some more interesting background facts to get you oriented to life in South Florida nowadays: we can't afford to pay public defenders to defend most felony cases anymore; Miami-Dade's tax base has declined for the first time in decades, which will lead to cuts in essential services (don't forget, Weiss Serota represents local governments!); and the state court system is about to lay off 222 jobs, including many in the 3d DCA and the Miami-Dade circuit courts:
“We’ve never had layoffs before, so we’re trying to adjust to it,” said David M. Gersten, chief judge in the 3rd DCA. “We’re trying to make it business as usual as much as possible.”

Miami-Dade Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina said he would not have a clear picture of the effect of the budget cuts until today. Miami-Dade courts are losing the most full-time positions in the state at 27.75.
So yeah, when you hear otherwise good guy Robert Vaughn sell you this line:
“We decided several years ago from a philosophical standpoint we were not going to have those mega-summer programs,” Vaughan said. “Our position has always been we’re going to hire as many summers as we have [full-time] spaces to fill next year. Werith that in mind, our program has always been lean but very competitive to get into.”
Just chock Robert's spin up to being a good corporate soldier, enjoy your firm weekend trip to beautiful Paul S. Walker Park, and have fun at Mickey D's when the firm decides to "treat" you to lunch.