Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Friday


Remember when law offices used to throw big Halloween parties? The staff would all dress up, there would be eyeball punch served by provocatively-clad witches and/or other assorted vixen, and everyone would get to see how goofy everyone else looks?

Boy those days are gone.

Even the lawyer-sponsored private Halloween bashes are growing rarer and rarer, as tightening budgets are making us decide between that big Halloween party and the monthly Porsche payment.

Oh well. It's still a festive holiday, and one in which I plan to partake fully. Indeed, I plan to break out my white pants suit, find my burnt orange wide-collared shirt, and hopefully locate a friendly barkeep to help me pass the time and engage in light, casual banter as I boozily play the piano into slow blissful oblivion.

Either that or I'll take in a movie.

And what are your plans? Whatever you do have a safe, happy, and healthy Halloween!

SFL Friday -- Responding to Annoying Letters Edition



Sheesh I'm all over the map today, how about you?

It's been one hail of a week, I'm looking to blow off some steam, and I'm gonna try to get myself grounded, rested, and relaxed over the next few days.

But first I have to respond to a nasty letter some whippersnapper at Hunton & Williams wrote me, you know how they can be sometimes! I may have to put on my Chris Carver game face for a few minutes, but usually I try to tone it all down by the time the missive leaves the desk.

Let me see if I can find something to put me in a proper writing mood, ok found it -- hit it Robert!

There, I feel much better now.

I'll check back once I knock this sucker out.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

For Hank Adorno Diehards Only



Ok ok, by popular demand and in honor of our Movember charity fundraiser I offer all you Adorno/Ron McGill diehards your red meat.

Enjoy!

Hank Adorno Not One of The "Lucky Seven."


So let's see what's in the news today.

How about that -- I read in the Herald that the CANF endorsed Barack Obama!

Strike that, apparently the CANF's endorsement is not newsworthy enough for Herald readers, who prefer to read dopey letters about Obama's love for Yassar Arafat and other prominent Indonesians.

Also, an angry mob of McCain supporters surrounded two Obama supporters at the McCain rally in Miami yesterday, shouting "terrorist" and "communist" before the police had to intervene and escort them to safety.

Again, the Herald was right on it (not).

Hey, what do you know -- all of our appellate judges are Republicans now! Sure makes it easier to talk politics in the courthouse lunchroom I guess.

Meanwhile, it seems the centuries-old fire-fee case, originally filed in 1552, may finally be nearing an end:

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Rodriguez on Wednesday gave his final approval to a $17.1 million settlement with taxpayers, ending a contentious legal battle over the fire fee that dragged on for a decade.

By late this year or early next year, refund checks of a few hundred dollars, give or take, will be mailed to the roughly 48,000 taxpayers who have filed the necessary paperwork. The window for taxpayers to submit refund forms closed last week.

''Although taxpayers probably won't get much more than ten cents on the dollar, if that much, it's time we closed the chapter,'' said Miami activist Monique Taylor. ``It's a victory nonetheless.''

Hold on -- for SFL fave and proud Movember member Hanky "Who, Me?" Adorno the case drags on:

Last week, the Florida Bar found probable cause for misconduct proceedings against Mays and prominent attorney Hank Adorno, who represented the so-called ''lucky seven'' included in Miami's original $7 million deal.

The Bar finding raises the possibility both Mays and Adorno could face disciplinary action -- ranging from reprimand to disbarment. The Bar also found another attorney in the Adorno & Yoss firm, Robin Corwin Campbell, had committed ``minor misconduct.''

Adorno & Yoss, while not admitting any wrongdoing, has agreed to contribute $1.6 million to the just-approved settlement with taxpayers.
You gotta love Hank. Like certain 3d DCA judges, he is the gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- Clash of the Titans Edition


Well kiddies it's that time again, that exulted moment of the week when our Judicial Gods deliver mammon to the supplicants, where dreams are made, hopes are dashed, and PCAs sprout like wild quinoa, yes it's straight from that cute little Courtroom By the Highway, a special Judicial Smackdown edition featuring two of our bestest and most spectacularly robed coffee-swillers, oh hail let's get right to it, it's 3d DCA Watch:

Cooper Tire v. Rodriguez:

Wow -- Salter against Cope, in an appeal handled by Rudy Sorondo (hey I forgot he has a beard too!) on one side and Laurie Waldman Ross on the other. Bring me some popcorn and a really uncomfortable chair like they have in the 3d DCA gallery, this is gonna be good!

Indeed it is.

This is an opinion denying a writ of prohibition after a trial judge refused to disqualify himself for ex parte changing a hearing date after talking only to plaintiff's counsel who was there before the judge on another matter. Oh, the trial judge also denied the defendant's motion for continuance using an order drafted by the plaintiff's lawyer before the defense had even filed the continuance motion.

What, you say?

I urge everyone to read this opinion because for me it highlights the chummy, informal, and annoyingly ad hoc manner that justice is (sometimes) dispensed inside 73 West Flagler. And I hate to say it, but I think Judge Salter's majority opinion here contributes to this maddeningly casual and clubby culture. For example, Judge Salter takes issue with Judge Cope's characterization in his dissent of the order denying the (unfiled) motion for continuance as follows:

The order resetting the discovery hearing is characterized by the dissent as one which denied a motion not yet made. But Cooper Tire’s counsel had asked opposing counsel to consent to a rescheduling and had indicated that the motion would be filed.
But it DID deny a motion not yet made (the order denies "Cooper’s motion to continue special set hearing") . Besides, asking counsel to consent to certain relief that may be requested in an actual motion is not the same as making the motion before the court! Judge Cope explains:
On September 4, plaintiff’s counsel visited the trial judge’s chambers and spoke to the judicial assistant to try to reschedule the September 16-17 hearing. The trial judge overheard the conversation and indicated that it might be possible to move the hearing to earlier dates, namely, September 11-12. The judge directed plaintiff’s counsel to prepare an order which denied the not-yet-filed motion for continuance. The judge signed the order.

Although defense counsel had not yet filed a motion for continuance, the order stated that the cause had come on to be heard on an ex parte basis “on Cooper’s motion to continue special set hearing (scheduling issue only).” The order stated that the court would “attempt to accom[m]odate the parties by entertaining the [discovery] motions on Sept. 11 & 12 depending on availability & weather conditions. If the court is not available on Sept. 11th & 12th the hearing shall take place as originally scheduled on 9/16 & 17.”

Plaintiff’s counsel faxed the order and cover letter to defense counsel, explaining how the order came to be entered. Defense counsel filed a motion for disqualification, which the trial court denied as legally insufficient.
Judge Salter also chastises defense counsel (Holland & Knight) for filing the motion to disqualify. In Judge Salter's view, the defense lawyers, after having their hearing date changed ex parte in an order drafted by plaintiff's counsel, should have immediately identified other proposed dates to the trial judge:
If those dates were not available for counsel, Cooper Tire could and should have immediately identified other available dates, filed its promised written motion for continuance, notified opposing counsel and the court, and requested an immediate telephonic hearing (or a so-called “add on” for the next motion calendar) to resolve the matter.
But the order says if the hearing does not go forward on the earlier, newly changed dates, then the hearing would proceed on the originally-scheduled date. What would be the point of moving for a continuance when the court has already denied it ex parte and indicated it would not change the hearing to another date?

Judge Cope pretty much sums it all up here:
In this case defense counsel had conveyed his intention to plaintiff’s counsel to file a motion to continue the September 16-17 hearing. Defense counsel had not yet filed the motion when, the next day, plaintiff’s counsel went to the judge’s chambers to request alternative dates from the judicial assistant. The judge became involved in the discussion and ruled that the defendant’s not-yet-filed motion for continuance would be denied. This was done without the defense having filed its motion and without being heard on the motion. These circumstances would give rise to a reasonable fear, when looked at from the viewpoint of the movant, that the movant would not receive a fair trial.
As much as I love Judge Salter, I have to say I agree.

Jack Thompson: It's Official

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Honor of Judge Farina

I offer this heartfelt tribute:

Chief Judge Farina "Simply Tired Of All This Crap."


I kid, Judge, I kid. Young gun Billy Shields breaks the real story:

Chief Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Joseph P. Farina will not seek re-election when his term ends next year, court spokeswoman Eunice Sigler confirmed today.

Farina will not be a candidate in January for the post he has held for more than a decade. His replacement would take over July 1, Sigler said.

Farina sent a memo Monday evening to employees and voiced his gratitude for the opportunity to serve as chief judge.

“Whatever our circuit has accomplished, attained or achieved, we have done it together as a team of dedicated judges, general magistrates, child support hearing officers, judicial assistants, bailiffs and personnel,” he wrote. “I have been proud to represent you and advocate on your behalf.”
Thanks for your service and dedication, Chief.

Early Vote, You Plebes!


Since most of you will be out "pollwatching" on election day anyways:

In Miami-Dade, which has 764 polls, Democratic observers number about 450. They will focus on what key members call ''voter protection'' in minority, elderly and traditionally strong Democratic precincts.

According to a Miami Herald computer analysis of precinct designations, the Democrats are devoting two-thirds of their poll watchers to precincts where less than 25 percent of the voters are black.

Their observers include immigration lawyer Ira Kurzban, lawyer and former Orange Bowl Committee president Albert Dotson Jr. and Miami-Dade prosecutor Abe Laeser.

Some 250 GOP lawyers and other volunteers for McCain's Miami-Dade campaign are designated as poll watchers in exactly the opposite way: They are committing two-thirds of their poll watchers to precincts heavily populated with African Americans, Haitian Americans and other minorities, according to the Miami Herald analysis.

Party officials said they stationed observers in areas where GOP candidates traditionally have not performed as well as Democrats.

Among the Republican observers: Raquel Rodriguez, former general counsel to ex-Gov. Jeb Bush; Paul Huck Jr., former general counsel to Gov. Charlie Crist; and state Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami.

Oh the good old days, I remember Chief Justice Rehnquist used to go to the polls back in the 60s.

Wait a minute -- Paul Huck, Jr. is a Republican pollwatcher? For this election? Doesn't he know he's a plaintiff's lawyer now? Lovable Paul is actually gonna spend election day possibly monitoring a African-American or heavily Haitian precinct -- oy.

Oh well, we still love him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Inexplicably, They Still Write Letters.....



You all know my opinion of the Herald's letters page. Yet sensible lawyers continue to write in, hoping against hope that something halfway intelligent gets printed amid the dreck and noise of that usually inane page.

Our latest victim -- dashing Ervin Gonzalez, who heroically tilts at windmills, perhaps seeking to educate South Florida voters one small mind at a time:

Voters should be careful when voting for constitutional amendments. Florida's Constitution should not be used to legislate matters that are best handled by elected lawmakers. They have been charged with creating, amending and abolishing laws to support the needs, health, safety and welfare of state residents.

Amendments should be limited to matters of great fundamental importance such as guaranteeing basic freedoms, setting forth the separation of powers and other principles that we are entitled to enjoy in a free and democratic state.

Sounds reasonable, no? Except when the Herald surrounds it with letters by crazies who think Barry "Hussein" Obama was born in Indonesia and is best friends with Josef Stalin. Then I think some of the subtlety gets lost.

Ervin, next time just write an op-ed, dude.

(BTW, I haven't seen Ervin in a while, so I wasn't sure which of the above photos is correct.)

Antonio Ginatta Is One Smart Attorney.


Good morning dear readers, and how was your weekend?

Well it's a glorious Monday, the weather is cool and breezy, and -- waddya know -- Ted Ginn is a Miami Dolphin.

Did any of you humpers get out there for the Herald Hunt? If you did, you got beat by Miami attorney Antonio Ginatta, who had to solve a ridiculously absurd final clue but who won nonetheless:

This year's winner: a team of five Miami Central High School alumni in their mid-30s, some of whom flew in to town just for the Hunt.

''It was a lot of work, a lot of stress,'' said Antonio Ginatta, a Miami attorney and member of the winning team, which also included Frank Estadt, a Phoenix restaurateur; Greg Nguyen, a Miami high school teacher; Beesham A. Seecharan, a New York attorney; and David Jones, a Miamian who quit the Hunt about an hour before his teammates cracked the code.

Suffice it to say that the final solution involved giving a name, a telephone number and map coordinates to a person in a pink flamingo T-shirt standing on the corner of Northeast Second Avenue and Fifth Street.

Now that's mighty impressive Antonio. The last time I participated in the Herald Hunt, it was still called the Tropic Hunt, and they held it in Coconut Grove.

If I recall correctly, Tom Fiedler and I had smoked a big doobie around lunchtime and I got lost somewhere near Peacock Park, looking for giant inflatable cue balls, where I wound up taking a nap until it the whole thing was good and over.

So yeah Tony, that's a big improvement on my performance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

SFL Friday -- Stayin' Alive



It's Friday again, huh? I hope you all -- like myself -- have fabulous plans for the weekend.

Speaking of fabulous plans, did any of you catch this BBC report on the salutary effects of Bee Gees music on cardiovascular health:

US medics have found the Bee Gees' 1977 hit Stayin' Alive is an ideal beat to follow to perform chest compressions on a victim of a cardiac arrest.

Research says it contains 103 beats per minute, close to the recommended rate of 100 chest compressions per minute.

An author of the study said many people were put off performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)as they were not sure about keeping the correct rhythm.

He said CPR could triple cardiac arrest survival rates when performed properly.

The study by the University of Illinois College of Medicine saw 15 doctors and students performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on mannequins while listening to Stayin' Alive. They were asked to time their chest compressions with the beat.

Five weeks later, they did the same drill without the music, but were told to think of the song while doing compressions.

The average number of compressions the first time was 109 per minute; the second time it was 113 - more than recommended by the American Heart Association, but better than too few, according to Dr Matlock.

"It drove them and motivated them to keep up the rate, which is the most important thing," he told the Associated Press.

I always knew that music could drive up your heart rate, but now there is scientific evidence it can save your life! So keep that Bee Gees Greatest loaded up, you never know when it might come in handy.

Well that's it fellas, I'm off to beat an early retreat. As some of you have already predicted, I have a very busy weekend ahead of me.

I hope you all have a great one.

They (Continue to) Write Letters, Part MDCLXVI


Uber-consumer lawyer for Justice, Truth and the American Way David Deehl thinks insurance companies are not always upright corporate citizens. He also apparently thinks intelligent people read all the crazy letters that are published in the Herald:

Consumer-justice attorneys, including myself, know that insurers routinely make low-ball offers and use frivolous defenses to delay consumer lawsuits headed for a jury. They hire doctors who almost never think anyone is injured and who make millions over the years for being slick and misleading juries.
The dickens you say! Wait a minute, smart guy, are you seriously suggesting these companies do not always give insureds the benefit of the doubt, and may not always be genuinely interested in timely processing and paying out their claims?

I'm really speechless.

Next thing you'll tell me is car dealers are not always looking out for my best interests.

Oy. I better sit down, that's an awful lot to take in all at once.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Michael Work Talks to Hindus, Thinks World Should Stop Laughing At Us.


You may have noticed well-known Muslin Barry Obama spoke at our Bicentennial Park earlier this week, and for some reason the Hindustan Times wanted to be there. Even stranger, they wanted to interview Miami Beach attorney Michael Work, who said some wild things about how nobody likes us anymore and Obama plans to make love to France.

Oh I'm kidding, I made that first part up:
Michael Work, a 51-year-old attorney from Miami Beach, is also looking for change — to get a little respect in the world. “We have become the laughing stock of the world for the last eight years,” he says.
Michael, being known as a laughing-stock by our allies and the world is a sign of macho toughness, everyone knows that. If you want respect in the world, get a dog.

Bye Bye Cefalo's


Ok I'll admit it -- I owned one of those memberships at Cefalo's Wine Cellar. What can I say -- I liked the ambiance, the downstairs intimacy, and of course the beautiful hostesses and other assorted lovely people.

Sure I had to hobnob with a few of you from time to time, but given enough carefully cultivated Italian Barbera, I sometimes actually enjoyed the experience.

But now dear readers, Cefalo's is no more:

Cefalo's Wine Cellar in the Grove, the wine shop owned by former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jimmy Cefalo, has filed for bankruptcy liquidation.

The shop filed for Chapter 7 Friday, just days after some $500,000 in inventory and equipment was removed from the store by a company that held a judgment against the business, said Cefalo's bankruptcy lawyer Gary M. Freedman. That ''ostensibly shut them down,'' Freedman said.

Freedman said The Miami Herald had obtained a $33,000 judgment against Cefalo's, but sold it to a company that buys debt and then seeks to collect on it.

Cefalo's opened its doors in February of last year at 3450 Main Hwy. In the bankruptcy filing, Cefalo's reported assets of less than $50,000 and liabilities of between $500,000 and $1 million.

What's left? Dare I get one of those tacky cabinets at Capital Grille like some of you heavy-hitters?

Let's hope my mid-life crisis does not reach such alarming levels.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- Special Chris Carver Commemorative Edition


This is turning out to be one hail of a week. I don't know what I did to deserve all this, but I have had semi-legitimate reasons to publish some of my favorite photos, and today brings us yet another one.

So without any further precatory blather, let's get right into it, yes kiddies join us as we peer down south at those mystical coffee-swilling laborers by the cee-ment road, those robed wranglers who bring us so much wit, wisdom, and the occasional inscrutable PCA, yes it's this week's edition of 3d DCA Watch:

Well, what do you know. I went and early voted today (which thanks to our dopey state legislators I had to do in some kind of glorified phone booth out in the boonies), but still I voted.

And I must admit it felt good. No, it felt great. It made me really feel proud as an American to get out there and participate in an historic election, an election that can really help shape the future course of this great but troubled nation.

So, if you must know, I will tell you who I voted for. Yes yes and yes, I voted for Judges Lagoa and Salter. I really only skimmed the rest of the ballot.

What, did I miss something?

Anyway, all you Chris Carver diehards I give you your red meat --

Rolls-Royce v. Royal Caribbean:

This is an amazingly insightful opinion that I urge you all to carefully read and reflect upon. In fact, you big-firmers should spend at least 7.2 hours of professional development poring over the fine points of this opinion. Did I mention it features Chris Carver?

In conclusion, Bo Derek, if you are listening, I beg of you to do something newsworthy by Friday, and if possible please try to involve a South Florida lawyer. Thank you.

Your friend,

SFL

It's No-Shave Movember!



Ok, so we know some of you are too busy, too lazy, or too disinterested to run in a 5k for charity or anything like that. I know, you are saving your physical energy for your new diet.

Still, there are ways you can give back in these tough times. During November (or Movember), groups all over cyberspace start clean shaven and commit to growing beards or moustaches for at least a month. You can learn all about the Movember movement here:

The Movember Foundation is an Australian based, not for profit, charitable organization that implements the Movember event each year across the globe.

The Movember event creates awareness around men's health issues and raises funds for carefully selected beneficiary partners in each country that are also charitable organizations, with a focus on prostate cancer.

Since its inception as a formal charity in 2004, Movember has raised over $29 million (USD) globally and is continuously working to increase awareness of prostate cancer within the community and change the attitude men have about their health.

Movember's beneficiary partner in the United States is the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer. Founded in 1993, the PCF has raised more than $350 million and provided funding for more than 1,400 research projects at nearly 150 institutions worldwide. All funds raised by Movember in the US stay in the US and go directly to the PCF.

The PCF has a simple, yet urgent goal: to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer.
So folks, I decided to jump in and do it. Yes, I have officially decided to grow a mustache wider than Burton Landy.

No wait -- I plan to grow a beard longer than Barton Sacher!

Maybe I'll do both -- hey, it's for a good cause.

The direct link to make donations on SFL's behalf is here.

Steel Cage Texas Glove Judicial Death Match?


Let me tell you, I'm gonna miss Joan Fleischman. She was one of the most enjoyable parts of the Herald (I know that's not saying much), and she always found offbeat, interesting stories that gave texture and dimension to the crazy goings-on here in South Florida.

Joan, if you're listening, come write for us!

Still, I can't believe she scooped me again with this remarkable tale of life inside 73 West Flagler:

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis says she was battered at the courthouse -- by fellow Circuit Judge David Miller. She says Miller was bent out of shape because the fax machine at her office, which his staff sometimes used, was broken.

Dennis, 52, and Miller, 54, both work at 73 W. Flagler St. They had adjacent offices on the fourth floor. Miller initially spoke to Dennis' bailiff and judicial assistant about the fax machine, then asked to see her.

When she repeated that the machine was out of order, Miller became ''confrontational and told [Dennis] that he felt that he wasn't getting the full story,'' the Oct. 7 police report says. Miller then ``charged toward [Dennis], grabbed her by her shoulders and pushed her toward her office in an attempt to close the door behind them.''

Dennis' bailiff, Ivan Nahmias, 41, ''intervened.'' He ''jumped in between'' the two jurists and ''escorted'' Miller out of her chambers.

Miami-Dade cops assigned to the courthouse say they were summoned to her office after someone hit a ``panic alarm.''

Miller denied pushing Dennis. He told officers that he ``only squeezed by [her] to enter her office and talk with her.''

Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina said ''both parties were to leave the courthouse and have no further contact with each other,'' the report says.

Police turned the matter over to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office. Public corruption prosecutor Joe Centorino is reviewing the Fax-gate case.

Miller's attorney, Milton Hirsch, sent a letter to Centorino, calling it an ''unfortunate incident'' and an ``overreaction.''

''He did not act willfully or maliciously to touch, batter, or come into contact with Judge Dennis,'' Hirsch wrote.

Dennis' attorney is David Young, the former circuit judge-turned-TV judge. His client did not overreact, he says. ``Judge Dennis is a victim in this case -- and we are exploring all legal remedies.''

Miller has a new office -- on the fifth floor.

You know who's to blame in all this? There are two responsible parties.

First, you can blame our dopey state legislators, who so drastically cut funding for the courts that two judges have to duke it out over a broken fax machine. Pathetic.

More importantly, dear readers, I blame you. Yes, you heard me -- all you hotshot tipsters who send me story ideas, none of you guys caught this one and passed it along to your humble gin-sipping, "10"-obsessed law blogger? So now Fleischman showed me up yet again?

Sheesh, you guys need to step it up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Matthew Staver Wants to Protect Marriages By Outlawing Some of Them


I love Amendment 2. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and yet we're worrying about the "sanctity of marriage" again? Deck chairs, meet Titanic.

First of all, anyone who's ever been married knows it's not so sacred -- if you do it right. I like the way Garry Shandling put it a few weeks ago on Bill Maher: I could care less about gay marriage, but I have a huge problem with gay divorce.

But erstwhile "Liberty Counsel" lawyer Matthew Staver of Orlando wants us all to fight another culture war, as laid out nicely by Harris Meyer:

On November 4, Floridians will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, spearheaded by the state Republican Party and Christian conservative groups, which would outlaw gay marriage.

Attorney Matthew Staver, the author of the Florida “Marriage Protection Amendment,” promises that his initiative does nothing more than affirm state law that outlaws same-sex marriage. Amendment 2 absolutely would not affect benefits offered by public agencies and private employers to unmarried partners--same sex or opposite sex--he swears.

But opponents of Amendment 2, including the ACLU of Florida, claim the measure could wipe out a range of rights and benefits for tens of thousands of unmarried domestic partners, both gay and straight. Rights like domestic registries, health insurance, hospital visitation, and health care decision making.

“It’s really wide ranging and scary how broadly this type of amendment has been applied in other states,” says Robert Rosenwald, director of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender]
Advocacy Project of the ACLU of Florida, which is campaigning against
the measure.

This line of attack infuriates Staver, who drafted the Florida Marriage Amendment and convinced the Florida Supreme Court to qualify it for the ballot. “This affects no domestic partnership laws in Florida and does not undermine any rights or benefits affecting hospital visitation or property rights,” says Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based Christian conservative legal advocacy center.

“This is not about taking away your benefits,” he adds. “The opponents of traditional marriage know the only way they win is by lying. That’s the frustrating thing about this.”
Hmm. Sounds like a crock of crap to me.

Let's take a closer look at the actual language of this cute little amendment Matt wrote:
Florida’s proposed Amendment 2 states that: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

The Florida Defense of Marriage Act states in part that “relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages… are not recognized for any purpose in this state.”
Ok Matt, I can officially say it -- you are full of crap.

But forget what I think, let's go to the bow-tied and bearded one and see what he thinks:
Bruce Rogow, a prominent Fort Lauderdale appellate lawyer, called “substantial equivalent” a “time bomb.” The phrase “is so vague that it poses a danger to every possible arrangement that might permit same sex couples to have a legally cognizable relationship of any sort.”

Oh well, what's to worry -- I'm sure new Florida Supreme Court Justice Canady will interpret that language fairly toward all the godless sinners who are going straight to hell:
Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University, says he sees no substantive difference between the Florida amendment language and the Michigan amendment. “This is an amendment that could be interpreted lots of different ways, and we really don’t know what the courts will do,” he warns. “Voters don’t know what they’re voting for when they vote for this.”

Beyond that, if and when the marriage amendment returns to the high court, the court probably will be very right-leaning. Gov. Crist, who recently appointed Charles Canady, a Christian conservative, to the Supreme Court, now has another vacancy to fill, and he’s likely to appoint two more new justices before his term ends.
“If Crist continues to appoint people like Canady,” Jarvis says, “then they will clearly vote like Michigan. ”
Hey, did somebody mention Governor Crist? Hooray, now I get to post about that totally butch pig roast again!

Wow, first Scottie and now the Governor. Geez if somehow Bo Derek makes news today my work here will be done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dimond Kaplan Puts World On Notice of Something.


Breaking news that everybody needs to immediately read. In your case, that means close down your other browsers and personal email accounts and click over to this important news bulletin:

MIAMI, Oct 20, 2008 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- The securities law firm of Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. ( http://www.dkrpa.com/ or http://www.mystocklosses.com/) announces that it is investigating Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") securities arbitration claims to recover investment losses sustained in Lehman Brothers structured products, namely so-called "principal protected notes."

Principal protected notes (also known as guaranteed linked notes) are structured investment products that can be linked to a broad range of underlying investments, including indexes, options on indexes, baskets of stocks, bonds, and even alternative investments such as hedge funds. They often combine derivatives with equities and/or fixed-income investments. Principal protected notes were marketed to conservative, risk-averse investors who were seeking to preserve their capital and generate income as well as share in the growth of the general market.
Indeed, contrary to the usual risk/reward paradigm that dictates that increased potential for investment returns comes with increased risk of loss, a Lehman Brothers brochure represented that principal protected note investors would enjoy both "100 percent principal protection" and "uncapped appreciation potential." But the principal protected notes actually subjected investors to far more risk than they were led to believe. Specifically, after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2008, holders of the Lehman principal protected notes will have to wait in line with other unsecured creditors to recover what is left of their money.

Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. believes that many brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch, UBS, JP Morgan, Fidelity, and Wachovia, marketed and sold the Lehman Brothers principal protected notes to their own clients. Lehman's structured products included Suns (Stock Upside Note Securities) and Prudents (Prudential Research Universe Diversified Equity Notes). Other brokerage firms also sold their own structured products and principal protected notes, such as Mitts (Merrill's Market Index Target- Term Securities), Sequins (Citigroup's Select Equity Indexed Notes), and Propels (Morgan Stanley's Protected Performance Equity Linked Securities). In total, nearly $70 billion in structured notes were sold to investors last year alone.
Blah blah blah you lost me at "Principal protected notes."

But seriously, that's pretty sexy copy. Boy you guys really know how to suck a reader in, especially unsophisticated investors who have either fallen asleep or expired by the time you explain to them down on page seven how Lehman took all their money.

But what do I know? I just posted the notice so I could put up Dimond's picture again.

And, in all sincerity, I hope you get lots of clients and make lots of money, so that someday Scottie can afford a jacket and tie when DBR comes to take his picture again.

Note to Cesar Alvarez: You Are Now Officially Bumming Me Out.



So I had a great weekend, how about you? Good friends, good times, intensive dieting followed by even more intensive windsurfing.

But then I open up the paper on Sunday and there he is, on the front page, above the fold, spouting doom and gloom. Yes it's our favorite philosopher-king, Cesar Alvarez:

Cesar L. Alvarez has practiced corporate law in Miami through 35 years and five national recessions.

He has seen the energy crisis of the 1970s, the rampant inflation of the late '70s and early '80s, and the savings-and-loan failures of the early '90s. But now, with a record housing bust, a financial system meltdown and consumer confidence in the basement, he says none of the past downturns was as bad as today's.

''I think this is the worst that I have seen,'' said Alvarez, now the CEO of the 1,800-lawyer Greenberg Traurig firm. ``If I had to rank it, I would rank it No. 1.''

Dude, you sound like you're channeling only half of Rick Springfield:
Everyone's sayin the sky's gonna fall
Don't know where its gonna stop
If it stops at all
I know the world's goin crazy alright
I hope it holds together for one more night
Tonight I'm crawling out from in it
And though were livin on the brink
Second by second by minute by minute
But Cesar I think you forgot the rest of that song:
Don't worry daddy, I'll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep daddy, you won't think about tonight
With the night comes a feeling of incredible power
Gonna love her daddy, she'll be feeling it tonight
Alright, its gonna be alright
It's gonna be alright, its gonna be alright

Love is alright tonight
We're gonna be alright
Love is alright
Love is alright tonight
See, all you working-class dogs, everything IS gonna be alright.

Sheesh Cesar, you had me going there for a minute.

Friday, October 17, 2008

SFL Friday -- Clear Skies Ahead!


Well it's Friday and I hope you all have glorious plans for the weekend. Some of you are receiving awards, some attending concerts, and a few of you are just plain goofing off.

Me, I have a jam-packed schedule of intensive dieting and windsurfing ahead so I'm gonna duck out early and wish you all a fabulous weekend and a Happy Sukkot.

May your etrogs all be sweet!

Posted Without Comment


Oy:

A Miami-Dade Circuit Judge has stepped down after he's charged with a misdemeanor count of indecent exposure.

The State Attorney's Office claims Douglas Chumbley exposed himself on September 25th inside a University of Miami bathroom near a campus Starbucks.

His attorney says Chumbley's charge will be dismissed after he enters a pretrial diversion program.

Starbucks? Starbucks? Show some class, Judge.

There goes all my campaign donations....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Things Are Tough All Over


Ok, so now I have to give the shoeshine guy at the courthouse a ten spot to get my shoes shined, the price of the remaining bottles of Malaccan gin is on the rise, and it's impossible for two to get out of La Loggia at lunchtime for under 50 bucks.

I can accept all that.

But now they've gone too far -- even the price of crack is going up:

A rage over a recent price hike in crack cocaine is what landed a man in jail on Tuesday night after he allegedly smashed a convenience store display in protest.

Gus Young Jr. told police he broke a Plexiglas counter partition and a DVD case at Dixon's Food Mart because the price of crack had gone up two-fold, according to a police report. He said he had $10 to spend on the drugs but was told the amount had hiked up to $20.

Decisions, decisions. What to do? I found this article about how to deal with economic anxiety pretty interesting. Basically, the author argues that you feel better by helping others:

For many people, however, the problem with subprime mortgages and the financial crisis won't push them into true poverty, but it will make them feel much poorer - and as a consequence, make them feel anxious and powerless.

If you're one of those people, there is a way that you can both help people living in poverty and help yourself feel happier: Give to other people.

One of the most important principles I've learned from my happiness research is that although we assume that we act because of the way we feel, often we feel because of the way we act.

Therefore, if you don't like the way you're feeling, take action in the opposite direction -- it sounds simplistic, but it's almost uncannily effective. If you're feeling poor, give something away. If you're feeling powerless, take control of something. Also, one of the quickest ways to make yourself feel better is to be GRATEFUL. It's hard to feel grateful when you're thinking about your 401K's drop in value; thinking about giving to people who are worse off will remind you of how much you have to be grateful for.

When we think of doing something to help people living in poverty, it's easy to think about donating money -- and to say, "Look, I'd like to help, but I can't afford to give right now." Or to think about donating time - and to say, "I'd love to volunteer, but I've got to focus on my job hunt."

When you tell yourself that you can't afford to give, you increase your feelings of panic and danger. If you find ways to give, you will show yourself that you have enough and more, that you can be generous, that you recognize that others have needs more pressing than your own - and that will make you feel better. This act doesn't have to be huge. I have a friend who puts all her loose change in a jar at the end of the day, and when the jar is full, she gives it to her church. It's not much money, but it's constant. She's done it for years, and by now, she's probably given away a fair bit.

Maybe you can't give money or time. But that doesn't mean you can't give.

Of course as lawyers we have many ways to give back, and we should and must. That's one of the obligations of our profession, and it extends beyond the $350 check you cut every year. It's pro bono, it's service hours, it's giving back to those less fortunate (and we know you machers all are very fortunate, and probably could even afford the crack cocaine price hike).

So find that angry WPB crack user, and give him the ten spot he so desperately needs to cover that unconscionable price jump -- you'll not only make his evening (assuming he remembers any of it), but you'll feel a lot better about yourself in the process.

Or I guess you could volunteer to take a pro bono case. Either way it's the thought that counts.

Middle District To Overworked Wage-and-Hour Lawyers: You Are On Double-Secret Probation


You think you're having a bad day? Try stepping into the shoes of these lawyers, when intrepid reporter Julie Kay calls and wants a comment on this story:

A federal magistrate judge in Orlando, Fla., has recommended that three lawyers receive reprimands for failing to comply with court scheduling orders related to their high-volume overtime suit practices.

The long-awaited ruling from Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly was handed down on Oct. 9.

Kelly was assigned by the entire federal bench of the Middle District of Florida to investigate why nine lawyers from the Pantas Law Firm and Morgan and Morgan, both based in Orlando, have missed hordes of scheduling deadlines.

The Middle District of Florida has been flooded with thousands of wage-and-hour suits in recent years, leading the country in the cases.

Judges there, frustrated by missed deadlines by the two law firms that file the most cases, issued 120 "show cause"; orders essentially strong admonishments -- between March 2007 and March 2008 to nine lawyers.

At hearings held during the summer, the nine lawyers apologized to the court and outlined procedures they've put in place to improve their scheduling, including hiring more staff. One lawyer, Konstantine Pantas of the Pantas Law Firm, said he would no longer maintain a "high-volume" wage-and-hour case, and another switched to criminal law.

Yet another of the nine, Richard Celler of Morgan and Morgan, argued that his practice is needed because poor workers denied overtime have no other avenue. He pointed to a governmental report showing that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken far fewer of the cases in the last year or so.

Further, Celler argued that the judges' insistence that he and co-workers file an estimate of damages very early in the process, before employers turn over their pay records, is impossible.

In his order, Kelly stated that the conduct of Pantas and attorneys Carlos Leach of Morgan & Morgan and Charles Scalise, now of Ross Law in Austin, Texas, "rises to the level of reprimand" because of the number of orders to show cause they received between March 2007 through May 2008.

Leach received 46 in that period; Pantas, 45; and Scalise, 18.

Further, Kelly stated that if the three lawyers receive any future orders, they will be directed to the Florida Bar grievance committee for future discipline.

Both Morgan and Morgan and the Pantas Law Firm should continue to file a quarterly report "until the court is satisfied that the concerns raised within this proceeding have been resolved."

Leach, Pantas and Scalise did not return calls for comment.

Celler, who heads Morgan and Morgan¹s wage-and-hour division, said that "we appreciate the judge's taking the time and consideration as regard to all factors involved. Based on the court's ruling, we have some clear guidelines moving forward as to what is not acceptable and we intend to comply with the court's order to the letter moving forward."

Nice job on that Richard -- that's what you call "shining a turd."

Just Because.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- High Minded Retro Poetic Form Edition


Well it's an idiot wind blowing down the backroads headin' south today, bringing with it 60s radicals, secret Muslims, and lots and lots of things to be afraid of and angry about starting at around 9 o'clock tonight, dont'cha know.

But for just a brief shining moment, let's put our bickering and worries aside, throw caution to the wind, and peer south to the wizards by the highway, those freewheelin' robed hepcat coffee-swillers that rule our world, yes you know it, the good, the bad, and Judge Schwartz -- yes it's that time of the week again, where PCAs are born, born free, born to be you and me, ahhh hail enough already with all this bullcrap it's 3d DCA Watch:

Hialeah Automotive v. Basulto:

Let me ask you: you go to buy a car at Potamkin Dodge. You speak no English, you are presented a blank contract that has an arbitration clause and no numbers filled in, all in English. You are asked to sign, assured the numbers will be filled in later. You agree on terms orally, exclusively in Spanish, but they fill in a number for your trade-in lower than they told you orally. They allegedly explain the arbitration clause to you in Spanish. Potamkin won't honor the agreed-upon trade-in price, and they already sold your old vehicle. You sue for fraud in the inducement and FDUTPA. Potamkin moves to compel arbitration. What happens?

This opinion has led me to seek out poetic expression to fully convey my thoughts. In fact, I must explain my feelings on the outcome using that ancient Japanese poetic form, the haiku:
Cope assayed this he did;
Shepherd not now writing
To the doghouse goes Potamkin.
Gee, that felt good, man good -- let me try another:
consumer arbitration
not friends
its justice unsteady
Wow, now I see why Kerouac got all the chicks!

Let's see what else happened:

Lisa v. Gutierrez:

An interesting opinion dealing yet again with disputed assets that have mysteriously found their way to Miami. As Judge Salter puts it in his crystal-clear and crisply written opinion:
Here, as in many previous cases, Miami finds itself the alleged repository of money and assets purportedly misapplied by wrongdoers in other countries.
So true, and yet that's what keeps so many of us in business! Judge Salter then goes on to perform a fairly straightforward Kinney analysis regarding some in-rem property of the defendant, ultimately concluding:
Because Lisa has not tied the Florida assets to the allegedly-wrongful acts of the defendants and the claims that will now be adjudicated in Guatemala, the Florida circuit court fairly concluded that the Florida assets are not “at issue in the dismissed case,” as in Kinney System and Mendes. Without such a predicate, there is simply no basis for a Florida court to retain limited and local jurisdiction over the assets as the case itself heads south.
In other words: Man, Miami-Dade is strictly dullsville, let's split to Guatemala, Daddy-O!

Michael Kreitzer Wants Plaintiffs To Be Diligent.


Every so often I guess I have to write something about, you know, the law or the legal profession or something boring like the rules that actually govern what we do. I know I know -- snooze city. But it's the only way dear readers in big firms can justify their 4.6 hours of daily billing on "professional matters" or "legal development" or "wasting most of the day acting like you are working on something important at your computer."

So here's a news flash on a burning issue that has consumed our profession since those randy barons tried to serve the Magna Carta Libertatum on King John, yes, it's the dreaded Last Served Defendant Rule:

Weighing in on a long-standing circuit split over when the time for removal runs in a multidefendant suit, the Eleventh Circuit in Bailey v. Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. [PDF] has adopted the so-called last-served defendant rule, suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy Bros., Inc. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc. supports that rule.

In Bailey, the plaintiff served the last of four defendants over 30 days after service on the other three defendants. The last-served defendant filed a notice of removal 30 days from the date it was served. Both the district court and the Eleventh Circuit held that the notice of removal was timely because it was filed 30 days after last defendant was served.

This holding is at odds with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Brown v. Demco, Inc. There, the Fifth Circuit held that the time for removal expires 30 days after the first defendant is served, regardless of whether other defendants have been served. The Fifth Circuit reasoned that the first-served defendant rule was appropriate because removal requires the unanimous consent of all defendants. Once the first-served defendant decides against removal, removal is impossible.

The Fifth Circuit is in the minority on this issue. The Bailey case follows more recent decisions in the Sixth and Eighth Circuits (Brierly v. Alusuisse Flexible Packaging, Inc. and Marano Enterprises of Kansas v. Z-Teca Restaurants, LP [PDF]), which conclude that equity requires that each defendant have 30 days from the date it was served to file a notice of removal. Otherwise, later-served defendants could lose their statutory right to removal before ever receiving process.

The Eleventh Circuit based its Bailey decision in part on its view that the last-served defendant rule is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy Bros., Inc. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc. In Murphy Brothers, the Court held that the removal period does not begin until the defendant receives formal process. The Eleventh Circuit reasoned that the Fifth Circuit’s first-served defendant rule is inconsistent with the Murphy Brothers holding because it obligates a defendant to seek removal prior to receiving formal process.

Now I know what you're thinking. It's probably the same thing I first thought when I heard about this dramatic 11th Circuit development:
What is Michael Kreitzer's reaction? For gosh sakes get me handsome Mike Kreitzer on the horn and tell me what he thinks of all this! Seriously, I need to know what Michael thinks NOW!
Thankfully, Michael was indeed available for comment:
“A plaintiff who cries foul because its case, which had been litigated in state court for some time, is surprisingly removed to federal court by a later-served defendant may only have itself to blame,” states Michael Kreitzer, Miami, cochair of the Federal Rules Revision Subcommittee of the Section’s Pretrial Practice and Discovery Committee. “The plaintiff is the master of choosing the defendants and the order in which they are served, and if the plaintiff is diligent in identifying potential defendants presuit, then the plaintiff likely would not face the late arrival of a defendant with removal rights.”
Sounds reasonable and all Michael, but that's a low blow -- everyone knows plaintiffs don't think that far ahead.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gunster Yoakley "Unhappy" Over Being Sued Again; Needs Some Alone Time.


Come on, Gunster, don't be down -- turn that smile into a frown, you big galute:

More than two dozen buyers trying to recover deposits on the failed Palladio Terrace condo have filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the Gunster Yoakley law firm, claiming the firm failed to properly guard their cash when it served as the condo's escrow agent.

Merco Group of the Palm Beaches, Palladio Terrace's developer, abandoned plans to build the West Palm Beach luxury condo two years ago, but it has not returned all $10 million in deposits it obtained from would-be buyers. These and other buyers have lobbed lawsuits against Merco, seeking the return of their money. Some judgments have been reached but not paid by Miami-based Merco.

Now, 26 would-be Palladio Terrace buyers are pointing the finger at Gunster Yoakley, saying the firm was negligent in releasing their money to Merco in the first place.

"Knowing you have one of the largest, most important law firms in the county protecting your money - only to find out that they didn't - is outrageous," said Steve Katzman, a Boca Raton lawyer representing the group. "If a project fails, the only thing standing between you and the loss of your money is the escrow agent."

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, shines an unfavorable light on a venerable law firm. The suit also adds to the drama surrounding Palladio Terrace, a high-rise planned along the Intracoastal Waterway. At the height of the real estate boom, Palladio Terrace netted $100 million in pre-sales on 338 units priced as high as $3 million. The project died when the market began softening. The lender, Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, recently took back the property in a $30 million foreclosure.

A Gunster Yoakley attorney says the law firm refuses to shoulder any blame for the unrefunded deposits.

"Gunster is really unhappy about being sued," said Scott Link, the firm's West Palm Beach attorney. "Gunster doesn't think it did anything wrong. In acting as the escrow agent, they fulfilled their obligation."

Link said the only reason Gunster is being sued now is "they're the last person standing with money."

A few things -- first of all, the suit sounds like a stretch. I'd want to see the complaint before I comment further on the theory, as I'm not entirely clear on the duties of an escrow agent in this context.

Note to Steve Katzman: reserve the term "outrageous" for something really really bad. This is sad, unfortunate, regrettable, and probably sucks arse, but I don't know if Gunster's conduct here is truly "outrageous."

Note to Scott Link -- don't talk about a law firm in terms of its feelings. Firms are not "happy" or "sad"; indeed, they are not anthropomorphic entities.

There, my blog is happy now.

Disgraced Sheriff Ken Jenne To Receive Happy Ending After All


Courtesy of Scott Rothstein's firm:

''Let's just say he's making a damn good living,'' Rothstein said. ``And he's worth every penny.''
Say no more, Scott, say no more, nudge nudge -- I know exactly what you mean.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stormy Monday: It's All Jimmy Carter's Fault.


That's what "Mellon Financial Center" attorney John Lanzetta thinks:

In the '70s, Democratic President Jimmy Carter started it off with his efforts at financial deregulation and his Community Reinvestment Act, which encouraged and pressured banks to make loans to those who were theretofore unbankable.
That sweater-wearing jerk! Then the big ole' mean government made financial institutions all over the world do crazy things:

Banks, worried about the risks that Democrats had made them take, began hiding risky loans with good loans in complicated security instruments such as credit-default swaps.
So society is to blame, government is to blame, and we all turned the banks into victims.

Johnny, whatever happened to personal responsibility?

BTW, before you get all teary-eyed for what Carter did to those nice banks, consider that the opposite is factually correct:

''There is no evidence that the Community Reinvestment Act was responsible for encouraging the subprime lending boom and subsequent housing bust,'' wrote Luci Ellis, an economist for the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements, last month in her working paper ``The housing meltdown: Why did it happen in the United States?''

In her study, which examined the calamity enveloping global financial markets, Ellis wrote that deposit banks covered by CRA ``showed a lesser tendency to write subprime loans than lenders not subject to the act.''

Even if you include subprime loans made by CRA-covered banks and thrifts, the vast majority of the toxic loans stinking up mortgage-backed securities had nothing to do with CRA compliance.

More than half of subprime loans were made by independent mortgage companies not subject to comprehensive federal supervision; another 30 percent of the loans were made by affiliates of banks or thrifts subject to routine examination or supervision, according to congressional testimony given earlier this year by Michael S. Barr, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

''The worst and most widespread abuses occurred in the institutions with the least federal oversight,'' Barr testified.

Traiger & Hinckley, a New York law firm that represents lenders complying with CRA regulation, took a look at whether the law encouraged irresponsible lending.

''CRA banks were significantly less likely than other lenders to make a high-cost loan,'' the law firm's report found. When CRA banks did originate high-cost loans, the average APR was appreciably lower than the average APR on high-cost loans originated by other lenders.

Further, CRA banks were more than twice as likely as other lenders to retain originated loans in their portfolio, said Warren Traiger, a partner at Traiger & Hinckley.

''If more lenders were covered by CRA, the crisis would have been mitigated,'' Traiger said in an interview.

The investment banks who purchased, bundled and securitized subprime loans were not covered by CRA, points out Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press, a nonprofit community advocacy group based in the New York borough of the Bronx.

This makes my head hurt -- I'd rather blame the sweater.

Friday, October 10, 2008

SFL Friday: Swinging Stocks, Crystal Balls and Trust Accounts



Ahhh it's Friday. Sure the Dow's down 22 percent for the week, Hal Lewis thinks Robert Cooper is suing developers on a theory first advanced by Tommy Shaw on an old Styx album, but still....it's Friday.

But then here comes intrepid reporter Julie Kay with some new worries:

Following the failure of California's IndyMac and the very real potential of other bank collapses, lawyers have been flooding bar associations with questions about whether they would be responsible for client trust accounts if a bank fails.

In response, bar associations have been posting guidance to lawyers on their Web sites, holding internal meetings on the issue and issuing formal ethics opinions.

The consensus of the bar associations is that lawyers must be cautious about where they hold clients' funds, making sure they're in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)-insured, solid banks. Opinions vary on whether funds should be split up in different banks to take advantage of the $250,000 insured deposits.

According to research and interviews with a variety of bar associations, including those of California, Los Angeles, Florida and Virginia, lawyers should not worry about sanctions or disciplinary actions if a bank failure leads to the loss of client funds, provided the lawyer chooses an FDIC-insured, stable bank.

However, civil liability is another matter. A New York lawyer was once sued when a bank failed, taking client funds with it. With that in mind, bar counsel are cautioning lawyers to consult their insurance carriers and "take reasonable precautions."

"There's no specific ethics opinion concerning what to do if a bank fails," said Elizabeth Tarbert, ethics counsel for the Florida Bar. "Nevertheless, lawyers must act prudently and determine what kind of institution [they are] dealing with, what its reputation is and it's financial stability, to the extent they can. Unfortunately, sometimes bank failures are very sudden. They keep them pretty quiet."
I'm old school myself -- Centrust, Southeast, Flagler Federal -- you know, I stick with all the really solid South Florida institutions. No worries, people!

Anyway, here's exactly what ole' Hal said about Cooper's anticipatory breach theory:

Hal Lewis, a Miami lawyer involved in condo-contract disputes, doubts Cooper's claim will win.

"He's assuming facts are going to take place in the future and the developer will not be in a position to perform down the road,'' Pathman said [sic I think -- Hal works at Pathman Lewis. What can I tell you, it's the Herald]. 'He's walking a fine line. I don't think you can use the crystal-ball philosophy. You can't just look in the future and say, `Here's what I think is going to be the situation.' ''

Cooper countered that developers face financial problems because they are not closing on enough units to pay off construction loans. The developers' financial conditions will come out during the course of the litigation, he said.

Hey, I'm not sure about this theory either but Hal working in a Styx reference sure gets him points from me for creativity.

Me, I'm gonna avoid looking at the ticker for the rest of the day and head out for some satisfying water sports, followed by a very dry Gibson, straight up....alright, you convinced me -- make it two.

You all have a sparkling weekend!

They Write Letters...


Oy, that sinking feeling in my stomach is not a rock-hard bagel; still I can always turn to the Miami Herald letters page for some comic relief. Let's see....

What's this, uber-DUI lawyer extraordinaire Bobby Reiff, boldly stepping in the middle of the raging and deeply bitter dispute over beach clean up salaries:

The Oct. 6 article Political deal gave rise to tax twist notes that Miami Beach received $543,000 for six new positions to clean up the beach. That would be $90,500 each per person.

And people wonder why we don't trust the government with spending our tax dollars.

Government is not the answer; it is the problem.

Bobby's right, that is a lot of money, perhaps double the starting salaries of assistant prosecutors or public defenders or teachers, for that matter. The pay should be dramatically less.

But Bobby, if government is the problem here, what's the alternative -- we all pick up our own beach trash? In South Florida? Anyone who's volunteered at one of the Baynanza clean ups can attest to how well that will work out.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

3d DCA Watch -- Somebody Did Something Good Edition



Hi kiddies, well it's almost Kol Nidre and thus an appropriate time to do a little Teshuva, you know, take stock of what kind of lawyers we are, what kind of people we are -- as against what kind we want to be -- and how to bridge the gap between the two over the next year. (Non-Jews and Bill Maher, you can play too!)

I'm reminded of all this by peering south today at that boxy courtroom by the athletic field, populated by those boxy judges by the highway, yes it's that time of the week as we gaze in awe, admiration, and occasional perfidy at the wacky doings of our favorite robed PCA coffee-swillers, yes you got it -- it's 3d DCA Watch:

Usiabulu v. Progressive:

Thank goodness for Judge Salter. Here we have another crisp and rational, perfectly understandable opinion, grounded in logic, common sense and precedent.

This is a pro se appeal of a subrogation claim brought by Progressive, in which the appellant below filed only a "statement of defenses" and never responded to requests for admissions. Progressive obtained summary judgment based solely on the failure to respond to the admissions, and never addressed or overcame the "facts" asserted in the statement of defense.

Accordingly, on the authority of Brown v. Traveler’s Indem. Co., 755 So. 2d 167 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000), Judge Salter reversed. In so doing, Judge Salter noted:

We commend Progressive’s counsel’s candor in citing Brown in the answer brief. See R. Regulating Fla. Bar 4-3.3(a)(3). The trial court cannot be faulted for failing to apply a controlling case that the parties themselves apparently did not provide below.
Hey, what do you know -- Progressive's counsel Steve Jacobson and Steve Warner did a good thing -- they cited authority that doesn't help them! Imagine that. And Judge Salter praised them for it and pointed out that this is the right thing for lawyers to do.

Double Steves, you have earned an honorary entry in SFL's book of good deeds and your fate for the next year is sealed. Don't worry, bubbes and have a great holiday everyone!

"America's Mayor" Michael Pizzi Declares Peace in Our Time!


Using his piercing blue eyes and patented unique interpersonal skills, Michael Pizzi is now one step closer to world domination by seizing the Kingdom of Miami Lakes.

Standing upon his bar top throne and surveying the faithful, Pizzi magnanimously imposed his first decree, declaring all weapons to be turned into plowshares, or something like that:

"At the end of the day it feels good,'' Pizzi said from The Billiard Club, where he gave his victory speech from a bar top. ``It's time for Miami Lakes to come together as one united group. At this point, I call upon all my supporters in the entire town to immediately end the campaign, put away the bitterness and rhetoric and let's unite as one big happy family.''
Perhaps caught up in the moment, Pizzi continued:
"No, I mean literally," he added. "I want a group hug right now or you all are going to bed without any dinner." Pizzi then retired to his royal chambers, where he reportedly began quietly planning the invasion of nearby Opa-Locka.

I kid I kid, Mike, stick with suing the rock miners, ok? Congrats buddy you deserve it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lawyers Are On All Sides Of The Mortgage Meltdown


I see UM grad Delaila Estefano has allegedly found a different angle on this whole mortgage fraud thing:

Delaila Estefano, 35, and two men were charged last week with first-degree grand theft, organized fraud and using a fake ID.

She was released after posting a $75,000 bond. Estefano, a University of Miami grad with an office in Kendall, has been a lawyer in Florida since 1999.

''We are continuing to do our own investigation into this matter, and are very confident that Ms. Estefano will be exonerated,'' said her attorney, Jason M. Wandner.

Co-defendants John Romney, 27, and Michael Martinez, 30, were still in jail Monday.

The arrests were made by the Miami-Dade Police Department's Mortgage Fraud Task Force, which was created in response to the massive mortgage fraud that plagued South Florida during the housing boom, and put the country's economic future at risk.

The Miami-Dade prosecutor in the case is Bill Kostrzewski.

According to an arrest warrant released Monday, someone in February used the identity of Bernardo Humbero Barreira to obtain a $484,286.06 mortgage from lender Citi Mortgage for a house owned by Romney.

The price tag: $600,000. But Romney had paid just $185,000 for the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house just six days earlier.

Martinez paid a $123,286.06 down payment, according to the warrant by Miami-Dade Detective Jorge Baluja. From Estefano's escrow account, $369,896.88 was paid to Romney, and $135,000 was kicked back to Martinez's bank account.

Oy. Let's hope Jason is right and there's been a big mistake here.

Carvalho: Texting That You "Love And Miss" Mistress Is A Personal Attack


Boy, this is the story that keeps on giving. I really love the way Carvalho has handled the whole emails to his lover thing, because it shows the guy is not ready for prime-time and doesn't seem able to improvise and deal with a scandal effectively. That, plus I'm totally jealous -- Tania, please write us!

Anyway, first he denies it, then he says maybe they're real, then he says he could retrieve his personal account emails if he wanted to but why would he, then he's sputtering about how writing love notes to a former Herald schools reporter is some kind of "personal attack."

Yep, he's perfect for this town:

But new e-mails sent anonymously to The Herald suggest a more intimate relationship. In one purported message on July 18, 2007 -- which the school district said it could not authenticate -- Carvalho appears to tell deLuzuriaga: ''I love and miss you too,'' in response to a message from her.

A message that appears to be sent from Carvalho's BlackBerry on Sept. 20, 2007, says: ''Good morning love.'' The message was dated six days after deLuzuriaga resigned from The Herald to take a job at the Boston Globe.

Carvalho, 44, issued a statement Monday calling the latest e-mails a distraction and a ''personal attack.'' He did not specifically address whether the messages were authentic.

And note how the School Board is covering up for him:
On Monday, a school district spokesman said the district could only retrieve e-mails that Carvalho had saved, and could find none from Carvalho's private account, though he routinely used that account with his district-issued BlackBerry. The Herald asked for all of Carvalho's e-mail traffic with deLuzuriaga from 2007 in a public-records request sent three weeks ago.
Huh? Of course you can retrieve deleted emails, just hire a forensic computer guy. That includes the Blackberry too, particularly since the device is school property. (Note to self: ditch Blackberry.)

I also love Carvalho's idea of a love note:
One of the new e-mails suggests that Carvalho had indeed seen some inappropriate messages from deLuzuriaga. In the Sept. 16, 2007, message he purportedly wrote: ``Keep texting. Keep clean as my daughter keeps lunging for it with those Carvalho quick reflexes.''
Alberto, Alberto. "Quick reflexes"? That's not something you want to brag about, know what I mean? And mentioning your daughter? Awkward!

Sheesh, this guy really needs lessons in how to write to a sexy Latina.