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Daily News Summary

An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department. Electronic links are only active in today's edition. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.

Nov. 13, 2012

--Judiciary--


APPEALS COURT: MIAMI JUDGE SHOULD STEP OFF MURDER CASE FOR CRITICAL COMMENTS FROM BENCH-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Nov. 12, 2012.
A Miami-Dade judge should step down from a murder case after publicly criticizing relatives of the slain victim, an appeals court says. The unusual ruling comes less than a month after 11th Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch, while on the bench, said relatives of Oscar Padilla showed "gross disrespect" for him when they appeared on a Spanish-language television news program to complain about one his rulings. Hirsch was presiding over the murder case against Emin Rosales Ramirez, who is accused in the August killing of Oscar Padilla. After the judge's remarks, prosecutors complained to the Third District Court of Appeal. The appeals court, in a ruling Friday [Nov. 9], said that Hirsch's comments "would place a reasonably prudent person in fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial."

MERIT RETENTIONS POLITICIZE JUDICIARY, SAYS FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS-- Daily Business Review, http://www.dailybusinessreview.com, Nov. 9, 2012.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said merit retention for state judges allows for unnecessary politicizing of the judiciary. Stevens, who retired in 2010, was in West Palm Beach to speak at an event sponsored by the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches and the Palm Beach County Bar Association. He is on a tour promoting his new book, "Five Chiefs," in which he expounds on some of the more controversial cases in his long tenure on the high court. Stevens told his audience that facing retention votes exposes judges to the whims of public opinion. Knowing he had a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Stevens said he was able to view cases solely on their merits. [Subscription required.]

STUDY: U.S. JUDGES' CRIMINAL CASELOADS VARY WIDELY-- Yahoo News, http://news.yahoo.com, Nov. 12, 2012.
The article is by The Associated Press. Federal judges across the nation are shouldering criminal caseloads that vary widely in size, sometimes even among judges in the same courthouse, according to a study released Sunday. The study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University found three courthouses where the judge with the largest criminal caseload had sentenced more than twice the number of defendants as the judge with the smallest caseload from October 2006 through July 2012. They were Los Angeles; Beaumont, Texas; and Camden, N.J. The study was made possible because the clearinghouse, which uses the Freedom of Information Act to collect criminal justice data, earlier this year assembled the first publicly available database of sentencing records, sortable by judge.

ST. JOHNS JUDGE WITH REPUTATION FOR TOUGH SENTENCES MOVING TO NEW JOB-- The Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com, Nov. 11, 2012.
Anyone who's been through or worked in the justice system in St. Johns County has an opinion of Judge Wendy Berger. Some see her as the ultimate defender of victims, making sure dangerous people get long prison sentences — or worse. Others find her too harsh and unyielding. Berger, who has left the 7th Circuit Court to become a judge in the 5th District Court of Appeal, will no longer be that polarizing figure in the community. She's ready for the change at this point in her legal career. "It's nice to be out of the limelight," said Berger.

--Legal Profession--

FLORIDA GROUP PUSHES FOR MORE ALIMONY REFORM-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Nov. 10, 2012.
Debbie Leff Israel, the Weston woman who helped start the Florida Second Wives Club, won't marry her fiancée because her salary can be used to recalculate what he pays to support his ex-wife. Alan Frisher, a Brevard County financial adviser, was ordered to pay his former wife permanent alimony in 2003 when the couple divorced, a ruling he considers "abusive and unjust." The two are unlikely allies in a fight for alimony reform in Florida, a movement that began quietly about a decade ago but is now gaining ground around the country and earning the attention of legislators and family law attorneys. While the grassroots movement is comprised mostly of men, more and more women, primarily second wives, are joining in for the same reasons Israel did.

--Civil Justice Issues--

KEEPING HOUSING FUNDS IN ORDER-- The Tampa Tribune, editorial, http://www.tbo.com, Nov. 12, 2012. [Also: BONDI STRUCK BAD DEAL ON $200 MILLION FROM MORTGAGE FRAUD SETTLEMENT-- The Palm Beach Post, editorial, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Nov. 11, 2012].
The Tribune editorial states: "An agreement between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and lawmakers should ensure the bulk of the state's mortgage settlement goes to deserving Floridians. Still, voters should keep an eye on the Legislature and make sure it doesn't divert the $334 million settlement to members' pet projects."
The Post editorial states: "Attorney General Pam Bondi assured Floridians that $300 million from a national mortgage settlement would go to distressed homeowners. She can't keep that promise, though, because she's given the Florida Legislature control over most of the money . . . . In recent years, the Legislature has balanced the state budget by raiding trust funds — money designated for specific purposes. What’s to stop legislators from grabbing the $200 million Ms. Bondi just gifted?"

--Criminal Justice Issues--

COURT RULINGS LEAVE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT LIFE-WITHOUT-PAROLE SENTENCES FOR JUVENILE KILLERS-- Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com, Nov. 12, 2012. [Also: STATE COURTS STRUGGLE WITH SUPREME COURT RULING ON YOUNG KILLERS-- The Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com, Nov. 12, 2012].
From the Orlando Sentinel: Life without the possibility of parole was a prison sentence that offered some closure for Mike Kaliszeski, the brother of a Palm Bay murder victim. His sister, Patricia, was stabbed and nearly decapitated by Alan Tanguay, who was 16 at the time. Kaliszeski was relieved that his sister's killer would never know freedom. However, Recent court rulings have cast some doubt on sentences given to teens who kill. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court found that mandatory life-without-parole sentences were unconstitutional for juveniles. The ruling raised the possibility that sentences given to juvenile killers might be reviewed. Then, state appellate courts in Miami and Tallahassee found that the Supreme Court decision didn't apply to older cases. Those state rulings are now being challenged and are likely to wind up in the Florida Supreme Court.

STAND YOUR GROUND GROUP WRAPPING UP-- The Gainesville Sun, http://www.gainesville.com, Nov. 13, 2012. [Also: AT LEAST DON'T MAKE 'STAND YOUR GROUND' LAW WORSE-- The Palm Beach Post, editorial, http://www.palmbeachpost.com, Nov. 12, 2012].
The task force formed by Gov. Rick Scott to review Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law holds its last hearing Tuesday [Nov. 14], with recommendations about possible changes, if any, to shortly follow. Headed into that final session in Pensacola, opponents of the law continue to air concerns about what they see as the measure’s unintended consequences and urge the Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection to support an overhaul that addresses them.

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[Revised: 11-14-2012]