I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Huh. Despite my opinion that I live in Cuba...it's still sort of..."The South."

Proof that even though I live in Cuba, the land of sweat-stained shirts, short ties, a tinny, scratchy '78 whirring on the Victrola, and hand fans trying giving slight respite to those Muggy September Days in Court are only a stone's throw away...

From the Miami Herald, Thursday, September 7, 2006:

Broward 'Bubba judges' up to same old tricks

The courthouse transgressions that riled the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court were of the redneck kind.

These were the doings of good ol' boy judges who said to hell with public records law and dispensed VIP country-club justice for local pols, fellow judges and the monied folks who grease county politics.

Bubba judges caused the divorce records and the files of potentially embarrassing civil suits to vanish into secret dockets -- illegal secret dockets. But who had the gumption to tell some damn judges they were breaking the law?

Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis, that's who. Lewis asked the state's county court clerks to investigate secret dockets. And to recommend new rules the Supreme Court could adopt to stop the practice.

It was a statewide request, but Chief Justice Lewis had one particular county in mind, a courthouse where sealing files has been rampant. It was not, as one might expect, a circuit up in the region Floridians disparage as ''Lower Alabama.'' Or one of those counties in spitting distance of Georgia.

The courthouse in question was not frequented by loitering old men with whittling knives and chewing tobacco. No statute of a Confederate soldier stands watch on the front lawn. Nope. It was the Broward County Courthouse crowd that went Bubba.


Let me rephrase that. It was the Broward courthouse crowd that went Bubba once again. This was the same county where judges so corrupted the practice of appointing special public defenders that they inspired a state law aimed at their abuses.

Broward judges were appointing relatives and campaign contributors to represent clients -- lucrative work that often entailed no more than arranging a quickie plea deal. In 2000, The Miami Herald's Larry Lebowitz and Sabrina Miller discovered that certain lawyers had made more than $100,000 (one collected $291,390) thanks to cozy relationships with the gang in black robes.

In 2004, legislation was passed -- with South Florida judges in mind -- to require that special public defenders receive appointments on an impartial, rotating basis.

It was the supposed end of the Bubba system.

But in July, The Miami Herald's Amy Sherman and Melissa Sanchez reported that some Broward judges were inventing excuses to ignore the law and directed work -- and taxpayer money -- to old familiar faces.

Judges, entrusted to interpret and uphold the law, are flouting a law that they find inconvenient.

''Maybe, in some cases these judges don't know their legal obligations,'' said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, although he didn't sound convinced. ``But in most cases, they're just refusing to follow the law. It's wrong, and it's illegal.''


And now our modern, urban version of 1950s rural justice has introduced Florida to a new legal term: superseal.

A supersealed document is not only sealed from public access but excised from the public docket. Of course, supersealing was reserved only for special friends.

One might think that an ethical judge somewhere in that courthouse might report unseemly, illegal behavior by a fellow judge. But once again, it fell to reporters. The Miami Herald's Dan Christensen and Patrick Danner discovered more than 400 cases had been supersealed. It was their stories, not some vigilant judge, that made the chief justice ``almost swallow my tongue.''

Finkelstein said that in his 30 years of lawyering in Broward, he never had a clue that secret dockets existed for extra-privileged citizens.

Of course, Finkelstein's clients, defendants without means or influence, would hardly be expected to get their corn bread buttered by judges.

Or maybe it was that Howard just didn't know how to hunker down with the Bubbas.


Blogger Rootietoot said...

I'm trying to figure out why this seems to be such a surprise. I guess since I live in the armpit of such activity, I see it as S.O.P. Funny that we don't have a monopoly on such behavior.

I've always heard that the further South you go in Florida, the further North you are. So maybe rather than calling them Bubba judges, and disparaging the Southern Brethren, they should be called Typical DamnYankees like them in Vermont, that do as they please, to hell with precedence.

11:31 AM

Blogger some guy said...

God I love this state!

1:19 PM

Blogger SuperBee said...

RT - Although the common wisdom is that the farther South you go in Florida, the farther North you go, that's a popular misconception, fed by Jupiter, Boca Raton, Pompano, Boynton Beach, Deerfield Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Tamarac, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Aventura, Bal Harbour and Old Miami Beach.

For the most part, those are a string of small beach towns on the Intracostal Waterway. Other than the Jewishstrip between Jupiter and Bal Harbor (Miami Beach isn't Northern anymore) if it ain't Cuban, it's Old South down here.

We're considering making the "Black-White" divider wall of Liberty City a Historical monument to segregation, don't ya know...

This secret docket is a HUUUUUUGE DEAL, because even though we all know that there's separate justice for the rich and the poor, this essentially creates an entirely separate COURT system for them.

Also, it's COMPLETELY illegal, while being PERPETUATED by the Judges and the Clerk themselves! People that are supposed to be UPHOLDING impartiality and the Law! How does this stack up against the "WE WHO LABOR HERE SEEK ONLY THE TRUTH" that's emblazoned all over every court in the State, when the rest of us subject our truth to scrutiny, but the rich don't have to?

We're all American citizens. Why should someone who's friends with the Judge not have to show how much he's paying in Alimony, just because he's friends with the Judge? It undermines Judicial impartiality, and it undermines the entire system, if you ask me.

It's basically a big, "What the fuck?!"

4:11 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home