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

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just another day in the Courts of South Florida...

From the Miami Herald:

"As Birkhead made his decision public, Arthur appeared calm and Birkhead somber. Stern sat hunched, his hands clasped in front of his face. No one displayed as much emotion as the judge, who cried through his announcement." (Emphasis added.)

From the Washington Post:

"FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Blubbering as he announced his ruling, a judge said Thursday he hopes Anna Nicole Smith will be buried in the Bahamas, but he left the decision up to the guardian of her baby daughter...The judge choked up frequently and wept as he explained his decision." (Emphasis added.)

I watched this on T.V. I was flabbergasted that the Judge was crying.

Yeah, Judges are people --- when they're not on the Bench.

How embarrassing for South Florida - the state with "blubbering" Judges. The sentiment in my office? "Oh, great. People already think Florida is a joke. And now there's a Judge who's not even related to these parties, and cries as he hands down a decision, passing the buck and the responsibility for the ultimate disposal of this issue to someone else."

My boss' jaw hit the floor when I told him that the Judge cried through his pronouncement. He asked me no less than four times "Really?! He REALLY cried?!"

Here's my take on this: When the whole world is watching Florida, a State well known for its legal repercussions... (2000?) it's not the time to cut a new mold. We lawyers are conformists. That's what we do best. We're suit-wearing, clean-shaven, shorn and shiny conformists. We go to the Opera and we drive German cars, and we sometimes drink to avoid our problems, and yeah, sometimes we have personalities, but by and large, we went through grooming and training to think a certain way and look a certain way and conduct ourselves a certain way. And we don't always. But there are times and there are places where you buckle down, and you shave off your goatee, and you ditch the muttonchops, and you conform. And when you're in Court is one of those times. We're deferential, and we say "Yes, your Honor," and we thank the Judge even then the Judge slaps us with an incorrect ruling. And we expect our judges to be civil and courteous, and when they're not, we lump it. Seidlin is in the Probate Division. I think Probate and Family are areas where the judge can and should, generally use a gentler touch and some common sense -- they deal with really personal matters. And if this were a closed-to-cameras courtroom, I might appreciate his hands-on and personal touch, a bit more. But this was a time when we could have shown the world that our judiciary is always the starched-collared, pressed-robed, stern-but-fair-and-unswayed-by-emotion Ideal Judiciary.

We have some wonderful Judges on the Bench. Two that I've been before that really known their shit are Judge Gordon and Judge Emas. Judge Pooler has a wall full of bobble-head dolls in her office of the Dolphins, and when she's mad at a player, she turns him around and makes him face the wall. Echarte is tough but fair... and really, really judgelike, stern, unsmiling, scary, but he looks and acts like a Judge. I heard really great things about the late Judge Crespo, also. And I have glowing things to say about Federal Court down here - especially Judge Moreno, a nicer, smarter guy you could never hope to meet. Jordan, King, Altadonga, Garber, even Huck... they're all great, smart people, with personalities, but they run tight ships.

There are also some well-known personalities around. We have them in Dade. Broward has some really colorful people on the bench.

For me, as a young attorney, scorn like this heaped on our profession is disheartening - this entire hearings process was a zoo. And now there's a cherry on that cake. I'd sooner kill myself than cry in Court. Oh, sure, I could puke on my balls or pass out... And I don't cry anyway -- So crying in Court?! Just like how there's no crying in baseball...There's no crying by officers of the Court!

It just goes to show you that down here, anything can happen in Court. I now understand why my boss grooms me to be a dealmaker and a negotiator - My epiphany over the last few months is that the Rules of Civil Procedure and Common Law, are less... binding... and more, helpful hints for how you might want to do things, sometimes.

Going to court is a diceroll.

Like this morning, when I lost a Motion to Dismiss that should have been granted for about fourteen different reasons... including the ore tenus motion I made in Court to dismiss, after the Judge told me that the file contained neither Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, nor an exhibit that the original Complaint relied upon... after the ORIGINAL COMPLAINT had been dismissed for failure to attach the Exhibit.

This after the Plaintiff failed to join an indispensable party, and the allegations in the Complaint conflicted with the facts in the Exhibit...

Then the Judge made a completely incorrect statement of Law after I gave the Judge a case directly on point controlling whether husbands and wives must be joined as indispensable parties in a case wherein they both have an interest in real property... Judge asked me, "Did they ever take possession of the premises?" "No, your Honor." "Then they never had any interest in the premises."

WRONG. They did have an interest in the premises. That's what a lease is - a paper satisfying the Statute of Frauds, granting an interest in real property. Upon execution, and handing over keys, lessees have a leasehold interest in the premises. Whether they take possession or not is irrelevant... It's theirs to do with what they will. (You know, as long as they don't violate the Lease.) But you can't give a Judge a lecture treatise on Property Law and land interests when you're on a Motion to dismiss on a very, very tangentially related violation of the rules of Civil Procedure. Know why? Because.

What should have come out was, "Defendant, I'm granting your Motion." But no... "I'm going to deny the Motion to Dismiss..."

I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head. Never in my life have I been so utterly convinced that a Judge's ruling was 1) wrong 2) wrong 3) so, so wrong and 4) definitely successfully appealable.

But are we surprised? No. Not any more we're not.

My boss wasn't surprised either. Whatever. We're getting out of this case anyway.

I'm just glad I didn't take opposing counsel's generous offer to have me not litigate this Motion as we waited for it to be heard, in exchange for 20 days to answer. Which we got anyway...

At least the Bailiff was super happy to see me, and was all smiles and beaming, even though I haven't seen the Bailiff for a year. The Bailiff likes watching me grow up, and go down in flames with dignity and astonished poise, like the Champ that I am. The Bailiff likes me. People like me. I guess that's the moral I'm trying to drive home. Everyone loves me... (Shut up, Andy.)



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