Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death Penalty in Florida

The following quote is from a letter various Florida Catholic Bishops sent to Governor Rick Scott:
"Killing people to show that killing is wrong is a piercing contradiction and one that touches our very souls," the church leaders added. "Executions coarsen us. We daily condemn the glorification of violence, but what example is set when our state legitimizes killing? What results can we expect?"
"Governor, will our citizenry be any safer, will Floridians be any better protected, if we execute these men? Will not the safety of persons and the preservation of public order be as secure if instead you commute these sentences to lifelong confinement?" 
Read the full story here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Machinery of Death

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored–indeed, I have struggled–along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies. The basic question–does the system accurately and consistently determine which defendants “deserve” to die?–cannot be answered in the affirmative.
--Harry Blackmun in dissent in Callins v. Collins, emphasis added

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Judges' Top Ten Pet Peeves

I came across the following list, originally published in the Jacksonville Lawyer Magazine in 2007, that outlines judges' various pet peeves.  It is unclear how they compiled the list but it is informative nonetheless:
  1. Promptness
    • When lawyers are late to court or unprepared.  It "delays the train schedule."
  2. Failing to Identify Yourself
    • Beginning your argument in court without first identifying yourself, who you are representing, and the motion under consideration.  Even a judge's best friend should go through the ritual.
  3. Forgetting to Inform the Judge or JA
    • Faxing or electronically filing a motion to opposing counsel the night before an early morning hearing without providing the judge with a courtesy copy.
    • Failing to provide the judge with a courtesy copy of an "emergency motion" in state court.
    • Failing to notify the judge's JA that a case has been resolved, especially when it affects the court's calendar, so that someone else can be given time.
  4. Providing Incomplete Information
    • Sending or dropping off a proposed order with no cover letter, no identification of the hearing that it relates to and/or failing to mention whether the proposed order was run by opposing counsel prior to submitting it to the court.
  5. Improper and Unprofessional Manners at Court Appearances
    • Speaking over each other or over the court.
    • Continuing to argue after a ruling is made.
    • Reacting emotionally to a ruling, as if an adverse ruling were a personal affront.  It is not.  "If, for some reason, the case is indeed personal to you, you are too close to the issue to be the attorney for the client."
    • Using sarcasm in arguments and comments to each other or to the court.
    • Directing your arguments to each other rather than to the court.
    • Making improper or distracting gestures.
    • when litigants, witnesses or lawyers in chamber and courtrooms:
      • chew gum.
      • dress inappropriately.
      • dress informally or sloppily.
      • fail to turn off their cell phones.
      • set a drink/cup on the podium in court.
  6. Ineffective Presentation of Argument
    • Failing to answer the question posed by the judge.  "Oftentimes, a lawyer is so busy thinking about what he is going to say next, he forgets to listen to the question being asked."
    • Making arguments irrelevant to the analytical framework at issue.
    • Poorly drafting motions.  "They tend to suffer."
  7. Disparaging Another Lawyer Before the Judge
    • Sending the judge copies of letters about their complaints toward each other and, likewise, airing personal arguments about each other in front of the judge.  A lawyer must not disparage another lawyer in front of the judge.
  8. Failing to Confer or Agree with Opposing Counsel
    • Failing to "confer" with opposing counsel regarding attempts to resolve discovery matters prior to setting a hearing on a motion to compel.  It is inappropriate to send letters to the judge indicating that counsel has conferred when, in fact, it is evident that no attempt was made to confer as required.
    • Agreeing to an amount of attorney's fees at a hearing, but later sending a proposed order reflecting a different amount, with a cover letter claiming that copy was sent to opposing counsel.  This is not proper notice.
    • When jurisdiction is reserved in a QUADRO and a lawyer appears ex parte, it is improper to request the judge to enter an order prior to the parties' agreement and without their signatures confirming that they have agreed.
  9. Failing to Limit Discovery in Accordance with the Rules
    • Failing to limit discovery requests more precisely as to time, scope, and the appropriate number of questions.  A lawyer should avoid being over-broad or vague.
    • Only ask for what you are entitled to, and only object to things that you are not required to provide.
  10. Using Improper Verbiage in a Proposed Order
    • Submitting a proposed order on a matter that did not require a hearing, yet reciting in the proposed order that the manner "came to be heard" when it actually never did.
The same issue published a "Lawyers' Top Ten Pet Peeves" I will post soon.