Florida Criminal Appeals Attorney Law

Appellate Law, Criminal Defense and Appeals and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit

Month: May, 2013

Florida Supreme Court Holds that Public Defender May Decline Future Appointments Based On Office Wide Problems Which Impact Effective Representation

The Florida Supreme Court issued a pretty interesting opinion right before the Memorial Day weekend–Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida v. State, No. SC09-1181.  I remember reading news reports about this case back in 2008 or 2009, and it seemed like a pretty big deal that the Public Defender for Miami Dade County was actually so overloaded that the entire office was filing motions in numerous non-capital felony criminal cases seeking to decline future appointments, arguing that excessive caseloads prevented the office from providing effective representation.  Well, although the opinion left the most interesting matter unresolved (i.e., the question of whether to grant or deny the PD’s motion), the Court did nevertheless hold that the Public Defender could file such aggregate motions where there is an office-wide problem as to effective representation, and that motions to withdraw could be granted pursuant to Florida section 27.5303 so long as the PD shows that there is a substantial risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by representation to another client.  See Public Defender, slip op., pgs. 25-35.  However, because the case had been pending in the Supreme Court so long, the Court remanded the matter back to the trial court for a determination of whether the conditions underlying the PD’s motions to decline future appointments still exist.

What is the impact of this case?  Well, if the trial court determines that the conditions at the Miami Dade Public Defender’s office are unchanged, and that the Public Defender’s motions should be granted, then that means the cases will have to be handled by other court-appointed counsel.  In other words, more work (and fees) for other court-appointed criminal defense attorneys!  Now, if we could just get the Florida Legislature to repeal the fee caps imposed last year for criminal defense and criminal appeals lawyers . . .

I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend!

Moncrieffe v. Holder, No.11-702: United States Supreme Court Holds That State Criminal Statute Penalizing The Sharing Of Small Amount Of Marijuana Does Not Constitute Aggravated Felony For Purposes Of Immigration Statute

It’s been a really busy week, but I found a recent opinion that I wanted to pass along to all of Florida’s criminal defense and criminal appeals lawyers out there.  If you handle drug cases with potential immigration/deportation consequences (i.e, ANY drug cases where your client’s status is either unclear, or your client is clearly a noncitizen), then you should take a few minutes to read the United States Supreme Court opinion of Moncrieffe  v. Holder, No. 11-702.

The facts in the Moncrieffe opinion are pretty typical: Moncrieffe, a Jamaican citizen, came to the U.S. legally at the age of 3.  See Moncrieffe, slip op., pg. 3.  During a 2007 traffic stop, cops found 1.3 grams (yes, grams) of marijuana in his car.  Moncrieffe pled guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute under Georgia law (obviously, Georgia law is a lot more harsh than Florida law).  Under a Georgia statute which allows for more lenient treatment to first time offenders, the trial court sentenced Moncrieffe to 5 years of probation, after which his record would be expunged.  See id.

Alleging that the conviction constituted an “aggravated felony” for purposes of 21 U. S. C. §841(a), punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment under 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(D), the Government deported Moncrieffe, and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.  See id at pg. 3.  After the 5th Circuit denied Moncrieffe’s petition for review, the United States Supreme Court granted cert, and reversed.

In holding that Moncrieffe’s conviction under the Georgia statute did not qualify as an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Court rejected the Government’s application of the “categorial inquiry” or “categorial approach,” which is employed  to determine if an offense constitutes an aggravated felony.  See id , slip op., pgs. 4-19.  Although Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion is rather technical in nature, this line pretty much sums up what the Court thinks of the Government’s argument:

“In short, to avoid the absurd consequences that would flow from the Government’s narrow understanding of the categorical approach, the Government proposes a solution that largely undermines the categorical approach.  That the only cure is worse than the disease suggests the Government is simply wrong.”

Id., slip op., pg. 19.  Ouch.

Unfortunately for Moncrieffe and others in his situation, escaping aggravated felony treatment does not necessarily lead to a conclusion that deportation has been avoided.  Rather, the Court cautioned that it only means that mandatory removal has been avoided.  Rather, under 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(i), a marijuana distribution offense still renders a non-citizen deportable as a “controlled substances offender.”  See id., slip op., pg. 19.  At that stage, the non-citizen will have to seek asylum, or cancellation of the removal proceedings, assuming the non-citizen meets the other criteria under 8 U.S.C. §§1158(b), 1229b(a)(1)–(2).  As acknowledged by the Court, determinations of asylum or cancellation of removal proceedings are purely discretionary with the Attorney General.

What’s the take away from this case, you ask?  Well, although the Court rejected the Government’s attempt to define possession of a small amount of marijuana as an aggravated felony, the fact remains that non-citizens convicted of even the most low level misdemeanor drug offenses, including first-time offenders who have successfully completed required probationary periods as a prerequisite to expunction, remain subject to possible deportation proceedings.

Van Poyck v. State, SC 73662: Florida Supreme Court Order Requiring Prior Counsel to Remain As Counsel And Other Developments

Florida’s criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys who are interested in the developments of the Van Poyck death penalty case may want to know that I found the Supreme Court order requiring Van Poyck’s prior counsel to remain on the case.  If you want to read it, click here.  In response to the Order, two of Van Poyck’s previous attorneys have just filed a Motion to Vacate and Alternative Motion for Rehearing of the Supreme Court order.

If you have time and are interested in all the procedural drama, feel free to view the other orders and motions in the case by clicking here.

After Winning a New Trial, Goodman Loses a Lawyer, and Death Row Inmate William Van Poyck Wins A Team of Lawyers

Well, after winning a new trial (while the case is on appeal, no less) John Goodman lost a key member of his criminal defense team, Robert Black.  For the articles in the Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel, click here and here.  Maybe this means that Goodman and the State have reached a plea agreement?

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post also reports that there’s quite a bit of legal havoc in the William Van Poyck death penalty case.  Although I have not yet been able to locate the order issued by the Florida Supreme Court, the Court has apparently pulled a surprise move.  Even as Van Poyck’s June execution date approaches, the Court appears to have appointed a team of lawyers from Palm Beach County to represent Van Poyck.  For the article in the Palm Beach Post, click here.

To me, the Van Poyck case highlights just a fraction of what is wrong with Florida’s death penalty.  If the case is still important enough for the court to appoint new lawyers, even at this late stage, why should the Governor be signing the warrant for Van Poyck’s execution?  And why is it that after years of being unable to reach any sort of agreement with regard to amending the death penalty statute so as to render it constitutional, (why bother with that?), the Florida legislature is able to enact legislation that limits the appeals process, thereby actually speeding up the death penalty executions?

Palm Beach County News: John Goodman Gets a New Trial and Lindsay Lohan Comes to Town for Rehab

Palm Beach polo magnate John Goodman caught a lucky break- it looks like on Friday, May 3, 2013, Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted Goodman’s motion for new trial based on juror misconduct.  Criminal defense and criminal appeals lawyers know that such a break is extremely rare indeed.  To read of an article about the defense victory, click here.  To read my previous post on Goodman’s motion, click here.  I wonder if the State will prosecute the juror for perjury based on his statements given during voir dire . . .

On another note, who knew that Palm Beach County was home to a rehab facility for Hollywood’s rich and famous?   According to reports on CNN and WPTV. com, Lindsay Lohan is going to complete her rehab at the Lukens Institute in Palm Beach Gardens.  If anyone sees Lindsay around town, be sure to give her a friendly wave!

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