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

Tag: Southern District

United States v. Davila: No. 12-167: Although Judge’s Statements Made During In Camera Plea Conference Violated Rule 11, Error Does Note Require Plea to Be Vacated

Things have been busy in these last couple of weeks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, so I’ll keep this short.  Federal criminal defense and federal criminal appeals lawyers, especially those practicing in the Southern District of Florida or the Eleventh Circuit, will be interested to know that the US Supreme Court has reversed the Eleventh Circuit on an important issue: the consequences of a judge’s violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 regarding guilty pleas.  In United States v. Davila, No. 12-167, the Court held that even though the Magistrate Judge who presided over an in camera plea conference made statements which violated Rule 11’s ban on judicial participation in plea discussions, Davila was not entitled to have his guilty plea vacated because he failed to show that he was prejudiced by the judge’s statements.

Is it just me, or does anyone else notice the irony of this decision?  This is a rare case where the Eleventh Circuit actually sided with the criminal  defendant, and afforded him relief.  Yet, on certiorari review, the US Supreme Court took the position most often taken by the Eleventh Circuit–and denied the criminal defendant relief.

Practical Tips for Federal Court

If you’ve ever been in Federal court in South Florida, you already know that there is a huge difference between State and Federal Court.  In keeping with the Federal bench Bar Conference that happened in West Palm Beach on Friday, April 27, 2012, I thought some practical tips might come in handy.

1.  If your client gets slapped with Federal criminal charges, or your civil case gets removed to Federal court, DON’T PANIC.

2.  For civil cases, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the Local Rules for the Southern District.  They are available on the Southern District website.

3.  For criminal cases, you’ll need to call the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) assigned to the case to determine if he or she will agree to release your client on bond or whether the Government is seeking pre-trial detention.  Unfortunately for criminal defense lawyers and their clients, most criminal defendants, at least those that have their cases assigned to the West Palm Beach courthouse, have historically been detained without bond.  But, there is potentially some good news: with two new Magistrate Judges on the bench this year, maybe things will change.  After all, Magistrate Judge Brannon (already on the bench) is a former Federal P.D., and the next Magistrate Judge to be sworn in, Bill Matthewman, is also a former criminal defense lawyer.

4.  As your case progresses, some other things to keep in mind are:

(a) Try to keep phone calls to chambers to a minimum.  Scheduling of matters is, for the most part, handled through the courtroom deputy (CRD), not chambers. If you have to call chambers, be polite.  After all, the person answering the phone might be a law clerk who will be writing the order on your case!

(b) Don’t call chambers with questions like “what does the Judge want me to do,” or “how would the Judge like me to handle . . .”  As the lawyer on the case, it is your responsibility to figure things out for yourself.  Although many Judicial Assistants in State court will tell you what the Judge would like you to do, many chambers in the Southern District are required by the Judge to answer those kind of questions by simply referring you to the Local Rules.  Don’t take it personally.  Most Judges just want to avoid the possibility of ex parte communications.  Some Judges in the Southern District won’t even entertain calls to chambers or the law clerks.

(c) Don’t presume you’ll get a hearing on anything.  Most matters in Federal court are handled on the written pleadings only.  If you need a hearing, you must file a separate motion requesting the hearing.

(d) Since most matters are handled on the pleadings, put your best effort into your writing.  Say everything you need to say up front.  Acknowledge weaknesses in your case candidly, but then explain why those weaknesses should not affect the result in your case.  Be precise, be succinct, clearly cite all authorities and record references  in support of your position, and conclude.

(e) If a Magistrate Judge handles your motion/pleading, you will have the chance to file an objection within the requisite time frame (14 days).  The objection will then be handled by the District Court Judge, like an appeal.  If your pleading was disposed of by the District Court, you would appeal any rulings to the Eleventh Circuit, according to the Rules of Appellate Procedure.  For criminal cases, bond/detention orders are appealed to the District Court.

More tips to follow next time!

Congratulations to Judge Adalberto Jordan on his Confirmation to the 11th Circuit

It’s been a busy morning, but before the day gets away from me, I wanted to pass along that congratulations are in order for the Southern District’s Judge Adalberto Jordan for his Senate confirmation to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  According to the Miami Herald, Judge Jordan is the first Cuban-born Judge to sit on the 11th Circuit.  If you have a stomach for the political wrangling behind his confirmation, you can read an article from the Miami Herald here.


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