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: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

With Opinions This Long, Who Has Time To Read Them?

It’s been a very busy few days since I was last able to post anything.  So last evening, I went to the Eleventh Circuit homepage to scan the latest criminal appeals decisions, and came across Holsey v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison, No. 09-14257, an opinion affirming the denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Holsey, a death row inmate in Georgia.  I was shocked to see that the opinion is 152 pages long!!

Normally, you might think that a longer opinion is more valuable in that such opinions at least allow the lawyers in the case to feel like their positions have been well considered by the Court.  Compared to State court criminal appellate opinions, many of which are mere PCAs, or no more than a few paragraphs long, federal court opinions at least tend to provide a more thorough analysis of the issues.  However, this 152-page opinion is a bit extreme, and I don’t mind saying so because even Judge Edmondson agrees!  In his concurrence, beginning on page 104, Judge Edmondson makes some valid points, such as (1) longer opinions tend to contain more information than is needed to dispose of the issues, thereby increasing the chance for judicial error; (2) longer opinions can be overly taxing on the fellow judges of the panel, who have other cases to decide, on members of the Bar who try to stay current with the Court’s latest thinking, and on the public at large, as non-lawyers may have difficulties understanding the basis for the court’s decision; and, (3) longer opinions make it more difficult for lawyers to discern the rationale from dicta.

If you have any time to spare, I suggest a quick review of Judge Edmondson’s concurrence.  And if you need something to get you fired up for the day, don’t miss Judge Barkett’s dissent!

Eleventh Circuit to Rehear Michael Duane Zack, III v. Tucker, No. 09-12717, En Banc to Decide Issue of Timeliness of Federal Habeas Claims

In a rare move, the United States Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit has voted to rehear a case en banc.  The case, Michael Duane Zack III v. Tucker, No. 09-12717, concerns the issue of timeliness of federal habeas claims.  In the original opinion, released in January, 2012, the Court held that the District Court erred in applying the statute of limitations separately to each claim in the petition to find that only certain claims were timely filed.  I suspect that most criminal defense and criminal appellate lawyers would agree that it seems logical that the timeliness of a federal habeas petition should be viewed as to the whole petition, not claim-by-claim.  I certainly hope that the Court does not change its conclusion on rehearing. The order granting rehearing en banc can be viewed here.  For those of you who practice in the Southern District of Florida, take note that our own Judge Jordan’s name appears on the order granting rehearing.

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.

Relationship between State and Federal Courts in Florida

As I mentioned in my previous post, the State and Federal courts generally operate independent of each other.  However, there are occasions where the courts operate in a more related fashion.

For example, in the civil context, where a plaintiff may choose to commence litigation in State court, the defendant may choose to remove the action to Federal court, so long as the conditions for Federal jurisdiction are met, including diversity of the parties and amount in controversy, or federal question jurisdiction.  See 28 U.S.C. sec. 1331, 1332, 1441, 1446.  Or, where a plaintiff may choose to commence litigation in Federal court, the defendant may choose to remand, or return, the case back to State court.  See 28 U.S.C. sec. 1441.

Before removing a civil matter to Federal court, or remanding the matter back to State court, counsel and the parties may wish to consider several factors, including (1) the costs of litigation in each forum; (2) the complexity of the claims; (3) whether federal claims are involved; and, (4) the need for a timely resolution of the case.

In the criminal context, individuals who are arrested by State agencies, including local police departments and sheriff’s offices, are generally prosecuted in a Florida state court.  However, if a violation of a Federal criminal statute is intertwined with the State criminal offense, the State offense may be prosecuted in Federal court.  Defendants who have been prosecuted in State court may seek to have the Federal courts review the constitutionality of their State convictions pursuant to the writ of habeas corpus.  See 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254.  In Florida, rulings rendered by the United States District Court may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court.

Federal Courts in Florida

Just like individuals in any other State, Floridians have two court systems within their State: the State courts and the Federal courts. While there are occasions where the State and Federal court systems operate in a somewhat related fashion, for the most part, each system enforces its own laws independent of the other.

Similar to the Florida courts, the Federal courts are organized into areas of territorial jurisdiction. The Northern District of Florida encompasses Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Gainesville. The website for the Northern District can be found here. The Middle District of Florida encompasses most of the middle portion of the State, including Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers.  The website for the Middle District can be found here.  The Southern District encompasses the eastern portion of the State, including Fort Pierce, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.  The website for the Southern District can be found here.

Also similar to the State courts of Florida, the Federal courts have a distinct trial and appellate system.  The United States District Court operates as the trial court, and is presided over by United States Magistrate Judges, United States District Court Judges, and Senior United States District Court Judges.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the Federal appellate court for the States of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.  The website for the Eleventh Circuit can be found here.  Any appeals taken from the Eleventh Circuit would be filed in the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, D.C.  The website for the Supreme Court of the United States can be found here.


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