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 District Court

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 Robin S. Rosenbaum, United States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Florida

The word is that congratulations are in order for Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum, a United States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Florida.  According to a report I received from the Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, and as reported by the Boston Globe website, President Barack Obama has nominated Judge Rosenbaum to replace U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold, who is taking senior status.  If Judge Rosenbaum is approved by the Senate, she will be one of the only, if not the only, Magistrate Judges in the Southern District to have ever been elevated to the position of District Court Judge.  Congratulations Judge Rosenbaum!

Appeals in State and Federal Courts

Whether a party is in State or Federal court, whenever a court renders an adverse decision, a party should consider several factors in deciding whether to appeal the order, including: (1) whether there is a right to appeal the order; (2) when the appeal may be filed; (3) what are the time limits governing the appeal; (4) in which court will the appeal lie; (5) what is the applicable standard of review; and, (6) what are the costs associated with the appeal.

With regard to the right to appeal, parties should be aware that some orders may not be immediately appealable.  Rather, the rules may provide that the appeal may only be heard at the end of the case.

With regard to the time of the appeal and applicable time limits, the parties may wish to consult the appellate rules for guidance on the time in which notices of appeal, appellate briefs, and appeals-related motions should be filed.  Failure to follow the applicable rules may result in a party losing the appeal.  The Rules for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit may be found here.  The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure may be found here.

In determining where to file the appeal, appeals in both the State and Federal system generally lie with the next higher court.  For example, State court cases in the County Court may be appealed to the Circuit Court, and Circuit Court cases may be appealed to the District Court of Appeal.  Opinions rendered by any of the Florida District Courts of Appeal may be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.  In the Federal system, orders issued by a United States Magistrate Judge may be appealed to the United States District Court, District Court orders may be appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, and opinions issued by the Eleventh Circuit may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Standards of review on appeal include de novo and abuse of discretion.  A party should be aware that the likelihood of success on appeal may be determined in large part by the applicable standard of review.

Finally, a party should be aware that costs of an appeal may be substantial.  Prior to deciding whether to appeal, a party may wish to consider the costs associated with filing the notice of appeal, designating the record and transcripts, and filing briefs and motions.  Having counsel attend oral argument may also add to the cost of appeal.

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.


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