The Seventeenth - click here for February's SAO Online Newsletter.  This month's highlight: the SAO is joining the PD's Office in a "wear blue jeans to work for Haiti relief" day.  No, not this Thursday, as Judge Holmes has approved, but Monday, February 15th.  From the newsletter:

"Here at SAO, staffers who have chosen to work on President's Day ... when the courthouse is closed, may wear blue jeans if they are not meeting the public."

Mr. Satz is really loosening up in his old age.  What's next, birthday cakes that don't say "Mr." before the recipient's last name?

O-2 - Help Me Howard Finkelstein struck out on jury duty.  First he was bounced from an insurance claim panel before Judge Pratt, then from a sex case panel before Judge Siegel.  We can't confirm, but rumor has it his co-prospective jurors directed their legal questions to him, instead of to the judges or attorneys.  The medium is the message, indeed ...

Gerald McGovern is free - after spending the weekend in jail, Judge Haimes reportedly ordered Pretrial to make it happen this morning.  Well done!

New courthouse name game - corporate sponsorships are being considered for the new courthouse development, to help defray the burden on taxpayers.  The Jetblue Justice Center?  Or maybe The Hallmark Halls of Justice?  (Too bad Barnum & Bailey's or Ringling Brothers don't rhyme)

Trrrrrranscript time - the Sentinel really came through.  Click here for the transcript in Lebow v. Rossman.  Now you can make the call - was Rossman woefully unprepared and contemptuous, or did Lebow blow it big-time out of proportion?  Everyone knows what Mike Mayo thinks already, so what do you say?


What did you think of this article?

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  • 2/9/2010 1:28 AM Mark wrote:
    ... and would you believe that my good friend Mike baked and iced it himself
  • 2/9/2010 1:28 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Is Holmes going to catch heat over this too? She's mentioned a few times.

    Why didn't the State have the evidence or copies when they announced ready?

    Didn't the delay given to the defense because one of the lawyer's was in trial on another case give the State more time to get its act together?

    The State looks bad on this one. You can't ham and egg a death case together.

    Dismissal seems harsh too. Maybe she should have made Rossman sleep on it in the BCJ instead of dismissal??

    Never a dull moment around here.
  • 2/9/2010 2:32 AM Anonymous wrote:
    I just read the entire transcript and Lebow has nothing to worry about. It's clear from reading the entire transcript that Lebow gave Rossman like a zillion opportunities to call a witness. She offered him the opportunity to recall witnesses. She offered him a lot of options, but Rossman only wanted one thing, a delay. He refused to give an opening statement, he refused to call a witness, even though at least 2 witnesses were available to testify. Rossman had to have known that his refusal would result in a JOA. Rossman should have proceeded. Jeopardy has attached and this case is over. Rossman can make whatever record he wants, but he comes across as a child having a temper tantrum and refusing to play ball.
  • 2/9/2010 3:14 AM Abuse of Discretion by Lebow wrote:
    Mayo has it right. A classic case of abuse of discretion by Lebow whose been on the bench way too long and who goofed up big time by tossing a case that with a little patience by the judge would have gone like any other case, to trial.

    I've had rather serious questions about Lebow among other things ever since she felt it necessary to bring her dog into the courthouse and it almost attacked another judge.
    What does that say about her ability to make decisions in a rational manner?

    More like she's been teetering on the edge for a while and this time she just went a little too far.

    Broward more than any other circuit in the sate is known for its poorly behaving judges, but Lebow has brought a new definition to the term.

    She needs to seriously think about retiring before she does something else.

    How is the victim's family supposed to feel about this off the wall reaction by a judge who let her lack of discretion throw this trial? I know how I'd feel watching this fiasco.
  • 2/9/2010 5:41 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Sorry, but Rossman looks very bad in all of this. I am more upset with his unpreparedness (motions in limine without any written motions?) than the judge's response. His actions were totally unreasonable and ultimately sealed the cases' fate. I think a bar complaint should be filed against Rossman for his willful refusal to proceed when ordered to do so by the judge.
  • 2/9/2010 5:45 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Maximum Morphonios would have JOA'ed the case and then thrown Rossman in jail. Grow a pair Rossman, will you! When life serves up lemons, make lemonade.
  • 2/9/2010 7:06 AM LEBOWS HALF BAKED wrote:
    To proceed on a First Degree Murder case with no evidence? Come on.

    Did Lebow ever even try a case before she became a judge?

    She looks like a total amature.

    71 pages of Lebow losing her cool trying to force a good lawyer to proceed in questioning a witness without evidence?
    She wouldn't even listen to Cavanaugh when he was supportive of Rossman's position which was the right one in this totally unnecessary drama.

    This is basic law school stuff. It's the State's burden to prove beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt the quilt of an individual accused of First Degree Murder charges without the evidence?

    Sorry, but Lebow sounds positively brain dead on this one. Can't imagine what was going through the judges' head. Time to move on to basket bowling 101.
  • 2/9/2010 7:26 AM seriously susan wrote:
    I'm with Rossman this one. I would have done exactly what he did. Its like Lebow is getting more paranoid by the page when she can't have her way or something. Time to switch meds maybe?
  • 2/9/2010 7:41 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Rossman is one of the finest attorneys in the SAs office. Why couldn't Lebow have just cooled her jets for another day? What's the crap about checking with another judge? Was she trying to spread the blame for her actions on this one?
  • 2/9/2010 7:50 AM Broward's Judges wrote:
    Remember Aleman trying to do the same thing when she called Gardiner for cover. As I recall Gardiner had a different memory of the incident.
    Lebow messed up. It's been coming. Judges should be limited to two terms on the bench before senility sets in.
  • 2/9/2010 8:02 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Agree with Mike Mayo after reading the transcript/ Rossman just caught Lebow on a bad day when she was overly prone to excessive episodic tantrum disorder. Its a very thin line.
  • 2/9/2010 8:29 AM Anonymous wrote:
    When the Court's schedule and attitude seem to take precedence over the fundamental guarantees of justice, it's time to start filling the sandbags.
    This seems like an attempt at so much railroad justice to me.
  • 2/9/2010 8:42 AM Guy Pines wrote:
    If Rossman is one of the "finest attorneys" in the SAO, it's time to clean that place out and hire some graduates from Clown College. His lack of preparation is appalling. Both he and "Annie" from the Clerk's Evidence Unit should be riding the back of a garbage truck in Yahoo Junction.
  • 2/9/2010 9:22 AM anonymous wrote:
    This transcript clearly proves the incompetence of Rossman. He had previously tried this same case TWICE, once in a mistrial then in a VOP hearing, then claimed he was unable to give an opening statement? Even worse, when Judge Lebow calls in the jury and directs him to make an opening, he then makes a statement blaming the judge for his inability to make the same opening he has made twice before. He makes this statement directly to the jury, clearly a direct criminal contempt. He appears to be deliberately attempting to denigrate the judge in front of the jury and/or cause a mistrial. With this transcript, Judge Lebow should issue a rule to show cause and consider jailing Rossman.
  • 2/9/2010 10:03 AM Betting line wrote:
    2-1 Lebow retires in April and gives the seat to the JNC
    3-1 Rossman runs against her
    4-1 Anyone else runs against her
    1,000,000 to 1 She wins reelection after these articles by Mayo. She is toast.
  • 2/9/2010 10:30 AM Anonymous wrote:
  • 2/9/2010 10:43 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Yeah, the voting public is going to read the transcript. They will read Mayo. She is toast.
  • 2/9/2010 10:46 AM Objective View wrote:
    Ok, so I actually sat down and read the 71 page transcript with my morning coffee and the Today show in the background.

    At the outset, I'll say I've never tried a capital case, so I'll defer to those lawyers on both the prosecution and defense side who have on this one.

    But I've had a few dozen jury trials go to verdict, and I've prepared at least 100+ more for trial that either didn't get to the jury, so the concept of preparation for trial is something I'm familiar with.

    So, as to Mr. Rossman.....WTF dude? I know you're one of the most seasoned and experienced homicide prosecutors in the office, but again....WTF?!?!?!

    I apparently prepare more for a small claims court trial than you did for this death penalty case.

    Should the public be concerned that a homicide prosecutor didn't spend the entire weekend looking at your evidence, preparing your arguments on Motions in Limine, and generally getting yourself ready for openings?

    I know that as a husband and father (let alone as an attorney), I am concerned that someone the State determines should be executed for a heinous crime is getting prosecuted by someone who figured he's thumb through the evidence the morning the case starts.

    I don't care if the Clerk sent you a memo written in blood promising the evidence in the case (some of which you acknowledge you thought might be missing and you didn't know whether it even was with the 4th DCA) was going to be delievered to your office in a silver platter with trumpeters leading the way.

    Why did you not alert the Court the Wednesday you learned about the evidence being in West Palm that you had ordered the materials and expected it to be there Monday, so the Court (not the in-court clerk) had some idea what was going on?

    Look, I understand that hindsight is 20/20, but again I'll ask.....WTF?!?!

    If this is how sloppily a death case could get prosecuted, I am more concerned for the safety of my family than ever before.

    For Christ's sake....if this guy wasn't already sentenced on the VOP (which is on appeal now and for all we know could get reversed), a guy who allegedly committed first degree murder and attempted murder on a second person could be hanging out in my neighborhood.

    From reading your words in this transcript, you should be bloody ashamed of the manner in which this case was prepped for trial. If you were a defense attorney and pulled this crap, you'd be assured of a bar complaint, a reversal for ineffective assistance, and a malpractice suit.

    All that being said, it certainly seems like there is a very good shot of this case coming back on appeal.

    Reversal of a JOA in circumstances like this would be nearly impossible. It's not like a judgment call on a JOA where the judge has to determine based on evidence presented and witnesses called whether a prima facie case has been made -- here the State cannot argue that issue.

    Next post coming.
  • 2/9/2010 10:57 AM Totally Unprepared wrote:
    Nobody to blame but yourself. Shocking u were so unprepared...pathetic. Get ready to call Haddad - really pathetic. That family was not served justice from the state. This hangs on your head and yours alone.
  • 2/9/2010 10:58 AM Objective View Part 2 wrote:
    So the question is -- did Judge Lebow abuse her discretion in not giving the 24 hour continuance requested.

    I still have to say that even thought the State appears clearly negligent (at best) in his preparation and handling the issue, Judge Lebow did abuse her discretion.

    Did Rossman commit contempt in his statement to the jury -- very possible. Were his comments (if he was screaming at the judge for 20 minutes as she states on the record) subject to a Rule to Show Cause -- very possible.

    But given that a continuance had been given to the Defense a week prior for 2 days (even after a jury was sworn) and given that it appears that the State was caught off guard (although due to their own neglect in large part) by the Clerk's failure (it IS the Clerk's job to control this evidence and transport it per the State's request) to "deliver the goods" for trial, I don't see how this was not an abuse of the trial judge's discretion.

    Assume that the clerk responsible for the transporting of the evidence to court was en route to deliver the items and got into an accident along the way (this is analogous since the Clerk controls the evidence, had received a request the week before, and due to inadvertence or negligence on the Clerk's part, didn't deliver the items as requested -- essentially, an accident), would the Court have said -- "Mr. Rossman, this is your issue and start your case"? I would hope not.

    If I had to bet a day's pay on this, I'd say this case comes back faster than the 4th decides the appeal of the VOP.

    The parties that should feel the most abused are the alleged victim (surviving) and the deceased's family, and the people of Broward County. No matter where you look, they (and we) all got hosed.

    On the one hand, we got a slipshod prosecution where he was relying on a clerk to get him his crucial death penalty case evidence to look at the morning of the trial (I will again ask WTF?!?!?).

    On the other hand, the defense would have suffered no prejudice for the 24 hour continuance, did not oppose it at the outset, and we had a judge who determined that a jury spending an extra day to determine whether someone is guilty of capital murder wasn't worth the inconvenience of having them spend that day.

    I would wager that if the jury were asked (although it could never happen) -- "There was an inadvertent error and the evidence in this case wasn't delivered, and won't be here until tomorrow. Would you be willing to accomodate the extra day so you can determine whether a murder was committed......", most would say yes. Or at least I hope they would.

    This was a tragedy that could have been avoided by the State by a little bit of due diligence on someone's part, but it could have also been avoided by the Court doing what was the right thing rather than what was just the most expedient (hold Rossman in contempt if need be, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater).

    I look forward to the 4th DCA opinion on this.
  • 2/9/2010 11:26 AM Very well written wrote:
    Very well thought out and explained, while I do disagree in some respects, your point is very well taken. Rossman should have done more prep work and not relied head over heels on the clerk. However, word is that he was assured on multiple occasions that the evidence would be here. None-the-less he should have followed up. However, the Court should not have acted in such a manner. Clearly her personal agenda got in the way of justice in this matter. This is evidenced by Mayo's column were it seems that a juror was asked the question and agreed that she would not have had a problem coming back the next day on this case. Therefore, the thought that it would have inconvenienced the jury is not a valid one, as jury seems to be on board with the one day delay. Hence, what was the Court's motive? That is the more interesting question. It is no secret that Judge Lebow has been known in these parts as "Let Em Go Lebow." The difference being, that usually she finds a legal way to get what she wants. Clearly not the case here. So why this case? Why now? Is it because she had a bad day? Is it because she has a personal issue against Rossman? Is it because she has an issue with the SAO in general? Is it because her ego got the better of her? These are the more interesting dabatable questions. For my part I also look forward to the 4th's opinion... and let's face it, no matter which way this goes it will likely end up in Tallahassee.
  • 2/9/2010 11:32 AM High Expectations wrote:
    This blog is often entertaining, funny, irreverant, etc.

    I hope that there will be some entertaining posts on this thread.

    But given the gravity of what occured, and knowing that 95% of the people who post here are lawyers, for once can we have a reasoned discussion on this topic rather than the usual personal attacks, name-calling, etc.

    The victims of this crime (whether committed by this defendant or someone else) deserve it.

    Then we can go back afterwards to the usual stuff!
  • 2/9/2010 12:03 PM Anonymous wrote:
    To me the tanscript crystalizes a major ongoing problem.

    The SAO is often ill prepared.

    They are usually supported by the judges to cover their tracks. They therefore become used to it and feel entitled to the protection.

    The arrogance of Rossman in this matter is indicative of the problem. Although the family feels cheated, to blame Lebow is misplaced. This is clearly SAO fault at play. To announce ready without evidence and to willfully disobey to remedy the situation by opening on a case of this magnitude is reprehensible. He should have opened and pursued interlocutory appelate remedies which he didn't try because he knew he screwed up royally.

    This man should be taken off all cases of this magnitude until he relearns basic trial practice.
  • 2/9/2010 12:10 PM Ghost of FLS wrote:
    Who needs evidence? This is Broward!
  • 2/9/2010 12:39 PM Hurley to Circuit wrote:
    Judge Hurley would never have made the bonehead move Lebow made. I wish he was in Circuit. Things are going to change for sure when Seidman gets to Circuit.
  • 2/9/2010 2:09 PM Read the transcript wrote:
    I read the entire transcript. The Judge was correct and covered her butt. The ASA was woefully unprepared.

    Bad result for the victims family and politically not a great move for the judge, but if YOU ACTUALLY READ the transcript, I side with the judge on this one. The ASA looks really bad.
  • 2/9/2010 2:21 PM Anonymous wrote:
    truth is that those making predictions of 4th dca decision are merely guessing. predictions of lebow reversal sound identical to predictions relating to brian blades case 15 years ago. 4th laughed state out of courtshouse in blades case. appellate result is probably a coin flip depending on panel. more disturbing issue is why sao would allow case to be put on such thin ice and risk losing case. most interesting question is whether rossman told satz of battle with lebow before jao. if rossman did tell satz, did satz condone rossman's antics? if rossman did not tell satz, what has satz done to discipline rossman. this could be satz' political nightmare and not lebow's.
  • 2/9/2010 2:24 PM veteran civil lawyer wrote:
    Both sides look bad.I think Lebow looks a little worse because she made a bad situation worse. Why was it such an emergency to go to trial that minute; sure the SAO was lame, but why compound the errors? (it is always a big deal when the judge is ready but one side or the other is not ready; but the same judge has no problem knocking off early, failing to show up at all etc.
  • 2/9/2010 3:25 PM Anonymous wrote:
    Run Jay, run, run against Susie Lebow, you'll win.
  • 2/9/2010 4:29 PM Anonymous wrote:
    the 4th will be ripping both of them a new u know what
  • 2/9/2010 4:46 PM Rossman Wrong wrote:
    You want your answer to who was wrong? Ask yourself...if an attorney pulled that s*it in Federal Court, what would happen?
  • 2/9/2010 4:52 PM Boss of the Year wrote:
    Gee, what a great guy Satz is to work for. Jeans to work when the courthouse is already closed???? Woohoo!!! Where can I submit my resume?
  • 2/9/2010 5:32 PM Who's going to go after Susie wrote:
    Before dismissing the charges, Lebow said: "I have to do what I have to do."

    If this is what a judge has to do, the scales of justice need recalibrating.

    Michael Mayo can be reached at mmayo@SunSentinel.com.
  • 2/9/2010 7:44 PM Yeah Right... wrote:
    Seidman in Circuit! hahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I think not!!
  • 2/10/2010 1:18 PM Anonymous wrote:
    You said you read the transcript. Do you read English?

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