There are lots of things you can do by virtue of your job as a circuit court judge.You can (in no particular order of importance- and BTW the following is not directed at any particular judge…if the robe fits…)
Deny motions without reading them; have your JA refuse to put motions on calendar without lawyers first faxing them to you (although you don’t read them); start court whenever you want; show up late; finish court whenever you want; make juries stay until midnight in a misguided effort to show everyone how hard you work; lecture lawyers from the bench about how you tried every case you had within sixty days of inception (in other words, lie); brag about how you are on the short list for an appointment to a higher court (ditto); and otherwise feel that you and only you stand between the rule of law and anarchy.
Here’s what you must do: follow the law.
Which means here’s what you can’t do:
Have your bailiff close your courtroom to anyone at anytime without proper notice to the media and a hearing on an issue; tell people how to dress when they come to court (wearing a shirt that says “fuck you” has been held to be an expression of free speech under the First Amendment – which is part of the Constitution, which is a legal document that defines the ….oh never mind it’s a bit complicated.)
You also CANNOT take personal property of people, without following Florida’s Forfeiture Statute (and it’s not entirely clear a member of the judiciary can be a “seizing agency” under the statute. ). Which means that in order to seize the personal property of an individual, there must be an allegation that the property was used to violate Florida’s contraband laws; see, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 932.703 (West)
(1)(a) Any contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, may be seized and shall be forfeited subject to the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Contraband is defined as, inter alia:
5. Any personal property, including, but not limited to, any vessel, aircraft, item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, securities, books, records, research, negotiable instruments, or currency, which was used or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of, any felony, whether or not comprising an element of the felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 932.701 (West)y
So, oh wise robed one, pray tell what felony is the person who brings a cell phone into your courtroom, and listens to something on the cellphone with earphones, or takes a picture or video recording of court proceedings, committing?
We will save you research (which is where you open a book and read a case and ….never mind, it’s complicated)- THERE IS NO FELONY THAT ANYONE IS COMMITTING WHEN THEY LISTEN TO HEADPHONES IN YOUR COURTROOM OR VIDEO OR PHOTOGRAPH THE PROCEEDINGS.
We often see a representative of the media taking footage of a proceeding. David Ovalle (Miami Herald/San Diego Chargers) has been known to whip out a camera and take a few shots. We don’t see your bailiff wresting David to the ground or taking away his camera. There are no exceptions for the media (nor being a fan of a losing football team) that confers upon Mr. Ovalle an exception not available to us, our client, our client’s girlfriend or aunt or friend.
Sorry. We know this offends your sense of dignity. We know you believe yourself to be mostly all powerful. But you are not. We are a nation of rules and laws. We are a State of rules and laws. And to quote the last part of the standard jury instruction in criminal cases, “no one of us has the right to violate those laws.”
So take the damn sign down.
Now, no one is telling you that you don’t have the right to remove individuals (not a class of people) from your courtroom for being disruptive or disturbing. Of course you can. People must be quiet so you can make the important decisions you make. And you have contempt powers for people who do not follow the lawful rules of the court. But if we choose to sit quietly in the back of your courtroom and video your wise decisions during arraignments, (“deny bond, set the case for trial”- truly awe inspiring stuff) while quietly listening to NWA on a pair of headsets, there really isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.
‘The gift of parenting children is the single greatest blessing and experience an individual can enjoy in life. Therefore to me, parenting rights are not a “special rights” concern; they are a “human rights” concern. So, I want to ask where you stand on an important political issue: Family Law Reform. As you may or may not be aware, our current system of Family Law has devolved into one in which a whole host of Family Court Industry players are profiteering from the minimization or elimination of parenting time and rights for non-custodial parents. Many custodial parents, lawyers, parenting plan evaluators, supervised parenting services, States, friends of the Court social workers, many Courts, and others; are making money by using children as an excuse to exploit non-custodial parents, causing irreparable harm to both children and their parents in the process. I, and a rapidly growing base of many others, would like this to stop.
More specifically, we are asking for five primary reforms to Family Law: The presumption of 50/50 custody and parenting rights during and after divorce. We are NOT asking for a REQUIREMENT of 50/50, because we still want parents to be able to decide for themselves what works best for them. However, in the event that case goes to trial, instead of having the NCP being forced to rise to a high standard to show why they should have time with their children, I believe it’s far healthier (for both parents and children) for the parent contesting this time to be required to rise to a high standard to show why the NCP should NOT have equal time with their children. And while this may dramatically hit the financial accounts of those who are using children for profit by creating or aggravating conditions of conflict, this reform will affect far healthier outcomes for families. I would like reforms to child support calculations. More specifically, an elimination of financial incentives for minimizing or eliminating a non-custodial parent’s time with their little ones. As it sits now, there are basically two pieces to the child support calculation: (1) An actual physical needs worksheet, and (2) A tax-free income redistribution; with the Court establishing the higher of the two as the child support order. I recognize that custodial parents may need some time to adjust after divorce, and I have no problems with alimony/maintenance. However, I would like the alimony portion of child support to be eliminated. If a CP wants to better their lifestyle, they can put the work into bettering themselves just like NCP’S are often admonished to do. Children are NOT tax-free income producing assets, and NCP’s are NOT indentured servants. Reforms to child support enforcement: If one wants to accomplish a goal, it helps establish good or helpful conditions to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, the Family Court has become accustomed to pathological and often draconian measures for enforcement in which the civil rights of NCP’s are systematically ignored or eliminated through administrative court procedures. If a person loses their job, or becomes ill or disabled, it makes no sense what so ever, to take away their driver’s license, vocational license, destroy their credit, throw them in jail, or force them into homelessness. How does this help to ensure the support gets caught-up? It doesn’t. It simply makes the problem worse and sets the non-custodial parent up for future, life-destroying failures.