Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Judge's Legacy: Jailing A Lawyer

I often wonder if judges think about their legacy.

Sometimes I walk in a courtroom and it becomes clear to me that there are judges who could care less about their legacy. We in Miami criminal court recently lost Judge Manny Crespo. People were downright emotional. His legacy? One of the nicest guys on the planet. Oh yeah, he was tough on defendants, but just a sweet, sweet man. No one remembers how many cases he cleared from his docket, or how many motions he granted or denied, just that he was a wonderful man.

That's his legacy.

Ft. Lauderdale Judge Cheryl Aleman will also have her legacy, having already earned the following press during her tenure:

"Aleman earned the lowest marks among the candidates in a recent Broward County Bar Association poll. Almost half of the attorneys responding deemed her "not qualified."

And then there's this:

"Florida Judge Refuses Early Release For Inmate Dying of Aids"

Judge Aleman recently won a new 6-year term in 2004, or as they like to say in political circles, "is on the fat side of 6."

Judge Aleman made a decision this week that will surely be a part of her legacy, and be discussed for years to come; she jailed a criminal defense lawyer for not appearing for trial for the second time in a month on the same case.

The newest headline for Judge Aleman:

"Controversial Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman had Adam Katz handcuffed and jailed without bond after finding him in contempt of court when he failed to show up, for the second time in a month, for the trial of a client accused of felony driving with a revoked license."

The sentence? A night in jail? A weekend? No, 60 days.

In Aleman's defense, this lawyer has done this before, and been ordered to undergo an evaluation for substance abuse by another judge.

But c'mon! This lawyer may have a substance abuse problem and this is what is done? How about probation, fines, community service, a meeting in chambers with a threat to send him to the Bar in 72 hours if he doesn't get help?

How about some damn compassion and fairness?

That would be a wonderful legacy.