A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Health Care Reform And Public Defenders

I'm one of those sitting back watching the health care reform debate and shaking my head. So many lies, so many idiots. Not a single intelligent debate is to be had anywhere.

The town hall meetings are an orchestrated joke. That the media claims some of these screaming nuts are actually "scared of what's going to happen to their health care," is a disgrace. Not one of these chanting nut jobs has read any health care legislation or knows a single detail of possible reform. They're no different than the people standing at the polls on election day who for a sandwich and a few dollars are touting a certain candidate, and wearing their shirt.

So maybe we can have a somewhat lucid debate here.

Let's agree that the rich will always have better everything. Better cars, better food, better housing, and they'll get richer (the rich get richer, that's how you say it, right?)

Now when it comes to lawyers and doctors, that's a matter of perception.

When celebrities and general "rich" people "get off," it's only because they "paid for justice." If any celebrity or "rich" person was represented by any of our great public defenders, we would, well, not know what to say.

We, meaning the same idiots that are paraded into town hall meetings, assume that private lawyers are great and public defenders suck.

We also assume (we meaning those ignorant maniacs attending town hall meetings) that our health care is great (if we have it) and anything else, well, will kill us.

So here's my question, bear with me:

When someone is arrested, they have options. If they can't afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to them (you all watch Law & Order, you know). If you can afford one, hire one. Certain lawyers are in private practice. Some are in private practice but take court appointed cases, and some work as full time public defenders.

Why can't we have a health care system like this?

The government creates a basic health care plan. It's not great, but it's there. They open a few hundred clinics across the country and staff them with doctors (some of the 50% of doctors who say they want out of medicine because they're not making money) Pay those doctors a decent salary.

Then, have some doctors sign on to take some of these patients in their private practice. These are akin to the private lawyers that take court appointed cases. The doctors that don't want to participate, can take care of the "rich" that have health care policies.

I know this is a terrible idea and there's 1,000 reasons why it will never work, but one thing I've noticed through this entire debate is that no alternative plan has been proposed. I assume then that those against health care reform just want things to stay the same. Yes? No?

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Monday, August 17, 2009

In Houston, Criminal Defense Lawyer Andy Nolen Is The Best. Everyone Else Sucks

It's a new world folks. No longer does a criminal defense lawyer, or any lawyer, have to actually be "good." All they have to do is to pretend to be "good" or the "best" on the internet. Potential clients trolling the internet instead of getting referrals from people don't know the difference, and don't care. Their goal, the best and cheapest, not necessarily in that order.

Those searching Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers are quickly convinced that Houston's Andy Nolen is the best. This is a lawyer that's got the whole internet thing down. And he's the best, at everything. He's got much of the Texas Code scurrying around his website so that almost any legal problem leads you to him.

His Yahoo.com review page is filled with an outpouring (except one) of unbelievable reviews

Andy's background is, well, I write, you decide. He lists as his qualifications to be the best Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer that he was an Intern at the Harris County District Attorney's Office, had another Internship at the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice Inmate Legal Services, and....... was in the Top 8% for....the.....Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

I mean, Andy does have some awesome ways of doing things. According to Andy, his charging of flat rate fees "...has had the effect of increasing the number of cases I get


Andy also will tell the prosecutor what he doesn't really think: "Even if I think your case is very weak, I will still try to persuade the D.A. that the case is horrible and should be dismissed."

It also appears that whatever you want, Andy will get it for you: "Often, there can be negotiated a variety of outcomes in any particular criminal case. That's why I take the time to explain the consequences of each choice and find out the needs and wants of my clients. Then I go get them the result they want."

I wish I could tell my clients that. I'm sure all the crappy Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers, awash in their desire to be as as great as Andy, could do the same.

In discussing what to wear to court, Andy also has a nickname for certain clients: "Advanced Game Players." (wonder where he got that term......?)


See how the prosecutors judges, and court
staff are dressed and imitate them! They will
think your the best dressed defendant, I
promise you!

And then there's this. A Yahoo.com review page of some of Houston's good and great criminal lawyers. But on this page, where Andy Nolen is touted as the lawyer to hire, the others all suck.

Coincidence? I'm laughing too.

He also claims that Yahoo and Google think he's the best Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer. The text reads: "From the website of Andy Nolen, who practices in the Harris County ... BY GOOGLE AND YAHOO AS ONE OF HOUSTON'S: BEST CRIMINAL ATTORNEYS" Funny thing is, I didn't know Yahoo and Google gave such titles. Perhaps someone from Google and Yahoo can weigh in here, and with the Texas Bar.

Andy's reviews are amazing. Also amazing is that all the lawyers he practices with in Houston, someof which I personally know to be outstanding criminal defense lawyers, suck when compared to Andy.

And out comes the dirty little secret: Want business? Trash the competition. When someone comes in your office and you want the case, claim you've never heard of the other lawyer mentioned by the potential client (even if you just had coffee with him earlier that day). If a potential client mentions another lawyer, say "I didn't know he did criminal cases." Our friend Andy is just "lucky" I guess that his reviews on Yahoo make clear that there is no one else to hire in Houston, not even the lawyers with stellar reputations.

Now all is not perfect in Andy's internet world of marketing his practice:

As is seen here: "Would not recommend this attorney. Retained him for criminal case, paid him and after several resets, he stood us up in court. Never showed. Called, emailed, etc several times to find out why and where he was, and he has yet to return anything, including my money! I will be reporting him to the bar assoc and any other so called assoc he claims to be a member of. Leaving us stranded without any representation should not be tolerated and taking our money is theft.

Now I understand that the Texas Bar's Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct have "Integrity" spelled wrong on page 2 but that's no reason for Texas lawyers not to have any.

There's only two possibilities here: 1. Andy did this. 2. Someone working on Andy's internet charade did this. Doesn't matter. Andy has to do something about it, now."

Will he?

Oh, and Andy, if you're going to list your case results on your page, you may want to explain why you've had no results since 2007, and how you've never lost a case.


Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Sex Offender Game, Our Disgrace

For those that haven't heard, there's a bunch of sex offenders living under a bridge in Miami. Not a bridge in the middle of the Everglades, but a pretty bridge that goes to a pretty place (Miami Beach, or what you millions of tourists refer to as "South Beach.") where pretty people spend pretty money.

Now there's a lawsuit. City versus State.

Yesterday the State tried to move the case out of Miami, to Tallahassee, way up in North Florida where people are perfectly fine to have sex offenders living under a bridge in Miami.

It's ok to have sex offenders living under a bridge, as long as the chamber of commerce can hide it, and the media pays no attention. Not here in Miami where unfortunately for the "leaders" of our community, they're stuck trying to fix it. Now mind you, most people are outraged that these sex offenders are living under a bridge, instead of in prison for the rest of their lives.

It's fun watching the problem grow while leaders punt. Not a single politician wants to fix this, because it's like reforming health care. There are many good, sound ideas, that no one wants to hear.

Every comment regarding the inhumane treatment of sex offenders is met with "what if it happened to your daughter?"

Thankfully it's not just a "criminal justice system" problem. It's now a "Welcome to Miami" problem.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The AG Speaks About Reforming Criminal Justice, And Now, American Idol

This past Monday at the ABA annual meeting, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of things that anyone practicing in the criminal justice system, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges, know to be true.

The entire speech is here. You should read it. All of it.

He made much sense. He spoke the truth. Politicians everywhere are fearing the possibilities. Today's politician gets elected on one issue - public safety. Public safety means putting people in jail, period.

No one in the general public really cares, nor will much change. No one around my courthouse is even talking about what he said. How about yours?

He said that "too often our public debates about law enforcement policy become mired in rhetoric or recrimination, when they instead should focus on reform and on identifying innovative solutions to our common problems."

Reform? Isn't that what building more prisons is all about?

"We must move beyond the narrow parameters that have constrained our nation’s debate about criminal justice policy over the last several decades. There is no doubt that we must be "tough on crime." But we must also commit ourselves to being 'smart on crime." "It is time to move past politics and ideology, and to move forward to a criminal justice system that is predicated on the fact that we need it to be fair and effective. In sum, we need to adopt what works."

Question: how does moving beyone narrow parameters of the guilty should all rot in jail and instead adopting what works, like rehabilitation, get politicians elected?

"Getting smart on crime requires talking openly about which policies have worked and which have not. And we have to do so without worrying about being labeled as too soft or too hard on crime. Getting smart on crime means moving beyond useless labels and catch-phrases, and instead relying on science and data to shape policy."

Ut-oh. We're not going to have to talk about "career or sex offenders, are we?" We're not going to have to put money in to public safety that is effective in preventing crime? We're not going to have to help those who are released back into society from prison (most)?

"Many lawmakers in the 1980s responded (to the increase in violent crime) by declaring, in rhetoric and through legislation, that we needed to get "tough on crime." States passed truth-in-sentencing and three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws. Some state parole boards became more cautious, while other states eliminated discretionary parole altogether. And the federal government adopted severe mandatory minimum sentencing laws, eliminated parole, and developed the federal sentencing guidelines."

Oh no, we're not going to look at those things? What am I going to say in my campaign mailer, that I've done anything about education or healthcare?

"The federal government and the states spent billions of dollars for new prison construction to house the rapidly increasing number of persons convicted or sentenced under these policies. The results were dramatic. The number of inmates in American prisons increased seven-fold from 1970 to the present. Today, one out of every 100 adults in America is incarcerated – the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Don't say that Eric. That just causes people to look closer at our prison spending, and, well, we just can't have that debate. Prisons=jobs=politicians look damn good.

"....just as everyone should agree that incarceration is – and will continue to be – part of the answer, everyone should also agree that it is not the whole answer. And so, we at the Department of Justice will continue to put the people who threaten our communities where they belong – behind bars. But we will also recognize that imprisonment alone is not a complete strategy for enforcing our nation’s criminal laws, and we will act on that fact."

Can't wait. Pardon me if I just carry on with my practice without holding out much hope for a visable reduction in those incarcerated after a conviction, for anything.

"Many jurisdictions simply cannot afford the monetary costs of focusing exclusively on incarceration, to say nothing of the social costs associated with high rates of imprisonment."

Oh Eric, there's always money for jail. Always.

So what can we do to lower the crime rate further, to make American communities safer, and to get smarter on crime? We need to add new tools and new strategies to our existing efforts to fight crime. One of these strategies is to look several steps past the point where we put people in prison, and to consider what happens to those people after they leave prison and reenter society.

"We know that offenders who have participated in the federal Bureau of Prisons’ residential drug abuse treatment program are 16% less likely to be re-arrested, have their supervision revoked, and be returned to prison, than similar inmates who did not receive such treatment before their reentry into society. They are also less likely to use drugs once released. We also know that inmates who work in prison industries – which operate at no cost to the taxpayer – are 24% less likely to commit crimes again, than inmates who do not work in the program. The Bureau of Prisons’ programs designed to address educational deficiencies – ranging from Adult Basic Education to high school level classes – are also effective in reducing recidivism. Inmates who participate in these programs are 16% less likely to commit crime again compared to those who do not. And inmates who are released through halfway houses are more likely to be gainfully employed, and therefore less likely to commit crimes again, than inmates who are released from prison directly into the community."

Oh no, programs? Can we still use the "those bums get cable TV" talking points?

Here's the punch line: (Hold the laughter)

"In other words, being smart on crime means understanding that our work to prevent crime does not end when prison time begins. It means working to develop policies – rooted in data – to address what happens after incarceration in order to prevent the next crime before it occurs." Under my watch, the Department of Justice will likewise embrace modern, evidence-based methods to drive our policy-making process as well as our enforcement efforts to protect our fellow citizens.

"One specific area where I know we can do a much better job is the way in which we deal with non-violent drug offenders. We know that people convicted for drug possession or for the sale of small quantities of drugs compose a significant portion of the prison population."

Yeah, but I thought that was a lie. My politicians tell me that all drug offenders in prison are actually very violent people, or will be if we let them out. Especially if we let them out a few months early.

"Although this Administration is still in its first months, we have already started to implement a data-driven, non-ideological approach to crime. For example, I have asked the Deputy Attorney General to conduct a comprehensive, evidence-based review of federal sentencing and corrections policy. Specifically, the group is examining the federal sentencing guidelines, the Department’s charging and sentencing advocacy practices, mandatory minimums, crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparities, and racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing. The group is also studying alternatives to incarceration, and strategies that help reduce recidivism when former offenders reenter society. We intend to use the group’s findings as a springboard for recommending new legislation that will reform the structure of federal sentencing.

Oh Eric, you are dreaming.

"We no longer must choose between more prisoners or more crime: we can reduce our dependence on incarceration and we can reduce crime rates. At the same time we can increase the integrity of our criminal justice system."

I can't wait.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Saturday, August 01, 2009

When Public Safety Trumps Justice

There is a common thread that runs through any discussion of lying cops. First we start with the premise that cops lie. Then someone says "well not all cops lie," or "yeah, but those are isolated incidents." Then the discussion of dash cams and recorded interrogations begins with someone invariably saying "we need to trust the cops."

There are those who don't trust cops, period, and there are those who believe that hey, if a cop lies to get a "bad guy" off the street, so what?

The most recent discussion began with this video of what is nothing less than a conspiracy to obstruct justice. It was not done in a murder case or a multi-defendant drug trafficking case, but a DUI case. A misdemeanor DUI case.

Here's the question: Is this the first time, in the history of law enforcement, that this has happened?

Of course not.

It goes on all the time, unrecorded, disputed by prosecutors and ignored by judges, and all in the name of "public safety." How many times does a criminal defense lawyer hear stories like this only to hear the client say, "but no one will believe me over the cop."

They're right.

Then we have to move the discussion to "but cops put their life on the line every day, and never know when some gun-toting asshole will put a bullet in their head." True.

I just never understood the comparison.

This is not about "public safety." It's about "justice."

This comment I read says it all: "It's a tough call for me because lying about drugs & guns does take them off the street but violates personal freedom."

There you go. That's where we are.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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