Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Judges

Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

In response to my recent post, "New Year's Resolutions for Young Lawyers," I have been asked to turn the focus around to the bench and suggest a set of resolutions for jurists.  Here are my suggestions:

#1.  Always bear in mind that you are a servant of the law and not a ruler over the people who appear before you.

#2.  Come to the bench on time and prepared to make rulings on all matters before you.

#3.  Do not let your ego become engaged in any matter.

#4.  Always be polite and listen carefully to those who appear before you.

#5.  Do not make gratuitous comments or statements.

#6.  Base all of your rulings on the law, and not on emotion.

#7.  Be patient and understanding with young attorneys, and encourage them to grow.

#8.  Be patient and understanding with older attorneys, and encourage them to be respectful toward the court and their fellow attorneys.

#9.  Teach the attorneys who come before you that they are counselors first, and litigators second.

#10.  Issue written orders without undue delay, and ensure that the parties receive copies.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Young Lawyers

Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

Some people believe in New Year's Resolutions; some do not.  I think that it can be a very good thing for one to regroup at year's end and make a fresh start, especially in the case of a young professional.  With this in mind, the following are my suggested New Year's resolutions for young lawyers:

#1. Commit yourself to your own professional and career development.

#2. Master the rules of evidence and procedure.

#3. Improve your writing skills.

#4. Strengthen your relationships with your clients and your fellow lawyers.

#5. Master a new legal skill and become the go-to person for that skill.

#6. Sharpen your time management skills.

#7. If in a small firm or partnership, make marketing a top priority.

#8. Get involved with your local community, as pro bono or volunteer.

#9. Make it a priority to take care of your health and well being.

#10. Always come to court on time, fully prepared, and be on your best behavior.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Comment: Florida's Prison Diversion Statute, Section 921.00241

Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

Notwithstanding section 921.0024, Fla. Stat., and effective for offenses committed after July 1, 2009, a court may divert from the state correctional system a defendant who would otherwise be sentenced to a state facility by sentencing the defendant to a nonstate prison sanction as provided in section 921.00241(2).1 A defendant may be sentenced to a nonstate prison sanction if the offender meets all of the following criteria:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Comment: Miller, Graham, and Resentencing of Juveniles Sentenced Under Mandatory Sentencing Schemes

Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

Miller v. Alabama1 provides little guidance on how to proceed with resentencing juveniles convicted under mandatory sentencing schemes. Under Miller, while a sentence of life without parole remains constitutional in homicide cases, the sentencing court must be free to impose a lesser sentence when the defendant’s youth or the circumstances of the crime so indicate. Florida Statutes, however, do not currently provide for lesser sentences in first-degree murder cases. Miller has thus opened a breach in Florida’s sentencing statutes. The rule adopted by the First and Third Districts has been for the court to exercise restraint and for the parties to make their case before the trial court, where testimony may be taken, evidence presented, and argument made on all material issues to include the potential range of sentencing options.2

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sentencing for Unlawful Filing of False Documents or Records Against Real or Personal Property

Handcuffs_Transparent_PNG_by_AbsurdWordPreferredby Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

At the end of April, 2013, the Florida Legislature passed, and has sent on to the Governor for signature, Senate Bill 112, a tough new law aimed at fully criminalizing the filing of false documents or records against real or personal property, and revising penalties for criminal actions under color of law or through use of simulated legal process. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law in due course.  If signed by the Governor, the law will take effect on October 1, 2013.

There is a perception among more than a few prosecutors and civil attorneys that fraud is widespread in the civil courts, especially in the area of property litigation and that there is little to be done about it. SB 112 is a response to such concerns and is directed at a variety of fraudulent practices being perpetrated in civil court. The bill is directed, in particular, at the practice of filing false financial statements and bogus liens against the property of public officials and employees.1 While the bill is aimed primarily at non-lawyers and pro se litigants, the provisions of the proposed law are applicable to unscrupulous lawyers as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lecture at the 2013 FACDL Board Certification Review Seminar

On Friday, April 12, 2013, I lectured on Florida sentencing law at the Florida Association of Crimnal Defense Lawyers annual Board Certification Review Seminar. This year's seminar was held at the Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel, and the event was packed. The seminar is a two-day event and is the best review of federal and state criminal law held in Florida. It is also an excellent opportunity to CLE credits. In support of the lecture, I prepared for the attendees a 212-page summary of the basic law of sentencing in Florida, a copy of the latest Florida Department of Corrections Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet Preparation Manual, and a copy of the PowerPoint slides I used. All three of these materials have been posted to Scribd at my Florida Sentencing account. The following is a video of the lecture, edited for a length of less than one hour.