| Read Time: 2 minutes | Politics

Top Ten Thoughts on Coronavirus (Legal Edition)

10.  Lawyers don’t seem to understand that the quarantine doesn’t mean the dress code goes out the door.  I know working from home is new for us attorneys and appearing via video conference is foreign, but did it really take a judge to write a letter regarding appropriate work attire.  For some reason there were lawyers appearing on video conference who were wearing casual shirts (ok, not really ideal but not crazy), a beach cover-up (unless you’re hoping to distract the judge from your poor legal argument this seems to be a bad idea), and finally the guy who appears shirtless (he either has the confidence of a super hero or has zero fucks left to give). 9.  I love that Judges are now making available virtual pre-trial conferences.  I know 9Th Judicial Circuit Judge Harris has been doing this for a while.  Makes you wonder why it took a worldwide pandemic to make this procedure nearly universal. 8.  Indecent exposure is still a crime.  COVID-19≠No Laws.  Apparently, a person in Taneytown needed that reminder.  The local police department posted in Facebook “Please remember to put pants on before leaving the house to check your mailbox.  You know who you are. This is your final warning.” On a side note, when I first heard this story, I assumed like everyone else did, must have happened in Florida.  So on behalf of all Floridians, thank you Maryland. 7.  Harvey Weinstein thought he was getting out of jail because of coronavirus. 6.  Michael Avenatti IS actually getting out of jail because of coronavirus. 5.  On a more serious note, Florida needs to amend statute 947.149, Conditional Medical Release.  A person sentenced to prison in a federal case who is at higher risk of complication from COVID-19 has a vehicle to allow a judge to amend their sentence to terminate incarceration or place on house arrest.  It is part of the recently passed First Steps Act in a section on Compassionate Release.  The Florida statute doesn’t allow for this and places many vulnerable people at risk of severe illness or death.  Our prisons were not built to handle or treat a pandemic and our judiciary should have the ability to address certain inmates with preexisting medical or age-related conditions.  4.  Are law students around the country just faking internet issues if their professor calls on them to explain the Rule in Shelley’s Case? 3.  President Donald Trump is looking into a pardon for Joe Exotic. 2.  Stay at home orders were implemented to enforce social distancing.  People are getting arrested and sent to jails. You know, places where people are crammed into small cells and can’t stay six feet apart much less self-isolate.  Issue a fine, ok. Issue a criminal notice to appear, maybe. Take to jail, dumb and counterproductive. 1.  Under Governor Desantis’s Stay at Home Order, lawyers are essential.   However, my wife can’t say lawyers are “essential” without putting air quotes around the term.

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 2 minutes | Orlando News

Florida Felons Win Their Voting Rights Back….or Did They??

On November 6, 2018 Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment which automatically restores the right to vote to 1.4 million individuals with felony convictions. Amendment 4 (Initiative Information) restores the right to vote for people with felony convictions upon completion of the terms of their sentence, including probation and parole.  The amendment does not apply to individuals convicted of murder or felony sexual offense. The amendment went into effect on January 8, 2019.  It was a popular and overwhelmingly successful amendment. But, the new amendment is threatened with politics, policy and certain limitations. Florida House of Representatives voted to advance a new bill (HB 7089) that would block certain convicted felons from their right to vote. ( Florida House of Representatives – Documents   The House Bill 7089 would require felons who have completed their jail terms to pay all fines and fees associated with their case BEFORE regaining the right to vote.  Basically, if you are Florida felon and have completed your jail time you have to pay all your fees and court costs before your right to vote is restored.  What does this really mean to Florida felons?  Essentially, Florida is a state that maintains more than 115 different types of fines, fees and surcharges which can be assessed against defendants in court cases, including those involving traffic violations, according to an analysis by the Fines and Fees Justice Center, based in New York. That’s the second-largest number of fines, fees and surcharges assessed anywhere in the country.   Florida Lawmakers who support this new bill say they are simply clarifying what the Amendment actually means by clearly defining that an individual completes their terms of probation or parole when all their fines and fees that have been assessed by the court are paid off.  Opponents argue that this essentially blocks most individuals from restoring their right to vote because most felons coming straight out of jail are not able to pay back all their fines and fees. The bill was supposed to go to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk to decide whether to sign the bill, let it become law, or issue a veto. Gov. Desantis would have signed this bill and made it law, however the bill passed in the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate.  The bill failed to pass in the Senate before the legislature adjourned on May 3, 2019.  Contact Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law for your criminal defense needs.

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 2 minutes | Orlando News

Restoration of Voting Rights Federal Case

Florida’s continued punishment of felons long after they have served out their sentence has become a hot button issue.  We discussed restoration of felon voting rights back in August of 2016 and this topic has continued to be argued in our state ever since then.  In fact, Florida voters will have the opportunity to allow the restoration of felon voting rights on the November 6, 2018 ballot.  This is big news and very important. Now a Federal Judge has examined the restoration of voting rights in Florida and has found it to be unconstitutional.  Judge Mark Walker found that Florida’s current scheme for “re-enfranchisement” violates both the First Amendment rights to free association and expression, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. View Order on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgement James Michael Hand, et al., Plaintiffs vs Rick Scott, et al., Defendants From the very beginning of his option Judge Walker was very critical of the current process to restore voting rights.  He starts his opinion: Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony. To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s Governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration. Until that moment (if it ever comes), these citizens cannot legally vote for presidents, governors, senators, representatives, mayors, or school-board members. These citizens are subject to the consequences of bills, actions, programs, and policies that their elected leaders enact and enforce. But these citizens cannot ever legally vote unless Florida’s Governor approves restoration of this fundamental right. Florida’s Executive Clemency Board has, by rule, unfettered discretion in restoring voting rights. “We can do whatever we want,” the Governor said at one clemency hearing.  One need not search long to find alarming illustrations of this scheme in action. In 2010, a white man, Steven Warner, cast an illegal ballot. Three years later, he sought the restoration of his voting rights. He went before the state’s Executive Clemency Board, where Governor Scott asked him about his illegal voting. “Actually, I voted for you,” he said. The Governor laughed. “I probably shouldn’t respond to that.” A few seconds passed. The Governor then granted the former felon his voting rights. …In Florida, elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards. The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not. Judge Walker has ordered all parties to file a brief related to remedies and will then enter a final judgment after considering he additional briefs. Governor Scott’s office issued a statement that indicated that the discretion of the clemency board over the restoration of voting rights had been in place for decades and over multiple governors.  While technically this is accurate, the current scheme administered under the Scott administration is by far more restrictive than previous governors.

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 6 minutes | Politics

Federal Investigation Big Trouble For Clinton

If you are reading this blog then you are certainly aware that the 2016 Election is in full swing. At this point we are constantly bombarded with political ads and daily news stories. We here at Moses & Rooth decided to conduct a survey through the Google to try and determine what people’s thoughts and feelings on some of the candidates as well as determine what the electorate’s basic knowledge of civics. The data reveals some common knowledge, misconceptions, and opinions about the process by which our nation elects its presidents. When we began reviewing the date, the result that stood out the most to us was the Hillary Clinton Question. Over 45% of the survey participants feel that if a candidate is under a federal investigation, then they should not be permitted to run for President of the United States. While Senator Sanders has not made this a theme of the primary, whoever the Republican candidate is will certainly hammer the investigation during the campaign. Electoral College The electoral college question, the term length question, and term limit question were viewed as a way to determine if the people answering the questions had a working knowledge of basic civics.  We believe that based upon people’s answers the survey was answered by people who had at least a basic understanding of the political process. The first question on the survey asked whether the president should be selected through the electoral college or whether the popular vote should elect him or her. Though this question had a comparatively low response rate, the responses were statistically significant. 68.5 percent of respondents answered that the popular vote should control, while 29.4 percent preferred our current electoral college system, with 2.2 percent giving other answers. Thirty-seven percent of men who responded to the question favored the electoral college, while only 20.1 percent of women did.   Term Length The second question was fact-based, and asked participants how long a presidential term lasts. 92.7 percent of respondents gave the correct answer of four years. 2.5 percent said eight years, and 1.6 percent said two years. The other responses ranged from one to ten years. Term Limits Next, participants were asked how many terms a person may serve as the president: 94.4 percent correctly answered two terms, while 2.4 percent said one term, and 1.3 percent believed that there is no term limit. Federal Investigations The fourth question also tested respondents’ governmental knowledge. It asked whether a candidate who is under investigation for a federal offense is permitted to run for president: 45.6 percent were ill-informed and answered no. Only 33.2 correctly answered yes: offenses may disqualify a person from holding federal office if convicted, but a mere investigation does not preclude a person from running; 21.2 percent of respondents believed that it depends on the offense. Men were twice as likely as women to answer this question correctly, and 55–64-year-olds were significantly more likely to pick yes than those aged 35–44. Bankruptcy The Donald questions. It has been well publicized that a number of Donald Trump’s companies have used the bankruptcy process. We wanted to determine if people felt that this was a disqualifier for the presidency. This question was opinion-based and asked whether a prior bankruptcy should preclude a person from running for president: 25.9 percent were of the opinion that a person who has declared bankruptcy should not be permitted to run, while 73.3 percent said that it should not. Men were more forgiving of past bankruptcies, with 79.3 percent of men believing that it should not affect a presidential campaign, while only 64.6 percent of women were of the same opinion. Sitting Senators The Senator Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders question. All three of these candidates are sitting Senators. This survey asked whether a sitting senator is permitted to run for president: 84.5 percent, many of whom were likely aware that Bernie Sanders is a sitting senator, correctly answered yes, while 15.5 percent answered no. A correct answer to this question was correlated with age: those aged 55–64 and 65+ were around 20 percent more likely to get it right than those aged 18–24. Military or Government Experience We looked at this as another Trump question. He is the only candidate who has never held a position in government. Additionally, the United States has never had a President who neither served in the military or held elected office. The seventh question was opinion-based and asked participants whether the United States Constitution be amended to require a Commander in Chief to have prior military or governmental experience: 28.9 percent of respondents agreed that there should be some prior experience required, but 70.5 percent answered no. Seventy-seven percent of men were against requiring experience, whereas only 67.7 percent of women agreed with that viewpoint. Respondents aged 55 and up were more likely than those aged 34 and younger to answer no. Born Outside U.S. This is the Senator Cruz question. Donald Trump made it a point to question Senator Cruz’s ability to run and questioned whether or not he was a natural born citizen. This questions attempted to gauge the electorate’s belief in Cruz’s eligibility to run for office. This question asked whether someone born to U.S. citizen parents, but born outside the United States, is considered a natural born citizen and therefore eligible to be president: 70.6 percent of respondents answered yes, while 29.4 percent said no. Younger people were more likely to say no, while older respondents were more likely to say yes. However, since the Constitution provides no clear directive on the matter, and since the issue has never arisen in a legal challenge taken up by the Supreme Court, there is not yet any definitive answer to this question. Voting Question nine asked participants how likely they are to vote in the coming presidential election, using a five-point scale, from very unlikely to extremely likely: 64.9 percent of respondents ranked themselves at a 5, extremely likely to vote, and 12.5 percent said 1, very unlikely....

Continue Reading