Monthly Archives: August 2018

Another Florida Constitutional Amendment Proposal has been Ordered off the Ballot

This week, a Leon County judge enjoined the State from including proposed Amendment 6 from appearing on the ballot. There have already been a couple provisions stricken, and now the court has found a third violates the “truth in packaging” requirement the the description accurately inform the public of the contents and effect of the proposed amendment. As we discussed on the last one, there is a pattern apparent that the CRC decided to try to cram the amendments through by hiding the ball, as well as bundling multiple issues into several of the proposals. The courts have been unimpressed, as challengers are now 3 for 3 in their attempts to strike the amendments.

Amdendment 6 was problematic not just because it combined disparate subjects: victim’s rights, term limits for judges, and de novo review of administrative hearings. Amendment 6 was also flying under the banner of “victim’s rights”, (as it’s being pushed by a special interest group promoting ‘Marsy’s Law’), however, it was misleading because Florida already has a Victim’s Rights component to its Constitution, and this amendment would not only create additional victim’s rights, but it would likely infringe upon due process rights of the accused, as required under the federal Constitution. The court found multiple reasons that the title and summary of the proposal are incomplete or outright misleading, and has ordered that it not appear on the ballot.

The issue has been appealed, and it appears the Supreme Court of Florida will hear argument on it September 5, which I believe to be the same day they will hear argument on proposed Amendment 8.

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Congrats to Amira Fox on her Primary Vicgtory

amira fox

Amira Fox

Amira Fox won the Republican primary in the race for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. That effectively means she will win the seat. This is a relief for everyone working in the criminal justice system in Southwest Florida, as things tend to run pretty well at the State here, and the kind of wholesale changes her opponent planned could have started chaos in our justice system. Ms. Fox was clearly the best candidate, and has the smarts and experience to do the job well.

I hope that when Ms. Fox takes over, she does look to improve some of the things about the State Attorney’s office: it would be nice to see more consistency from county to county, a reduction in jail time for non-violent crimes, especially misdemeanors like marijuana possession, and being willing to admit when a case is bad. Generally, the office has been pretty well run since Ms. Fox took over as chief assistant, and it probably will continue to be so. Ms. Fox ran a good, honest campaign and did not stoop to the dishonesty and mudslinging of her opponent. Hopefully this will show that races can be won the right way, by the best candidate. I wish her luck.

James Chandler is the Choice for Circuit Judge

There is still time to cast your votes- Chandler for Judge, Fox for State Attorney! Get out to those polls, this election matters!

crimcourts : A Criminal Law Blog

james chandler James Chandler

As early voting gets underway in the 5 county 20th judicial circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, I though I’d take an opportunity to weigh in on a local race that I feel strongly about. I am writing to endorse James Chandler, who is running for Circuit Judge. I have gotten to know Mr. Chandler well over the last several years, and think he would be an excellent choice for the circuit judge position. Mr. Chandler and I both worked at the State Attorney’s office when we moved to Southwest Florida. After I went into private practice, I had cases against Mr. Chandler and found him to be fair as a prosecutor.

Chandler later went into private practice, where he handles not only criminal defense, but also civil matters such as family law. That’s important, as our circuit judges can end up handling…

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Amira Fox is the Clear Choice for State Attorney

Be sure to vote today! Fox for State Attorney, Chandler for Judge

crimcourts : A Criminal Law Blog

crowley and fox Chris Crowley and Amira Fox

The primary election is tomorrow, and Republican voters will be presented a clear choice for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. The standout choice is Amira Fox, currently the chief assistant State Attorney under current State Attorney Stephen Russell. Ms. Fox is a smart, talented prosecutor whose experience clearly makes her the most qualified candidate for the job. She has the support of law enforcement, including outgoing prosecutor Russell, and the sheriffs of all five counties in the 20th Judicial Circuit. Moreover, she has the overwhelming support of the attorneys who practice in Lee County, who are in the best position to evaluate the qualifications of the chief law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.

The campaign leading up to the primary, which will be dispositive as there is only a token write-in candidate remaining in the general election, has been extremely heated. Her opponent…

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Amira Fox is the Clear Choice for State Attorney

crowley and fox

Chris Crowley and Amira Fox

The primary election is tomorrow, and Republican voters will be presented a clear choice for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. The standout choice is Amira Fox, currently the chief assistant State Attorney under current State Attorney Stephen Russell. Ms. Fox is a smart, talented prosecutor whose experience clearly makes her the most qualified candidate for the job. She has the support of law enforcement, including outgoing prosecutor Russell, and the sheriffs of all five counties in the 20th Judicial Circuit. Moreover, she has the overwhelming support of the attorneys who practice in Lee County, who are in the best position to evaluate the qualifications of the chief law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.

The campaign leading up to the primary, which will be dispositive as there is only a token write-in candidate remaining in the general election, has been extremely heated. Her opponent, Christopher Crowley has attacked her with deceit and obfuscation because his actual qualifications are woefully lacking. Crowley is a twice-failed prosecutor who cannot gain the support of law enforcement.

Crowley was asked to resign from the office of the Statewide Prosecutor after detectives informed his supervisor that they did not have faith in his abilities as a prosecutor. He returned the the State Attorney’s office, where he was soon fired for incompetence. Crowley then demonstrated his stunningly poor judgment by illegally promoting a raffle at a campaign fund raising event. He then posted video of the criminal act on his Facebook page, which ultimately resulted in his felony arrest for the illegal lottery and illegal campaign fundraising. Crowley had to get a retired democrat attorney to represent him, because he has so much trouble finding a defense attorney. His attorney did a great job by getting him into the felony diversion program after he admitted to his wrongdoing. While the charge may have been an inadvertent infraction that did not involve much money, the lack of oversight and judgment demonstrate that Crowley cannot be trusted run the State Attorney’s Office.

Crowley has tried to mislead the electorate to distract from his lack of qualifications. One of his favorite claims is that the office is corrupt- basically accusing Ms. Fox of ordering his arrest. This is patently false, as the local State Attorney’s office notified the governor of the possible conflict, and the State Attorney for the 10th Circuit handled the case. If Crowley is suggesting corruption, he is accusing Governor Scott and multiple law enforcement agencies. This is not a case of corruption: incompetent Crowley committed a felony, published the evidence, and got charged by an independent prosecutor. He does not deserve to be the chief law enforcement officer for our circuit.

Another of his other favorite claims is that the conviction rate in our circuit is only 39%. He fabricated this number based on raw arrest numbers and actual adjudications. However, this number does not take into account charges that are not filed, nor does it take into account cases that are resolved in drug court, mental health court, or other positive dispositions. Ironically, Crowley’s own arrest and diversion program would count against his calculation of a conviction rate. The more appropriate number is calculated by the Office of the State Courts Administrator, and it’s 88% for this circuit, in line with other circuits. And the more important number, the crime rate, is the lowest of all the circuits in Florida. Some of the other claims being promoted by Crowley’s supporters, and often shared by him on social media, are unsupported, untrue, and not worth repeating.

Finally, as a criminal law attorney in town, I have had the opportunity to work with both candidates, and I can say without hesitation that Ms. Fox is more competent, better prepared, and a better attorney that Mr. Crowley. I do not have a dog in the fight and I have not donated to either candidate, but I can say experience has demonstrated that Ms. Fox is the best candidate for the job, and Mr. Crowley could be a train wreck if he were to win.

The choice for voters tomorrow is between an extremely experienced, qualified, and highly recommended candidate in Amira Fox, or a failed prosecutor in Chris Crowley. Crowley failed to lawfully conduct his campaign, and now wants to oversee law enforcement across Southwest Florida. And to do so, he is running a deceitful campaign. He is unqualified, he does not have the support of law enforcement, nor does he have the the competence for the job. The choice is clear, Amira Fox is the best candidate for State Attorney.

Marco Island Man, 75, Arrested for Pulling Weeds

rollin cale

Rollin Cale

Poor Rocky Cale was arrested this week for pulling aquatic weeds. Rollin ‘Rocky’ Cale, 75, and some other members of the Model Yacht Club removed some aquatic weeds two months ago so they could launch their john boat to maintain some buoys. Apparently, this was the protocol that had been in place for years for maintaining that section of the lake. There is a Florida statute that requires a permit to remove aquatic weeds, Sec. 379.501, and makes it a misdemeanor if the person does it due to “reckless indifference or gross careless disregard,” though that does not seem to be the case for Mr. Cale, as he and his group had apparently believed that they were authorized for the removal. It looks like a bad arrest.

The backstory is that Cale, as head of the Marco Island Community Sailing Center, had earlier disputes with parks manager Samantha Malloy and the city, who had ultimately locked out the Sailing Club during that dispute. So the legal action being taken now smacks of retribution for the earlier dispute, and the city is investigating how it went down. It may have started as a littering complaint for the weeds that had been pulled and were sitting there, as Malloy first contacted code enforcement, who apparently referred her to FWC, and there was a littering charge the State Attorney decided not to pursue. It is all a lot of overzealous enforcement brought on by a pile of weeds… weeds that Cale helped dispose of after he was contacted. This should have been resolved with a phone call, not by involving law enforcement.

The sad thing is, this poor 75-year-old man, who has volunteered countless hours to his community through the sailing club and the model yacht group, etc, had to go to jail over this. It was an inadvertent infraction by a whole group of people, and there certainly doesn’t seem to be the ‘reckless indifference’ necessary to sustain the charge. Mr. Cale was completely cooperative, and had no idea there was a prohibition on the plant removal. And instead of just giving him a summons with a court date, they issued a capias warrant and had him arrested and booked into jail. On top of that, the Marco Eagle reports that the weeds were scheduled to be sprayed and destroyed. He basically did them a favor, but no good deed goes unpunished. Every government official involved in this arrest should be ashamed of themselves. Sad.

Candidate who Faked her Diploma Dropped Out of Congressional Race

howard

Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard, who was embarrassingly caught in a series of lies about her education after the diploma she posed with turned out to be fabricated, dropped out of her congressional race in Sarasota. After getting caught in her lie, she doubled down, only to relent and admit that she did not graduate from Miami University in Oxford, OH. However, last Tuesday she changed course and withdrew from the race. It would have been interesting has she stayed in the primary, as many absentee ballots would have already been mailed in. Zac Anderson provides a good top-to-bottom rundown of the bizarre saga, and it sounds like political pressure finally convinced Howard to drop out. Ironically, it probably would not have mattered much if she had just fessed up in the beginning. The cover-up is almost always worse than the original crime.