Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Judge William Pryor rules in favor of "Gay-Straight Alliance" club at middle school

Interesting in light of his consideration for the Supreme Court.  The opinion, written by Judge Pryor, and joined by Judge Marcus and a visiting judge, is here.  The intro:
This appeal requires us to decide whether a complaint that a school board
violated the Equal Access Act when it denied the application of the Carver Gay-
Straight Alliance to form a student club is ripe and not moot and whether the Act
applies to a public middle school in Florida. After a teacher at Carver Middle
School submitted an application for the approval of the Carver Gay-Straight
Alliance, the superintendent denied the application on the ground that the
application failed to identify an allowed purpose for the club. Instead of submitting
a new application, the Alliance and a student, H.F., filed a complaint that the Board
had violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the
Equal Access Act. Under the Act, if a public school “provides secondary education
as determined by State law,” the school must give extracurricular clubs equal
access to school resources. 20 U.S.C. §§ 4071–72. Following a bench trial, the
district court entered a judgment against the constitutional claims, dismissed the
claim under the Act as both not ripe and moot, and ruled, in the alternative, that the
Act does not apply to Carver Middle School. The Alliance and H.F. appeal only
the dismissal of their complaint that the Board violated the Act. Because we conclude that the complaint of the Alliance and H.F. is ripe and not moot and that the Act applies to Carver Middle School, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

The ACLU issued a press release, stating: “We are of course pleased that the court agreed with our legal position on all of the issues in the appeal,” stated Daniel Tilley, Staff Attorney for LGBTS Rights for the ACLU of Florida. “But the greater victory is for the middle school students across Florida who are protected by the Equal Access Act and must be allowed to create a gay-straight alliance if their school allows student clubs.”

11th Circuit approves posting oral arguments on its website


The only other Circuit that hasn't joined us in the 21st century is the 10th.

Congrats to the Free Law Project for making this happen.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Summary of Trump's SCOTUS picks

There's a nice website summarizing all 21 potential nominees here.  It's got lots of interesting tidbits, including significant rulings and writings.

In other news, big ups to Ashley Litwin, Lisa Lauck, and Marc Seitles for their appellate win in Uri Ammar's case.  It was a speedy trial violation.  The awesome Paula McMahon covers it here:
"To this day, Uri absolutely maintains that he is innocent," Ammar's appellate lawyers, Marc Seitles and Ashley Litwin, said Wednesday.
They said they have not yet spoken to Ammar, who is in Coleman federal prison in Central Florida, but Ammar's family was very excited when they heard he had won his appeal.
"They were in tears, they were screaming with joy. We are all very happy with the court's decision," Seitles said.
Seitles said he hopes Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence King will agree to release Ammar, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was a security worker at the casino. The lawyer said he also hopes the judge will not allow prosecutors to seek a new indictment and trial against Ammar.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Judge Ungaro sentences Matt Greer to 3 years

The other defendants received 18 months to probation. A fair and thoughtful sentencing determination with excellent lawyers all around. Here's the Miami Herald article.

In other news, you gotta check out this disaster from the FBI and GSA.  From Politico:
The hulking wooden sculpture titled “Cedrus” weighed more than 15,000 pounds and stood 17 feet tall, stretching from the lobby to the second floor of the FBI’s field office in Miami.
Made of Western red cedar imported from Vancouver, the massive artwork was actually 30 individual wooden pieces built to resemble a tornado. It was designed by Ursula von Rydingsvard, an artist known for making sculptures from wood beams.
The General Services Administration, an independent agency of the U.S. government that, among other things, leases office space to federal agencies, contracted with von Rydingsvard to create the site-specific sculpture for the Miami office, which the FBI leases.
The sculpture, installed early last year, didn’t last long.
Shortly after "Cedrus" arrived, FBI workers began getting sick, including at least a dozen who were hospitalized, according to hundreds of documents reviewed by POLITICO Florida. Most suffered allergic reactions to cedar dust coming off the sculpture. Among those who became sick was the office’s only nurse, who had to be relocated to another office.
“The health and safety issues surrounding the sculpture were real,” read a January letter written by Richard Haley, the FBI’s assistant director of finance overseeing department property. “One employee required an 11-day hospital stay and none have been able to return to work at the new field office.”
After months of navigating bureaucratic hurdles, as well as interagency fighting, the sculpture was removed in October 2015. The whole ordeal cost taxpayers nearly $1.2 million, including $750,000 paid to von Rydingsvard to design the statute. In documents reviewed by POLITICO Florida, GSA officials said they believed the sculpture was a good deal because it was “likely worth more than the $750,000 the government paid.”
 Really?  A good deal?  Sheesh. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Judge Ungaro hears sentencing arguments in Matthew Greer's case

It's Michael Sherwin and Michael Berger for the government.  And for Greer, it's Roy Black, Hy Shapiro, and Jackie Perczek.  Really great lawyering all around.  Jay Weaver from the Herald is covering the sentencing:

The 38-year-old former CEO of Carlisle Development Group apologized on Wednesday to a federal judge for his wrongdoing and for “casting a cloud” over an affordable-housing industry whose mission is to build homes for society’s most needy.

“It pains me very deeply,” Greer, 38, said, choking up during his statement to the judge.

Yet his high-profile defense attorney, Roy Black, argued that Greer deserved no prison time because he pleaded guilty, cooperated with authorities, paid back the stolen money and has devoted his life to charity — including his latest effort to help a nonprofit group develop an Overtown housing complex for homeless mothers and their children.

Black touted the South Florida housing projects built by Carlisle with tax credits issued by the U.S. government, while downplaying that Greer and others involved in his partnerships inflated the constructions costs so they could split millions in illegal profits.

“I think the public got what they paid for,” Black told U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. “They were not cheated.”


Prosecutor Michael Sherwin hammered that point, saying Greer was driven by “greed,” not charity, and that he “lost his way.”

“This was a lie for money,” Sherwin said.

The federal sentencing guidelines for Greer’s offense range from eight to ten years in the $34 million housing fraud probe that disgraced the one-time CEO and his Miami-based company, Carlisle, which was started by his father, lawyer Bruce Greer, two decades ago. Bruce Greer and his wife, Evelyn, a lawyer who once served as mayor of Pinecrest and on the Miami-Dade school board, attended the hearing.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor recommended that the judge start at eight years and then reduce it by 40 percent for Greer’s assistance in the long-running FBI and IRS investigation — for a total sentence of about five years.

Ungaro said she would issue her decision on Greer’s sentence along with punishment for five other co-defendants on Monday, after hearing arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors.