Inherent Prejudice

In 1692 the City of St. Augustine turned 127 years old as a continuously occupied settlement of European and African origin.  Meanwhile in Massachusetts, fourteen women, five men, and two dogs were executed for witchcraft in what would become known as the Salem Witch Trials. Inherent prejudice of the legal system exists where you are going to have a trial, but you are going to hang the accused no matter what the outcome of the trial is.  If all you are doing is going through the motions for due process, then that is a problem. When the judicial system works like it is supposed to, everybody follows the same rules, there is a fair chance for both sides to be heard, and a decision is made.  I have had great trials and lost.  On the other hand, inherent prejudice can leave people singed…if not fully barbequed.   Read More

Superhero of Justice: Jury Duty

Qualifications for Jury Duty include the following: Breathing At least 18 years old Florida driver’s license or state identification Legal resident of Florida and the county Show up when you are summoned Even if you meet all the qualifications, you might not be selected to serve, or you may have a reason to be excused.  Either way, you still need to respond to a Jury Summons. Many people would rather be at the beach rather than in court, especially if they are the ones facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  Jury Duty lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your service as a juror makes that right possible. You do not need a cape, but when you serve on a jury, you do your part to be a superhero of justice.  Thank you, Jurors.   Read More

Remember to Vote

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” – Aesop Today is Election Day—remember to vote!  As a registered voter, you can make a difference in the legislative branch of government on Election Day…and you can make a difference in the judicial branch by sitting on a jury for your peers. Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  A registered voter can change the outcome of a trial. While a voters’ registration is great for participating in political elections, it is also vital for the fair administration of justice. Read More

Supreme Court Starts

The first Monday in October is opening day for the US Supreme Court.  This term their docket includes disputes of facial hair, geography, juror honesty, search and seizure, redistricting, Facebook threats, and pregnancy and religious discrimination.  That is simplifying; fortunately they have a place of their own to examine the details.  While the Constitution provided for the Judicial Branch of government, it did not give this branch the luxury of an independent address. The Supreme Court has only had its own courthouse for less than a century.  While the Constitution detailed the set up for Legislative and Executive Branches, it did not say the Supreme Court should have its own bar.  Thus for centuries the high court remained a homeless branch of government, sheltered in whatever municipal structure was available until William Taft pushed for a standalone ceiling of justice.  (Taft, non-coincidentally, was the only President also to serve as Chief Justice.)  The cornerstone of the high court was set in 1932 by Herbert Hoover, and the building opened in 1935. Read More

Memorial Day

Thanks to those who have given their lives in the past so that “We The People” may carry forward the freedom and justice our country enjoys. Have a safe and thoughtful Memorial Day.   Read More

Mothers & Law

“When love and talking doesn’t work, then love and I will.”  Those were the words handwritten on the paddle when I was growing up.  What you fail to learn at home you can get in court:  discipline and something to do with your time. You do not have to live with your parents.  The Justice System will feed you. “You may outgrow your responsibility to listen to your parents, but you will never outgrow your responsibility to obey the law.”  That is a quote from Judge Alexander and Judge Wolfe.  They go on to point out that if you fail to obey the law, you may put a stranger “in charge of telling you everything from where you can go and what you can do, all the way down to what you can wear, and what you can eat.” “The best way to remain in charge of your own life is to know the law and obey it.” –Judge Alexander and Judge Wolfe. Happy Mother’s Day!   Read More

Supreme Court is Open

The Supreme Court term begins on the first Monday in October…even with the Federal Government shutdown.  Deemed essential, the highest court in the land starts today, making repairs and working on the preservation of justice.  While they generally get about 10,000 petitions in one term, the cases on this docket cover campaign finance, abortion, religion, civil rights, and separation of powers.  You cannot go to a national park, but it is justice as usual at the federal level.   Read More

Foreclosure Backlog

The foreclosure backlog stands at over 350,000 cases in the Florida court system.  With a mandate to clear the docket, foreclosure cases proceed, sometimes compromising speed for accuracy, thus putting homeowners at an unfair disadvantage. Within seconds of a foreclosure auction, a home is pulled from the inventory.  Usually that happens when the homeowner files bankruptcy, but it can happen because of clerical error.  It is a nail-biting situation, but especially when the house was not supposed to be on that inventory in the first place. Clerical error has been blamed for so much mortgage misfortune—from lack of lending regulations and misplaced notes, to David Stern’s pen slipping to sign thousands of affidavits without verification.  The Florida court system inherited the volume of the problem; however, applying speed without regard to proper procedure deals another injustice to the homeowner. Yes, these cases need to be dealt with.  Resolution for the lender and homeowner alike is desirable, but not at the compromise of justice. Read More

Free Class Today: ‘How Can You Avoid the Need for Guardianship’

St. Johns Legal Aid provides a wealth of justice to those who have neither.  In the continuing series of the People’s Law School, St. Johns Legal Aid presents today ‘How Can You Avoid the Need for Guardianship.’  This FREE one-hour class starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library (6670 US 1 South, St. Augustine, Florida). The People’s Law School schedule for the rest of the spring is as follows: April 9 – Is Probate a Dirty Word? April 16 – Spouse in a Nursing Home—Do You Have to Go Broke? April 23 – Should You Ever Put Someone Else’s name on Your Deed? All classes are free and start at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library.  For more information on St. Johns County Legal Aid and their services, go to www.jaxlegalaid.org. Read More

‘Outstanding Bar’ – St. Johns County Bar Association

“We have an outstanding Bar,” said Megan Wall of St. Johns County Legal Aid…and she was not referring to the beverages served at the local Bar Association event.  She and area judges were there to talk about the importance of access to justice regardless of income. When SJC Legal Aid says, “and justice for all,” they mean it.  Their motto is, “A wealth of justice for those who have neither,” and along with the SJC Bar Association they offer legal advice, pro se classes, and in some cases representation for low-income, disabled, and elderly clients. Many people are unaware of their legal rights and options, and many are unable to afford a lawyer and may not know about the legal aid program in this area.  Furthermore, even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid services, Legal Aid has many helpful pamphlets or they can refer you to an attorney.  In St. Johns County, visit http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html.   Read More