Connect with us

Eleventh Circuit

The Martin Zilber Doctrine: A Part-Time Judge on Full-Time Pay Resigns to Save His Pension After Complaint

Judge Morley’s findings stressed that judicial assistants are “not personal assistants funded by the taxpayers to take on chores for their judges”.

Published

on

Miami Judge Faces Discipline as Foreclosure Attorney Seeks to Get Him Disbarred

The JQC’s investigative panel stressed that judicial assistants are “not personal assistants funded by the taxpayers to take on chores for their judges,” but rather, “important court resources whose work is vital to the efficient and orderly operation of the judicial system.”

APR 9, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 20, 2021

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber is facing discipline after admitting and apologizing for mistreating his staff and taking unauthorized absences.

It’s a discipline case that draws attention to the imbalance of power that exists between a judge and their assistants, as Zilber was accused of being intemperate toward his bailiff and judicial assistant, requiring them to complete personal tasks for him including online shopping, scrapbooking and registering his car, refusing to approve his judicial assistant’s overtime, regularly leaving the courthouse early and not reporting absences.

The investigative panel of Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission found Zilber “should have been cognizant of that disparity in power and authority, and the untenable position he was placing his employees in,” according to Chair Michelle Morley’s findings and recommendation of discipline, released Friday.

Morley’s findings stressed that judicial assistants are “not personal assistants funded by the taxpayers to take on chores for their judges,” but rather, “important court resources whose work is vital to the efficient and orderly operation of the judicial system.”

That filing followed a formal complaint from the JQC, accusing Zilber of violating nine canons of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.

Morley recommended Zilber receive a public reprimand, a 60-day suspension without pay, a $30,000 fine to cover his unauthorized absences and suggested he attend the next offering of Phase I of the Florida Judicial College. She also recommended the judge write apology letters to his bailiff and current and former judicial assistants.

Morley’s findings pointed to case law that says full cooperation, remorse and candor are mitigating factors in a judicial discipline case.

“Although the scope of Judge Zilber’s misconduct is wide, the commission’s recommendation, while severe, is tempered somewhat by Judge Zilber’s sincere reflection, contrition and cooperation,” Morley’s findings said.

Zilber was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1988 and has no disciplinary history.

He signed a stipulation Thursday taking responsibility for his conduct, admitting it was inappropriate and damaged the public’s perception of the judiciary.

David Rothman of Rothman & Associates in Miami represents Zilber and declined to comment, noting that the case is pending before the Florida Supreme Court.

Inconvenient pregnancy?

Among the allegations against Zilber: that he told his then-judicial assistant Dixie Dent that her pregnancy was inconvenient.

It was a deeply upsetting comment, according to Dent, who resigned as Zilber’s judicial assistant in September. Dent said she had suffered multiple miscarriages by that point and had also wanted to prepare Zilber for that possibility.

“He said to me, ‘This is the worst time possible for you to be pregnant. This is not good. It’s not going to work out and this ruins all of my plans,’ ” Dent said. “ I should have gone to HR that very moment, but instead I came home and cried my eyes out that night.”

The JQC also alleged that, when the bailiff was unavailable, Zilber required Dent to wheel his chair into the courtroom and lift it onto the bench while she was pregnant.

Dent said she was regularly asked to work through lunch breaks and developed gestational diabetes after skipping meals. Dent ultimately gave birth to a healthy baby.

The last straw, Dent said, came when Zilber yelled at her after a Zoom hearing about an uncompleted task, and her 10-year-old daughter became scared.

“She said, ‘Mommy, do you want me to talk to daddy and stay all next week to help you with the baby, so Angry Marty doesn’t yell at you?’ ” Dent said.

‘The grief of it all’

Dent said she’d been excited to take the job, having come from the private sector.

“As a paralegal, I felt like I had an opportunity to make a change, to do something different and really get these cases in front of a judge by managing his calendar correctly and really paying attention and doing what I was supposed to do,” Dent said.

Dent said she felt conflicted about coming forward but ultimately felt compelled to set the right example for her daughters.

“It’s so much easier to stay quiet and take the high road, because I don’t have to go through the grief of it all,” Dent said. “I know the value of my skill set and what I bring to the table. But it sucks that I was forced to resign a position that I enjoyed, that I was truly making a difference in, that even though I wasn’t being compensated for it didn’t matter. It’s a public service and that is a personal fulfillment all on its own. And I had to give up insurance for my whole family during a pandemic because it was either: resign or eventually have a mental breakdown.”

Art Basel tickets

The JQC’s complaint alleged Zilber once asked his bailiff to collect Art Basel tickets for him from Miami Beach, and often required the bailiff or Dent to drive him to bar events and work appointments.

Zilber also allegedly instructed Dent to include inaccurate and misleading information in his work logs and failed to notify court administrators that he was absent for 51 workdays between January 2019 and March 2020 — including taking a weeklong vacation to Malibu without notifying the court.

Those absences were in addition to 16 court holidays and 25 days of properly noticed leave, according to the JQC, which noted Miami-Dade judges can only take 30 working days of annual leave.

Miami attorney Bruce Jacobs of Jacobs Legal is representing Dent pro bono and helped her prepare the JQC complaint. Dent now works for him. Jacobs said he hired her at his firm after she struggled to find employment.

Jacobs said Dent rejects the recommended discipline and called for a harsher sanction.

“This is a slap on the wrist and it just gives the judge more time off. He was abusive to his pregnant JA and thoroughly misused and abused his power as a judge to blacklist her from getting employment for almost a year. Under The Florida Bar standards for discipline of a lawyer sitting in a government position as a judge, he intentionally caused her substantial injury,” Jacobs said. “This judge should be removed from the bench and he should be disbarred.”

Jacobs also disclosed that Dent came to him because she felt Zilber had unfairly targeted his foreclosure defense clients.

Absences didn’t affect docket

Morley’s findings noted that the evidence did not suggest Zilber was “unduly delinquent in making or issuing rulings or managing his docket,” nor did the commission find any abnormal delays to cases, but said that tardiness and absences do damage the public’s perception of the judiciary.

“This damage can be even more noticeable in larger jurisdictions where citizens sometimes have to wait weeks or even months for court hearing times, and yet see other judges who could be helping, leaving early or coming in late,” Morley wrote.

Morley’s findings noted that judges and staff can develop friendships, but “it is imperative to not lose sight of the fact that there is, first and foremost, an employer-employee relationship.”

“The commission believes that because of the disparity in power between a judge and their employee, requests for favors by the judge-employer carry such significant weight that they cease to be requests, and become, instead, directives or commands,” Morley’s findings said.

The Florida Supreme Court has the final say on judicial discipline cases and is yet to rule.

Florida judge resigns after allegedly missing work and making court staff run personal errands

MAY 18, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 20, 2021

Eleventh Circuit of Florida Judge Martin Zilber resigned on Friday.

A Florida judge facing discipline for allegedly missing work and having court staff drive him to events, do his online shopping and perform other personal errands has resigned from the bench, according to the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The Commission opened an inquiry into Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber after getting a complaint last September about his behavior, according to the findings and recommendation of discipline posted on the Florida Supreme Court website.

The commission found “clear and convincing evidence” that Zilber engaged in the “intemperate treatment or misuse of court staff” and had excessive absences.

Zilber did not contest the inquiry’s findings and “took immediate responsibility for his conduct,” according to an April 8 stipulation document.

His attorney had no comment on Tuesday because the case is still pending.

Zilber took ‘immediate responsibility’

Zilber accepted the discipline, including a public reprimand, a 60-day suspension without pay and a $30,000 fine, as well as additional training and letters of apology to his current and former judicial assistant and bailiff.

But, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the proposed sanctions and called for a full hearing, so it could decide on the appropriate punishment.

His former judicial assistant, Dixidela Dent, filed a motion on April 16, outlining her allegations of mistreatment by Zilber, and called for the case to be referred to the Florida Bar for a grievance hearing.

The commission said Zilber asked court staff to perform a number of tasks for him that were outside of their job descriptions — including personal online shopping, registering his car at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and traveling to Miami Beach during work hours to pick up tickets for an art event.

It said that Zilber asked his judicial assistant to assemble a scrapbook of his personal and professional achievements and asked her and his bailiff to drive him to appointments.

The inquiry also found that Zilber sometimes required his judicial assistant, who was pregnant, to wheel his chair up several floors and then lift it onto the dais in his courtroom before hearings. He made other arrangements when her concerns were brought to his attention.

Court staff aren’t personal assistants

Zilber said he only asked his staff to do these things and did not require it, but recognized that the requests could be seen as orders because of his authority over his staff, the commission said.

It wrote that judicial assistants and other court staff are “vital to the efficient and orderly operation of the judicial system.”

“They are not personal assistants funded by the taxpayers to take on chores for their judges. Adding personal errands and favors to the workloads of these already burdened employees is not only improper, it can create further delays or interruptions in the efficient administration of the courts,” the findings said.

The commission also found that Zilber was absent from the courthouse on 51 workdays between January 21, 2019, and March 13, 2020, without notifying the court administration. This is on top of 16 court holidays and 25 days of approved leave.

Zilber testified that he did attend to work-related matters and said he was working remotely on some of those days in 2019, according to the commission.

It said Zilber also took a weeklong vacation in Malibu, California, in August without making a leave request because he was working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The commission said that he had his judicial assistant reschedule hearings and dockets for that week to another time.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission moved to dismiss the charges against Zilber following his resignation, which it said took effect on Friday.

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



Eleventh Circuit

Southern Florida Judge Orders Retrial for Fraud by Prosecutors. It Wasn’t Lyin’ Judge Marra

Judge Darrin P. Gayles claims during a court hearing the original prosecutors “deliberately misled this court.” He orders a new AUSA team.

Published

on

July 16, 2021: S.D. Fl. Judge Orders New Trial After AUSAs ‘Deliberately Misled’ Him

A Florida federal judge said Friday he would be ordering a new trial — with a new prosecution team — for a trio of men found guilty of swiping millions of dollars from elderly people in a sweepstakes scheme, saying during a hearing that the original prosecutors “deliberately misled this court.”

A federal judge in Miami has ordered a new trial for three men found guilty in a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme after concluding that federal prosecutors had “knowingly invaded the defense camp” while lying to the court about it.

U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles of the Southern District of Florida said two initial prosecutors in the case “deliberately misled this court.”

Law360 and the Miami Herald have coverage of Gayles’ remarks, made during a hearing Friday.

Gayles said he had allowed the three Florida men to be tried without knowing the extent of prosecutors’ alleged wrongdoing, according to the coverage.

Prosecutors had received handwritten notes from a fourth defendant who attended defense meetings without disclosing that he had obtained a plea deal with prosecutors, Gayles said during the hearing. The other defendants were working together under a joint defense agreement.

The fourth defendant, 53-year-old John Leon of Wilton Manors, Florida, had received government authorization to attend strategy meetings. Yet prosecutors lied about whether Leon had attended more than one meeting and whether they approved his participation, Gayles said.

One of the federal prosecutors had countered in a court filing that Leon’s cooperation was “kept covert” because he was cooperating with the government against a noncharged defendant, according to the Miami Herald. The prosecutor also said Leon had been instructed not to share privileged information.

The Florida defendants—46-year-old Matthew Pisoni of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; 42-year-old Marcus Pradel of Boca Raton, Florida; and 39-year-old Victor Ramirez of Aventura, Florida—had been convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2017. They were accused of telling their scam victims that they had won a sweepstakes prize, and they had to pay $20 to $50 to redeem it.

The defendants sought a new trial after receiving new evidence obtained during an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office and the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The government countered that much of the “newly discovered” evidence cited by the defendants wasn’t material and had no exculpatory value.

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Four South Florida Residents Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Commit Sweepstakes Mail Fraud

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 19, 2021

Four Florida residents were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 42 months imprisonment to 84 months imprisonment for participating in a sweepstakes mail fraud scheme.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Antonio J. Gomez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.

Matthew Pisoni, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Marcus Pradel, 41, of Boca Raton, and Victor Ramirez, 38, of Aventura, were found guilty of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, after a five-week trial that ended on July 26, 2017. John Leon, 50, of Fort Lauderdale, previously pled guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

Today, United States District Court Judge Gayles sentenced Pisoni and Ramirez to 84 months imprisonment; Pradel to 78 months imprisonment; and Leon to 42 months imprisonment.

The trial evidence established that the four defendants, Pisoni, Pradel, Ramirez and Leon, falsely notified individuals by mail that they had won a substantial prize. The letters the defendants sent fraudulently represented that the recipients needed to pay a fee ranging from $20 to $50 to the defendants in order to redeem their purported winnings. During the course of the mail fraud conspiracy, more than 100,000 victims in the United States and abroad were fraudulently induced to pay the fees by the defendants’ misleading claims that they had won a prize. The fraudulent letters directed victims to pay the fees in cash or by check or money order payable to fictitious companies. The defendants then either processed the victims’ payments through independent payment processors or deposited them into shell bank accounts controlled directly and indirectly by the defendants and their co-conspirators. In total, over $25 million in victim payments went into the defendants’ and co-conspirators’ bank accounts.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI, USPIS, Federal Trade Commission, Aventura Police Department, and other local and international law enforcement agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elijah Levitt, and H. Ron Davidson.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

‘Breathtaking’ revelation delays start of prison term for men in $25M sweepstakes fraud

JAN 12, 2018 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 19, 2021

Three South Florida men convicted of operating a $25 million sweepstakes fraud were supposed to turn themselves in to start serving their punishments on Friday afternoon.

But a judge has agreed to delay their prison surrenders after what the defense calls outrageous last-minute revelations from federal prosecutors.

It’s the latest twist in a controversial case in which victims, mostly seniors, were tricked into sending money to claim a fictitious cash prize.

“The government has disclosed breathtaking new evidence … demonstrating that its witnesses testified falsely … and that the prosecutors made misleading arguments to the court,”

appeals attorney David Oscar Markus wrote in a court filing.

Matthew Pisoni, 45, of Fort Lauderdale, Marcus Pradel, 41, of Boca Raton, and Victor Ramirez, 38, of Aventura, were found guilty of mail fraud conspiracy after a jury trial last year. John Leon, 50, of Wilton Manors, pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2016 and cooperated with investigators.

Leon was going to testify against the other three men but U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles barred him from doing so in late 2016.

At the time, the judge also blasted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for allowing Leon to spy on his co-defendants — and their attorneys — after Leon had secretly made a plea deal with the prosecution.

The judge called the prosecution’s handling of the case “extraordinary.”

Judge blasts federal prosecutors over secret deal that led to spying on defense

“I don’t know what’s happening at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This is the latest of a series of incidents that is affecting the credibility of this office,”

the judge said during the 2016 hearing.

“Someone has got to look at this thing … There’s a problem here that needs to be rectified in some way.”

Defense attorneys for the three men said they were blindsided by prosecutors and Leon’s defense attorney, Omar Johansson.

The problem was different from regular snitching by informants, they said, because all four men had pleaded not guilty in 2015 and, at the time, they and their attorneys had a formal agreement to work together and come up with defense strategies.

Anyone who wanted out was supposed to give 48 hours’ notice to the others.

The judge rejected their request to throw out the charges before trial because of what the defense called an illegal “invasion of the defense camp” by the prosecution.

During the 2016 hearing, prosecutors H. Ron Davidson and Elijah Levitt told the judge they had thought it was essential to keep Leon’s cooperation secret because he was working undercover for them on another related investigation.

They said they later regretted not running their decision up the chain of command at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

The judge said that, at a minimum, they should have told their bosses and asked for the judge’s explicit approval.

The prosecutors also told the judge at the hearing they had never received any documents from Leon.

The three men went to trial and were convicted, without Leon’s testimony.

Pisoni and Ramirez were sentenced to seven years in federal prison, Pradel to 6 ½ years and Leon to 3 ½ years. Leon is still expected to begin serving his sentence on Tuesday.

Judge Gayles agreed Thursday to let the other three men remain free until at least March 16. Their attorneys have requested a court hearing to find out more about the newly released information.

They may seek a new trial or use it on appeal.

Earlier this week — three days before the men were due to go to prison — prosecutors filed a court document saying they wanted to “correct” the record. They revealed that Leon gave prosecutor Levitt a document that they now believe may have been a chart or timeline — compiled for the defense by Pradel — which they had claimed they never received.

They now can’t find the document, they wrote.

“The government believes that this document may have been the timeline discussed during the hearings, but the government cannot be certain because the document was placed in a sealed file folder without being examined and no federal agent or Assistant United States Attorney has ever opened the sealed file folder and read the document contained therein,”

they wrote.

“Moreover, Assistant United States Attorney Levitt has exhaustively searched his office’s records but has been unable to locate the sealed file folder with the document.”

Prosecutors, who previously said in court they had rejected Leon’s offer of the chart, also revealed that Leon gave handwritten notes to an IRS agent.

Pisoni, the son-in-law of the late self-help guru Wayne Dyer, was the ringleader of the fraud, according to prosecutors.

Markus, the attorney handling Pisoni’s appeal, declined to comment on the legal aspects of the case.

Pisoni returned home when he learned of the two-month reprieve on Thursday after he had already taken a flight to New Orleans on his way to surrender at his designated prison, Markus said.

The new filing raises more questions than it answers and calls “into question the credibility of the government’s presentation, witnesses, and evidence,” Markus wrote.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the pending case, citing Department of Justice policy.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has had similar issues in the past, Judge Gayles noted in the 2016 hearing.

He mentioned a reprimand issued in 2009 by a judge who ordered prosecutors to pay a defendant more than $600,000.

That judge ruled prosecutors and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent acted “vexatiously and in bad faith” when they secretly recorded a Miami defense lawyer, Markus, and his investigator in a questionable witness-tampering investigation.

An appeals court later ruled Dr. Ali Shaygan, who was found not guilty of prescription drug charges, was not entitled to the money because of how Judge Alan Gold handled the reprimands of the prosecutors.

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



Continue Reading

Eleventh Circuit

Florida Bar: Y’all Are In Contempt for Not Answering Complaints

The Florida Bar do not suspend the unresponsive lawyers, they give them a public slap. Forget about the Complainants – it’s Vacation time.

Published

on

Summer Vacation Already Started at the Fl. Bar, a Very Quiet Month of Discipline

JUN 24, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 2, 2021

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined five attorneys, disbarring one, suspending one, revoking the licenses of one, and reprimanding two.

Ben Ira Farbstein, 4018 Sheridan St., Hollywood, public reprimand effective immediately following an April 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1982)

Farbstein was held in contempt for failing to timely respond to inquiries of the Bar.

(Case No. SC21-92)

Colleen E. Huott, 2385 NW Executive Center Drive, Suite 100, Boca Raton, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Huott failed to respond to 10 grievances, two Orders to Show Cause from the Florida Supreme Court and a subpoena duces tecum.

Additionally, Huott received 10 trust account overdraft notices, which the Bar could not investigate due to Huott ignoring all inquiries by the Bar.

(Case No: SC21-383)

Erica Helene Kobloth, 5613 Pacific Blvd., Apt. 3307, Boca Raton, suspended for three years effective immediately following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2012)

Kobloth was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated Nov. 2, 2020, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension.

(Case No: SC21-432)

Beverly T. Shaw, 6865 19th St. South, St. Petersburg, public reprimand effective immediately following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Shaw was held in contempt and publicly reprimanded for failing to timely respond to official Bar inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-157)

Heyward Silcox III, 22 Tulip Lane, Apt. 307, Cocoa Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days following a May 6 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2018)

On or about June 26, 2020, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, Silcox pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal importation of a controlled substance, specifically the Schedule IV narcotic Tramadol.

Prior to his plea, Silcox successfully completed a chemical dependency treatment program on March 6, 2020.

Silcox has also signed a two-year contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc.

(Case No: SC21-290)

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



Continue Reading

Editors Choice

The Senate Judiciary Committee Has a Responsibility to Forcefully Reject this Judicial Overreach

LIF and LIT has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there are many rogue judges on our Federal Benches. This request is in direct violation of the US Constitution.

Published

on

Principles for Federal Judicial Privacy Legislation
Protection of Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information

Further to our article on Judges wanting God Status and Protection from Scrutiny by Tax Payers and Citizens, the following article transcribes the letter circulating congress and the Judicial Senate Committee…

September 4, 2020
Honorable Lindsey Graham Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In my August 19, 2020 letter to House and Senate leadership, I outlined six recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States to improve judicial security.

That letter was prompted by the July 2020 attack on the family of United States District Court Judge Esther Salas that resulted in the murder of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, and the critical wounding of her husband, Mark.

Unfortunately, too many others in our judicial family have experienced similar tragedy and grief. The murders of United States District Judge John Wood (1979), United States District Judge Richard Daronco (1988), United States Circuit Judge Robert Vance (1989), United States District Judge John Roll (2011), family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow (2005), and now the son of United States District Judge Esther Salas were tragic targeted attacks against federal judges and their families.

Unfortunately, threats have greatly multiplied over the past five years and require immediate legislative action to enhance security protections.

Among the recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference is to seek legislation to enhance the protection of judges’ personally identifiable information (PII), particularly on the internet.

Another recommendation is to seek legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

Other recommendations are for additional appropriations – for the upgrade, installation, and continued sustainment of the Home Intrusion Detection Systems program; for additional deputy U.S. Marshals; and for the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to fund the required upgrades for courthouse security camera systems.

A final recommendation is to support the development of a resource to monitor the public availability of judges’ PII, inform judges of security vulnerabilities created by this information, and where necessary, advise the appropriate law enforcement of an inappropriate communication.

James C. Duff
Secretary

Enclosures

cc:
Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Honorable Cory Booker
Honorable Bob Menendez

The judiciary supports the protection of and prevention of unauthorized release of personally identifiable information of federal judicial officers and their immediate families (“Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information” or “JPII”), particularly such information that is available and distributed through the internet. “Immediate family” includes a judicial officer’s spouse, child, parent, or any blood relative of the judicial officer or the judicial officer’s spouse who lives in the same residence as the judicial officer.

The goal of this legislation is to ensure that federal judicial officers are able to administer justice fairly without fear of personal reprisal from individuals affected by decisions made in the course of carrying out their professional duties. The purposes of the legislation are to remove and/or limit access to JPII from publicly displayed records, as well as to prohibit any person, business, association, or agency from posting, displaying, selling, sharing, transferring, or trading JPII with others. Federal privacy legislation shall not be construed to impair free access to decisions and opinions expressed by judicial officers in the course of carrying out their public duties.
The judiciary recommends enactment of federal legislation that incorporates the following:

1. PROTECTION OF FEDERAL JUDICIAL OFFICERS including the Chief Justice of the United States; the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States; judges of the United States courts of appeals; district judges and magistrate judges of the United States district courts, including the district courts in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands; judges of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Court of International Trade, United States Bankruptcy courts, United States Court of Federal Claims, and any court created by Act of Congress, the judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior. The legislation shall extend to any individual identified above, whether in active, senior, recalled, or retired status, as well as any individual whose nomination to a position listed above has been transmitted by the President of the United States to the United States Senate and whose nomination remains pending before the United States Senate.

2. PROTECTION OF PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION of judicial officers and their immediate family members, to include but not be limited to the primary home address; date of birth; social security number; driver’s license number; voter registration information that includes a home address; bank account and credit or debit card information; property tax records and any property ownership records, including a secondary residence and any investment property; birth and marriage records; marital status; personal email addresses; home or mobile phone number; vehicle registration information; family member’s employer, daycare, or school; personal photographs or photographs of a judicial officer’s home; religious, organization, club, or association memberships; identification of children under the age of 18; and any other unique biometric data or piece of information that can be used to identify an individual.

3. PROHIBITION OF PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION OF JPII BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY. Federal government agencies shall have an affirmative duty to prevent the public disclosure of JPII, and upon written request shall remove restricted JPII from internet sites or publicly accessible federal government databases within 48-72 hours of the request.

4. MANDATORY REMOVAL OR REDACTION OF JPII UPON WRITTEN REQUEST SERVED ON ANY PERSON, BUSINESS, ASSOCIATION, OR AGENCY. Upon written request, a person, business, association or agency must, within 48-72 hours of receipt of the request, redact from the public record any existing JPII and may not thereafter knowingly post, display, sell, share, trade or transfer JPII, including publicly accessible and displayed content. No person, business or association shall solicit JPII with intent to do harm to a judicial officer or immediate family member. The written request by a judicial officer, or his or her representative, to remove and/or to redact from the public record JPII of the judicial officer or an immediate family member shall not require a showing of fear of harm or immediate threat and shall remain effective until revocation of the request by the judicial officer or a surviving immediate family member.

5. ENFORCEMENT/REMEDIES shall include a private right of action (including injunctive or declaratory relief), civil enforcement authority by an appropriate federal department or regulatory agency, and limited criminal enforcement authority.

6. PREEMPTION OF STATE LAWS. Federal legislation must mandate and/or provide incentives for the protection of JPII held at the state/county/local level – at a minimum including motor vehicle registration and driver’s license information; real estate transaction and property tax records; and voter registration information that includes a home address. Restricted JPII of federal judicial officers and immediate family members must be exempt from state public information laws. Federal legislation might include grant programs to assist states in complying with these provisions.

Permanent Authority to Redact Sensitive Security Information from Judicial Financial Disclosure Reports

PROPOSED LEGISLATION:

SECTION 1. REDACTION AUTHORITY CONCERNING SENSITIVE SECURITY INFORMATION.

Section 105(b)(3) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) is amended by striking subparagraph (E).

BACKGROUND AND JUSTIFICATION:

• The Judicial Conference of the United States seeks legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

• The need to provide permanent redaction authority is a sensitive security matter. A lapse in redaction authority, which has occurred in the past, creates significant security risks to judges and judiciary employees. Federal judges and judiciary employees, like probation officers, routinely interact with disgruntled litigants and convicted criminals who may bear grudges against them. Without redaction authority, these individuals will be able to learn sensitive information such as the unsecured locations of judges, employees, and their families. Redaction of this sensitive information protects these public servants and their families from harm.

• Judges and certain judicial employees are required to file financial disclosure reports under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended. Congress has recognized judges and judicial employees have been the subject of assault, threats and harassment. Accordingly, Congress enacted legislation that grants the Judiciary the authority to redact certain statutorily required information in a financial disclosure report in limited instances when the release of the information could endanger a judicial officer or employee or his or her family (The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, Section 7, P.L. 105-318, October 30, 1998.) We thank the Congress for their past support of this critical safeguard.

• Congress has extended the authority to redact six times since 1998. In 2012, Congress passed an extension of the sunset provision through December 31, 2017. Unfortunately, the redaction authority expired on January 1, 2018 because Congress did not take final action on eliminating the sunset provision or renewing the authority. It wasn’t until March 23, 2018, upon enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 that redaction authority was again extended to December 31, 2027.

• Congress previously has indicated support for legislation to make this authority permanent. As noted in House Report 115-332, the House has consistently supported permanent reauthorization of redaction authority. The House passed permanent redaction authority in 2011 by a vote of 384-0. In October 2017, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs favorably reported to the Senate S. 1584 which provided for permanent redaction authority (see Senate Report 115-172.)

• The Judicial Conference uses its redaction authority carefully and reasonably. Each year a very small percentage of the financial disclosure reports filed contain an approved redaction of some information in the report. In 2019, 4,379 individuals employed in the judicial branch were required to file a financial report and 155 filers, or just 3.5 per cent, requested redaction. Of those, 150 requests were granted in full or in part. Of the 34,612 reports released to the public, only 1,970 contained partial redactions. Although only a small percentage of reports released to the public are approved for any redactions, the written application to examine a financial disclosure report and the ability to withhold sensitive information remain important protections for the judicial officers and employees who are most at risk for facing serious threats and inappropriate communications.

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



Continue Reading

Most Read

Copyright © 2021 LawsInFlorida.com is an online brand name which is wholly owned by Blogger Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) registered in Delaware | Caricatures by DonkeyHotey