Florida Lawyers Travel to Cuba

    Derek ByrdThe past few months have been loaded with bits and pieces of information regarding travels to Cuba, and the normalization of our relationship with the next door neighbor. As our partnership with the country continues to improve, it is imperative for us to become familiar with Cuban legislature and its laws. It has been over 50 years since the Cuban Embargo was put in place, and establishing appropriate channels to exchanging legal information and policies will be very helpful towards tourism between both countries. 

    The Florida Bar Association is sponsoring a group of 37 lawyers to fly to Havana this week and attend a four day seminar. The objective of this trip will be for US attorneys to become familiar with Cuba’s legal system and politics. Given the overwhelming numbers of travels that are planned to happen in the next few years, this council will also look at the economic state of Cuba and bring back these important findings. 

    The four day excursion will also focus on the understanding of foreign organizations operating in Cuba, and the legal ramification that will follow their establishment. The attorneys will also become familiar with specific regulations regarding investment opportunities, and business dealings. During this trip the attorneys will also be meeting with their counterparts from the Cuban Bar Association, as well as state officials. These exchanges will place light on a lot of inquiries US companies have about owning land or establishing businesses in Cuba. Topics on telecommunications and banking, as well as the supply of water and electricity are some of the most immediate questions investors would like to know.  On a lighter note, the 37 lawyers will also be able to tour some of the country’s historical establishments, such as the Museum of Cuban Art and have a performance of Cuban music and dance. 

    Cuba is taking a cautious response in relation the US inquiries and interests. Given that there are no private practices all commercial opportunities have to pass through government- run entities.  


    Recent News from the Sarasota Herald- Tribune

    Derek Byrd

    News from the Herald Tribune

    Earlier this May, the Herald Tribune wrote a piece regarding the false arrest of Cooper Moore, for an outstanding aggravated battery assault from June 2014. Cooper was arrested by local police as soon as he landed on the Grand Cayman islands on a vacation with his current girlfriend. While he was being held up, Cooper asked the police to explain why he was detained, but they did not give an explanation and instead locked him up.

    At a loss for justice, Mr. Cooper’s parents contacted the Byrd Law Firm, which in collaboration with a private investigator put together a case that was aimed to clearing Cooper Moore’s name.  According to the documents, Cooper was wrongfully accused for partaking in a fight at a Florida Smokin’ Joes. However, the investigators found that Moore was not involved, and a witness revealed the correct name of the person who was involved. Due to these findings the charges were quickly dropped. 

    According to an officer who first responded to the scene, Moore’s name was first brought to him by a bar employee who showed him the suspects Facebook page. Officer Dodge, who was on the scene said that “people lie to us everyday and they don’t want to tell the truth especially if they are associated with someone involved in a crime.”

    According to The Innocence Project, misidentification of witnesses in regards to the crime scene is one of the leading reasons of wrongfully convicting and imprisoning people in the United States.  The article also points out that the recollection of witness memory of the crime scene is even less credible after they have been shown countless of photographs of the alleged victim. 

    Further evidence of the case used by lawyers at The Byrd Law Firm was Moore’s alibi and the fact that he was never contacted by the Sarasota Police Department. Cooper was never informed of his alleged involvement in the bar fight, and a warrant for his arrest was issued shortly after. Moore was not aware of these developments until policemen picked him up months later while he was vacationing with his girlfriend. 

    Derek Byrd, attorney for Cooper Moore, states that the findings regarding his client and other suspects should have been turned over to a detective for the facts to be checked and eventually cleared. Cooper told his attorney that during the night in question, he was home and had records to prove that he never left his apartment. 

    With the help of his attorney, Derek Byrd, Moore was able to clear his name  and no longer face 8 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He hopes that the police find the right person responsible for this fight and is willing to help in any way he can. 


    What is The Future of Law School?

    Derek ByrdDavid Solomon, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, believes that the fate of law programs and law graduate is going to drastically change in the next few decades.

    In a recent segment he wrote for the New York Times DealBook blog, Solomon focuses on the “signs of vigorous life in the legal job market” which is going to be a defining moment for the appeal law school has for most students. Solomon recognizes that issues such as unreasonable student debt, poor job opportunities, and changes in the school faculty structures are big contributors in the shift of law school enrollments.

    Solomon also points to the low levels of student application, which have gone down to 2.9 percent this year alone. He continues to dissect the situation even further, by concluding that class sizes could steady around 37,000 students,  or even in the 1970s levels. Intimate classrooms could mean more jobs available for those who do graduate, and less competition for available jobs in this field.

    For high ranking schools the employment market is already looking up. Georgetown University, for instance, had a 93 percent employed rate for its 2013 graduate class, and more than sixty percent were hired in the private sector-  with a starting salary of $160,000.

    David also mentions other profits of pursuing a legal career. A study conducted by professors Frank McIntyre and Michael Simkovic found that moving on from graduate school in a terrible economy had a generally little effect on lifetime income in respect to graduating with a four year certification. In spite of the fact that unemployment levels at graduation influence pay for the initial four years, the effect disappears as law graduates advance in their careers. The study concludes that, in this day, a law degree is estimated at $1 million in a lifetime. 

    In addition, Solomon also refers to the American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study, which follows attorneys who successfully passed the bar exam in 2000. After two years, law students were very content with the decision to attend law school and career path. Even students from lesser known schools and un-impressive grades were able to earn up to $95,000 during their first year.


    Legal Writing Tips

    Derek Byrd Lawyers are often judged not only by their oratory and interaction skills in the courtroom, but also on their writing capabilities.  Someone’s legal writing style differs due to a wide range of circumstances, such as the size of the firm they work for and the amount of resources offered, as well as the magnitude of the case and its specific requirements, which differ case by case. Bryan A. Garner has an extensive career as a lawyer, guest speaker and writer. He is well known for his LawProse CLE seminars that are available in your city by popular demand. During his litigation career Garner has come across some helpful guidelines to keep in mind for a more productive work flow.

    1. Understand your Client’s Needs
    When someone has been practicing a specific area of law for a long period of time, they might think that they have seen it all and most cases might start to look similar. Garner explains that its very important for litigators to truly understand their client’s situation and needs. During the interview session take good notes and come prepared with your own questions. A thorough briefing session is necessary in order to compose an all encompassing memo and case abstract.

    2. Use all Available Resources
    Today’s technology has made it very easy for attorneys to solely rely on online resources for their research. Publications such as  Corpus Juris Secundum and
    American Jurisprudence
    are obvious sources of knowledge, however they are still overlooked by many attorneys. Google books is also an option for those who want to pull from a wide and diverse variety of law journals, cases and books from all over the world.

    3. Grammar and Spelling
    This may be an easy one, but is overlooked by a lot of lawyers. Invest in a dictionary and be careful with your writing. If you turn in work that has a lot of grammatical errors, judges might think that you carry that type of carelessness in other areas of your job.

    4. Find a Mentor
    Don’t underestimate the power of mentors. This is a great way to have a pair of fresh eyes that can look over your work and give you some constructive criticism. Identify the great writers within your firm and close networking circles and reach out to them for help and some inspiration.

    If you are a fan of these simple tips mentioned above, Garner  has a wide variety of legal books that offer more helpful tips on legal writing and courtroom etiquette.


    Privacy Infringement Upon Fake Facebook Account

    Derek ByrdA recent lawsuit was settled between the United States and a New York resident who claimed that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) created a Facebook profile page featuring her in skimpy attire, other compromising situations, as well as photos of her and her relatives and underage son. Although the government does not admit to any fault, they did settle with the plaintiff for the amount of 134,000 dollars.

    The profile, which was created with the woman’s real information, was intended to draw in people who were suspected to of being part of a large drug ring. The plaintiff stated that the fake profile Facebook page depicted her as conspiring with law enforcement, which put her life in danger. However, prosecutors have refuted her charges on grounds that she had consented to the profile creation when she allowed the government to use her cellphone and the available data in it.

    The justice department is reviewing the files particular to this case, as well as federal practices that deal with public personal information, such as photos, text messages and Google searches. Mariko Hirose, Staff Attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, believes that these allegations highlight the immediate need of reviewing old procedures that include law enforcement regulations and how they deal with peoples’ digital identities.

    The fake Facebook profile page depicts the New York resident posing on a car in her undergarments, as well as pictures that show her son and other relatives. The agent who impersonated the woman, also send friend requests to a wanted fugitive under said account.  Her attorneys focused on creating a case making dealt not only with their client’s infringement on personal information, but also the overarching problem of privacy in this digital age.

    A Facebook spokesperson commented on the matter “We ask that you refrain from publishing the personal information of others without their consent. Claiming to be another person, creating a false presence for an organization, or creating multiple accounts undermines community and violates Facebook’s terms,” and has since removed the profile.



    South Florida Law Firm Convicted Of Fraud

    Derek ByrdThis month, six attorneys were convicted in a case that included a billion dollar fraud from partners and lawyers at a South Florida firm. The organization’s ex administrator helped prosecutors pin down the attorneys involved in the scheme, in exchange for cutting down her prison stay from ten to five years. 

    The administrator, Debra Villagas, is now working with prosecutors in order to appeal her plea bargain to the U.S. District Judge William Zloch.  However, if Villagas and her lawyers succeed, that would mean that the firm’s CFO would also be released sooner than expected  in the upcoming year. 

    The former partner of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, is scheduled to serve a 50 year sentence in the federal prison system, but insiders are saying that his time might also be cut short if he chooses to cooperate with federal agents. 

    Villagas has helped convict a total of six lawyers from RRA, one from another firm in South Florida and civilians who are not involved in the justice system. Villaga’s scheduled court date in relation to the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler  case interfered with her appearance in court for her husband’s murder case.

    In a report by the Sun Sentinel, a former county sheriff lieutenant was also placed under arrest for acting as one of Rothstein’s “enforcers.” In a claim, the lieutenant was accused of falsely arresting the ex- spouse of one of Rothstein’s lawyers in order for him to gain full custody of his son. This all came into light after Villegas was placed under questioning from federal agents. 

    After RRA’s case became public in 2008, the firm went through a great deal of financial difficulties, until it  declared bankruptcy in early 2009. The investors who were deceived by the law firm, were awarded close to $67 million on behalf of disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein. 


    5 Myths Regarding Practicing Law

    imgresPeople who don’t practice law tend to have a preconceived notion of what a lawyer actually does or how he actually got to become a lawyer. It leads to many myths tied to law or lawyers. Lets take a look at five myths that are tied to practicing law according to aboutcareers.com.

    1. Becoming a lawyer is a guaranteed path to financial success:
    Not every lawyer is comfortable financially. For one, after attending those additional years of schooling, a lawyer has far for student debt than say someone who received their traditional four year degree and went right to work. Lawyers do not just catch on anywhere and receive a job. The most financially comfortable lawyers work for the largest firms in the world. These firms tend to have over 100 attorneys and make up 1% of all law firms.

    2. As a lawyer, I can eradicate injustice and affect societal change:
    Litigation is not clear cut in the sense that good trumps evil. Because you’re client did the right thing or was victimized is only half the battle. If you don’t play the law strategically, you can still lose despite your client being innocent. You still have to present a valid case and play your hand. More often than not, cases end up in compromise rather than right defeating wrong.

    3. I will make a great lawyer because I am good at arguing:
    Just because you can always strike a good argument and make a great conversation out of it does not mean you’re cut out to be a lawyer. You have to be logical, do research and essentially persuade a jury or judge that what you’re preaching makes sense and actually happened.

    4. Litigators lead a thrilling, high-powered and glamorous life:
    With so many law shows out there like Suits, Law and Order, or Franklin and Bash, its easy to think that all these lawyers live thrilling and extremely comfortable life. That however is not the case. Lawyers are not actually in a courtroom as often as you think they are. Practicing law requires a lot of research done on your own from your office. Less than 1% of all cases go to trial.

    5. The work of a lawyer is intellectually challenging:
    Lawyers are constantly doing the same practices over and over that the work is actually mundane. Newer lawyers in large firms are often in charge of doing a large portion of the work which can become mind numbing.


    Social Media’s Effect on Criminal Trial Law

    imgresThe OJ Simpson trial in the 90s was important for a number of reasons, not least of all as a signifier of the powerful effect of mass media on a trial. High-profile cases are now regularly featured in tabloids and popular online news aggregators.

    A recent study, Public Engagement with the Criminal Justice System in the Age of Social Media, examines this same topic 20 years later, in a world where mass media is much different, and much more pervasive.

    The study links the media’s portrayal of criminal trials to the dwindling of public confidence in the country’s criminal justice system. Researchers looked examined a host of data points for participants, including news reading sources and habits, knowledge about major recent criminal trials, and overall trust in the criminal justice system at large.

    The study’s abstract claims that the study is the first look at social media’s impact, specifically. If that’s true, it’s amazing researchers have waited so long. We have to imagine it won’t be the last study of its kind.

    Ultimately, the study finds that social media coverage and conversation about criminal trials do not enhance public knowledge, and does nothing to increase confidence in the overall system. What does tend to increase when the public engages in social media surrounding a trial, is a “greater desire for vengeance and encouragement of vigilante attitudes and behavior.” The conclusion adds that the advent of ‘cyber vigilantism’ may have been born, in part, from this effect. Noble motives, but potentially harmful actions.

    As we each make choices about how we use the internet to enhance and enrich our lives, we need to consider how it’s affecting us and our perceptions of our world.

    You can download the entire study here. [http://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/325/471]