Another Day in Paradise


Let’s let good ole’ J.B. Harris explain what it’s like to practice in Miami-Dade County nowadays:

The flood of cases and reduction in judicial personnel are being felt in other ways as well, giving new meaning to the old adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
shim-2397531First, despite its enormous budget and size, the clerk’s office in the civil division cannot handle the flood of paper generated by foreclosure filings. Hence, court papers are frequently misplaced or take months to find their way into court files.

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As evidence of this problem, in one matter I found an amended pleading missing from the court file on the day of trial, even though I had filed it nearly three months before. While in another, I found someone else’s submissions in my client’s case file.

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Second, the Legislature in its infinite wisdom reassigned some of the clerk’s duties, like calendaring motions for hearing, to judges’ judicial assistants, often creating a system of “who’s on first” between the clerks and the assistants.

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By statute, the clerk is charged with docketing all case filings, while the JA’s are assigned the task of calendaring all hearings. In the past, the clerk handled both, with attorneys having the luxury of simply faxing to a calendaring clerk their hearing notices.

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Recently, I waited more than three weeks to attend a hearing on a simple discovery motion, only to find the day before the hearing it did not make the calendar.

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In this instance, I discovered that the clerk who was delivering motions and hearing notices to the JA for calendaring, was doing so in reverse order of filing, meaning the earlier ones filed on any given day ended up at the bottom of the stack, rather than on top.

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Since the JA scheduled hearings from the top of the pile down, the first motions filed were the last to make the calendar, rather than the other way around, leaving my motion off the agenda. A Catch-22 made worse by a calendar limited to 30 motions, the majority of which were uncontested summary judgment foreclosure motions.

Let’s face it, the system was always broken — scheduling meaningful hearings took months, getting a ruling even longer, getting to trial always a distant dream. But it does seem palpably worse in recent months, doesn’t it?And imagine being a judge in circuit court with these cuts, dealing day after day with ministerial motions, uncontested summary judgments, files lost and misplaced, overworked support staff, ham-and-eggers coming in with half-arsed pleadings and bullcrap discovery disputes. And these elections are contested?

BTW J.B., your web address gave me the first chuckle of the morning: “They’re Rich. You’re Dead.”