Note to Federal Bankruptcy Judge Raymond Ray: When it's a tossup, side with the First Amendment over secrecy.
Especially when it comes to Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein cohorts like his former law partner Steven Lippman.
Lippman, who is being sued by the bankruptcy court for $3.8 million in alleged Ponzi funds he received from Rothstein, filed for an emergency hearing to bar the media from his deposition, which is set for Friday. Remember that vital information has come from the depos, especially the one involving Rothstein accountant Gary Berkowitz.
During a court hearing Monday, Judge Ray ruled in Lippman's favor, shutting out the public and media from sitting in on the depo, in which Lippman has said he will answer questions and not invoke the Fifth Amendment.
And thank you, Judge Ray, for once again showing us all just how flawed and idiotic the American court system can be. The sad truth is that if you get more than five lawyers in any room together, something bad will often come out of it. And that's what you had here.
The South Florida Business Journal's Paul Brinkman covered the hearing and reported that Lippman's lawyer, Patrick Scott, told the judge, "This is a case where there's a very low public interest."
Now the judge should have thrown both Scott and his
client out of the courtroom on their ears when he heard that whopper, but instead he politely said he thought the "facts of the case would suggest otherwise."
Scott then said well maybe, but what goes on in the deposition wasn't vital to the public, like, say, a case involving tobacco companies in which the public health is at stake. Another absurd point, but Judge Ray let it roll.
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Conrad & Scherer lawyer James Silver argued in favor of allowing the media into the deposition, saying Rothstein and his former law firm "undermined the public confidence in the legal system."
Then Ray undermined that waning confidence a bit more by ruling in Lippman's favor.
-- In other news, Judge Ana Gardiner's motion to dismiss the Judicial Qualifications Commission case against her was denied and she may be going to trial in September. Let's see, a trial where a Broward County Circuit Judge defends having hundreds of communications with the prosecutor in a death penalty trial? Bring in the witnesses! This one is going to upstage the Fitzroy Salesman trial for sure.
-- If you missed it last night, you need to see the Frontline documentary, The Quake, on Haiti's recent disaster. It's the most powerful piece of work done to date on the earthquake and its aftermath. The film was made by RAINmedia's Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria, friends of the blog who put together the Frontline documentary on Madoff that homed in on Fort Lauderdale's Michael Bienes. Click here to catch The Quake online.