Tomorrow, 1/24/14…the Daily Business Review will be holding a “View from the Bench” in Palm Beach County. It will be the first one that they are holding in Palm Beach. Originally, I was invited to be the moderator of one of the panels. Tom Ice, another foreclosure defense attorney, was the sponsor of that event.
As reported by the Palm Beach Post, I will not be the moderator and the Ice Firm has for good reason withdrawn its sponsorship.
What happened is an unfortunate footnote to the nature of foreclosure jurisprudence in the State of Florida and probably the nation. As a backdrop, last fall, our firm was the exclusive sponsor of a Daily Business Review sold-out event at the Performing Arts Center in Broward County addressing foreclosures. I gave the keynote address and also served as one of the panelists. Amanda Lundergan was the moderator. After the conclusion of the event, the Review representatives told me that the event was one of their best events and in fact they wanted to put another one on for the end of the year.
Fast forward. The event on Friday is supposed to be a continuation of the discussion that was had at the “View from the Bench” Oppenheim Law sponsored. That will not be the case. As reported by the Palm Beach Post a number of the judicial panelists felt uncomfortable with “an attorney” serving as moderator. The fact is… the questions are pre-vetted, already.
Why will Ice Firm and Oppenheim law not be attendance tomorrow? Because in the streets of the Bronx we call that ‘unbridled censorship’ or ‘chutzpah’ and at the Supreme Court we would call that a ‘form of prior restraint.’ Either way this kind of interference in the free discourse of ideas between the public, judiciary, and the bar is unacceptable.
In fairness to the Review, after the Palm Beach Post article ran, I was called and asked to serve on one of the other panels. Unfortunately, I will not be able to serve due to other commitments.
I must say that I am extremely disappointed at the turn of events that have occurred particularly in light of the fact that the last panel discussion in the fall was extremely useful both to the bar and the bench. Issues addressing the five-year statute of limitations, the statute of repose, improper decorum by judges and attorneys were discussed in candor. Chief judge of Broward County, Peter Weinstein, was there and was very candid about the pressure that he and his fellow judges are under not only from their docket but also from the legislature, the governor, as well as the Supreme Court to try and resolve this foreclosure crisis.
I think the event made us all understand the enormous stress and pressure that the judiciary experiences from all sides in attempting to resolve this crisis, regardless how it started or is to blame. I of course continued to focus on the fact that expediency can never trump justice, fairness, and equity.
There are times when it feels–and it still feels like– the judicial system is the baby being thrown out with the bath water. It is important for the judiciary to understand how they are perceived. How the public perceives the “bench” is as important as the public trying to understand how the bench perceives the public.
At the end…shame on all of us.
In the trenches,