Brief of Amicus Curiae for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Florida Public Defender Association.
Argument: It violates the accused’s constitutional rights to be forced to have a probation violation hearings via Zoom or other remote means. The practice offends the right to be present (in the courtroom before the judge, with witnesses, with the accused’s own counsel) and ignores certain provisions in the Criminal Procedure. Because counsel is remote, it also offends the right to effective assistance of counsel. By way of background: The circumstance of forced remote probation hearings has arisen in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a vast administrative order basically suspending any Florida Rule of Procedure that prohibited remote proceedings. The administrative order permits pleas, status conferences, and motion practice by Zoom.
Brief of the Cato Institute, FAMM Foundation, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent
Argument: The independence of citizen juries is a well-established and crucial feature of our legal and constitutional history. The District Court’s openness to permitting evidence and argument as to the consequences of a conviction is a reasonable exercise of the Court’s discretion, not subject to control by mandamus. The District Court’s provisional decisions thoughtfully harmonize different threads of modern case law, respecting the jury’s traditional authority to issue conscientious acquittals while still operating within the strictures of precedent. Permitting a jury to hear evidence about the consequences of conviction is especially reasonable in a case with a severe and surprising mandatory minimum. Protecting jury independence is all the more important given the vanishingly small role that jury trials play in our criminal justice system.