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At Donna Solomon Appeals, we are pleased to report that we have won in our appeal of a 2018 contempt of court case. Our client, John Carter, is a Palm Beach County lawyer. In 2018, County Judge Marni Bryson sentenced him to 30 days in jail after convicting him of contempt of court. This case presented a miscarriage of justice. The same judge who entered into a heated verbal dispute with Mr. Carter convicted him of contempt of court and sentenced him.
The legal team at Donna Solomon Appeals is pleased with the well-reasoned decision. We believe that this decision will help protect the rights of lawyers who have been charged with contempt. Lawyers, just like every other citizen, have a right to a fair trial, especially when the possibility of jail time is on the table.
The Appellate Court’s Ruling
Attorney Donna Solomon worked with her husband, criminal defense attorney Mark Solomon, to secure justice on behalf of Mr. Carter. Donna Solomon appealed Judge Bryson’s decision to the Circuit court, as the original case took place in county court.
On July 1, three Circuit court judges, Rosemarie Scher, Scott Suskauer, and Cheryl Caracuzzo, issued the ruling in favor of Mr. Carter. Specifically, the judges agreed that County Judge Bryson was in error when she did not recuse herself from Mr. Carter’s contempt hearing.
The court record showed that a high level of animosity took place between Mr. Carter and Judge Bryson when Carter initially appeared to represent his client. The Circuit court also ruled that Judge Bryson should not have ordered Mr. Carter to undergo an evaluation for his mental health and that she should not have refused to set a bond for him.
Ultimately, the Circuit court panel determined that Judge Bryson’s issues with Mr. Carter as a person were enough to necessitate her recusal. The fact that she stated that she could not take Mr. Carter seriously showed that she was not able to oversee his contempt hearing in an unbiased manner.
The Background of the Case
In March 2018, Mr. Carter entered the courtroom of Judge Bryson to represent his client in a DUI case. Mr. Carter was attempting to convince the court to reinstate his client’s bond. His client had missed an appearance in court. Mr. Carter told the court that he never received notice for his client’s hearing. Judge Byron said that Mr. Carter had signed the notice to appear.
Mr. Carter contended and continues to assert that he did not sign the notice of appearance. He told the judge that the signature on the notice was not his signature. Next, Judge Bryson and Mr. Carter engaged in a back-and-forth verbal dispute. Mr. Carter, who has been practicing law for over 35 years, noted that the verbal altercation was unlike anything he had ever seen.
Carter told Judge Bryson that she was “disrespectful to the people of Palm Beach County” and that he was “appalled” by her behavior. He also brought up that he had heard other employees share similar complaints about Judge Bryson. Upon hearing this, Judge Bryson stated that she would recuse herself from the DUI case and leave the courtroom. Before she left, Bryson said, “I’m recusing myself from his case because I just can’t -- I can’t take you (Carter) seriously.”
Contempt Charges Against Mr. Carter
Soon after the courtroom incident involving the hearing notice, Judge Bryson issued contempt charges against Mr. Carter. The grounds for the contempt charges were based on Mr. Carter’s statement that he did not sign the court document. Judge Bryson presided over Mr. Carter’s contempt hearing. At the hearing, Judge Bryson played a video of Mr. Carter walking up to the clerk’s desk.
When Mr. Carter walked back to his client, he had a handful of papers in his hand. The video did not provide conclusive proof that the defendant was walking back with the notice of the hearing. The court clerk did log a signed hearing notice into the online filing system for the Palm Beach Clerk of Court. Still, Mr. Carter maintains that he did not sign the notice and that the court should investigate who signed the contract. Bryson convicted Mr. Carter of contempt of court and sentenced him to 30 days in jail.
The Impact of the Judge’s Ruling
We hope that the Circuit Court’s ruling will help attorneys receive fair hearings for contempt. The panel of judges ruled that, in most cases, trial court judges may only preside over contempt cases “when the contempt charge does not involve disrespect to or criticism of that particular judge.”
When judges make it explicitly clear that they are biased against an attorney, they should not overhear that attorney’s case. Mr. Carter has a new hearing scheduled with a different judge, County Judge Robert Panse. Mr. Carter plans to request that Judge Panse dismiss all of the contempt charges against him.
The Importance of Hiring a Skilled Appellate Court Judge
The circuit court’s ruling demonstrates the importance of hiring an experienced lawyer to represent you in appellate courts. The appellate process is significantly different from the trial court process. Appeals cases require a lawyer with excellent research and writing skills with an eye for detail. Your appellate lawyer needs to have the skills to make compelling, written legal arguments.
Contact Our Law Firm Today
Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon is an accomplished appellate attorney. She is one of few lawyers in Florida to have secured certifications in Appellate Practice and Business Litigation. Donna has a record of success in appellate cases within the areas of real estate, insurance coverage, personal injury, and employment law. If you need a skilled appellate lawyer, we can help. Ms. Solomon has been “evaluated for Professionalism and tested for expertise. Contact her law office today to schedule your initial consultation.
If you have just been convicted of a crime in Fort Lauderdale, you are probably experiencing a whole host of emotions. Many defendants who have been convicted feel hopeless, or even despondent. The stress of your trial has probably left a mark on you and now you might be looking at a serious prison sentence. If you have been convicted of a federal crime, you will need to hire an experienced federal criminal appeals lawyer.
You Have a Right to a Federal Criminal Appeal
A federal appeal is a legal process in which a higher court reviews a person’s criminal conviction and sentence. There is no guaranteed constitutional right to appeal when it comes to criminal cases. Nonetheless, every state, including Florida, as well as the federal government have enacted laws that give higher courts the right to review lower court judgments. Federal appeals courts review the decisions of trial court judges to make sure that they applied the laws correctly.
There are two tiers of criminal appeals. The United States Courts of Appeals reviews district court judgments from their circuits. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest federal appellate court in the United States. The Supreme Court reviews the judgments of the federal courts of appeals circuits.
Federal Criminal Appeals do Not Reevaluate the Facts of the Case
One of the most important things to know is that the federal appeals process is often lengthy. Despite the time involved in a federal criminal appeals court, federal criminal court appellate judges do not re-try the entire case. For example, the judge reviewing your federal criminal court review will not hold another trial with witnesses and evidence. Instead, the judge will review the written legal arguments from your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor and then make a decision on the legal arguments involved.
Appellate Courts are Different From Trial Courts
Many times, convicted criminal defendants expect to attend court again for their appeal. When it comes to criminal appeals, there is no trial. Appellate courts do not listen to “evidence” or any testimony like trial courts do. The only in-person court appearances involve motions and attorneys making legal arguments based on the alleged errors of the trial court below. Your criminal appeals lawyer will argue that the judge made such a serious error that you are entitled to a retrial or to have your case dismissed. The prosecuting lawyer will claim that the trial court did not make an error serious enough to warrant any changes. By the time you hire a federal criminal appeals lawyer, the facts in your criminal case have already been “set in stone.”
Federal Criminal Appeals are Slow Moving
At Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration, we know how important it is for our clients to seek justice. Many of our clients understandably want their conviction to be reversed immediately. Unfortunately, the federal criminal appeals process can be frustratingly slow. In most cases, federal criminal appeals take several months, if not years. The federal courts are crowded and the appeals process is slow, by nature. For the most part, courts consider every legal claim individually which takes a significant amount of time.
Many federal criminal appeals courts do accept briefs electronically, and technology has sped up the process somewhat. Nonetheless, appellate judges are human beings and it takes them time to review all of the evidence from the trial court as well as carefully consider all of the legal arguments made by both parties. Even though the slow process is incredibly frustrating, it is necessary for our justice system that appellate judges spend enough time carefully reviewing every decision.
Most Criminal Appeals are Resolved Based on Written Legal Arguments
Most federal criminal appellate cases nationwide are resolved without any oral argument. This means that most federal court judges make a decision based on the legal briefs submitted by each party. Legal briefs are legal arguments written down as motions. As the defendant, your lawyer will submit the opening or principal brief. You as the appellant, or the party appealing, will provide the court with your brief.
The first brief will provide an objective summary of the facts of your case. It will then present persuasive arguments that the trial court judge made specific legal errors. The brief will need to contend that the legal errors warrant the judge requiring a new trial. Your lawyer will support each legal argument with a citation to previous decisions made by appellate court judges, the constitution, or federal law.
After you submit your opening brief, the federal government will file a responding brief that also contains a statement of facts and answers to any of the legal arguments made by your attorney. The government will be called the appellee in federal criminal appellate cases. The appellee also needs to support all of their arguments with citations to legal precedent, the Constitution, and laws.
In most courts, you will have the opportunity to file a brief answer to the government’s responding arguments. These three legal briefs make up the requirements for briefing in the most federal criminal appeals process. Each court will impose certain time limits in which the attorneys must submit each brief.
You Need an Experienced Federal Criminal Appeals Lawyer on Your Side
Federal appellate courts are well-known for their rigid standards. Every federal appellate court has extremely stringent technical requirements. Your lawyer will need to format and bind the briefs in a particular way. They will need to use a specific font and paper size as well, and that only covers the technical requirements. When it comes to the argumentation itself, you need an appellate lawyer with experience crafting well-written and compelling criminal appeals arguments.
If you have been convicted of a federal crime, Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration can help. Contact us as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can advocate for you throughout the criminal appeals process.
The article is in the ADR Corner of the January 2020 issue of the Palm Beach County Bar Association Bulletin on page 5. The link to this article is
Solomon handles business-related litigation and appeals (state and federal), mediation, and arbitration through her law firm, Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration . Donna also co-counsels and serves as freelance business litigator for those wishing to expand the bench strength of their practices.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled a trial judge was correct inawarding nominal damages and more than $115,000 in fees but incorrect in tossing claims for emotional distress and punitive damages for a Florida couple who were repeatedly reported in arrears for a house they no longer owned.
If you have received a negative outcome at trial, you might be considering filing an appeal in Florida state court. Florida appellate law is quite complex, and appeals at the state level require an experienced Florida appellate lawyer. Entering the appellate process can feel like you are entering into a whole other legal world. The rules are different as well as the legal processes involved. We have put together a list of frequently asked questions for Florida state appeals that will help you understand this unique process.
What are the Parties in an Appeal Called?
During the appeals process, the person who is appealing is called the petitioner or the appellant. The appellant can be the plaintiff from the original case or the defendant from the trial case. In other words, whoever is challenging the trial court’s ruling is the appellant.
Why Would I File an Appeal?
The party to a lawsuit who disagrees with a trial court judge’s ruling can appeal that ruling. During the appeal process, the appellate petitions a higher court to review the decision of the trial court. This process is called the appellate process or the appeals process. The Florida Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, guarantees the right to an appeal.
How to Start an Appeal in Fort Lauderdale
The first step in filing an appeal is to hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale appeals lawyer who will advocate for your best interests. Your lawyer will file a “notice of appeal.” In the notice of appeal with the trial court. Doing so will allow you to initiate and pursue an appeal of the lower court decision.
What are the Time Limits for Appeals?
In most cases, the appellant has 30 days after the court’s decision to file a notice of appeal. Check with your lawyer to verify the exact timeline in your case.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Decision on My Appeal?
The appeals process is often extremely lengthy. Both lawyers will need to review all of the transcripts from the original trial or hearing and analyze those transcripts. Both lawyers need to prepare their arguments and the court will need to assign the appeal to a panel of three judges. The judges will then review the trial court record and the legal arguments prepared by the attorneys. Typically, there is no oral argument in the appeals process.
How Do I Know if I Can Appeal?
You will need to consider whether you have legal standing to appeal. You need to be a party to the proceeding at the trial court level. The trial court must have made a judgment in your case, and you need to have an appealable order from a trial court judge. Lower tribunals including administrative agencies and trial courts can issue a decision that the appellant can appeal.
You also need paperwork to substantiate the judgment. There might have been an error of fact, law, or procedure during your trial for you to have a successful appeal. Your Fort Lauderdale appeals lawyer will be able to review your case and advise you as to whether you have a valid claim for an appeal.
What Will the Appellate Court Judge Do?
The appeals court can affirm the decision of the lower court. In this case, the lower court’s decision will stand and remain law. Or, the appellate court might find that the lower court’s decision was erroneous. In this case, the appellate court will either reverse the lower court’s decision. Or, the court might reverse and remand the case to the lower court for more proceedings. In some cases, the appellate court will demand a retrial, or they can demand that the lower court address a specific issue.
Can a Florida Appellate Court Turn an Appeal Down?
Yes, a Florida appellate court can dismiss an appeal. But they can only dismiss an appeal if it is a non-appealable order. The Florida Supreme Court is the highest court in Florida and they have broad discretion to decide which cases they will and will not hear and accept. There are only a few narrow types of orders that the Florida Supreme Court must accept for review.
What is the Structure of the Florida Appellate System?
In Florida, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure govern all appellate proceedings. The Florida court system has three different levels, two of which are appellate courts. Florida’s circuit courts and county courts are the trial courts. When a party decides to appeal a trial court decision, they will typically appeal with one of the five district courts of appeal. The district courts of appeal can be found in the following locations:
The final level of appeal belongs to the Florida Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the right to review the final order of any trial court in Florida directly in limited circumstances. The Florida Supreme Court is the highest court in Florida and is in charge of making extremely important legal decisions in Florida.
What is an Appellate Lawyer?
An appellate lawyer focuses mostly, or exclusively, on appellate law. They have extensive knowledge of the Florida appeals process and they are skilled when it comes to legal research and writing. They need to have the skills to write effective appellate briefs. While trial lawyers are effective at trying the facts of a case in front of a jury, appellate lawyers are skilled at explaining why an appellate judge should affirm the decision of the lower court.
Contact Our Experienced Appellate Lawyers Today
Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon is an experienced Fort Lauderdale appellate attorney. She is one of only a few attorneys who have received the Appellate Practice and Business Litigation certifications from the Florida bar. Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration today to schedule your initial consultation.
Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon, who is representing ABC Salvage, said they are looking forward
to proceeding to trial.
"The appellate court properly found that we showed evidence of the bank's negligence in connection
with an account that was allegedly used to defraud our client," she told Law360.
For more information, access Law360's report and the attached opinion below.