“It bodes poorly for defendants who are facing sentencing in these cases…Because of the economic turmoil and the number of these cases, a lot of judges are sending the same kind of messages, which is how unacceptable and awful and harmful this behavior is… As a former prosecutor, it warms my heart.” –MICHAEL SEIGEL University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, July 1, 2009, Sarasota Herald Tribune
Judges have been handing out longer sentences for white-collar crimes for a decade, but some may be even tougher now. Seigel provided insight on the sentences handed down to Madoff and other convicted Ponzi-scheme criminals. Harsh sentences are more effective deterrents on white-collar crime, which is often committed by educated, successful business people with families who “get the message” about the consequences, Seigel said.
“The reality is, nationwide, that real estate values are plummeting and it’s particularly diffi cult if you have a development that’s partially completed.” –JEFFREY DAVIS, Gerald A. Aohn Professor, May 8, 2009, Orlando Business Journal
Davis also commented that it is not surprising that creditors of two bankrupt South Florida development companies are pursuing Wall Street lenders for recovery of billions in debt following the collapse of the housing market. Creditors in second position argued that Wall Street lenders lent billions to the two companies in “ill conceived” loans that contributed to the companies’ financial instability, and, as such, shouldn’t be awarded the bulk of valuable assets in the companies’ subsidiaries as first-position creditors during bankruptcy proceedings.
“What motivates these ostentatious displays is the unspoken, almost unconscious guilt over the way military service works now. A narrow slice of Americans serve again and again. It’s as if we’re saying, ‘We will engage in these very public displays of worship, provided you don’t ask us to serve.’ “
– DIANE MAZUR, Gerald A. Sohn Term Professor, July 2, 2009, USA Today
Mazur provided her perspective as a legal expert and former U.S. Air Force officer on why today’s general population turns out in great numbers to celebrate troop homecomings.
“A lot of these suits are not about money, but about symbolically saying, ‘This is a lie and we don’t want it said about us.’ It can be very effective from a public relations standpoint. … There is a danger that these lawsuits could have a chilling effect on the free speech of others.” –LYRISSA LIDKSY, Professor of Law UF Research Foundation Professor Sept. 8, 2009, Myrtle Beach Sun News
Lidsky commented on lawsuits brought to combat false and defamatory claims posted on the Internet. She said although most lawsuits of this kind don’t usually result in large monetary awards, they can be used successfully as a counter voice to defamatory content posted online. Nonetheless, they can be abused when used to squelch free speech, Lidsky said, and courts are struggling to fi nd a balance.
“I think it’s basically obscene that they are wasting taxpayers’ money on issues like this.” –FLETCHER N. BALDWIN JR., Chesterfield Smith Professor Emeritus Sept. 16, 2009, St. Petersburg Times
Baldwin provided his opinion that state legislators seeking to amend the Florida Constitution to block the impact of the new health care program are showboating and they would serve the state of Florida more effectively by focusing on the very real and pressing problems facing the state.
“The argument that the old house is hurting property values is not a sound one… The study was done for whole neighborhoods but has some applications to the situation you have in Stuart. Generally, we found that historic preservation increased, not decreased, surrounding property values.”
– TIMOTHY MCLENDON, Staff Attorney, Center for Governmental Responsibility Sept. 11, 2009, Treasure Coast News
McLendon provided insight into historic home preservation as an author of Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation in Florida.
“The facts here are unusual, as is often true in extreme cases, though I don’t think the claim itself is so unusual. If you substitute the chimp for a dangerous machine, it doesn’t seem so unlikely.”
–JOSEPH LITTLE, Emeritus, Alumni Research Professor Oct. 15, 2009, ABC News.com
Little provided his perspective on the case regarding the $50-million injury compensation lawsuit of a woman whose face was ripped off during an attack by a deranged, 200-pound chimp. The chimp owner counters that the victim’s civil claim should be dismissed on the grounds that compensation for her injuries should be treated as a worker’s compensation claim. Little said the argument may be successful if lawyers can prove that there was a regular employment relationship between the chimp owner and the victim, and that caring for the chimp was included in the victim’s job responsibilities.
“The amount of information collected in litigation is enormous … This is the classic horse out of the barn analogy. Once information has gone on the Web, it’s sort of gone.”
–JON MILLS, Professor; Dean Emeritus; Director, Center for Governmental Responsibility,
Oct. 5, 2009. Orlando Sentinal
Mills commented on work of the Committee on Privacy and Court Records, formed by the Florida Supreme Court, to study the issue of whether more than 1,000 legislative exemptions to public records apply to open access to court records made available online.
“Some of the research does suggest there may be bias against consumer … And though the courts have been favorable to arbitration, even when it is imposed, I think you’re seeing some pushback against that now. People feel that since the courts have backed it, then you’re just going to have to change the law.”
–GEORGE DAWSON, Professor, Oct. 6, 2009, Orlando Sentinel
Dawson provided insight into mandatory binding arbitration many businesses impose on their customers when legal disputes arise and the recent move to change the laws given the widespread concern that consumers may not be receiving fair mediation. This follows the state of Minnesota’s lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum, which it accused of engaging in fraud and deceptive business practices in its consumer debt-collection arbitration. NAF ceased to conduct consumer arbitration in July of 2009, following the revelation that its parent company was a nationwide debt collection enterprise.
“The story that these folks tell is based on the idea that Obama is an illegitimate president… With midterm elections coming up, and Obama losing some momentum, this would be a perfect opportunity for the Republicans to move to the middle, or [for the GOP to] rebrand itself as the party of competence…To the extent they become obsessed with marginal, complicated issues like birth certifi cates, it will be more diffi cult for them to run strong — especially in 2012.”
–MARK FENSTER Associate Dean for Faculty Development, University of Florida Research Foundation Professor July 29, 2009, National Public Radio
Fenster, author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in the American Culture, commented on the insistence of “birthers” that Barack Obama is not a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya and is not a U.S. citizen. While the birthers undermine their credibility by denying clear evidence of Obama’s birth in Hawaii, White House staffers have been successful, Fenster says, in managing their own credibility as the “sane adults in the room.”
“Many people want to believe that now that we have an African American in the White House, we can get past all this race stuff.”
–KATHERYN RUSSELL-BROWN, Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law; Center for the study of Race and Relations, July 24, 2009, USA Today and Miami Herald
Russell-Brown, author of The Color od Crime, a book about race, crime and justice, commented on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates after he broke into his own home after returning from a lengthy trip. Russell-Brown said the story was a “perfect storm” of ingredients contributing to international attention regarding the question of whether the U.S. has been successful in overcoming its history of racism.
“As the old saying goes: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop… Activity is a very good thing [in prison]. … I’ve talked to prisoners who would tell me that the only thing that kept them sane was working and having something to do.”
– GEORGE R. “BOB” DEKLE Senior Legal Skills Professor July 25, 2009, Orlando Sentinal
Dekle commented on the unfortunate closings, due to the poor economy, of some prison factories which provide vocational, on-the-job training to Florida’s inmates.