Opa-locka Town Hall Meeting Judges present the facts

Miami-Dade Court Judges Peter Adrian, Judge Fred Seraphin, Judge Victoria Del Pino, Mayor Joseph L. Kelley, Judge Rodney Smith, Judge Abby Cynamon, Commissioner Rose Tydus, General Magistrate Karl Brown at the City of Opa-locka Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at Historic City Hall, 777 Sharazad Boulevard, Opa-locka, FL 33054.

“We can’t give you legal advice, but we can give you information to use,” stipulated Judge Fred Seraphin to residents, at the onset of a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Mayor Joseph L. Kelley and the Opa-locka City Commission, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at Historic City Hall, 777 Sharazad Boulevard, Opa-locka, FL 33054.

Judge Seraphin, with five of his colleagues from the Miami- Dade Courts, and a team of legal service providers, volunteered to address citizen concerns based on “fact laws, not personal opinion,” pertaining to common issues regarding Landlord/Tenants, Mortgage Foreclosure, Domestic Violence, Child Support and the Drive Legal Program. Each Judge spent several minutes presenting an overview of his or her area of expertise before conducting an “open-mic” session for residents to seek clarification on the law and/or “next step” directions.

“You pay, you stay… you don’t, you won’t,” declared Judge Abby Cynamon who translated the tenant law as simplistically as that. Judge Cynamon stated that a lease is a written binding contract, with the only exception being an “unconscionable provision” where a landlord included something that was unlawful. The Judge also outlined the landlord’s obligation to uphold good structural conditions, maintain a safe, clean environment, and give proper notices and reductions. As well, Judge Cynamon summarized the tenant’s responsibility to maintain sanitary conditions and follow other reasonable rules.

“Don’t put the letter back in the mailbox like Fred Sanford,” joked Judge Peter Adrian in the only advice he offered while addressing foreclosure notices. Rather than ignoring it, the Judge suggested seeking a better solution through exploring options such as modification, refinancing and short sales. According to Judge Adrian, “There are currently 80,000 foreclosures pending in Miami-Dade County.” He provided location information and phone numbers to legal aid and legal services for those needing assistance.

Specializing in Domestic Violence Cases, Judge Victoria Del Pino addressed restraining orders/injunctions that place restrictions on individuals who have allegedly committed acts or made threats of violence against another individual. The four types of injunctions are DOMESTIC, REPEAT, SEXUAL and DATING VIOLENCE. The injunctions provide protection at home, school, on the job and/or it awards temporary custody of minor children. Without discussing any particular cases, the Judge suggested it would be helpful in determining a case if witnesses, text messages, photos and any other evidence is made available. She recommended utilizing services like the Coordinated Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) be for assistance.

“You can’t get out, or back in the country, if you are in the rear for $2,500 or more and your passport is revoked,” revealed General Magistrate Karl Brown in one of several surprising facts shared on non-payment of child support, where a trickle-down effect could result in incarceration, as well as the suspension of drivers and/or professional licenses. Magistrate Brown recommended that individuals with Child Support or Paternity issues continue to follow the law, but take reasonable action by filing with the court, “so your side will be heard.” He added, “I’m not here to punish, but to facilitate how you are going to pay.”

Finally, Judge Rodney Smith, cautioned spectator from of a list of items that could result in detention, paying hefty fines or the revocation of driving privileges. Among them, the failure to pay SunPass fees, wear prescription glasses while driving, appear in court, pay child support, carry PIP, report switching insurance companies or report an address change within 10 days of moving. There are also penalties for violating a class restriction, driving with an expired license, racing on the highway, possessing two driver’s licenses, refusing to sign a citation and driving while unauthorized. The Judge stated that there are ways to reinstate driving privileges, but one must work within the law.

Following the presentations, Opalocka residents waited in a line to step-up to the podium and inquire about various issues covered in the Town Hall Meeting. Mayor Kelley, satisfied with the turn-out and the amount of interest, stated, “It is important that we as Public Servants keep the community informed, so that as a people, “we do not perish for a lack of knowledge.’”

For more information contact: Legal Aid at 305 579-5733; Legal Services 305 576-0080; and/or Coordinated Victims Assistance (CVAC) 305 285-5900

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