Nushin G. Sayfie is the Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, one of the top five largest jurisdictions in the country. To achieve a role of such prominence is a very big deal in the world of judicial appointments.
She has, by all measures, led a very prestigious career — having presided over hundreds of felony cases in her time as a circuit court judge and earlier in her career as a lawyer with the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. Certainly, Judge Sayfie’s experience and credentials are clear.
So, why are we stunned at her current role leading the charge on a proposed reform plan that would modify Miami-Dade County’s Pretrial Release Program to the extent that violent criminals might be released without posting a bond and before appearing in front of a judge.
We can’t help but feel something is wrong here. Can one sole individual do this? Shouldn’t something of this significance be driven by the county, the state, the governor — or by the constitution? According to the Florida Constitution, Article 1, Section 14, it sounds like Judge Sayfie is in violation of the constitution, which she was sworn to uphold.
At minimum it should be a judge deciding at the initial appearance of the defendant.
Nothing less. Eliminating the initial appearance will induce criminal defendants to believe even more that the criminal justice system is not effective and will not be imposed against them..
Apparently, we’re not alone in feeling this way. Though we understand that the State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office are providing insight and input into the process, along with widely varying degrees of support, we needed to take a closer look for ourselves.
It turns out State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle also is concerned something is amiss. In order to see some of the communications between her office and Judge Sayfie, Miami’s Community Newspapers performed a public request of some of the emails swirling between these offices. Click here to see some of the communications between their offices.
For nearly three decades, Katherine Fernandez Rundle has served Miami-Dade County as State Attorney. She has always worked hard to ensure public safety while respecting the rights and dignity of those accused of committing crimes. Her leadership on prosecutorial innovations have transformed the administration of justice in Miami for the better.
Among the recommended changes under the proposed reform program is something called a “delegated release” whereby Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Officers may release individuals charged with low-level, non-violent crimes without a monetary bond and prior to a first appearance before a judge unless the accused has a history of missed court appearances or a significant prior criminal record.
OK, so this kind of reform makes sense.
And anyone charged with any one of the more than 700 non-bondable and/or violent crimes would be excluded from delegated release, as they should be. Their crimes are on the “excludable list” and persons charged with such crimes would not be released prior to a first appearance.
But as always, the devil is in the details and here is the question: Is the “excludable list” complete? Right now, it appears as though the courts don’t find crimes such as robbery by sudden snatching, animal cruelty resulting in serious bodily injury or death, and non-domestic assault and battery as serious enough to warrant that those accused of them be excluded from delegated release.
So, if the proposed reforms went into effect, a defendant charged with non-domestic assault and battery would be eligible for delegated release, without posting a bond and before appearing in front of a Judge. C’mon, man! Really? New York anyone?
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle has made her position on these issues clear: She disagrees with the court’s proposed plan that would allow these defendants to be released without first appearing before a judge. She also believes that any bail reform initiative should involve input from the community at large and that the process of development and implementation should be transparent and taken slowly.
Miami’s Community Newspapers wholeheartedly agrees with the State Attorney’s position.
Violent criminals don’t deserve a pass and the last thing Miami needs is to become another San Francisco, Chicago, or New York, where crime and bail-reform buyer’s remorse are on the rise.
If you have thoughts, ideas, and comments on this matter, please send them in by email to email@example.com or call at 305-323-8206.
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