Friday, April 12, 2013

Camillus House Completes its $80 Million Upgrade; the Hon. C. Clyde Atkins; Murray Sams and My First Day in Federal Court (Updated)

The Herald today reports a hopeful advance in the care and rehabilitation of the Homeless in Miami.

Also today, the Herald reports the other side of the story.  The Homeless continue to impose a huge cost on Miami's development, impeding the renaissance of Downtown and near-Downtown.  The Hon. C. Clyde Atkins, US District Judge,  issued 20 years ago a restrictive ruling in response to high-handed police efforts to clear tent cities established by the Homeless.  (It reflected the settlement of a suit brought by the ACLU against the City of Miami.)  Those tent cities were on the doorstep of the cruise-ship terminals.  Now that venerable and even then (perhaps) impractical order is under attack.  Having spent most of my waking hours during that 20 year period working in and about Downtown Miami, I would say that it is very much time to give that order another look.

We should note, however, that Norwegian Cruise Lines is a big contributor to the Camillus House project, according to the first linked article.  One has to ask whether Camillus' success in raising funds and drawing positive attention from the private sector would have occurred without the obstacles that Judge Atkins' order created.

The church where I grew up, Central Baptist, is located across the street from a Federal office building that is part of a complex that includes the Federal Court House.  According to a story told me during the late 1980s - early 1990s by one of the members of that church, Judge Atkins' office was on the north side of that building, directly across the street from the south side of the church and its south-side entrance, which is quite wide.  An architectural feature of that entrance is a portico that extends over the sidewalk.  Because that part of the sidewalk was so well covered, homeless people would camp out there at night.  They made a mess, according to the people at the church, and it took some time each morning to clean up after the campers.

Judge Atkins apparently knew this was going on.  He could see this situation from his office window, according to the person who told me this story.  Judge Atkins called the church office one day and told the receptionist that the church was not to disturb the homeless camping under the portico.  The church did not.

My first appearance in federal court as a lawyer was in 1972.  It was before Judge Atkins and it was unplanned.  I was a green associate at Smathers & Thompson, and one of the partners asked me to review the court file of a case before him.  At that time, the federal judges kept the court files for their cases in their chambers rather than in the clerk's office, the practice in the state court system.  So I went to Judge Atkin's chambers and asked his secretary for permission to review the file. 

She said that the file was not in the office, but with the judge himself who was, at that very moment, conducting a hearing in the case.  I telephoned the partner and told him the situation.  Somehow he had not gotten the word that the judge had convened a hearing.  "Well," the partner said, "Go on in there and take care of this!"

So into the court room I went.  The lawyer on the other side was Murray Sams, Jr., a legendary trial lawyer.  Holy Cow!, I thought.  About the only other thing I remember, other than that it turned out all right that day, is that Murray came up to me just after the hearing.  In his thoroughly charming and gracious way, he introduced himself and welcomed me to federal court.  Then, he proceeded to tell me that my clients were involved with the Mafia and did I know that?  Murray Sams, the consummate advocate.


Carol said...

So were they involved with the mafia?

Paul Stokes said...

I don't think so. I didn't work on the case further. Murray, I think, was messing with my mind.