Judge Jay Hurley: Victim In Homeless War






Judge Jay Hurley is collateral damage in the Homeless War between the cities and The Public Defender.

In case you’ve been in a North Korean prison camp for the last decade, Jay Hurley is Broward’s First Appearance judge.


hurleyJudge Jay Hurley



When an arrestee can’t make bail, within 48 hours he has a Constitutional right to be brought before a judge to review the arrest affidavit and bail. It’s called First Appearance.

This includes the homeless arrested by cities under their own ordinances rather than state law. State law prohibits the State Attorney and the Public Defender, who are legally required to be in First Appearance court, from handling those cases.

Cities rarely send prosecutors or the city version of the public defender.

If the case is not resolved at First Appearance, it could be two or three weeks before Arraignment—which is the next time the Defendant could apply for a free lawyer.

Like many of the State cases, Judge Hurley offers the city defendants a chance to settle these minor cases with something like “Time Served”.  If they ask him, he will make a call to a homeless shelter or a drug/alcohol treatment center.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is not happy about this—settling cases without a lawyer—and has attempted to intervene in Municipal Ordinance arrests. Judge Hurley, following the State law, has shut them down. He may have also made superfluous comments lamenting the homeless situation.

Here is a link about Finkelstein versus Hurley. 

But Hurley is not the only one allowing poor people to settle cases without a lawyer.

About ten years ago, budgetary constraints caused The Public Defender to close its offices in Broward’s three satellite courts. As a result, every week far in excess of hundred misdemeanor cases are resolved between judges and indigent defendants without the benefit of a lawyer!

As far as the poor waiving their Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer, what’s the difference with what’s going on in our satellite courthouses and what Judge Hurley is doing?   Absolutely nothing.

(Well, not exactly.  Apparently legal scholars at the Public Defender’s office discovered a heretofore unknown essay in The Federalist Papers stating that the Sixth Amendment, while “inviolate at 201 SE 6th Street, is less so at 1600 West Hillsboro Blvd, 100 North Pine Island Road and 3550 West Hollywood Blvd”.  Who knew?)

Hey, let’s get one thing straight, these people are homeless…not stupid.

Even if they were released without bond, they have no address to get court notices. Many of them are what we used to call “hobos riding the rails”. They are rootless.  It is almost guaranteed they would miss a court date and have a warrant issued for their arrest. If they were arrested in another jurisdiction, they could spend weeks in jail before they learned that no one was going to extradite them back to Broward.

They know what’s in their best interest…even if others disagree.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the defendants who have come back to withdraw their plea.

Up until 2008, the First Appearance judge was a weekly rotation of all the judges.  Most had another courtroom with lawyers and litigants twiddling their thumbs.  Nickel and dime cases were not being resolved. Our jails were overcrowded with people who spent weeks in jail for swiping a bologna sandwich at Publix.

After Jay Hurley was appointed our first fulltime First Appearance judge, the jail population dropped over 1000.  The Sheriff closed one of the jails.  Taxpayers saved tens of millions of dollars without compromising public safety one iota!

If, in the course of the 250,000+ cases, Judge Hurley made an intemperate remark than it’s only proof that judges are human.




The dispute between Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and Judge Jay Hurley is only the latest salvo in a decades-long battle in Broward about the homeless.

Some homeowners and businesses demand authorities remove the homeless, who are accused of everything from drunkenness and threatening behavior to public urination.

Fort Lauderdale’s government has been particularly aggressive towards making that city unattractive to homeless. A few years ago, Commissioner Bob Cox even suggested putting kerosene on food in dumpsters to chase them from town.

In recent weeks, Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission has established a set of rules for feeding of the homeless, steering them to churches or shelters. It generated negative worldwide publicity, mainly due to highly inflammable media coverage.

If you live in a city — Fort Lauderdale is a city– the homeless are part of the environment.  They are not leaving, no matter what politicians do. But the feeding of homeless can be regulated in Fort Lauderdale as it is in many cities.

Honolulu, a tourist city like Fort Lauderdale, has a similar problem with the homeless.  That community recently banned the homeless from sitting or lying on the sidewalks in Waikiki and now they have started to camp out at the airport.  The latest proposal is to offer the homeless a trip to the mainland as you can see here.  

Fort Lauderdale has neighborhoods and a tourist industry to safeguard through sensible rules.  But City Hall also needs to have a heart and remember that being homeless is not a crime.


33 Responses to “Judge Jay Hurley: Victim In Homeless War”

  1. FTL Resident says:

    It is easy for those who live outside FTL to point their finger and judge Fort Lauderdale harshly. All the business people and lawyers who drive through Andrews and Broward on their way to work thank their lucky stars the west Broward city they call home doesn’t have homeless walking up and down the medians or exposing themselves in parks where their kids play.

    Everyone knows that if cities with affluent areas in West Broward were dealing with the same homeless epidemic as FTL they would be enacting the same or more stringent laws to get rid of the homeless.

    There is no church and state issue because the houses of worship are only offering an area were feeding can take place in a sanitary manner, no religious conversion required.

    There is one point missing here, who pays for a municipal public defender? the city taxpayers. One almost has to ask what is the point of arresting the homeless if the taxpayers have to pay for the prosecutor and public defender only to have Hurley put them right back on the street.

  2. Alice McGill says:

    You are correct, Buddy. The “homeless” will always be here. There many people within that population who have various mental and emotional issues and develop coping skills so they can survive where ever they are. The “homeless” with mental issues (and probably lack of medication or the desire to take it) are being enabled to remain in place by the good deeds of Mr. Abbott.

    There are many agencies to assist the truly homeless. Laws that gave the right for the mentally disturbed to remain outside of establishments that could help them were passed during Jimmy Carter’s Presidency. The result is seen in all major cities. The problems, both for the health and welfare of the mentally ill and for the citizens who pay taxes to live in a place with a good quality of life will always be with us unless mental illness is addressed and treated.

  3. DEC vs Seiler? says:

    I hear that Broward State Democratic Committeeperson Ken Evans may be pushing for a Resolution by the DEC denouncing Mayor Seiler and the other Dems (Rogers, Trentalis and Dubose) on the FTL Commission for passing the ordinances on the homeless issue. Evans has been on Facebook saying the Mayor Seiler has to go.

  4. JudyD says:

    From reading previous articles on this subject, the chief judge has said that he supports Judge Hurley and that steps are being taken to resolve the MO issue and yet Howard Finkelstein continues what appears to be a personal campaign against Judge Hurley. I understand there has been some filming of a reality television or documentary program featuring the Broward Public Defender’s Office, Finkelstein’s complaint centers around the timing of that. Coincidence?

  5. Karen Elliott says:

    Of all the other bond courts coming out of Florida Judge Hurley is the only one that has heart, he takes time to hear not just listen, he shows respect to those who come into his courtroom to find out about the defendant and lets them speak. No other judge is like Judge Hurley out of 3-4 other ones I could watch & all the live trials, I choose to watch Judge Hurley as I don’t want to see a burn out judge who go through the motions and treats each one like cattle. He deals with all the different personalities he works with and none are perfect yet as a team they come together with care except one who has put a nick in the cog of a well run, heart felt group of team players.
    Karen aka Daisydogs

  6. Broward resident says:

    Great article to show how Howard Finkelstein does a letter for his own personal agenda. If HF cared, he would send public defenders to satellite courthouses and find a way despite budgetary constraints. I am glad you brought out the truth Buddy. It is apparent Hurley has more compassion for the homeless than others.

  7. Broward resident says:

    ps to my last entry, I have seen first appearance and the letter to the Chief Judge and the more I think about it maybe someone should look into how if the Public Defender has so much time on their hands to argue cases for which they are not assigned perhaps the tax payers should take a closer look at F’s budget and why he is not putting people in the satellite courthouses, and look at why this all started on the first day of filming for a reality show of the Public defender’s office in Hurley’s courtroom. Hurley who is a true gentleman, knowledgeable and fair threw a wet blanket on HF’s chance at a daytime Emmy award for the show.

  8. SAM FIELDS says:

    FTL Resident,
    I live near the corner of Peters Rd and University. aka West Broward

    Homeless are all around.

  9. Power play says:

    Help Me Howard has been out-played by Judge Hurley. HF may be popular on a local level but Hurley has a national following that supports him unconditionally. Hurley brags how he could defeat HF head on in any race….he may have a very good point. I guess that is why HF has not bothered Hurley anymore.

  10. Thanks Sam says:

    drive a few over by Hawks Landing and lets see what the city does.

  11. PawleysIsland says:

    In my opinion judge Hurley can’t win no matter what he does.If he resolves cases the PD gets’t mad because they didn’t have a lawyer, even though almost all of the defendants refuse to have one. If he doesn’t resolve them, the judge is accused of keeping them in to long. And last but not least, when the homeless people beg Judge John Jay Hurley to let them stay in jail for a few days, he is accused of turning the jail into a hotel. What can this man do right Mr.Finkelstien ? why don’t you tell us all please.

  12. Lamberti is a Criminal says:

    Howard is a blowhard buffoon. He is only interested in self promotion. I wonder if the Help Me Howard on WSVN is still publicly funded with tax dollars by real PD lawyers? We all know Howard doesn’t do his own research.

  13. Former PD says:

    Has the PD’s office been getting paid for all these years for Satellite cases where they don’t show up? If so, that’s fraud. Separate from the representation issues, shouldn’t indictments be considered for the powers that be in the PD’s office? And why hasn’t the taxpayer funded bonus money appropriated by the legislature been passed on to employees yet? Didn’t Satz pay out bonuses months ago? What did the PD do with their cool half a million TAXPAYER DOLLARS???

  14. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Not only is being homeless not a crime, Jack Seiler’s pathetic attempt to legally harass those who feed the homeless is obviously unconstitutional.


    Along the way to striking down a similar law initiated by Mayor Nutter (that’s his real name as well as his behavior pattern), the federal judge observes:

    Some homeless are resistant to going to indoor food-service programs. Some homeless do not want to leave their possessions unguarded on the Parkway in order to travel to indoor facilities. Some have physical disabilities that make travel difficult, many have mental disabilities that make travel difficult. For example, some homeless have difficulty keeping track of time or place and some have auditory hallucinations that tell them not to go indoors. … Mayor Nutter instructed the Parks Department to issue a regulation that would ban outdoor feeding in all City parks. … the ban denies plaintiffs a reasonable opportunity to engage in activities that are fundamental to plaintiff’s religion.

    So now Seiler and his fellow morons on the City Commission have set themselves up not only as international laughingstocks, but also as the clowns who think that Fort Lauderdale taxpayers will be happy to finance a lengthy trip through federal court in the futile defense of an official act of bigotry.

    Jack(ass) Seiler’s political career is finished.

  15. @ha ha ha says:

    Saying jack seilers political career is over because you think he’s violating the civil rights of some homeless is like saying in 1948 that Strom Thurmond’s career is over for advocating segregation. The voters just don’t care and probably side with him.


    I agree. The controversy may have damaged the city’s tourist image — Who wants to vacation in a place the media highlights as overrun with homeless? — but Seiler won’t lose based on this.

  16. Sam The Sham says:


    “Some homeless are resistant to going to indoor food-service”

    They are also resistant to going into indoor bathrooms.

    Your cited case stinks, with a judge who seems to have made up his mind before the case began and a plaintiff who believes God gave him that public park land to feed homeless people. It is Philly after all.

  17. It isn't a total ban... says:

    Since the nationally recognized news source, The View, picked up on this yesterday, I can see why everyone has such a clear understanding of the issue. There isn’t a ban on feeding the homeless outdoors, there is a ban from doing it without permission and proper facilities.

    When the City allows a street festival, you have to apply for permission and have facilities. When a non-profit that benefits the homeless does an event, they need to have permission and facilities.

    The City is being organized, not heartless. It and the mayor are just easy targets for those looking for ratings…

  18. Dear Buddy says:

    You may want to clear up for people like Ann Zucker who are ranting on facebook that Seiler is using Hurley as a scapegoat. You have written about two different stories involving the homeless in Fort Lauderdale and that nothing going on with the feeding of the homeless has anything to do with Hurley and Howard Finkelstien.

  19. John says:

    Why not get the law changed so that the public defender can represent homeless facing municipal violations and bill the individual cities for the legal services?

  20. Bob Loblaw says:

    This is just more grand-standing by Finklestein. A there is no more aggressive self-promoter than he. That’s why he’s not lamenting the issues in the satellite courts. They’re not newsworthy.

  21. Lamberti is a Criminal says:

    John: Good idea, let’s change the law and let Howard pay for it. We pay enough taxes to him to defend criminals already.

  22. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Apparently many people here are totally clueless about Constitutional rights. The civil rights being violated here are not the civil rights of the homeless.

    Certain religions place a high priority on helping the poor and command their followers to do so. This is a well-established means of religious expression which has been practiced worldwide for literally thousands of years.

    The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion. The City of Hialeah learned that the hard way when it enacted a supposedly neutral law banning animal sacrifices which was actually designed to selectively oppress practitioners of the Santeria religion – the city was given a resounding smackdown by the Supreme Court of the United States:


    This nonsense about requiring facilities (portable toilets, etc.) is simply part of the scheme to target this religious expression (feeding the homeless) by making it cost-prohibitive to do so. The courts will correctly identify this as part and parcel of the wholly unconstitutional scheme of harassment against persons whose religious beliefs command them to feed the homeless.

    And although permits may be required for large-scale events (under very tight judicial regulation designed to prevent censorship and other discriminatory effects), Seiler’s ordinance prohibits individuals from feeding the homeless and individuals are being cited for doing so. Worse yet, they are being cited for doing so on beaches and in public parks, both of which are specially recognized by the courts as places where First Amendment protection is at its very strongest.

    Hialeah’s Supreme Court smackdown is a lesson lost on Jack(ass) Seiler. Taxpayers will now have to pay Seiler’s legal bills as he stupidly begs and pleads for another well-deserved judicial smackdown.

  23. @ ha ha ha says:

    Blah blah blah
    Nobody cares

  24. Buddy says:


    A reader sent me this article from the Channel 10 Miami website that I believe is relevant to this debate:

    Last week Local 10 reported on a serious problem at the Broward County courthouse — some of the poorest offenders, many of them homeless, are not getting legal representation in court. It’s what some say is an ongoing violation of the Constitution, but now things are changing in the right direction.

    William Mosher, 52, is homeless and apparently mentally disabled.

    “He doesn’t have his wits about him,” said Judge John Hurley. “He’s in here twice a week. It’s the same thing.”
    Since 2005 Mosher has been charged more than 80 times with municipal violations like trespassing and open container, but this past week he finally has someone in the courtroom to help him.

    “I’m going to appoint Mr. Schaet to represent you,” Hurley said.

    Mosher and other municipal violation offenders got an attorney to represent them at first appearance just like everyone else gets.

    “For the first time in six years there’s actually a defense lawyer who is going to court for the homeless,” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

    Finkelstein has complained for years that the city of Fort Lauderdale has violated the Constitution by not providing an attorney in first appearance court. Now, Chief Judge Peter Weinstein says the city needs to do just that.

    “The only reason this is happening, quite frankly, is because of you,” Finkelstein said to Local 10 reporter Bob Norman. “If you hadn’t done these stories, this would have gone on.”

    He had harsh words for Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who maintains counsel isn’t required at first appearance for those offenders.

    “The mayor is well aware of what is going on here and everybody, due to political expedience, looked the other way,” Finkelstein said.

    Seiler defends his stance, but said he now wants the city to contract with the Finkelstein’s Public Defenders Office so there will always be an attorney for those defendants in the courtroom.

    “We’re going to discuss that option with the Public Defenders Office,” Seiler said.

    But Finkelstein said the city will have to provide its own attorney.

    “I only contract with people I trust. I don’t trust the city of Fort Lauderdale when it comes to the homeless,” Frankelstein said.

    So what if the city goes back to its old ways and stops supplying an attorney to the courtroom? The chief judge said he’s working on an order to give Hurley express consent to throw those cases right out of court.

  25. Jeff says:

    If you want to help homeless people, direct them to The Broward Sheriff’s Office Homeless Resource Team. Sheriff Israel is a staunch supporter of solving the problem the person may have, instead of just recycling these people through the courts and jail and never addressing the underlying problems. 211 is the number to call to get information on all of the resources (and there is alot in Broward County) that can assist people.

    Now about the culprits of this situation. I think both Mr. Abbott and The owner of the Homeless Voice carefully orchestrated this situation to line their own pockets. They are refusing help from the city, churches and other social service agencies. Why is this? Well, my guess is that if they accept these offers for indoor feeding locations then they can’t make any more money off the situation.

    It is also because they are both anti government and anti police. They don’t like the Mayor and they are exploiting the homeless to further their hidden political agendas.

    If they really want to help the homeless they should accept The Church By the Sea’s offer to use their building and move their feedings to that building. To not obey the law, which is the same law in effect in Orlando, St Pete, Tampa and Jacksonville, is not helping anyone. Their attempt to blackmail the city is very transparent and shameful.

    The media has also done a shameful job of covering this story, making a martyr out of them and not telling the whole story. Have you wondered why none of the major churches in town have come within a mile of these people? They don’t want their names associated with them. No Calvery Chapel, No Coral Ridge Pres, just a couple of guys who say they are clergy from churches no one has ever heard of. Even the Catholic Church has stayed away. Do you think they know something most people don’t? You bet they do. This is a scam and the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

  26. Buddy says:


    Concerning the homeless, I find it interesting that the public radio story below found the vast number of laws concerning the conduct of the homeless are in Fort Lauderdale.


  27. Ha Ha Ha says:


    Mayo: Big lawyers join fight against Fort Lauderdale homeless feeding restrictions
    By Michael Mayo, Sun Sentinel Columnist

    A clergyman cited for feeding the homeless has assembled a local Dream Team to fight Fort Lauderdale’s controversial new ordinance. Mark Sims, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, has enlisted legal heavy-hitters Bill Scherer and Bruce Rogow to challenge the city’s restrictions on outdoor feedings. “We think it’s unconstitutional and overreaching,” Scherer, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and well-known Republican activist, told me this afternoon. … Rogow, a constitutional attorney and law professor who has argued cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, said they will take a two-pronged approach. Besides defending Sims on his misdemeanor city ordinance violation, he said they would file suit in Broward Circuit Court later this week to “affirmatively challenge the ordinance.” Rogow said he will seek a declaratory judgment to overturn the ordinance and seek an injunction to stop its enforcement immediately. Rogow called the feedings constitutionally protected under the First Amendment: “It’s religious expression. It’s political expression.” … Scherer said the city is being inconsistent in allowing some groups (like families or friends) to have picnics or barbecues on the beach without a permit but requiring those who feed the homeless to comply with strict new regulations. “It’s overkill,” Scherer said. “The city isn’t just trying to regulate outdoor feedings of the homeless — it’s trying to stop them.” …


    Just my personal opinion. Mike Mayo is one of the greatest assets, if not the greatest asset, that remains at the Sun-Sentinel. I urge everybody to read his column.

  28. Barack Obama says:

    There are organizations in s fl for homeless that offer one way tickets to reunite people with families as well. I know someone who took advantage of it to reunite with her family in new york and get out of a bad environment.

  29. Ha Ha Ha says:


    Lawsuit over feeding seeks to give homeless their day at the beach

    … in challenging the new law, homeless advocate Arnold Abbott drew a different line in the sand — at the beach. … Court decisions in 2001 and 2002 upheld his right to feed there — and he’s gone back to court to make sure those feedings continue.

    Because of the growing controversy, Commissioner Dean Trantalis on Thursday called for putting the city’s new law on hold. “I feel we should suspend enforcement until we’re able to establish a clearer path to making sure we’re able to take care of the homeless in a way that works for everybody,” Trantalis said. He cast the lone vote against the ordinance and is concerned that Abbott and groups doing outdoor feedings weren’t consulted in drafting the new rules. “Right now, we need to seek peace,” he said.

    Attorney John David, who represents Abbott and his Love Thy Neighbor organization, filed a motion in Broward court Wednesday to enforce the 2001 court injunction that allowed the beach feedings, which are in a picnic area adjacent to a public bathroom. … Abbott’s lawsuit is being supported by the Rev. Mark Sims, one of two pastors cited with him this month at Stranahan Park for violating the ordinance. Sims, of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, filed court papers intervening in Abbott’s suit on Thursday. Sims said a more comprehensive approach must be taken to tackle homelessness in the city. Shelters are at capacity and there are not enough beds for all in need, the pastor said, adding that one shelter he checked had a 90-day wait. Sims is represented by attorneys Bruce Rogow and Bill Scherer. Scherer said the city’s homeless ordinance is being challenged on “bedrock constitutional grounds. “The people who get cited are the people doing the feeding, not the people doing the eating,” he said. “So it’s not the homeless, it’s the people that are exercising their right to do good, to do what they feel in their conscience they should do to help the least among us that are really being infringed.”

    Abbott normally begins dishing up plates of hot food at 5:30 p.m., and his van and his volunteers are usually gone from the beach an hour later, David said. There are few beachgoers or tourists there at that hour, David said. …

  30. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Florida Statute 876.05 – Public employees; oath.—

    (1) All persons who now or hereafter are employed by or who now or hereafter are on the payroll of the state, or any of its departments and agencies, subdivisions, counties, cities, school boards and districts of the free public school system of the state or counties, or institutions of higher learning, except candidates for federal office, are required to take an oath before any person duly authorized to take acknowledgments of instruments for public record in the state in the following form:

    I, a citizen of the State of Florida and of the United States of America, and being employed by or an officer of and a recipient of public funds as such employee or officer, do hereby solemnly swear or affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Florida.

    Florida Statute 876.09 – Scope of law

    (1) The provisions of ss. 876.05-876.10 shall apply to all employees and elected officers of the state, including the Governor and constitutional officers and all employees and elected officers of all cities, towns, counties, and political subdivisions, including the educational system.
    (2) This act shall take precedence over all laws relating to merit, and of civil service law.

    Florida Statute 876.10- False oath; penalty

    If any person required by the provisions of ss. 876.05-876.10 to execute the oath herein required executes such oath, and it is subsequently proven that at the time of the execution of said oath said individual was guilty of making a false statement in said oath, he or she shall be guilty of perjury.

  31. Mister Courthouse says:

    Sam Fields is a a..kisser who needs the good will of the judge for his criminal clients.

  32. Lost? says:

    Why is Mark Sims, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in CORAL SPRINGS, running a feeding program in Ft Lauderdale? Charity begins at home and I am sure there are plenty of homeless in Coral Springs he should be serving.

  33. tired of seilers doubletalk says:

    @Buddy #24 –
    Kudos Buddy.

    Kudos to Bob Norman.
    And Kudos to Judge Hurley.
    And Kudos to Finkelstein for not trusting FLL mayor.

    I’m not a lawyer but I thought anyone charged with a crime or offense on the books has a right to counsel and if you cannot afford it one will be appointed.

    Isn’t that in the Amanda rights they always read on the TV shows?