Sam Fields Remembers Broward Judge Mark Polen





I sadly learned that Judge Mark Polen died this week.

I am glad to say that I ran into him about six months ago at a Legal Services Gala honoring the original Miami Legal Services lawyers. He, along with legal luminaries like H.T. Smith and Roy Black, was being honored.

He was smart, kind, fair with a great judicial temperament. I don’t know anyone who has a bad word for him.



Judge Mark Polen


He went to the bench where he rose to the Fourth District Court of Appeals. While I think I had one case with him up there, most of my contact with him was 1987-88 when I was his Public Defender in the Circuit Court.

Often we would have lunch which almost every time meant stopping into one of those ubiquitous baseball card shops that dotted the landscape in the 80’s.

We talked about that and some of the more interesting cases. But mostly what he remembered was the case that I gratefully got him out of…Morris Kleinfeld.

Morris Kleinfeld was indicted for murdering Eric Golden, his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer. Golden was not just murdered but was killed in a fashion to humiliate him on his deathbed. Because Golden had pissed off a lot of litigants with his “no holds barred” style, there were a lot of suspects.

Top of the list was the 70 year Kleinfeld. There was no direct evidence tying him to the murder. What they had was Kleinfeld taunting Golden and supposedly writing letters to Mrs. Golden telling her to get plenty of life insurance on her husband. After the death he continued to taunt the police and everyone else looking into the case.

Mostly what I remember about him was his personal demeanor in Court. He did not talk…he bellowed like a moose during mating season.

In December of 1987 he was indicted for the murder. As it is done, a computer randomly assigned the case to Judge Polen. On December 22 he appeared for Arraignment. It was vintage Kleinfeld as he ranted and raved against everyone from the bailiff to the Judge. He would not stop screaming.

Agast, Judge Polen called me and the prosecutor to side hoping to get him out of his division. I got the hint and walked over to Kleinfeld and asked him if wanted a new judge. In a Kleinfeld whisper—which was about 100 decibels—he SCREAMED yes.

I then walked back to Judge Polen and opined that Mr. Kleinfeld was concerned that he could not get a fair trial in this court and wanted Judge Polen to recuse himself. Typically a recusal motion requires a written motion and affidavits.

All that was dispensed with and Polen recused himself in a millisecond.

What we laughed about six months ago was the notion that, following his recusal, the judge selection process went back to a Clerk’s computer which surely had a sense of humor.

The new judge was the legendary courthouse bully Judge M. “Maximum Dan” Daniel Futch! Judge Polen and I laughed that never had two people so deserved each other.

Mark Polen will surely be missed by all who knew him.


( contributor Sam Fields is a criminal defense attorney and a former Assistant Public Defender.) 


Judge Mark Polen’s biography:


Mark E. Polen had legal and judicial career spanning over 44 years.

After graduating from the University of Miami School of Law in 1969 he entered the private practice of law handling civil litigation.

In 1977 he was appointed an Industrial Claims Judge for Broward County and subsequently was appointed to the Circuit Court of Broward County where he served in multiple divisions from 1979 to 1988.

From 1989 to 2013 he served with distinction on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, including serving for 2 years as Chief Judge.

He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ Gavin K. Letts Memorial Jurist of the Year, 1994. He served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, 1994-95.

3 Responses to “Sam Fields Remembers Broward Judge Mark Polen”

  1. Stormwatch says:

    What a beautifully wtitten piece. Thank you, Mr. Fields.
    A really good judge and a wonderful person was he.
    I remember the day Eric Golden was killed. Several of his opposing counsel verified they had alibis.
    If the old dude had just kept his mouth shut he would have walked. It was obvious he could not have physically murdered the guy. He hired a hitman who was never brought to justice. But his demeanor did him in.

  2. Richard says:

    Sam: Thank you for the beautiful words remembering a very special man. I have a short story to share. I was trying a legal malpractice case and in those days it was permissible to call the trial judge as a witness to testify whether he observed any malpractice by my client. Judge Polen (the trial judge) took his seat to testify before the jury and then realized that he had his robes on. He removed them while we waited and watched. We won. It didn’t hurt that my main witness was a sitting judge, robes and all. I will miss him. Richard Berman

  3. Old Timer says:

    Judge Polen was a wonderful guy with a full throated laugh. His elevation to the 4th DCA deprived Broward County of fine jurist. His kind are solely missed given the state of the current judiciary.