The joy of the jury

By: Neil Rockind in News Stories

July 24, 2015

“I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine

True then. True today. For 22 years, I have witnessed the magic of juries. Juries breathe life into an overly mechanical and technical legal system. Ask me the one “right” that is indispensable to our society. While some would choose free speech or the right to be free from unlawful searches, I’d say the right to trial by jury. Arguing to Jury.

Perhaps my love for juries stems from my family’s plight. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, chased to this country by homicidal maniacs. There was no jury to deem their innocence or guilt even though no crime had been committed, just a blanket Nazi death sentence for being Jewish.

When my 5th grade teacher accused me of an indiscretion and wouldn’t allow me to defend myself, I was punished for something I did not do. No jury of my peers. I never forgot what it is like to not have a voice or an opportunity to explain myself — or to have someone else consider the situation. You know those childhood moments that shape you? This was mine.

My innocence in that particular situation notwithstanding, school was difficult for me. I struggled in school with what was certainly undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. At the time, there was no such diagnosis. We were labeled “bad kids.” Paying attention, following detailed homework assignments and test taking — staples of elementary and high school education — flummoxed me.

The worse I did in school, the more I disliked school. Ultimately I compensated for my difficulties by learning to communicate verbally, face to face, person to person. But I still struggled. A proud graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, I attended Oakland Community College for one year before transferring. I still see myself as the underdog — and ultimately chose to defend the underdog, too. But I could never do it without a jury.

Ah, the joy of the jury! The cornerstone of our legal system.

In Alice in Wonderland, during the trial of the thief of the queen’s tarts, Alice repeatedly advises the king and others that the jury must not decide the case until they have the facts. In this simple example, we see the value of the jury: the king cannot tell the jury what to do. The one limitation on the power of the monarch was a jury.

History lesson: William the Conqueror brought to England a system of having witnesses who knew about a matter to tell a court of law what they knew. The English word juror comes from the Old French jurer which means “to swear.” In 12th Century England, juries were a tool for the king, employed to discover and present facts in answer to questions by the king.

By the end of the 15th century, the jury system came to be regarded as the most valuable feature of English common law, but it was not until the late 17th century that a jury could return a verdict of “not guilty” and not be in fear of fines or imprisonment. Hardly the impartial jury we now rely upon!

In the United States, the jury system became more important after the Revolutionary War. The right to trial by a jury of one’s peers became a symbol of the overthrown power of the king. Our ideal of equal justice for all probably could not have evolved without this strong belief in the wisdom of the jury.

Of all my responsibilities as a trial attorney, I find jury selection both sacred and the most rewarding. I love selecting a jury! I think if more citizens were aware of the significance behind their civic obligation, they would relish the opportunity to serve.

Well, maybe not relish, but at least they might not dread it — and instead, fully commit to upholding this foundation of freedom set forth in our U.S. Constitution.

Neil Rockind is a criminal defense attorney and founder of Southfield, Michigan-based Rockind Law. In 2015, he was named a Michigan Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

via Michigan Lawyers Weekly

Rockind Law welcomes paralegal to its professional team

Southfield, Mich. — July 23, 2015 — Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, announces that Breanna Weiner has joined the firm as a paralegal.

“We are pleased to welcome Breanna Weiner to our team as we continue our tradition of outstanding client service and advocacy,” Rockind said. “Whether an attorney or paralegal, all members of Rockind Law hold a professional degree to provide our clients with superior legal representation in criminal defense.”

In her role as paralegal at Rockind Law, Weiner will assist with legal research and fact-finding, draft legal documents and assist the legal team with casework and trial preparation.

Immediately prior to joining Rockind Law, Weiner worked as a receptionist at the law offices of Moss and Colella. Previous experience includes working as a legal assistant and in a variety of customer service roles.

Weiner holds a Paralegal Associate of Business degree from Baker College and is a graduate of Clawson High School.

Rockind Law is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its founding in 2015.

About Rockind Law  

Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault.  To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit

Brothers-in-law plead guilty in $1.7 million food stamp scam

TROY — A Troy man and his brother-in-law from Shelby Township will serve time in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding customers in a food stamp scam at their Detroit store from June 2007 through December 2011.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh III sentenced Adnan Kejbou, 47, of Troy, to 21 months in prison, and Ayad Yatooma, 44, of Shelby Township, was sentenced to serve 18 months.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Steeh sentenced the men June 25 and 30, respectively.

Both pleaded guilty to over $1.7 million in food stamp fraud, which they engaged in at Caesar Food Center on West McNichols in Detroit, the store they owned and operated, which was an authorized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, dealer.

According to court documents, the two perpetrated fraud known as discounting, in which SNAP benefits issued to legitimate beneficiaries were sold to the store at a 50 percent discount. As a result, the SNAP customers only received half of the value of their SNAP benefits, while 100 percent of the benefits were credited to the store’s account. Kejbou and Yatooma also sold cigarettes and liquor, unauthorized SNAP products, in exchange for SNAP benefits, at inflated prices.

Upon their release from prison, Kejbou and Yatooma are ordered to serve two years probation and pay $1.74 million in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Assets of the store and the store itself were seized.

Kejbou’s attorney could not be reached for comment before press time.

“He stepped up and accepted his responsibility for his participation,” said Yatooma’s attorney, Neil Rockind. “Eddie (Ayad) found himself in a very difficult situation, taking over a family business and essentially continuing doing things. … In hindsight, he wishes he acted differently, sold his interest in the company or backed away.”

The USDA-Office of Inspector General investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Weier prosecuted the case. He could not be reached for comment before press time.

via C & G News

Gorcyca: Parental alienation is issue in Bloomfield Hills divorce case

The two buzz words that came out of an Oakland County divorce case last week were “kids” and “jail.”

When Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca sentenced three children to the Oakland County Children’s Village maximum security youth facility those words garnered the headlines. Two other words are more significant in family courts these days – parental alienation.

Gorcyca and other people involved in the Tsimhoni case acknowledge that alienation has become a significant issue within the divorce. Their parents, Maya and Omer, are now in their fifth year of trying to work out a feasible situation for everyone involved.

Three children sentenced

State and local officials have been sounding off on the case since Gorcyca made her ruling on June 24 and subsequently reversed it on July 10 and sent the children – ages 14, 10 and 9 – to a summer camp.Friday’s order to release them to summer camp

The backlash the case has received is based on the apparent drastic action taken by Gorcyca.

“No child should be jailed for trying to stay safe,” Mary Keefe, Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) said the day after Gorcyca’s ruling. “It is equally outrageous and telling that the children’s father has left for a trip to Israel and the children remain in juvenile custody. The court seems to rely on the long debunked theory of parental alienation as a rational reason for the detention.”

State and local officials have been sounding off about the case

The judge was looking to have the children sit down and have a meal with their father and when they refused, all three opted to go to Children’s Village.

The case has garnered international attention

Based on court documents, all of the rancor and animosity in the case appears to stem from an incident at a West Bloomfield park in August of 2010.

A scheduled visit with their father devolved into two of the children being locked in a car to protect themselves from him. The third child avoided him while perched atop a piece of playground equipment and later claimed that the father threatened to kill him if he did not get down.

Police reports were filed after one of the children called 911 from inside the car and their mother claimed that the father struck her outside of the vehicle.

A West Bloomfield police report found no probable cause to make an arrest at the time, but the father later admitted that he took his son down by force in order to put him in a time-out.

Reports throughout the case files claim that that incident, along with the fact that the children felt abandoned when their father took a job with General Motors in Israel in late 2009, are at the heart of the children’s fear and animosity toward their father that the courts have been trying to rectify for the past four years.

Ms. Tsimhoni filed for divorce in December of 2009.

Multiple supervisors, visitation sites, communication alternatives and therapists have rotated in and out of the case since then and left Gorcyca frustrated.

Gorcyca voiced her opinions on how severe the parental alienation was during a February 2012 hearing by explaining things to Ms. Tsimhoni, the alleged blockade to the children having a relationship with their father.

“I see kids who have been physically abused, tortured, raped, that still want to talk to their father; that still respect their father,” she said after reading a report by a parenting time coordinator on the case. “Your kids have none of those things.”

Last Friday, Gorcyca again let it be known that every other avenue had been investigated before handing down her contempt ruling.

“Every alternative presented to this court has been exhausted,” she said. “This is a custody arrangement that has become completely harmful to the children’s well being.”

Gorcyca pointed out at her July 10 hearing that the children were not sent to the maximum security section of Children’s Village, but rather to Mandy’s Place. That area of the facility is billed as short-term housing for kids who have been removed from abusive homes.

A representative of Mandy’s Place reported that the children were making “slow, but hopefully steady progress.”

Meanwhile, Gorcyca has said that Mr. Tsimhoni has had no criminal charges filed against him, no warrants issued and according to the judge has “moved mountains to be a part of these children’s lives”.

On the other hand, despite her claims after the judge’s ruling on July 10 to transfer the children from Mandy’s Place that none of the claims of hindering the process of allowing the children to have a relationship with their father were true, Ms. Tsimhoni agreed to spend a day in detention back in March and spent time volunteering at an animal shelter for violating Gorcyca’s orders.

Although some believe the term “parental alienation” to be an unsubstantiated clinical term, it has been prevalent in this case.

Court documents show one psychological evaluation did not go as far as formalizing “Parental Alienation Syndrome” as a specific diagnosis, but did state that “the Tsimhoni children are alienated from their father”.

Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, expressed opposition to Gorcyca’s decision to send the children to the county’s juvenile detention center for contempt of court.

“Regardless of whether the children want communication and a relationship with their father, they are still children and learned their behaviors from one or both parents,” Rockind said. “The key point, though, is they committed no crime.”

Murray Davis, Board President of the National Family Justice Association Midwest Office in Southfield, does advocate for the use of the term.

“Court records appear to indicate the children are the victims of tenacious parental alienation against their father by their mother,” he said in a statement.

Davis is also one of the few who stood by the decision to temporarily take the children away from not one, but both parents.

“She (Gorcyca) should be praised and respected for attempting a just resolution that permitted both [responsible] parents to exercise their rights to be actively engaged in the lives of their children despite their acrimonious divorce,” he said.

The case is set to go back to court for a review on July 20.

via Oakland Press

Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide

WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

Marriage is a “keystone of our social order,” Justice Kennedy said, adding that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off jubilation and tearful embraces across the country, the firstsame-sex marriages in several states, and resistance — or at least stalling — in others. It came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of the unions.

The court’s four more liberal justices joined Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Each member of the court’s conservative wing filed a separate dissent, in tones ranging from resigned dismay to bitter scorn.

In dissent, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject of same-sex marriage.

“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

In a second dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia mocked the soaring language of Justice Kennedy, who has become the nation’s most important judicial champion of gay rights.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”

As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion from the bench on Friday, several lawyers seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned and exchanged embraces.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision, and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced. The decision made same-sex marriage a reality in the 13 states that had continued to ban it.

Outside the Supreme Court, the police allowed hundreds of people waving rainbow flags and holding signs to advance onto the court plaza as those present for the decision streamed down the steps. “Love has won,” the crowd chanted as courtroom witnesses threw up their arms in victory.

In remarks in the Rose Garden, President Obama welcomed the decision, saying it “affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts.”

“Today,” he said, “we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.”

Justice Kennedy was the author of all three of the Supreme Court’s previous gay rights landmarks. The latest decision came exactly two years after his majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples, and exactly 12 years after his majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws making gay sex a crime.

In all of those decisions, Justice Kennedy embraced a vision of a living Constitution, one that evolves with societal changes.

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” he wrote on Friday. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

This drew a withering response from Justice Scalia, a proponent of reading the Constitution according to the original understanding of those who adopted it. His dissent was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

“They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment,” Justice Scalia wrote of the majority, “a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.”

“These justices know,” Justice Scalia said, “that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry.”

Justice Kennedy rooted the ruling in a fundamental right to marriage. Of special importance to couples, he said, is raising children.

“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers,” he wrote, “their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion.

In dissent, Chief Justice Roberts said the majority opinion was “an act of will, not legal judgment.”

“The court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs,” he wrote. “Just who do we think we are?”

– via New York Times

Judge allows later curfew for defendant in drug-bust case

On April 21, Judge Douglas Shepherd, of the 41-A District Court, granted the third adjournment of the pretrial examination of a Shelby Township man charged with delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house, and also allowed him to have a later curfew.

At the request of Colin Daniels, counsel standing in for defense attorney Neil Rockind, Shepherd modified the tether of Najah Zetouna, 51, to allow Zetouna to be out of his house from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., two hours later than his prior conditions of 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

On March 23, Rockind requested and was granted a change in tether conditions to allow Zetouna to be out from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., instead of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Rockind’s reasoning was for Zetouna to spend more time with his wife and children.

On April 21, Daniels requested the two-hour shift so that Zetouna could work.

“Right now, he is looking to get a job at a party store, and those times he needs to work would be 10-midnight or 10-2 on the weekends,” Daniels said. “I don’t believe he’s a flight risk. He’s been to our firm. He’s been to court every time. There’s no reason to believe he’s a flight risk at all.”

Shepherd said the tether allowance had to fall within a 12-hour period, so Daniels requested a period of 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Stephanie Stager, an assistant prosecutor in the district court division, objected on the people’s behalf to changing the tether times.

“The purpose (of the original tether change) was so that Mr. Zetouna would be able to see his children and be an active part of their lives, not be able to work. We believe that 8 a.m.-8 p.m. would also suffice to allow him to work at a party store,” Stager said. “We would also note that much of his narcotics trafficking happened at night.”

She warned against Zetouna working in a party store until midnight or 2 a.m.

Shepherd allowed the change in tether times, citing his intent to accommodate the defendant, as well as protect the community.

“It goes without saying, but no criminal activity, no selling of drugs, no issues. We’ll modify it by a two-hour period, but otherwise, you better be staying out of trouble. And if not, we’re going to be revoking bond and sending you to the Macomb County Jail,” Shepherd told Zetouna.

In February, police arrested Zetouna after a monthlong investigation and drug seizure worth an estimated $125,000. Police said the seizure involved approximately 32 pounds of high-grade marijuana packaged for sale, as well as synthetic marijuana.

Daniels declined to comment on the case.

William Dailey, chief of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office drug unit, could not be reached for comment by press time.

via C&G Newspapers