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Going to the England Friendlies in Miami – Updated directions to the stadium

 

If you have read this blog previously, see this updated link to the directions on how to get to the Stadium as despite my initial info that the new stadium was going to be used, I have now had confirmation that the Sunlife Stadium in Miami Gardens is the correct stadium, so ignore my previous directions!  

 http://www.sunlifestadium.com/directions  Parking at the Stadium is usually charged and will likely be around $25.  Allow at least an hour to drive to the Stadium from South Beach or Downtown as traffic in Miami can be heavy even during the day.

The easiest route via bus from South Beach is a bus to Aventura Mall (either the 120 Beach Max Express or S route)  and then the 99 bus from outside the Aventura food court which will take you to the Sun Life Stadium.  http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/routes_schedule.asp?srv=WEEKDAY&dir=Westbound&rt=99  allow about 2 hours for the bus as traffic in Miami can be heavy.

You can buy a bus and rail day pass or an Easy Pass (which you can top up and works like a London Transport Oyster).  Passes can be purchased or topped up at various outlets around Miami Beach and Downtown – ask at your hotel for your nearest venue or see this list http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/easy-card-sales-outlets.asp#1

If traveling from Downtown, you can take the Metrorail to Martin Luther King Junior Station (green line towards Palmetto) and then catch the 27 bus http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/routes_schedule.asp?srv=WEEKDAY&dir=Northbound&rt=27  This Station is not in the greatest part of town so be careful with your belongings when waiting for the bus outside this station.

If you are taking a taxi, make sure you agree the price in advance it will probably be around $45-$55 either from Downtown or South Beach. Hotels will also arrange a transfer to the Stadium.

Miami is made up of many municipal areas includingMiami Dade (think CSI Miami and Dexter – although both are actually filmed mainly in California), Miami Beach (think Burn Notice – which is actually filmed in Miami), and City of Miami (think First 48).

If you are looking for somewhere to stay, I recommend Miami South Beach, its like its own Art Deco town on the edge of the beach, with bars, restaurants, clubs, shopping, and an amazing white sandy beach that runs for miles and warm ocean. It is easy to get to the rest of Miami from South Beach either by car or bus, although with the exception of going to the stadium there is probably no need to leave South Beach. The area that is known as Miami Beach is about 15 miles long, so if you want to be close to the hub of the action, make sure that you book accommodation in Miami South Beach and not just Miami Beach. The further North the accommodation on Miami Beach the cheaper it is, and while the beach runs all the way along there are very few shops, restaurants and bars North of 24th Street. So if you are looking to stay on South Beach the best location is between 5th and 24th Street (these streets run horizontal to the beach) and Collins Avenue and Alton Road (these run parallel to the beach, with Collins Avenue being the closest to the beach). Hotels on South Beach range from the super chic W Hotel to some fairly low end, low quality rooms, so its a good idea to check them out on Trip Advisor.

If you are looking for cheaper but decent accommodation, then many of the chain hotels such as the Marriott, Crown Plaza and Holiday Inn are downtown. The location is ok, but is fairly quiet in the evening as this area is mainly a business district. The closest to South Beach is the Marriott at Omni which is just across the causeway from South Beach. Anywhere is Brickell will be like a ghost town after about 9pm.

If you stay at the airport hotels and don’t have a car you will find it very difficult to get around, unless you go back to the airport every time and jump on the buses or Metrorail. There is also accommodation at Doral and Miami Springs, both are quite a way from the Stadium and quite a distance from the beach and you will need a car to get around from these areas.

If you have a few days to kill, look at renting a car and taking a trip to the Florida Keys. The 100 mile trip is well worth it, even just the road trip is beautiful, there is only one road in and out of the Keys and it joins all the keys (islands) together. Key West is the party town, and is full of NFL mums who spend most of the year baking cookies and doing the school run, but who come to Key West to drink in the streets, ride a scooter, wear T-shirts with rude slogans and dance on the table in Jimmy Buffet’s Margarita Bar. But if you can stand that, it is quite a quaint town which is the base for fishing and diving charters and all things involving the sea. If you don’t want to do the 100 mile trip, Key Largo is about an hour drive from Miami and has John Pennecamp National Park which is less than $10 to enter for a car with 4 passengers, and offers snorkeling, kayaking, boat trips, fishing and camping.

However, if you are looking for a 24 hour party trip, then you will not need to leave South Beach where the streets are at their busiest at around 4am and quietest around 7.30am. As Pitbull says “what happens in Miami…Never happened”!

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To strike or not to strike? Why Criminal Lawyers should make up their own mind and not be swayed by others.

Having read many comments and blogs over the past few weeks regarding whether the Criminal Bar should refuse publicly funded work, effectively to strike, I have decided to weigh into the debate.

Firstly, make no mistake, I am appalled at the way the MOJ have behaved towards the legal aid consultation, and I believe that Chris Grayling has made it clear that he knows nothing about criminal practitioners, nor does he want to. His actions and comments have ranged from deceitful to childish, and in the main have been nothing to do with supporting the profession which works long hours day after day to represent those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in the criminal courts, but instead have been everything to do with trying to win the support of the Middle England voters who have been fotunate enough to have never been involved in the criminal justice system.

However, I think Chris Grayling’s actions should be put to one side when considering whether the profession should effectively go on strike. We are professionals and should weigh up all the pros and cons of refusing work, just as we would weigh up the likely outcomes of taking a certain course of action in our criminal prosecutions or defence. I am concerned that an overbearing attitude is creeping into the profession, which if we are not careful will create a ‘either with us or against us’ scenario. Particularly for younger members of the profession who are worried about whether their future work will dry up if they do not support the ‘strike’ action, this is unhealthy. As far as the Criminal Bar is concerned we are Independent. We hold this independence out to be one of our strongest features, and yet I am hearing daily of counsel who are being told that they must strike ‘or on their head be it’. All of us run an independent practice, and therefore we should be able to make our own decision on whether to refuse work.

I will not strike. I have made this decision on the basis of my principles, I do not want to see a defendant having to represent themselves, or be represented by a lawyer who is not their lawyer of their choice, due to the fact their lawyer is on strike. I am prepared to work to rule, and only work from 9 to 6 on my legally funded cases, and then to justify to the court why a case is not prepared, but it should be down to me to make that argument to the court and not the client.

I accept that financially, the MOJ’s cuts will make it very difficult to all of us criminal practitioners to survive, and I believe that a work to rule may make the MOJ realise that in reality cases are going to take longer and so will be just as costly. Not just in payments to counsel (in cases where we do actually receive payment for the extra days a case will take) but also in the extra court time taken to deal with each case.

I have seen much written about the cuts in recent weeks, and I am concerned that the ground we made with the public with regard to the damage that the MOJ proposals could do to them, is now being lost by the constant reference to the new proposed fees in criminal legal aid. The public do not understand that most of our daily rate does not end up in our back pocket, nor that we often have to wait over a year for the payments.  None the less, I fear that focussing on the money is causing us to lose ground to the MOJ on public opinion.

I also represent claimants in the employment tribunal (mainly thought the Free Representation Unit and the Bar Pro Bono Unit) and none of my clients earn as much as the daily trial rate in either the Magistrates or Crown Court. Try telling a client who has worked 40 hours a week on the minimum wage (£247.60 gross), for five years, only to be told that they are being laid off, and so are still classed as employed but can only receive the Job Seekers allowance per week, that earning over £100 per day for a trial is tough. This is not an extreme example, these are cases that I am seeing day after day, of people who are working for less than minimum wage or who are being told that their employer cannot afford to pay their salary for the month. These are the public who we should be trying to get on our side, not alienating. Talking about our fees will not help our cause, the country is under austerity measures, the NHS is at breaking point and everyday people are being made redundant or told that they need to move from their home as they have a spare room. We are not the only ones who are suffering, and we should try to connect with those who are suffering, after all for many of us they are our clients, whether criminal, employment, housing or immigration.

It is my personal opinion that a strike will alienate the public, and will just give Chris Grayling more ammunition to throw at the criminal profession. I can just see the headlines of articles in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph about how criminal defendants are having to languish in jail, awaiting trial as their greedy lawyers are striking!

Hence, for my part I will not be striking, nor will I be telling anyone else what to do, or criticising them for their decision. The criminal professions joined together like never before to fight the first MOJ consultation, it will be such a shame to see that union fragment into a blame culture. That would play right into the MOJ’s hands. We should be united in making sure that we reply to the 2nd Consultation, and in supporting each other..it is that which will make us a respected profession and also create an environment where, no matter what happens with the MOJ cuts we continue the support as much as we can.

About Me

I am a social justice barrister, with an interest in criminal law, complaints against the police, prison law, International human rights, inquests and any challenging cases which involve the criminal justice system.

Specialisms:

  • football supporter law;
  • human trafficking;
  • defending people facing the death penalty.

My employment law work includes unfair dismissal, whistle blowing, minimum wage claims and discrimination, also police and prison officer disciplinaries.

I have been voted Pro Bono Lawyer of the year for 2012 and have also been awarded the Florida Criminal Defence Lawyers Association Rodney Thaxton Award for criminal defence work on a high profile death penalty case.  The Florida Chapter of the American Civil Liberities Union awarded me the Clyde Atkins Award for my work defending death penalty cases.

I work from 1 Gray’s Inn Square chambers in London, but will travel anywhere.

I can be contacted via www.alisongurden.com or www.1gis.co.uk

Hold the Gate….

This is a familiar phrase for anyone who visits Florida jails or prisons.  It means that the exit gates and doors are locked shut as there are inmates walking past.

Its 8am, and as I walk though the gate into the elevator lobby in the Pre-trial Detention Center in Miami, I  hear the familiar phrase and a line of inmates in Orange shuffle past me, handcuffed in two’s and shackled to the inmates in front.  They are all on their way to court.  Some say ‘Good morning Miss’, others nod at me or smile, others keep their heads down or eyes straight ahead.  These are usually the inmates who are new to the system, and who cannot grasp what is going on around them.

This part of the jail is mainly metal gates, the lobby echoes, and with all these inmates and the corrections officers directing them, the sound is deafening.  I get the nod from the front office, the interview room on the floor I need to visit is free, I can go up.  Despite the fact the room is full of shackled inmates, with no space to squeeze around the edge of them, I will not miss the opportunity to get into an interview room, there are only one or two on each floor and  as the day progresses they will become more in demand.  I eye up a couple of inmates who have nodded to me and said ‘Good Morning’ to me.

“Excuse me lads, you couldn’t just crouch down so that I can jump over your chains could you?”  They oblige and I skip over their chains and head for he lift.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions that all inmates will be nice to me, and I will never duck under the chains, as it would be all too easy for an inmate to loop that chain around my neck.  For the very same reason I will not sit in an interview room with an inmate who is handcuffed (inmates are handcuffed to the front), although I believe I have a good gauge of my defendants, and have never had a client, either in England or anywhere else, make a move on me, I don’t want to be in a 6′ x 6′ locked room with an inmate who has a metal strangulation method on their wrists, everyone has bad days..

The inmate I am going to see is charged with capital murder, but is not considered to be a high risk, and so is on one of the less violent floors.  He is based in a pen with 23 other inmates.  The corrections officers know me as I regularly visit him and spend hours with him in interview.  They take my  badge and allow me to walk down to the pen gate.  Before I can yell to my inmate, others have seen me coming and have already called him.  The rules don’t allow me to stand at the gate and talk to the inmates, but it doesn’t prevent me from taking a very slow walk back to the interview room whilst chatting to the inmates who have come to the penn gate.  To many, this is the only contact they get with someone who is not a corrections officer or inmate.  Our conversations are like normal office talk ‘did you see the game last night?’ ‘Have you heard the new Usher track?’.

I wait in the interview room for my client to be brought in.  He is handcuffed and the first thing I ask is ‘Cuffs off please’.  The corrections officer is new, to the floor, I have not seen him before.  “I don’t know m’am.  Its for safety.”  he says.  I look at my client  “You aren’t scared of your safety with me in the room are you?”.  He laughs, and the guard takes the cuffs off.  I shake hands with the client and we sit.  There is just enough space for the table and two chairs, the room has windows on two sides and as we talk, the inmates outside preparing the lunch trays watch us.  They are ‘Trustees’ which means they have earnt the right to be out of their penn carrying out jobs.  Earning the right usually means they have behaved themselves, but it also means they have been in jail for a long time.  They know me and know better than to interrupt my interview by banging on the window, or trying to attract my attention, but they give a small wave and nod as they go past, and I return the same.

This client is one I first met two years ago, and I have spent a lot of time with him since.  He is charged with capital murder,

“How are you doing” I ask.

“Ok, there was a fight in the penn last night.  Dude got shanked, he was cut real bad”

“Who?”.  He tells me, and I recognize the name. An inmate who is a co defendant on one of my other cases.

“Can you find out how he is?”  Just as I think my client is feeling compassion for this inmate, he continues “cause he has a good bunk and if he ain’t coming back I want his bunk”.

“Wow you are all heart, you know that?”  I make it clear that I am not impressed with his lack of compassion.  He just nods.

We talk about things that have happened in the jail since my last visit and then we talk about  the specific element of his mitigation that I want to cover that day.  This client is not the easiest to obtain information from, not because he is not prepared to talk, but because his thought processes don’t work in a logical way.  I cannot ask direct questions as he either does not understand them or cannot think through the answers.  So I have to ask roundabout questions.  For example when I asked him ‘Did they cuff you to the back in the cop car?’ he didn’t know.  But when I said, think about sitting in the cop car, was it uncomfortable, did it hurt?’ he replied ‘yeah, as they had my hands cuffed behind my back so I couldn’t sit back’.  I have probably spent over 200 hours with this client, and from that have obtained the occasional chink of helpful information.  That is one of the benefits that  I can provide to the public defender’s office, as I am a volunteer, I  am not on the clock and can spend hours sitting talking to the clients, whereas my colleagues cannot justify doing so as they have so much other work to do.

We talk for about an hour and I manage to get a small amount of useful information from my client.  I always try to finish the interview on a positive note, rather than dwelling not he case, and this morning we talk about one of my recent escapades…

I bang on the window to let the corrections officers know I want to be released, but I am not sure that they hear me as they don’t make a move, so I catch the attention of the trustee and get him to let them know I want releasing.  I do often wonder, if my client were to start kicking off whether the corrections officers would notice in time to help, but fortunately I have never had that scenario.  I have had situations where I can see that a client is changing their demeanor (I have one client who hears the Devil every so often), and when that happens I decide it is time to go, the last thing I want is for my client to get in trouble because I have pushed his buttons too much.

As I leave the interview room I have a chat with the trustees, one of them wants to know whether I can teach him the rules of soccer.  “Another day’ Honey..’ I say as I get in the elevator.

The lift arrives in the lobby to another mass of orange, and the familiar ‘Hold the gate’.  Once again I am trapped in this noisy lobby with over 40 inmates.  One of them leers over towards me, I stand my ground…any sign of weakness can get a beating or a reputation of being scared…I want neither.  The line of shackles move off and the leering inmate moves forward and out of my way…

The gate is released and I can walk out into the sun and humidity of a Miami morning.  Every time I walk out of the jail I am eternally grateful that I have my freedom, and the humidity,  that I usually bitch about, is suddenly a great feeling.  I am aware that some of my clients have not had that feeling for the last 5 years, and may not get it again for a long time, and when they do, it will be in a yard surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers.

Since the Trevor McDonald programme I have been inundated with questions about my life with death row prisoners, and those in jail awaiting trial for capital cases and who may be ordered to face the death penalty.  This is the first in a series of blogs to explain the reality..which is nowhere near as glamorous and dramatic as the TV indicates.  This extract of a jail visit is made up of my experiences with different clients in order to protect and preserve their anonymity.

I am happy to answer questions about my work, but I will not under any circumstances provide any access to my clients, so please don’t ask me if you can interview my clients, visit my clients, interview me about my clients, or come with me on a visit to the jail or prisons because the answer will be a resounding ‘NO’ . These are peoples lives I am dealing with.  I am not a bleeding heart lawyer, I accept that some of my clients are guilty, and some are innocent, and that the guilty ones caused the death of another, often in horrific circumstances, but that does not make them a circus animal they are still entitled to the best representation, and I will do my utmost to protect them to make sure that there is a due process of law.