From the moment he walked into the courtroom last week, attorney Alan Kluger had an issue with my camera, spouting off some unwritten Florida Supreme Court law about needing to get written permission before being able to record a hearing.
He then claimed he had sat on some committee that enacted the rules that make Florida one of the most liberal states in the country when it comes to bringing cameras into the courtroom.
Yet he was trying his best to prevent me from recording the hearing in which his client, Miami Heat minority owner Raanan Katz, was suing a local blogger for defamation over her blog posts, which are all based on public records.
“I’m sure you’ll get thrown out because the way the rules work and I sat on the committee involving press is that you absolutely have to file a request so the court can ensure where you’re located and people find out who you are, so that they can vet you and find out you’re not allegedly press like their client claims to be press.”
He was completely wrong.
Judge Ellen Leesfield walked into the courtroom acknowledging that she had researched the law and said I could remain. Hats off to her for that. Especially considering Kluger has donated to her election campaign in the past.
And the issue wasn’t brought up again until Kluger mentioned something about how a motion is required in order to be granted permission to record a hearing, but was willing to let that side because he’s such “a big First Amendment guy” (as he is suing a blogger for defamation for publishing public records).
However, he did insist I identify myself and the judge agreed with him because she was also curious.
I never have a problem identifying myself to people in these situations, so I gladly did, but there is nothing in the law that states this is a requirement.
In fact, Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.170 and 2.450, both which address this issue, state that photographers and videographers need to remain as inconspicuous as possible, which is why they are not allowed to move around the courtroom or set up lighting or even change lenses during a hearing.
They’re expected to be seen but not heard, which is why there is no requirement that they identify themselves to the court.
I didn’t say one word or move from my location throughout the hearing, but that didn’t stop Kluger from questioning my credibility and professionalism after the hearing, which you can see in the above video.
“Are you a real journalist? You’re a clown.”
Perhaps his definition of a real journalist is the Wall Street Journal reporter who profiled him and his wife about their art collection in a 2010 puff-piece where she couldn’t even get his name right, referring to him as Mr. Kaplan instead of Mr. Kluger, forcing the paper to run a correction.
Abbey Kaplan is Kluger’s law partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen and Levine so you know that mistake ate at him.
And that remark about me being a clown?
The truth is, he is the one that comes across like a caricature. A New York-born man living in Miami who wears cowboy boots with his suits, making him come across like a Jewish Joe Pesci from the movie, My Cousin Vinnie.
Except Vinnie wouldn’t spout false laws.
Kluger’s area of expertise is not First Amendment or media law but rather celebrity divorces, including Alex Rodriguez’s divorce, so perhaps that odious temperament just comes with the territory.
But most attorneys keep it civil with other attorneys, including the ones they are facing off against in court because as anybody knows, the real winners in any court battle are the attorneys.
But he walked out the courtroom without conferring with First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza, who is defending the blogger in question.
He is also the constant source of ridicule from the lawyers behind the South Florida Lawyers blog, whose readers mock him for his defecating-like photo pose in a local magazine write-up.
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It would be easy for me to say he is full of shit but that would probably get me sued. After all, he threatened to sue Randazza for having the audacity to defend his client, accusing him of assisting her in cyber-bullying.
But I’m not too concerned about Kluger’s reaction to this piece because not only does the First Amendment apply to me, whether or not he wants to believe I am a journalist, I also take the time to research the law, even having a conviction reversed pro se on appeal as some of you old-time readers remember.
Unlike him, I don’t open my mouth unless I can back my statements up.
UPDATE: Kluger was kicked off an airline in 2002 after he called a flight attendant a “faggot” during an argument about the plane not having any Raisin Bran in first class.
The plane had to return to the gate where he and his son were met by federal agents.