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Written by Roy Black

Irwin J. Block, Esq.I enjoyed writing the post about Phil Hubbart (and it was long overdue), so I decided to continue the series with another unforgettable character from my beginning days in the Metro Justice Building. I read in the DBR that Irwin Block has been given the 2011 David W. Dyer Professionalism Award. Irwin was admitted to the bar in 1950, and has practiced law for over 60 years. Irwin is the personification of professionalism. He was always a gentlemen no matter how heated the litigation, and at the Justice Building, things could heat up quickly.

When I started as an ingenue at the PD’s office, the criminal courts were populated with a wild-west posse of criminal lawyers. Lawyers with radically different personalities, styles and competency. Starting with Irwin, Bob Josefsberg, Phil “the ringmaster” Carlton, and down the scale to Damon Runyon, characters like Donald Frost, Gino Negretti, Tom Duff and “Mr. Poe–lock.”  At times the courtroom resembled the bar scene in the first Star Wars movie. It was like working in an advocacy lab or a never-ending CLE program combined with a source of off-the-wall stories too bizarre to be fiction.

I soaked it all up, watching the calendar hearings every morning with all kinds of interesting motions and hearings. Imagination ran rampant.  And then I’d watch the afternoon trials. Irwin was one of the preeminent criminal lawyers. I learned from watching him in action. Always over-prepared and performed in an exquisitely courtly manner. I had the pleasure of sitting next to him in the WFC federal tax trial in the late 70s where both our clients were acquitted, and watched him up close and personal. The entire trial was a learning experience with such greats as Bob Josefsberg, now federal judge Jose Martinez, and presided over by the incomparable Jose Gonzalez. It doesn’t get better than this.

Gonzalez is the model for the perfect federal judge. It was always a joy trying a case in his courtroom. No lawyer would ever do anything disrespectful there because they would be afraid to look diminished in his eyes. The only criticism of him I can mount is that he is a rabid Gator fan. His chambers was packed full of orange and blue paraphernalia. Enough to make a UM man vomit. But nobody is perfect, not even Gonzalez.

Irwin was meticulous. Every file in perfect order. He spoke in clear diction with praticed exposition. When he spoke, he inspired confidence. The preparation and grasp of the subject matter was obvious. And he never retreated from a position. He kept arguing it until the prosecutor conceded or the judge finally called a halt.

I took from him the necessity of mission clarity.  How to defend your point of view with a take-no-prisoners rhetoric, yet with humility,  not ego. This is a fine line to walk. Humility is a far more effective weapon more than hyperbole and rash over-the-top claims.

While I sat next to Irwin at the WFC trial, I studied his notes and files to see how he prepared for court each day. All were carefully ordered, neat, and ready to go. Once I tried a case against Caroline Heck Miller, now a Chief Assistant United States Attorney, and she, for direct examination, had every question charted out with all the possible answers, corroboration and exhibit numbers noted in different colored inks. Too much work for me. But Irwin was more flexible and I adopted this into my folder method (see my post on Cross).

One of many wonderful stories from that trial aptly illustrates these outsized personalities. Bob Josefsberg and Irwin drove to court together in Irwin’s brand new Cadillac. One day a juror passed in another lane, and Bob being Bob, sticks half his body out through the side window waving both arms while Irwin cringed low in his seat so the juror wouldn’t see him in an expensive car. Irwin mumbled about it under his breath all morning.

So congratulations to Irwin for an award well-deserved.

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5 Comments to Irwin Block

  1. Richard Sharpstein's Gravatar Richard Sharpstein
    July 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Once again Roy you have heaped praise on a well deserved recipient. Irwin exemplifies the gentleman lawyer who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. We were indeed lucky to watch him in his prime. I actually got a front row seat to watch he and Burton Young slug it out in a hotly contested divorce. Like two gladiators fighting to the death. Yet with finesse!eloquence and style. His defense of Al San Pedro was masterful. There are not enough awards for Irwin, Bob,Phil and their peers. Their impact on us still resonates in our daily fight for Justice for our clients.

  2. July 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Roy, I’m too young to be familiar with Irwin Block, but I want to comment on something else. A second woman has now made allegations against DSK. This can be interpreted one of two ways. Either it lends support to the first woman’s story or it shows that once the prosecutors realized how ridiculous the first story sounded, they ran out and gathered another woman to make more credible albeit false claims. It reminds me of your Marv Albert case. Wasn’t there a second woman who came forward later? To give you an idea of my age, I was in your trial class at UM while you were trying the Marv Albert case. You had Mark Seiden to cover the class for you a lot. Congratulations to Irwin Block.

  3. July 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I am really enjoying these profiles Mr. Black.

    I see that Richard Sharpstein has left a comment and perhaps one day you’ll profile him

    Perhaps this post I wrote on my blog can act as a bit of inspiration. http://bit.ly/k7Zu7U

  4. July 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Word has it that the prosecution might drop the case against DSK. It is reported that the accuser lied on her asylum application saying that she had been gang raped. I suppose that was her ground for asylum. Also she contradicted herself, once saying she was cleaning DSK’s hotel room at the time of the assault, and another time saying she was waiting around in the hallway. She can’t keep her story straight. I wonder if they’ll restore the man to his old job at the IMF or whether this second, out of the wood work accuser will be taken seriously.

  5. April 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    4 20 12

    My same last name is coincidental but am proud to be able to share it with Irwin.

    Irwin represented me from my arrival in Miami from North Florida and UF Law school and for a number of years as a young man in business and real estate investment. I was usually not in the 1% of real estate moguls, some years were better than others. I owned a large boatyard on the river. Every year Irwin would pay for hurricane storage and occasional work on his sailboat, slipping a check to the receivables clerk surreptitiously so I would not find out and attempt to comp him.
    At some point I became involved in a dispute over proceeds of my sale of several acres in downtown/Brickell for a lot of money, Irwin represented me and the other parties were represented by Erin Podhurst. I would become so fascinated by the clash and sparring of those two greats, duking-it-out with etiquette and eloquence each prepared as if the hearings were before the US Supreme court instead of Dade Circuit Ct., that I would actually forget that I had a large personal stake in the outcome. The case settled but Irwin clearly had the edge in points scored. And he chastised my settling as a matter of principle, caring as if it were his money to be shared. ‘You should not settle with sharks that don’t deserve a penny and only appear when there is fresh meat. They are undeserving and will just become even more emboldened. ‘

    As Irwin was representing me he was at one point also representing Alberto San Pedro, “the great corrupter”. The State Atty poured enormous resources and millions into the investigation and prosecution. When San Pedro ran out of money the firm took all of Irwin’s backup legal assistants, paralegal, secretarial, away, but Irwin refused to dump San Pedro and had a heart attack from the workload, without researchers, junior counsel etc and only part time secretarial yet continued on without complaint. I once asked Irwin why don’t you bow out, he feigned shock and somewhat sternly responded,
    “I took him on as a client in a criminal matter and and the fact that he may be unpleasant and is now impecunious as a result of the prosecution is not cause to prejudice him or any criminal defendant, nor sufficient cause for me to walk away from my obligation to maintain his vigorous defense, and in the middle of a serious criminal case. ”
    As you will recall Irwin in effect won the San Pedro case despite the handicaps of having to quite literally singlehandedly defend an unpleasant uncontrollable braggadocios client against State atty Janet Reno’s army.

    David Block, esq

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