Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs

Florida Judge Cynthia Imperato, Florida Judge Gisele Pollack, and Florida Judge Lynn Feig-Rosenthal (l-r)


Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs
In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests
The New York Times
By FRANCES ROBLES
June 27, 2014


MIAMI — Lawyers gawked from office windows last month when a BMW S.U.V. swiped a parked police cruiser in the parking lot of a courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, then slammed into a gate over and over again. A judge was at the wheel.

As lawyers used smartphones to snap pictures of the morning spectacle, Judge Lynn D. [Feig] Rosenthal became the third Broward County judge in six months to be arrested on charges of driving under the influence. A colleague, Judge Gisele Pollack, had been suspended five days earlier after getting arrested on a D.U.I. charge while already on leave for taking the bench intoxicated — twice.

Even for South Florida, where absurd news events are routine and the sheriff went to prison for corruption, the spate of judicial scandals has raised serious questions about whether the arrests in Broward are a bizarre coincidence or underscore a larger systemic problem. In a county where the judiciary is known for old-school nepotism and cronyism, and judges have been caught smoking marijuana in a park and found drunk and partly naked in a hotel hallway, some lawyers find themselves wondering: At what point do isolated instances of misconduct point to something bigger? On Wednesday, WPLG, an ABC affiliate, citing anonymous sources, reported that a Broward family court judge was under federal investigation on suspicion of allowing a now-convicted Ponzi schemer to influence a case.

And this month, a former judge in Broward was disbarred for exchanging 949 phone calls and 471 text messages with the prosecutor during a death penalty case. Yet another judge was recommended for removal in April after being accused of cheating clients and a co-counsel in the settlement of a civil suit she handled as a private lawyer a decade ago.

Florida Judge Lynn D. Feig-Rosenthal under arrest, in cuffs
As it turns out, bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months. Judge John C. Murphy in Brevard County is on leave after he was caught on video this month threatening a public defender, who later accused the judge of punching him in the head. In the Keys, a judge who was replaced on the bench after dozing off told a local news reporter that Ambien made him hallucinate about " ‘Fantasia’ and the dancing brooms." Another stepped down because a blogger exposed a sexually explicit profile the judge had posted on a gay dating site...William J. Gelin, a defense lawyer in Broward who runs a blog, Jaablaw.com, that chronicles courthouse antics and posted a photo of Judge Rosenthal’s arrest, noted that the Judicial Qualifications Commission only reveals cases that result in misconduct charges. Most complaints against judges remain secret, which he said adds to the perception that judges feel omnipotent. "It’s time to shine a light on these individuals and their performance, as the founding fathers intended," Mr. Gelin said. Read more
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Fla. Judge Cynthia Imperato
Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato charged with DUI
Sun Sentinel
By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel
November 6, 2013


A veteran Broward circuit judge found herself at the other end of the judicial system Wednesday — carted off to jail following her DUI arrest.

After Judge Cynthia Imperato spent Tuesday evening at a social legal function, she was seen weaving on the roadway, nearly hitting a vehicle in her white Mercedes-Benz in Boca Raton, officials said. By Wednesday morning Imperato, 56, had been released from jail and called in sick to work. Now, she is awaiting her own judgment while her misdemeanor case plays out. Meanwhile, the Broward chief judge and Broward State Attorney's Office are trying to figure out how to deal with her arrest.

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein said there is no specific protocol in place dictating how to handle a judge in this situation."Judge Imperato is a fine judge, she is a terrific human being and is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process," he said.

Known as "Cindy," the former police officer and ex-statewide prosecutor is a well-liked judge, with a reputation for making decisive rulings and running a punctual, speedy docket.

State records show this was her second DUI. The first was in 1988. Read more

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Fla. Judge David Audlin
Monroe County judge David Audlin steps down, laments ‘invasion of my privacy’ after hookup site reveal
Miami Herald Florida Keys
By Cammy Clark
May 9, 2014


Judge David Audlin was serving as Monroe County’s chief circuit judge in late April when he announced via an open letter to friends and colleagues that he was retiring with four years left in his second six-year term.

The well-respected Audlin, 56, who was elected in 2006 and again in 2012, did not give a reason at the time for his sudden and unexpected departure from his $145,000-per-year judgeship with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court. On Friday, his last day as a judge, Audlin said his voluntary decision was based on an "inappropriate invasion of my privacy."

On Jan. 16, a blogger found a profile of Audlin on Manhunt, which bills itself as the world’s biggest gay hookup site with a slogan: Any guy. Any time. Anywhere. JAABlog posted the profile under the headline: "Let’s Get Sweaty." The next day, a website called Above the Law posted a story about the blog with the headline: "Judge’s Sex Ad Found on Internet Hookup Site." While Audlin deleted his Manhunt profile, a screen grab of it is readily accessible now and likely indefinitely will be in cyberspace. Read more
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Florida Judge Gisele Pollack
Florida Supreme Court Docket
RE: Gisele Pollack
Case Number:  SC14-985
Inquiry Concerning a Judge Nos. 13-633, 14-151, 14-187

Notice of Formal Charges
TO: The Honorable Gisele Pollack
Broward County Court Judge
201 S. E. 6th Street, Room 358
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301

The Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, at its meeting on May 16, 2014, by a vote of the majority of its members, pursuant to Rule 6(f) of the Rules of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and Article V, Section
12 (b) of the Constitution of the State of Florida, finds that probable cause exists for formal proceedings to be instituted against you. Probable cause exists on the following formal charges:

Recommendation of Suspension: The Investigative Panel found probable cause to file formal charges, which are set for in the Notice of Formal Charges which are being filed concurrently with this Finding and Recommendation.

Suspension Order: Judge Gisele Pollack is hereby immediately suspended from office without pay pending disposition of this proceeding. POLSTON, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, LABARGA and PERRY, JJ., concur.
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Florida Judge Tracy Sheehan
Hillsborough judge pleads guilty in DUI case
St. Petersburg Tribune
By Kate Bradshaw Tribune Staff
August 23, 2013


CLEARWATER — A Hillsborough County judge got her day in court today for a July DUI arrest, though it was in a Pinellas County courtroom.

Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Tracy Sheehan pleaded guilty to a DUI charge after she was arrested last month for drunk driving in Tampa. She was sentenced to a year of probation and 50 hours of community service. Her case was transferred to Pinellas County to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

"This is the same as thousands of others that will come before and probably will follow," said Pinellas County Judge Patrick Caddell, who presided over the case. "Until we live and learn."

Sheehan, 53, also had her driver’s license revoked for six months and was ordered to complete DUI school. She will have to have an interlock device on her car. Sheehan declined to discuss her plea and sentence.

"She’s still a sitting judge, and there are still rules involving what a sitting judge can and cannot say, which can be interpreted as having a position about an issue that may be before her or not before her," said her lawyer, Steve Romine. Shortly after her arrest, Sheehan issued a statement saying she would take full responsibility for her actions.

"I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance," Sheehan said in her statement. "I made a big mistake for which I apologize wholeheartedly to my family, friends, and colleagues who have put their faith and trust in me. I take drunk driving very seriously and accept full responsibility for my actions and any penalty that comes my way in this matter." Read more

Dressed for a night on the town, judge ‘froze’ in jail after DUI arrest, ABA Journal Law News Now, By Martha Neil, July 8, 2013. A Florida judge's decision to drink and drive led to a rough several hours at the local jail early Saturday. Read more
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Florida Judge Tegan Slaton
Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
August 2, 2014


Circuit Judge Tegan Slaton was removed from the bench Friday due to reported erratic behavior during court proceedings, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ordered Slaton removed sometime Friday after Slaton appeared incoherent or otherwise disheveled while sitting on the bench, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said on the condition of anonymity.

Court reporter Lisa Rozier told U.S. 1 Radio News journalist Ezra Marcus during a segment for the Evening Edition radio program that she was present in the courtroom when Monroe County Sheriff's Office bailiff deputies asked Slaton to step down in the middle of a trial. Read more ______________________________________________________________

After judge’s fistfight with public defender was broken up, he returned to the bench, says report
ABA Journal Law News Now
By Martha Neil, June 2, 2014


Updated: A Florida judge told a veteran public defender to step outside the courtroom on Monday, then punched the attorney until sheriff's deputies broke up the altercation, WFTV reports.

Although the incident occurred outside the range of a court camera, it captured audio, including what the station describes as several loud thuds. No one was charged in the incident, and Brevard County Judge John Murphy is said to have gone back on the bench afterward and continued his criminal court call.

The fireworks occurred after a courtroom dispute in which assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock resisted pressure to waive his client's speedy trial rights.

"If you want to fight, let's go out back and I'll just beat your ass," Murphy told Weinstock as the two men exited the courtroom, WFTV reports. A short time earlier, the judge said: "You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down."

Weinstock said he had expected to talk with the judge in the hallway outside the courtroom, 18th Judicial Court public defender Blaise Trettis told the station. "The attorney said that immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck. There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they're in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed." Florida Today has obtained the courtroom video and reports that those in the courtroom applauded as the judge returned to the bench saying: "I will catch my breath eventually." Read more

Assistant PD punched by judge resigns in protest after jurist returns to bench, ABA Journal Law News Now, By Martha Neil, July 8, 2014. An assistant public defender who said he was punched by a Florida judge in a Brevard County courtroom hallway has resigned in protest following the jurist's return to the bench less than a month after the incident. Andrew Weinstock said in a Monday letter that he was resigning, effective immediately, because his boss did not oppose Judge John Murphy's resumption of judicial duties, Florida Today reports. Read more



"The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you’d be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office." - Carl Hiaasen on Florida

2 comments:

  1. Please look at palm beach county. The antics if the judges may not be as blatant as broward but the illegal actions cronyism is just as bad

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  2. From my own first hand experience with two female Broward County judges, I can attest to the truthfulness and accuracy of the well known and widely held belief in civil litigation that..."Bank of America has some of the best judges money can buy". A few generous election campaign contributions to certain judges virtually guarantees a continuous pattern of favorable rulings for Bank of America, regardless of the facts, the evidence, or the essential requirements of the law. I am the Plaintiff in an on-going Quiet Title action against BoA since 2013. The first judge in our case, Mily Rodriguez-Powell, (wisely) recused herself after I pointed out in my Second Amended Motion for Disqualification/Recusal, that by consistently "hi-jacking" my Discovery efforts with her prejudiced denials of ALL of my Motions to Compel Production, (see Rule 1.380, I am entitled to full and fair Discovery as a matter of law), and that by legal definition under the Florida Statutes, the judge had made herself an Accessory After the Fact by assisting Bank of America in the on-going concealment of certain lender-forged mortgage documents which BoA's loan officers falsified in order to get the loan approved and collect their monetary incentive bonuses. I also reminded judge Rodriguez-Powell that even as a Pro Se litigant, which I was at the time, I still had the legal right to address the matter with the JQC. Previously, my (former) attorney at the time, had filed the first Motion for Disqualification which judge Rodriguez-Powell promptly DENIED as "legally insufficient". His motion failed to mention the possibility of JQC involvement or the legal definition of the Florida "Accessory After the Fact" Statute and for that reason, his motion to get judge Rodriguez-Powell off the case failed...mine did not...for all the obvious reasons. Now that I am represented by counsel and a different judge has been assigned to the case, it appears that we are, yet again, dealing with the SAME judicial bias favoring Bank of America! It has now been TWO WEEKS since the hearing on BoA's perfunctory and meritless Motion to Dismiss, and the "new" judge has deliberately DELAYED her ruling! It does NOT take two weeks to rule on an MTD...unless of course, there exists judicial bias and favoritism towards Bank of America, which appears to be the case. It's bad enough that for almost 8 years,I've had to deal with Bank of America's never-ending parade of sneaky, dishonest, unethical, self-serving "David Stern" category lawyers, but I also have had to deal with the clear and undeniable judicial prejudice I've been subjected to by these Broward County judges. I'm beginning to wonder if there are ANY judges in the 17th Judicial Circuit who are not already "nestled comfortably" in Bank of America's pocket??? That's the biggest and worst problem that I see in litigating against a "financial giant" like Bank of America. What if any, is the extent of the "Pre-Existing Business Relationship" between the judge and the Defendant? Who holds the mortgage on the judge's house, or the houses of her family members? What about business loans, campaign contributions, credit accounts, personal loans, etc.? To be fair, ANY judge that has ANY financial dealings with Bank of America and who winds up presiding over ANY Bank of America litigation, should immediately and voluntarily RECUSE himself, (or herself), as failure to do so would create not only a Conflict of Interest, but the "Appearance of Impropriety" as well! More to come....

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