Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney has nearly thirty years of watching Judges do crazy things, yet I've never once made a formal complaint about a Judge's inappropriate conduct.
No, not even complaining about the infamous Judge S., now mercifully retired, who failing in her life's goal of appointment to the Florida Supreme Court became filled with rage, hatred and abuse of those around her. For a terrifying few weeks while I was a Prosecutor the Judge's demeanor swung to ever higher manic states while attempting to destroy an excellent Public Defender's career with ever more unreasonable stunts.
|Matisse, Portrait of Rude Judge S, 1900|
Judicial miscues are often difficult to prove because bizarre or biased behavior must be made on the record or in such a way that there is reliable evidence of misconduct. In at least one case of misconduct now before the Commission, the charges arise from the Judge's statements made in sentencing verdicts. Though the statements against minimum mandatory sentencing or cannabis being illegal seem reasonable, they were found to be enough to trigger an investigation with a Notice of Formal Charges that reads like an indictment. In another Notice of Formal Charges against a Florida Judge in Leon County, the charges stem from selling religious material to court personnel, not so bad really, but arguably it goes to impartiality for those who fail to buy.
Here is part of a recent Notice of Formal Charges against an Orlando Judge's rude intemperate behavior which might come closest to what we faced in Judge S.'s Courtroom:
NOTICE OF FORMAL CHARGES
1. Upon taking the bench in January 2007 you began to exhibit a pattern of rude and intemperate behavior that you characterized as your "Irish temper". This "Irish temper" has been manifested by loud and vocal expressions of displeasure to attorneys with whom you are displeased.You have on occasion exhibited rude and intemperate behavior from the bench towards certain lawyers who appear before you.
2. With State Attorney Camelia Coward, you remarked to the opposing male attorney, "Do you know what I do when my wife and I disagree? I just let her talk." While making this statement you held up your hand and began moving it as if it were a talking mouth. You continued, "I find that it is best just to let the woman just talk until she's finished." You then indicated that once she is finished then you can do what you want anyway.
3. A week or so later you made the same comment about Ms. Coward, this time to her colleague, but the comment was made from the bench in open court where other attorneys, witnesses and the public could hear your comment.
4. When Camelia Coward appeared in the courtroom, you inquired as to why she was there. Upon being told that she was there to assist another Assistant State Attorney, you belittled her by asking, "By bringing her a sandwich?" When she objected to that inappropriate remark by reminding you she was an attorney, not a coffee girl, you replied that you thought there was enough time for her to "run down and get all of us some coffee."
When did this guy go to law school, during the fifties? What's shocking is a world view expressed that one would not expect any fair minded judge to posses.
As you can see a smoking gun is necessary or as in this case multiple canons blazing. After a stipulation between Judge and Commission for a small penalty of a reprimand was thrown out, in a Final Order the Orlando Judge was suspended for sixty days and had to write letters of apology to everyone involved which if there's any justice in Florida should include each of us who had to read his words. But you'll notice that the Judge is still a Judge. The Florida Supreme Court reviews stipulations for punishment made between a Judge and the Commission to be certain that the result is fair and can up the punishment when needed.
Federal Judges are appointed for life and other than death or impeachment by Congress there is no avenue to address wrongs. But Florida Judges are subject to elections and Judges with the reputation of having bad temperaments could find themselves fighting for re-election. Clearwater Criminal Lawyers note that the mere threat of Commission investigations should be enough to keep judges straight, yet troubled Judges are easy to find.