Broward County: Systemic Judicial Misconduct

Frances Robles has an eye-opening article in the New York Times about the number of judges charged with criminal conduct and ethical violations in Broward County.

How could one county have so many misbehaving judges? Some say it's systemic. Others are in denial. The facts speak for themselves.

Added: Robles says "Bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months." Here are just a few examples:

  • 3 judges charged with DUI in 6 months.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Broward County has the highest rate of exonerations of defendants in Florida. [More...]

As one of those interviewed by Robles said:

“Tell me one other courthouse that at any time ever had three judges pending criminal charges, a fourth judge disbarred by the Supreme Court and another judge awaiting removal,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “And that doesn’t include the naked judge!”

The Chief Judge denies there's a problem:

Broward’s chief judge, Peter M. Weinstein, said the rash of arrests was an “anomaly” that did not reflect the hard work judges do every day at the courthouse.

“It’s a big court system — we have 103 people making decisions every single day,” Judge Weinstein said. “Over all, we have excellent judges, and nobody ever reads or hears anything about them.”

The lawyer for the latest judge to be charged with DUI, who claims she was driving while Ambien'ed not drunk but refused all tests), is himself married to a former judge disbarred this month for misconduct.(opinion here.)

His wife, Ana Gardiner, is the former Broward judge who was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court this month for lying about an “emotional relationship” with a prosecutor during a 2007 case. (The defendant was granted a new trial and is now serving a life sentence instead of being on death row, as Ms. Gardiner had ruled.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    Your post is confusing/ confuses locations (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 05:01:25 PM EST
    Judge Murphy is in BREVARD not Broward. Brevard is 5 counties north of Broward. Not to defend Broward County judges (like everyone else I Have had good and bad experiences there), but Murphy should not be part of your bill of particulars here.

    Nor should the judge in the Keys. The judge in the Keys is in Monroe which is two counties south of Broward.

    Completely different political cultures and cronies. Broward is Democratic, Brevard Is Republican.

    Nice catch Molly (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by CoralGables on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 05:20:08 PM EST
    Yes, and the second (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 05:53:36 PM EST
    referenced judge "in the Keys"  does not belong among the other judges' and their transgressions.  Chief Judge, David Audlin, of 16th judicial circuit (Monroe County) voluntarily resigned on the basis of his feelings of invasion of privacy. There was no call for his resignation.

     Judge Audlin was a very well respected judge in the  legal community and the community at large having been elected to the circuit court twice.   He was known for fairness and following the law.  He did nothing illegal, perhaps a lapse of his usual good judgment in view of his stature.  

    David Audlin is a 56-year old, out gay man.  That he was among a sexual minority was common knowledge.  His indiscretion was to place his profile on a dating site that included personal details, as is wont on such sites.  He used the name DavidKW--the KW for Key West, his home for over 30 years.  His lapse of judgment, to me, was to believe that the internet assures privacy.  This is made all the worse in that Governor Rick Scott fills the vacancy.


    "sexually explicit profile ... posted" (none / 0) (#22)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 11:35:15 AM EST
    Yeah, gotta weed out the honest judges to make more room for the hypocrites.

    Yes, (none / 0) (#29)
    by KeysDan on Tue Jul 01, 2014 at 08:26:49 AM EST
    And, it is not as though David Audlin's "behavior" would offend the community standards of Key West, the Monroe County seat.

    Yes, different counties (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 07:57:40 PM EST
    I just clarified by adding this sentence from Robles' article which preceded the examples:

    Added: Robles says "Bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months."

    It's my summary, not her article that was confusing.


    It's hard to say... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 04:00:40 PM EST
    ...if this is close or far from the norm.   Note that the article was not in the home town paper. You can't see what you're not looking at.


    Eye Opening Article for sure (none / 0) (#5)
    by ragebot on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 07:25:06 PM EST
    But not for the right reasons.

    This is the second article in the NYT recently that distorted facts about the criminal justice system.  There are plenty of things wrong with how the court system in Florida works and no need to make up eye opening headlines.

    A good place to start is Prosecutor Angela Corey.

    the Times didn't distort (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 07:58:38 PM EST
    I left out this sentence before the examples:

    "Bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months."

    My fault, not theirs.


    Jeralyn with all due respect (none / 0) (#17)
    by ragebot on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 09:58:08 AM EST
    I still claim this article was a smear job on the Florida criminal justice system, something the NYTs has a recent history of doing.

    There was a huge article bashing the handling of the Jamis Winston rape allegation that ignored the fact that there was really no way the case could have been proven.  No mention of the timely application of a rape kit by unbiased hospital employees or the lack of credible statements by the accuser; not to mention the fact that the accuser's lawyer demanded all contact with the accuser be through the lawyer.  Not to mention the majority of the accuser's text and phone messages immediately after the incident related to obtaining a purloined copy of the final examination for a Spanish class the accuser was taking.  Only after doing this were the LEOs contacted.

    All this information, as well as more issues relating to the credibility of the accuser, were contained in information released by the SA (the SA had a long history of charging FSU football players in marginal cases) at the press conference where the decision to not file charges against Winston was announced.

    Before that the NYTs had multiple articles distorting how SYG related to the Martin case and ignored the history of multiple SYG cases where defendants chased victims, sometimes for blocks, and killed them and got off with a SYG defense.

    I have lived in Florida most of my life, since 1954, and can assure you Miami-Dade County is widely viewed as the most corrupt county judicial system in the state.

    No Broward County judge can come close to the standard of corruption set by Alcee Hastings.


    As to why ine county could have so many issues (none / 0) (#8)
    by CoralGables on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 09:30:13 PM EST
    Broward County has a larger population than 12 states.

    Even as corrected... (none / 0) (#9)
    by bmaz on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 10:26:05 PM EST
    ... for the disparity of counties, it is still fairly startling. Though, I have to say, I don't personally think a DWI by itself says much about anybody, including a judge. Maybe they don't sit on DWI cases for a period, but overall, it is not a disqualifier, at least to me.

    Perhaps the problems cited here ... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 01:11:29 AM EST
    ... are rooted in the process by which Florida judges are selected. While appellate judges are chosen through a merit selection and retention process, those who seek to be trial judges must run for the office in nonpartisan elections. be elected by popular vote. IMHO, judicial selection should be merit-based, and not subject to the whims of a popular vote.

    I will note, though, that this has apparently been an ongoing problem in Florida because 14 years ago, a local option for merit selection and retention of trial judges appeared statewide on all county ballots. Proponents of the initiative highlighted the number of disciplinary actions against elected judges and the potential for campaign contributions to corrupt their decision making.

    Their arguments fell upon deaf ears, and that November, the measure was rejected by Florida voters in every single jurisdiction across the state, with the average affirmative vote in each county being 32%.

    I don't live in Florida, and I don't have any plans to go so there any time soon, so I'm not going to worry about something that doesn't affect me and about which I can do absolutely nothing. Rather, I think the best we can offer here is our caustic laughter and ridicule every time one of these stories about misbehaving trial judges arises from the Sunshine State, in hope that Florida voters will eventually be shamed into finally doing something to actually fix it.

    But since this is the same state whose voters elected Rick Scott as their governor, in apparent defiance of the well-documented record about his professional judgment and behavior which rightly should've urged them to do otherwise, all I can do is paraphrase the observation often misattributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, that democracy ensures that people will get the sort of government they truly deserve. If you vote like you're stupid and ignorant, you can expect comparable results.


    Donald, there is a petition being (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 06:49:01 AM EST
    Circulated in Florida  that would get an initiative on the ballot in November to change the law so that judges would declare a party affiliation if they have one so it would show up on the ballot and voters would have that information..  I signed it because it seemed like  an initiative I'd like to think more about and see put up to a vote, and because I sign petitions if young people are motivated enough to come to my door and ask me.

    Anyway, do you think naming party affiliations willl help? Would it motivate the parties to exercise some discipline and put up better people?


    Partisan Judicial Elections Are Even Worse (none / 0) (#27)
    by Michael Masinter on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 01:03:36 PM EST
    Florida doesn't need partisan judicial elections; they would only exacerbate the problem we Floridians already face from circuit and county court judicial elections.  Requiring judges to disclose party affiliation, and presumably to run in party primaries before the general election, could translate to a tea party takeover of the trial courts in much of Florida. Although I'd prefer appointing trial court judges, since our voters think otherwise, the least we can do is avoid the swamp of partisan judicial elections.

    Donald (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 08:13:44 AM EST
    You seem to think that this is an unusual way of choosing trial level judges. Maybe you don't have experience with elected judges.

    But many states elect judges - not only at the trial level, but at the appellate level and at the highest level as well.


    In Tennessee all trial level judges (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 10:30:44 AM EST
    are elected. Appellate level are not. There is currently an Amendment on the ballot to confirm and clarify how the are selected:

     * The Judicial Selection Amendment gives Tennesseans a voice in the selection of our appellate judges in three ways: by voting for the governor who proposes the appointments, by voting for our state senators and state representatives who confirm or reject the appointments, and by voting to retain or replace judges at the end of their respective term.

    Yes (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 11:23:46 AM EST
    Growing up in Michigan, our judges were always elected on the ballot (non-partisan),  unless a vacancy occured, and then the governor got to appoint a replacement to fill the term.

    Of course, (none / 0) (#26)
    by NYShooter on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 12:46:41 PM EST
    Tennessee citizens are offended at the idea that "merit" is, somehow, superior to voter's choice.

    It may, also, be the reason that the Nashville suburb, Lebanon, reported in its newspaper yesterday that Tennessee:

    1. ranked worst in the nation for corruption
    2. ranked next to last in education
    3. ranked next to last in health, and, health delivery.

    Yeah, I want the people who vote, knee-jerk style consistently, for the politicians that provide such superior services to, also, vote for judges.

    That doesn't sound entirely terrible... (none / 0) (#24)
    by unitron on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 12:26:01 PM EST
    ...the Tennessee way of doing it, that is.

    When they come up for election either you've never heard of them so they must not have screwed up too badly, or you have, in which case you're probably also familiar with what kind of job they've been doing.


    That sounds more like... (none / 0) (#25)
    by unitron on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 12:28:29 PM EST
    ...old H.L. than Alexis.

    Could a Civil Service Judiciary be Worse? (none / 0) (#12)
    by RickyJim on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 07:56:30 AM EST
    Unfortunately AFAIK, that model doesn't exist anywhere in the US. However most of the rest of the world has gone that route.

    Please stick to the U.S. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 08:38:49 AM EST
    and not introduce other countries' systems (as I've asked you many times.)

    OK, Sticking to the US (none / 0) (#20)
    by RickyJim on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 11:00:34 AM EST
    Has any state considered a civil service judiciary?  One advantage is that you wouldn't be able to become a judge unless you pass the exam(s) and no need to raise money for elections.

    No thanks (none / 0) (#23)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 11:58:14 AM EST
    Just watching the EPA, IRS, etc., is enough to convince me that you don't want a bureaucrat as a judge.

    I get the feeling... (none / 0) (#15)
    by unitron on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 09:47:11 AM EST
    ...that electing Diana Tennis would up Florida's Sane and Sensible Judge Average considerably.

    You simply cannot.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by unitron on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 09:49:23 AM EST

    "Tell me one other courthouse that at any time ever had three judges pending criminal charges, a fourth judge disbarred by the Supreme Court and another judge awaiting removal," Mr. Finkelstein said. "And that doesn't include the naked judge!"

    ...make this stuff up.

    In defense of the naked judge (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by ragebot on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 10:00:12 AM EST
    it does get hot in Florida.  And humid to.

    Misconduct equals acquittals??? (none / 0) (#28)
    by thomas rogan on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 09:04:30 PM EST
    "Broward County has the highest rate of exonerations of defendants in Florida. [More...]"