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Judge Charged With Ethics Violations Over Comments

A Florida judge is defending his job and decisions after making comments that have put him in trouble. Judge John Contini, from the 17th Circuit in Ft. Lauderdale, must now defend his comments and actions before an investigative panel from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

Judge Contini’s comments and actions in question were made and done during the course of a criminal trial he presided over. Reportedly, the judge sent an email to the assistant public defender in the case that could be construed as advice on how to win sentencing reductions for their clients. The assistant defender sent this email to his boss, who in turn sent it to the prosecution.

Once the prosecution became aware of the email, they asked him to recuse himself from the case because of the position he took for the defense. Judge Contini refused to recuse himself, and the prosecution appealed his decision. But he is also being charged because, during a different case, he is accused of making “intemperate” remarks including calling an attorney’s position as “a lie from the pit of hell.” While the proceedings are pending, Judge Contini has been reassigned to a different division in the courthouse.

Job of The Judicial Qualifications Commission

Florida’s JQC is responsible for investigating and charging state judges following complaints about judicial misconduct. There are two branches to the Commission: a panel investigates complaints about judges and decides whether to charge them; if so, the full Commission holds a hearing for a judge to answer the charges against him.

Once the Commission conducts its investigation and hearing, it decides what recommendations to make. Those recommendations are sent to the Florida Supreme Court, which then decides whether to adopt the recommendation of the Commission, or implement some other punishment for ill-advised judicial conduct.

Florida’s Judicial Standards

Judges are held to a higher standard than other lawyers and citizens. As a society we expect our judges to be neutral arbiters of the law and not activists who are prone to take sides in case. To that end, Florida has established the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which judges are expected to abide by in each case over which they preside.

The Code of Judicial Conduct regulates how judges should act in court. For example, Canon 1 requires judges to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. The prosecutors in this case felt the judge violated this Canon when he allegedly offered advice to the public defender without notice to their office, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission felt like the language used by the judge violated his duty to the integrity of the bench. Each of these Canons are essential to the administration of our judicial system. Without them, judges would have more freedom to influence cases and be less likely to act as independent arbiters.

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Please contact Attorney Tony Moss at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. to discuss your criminal case, or any other legal predicament you find yourself in. He has offices located in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and is prepared to put his 27 years of experience to work for you.​

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