Miami-Dade County Judge Jacqueline Schwartz spotted an oversized campaign sign for one of her opponents posted in the parking lot outside a Coconut Grove convenience store.
It was more than two months before the Aug. 26 primary election. Schwartz, a 12-year veteran of the bench, didn't like the large political advertisement.
So she marched into the Kwik Stop at 3101 Grand Ave. on June 2 and asked to speak to the person in charge, according to the store cashier. The owner was out. But he had returned by the time Schwartz returned a few hours later, at night.
The judge demanded that she be allowed to put up a sign of her own, or that the sign for opponent Rachel Glorioso Dooley be removed, according to the owner and cashier. When she didn't get her way, Schwartz lost her temper, owner Firas Hussain said.
"She got so mad, she raised her voice," Hussain told the Miami Herald. "She started to curse at the cashier and me. She said, 'Go and f--- yourself.'"
"It's a violation of law," Levy said. "I do know that she did notify code enforcement."
As for Schwartz's alleged choice of words, he added: "That's not her nature. That's not her temperament...I'm surprised that word is in her vocabulary."
Code enforcement officers from the city of Miami showed up at the shopping center the day after Schwartz's apparent outburst and cited the mall owners for having a "nonconforming temporary sign."
The officers said the shopping center couldn't have a political ad on the property until 30 days before an election, according to Sky Smith, an attorney for the mall owners and a contributor to Glorioso Dooley's campaign.
"'What are you talking about?'" Smith said he responded. "'It's that you're supposed to take it down 30 days after an election."
Finally, the officers told Smith the sign was too big. "We got ticketed and made the sign smaller," Smith told the Herald.
And he filed a complaint June 13 against Schwartz with Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission, complete with a sworn statement by the convenience store cashier, Mildred Cervantes, who corroborated owner Hussain's account. Complaints against judges are supposed to be confidential, to deter false allegations filed for political reasons, though they sometimes leak during campaigns.
Hussain said he declined the judge's request to include her sign or take down her opponent's because he didn't put up the sign and doesn't own the shopping center property.
"We told her, 'We have nothing to do with that,'" said Hussain, adding that he didn't find out until later that Schwartz was an elected official. "I was surprised she's a judge," he said.
Schwartz came close to defeating her two opponents in August. She won 49.4 percent of the vote but, because she didn't receive a majority, will be on the ballot again in a Nov. 4 runoff against second-place finished Frank Bocanegra.
--with Marc Caputo