A Broward County circuit court judge is accused of multiple ethics violations, because he allegedly offered advice to an assistant public defender last spring and engaged in subsequent "inappropriate conduct" in reaction to that accusation.
The Florida Supreme Court announced this morning the Judicial Qualifications Commission's decision to bring formal charges against Judge John Patrick Contini. Download Filed_11-23-2015_Notice_Formal_Charges
After learning of Contini's email to the public defender in March, the state attorney's office sought Contini's removal from the related case because they said his advice to the defendant's counsel negated his impartiality.
The state attorney's office appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals to have Contini removed, and a stay was placed on hundreds of Contini's criminal cases -- freezing their progress and leaving defendants in jail because Contini couldn't hear their cases.
Contini initially refused to step away. Then, in August, Contini asked for and was granted a transfer to the family court division, following a blow-up over his dispute with the state attorney's office, according to a report by the Sun-Sentinel.
The commission wrote that after Contini first appeared before the JQC's investigative panel, "(he) again breeched the judicial canons by exhibiting discourteous, impatient and undignified conduct" during court discussions of the state attorney's appeal.
For example, the commission said he repeatedly referred to attorneys handling the appeal as "idiots" and their work as "fraudulent," and he also called the Attorney General's position in the case as "a lie from the pit of hell."
"The events of this case have been broadcast in the local and regional news media, further amplifying the negative effect of your actions," the commission wrote.
The JQC said his actions "constitute inappropriate conduct" in violation of five canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Contini has 20 days to offer a written answer to the charges.