TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court is weighing whether it agrees with the recommendations set forth to reprimand a Broward County judge.
The recommendations were made by a panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) following judicial conduct charges made against Circuit Judge John Patrick Contini following an incident last year. The JQC recommendations include a public reprimand, mentoring and stress management classes for Contini.
Contini has until the end of today to show cause as to why the recommendations should not be granted by the Supreme Court.
“The court will consider the recommendation since there has been a hearing and findings,” Cynthia Gray, director at the Center for Judicial Ethics, told the Florida Record. “It can accept the recommendation, or reject it and impose a different sanction (higher or lower), or dismiss the case completely. They will issue an opinion and if they decide to impose a public reprimand, they usually schedule a date for the judge to appear before the court to receive the reprimand in person.”
The incident spurring the reprimand for Contini relates to him allegedly providing a document on how to argue for lesser sentences to an assistant public defender. He allegedly failed to provide this information to prosecutors.
When a motion was ordered to disqualify Contini from pending criminal charges because he showed bias, Contini opposed the request and had an angry outburst in which he made “disparaging, demeaning remarks," according to a JQC report.
After the incident, Contini admitted to providing “improper communication” and “exhibiting discourteous, impatient, undignified conduct.” He also challenged “the propriety of his ruling on the state’s disqualification motion, and appropriate discipline"; and submitted a request to disqualify himself saying the incident was “legally insufficient.”
When his decision was appealed, Contini had another outburst, which he later admitted that he lost it in court, overreacted and had no excuse for his comments. He accused the prosecutor of compiling a list of cases to disqualify him from, which he called an “absolutely fraudulent” list that was “unethical. It’s disingenuous,” he said. “It’s a fraud on the court. It’s a lie from the pit (of) hell.”
Following the incident and while waiting for the judgment to come down, Contini was transferred to the family courts. He has said that he accepts responsibility for his conduct and has expressed remorse and apologized.
Contini has been on the bench since January 2015, where he has overseen more than 1,000 felony matters.
According to the Center for Judicial Ethics, 90 percent of judicial misconduct cases are dismissed, mainly because they claim the judge made an incorrect finding of fact, misapplied the law or abused their discretion.
In 2014, 10 judges were removed from office, one was suspended without pay until the end of their term and censured, two judges were retired due to disabilities, one judge was permanently barred from judicial office and censured, 14 judges resigned or retired in lieu of discipline, and 94 judges received public sanctions.