TALLAHASSEE — A Broward County circuit-court judge, who admitted “undignified conduct” while sitting on the bench, has been publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court.
According to a report CBS Miami of the hearing, Judge John Patrick Contini stood silently as the court assailed him over a series of emails from 2015 that he sent to a public defender suggesting what forms and methods he should take in seeking more-lenient sentences for some clients.
The judge didn’t make prosecutors aware of his actions until a week later, prompting them to eventually seek to have him disqualified from pending litigations.
Contini later rejected that request as legally insufficient, and openly chastised prosecutors in his courtroom for daring to question his authority or motivations.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates such violations, later told the court that Contini took the matter of the disagreement with prosecutors personally and ultimately made disparaging comments about some of them.
In rendering the court’s decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga told Contini his actions had brought damage to the reputation of the court system and negatively impacted the level of public confidence shared by citizens.
“The Commission has a range of disciplines it can recommend for violations from a private reprimand all the way up to bench removal,” Mike Schneider, JQC executive director of general counsel., told the Florida Record. “I would say this level of discipline falls somewhere in the middle.”
In addition to his public reprimand, Contini was ordered to deliver a written letter of apology to prosecutors, continue active judicial mentoring for three years, set up and complete a stress-management program, and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceedings.
Contini took the bench in 2015 and assigned a felony case load of more than 1,000 cases.
The Florida Bar Association noted that Contini initially challenged “the propriety of his ruling on the State’s disqualification motion and appropriate discipline,” according to a previous Florida Record report, but after JQC conducted a second investigative hearing and an appeal verdict was rendered he admitted he “lost it in court, overreacted, personified incivility, and had no excuse for his comments,” the report added.
Among his personal attacks was disparaging a prosecutor, whom he suspected of creating the list of cases prosecutors later sought to have him removed from.
Contini later was moved to the family court division, where he currently still hears cases.
“The judge created the problem by wrongfully sending out the motion he did to just one side,” Schneider said. “The public has total knowledge of his reprimand as a result of that.”
The JQC issued its final recommendations and findings following a final hearing, where Contini wholly admitted to his duplicity.
Schneider added the commission did not stipulate that Contini be reassigned as part of his discipline.
“We don’t have the authority to make those kinds of demands,” Schneider said.