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Court Articles 4

Judge on Bench

Supreme Court Orders

Broward Judge

Laura Watson Removed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 12, 2016

The state's highest court decided that election to the bench did not allow an attorney to escape allegations of on-the-job misconduct.

In recent cases involving allegations of judicial misconduct, judges have chosen to resign rather than wait for the removal process to play itself out.

Former Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson won't be getting her job back.

Watson, who was removed from office months ago, had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to hang onto her job, arguing that the proceedings to remove her from office were flawed.

Watson was accused of unilaterally negotiating a settlement with an insurance company in 2004 and freezing out fellow attorneys representing the same clients in related actions.

The Florida Bar wanted to act against Watson but waited until after legal action between her and the complaining attorneys, was resolved. But soon after the Bar found probable cause to initiate its proceedings in 2012, Watson was elected to the bench.

The Bar cannot discipline judges, so the complaints were turned over to the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission, which eventually found Watson's conduct merited removal from her job. The Florida Supreme Court forced her out last June.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear Watson's appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

Appeals Court Reverses Ex-Judge Watson in Divorce Case

 

 

February 18, 2016

A state appellate court Wednesday reversed a ruling by ousted Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson, finding she "made a number of errors" and turned over her fact-finding responsibilities to an attorney involved in the divorce.

"It was as if the judge were unable to critically evaluate the evidence," Fourth District Court of Appeal Judge Robert Gross wrote, with District Judges Martha Warner and Spencer Levine concurring.

Watson presided over the 2014 divorce of Susan & Bruce Salituri, who married in 2001 and have a pre-teen son.

But the appeals court found Watson leaned heavily in one spouse's favor, giving Susan Salituri much more than she asked for.

With that misstep, the judicial panel said Watson's behavior went beyond what the Florida Supreme Court condemned in Perlow v. Berg-Perlow, a 2004 case in which the trial judge gave the "appearance" of not independently reaching legal conclusions.

 

 

 

 

MARCH 18, 2016

 

Former Broward Circuit Judge Laura Marie Watson is "incapable of being rehabilitated" and should not be allowed to practice law in the state, a Florida Bar referee has decided.

Watson, was removed from the bench last year over her conduct in settling a related batch of civil cases that were filed a decade before she became a judge. In those cases, two sets of lawyers representing the same doctors filed cases against Progressive Insurance, one group arguing the insurance company was acting in bad faith and the other, Watson's, arguing the company was underpaying personal injury protection claims.

According to court records, a civil trial, and a review by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Watson's group unilaterally negotiated a deal with Progressive to settle the personal injury protection claims for $14.5 million and have the clients drop the bad faith cases.

The lawyers in the bad faith cases, shut out from the proceeds of the settlement, didn't find out until after they were accepted.

They sued Watson's firm and won in 2008. The judge in the civil case forwarded his findings to the Florida Bar for disciplinary action. But Watson urged the Bar to wait until the results of her appeal. The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the 2008 judgment, clearing the way for the Florida Bar to investigate the complaint.

The complaint against Watson fell back into the hands of the Florida Bar. Palm Beach Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser, the referee assigned to review the facts and offer a recommendation, said Watson has paid only $10,000 to the bad faith claim attorneys and still owes the bulk of the 2008 judgment, which has grown with interest to $1.8 million.

"Respondent [Watson] has shown NO efforts at any remorse for her actions in the past 12 years," Sasser wrote. "Such behavior is reprehensible… There is simply no evidence upon which to conclude that this respondent is capable of being rehabilitated. Respondent's lack of remorse and unrepentant conduct is shocking, staggering and merits no less severe sanction than permanent disbarment."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge Laura Watson
Updated
Updated
pollock pdf

Supreme Court of Florida

Briefs & Other Documents in Case No. 13-1333

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