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Broward County Judge

Lynn Rosenthal Resigns

Year after DUI Arrest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 07, 2015

 

Rosenthal was facing a hearing on charges that she violated judicial ethics after her DUI arrest last year after driving erratically in the courthouse parking lot on her way to work.

Rosenthal blamed the event on an Ambien pill she had taken the night before, but authorities said she had Xanax in her purse and refused blood and urine tests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Judicial Qualifications Commission found that she gave incomplete and misleading testimony in her initial hearing, and the Florida Supreme Court rejected a recommended 90-day suspension.

Broward Circuit Judge Rosenthal, who was facing a disciplinary hearing over her conduct following her arrest on a DUI charge, last year, has resigned effective Oct. 31.

JAABlog was first to report the resignation.

Her decision was confirmed on the same day the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) announced a schedule of hearings in her misconduct case.

"She called me and told me she's chosen to resign, effective the end of this month," stated Broward Chief Administrative Judge Peter Weinstein. "This gives us enough time to decide who will replace her in her division."

Rosenthal arrived outside the courthouse on May 27, 2014, showing signs of being impaired. She sideswiped a parked patrol car and repeatedly drove into the gate of the judicial parking lot between the courthouse and the Broward Main Jail.

According to police reports, she told investigators that she had taken an accidental overdose of the prescription sleep aid Ambien the night before.

A breath test showed she was not under the influence of alcohol, but Rosenthal refused to submit to a blood or urine test that would have indicated whether she was affected by any other drug.

Prosecutors said there was a bottle of Xanax in her car.

During a JQC investigation that followed,

Rosenthal admitted that she had recorded a video using her cellphone as she was driving to work. The video, police said, showed her driving erratically on Interstate 595.

The JQC initially reached an agreement with Rosenthal calling for a 90-day suspension without pay along with fines, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected the deal and ordered a hearing "in order to fully develop the facts regarding any misconduct that occurred during the criminal investigation and the Judicial Qualifications Commission investigation, including any destruction of evidence and any false and misleading statements made by Judge Rosenthal."

The JQC's recommendation of a suspension, combined with a public reprimand, 12 hours of legal ethics training and family counseling, was subject to the state Supreme Court's approval.

Judge Rosenthal was appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012, launched an election campaign that survived the arrest and scandal in August 2014.

She entered a no contest plea to a reckless driving charge a month before the election and was sentenced to three months of probation.

Even for South Florida, where absurd news events are routine and the sheriff went to prison for corruption, the spate of judicial scandals has raised serious questions about whether the arrests in Broward are a bizarre coincidence or underscore a larger systemic problem. In a county where the judiciary is known for old-school nepotism and cronyism, and judges have been caught smoking marijuana in a park and found drunk and partly naked in a hotel hallway, some lawyers find themselves wondering: At what point do isolated instances of misconduct point to something bigger?

But Broward a heavily Democratic county of 1.8 million people with many judges who are the children, spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers of other judges and some of the region’s most powerful people, seems to be ground zero for allegations of judicial misconduct. The system’s critics say that is because

Broward has a highly politicized and clannish culture that is known for protecting its own, which has led some in the judiciary to feel invincible, even as they preside over a county court system that produces the state’s highest exoneration rate.

 

I do think it belies an underlying systemic problem in Broward

County,” said Howard Finkelstein, Broward’s elected public defender.

 

I don’t think this stunningly embarrassing fact of having all these charges pending at the same time is indicative of a judiciary with substance abuse problems, but I do think it is a manifestation of the greater problem of a circle-the-wagons mentality.

 

 

 

Supreme Court of Florida

Briefs & Other Documents in Case No. 15-1498

gallery/judgelynnrosenthal

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