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NOVEMBER 26, 2015
The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission announced formal charges against Broward Circuit Judge John Patrick Contini, accusing him of providing one sided assistance to defense lawyers and acting unprofessionally toward prosecutors who formally complained about it.
Contini, a former prosecutor and defense lawyer who was elected last year, angered the State Attorney's office in March, when he sent an email to an assistant public defender offering advice on how to write successful motions for reduced sentences.
Prosecutors called it an improper communication with one side in a criminal case, which is prohibited by judicial ethics.
The State Attorney's Office then sought to have Contini removed from all criminal cases, arguing that he could no longer be considered impartial.
The Broward State Attorney's Office along with the State Attorney General's Office, filed a brief with the appeals court siding with Broward prosecutors.
During an August hearing, Contini called the Attorney General's brief "a fraud on the Fourth DCA" and "a lie from the pit of hell." He also threatened to remove prosecutor Joel Silvershein. Silvershein admitted helping the Attorney General's Office compile a list of cases from which Contini should be disqualified.
Judge Contini requested a transfer to the family division.
He will remain there while the JQC proceeds with his ethics case.
After Contini's transfer, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided to remove Contini from 28 cases, allowing him to move forward with all the rest. By then, the issue was already settled because the cases were transferred to other circuit court judges.
Judge Contini will be scheduled to appear before a JQC panel, which will make recommendations for disciplinary action, ranging from a public reprimand to removal from office, to the Florida Supreme Court.
DECEMBER 23, 2015
Judge John Patrick Contini responded to formal ethics charges filed last month by the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Contini admitted providing assistance to defense lawyers and acting unprofessionally toward prosecutors who complained about his conduct.
Contini was formally charged with violating 16 rules of conduct, including showing the appearance of partiality on and off the bench, showing impatience and discourtesy to attorneys and engaging in ex-parte communications.
He will remain in family court while the JQC proceeds with his ethics case.
He will be scheduled to appear before a JQC panel, which will make recommendations for disciplinary action, ranging from a public reprimand to removal from office, to the Florida Supreme Court.
His attorney, Bruce Rogow, said he was disappointed with the JQC's decision to file charges.
"The conduct at issue as discussed with the JQC," he said, "and I had hoped that they would recognize his momentary conduct, in the context of thousands of interactions with assistant state attorneys, private counsel, assistant public defenders, court personnel and the public, did not merit this action."
Bruce Rogow called Contini's comments about the Attorney General's Office and his behavior toward Silvershein a "lapse" for which Contini had apologized.
MARCH 15, 2016
He apologized to the Broward prosecutor he threatened to jail. He apologized to an assistant attorney general he insulted in court.
He also apologized indirectly to the hundreds of defendants, investigators and victims whose cases were stalled last year while the Broward State Attorney's Office fought to remove Contini from his entire criminal caseload.
Contini testified Monday before a panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is working to determine whether Contini deserves to be reprimanded, suspended or removed from office.
Contini berated the prosecutors' office for what he called an overreaction to his e-mail. A brief filed on behalf of the Florida Attorney General's Office by attorney Heidi Bettendorf earned Contini's wrath; he called it a deliberate attempt to mislead the appeals court and referred to one allegation as a "lie from the pit of hell."
Contini threatened to find prosecutor Joel Silvershein in contempt of court for interrupting him during his comments.
"I want to apologize to him just as publicly as I publicly mistreated him. No matter how wrong I felt their position was, it doesn't matter," Contini said. "They have a right to be an advocate, and I have no right as a judge to internalize things the way I did. I'm sorry, Joel, from my heart… I owe Miss Bettendorf the same public apology."
Members of the JQC panel noted that Contini made a series of poor judgment calls, including sending the initial e-mail, hanging onto the cases at the expense of their progress, and maligning the attorneys who challenged him.
Contini's lawyer, David Rothman, is arguing for the JQC to penalize the judge with a public reprimand.
Williams, the JQC attorney, did not recommend a specific penalty but urged the panel to consider the effect Contini's actions had on hundreds of cases.
JQC panels typically take between four and 12 weeks to issue a recommendation, which is then reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, which makes the final determination in judicial misconduct cases.
Filing # 41367998 E-Filed 05/11/2016 03:38:59 PM
May 15, 2016
The Florida JUDICIALQUALIFICATIONS COMMISSION has recommended the following in the case regarding Judge John Patrick Contini.
(1) A public reprimand;
(2) A written apology delivered in person to Heidi Bettendorf;
(3) Continued active judicial mentoring for a period of three years by a mentor selected by the Chief Judge of the Circuit;
(4) Setting up a program of stress management with Dr. Scott Weinstein, Clinical Director of the Florida Lawyer’s Assistance Program and completion of this program to Dr. Weinstein’s satisfaction; and
(5) Assessment of the costs of these proceedings.
All of the Hearing Panel’s findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence. The vote of the Hearing Panel on guilt as well as the recommended discipline has been determined by an affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the six hearing panel members, in compliance with Fla. Const. Art. v, §12(b); FJQC Rule 19.
Done and Ordered this 11th day of May, 2016.
FLORIDA JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS
By: /s/ Robert Morris HONORABLE ROBERT MORRIS
FJQC HEARING PANEL CHAIR
Second District Court of Appeal
1005 E. Memorial Blvd.
Lakeland, FL 33801
MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2016
This guy is a good judge and we would hate to see him lose his job, considering everything.
It appears the Florida Supreme Court agrees with us.
In a rare instance, where the Florida Supreme Court has not denounced the recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and imposed an even harsher sentence, The Supreme Court has in the case of The Honorable John Patrick Contini, only ordered him to show cause why the JQC recommendations should not be imposed.
This is good news for the judge.
It means if he does not contest the findings of The Judicial Qualifications Commission, he will be able to keep his job.
We expect that he will accept those recommendations.
June 15, 2016
Respondent, the Honorable John Patrick Contini, through undersigned counsel, respectfully informs this Court he accepts the Findings of Facts, Conclusions, and Recommendations of the Hearing Panel, Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, dated May 11, 2016.
David B. Rothman
David B. Rothman, Esq.
Florida Bar No. 240273
Rothman & Associates, P.A.
200 S. Biscayne Blvd, Suite 2770
Miami, Florida 33131
Since the judge has not contested the recommendations, he more than likely is going to be able to keep his job. However the recommendation of the JQC will be implemented.
In a court house plagued with so many judges in trouble for very serious charges, we understand the charges against him to be purely a new judge just trying to make a difference.
However, we’re sure the judge himself has said it, “The law is the law.”.
Good luck to The Honorable John Patrick Contini.
We hope to not have to write about you in the future.
South Florida Corruption.com
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