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Howard Finkelstein Judge Lazarus Should Be Removed From Hearing All Future Criminal Matters
Howard Finkelstein: Judge Lazarus Should Be Removed From Hearing All Future Criminal Matters-This is an update of a story we did last week about Broward County Judge Joel T. Lazarus, and the statements he made while presiding over First Appearance/Bond Court, on Friday, January 19th.
Apparently it got the attention of the Broward County Public Defender, Howard Finkelstein.
In a letter sent to Broward County Chief Judge, Jack Tuter , Broward’s head public defender Howard Finkelstein said:
I am requesting that you immediately remove Judge Lazarus from hearing not only future first appearance dockets, but all further criminal matters.
In the letter dated January 24, 2018, the head Public Defender lays out his reasons for this request/demand, citing several reasons.
Prior to the morning session, Judge Lazarus appeared on camera and began to review the docket’s probable cause affidavits. Though an assistant state attorney was in the courtroom at the time, there was no defense attorney present. After reading one report, Judge Lazarus remarked, “I’ll double the bond … [the alleged incident] took place in my neighborhood. Closer to my house, the higher the bond. That was always Lazarus’ Rule.”
This is a violation of the first two “Cannons” of “The Florida Code Of Judicial Conduct“. This statement alone could be a reason for the judge to also face disciplinary action from the Florida JQC.
It doesn’t stop there though, the Public Defender then goes on:
Later, Judge Lazarus instigated an ex parte discussion with the assistant state attorney regarding a case on the docket. Judge Lazarus reviewed the underlying facts of the offense as well as his proposed ruling that he would not find probable cause. The Assistant State Attorney responded that he would then be seeking additional time to establish probable cause, to which Judge Lazarus advised that he would grant that request. Sure enough, when the case was called, the hearing proceeded as planned in the improper ex parte discussion. This conduct is clearly improper and erodes the public trust in the criminal justice system.
This clearly is another violation of “The Florida Code Of Judicial Conduct“.
The Judge is making deals and discussing the case with the assistant State Attorney, without anyone from the Public Defenders Office, or other defense council present.
The judge is not allowed to that. Any discussion of any case “must” be done with both sides having representation present. In this case, the Public Defender was not present, only the assistant State Attorney.
In conclusion, The Public Defender further states:
“In one day, Judge Lazarus made two policy statements (as to bonds and as to sentencing) that would place any reasonable defendant appearing before him in fear of not receiving a fair and impartial hearing. Judge Lazarus only validated these fears by instigating an ex parte discussion and then handling the case as planned. These concerns were broadcast live on the internet, damaging the community’s trust in Judge Lazarus and damaging the overall confidence in the judiciary. Due to his misguided remarks and predetermined positions on the issues facing a criminal court judge, I would ask that Judge Lazarus be removed from hearing all future first appearance and other criminal matters.“
“Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.“
That’s a pretty serious letter. It’s not everyday the Public Defender ask’s the Chief Judge to remove a judge from hearing certain cases.If the Public Defender Howard Finkelstein has his act together, he’ll be having his staff go through that entire days bond court to see if judge Lazarus did anything else improper.
We would like to commend Mr. Finkelstein for his prompt attention to this matter. We posted the video on a popular courthouse blog frequented by attorneys that currently work for his office.
We posted the video on January 21, at about 11:00 pm. The letter was sent on January 24.
When we hear what the response is from Chief Judge Jack Tuter, we’ll update the story.
Perhaps one solution to a problem like this if for the chief judge to issue an administrative order stating something like; No attorneys shall enter the courtroom where the judge is, until representation from both the States Attorneys Office, and Public Defenders Office, are present.
If you missed the link above, here’s a link to view and download the actual letter from the Public Defender. CLICK HERE!
Also. here’s the video we posted on January 21, that caused all this. You can also view the entire day’s bond court on our YouTube channel.