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JQC Files New Charges Against Former Broward Judge John Contini
JQC Files New Charges Against Former Broward Judge John Contini-On Monday July 23, 2018, The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal charges against former Broward circuit court judge, John Patrick Contini.
The former judge resigned earlier this month suddenly, without any explanation. He was only half way through his six year term.
In our article earlier this month about his resignation, we said that although he gave no reason, a look at the resignation letter said a lot.
As we pointed out then, if you look at the bottom, you’ll see he sent a copy of his resignation to Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. There is only one reason he would do that in our opinion, because he had new issues with them, and the JQC filing these new charges would seem to confirm this.
It is unusual for the JQC to file charges against a judge after they retire or resign.
The commission’s usual course of action is to drop the charges very shortly after the judge either retires or resigns.
This is something Broward judges have been exploiting for years.
Florida’s Constitution, ARTICLE V, SECTION 12 (1), reads in part:
“The commission shall have jurisdiction over justices and judges regarding allegations that misconduct occurred before or during service as a justice or judge if a complaint is made no later than one year following service as a justice or judge.“, but rarely does the commission file charges after a judge leaves office.
Earlier this year, in February, judge Claudia Robinson resigned after a JQC complaint was filed against her.
She thought the matter was settled until the JQC had informed her that they were going to reopen the investigation.
She had faced a 30-day suspension without pay, based on the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s findings and recommendation of discipline, but on December 14th, The state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a motion with the state Supreme Court asking for that agreement to be put on hold while an investigative panel looks into as they put it, “additional matters.”
Seems she would choose to resign rather than face the wrath of the Florida Supreme Court, like some other judges in Broward have chosen to due in the past.
This year alone, six Broward judges have either resigned, or retired early not finishing out their terms.
Broward County Judge Claudia Robinson resigned her position as county court judge, effective February 12th, 2018.
The beginning of April circuit court judge Lisa Porter sent a letter to Florida governor Rick Scott, resigning her position effective June 30, 2018.
In April, Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter told Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich not to return to the courthouse because of how she treated Sandra Twiggs.
Judge Arlene Simone Backman resigned this month, July, effective immediately.
Her husband judge Paul Backman resigned effective December 31, 2018.
Also as of July 06, 2018, judge John Contini.
This time however, judge Contini’s attempt to avoid the wrath of the JQC by resigning did not work.
The former judge is charged with several Canon violations. When you see what the accusations are, you will probably ask yourself;
Is this for real?
The list of allegations against Contini is quite extensive. He has been charged with violating Canons 1, 2, 3A, 3B(1), 3B(3), 3B(12), 3C(1), 5A(2), 5A(3), and 5A(4) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.
There are a total of eleven allegations that were filed by the JQC against the judge. We’ll show you what we believe to be some of the worst of them. To view all the charges and evidence filed against the former judge, we provided a link to the file on The Florida Supreme website.
Contini was a family court judge, so a lot of the exhibits are redacted because of Florida Statute 63.16.
To read the entire 157 page JQC Formal Charges from The Florida Supreme Court Website, Click Here!
THEFT FROM THE PUBLIC
1. On numerous occasions, you have instructed your Judicial Assistant (JA) to create dockets of fictitious cases or hearings on particular days of the week on which you planned to be absent from the courthouse. Your fabrication of these dockets was designed to create the impression that you were present in the Courthouse, when in fact, you were not. You instructed your JA by text, email, or in person to create these dockets using cases that had settled, or hearings that had already occurred or otherwise been postponed. These contrived dockets also wasted judicial resources by occupying bailiffs, clerks, and other court personnel, who needed to be on standby for hearings that were not real and would never happen. (JQC lnv. Exhibit 1).
4. You have been absent from work in excess of 30 days since the beginning of 2018. Moreover, you have failed to notify either the Chief Judge or your administrative judge of your absences, as required by 17th Circuit Administrative Order I-06-A.
6. You inappropriately require your JA to perform personal tasks for you before,during, and after regular business hours, despite being told by your JA that she was uncomfortable doing personal tasks for you, and that doing such tasks put her behind on her regular work. Some of the inappropriate tasks you required your JA to attend to include:
a. Paying your personal bills and managing your personal finances (JQC Inv. Exhibit 3);
b. Instructing your JA to make personal travel arrangements, and take care of personal matters for you (JQC lnv. Exhibit 4);
c. Proofread and edit a manuscript for you (JQC Inv. Exhibit 5);
d. Making personal phone calls on your behalf.
POSTING HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA
9.You inappropriately posted confidential information on social media (Facebook) regarding an adoption over which you presided, including the names of the adoptees and other parties. Adoption proceedings in Florida are confidential, and the names of the parties may not be disclosed by anyone without written authorization of the person’s involved. You did not have written authorization at the time you made these disclosures. See §63.162
Florida Statutes. (JQC Inv. Exhibit 8).
10. You continue to address court staff, litigants, and lawyers in an arrogant, demeaning, and dismissive tone.
11. In addition to the formal disciplinary case noted above, you have been previously warned in JQC No. 2016-546 and 2017-068 about treating court staff, attorneys, and litigants with disrespect, and:
VIOLATING DEFENDANT’S CIVIL RIGHTS
-inappropriately coercing defendants into “confessing” in exchange for lighter sentences or threatening to “max” them out if they did not allocate.
In JQC Trouble before
This isn’t the first time the former judge has been in trouble with the Commission. In November of 2015, the Commission filed ethic charges against Contini and he hadn’t even been on the bench for a year yet.
In that case, the JQC recommended the following sanctions for the judge:
(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.
ALSO THIS VERY PUBLIC REPRIMAND
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 that year while the Broward State Attorney’s Office fought to remove Contini from his entire criminal caseload.
In that case, he faced a total of ten ethics charges.
He’s facing eleven this time around.
Hope you caught what the chief justice said to him at the end. Included in any sanctions the JQC will recommend to the Supreme Court, a public reprimand will more than likely be included. The question will be: Will the former judge show up for it?
WILL CONTINI BE DISBARRED?
Not likely in our opinion. At minimum, he will be ordered to pay the costs of this prosecution. That’s pretty standard in these cases. He could also be ordered to repay some of his salary because he intentionally dodged work in favor of writing a book. His license to practice law is the only real teeth the court and the judicial watchdogs have over him.
However , we do think some kind of suspension may be ordered. Make no mistake of it, he is in a whole lot of trouble. This is going to play out over the next several months. When we get more, we’ll let you know.
South Florida Corruption.com