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JQC Dismisses Ethics Charges Against John Contini
JQC Dismisses Ethics Charges Against John Contini-On Friday August 03, 2018, The Florida JQC (Judicial Qualifications Commission), dismissed the charges they filed only eleven days prior against the former judge.
The list of allegations against former judge Contini was quite extensive.
He was 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 were a total of eleven allegations that were filed by the JQC against the judge.
Out of the eleven, let’s look at two of those allegations that we believe have the most impact on Broward citizens.
Allegations One And Four
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.
Take a close look at those allegations. He had his judicial assistant make up fake hearings;
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.
The judge went to a whole lot of trouble to cover up the fact that, as alleged by the JQC;
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.
Any employer, or employee, and that would include most of us, knows exactly what you call that;
If the allegations made by the JQC are true, than this is not just a minor theft either.
As a circuit court judge, Contini earned about $157,476 a year.
The JQC alleges that the judge was;
“absent from work in excess of 30 days since the beginning of 2018“.
Take that figure and divide by twelve and you see that for that thirty day period, the judge was paid approximately;
That’s right, $13,123.00 the judge was paid for his job when he absolutely knew he would not be there, if the allegations made by the JQC are to be believed.
That’s not all. According to the allegations this fraud has even more financial repercussions for the taxpayers of Broward. The commission also pointed out in their allegations;
“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.“
a limited breakdown
Just for starters, a judges JA, or Judicial Assistant, according to Florida Courts.org, gets paid between a Monthly Minimum of $3,091.07, and a Monthly Maximum of $6,553.06.
Being very conservative, let’s say that is about $3,100.00 for thirty days.
Court clerks in Fort Lauderdale Florida make an average salary of $51,992. Again we divide by twelve and we get an amount for that thirty days of $4,266.00.
The average yearly salary for Court Bailiff in Broward County, Florida is $30,855.
Divide by twelve once again and get get another $2,571.25.
Without considering the other court staff being paid to do nothing, the total of this “Limited Breakdown” is about $9,937.25.
Now add that amount to the former judges salary for that thirty days, and we get a very conservative estimate of what he stole from the citizens of Broward county to be;
That is $23,060.25 with $13,123.00 going directly into the former judge’s pocket.
The former judge was first a prosecutor for about the first five years of his career, then for about thirty years, a very successful criminal defense attorney. With that kind of knowledge of the law, in our opinion, the judge must have know that his actions were not only unethical, but also criminal.
So why did the state’s judicial watchdogs dismiss all these charges?
First, we’ll give you a little background of what the JQC actually is.
WHO IS THE JQC
The JQC is a constitutionally created group charged with handling cases involving alleged misconduct by Florida state judges or involuntary retirement of a judge due to serious illness.
The Code of Judicial Conduct applies to all sitting judges.
The proceedings before the JQC involve the discipline, retirement or removal of Justices of the Supreme Court, judges of the District Court of Appeal, Circuit Courts and County Courts pursuant to Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida.
A total of fifteen members , 6 judges, 4 lawyers, and 5 lay-persons, make up the JQC and are divided into two panels, investigative and hearing.
According to Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida:
The commission shall
be composed of:
a. Two judges of district courts of appeal selected by the judges of those courts, currently;
Judge Kerry I. Evander-Fifth DCA
Judge Robert Morris-Second DCA
–two circuit judges selected by the judges of the circuit courts ;
Judge Steven P. Deluca-Seventeenth Circuit
Judge Michelle T. Morley-Fifth Circuit
-and two judges of county courts selected by the judges of those courts;
Judge Krista Marx-Fifteenth Circuit
Judge James A. Ruth-Fourth Judicial Circuit
b. Four electors who reside in the state, who are members of the bar of Florida, and who shall be chosen by the governing body of the bar of Florida;
Alan B. Bookman-Former President of The Florida Bar
Gregory W. Coleman-West Palm Beach
Mayanne Downs-Former President of The Florida Bar
Eugene K. Pettis-First African-American President of The Florida Bar
c. Five electors who reside in the state, who have never held judicial office or been members of the bar of Florida, and who shall be appointed by the governor.
Alvin V. Alsobrook of Gainesville
Shirlee P. Bowne of Tallahassee
Harry R Duncanson CPA of Tallahassee
Ricardo Morales III of Jacksonville
It seems the fifth member is missing!
SO WHY DROP THE CHARGES?
Did the commission show some kind of special favoritism toward the former Judge? Did we find something sinister going on because a few of the members of the commission are from Broward, one a circuit court judge serving in the very same courthouse as judge Contini?
The facts and answer is no. The truth is far more worse.
The real fact is this is standard operating procedure for the Commission.
When a judge has formal charges filed by the JQC against them, and the judge believes the discipline might be harsh, such as removal from office or possibly even disbarment, that judge will then resign.
Even though Florida’s Constitution clearly states;
“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.”
Then the usual coarse of action for the JQC is to drop the charges, even though they clearly do not have to. After that The Florida Supreme Court then rubber stamps the dismissal recommendation, allowing the judge to skate justice.
Sure, the Florida Bar could then take action but they won’t. The attitude there seems to be; If the JQC didn’t do anything, they won’t.
Maybe the JQC and Supreme Court believe that once the judge is off the bench, the problem is solved, and in a lot of the cases, this may be true.
When it comes to the case against Contini, that, in our opinion, is totally unacceptable.
If the allegations made by the Commission are true, the judge not only did some pretty sleazy things, he stole a lot of money from the citizens of Broward, and according to Florida Statute 112.3173 , committed a felony that should, according to the statute, at minimum require the forfeiture of his pension.
112.3173 Felonies involving breach of public trust and other specified offenses by public officers and employees; forfeiture of retirement benefits.
He should also be required to pay back the salary for the month he played hooky from work.
It looks like though he is going to get away with it, and the citizens of Broward should be outraged.
We should all be writing and calling our local, state, and federal representatives, demanding that this practice of allowing these judges to circumvent justice by simply resigning be stopped.
This is a chart we compiled that shows that Broward County is in fact the most disciplined judicial circuit in the state.
Take a look at the number for Broward compared to the rest of the state. There is no other word for that except SHAMEFUL.
Even more SHAMEFUL, is both the Judicial Qualification Commission, and Florida Supreme Court’s lack of action concerning these judges, not only from Broward, but elsewhere in the state.
It looks like we citizens cannot even trust the highest trial court in the state.
The Florida Supreme Court
South Florida Corruption.com